Moderator Keith Walker speaks as Sylvania Township trustee candidates listen during the Sylvania Area Chamber of Commerce's candidates forum at Olander Park's Nederhouser community hall, Thursday. From left are, John Jennewine; Penny Levine; Donald Miller; John Crandall and Kevin Haddad.
During a Sylvania election forum Thursday that brought together candidates for Sylvania Township trustee, Sylvania school board, and city council positions, trustee incumbents were questioned on their manners and divisive actions.
The Sylvania Area Chamber of Commerce held the forum. There were five candidates for the three member township board of trustees, which has two seats up for re-election.
During a second round of questions, the moderator presented inquiries submitted by the public, two of which asked incumbents John Jennewine and Kevin Haddad whether they were "discourteous" and contentious, respectively.
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The question to Mr. Jennewine acknowledged his comprehension of issues but suggested he was a “discourteous” communicator during meetings. Mr. Jennewine said the makeup of the board is not made of “yes” people, and that was a positive characteristic. He focused on the accomplishments of the board during difficult financial times and his focus to run a transparent government by placing documents online, and letting voters know what the board was doing.
Mr. Haddad was asked why he preferred to go to the media with views that are in contention with the other trustees and the township. Mr. Haddad stressed that the media calls him because he gives an honest answer.
“When I speak to the media it is over issues that are important,” he said adding that the media is a way to communicate with residents about township happenings.
The forum began with Sylvania City Councilmen Mary Westphal, Katie Cappellini, and Mike Brown, along with Mayor Craig Stough, presenting two-minute statements. All four are uncontested in the Nov. 5 election.
About 100 people attended the event held at Nederhouser Community Hall at Olander Park. For the most part the candidates were cordial and showed respect to one another. They mainly presented their case on why they would be a good fit for the public service seat.
The trustee candidates went were asked the most questions. That was followed by a session with the six candidates for the Sylvania School Board. Candidates were given an opportunity to contest an opponent's response, but all declined.
John Crandall, currently a school board member seeking a seat on the trustee board, was asked about his city residency and running for a township seat. He said he has worked on both city and township projects in the past, and the area is one community.
“Our biggest accomplishment on the school board is working together. You only hear one voice on the school board and there are five members. As township trustee, if I'm fortunate to get elected, you will hear one voice of the three people; you have to work together for the betterment of the community ... When you look at the township, remember you have got to include the city,” he responded.
Penny Levine, who ran for township trustee in 2009 and 2011 and lost, underscored the importance of the professionalism, decorum, and “no cat fights” in regard to the relationship among the trustees. She told the attendees that civility was important. She said her background in the healthcare industry and business management required working as a team with people and qualified her for the position.
Don Miller, who also a trustee candidate, said that the township needs to create an environment where revenue comes in.
“Make it easier to build houses, start up businesses, encourage youth to stay, stop the brain drain. My company in downtown Toledo does that. Cut expenses. It's that simple,” he said. He owns software company GroudSpeed in Sylvania and also Seed Coworking in Toledo.
Resident Mary Wharram said that she supports Mr. Crandall.
“I think he has the best qualifications,” she commented during a break. She noted his past position with the Lucas County Engineer’s as director for more than 30 years.
After the break the Pat Nowak, executive director of the chamber of commerce, read a statement on behalf of Carol McElfresh who is running for school board but was not able to attend the forum. Afterward, the two school board incumbents, Dave Spiess and Julie Hoffman, took center stage with those vying for their seats, Kevin Eff and Stephen Rothschild. Candidate Mark Clark was not present.
Candidates discussed the issue of keeping the school at its level of excellence while contending with decreasing state funds. Mr. Eff proposed implementing a homestead exemption program that would give a percentage off a levy millage to senior residents who qualify. He argued that elderly residents may be more inclined to vote “yes” on a levy.
Mrs. Hoffman said that the board is constantly reviewing ways to run efficiently. In regards to Mr. Eff’s proposal, she said it was worth looking into, but did not have enough information to answer if offering a percentage off a levy to some residents was a practical solution to the district's shrinking budget.
Resident William Shunk, a former school administrator, posed the question on where the candidates stood on teachers retiring sooner to get their state-mandated benefits, and then returning to their position. He called it "double-dipping." The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System is changing requirements so that teachers may have to work longer to qualify for such benefits.
Mr. Rothschild, a lawyer, said it is a matter of personal conscience, and if it is a law that is authorized and permitted by the rules, “shame on the people that made the rules.” The risk is that, if someone retires to gain benefits, then the district loses someone with experience, he said.
Mr. Spiess said that the district does not rehire people once they retire, but extenuating circumstances it may do so for a short term with an administrator with expertise.
Each of the three races in Sylvania are non-partisan.