The first recall election in the history of Clintonville will take place, Tuesday, Nov. 18.
Lois Bressette is challenging Greg Rose, who currently is the Alderman for District 4 in Clintonville. Only residents in District 4 are eligible to vote in this election.
To help inform voters where the two candidates stand on issues concerning Clintonville, the Clintonville Tribune-Gazette asked both candidates a series of questions. The questions and their responses are listed below.
What are the three most important issues facing the city of Clintonville?
Bressette: 1. No strategic or long range plan; 2. Lack of economic development; 3. Poor Image.
Rose: First, we need to work on our staffing issues. We have to fill some vacant positions so that current employees are not overworked or stressed out. There have been a number of staffing changes and we are going through some growing pains as a result.
Second, we need to work on balancing a long-term budget. This year’s budget is pretty much set, but looking down the road, there are some changes that need to be made so that we can stabilize our financial future.
Third, the council needs to work on being a cohesive group. I don’t expect everyone to agree on everything, but I do expect everyone to treat each other with respect and fairness. With the hot-button political topics this last year it has been difficult, but I have seen some improvement lately.
If elected, what would you do to find solutions to those issues?
Bressette: In collaboration with the newly formed housing committee, one solution would be to combine this committee into one and recruit additional members from the city, schools, local business and industry. The goal of this new committee would be to work on a long range plan for the city and come up with ideas for economic development for our industrial park. To improve the image of our city, we need council members who are positive toward our city, business and industry and are willing to cease working with media that promotes divisiveness.
Rose: I intend to work on rewriting the city administrator’s job description, so that we can hire a new full time administrator and move forward from our last one. I also intend to work with council members and refine the electric and water utility positions so that we can best serve the needs of our business, industry and residential customers. On the budget, I plan to look at the possibility of changing the city’s health insurance carrier, so that we can find one that isn’t so expensive to the taxpayer.
What are your ideas to fix Clintonville’s budget problem?
Bressette: First of all, recognize that very poor decisions were made by several council members, which in part, has led to the budget problem. We need to repair our relationship with business and industry and work toward increasing our tax base by growing our industrial park. Further, the time has come to take a look at possibly collaborating with other municipalities for services and to save money.
Rose: First, as I already stated, I intend to look at health insurance carrier options. Secondly, we are undergoing considerable restructuring right now, and this process needs to be done in a way that we get effective employees in positions that fit them well and eliminate redundancy. We need to have an updated employee handbook and employees need to have defined job descriptions. Right now those are not adequately in place.
Interim City Administrator Chuck Kell recently stated that more cities are requiring their employees to pay more for their health insurance to help balance city budgets. Do you believe Clintonville should require city employees to pay more for their health insurance in order to help balance the city budget? Why or why not?
Bressette: With the changes that have been made to our health care system and increasing cost of health care, employees should have anticipated a possible increase in their out of pocket expenses. On the other hand, the city went the entire summer without an administrator exploring other options, so now city employees will probably end up having to pay more money.
Rose: Since health insurance costs have spiraled, employees have taken on a larger portion of this cost all the time. Between that and the cuts that were made at the state level through Act 10, employees no longer have any more that they can give. We cannot continue to go after employee’s pay and benefits in order to balance the budget. If we keep doing that the wage and benefits will be so out of line with the private sector that we will not be able to hire and retain qualified candidates.
There has been a lot of discussion regarding the city’s outdoor swimming pool. What do you think the city should do with the outdoor swimming pool?
Bressette: I think the city should do whatever is necessary to keep the city swimming pool open. During the winter months when things slow down, I think the city should look for grants and other sources of funding to fix whatever the structural problems are with the pool.
Rose: Park and Rec director Justin Mc Auly stated that the pool can limp along for another year without significant investment. I would say that we give the pool that one year of use and then put the issue to a referendum to voters for there on forward. If the voters do not support significant investment into the future of the pool then we will probably close it permanently.
Do you feel the city should use the undesignated fund balance to balance the 2015 city budget? Why or why not?
Bressette: I would be in favor of borrowing from the fund balance, but only if there is a solid plan to replace the borrowed funds. This is an emergency fund. The city has the responsibility for the health, safety and welfare of its citizens. Should the need arise, money must be available.
Rose: Yes, I am okay with using the fund balance for the budget. It has been used in the past on a number of occasions and this is not unusual. The balance is standing at a very healthy level right now and can be utilized in a way that keeps our current systems in check. However, I am not in favor of utilizing it to maintain a structural deficit. I intend to make significant financial changes within the city so that next year we do not depend on it like this again.
Do you feel the Clintonville City Council should cut the pay council members receive for serving on the council as a way for the city to save money? Why or why not?
Bressette: Yes, cut city council pay. Far be it for council members to not take a cut in pay when they are increasing taxes and decreasing services. With this current budget crisis, it is worth noting that while on city council, I donated my council meeting pay back to the city to help balance the budget and in the nearly four years of serving on committees/boards, I have not accepted meeting pay thus saving the city nearly $1,200.
Rose: This sounds like a nice gesture and certainly good public relations for those who do it. However, in the big picture of the city’s budget, it is a small drop in the bucket. I believe that while we don’t do it for the money, the pay does provide some solace for the difficult positions we are often subjected to. I’ve had my reputation tarnished, been verbally attacked, my opponent complained to my employer, and so on and so forth. It is a lot to ask of a person, and if we were not paid I do not think many of us would be willing to put up with the stress and risk. Finding qualified candidates requires paying them something, no matter what the line of work is.
What is it going to take to create harmony between both the council and the citizens of Clintonville?
Bressette: Several members of this council have become very comfortable making decisions with total disregard for the citizens of the city. A good start to creating harmony between the council and citizens is transparency and giving citizens a voice. As a citizen, I have been attending city council meetings. Citizens want to know what is going on and in what direction our city is going. Closed session after closed session, citizens have waited for the council to emerge only to be told council can’t talk about it. This secrecy has bred the ugliness in our city and it has to stop. Citizens have stood up at council meeting after council meeting, pleading for this council to listen. The council’s response has been to try and limit the length of time a person can give public comment. The voice of the public has the right to be heard. The voice of the public needs to be heard. It’s been far too long.
Rose: Time and acceptance will bring harmony. Our former city administrator worked here long enough to create some very strong bonds within the community, so when she was under investigation those community members came to her aid. Now with her resignation, they are upset and carrying out their anger with this recall process. The way I see it is that the council did their job. We serve in a quasi-judicial capacity, and are to uphold the principles and ethics that are expected of us as elected officials. We carried out a difficult task, and the community needs to accept that we did what we had to do. In the future we will have a new administrator and people’s frustrations will calm down under new leadership.
Why should voters elect you?
Bressette: I have experience having served on city council for two years and still serve on committee/boards. The lack of transparency and not giving citizens a voice is very disturbing to me. I am just as frustrated as the people I have sat with during city council meetings. I will work toward creating more transparency in our city government. Citizens of District 4 have complained they have no representation on city council. I will represent you. I will listen to you. It is our city, and I will be your voice.
Rose: Voters should choose to retain me as their elected official because they know that I am working for the betterment of their lives and the community they live in. My steadfastness in the face of political pressure shows the commitment I have to doing what is morally and ethically right. Voters know that I’m working in their interests; I’m getting their street lights turned back on, after my opponent voted to shut them off and take them down. Citizens know that I value Clintonville as a family man who wants the city to be a wonderful place to raise children. Voters know that I care, and that I’m real – I’m just like them.