Since the wi-fi didn’t work as planned, I typed notes during the debate and I also recorded audio of the entire debate. The audio is being processed and will be added to the site hopefully tonight, if not tomorrow morning. Below are the notes typed while the debate was in progress….
FOX Toledo coverage of the debates.
Michael Miller made some brief remarks, thanking those in attendance and the candidates. He thanked the Toledo Museum of Art and referenced the upcoming “The Egypt Experience: Secrets of the Tomb” exhibit.
Laura Emerson is the moderator, a man interrupted the introductions to announce he wanted to say the pledge of allegiance. Laura then continued. Brandi Barhite and London Mitchell were the panelists asking the questions.
The rules of the debate were each candidate had three minutes to answer or use part of their three minutes as a rebuttal. After 25 minutes each candidate will be given two minutes for a closing statement.
Anita Lopez and Gina Marie Kaczala were the first round of candidates. Kaczala the first opening statement. She thinks that the auditor’s office requires experience and she has over twenty years experience in the auditor’s office. She said because of her experience she was endorsed by the Toledo Blade, she’s also proud to be endorsed by the Republican Party. She said that as of today Lucas County property owners are paying the highest property taxes in Ohio, she said that is due to her opponent not having the experience the job requires. She said over 100,000 homeowners are paying higher property taxes because of a staffer Kaczala hired. Outsourcing was also referenced as an issue.
Lopez said since taking office in 2007 her office has focused on 3 ares in serving the public. One the valuations by the last administration were incorrect, they addressed that and in 2006 when the values were issued they were locked in by law. They issued refunds to those who were unfairly taxed, they went out in to the community, making sure citizens knew the process to challenge their valuations. She referenced Internet tools that made the auditors office more transparent. They eliminated jobs and cut expenses, spending less. Third, they wanted to make sure the culture of the auditor’s office changed, that everyone understood they are public servants that how they treat citizens is critical.
Question to Kaczala – would you support – Kaczala believes in the charter and they could be run by appointment. She referenced Cuyahoga county the person needs a person with experience, the charter helps deter one party rule. Political affiliation should be secondary, she said that these offices can become appointed.
Same question to Lopez – Since being recorder and auditor there are several duties that overlap she thinks with further study and input from the public those offices could be merged. They have to find ways to serve the public better and less cost. she does not believe an appointed position of potentially increasing taxes without citizen say would be a problem. There would also be issues related to the values of properties. She would not support an appointment of this, she does believe reform is important and that it is something that should be studied. If she was an appointed position, and her boss told her to increase values that might not be the best interest. We should not assume Cuyahoga would be the best solution for us.
Follow up on time frame – Lopez said the time frame was based on what citizens want, everyone has come up with their best idea what government was but no with citizen input, we need to ask how they want services delivered, what is the most frustrating thing about county government. To exclude citizens from that discussion whether it’s a paper or one elected official giving their opinion, does not make it a transparent process.
Kaczala said that Lopez was first for this, she accused her of flip flopping on the charter and said she’d been advised by other elected officials and has changed her mind. She said other counties in Ohio have done this, this is progress, this is the future. She said what they are looking for qualfied people.
London Mitchell asked if you are elected to office how many of the staff will you retain to Kaczala. She said everyone would have to present their resumes, if they are qualified if they’ve done a good job they will be welcomed back. She said she would not have an employee with a criminal record appraising properties, she said the director of real estate had no experience and accused her of using accreditations that were fraudulent. She said what she is going to look for is qualified personnel back in the auditors office she said she’s worked in every office there. She has a good idea of the qualifications needed. She would not hire anyone through nepotism.
Lopez responds, she thinks it’s important that everyone understand they hired qualified people, there are two people on the ballot, she is ultimately the person responsible. She’s not been terminated for attendance in her office, you have to learn to attend work yourself, that is the number one qualification, a staff member does not have a criminal record, their record speaks for itself delivered by qualified individuals.
London said how do you respond. Lopez said she hired people to help supervise, they have two degrees or more, there are three tiers of employees, the managers who are unionized, the majority of the staff in the office are licensed. The results speak for themselves, if the qualifications of the last administration delivered high values and errors, their qualifications have led to less, she stands by her staff who are qualified and she can not address every lie spoken by her opponent, every day when citizens walk into the office there is a difference. They are accountable to the citizens of Lucas County, less spending, accurate values.
Kaczala said she skirted the issue, Cindy Geranimo did not have accreditations and they were sent out in the phone books, that’s misleading the public. She said the appraiser was denied an appraisers license because of criminal activity.
What prompted the decision to run – to Kaczala she said she fell in love with the office, she decided to run because she disagreed with the office and she felt it was her responsibility to bring back integrity to the office. The attendance she would refer to the expert, she said Ohio Unemployment said she was wrongly terminated. She said Lopez could have immediately started to revalue properties when she took office until 2009 because she did not know how. As of today over 100,000 property owners are paying higher property values, she said she had two examples.
Lopez said it is well documented that Kaczala was fired for attendance and did not attend during the auditor’s office with questions related to her illegally collecting pay. That’s well documents. There is a difference between values and taxes, under law the auditor must submit the values by 2006, once it’s submitted the tax rates and tax bills are generated, once that’s locked in there is no other way to issue refunds is through the revision process.
Budget surpluses to Lopez – what is the auditor’s role, she reports all surpluses in the financial report created annual. Every dollar is reported on their website, its’ more and more apparent citizens want more information, a new website called lucasspending.gov will show every dollar that is spent and greater detail. It’s unfortunate a commissioner stated he didn’t know about a surplus, he had to be sleeping at the wheel, it was really disappointing for him to said this. The auditor has to make sure that the public becomes more aware of information and try to work more with the commissioners. Now they are going into the fiscal phase, working with tax payers so they make sure they know where every dollar is going. she’s taken a strong stance.
Brandi Barhite asked if she had given information directly. Lopez said the health department is sitting on a surplus for two years, they have been working on this and telling them as well as others she doesn’t think it serves the public well when they point fingers, they have been working behind the scenes to stress that they have a duty to not increase spending when they are sitting on a surplus. The health department is a good example, they are now using the surplus, those meeting stake place on a regular basis.
Kacala said Lopez doesn’t understand the auditor’s office, she repeated her statement as to revaluating is the properties. She said the savings could be applied for 2008, she said she could have reevaluated 138,000 it could have been applied to their tax bill. she said that when Lopez was first asked about the surplus she didn’t know anything about it.
.The closing, Kaczala so much work and it needs to be done now. She said Lopez is not experienced and not qualified. She said today the state of Ohio told every Lucas county property owner that their taxes were too high. She said they will look to the future and bring in jobs, she said her job was to protect the tax payers.
Lopez closing statement. Over the last three years they focused on making sure they are accessible. The first thing they put in place was a customer service policy. Every penny that was over taxed or over valued was a priority to correct. There is a group of individuals in the past administration that want their jobs back, it’s part of the past, moving forward they will be working to citizen accountability and that the values are not only accurate but to get a tax refund under the law, every senior who is qualified is reached out to for the Homeowners, we’ve stood up when necessary for Lucas County citizens.
Now Edna Brown and Tom Waniewski -
Brown was first, she said she will not tell you what she has done in that seat since it’s open, she said she has experience in getting things done and developing relationships on both sides of the aisle. She cited her chairs, she said the most recent bill, HB ten was to protect girls in abusive dating relationships. She said she’s also sponsored bills for veterans and elderly and early voting is possible because of her early actions. She said she would be responsive to the needs of citizens. She quoted the Blade endorsement and listed her other endorsements.
Waniewski Toledo city council, third year, never thought of getting into politics but felt citizens were not getting their moneys worth. There is not a day that goes by where he thinks, am I giving the public their money worth, since this is a musical chair scenario he decided to enter, politicians rarely gave him as straight answer when he was a reporter. We really have gotten into trouble, during the council budget the debates he stood the line on several issues, he’d like to bring that to the state level and engage all sides of the community. He not only attends block watch but PTA meetings, he wants to bring jobs back here so that our kids don’t leave the area.
Brandi Barhite to Edna Brown – priority on funding arts program – brown it’s important to our community they deserve the same as libraries as we give to other types of venues, she puts it high on her list but education is her number one priority.
Same question to Waniewski – he said we have a huge hole we don’t have any more money to spend, arts is an economic development catalyst, there are over 3,000 arts workers in Luca county alone, he’d like to see the free market system work, there are more artists than workers at Owens Corning, he’d like to see the chamber do more, he thinks it has to be free market driven.
London Mitchell Northwest Ohio is shortchanged by the three CCC’s to Brown what legislation would you push or committees be on – she said she’d like to continue with the ones she is currently on. She thought with her experience would be good there. On Toledo being the “other Ohio” we are shortchanged because the other cities are larger and more representation so when it comes to the dividing of the pot they have stronger voices. she’s learned that seniority goes a long way, anyone who works on a job knows seniority means a lot and enables one to sit at the table with a strong voice.
Does she have a problem with those term limited out jumping to another seat was follow up question – she said no, 9 years is not very long. Particularly in the house, you don’t get that experience and you don’t get to make the relationships by the time you have really learned your way around and learned how the legislation operates, learned how to massage and get things done, you are term limited, if you go the other chamber you take that experience with you, she’s served with some of them before.
Waniewski responded – Relationships are not made in Columbus they are made here in our community. If Miller took 8 years to write a sentence, Pounds would fire him. He wants to be the megaphone, Toledo is falling behind Dayton and Akron. This whole high speed rail corridor, where’s Toledo in all of this? He’s pushed for one percent of this to go to the port for the cargo industry.
What are Waniewski’s priorities – jobs is number one, and government won’t create jobs but we can get some of the regulations out of the way, look at ways to streamline creating businesses in Ohio. If they are not making money no revenue comes in. Look at the wasteful spending line by line, we spent money to the Bengal and Browns to use their image on a lottery ticket. Paying an administrative assistant $96,000 a year is an issue for him. the deficit is going to stymie growth unless we deal with it.
Brown said she wondered about Waniewski, Toledo has a budget deficit and he’s served less than 3 years, so she wonders if you want to do this on a large scale, why not try to solve the problems here rather than think you can solve Ohio’s problems single handedly.
Early voting in Ohio, Brown’s role, she said she introduced the bill twice, it would have gotten rid of all of the requirements to get an absentee ballot, the house was controlled by republicans and she asked if she could amend it into another bill, that took place.
Waniewski on his council experience being called into question, is senate more partisan than council – Waniewski says he works with people and tries to achieve results while minimizing politics, it’s one 12 of the vote on Council, when they had the budget crisis he put in 2 million in cuts, if the other members would have come up with the same, it would have made it easier for the administration, his fiscal sense of being a conservative comes into this, he’s looking to represent this region, he thinks he can do so much more than what he can on council. He referenced his ability to raise funding for CareNet.
The senate is controlled by republicans, he can work with the republicans even though he’s an independent voice, he said some of Kasich’s ideas he supports.
Brown responded the legislation operates differently than council, she served on council before, everything is done pretty much by committee and anyone who follows legislation knows most legislation starts in the house and goes to the senate, the house is controlled by democrats. she still has her colleagues in the House where usually everything starts. So it would not bother her being in the minority in the senate.
Brown asked of how many terms she was going to spend in the Senate. She said it would not be possible to spend three or four terms, she said she can serve two terms in the Senate, she does not plan to flip flop back to the house when she’s done in the Senate she’s done.
Waniewski on his plans, is the senate where he wants to devote the next 8 years, he said he has no plans to be a politician, we just had a refuse drop off, the just moved the council meeting to UT, it involves thinking outside of the box and working wit the community. Some of his constituents are said that he wants to go, he wants to be an engaged communicator, he talked to the presidents of the hospitals and they are livid about the franchise tax, they said none of their representatives contacted them.
London Mitchell asked him if he could considered to be a player if he only serves four years. Waniewski said he didn’t think he was going to run for Senate when he ran for Council what is consistent in his background and his dedication to public service.
Two minute closing. She said she does not consider herself to be a career politician she considers herself as a career in public service, she feels as if she has moved ot one position to the other as she gained experience and knowledge to move on to bigger and better things. She said she has not been just a seat warmer she’s been a dedicated legislator and it’s her desire to use her experience and knowledge of how the general assembly and the relationships to help our area.
Waniewski, said he advocates for our grain business needs to be expanded, he is at why we have job training programs funded from so many different areas, he wants to engage the community, reduce fees, 100 fess for businesses that were passed, he doesn’t want to be critical about his opponent, he wants to talk about what he wants to do.
Contrada & Sarantou
Contrada, beautiful setting, in these tough times we need leaders with a proven track record of balancing budgets and bringing jobs to our community. She said her record shows she has the experience and leadership needed right now in Lucas County. she said she returned over 3 million dollars to the tax payers in Sylvania Township. She does not believe government can run a deficit each ear, that’s irresponsible. jobs is the number one topic on peoples minds, she is a small business woman herself, she supports comprehensive economic development and marketing Toledo as a region. as an attorney fighting for the rights of working families she understands their needs.
Sarantou is running because he thinks it’s high time there is a business person in the commissioners, as a 28 year professional financial advisor for businesses as well as family. He’ll bring maturity and common sense to the office, these are tough fiscal times and they are not going to get any better. He also believe he should do everything we can to develop jobs, LCIC, RGP, he will work with them to address this. We have to take the jobs we have and create more jobs and improve communications with the burbs, there is mistrust in the outlying areas and it’s high time we improved that.
How to ncrease the voice of voters outside of Lucas County to Contrada – Contrada said Lucas county and northwestern Ohio should be treated as a region. she brings experience to a trustee, which is similar to a commissioner, it’s three, you have t make decisions, they don’t’ function by a committee, she’ll bring that sensibility to commission. she has a great dea of experience working with county departments, she knows how townships work, she doesn’t have to have a lot of time studying, she knows how property tax works and the budget process.
Sarnatou said the outlying areas are important, he is the candidate that’s called for regular meetings in these districts, not just elected officials but the people in that community, he would be visible and out there, he’d invite the others , it’s not the address you live it at its the work you do for the community.
Sarantou on promise about meetings given how many that would be – he said he believes he can keep that, he believes he will be capable, look at his campaign he’s been in every sector of Lucas county. He is committed to go to each jurisdiction at least four times a year when they are meeting, we need to work together as a region. If we continue to fight each other as downtown and the burbs our lunch will be eaten.
Contrada the most serious conflicts come between the city of Toledo and everyone else, there are 11 townships 6 villages, etc. she’s not sure how much you can learn, but she appreciates the gesture, the city of Toledo needs to work with all of the townships and suburbs.
Talk about changing county government – Contrada supportive of citizens group, chaired by Tom Killam she thinks an independent group looking at our community and presenting it to the voters is appropriate.
Sarantou also supports this. he told the toledo blade that last spring. He said all facets of charter reform should be investigate for the community.
London on regionalism Toledo versus rest of the county If you are elected all 3 have ties to Toledo – how does Sarantou plan to walk the talk, he said look at his record, he’s helped develop economic zones and supported lower water rates for the region he’s the one who stood up to Edison and Columbia gas and said the high utility rates had to stop. he has a record of not just addressing Toledo issues but regional issues. He trusts the peoples judgment.
London asked about the perception, Sarantou said yes but he asks people to judge him on his work and credentials, he gets asked frequently how he can work with Gerken or Wozniak, he is not going to be a bull in a china shop, puts his ego in his back pocket and works for Lucas County.
Contrada said the concern with Toledo’s huge deficits and Sarantou is the chairman of the finance committee, that experiences is not the experience she’d want to see county wide. Money belongs back in the tax payers pocket. It’s important for toledo to be strong and vibrant but the need to work with all of the jurisdictions.
Odd man out question as to two commissioners to one, Contrada sits on a board of three, she’s served with two republicans and now with a republican and an independent, you need to find a common ground, she believes you can work with anyone. You have to take the time that is needed to really move your community forward, you are trying to find out your differences and similarities. She referenced how trustees work with the county and she’s worked with both Gerken and Wozniak – they have agreed and they have disagreed but they have found a way to solve the problem, which is what it is all about.
Sarantou said he’s worked with both commissioners when they were on city council, they agreed and disagreed but they got things done, he can work with anyone, council has a democrat majority but he has a strong leadership roll and he’s worked with three different mayors, he represents the people.
Cited your financial background, how would you as a business man benefit Lucas County, Sarantou we need to become more business friendly, jobs are going to IN and overseas, he thinks his skills and his ability to understand business will be a plus, right now there is no one with a business background, it’s a huge job and he thinks he’s equipped and ready to work from a business perspective, if we do not retain jobs and get more jobs, we will not win this game in economic survival.
Closing statements. Contrada Lucas county has three major challenges, 1 tax payer dollars used wisely, and explain, she has budget and business experience, she understands how the county works. She championed the use of alternative energy and that has saved money now and in the future at fire stations. She stressed a regional approach to economic development building a cooperative environment, our region is rich in assets, water transportation, talented education work force. We build it here ship it here, quote.
Sarantou closing he believes a business person is needed, we need to work diligently on job creation and job retention, saving money will be a priority, he’s worked on budgets and each one has balanced, we have major challenges it’s important you have financial professional. he will work to improve communication with the suburbs. He said his ultimate desire is to serve the taxpayers and to make Lucas county stronger and offer hope to all citizens, on Nov. 2 you’ll have a choice between business as usual or electing a business person to Lucas County Commissioner.
Questions from the audience
Why did Lopez change employees, she said some did not share the same goals that new leadership new ideas, there were also those like her opponent with attendance issues who could not keep up with the new standards, there were some who could not make the decisions needed to nepotism they just cold not break the old patterns. We had to change the whole culture, they could not hold their staff accountable, they were let go for attendance issues, going on out appraisals and not really doing them.
Why in past years were Lucas county residents not given a fair tax rate to Kaczala she said the housing market was strong in 2006 so she thinks they were given a fair valuation then, if the tax commissioner felt the rates were too high it would have been ordered. When the market crashed in 2007 the values were too high and her opponent did not know how to lower those values. She said Lopez simply did not know how to lower the property values but she did not lower them enough, she cited the report again that Lucas County is paying the highest in the state. She said the employees let go had experience.
Waniewski pn what have you done for minority inclusion in the business community If you can help people to retain more to keep their fees down that helps everyone. It’s not if you are this color you are this if you are this sex you are this, he’s trying to get everyone their money’s worth they all deserve the services. He looks at things with a non color eye, he tries to help everyone when it comes to economic development. He said he’s trying to help level the playing field.
To Brown, I attempted to contact you via mail, us mail and phone, six times why no response I am your constituent. Brown said she does not believe this person tried, she has the best aid in Columbus there is no way anyone could email me once and not get a response, let along three or times, she’d bet her paycheck on that loaded question.
Contrada, NWO needs jobs do you have any detailed proposals. Contrada yes I do, comprehensive economic development strategies, identifying ourself as a region and a vision for the future and applying for grants. ASSES is a very detailed plan for the future, and it needs to be regionally, it should include SE Michigan. It should include south of Lucas County, North Baltimore’s intermodal. It needs to be county wide so when a job wants to relocate and expand the part of Lucas county that it’s left is not harmed. Regional policies need to be continued to developed. Water is a strong economic tool.
Sarantou, school districts in trouble, since education is so important to job, what would he do, Sarantou said that all the schools superintendents need to get together for joint purchasing, by getting them together they can save money which ultimately helps their budget. He supports UT and their merger with the Medical college since it they bring grants for research, they will in turn create business. He also wants to stress joint purchasing for burbs.