Seven Perrysburg city council candidates sought to distinguish themselves Sunday at a League of Women Voters of Perrysburg Area candidates forum.
Candidates took questions on how to best work together, how to ensure the city is friendly to Baby Boomers, and on keeping the city’s services functional, with or without a tax increase.
League of Women Voters representatives Starr Wlodarski, left, and Josette McCarthy, both of Perrysburg, speaking with forum attendees Kathleen Gibson, of Perrysburg Township (bending over desk toward McCarthy), Rick Hoff and his wife Terry Hoff, of Perrysburg about a petition. The League's petition is "to put congressional redistricting reform on the November 2018 ballot."
“We need to be good guardians of our hard-earned tax dollars,” Haraz Ghanbari, a candidate for the city’s unexpired city council term, said. “To achieve that type of vitality for our community, we’ll have a strategic vision.”
He added the growth the city is experiencing is taxing its infrastructure, and he wants, if elected, to reach out to other growing communities to see how they approached the issues growth brings.
Ashley McMahon, his opponent, said that the growth coming to Perrysburg will bring higher taxes, and the city needs to be strategic in its use of those funds.
“If we’re looking down to the future, and sustaining our growth, we need to ensure we’re budgeting for those growth opportunities and that we are maintaining the community, and, of course, with growth comes tax increases,” she said.
The other five candidates are running for three at-large city council seats. Chip Pfleghaar, one of the challengers, said it is critical that the city spend money wisely if it is going to seek additional revenues from residents.
“We need to make sure when we grow, we spend responsibly,” he said, citing Riverside Park as a prime example. “There’s been spending by the city that doesn’t make sense.”
Barry VanHoozen, an incumbent city councilman, said the city is in healthy fiscal shape, and should not need additional tax revenue for the foreseeable future, unless major investments are needed in water and sewer systems.
“In my opinion, we won’t need tax increases for a long time,” he said. “The reason for that is growth pays for growth.”
Perrysburg City Council candidates Ashley Renee McMahon, left, and Haraz N. Ghanbari; Perrysburg School Board of Education candidates: James P. Matuszak, Chip Pfleghaar, Barry E. VanHoozen, Deborah L. Born, and J.Todd Grayson.
Challenger Todd Grayson agreed with Mr. VanHoozen.
“Growth generally does pay for growth, with a few caveats,” Mr. Grayson said, adding the water system will continue to handle growth with little additional cost until it reaches capacity, which will be an expensive problem for Perrysburg to address.
Deborah Born, a challenger, said she wants to bring in low-impact employers to the U.S. 25 business corridor south of town to mitigate a need for tax increases.
“I feel that the historic district, which includes our downtown and the riverfront, is a natural asset to Perrysburg and I want to ensure its preservation,” she said.
Incumbent Jim Matuszak said that, rather than seeking to increase revenues, the city should focus on spending with restraint.
“What we have to do is watch how we spend our taxes and what we do with that,” he said.
The city’s two mayoral candidates were also present, as were the five candidates for three Perrysburg school board seats.
The mayoral candidates discussed long-term city planning and how to address the looming regional water system question.
Mayor Mike Olmstead accused his opponent, Tom Mackin, of being unable to negotiate on Perrysburg’s behalf. Mr. Mackin is the general counsel for the Lucas County Metropolitan Housing Authority, which is governed by five appointed commissioners, three of whom are named by the Toledo mayor and Lucas County Commissioners.
“I sit at a table across from the mayor of Toledo and the Lucas County Commissioners on a regular basis going back and forth in fairly heated negotiations on this. We must have a mayor who isn’t constrained at all when it comes to being able to negotiate,” Mr. Olmstead said. “Perrysburg needs to know that the mayor has one responsibility and one responsibility only and that he is never questioning what he should be doing, and that is to represent the Perrysburg residents in the best way possible.”
Mr. Mackin has said the housing authority is distinct from Lucas County politics and water issue, and that his professional work would not conflict with his water negotiations if elected mayor. He called the accusations from Mr. Olmstead unsupported, not valid, and desperate, suggesting they only surfaced after Mr. Mackin finished with 63 percent of the vote in the September primary, and Mr. Olmstead finished with 24 percent.
“After the primary, my opponent, who never raised any of these issues before, decided to question my integrity, basically saying my employment precludes me from being the city of Perrysburg’s mayor...I’ll be happy to talk to anyone after about the substance of it.”
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