Residents meet candidates at League of Women Voters forum

by Laura Freeman | Reporter Published:

Hudson -- The questions of maintaining the status quo or making a change was raised by many candidates as they debated their merits and the challenges of elected offices for Stow Municipal Court Judge, Stow Municipal Clerk of Courts, Hudson School Board of Education or Hudson City Council. Election day is Nov. 5.

The League of Women Voters hosted the Candidates Forum Oct. 15 at the Laurel Lake Retirement Center with President Karin Swedenborg telling the crowded room that the number of precincts this year has been increased, and there is a need for poll workers.

She said the League of Women Voters is a non-partisan group that "encourages informed and active participation in government and to influence public policy through education and advocacy." The Hudson Voters Guide is available at www.lwvhudsonohio.org.

Jane Preston Rose of Kent's League of Women Voters served as moderator for the event.

Stow Municipal Court Judge

Incumbent Kim R. Hoover of Peninsula and Kandi S. O'Connor of Hudson are running for Stow Municipal Court Judge.

Hoover has served 18 years as judge at Cuyahoga Falls and Stow Municipal Courts, and O'Connor has been a magistrate for 15 years in the Summit County courts.

Both candidates agreed that a political affiliation did not belong in a race for judge, that Mayor's Courts should be eliminated, and that the courthouse needed modern technology for processing information.

"There is no place for politics when being a judge," O'Connor said.

Hoover said he ran non-partisan in the primary, and all judges should run non-partisan to avoid any hint of political "bossism."

Hoover said no to any Mayor's Courts, which handles guilty pleas for minor offenses, and said they take revenue from the Stow Municipal Court.

O'Connor said the public elects a judge, a trained legal professional, while a mayor or his chosen magistrate may not have the legal background to make legal decisions in Mayor's Court.

O'Connor said the courts need a new case management court system to increase efficiency and save money, video arraignments instead of transporting suspects and cooperation dealing with other government entities.

Hoover said the courts have raised $300,000 so far to pay for a $500,000 case management system, which they won't buy until they can pay for it in advance.

Stow Municipal Clerk of Courts

The three candidates for Stow Municipal Clerk of Courts are Frank Larson, Kevin Coughlin and Diana Colavecchio, who has been serving since January.

The candidates shared their qualifications, and the moderator asked what was delaying electronic filing and whether the Clerk of Courts needed to be elected.

Larson said it was an administrative position and his experience as mayor of Munroe Falls and instituting sound business practices for nine years made him the most qualified.

He said he would make technology a priority and modernize the technology for filing, online access to records and ensure security. Larson said he would increase the efficiency of collecting fines, and finances would be transparent.

Larson said electing a clerk "brought a sense of balance" and stopped one group from controlling things year after year.

Coughlin said serving as Ohio State Representative and State Senator and running a business made him most qualified. He described the current office of clerk as outdated and still running on paper.

"The clerk runs the court like it's back in Mayberry," he said.

Coughlin said it was up to the public whether to elect the clerk or have the position filled by appointment. He said a partnership between the judge and clerk was needed and a move toward a non-partisan run court office.

Colavecchio, an attorney for more than 20 years, said she has accomplished a lot such as online payments since January when she was nominated to replace Lisa Zeno Carano.

Colavecchio said there were no funds left over when the courthouse was built five years ago, but now the court has a technology fund from raising fees and fines.

Colavecchio said when there is more than one judge, they may not agree on an appointment and was "not confident it would work in Stow with two judges."

Hudson City School Board of Education

The Hudson City School Board of Education has three positions to fill and four candidates -- incumbents Steve DiMauro, Patti Engelman, David Zuro and new candidate Sarah G. Norman. The moderator asked candidates about enrollment dropping from 5,511 in 2005 to 4,650 in 2013. All of the candidates agreed the schools adjust to changing numbers and make changes in teachers or programs.

They also agreed to zero tolerance of cyberbulling, but Norman said penalties for bullying should matter and be enforced.

The moderator asked what was a fair salary for a teacher, and candidates shared why they were running.

DiMauro said the district has to attract top talent and those who perform well are rewarded. Those who under perform need to be nurtured or have a path to no longer teach. He said the School Board would need to address the issue at contract negotiations.

DiMauro said he brought fiscal discipline to the schools and wanted to ensure all students have an opportunity ahead.

Engelman said the state has a new evaluation system and teacher's pay needs to be fair.

"We want the best [teachers] and the evaluation will help address those concerns," she said.

Engelman said she has worked with the city, organizations and other board members to accomplish financial stability without compromising the highest education and would lower costs through contract negotiations and number of staff.

Zuro said salary numbers depend on the market place, experience and education, and the school board would look at teachers' salary structure as they go into negotiations.

Zuro said he appreciated the value of a Hudson education and wanted to retain the quality of the schools. He implemented cost saving measures through staff and healthcare restructure, and the schools are operating $4.7 million less than in 2010.

Norman said a salary shouldn't be based on an advanced degree but on a large spectrum of what a teacher brings to the classroom. She said teachers who don't improve should be given an opportunity to grow, but if they don't, given a fair way to leave the job.

Norman said education was at risk and under attack from a lot of directions.

Hudson City Council

Hudson City Council at-large has three openings and four candidates -- incumbents Hal DeSaussure, Dan Williams and William Wooldredge and new candidate Sarah Margaret Hulburt.

The moderator asked about the unanimous voting history of Council. The candidates said the majority of debate and discussion is conducted in the Council workshops.

Another question was about whether Council would have agreed to pay $6.9 million in 2009 for the 428-acre former Youth Development Center property on Hines Hill Road.

Council members supported the decision to purchase the YDC even though DeSaussure was the only one who was on Council at the time. They also agreed allocating 293 acres of the land for a land conservancy managed by Metro Parks was the right decision. They differed on what to do with the remaining acres on which 14 buildings were recently demolished.

DeSaussure said he would listen to all proposals.

Williams said the land could serve as a corporate office or headquarters and generate income tax.

Wooldredge said his vision included a high end office park or research center to increase tax revenue.

Hulburt said the residents have a lot of thoughts about the land use and could vote on what the city does with the property.

The moderator asked about the charter review in 2014 and candidates shared their vision for the future of Hudson.

DeSaussure said the charter review may look at tweaking the role of mayor, who has no vote on Council. He said he would like to look at ward boundaries with the population changes, and although he's fine with the pay, the city could consider more than $10 a month pay for Council members.

DeSaussure said he wants to demonstrate his commitment to the community through serving on Council. He has seen the development of the downtown and land preserved at the YDC and would like to continue with phase II development of downtown and connectivity through pedestrian and bicycle pathways.

Williams said phase II of the downtown development was a critical question in the next few years. He saw no major problems with the charter, but the number one issue to address was the role of the park board, golf course and recreation department and whether to consolidate them or keep them separate.

Williams said he wanted to maintain the characteristics of Hudson by protecting the tax payer's money and get adequate return on their investments; continue to improve and repair the city infrastructure; and expand economic development to replace reduced state revenue.

Wooldredge said he was involved in the downtown development in phase I, and phase II would be a part of the comprehensive plan and biggest change coming to the city.

Wooldredge said losing state money and the estate tax were a substantial loss, about $1.5 million of the $18 million in the general fund, but the city's revenue amount was back to the 2007 level. He said consolidating the city building staff was more efficient, and the staff has fewer people than 10 years ago. He said economic development would help offset the burden on residential taxpayers.

Hulburt said she saw two needs the charter could address -- storm drainage and garbage collecting.

Hulburt, 28, said she is an advocate, voice and leader of her generation. She has lived her whole life in Hudson and values her community, its rich history and the people who have given back. She said her generation needs leaders.

"A legacy is what you pass on in people by investing in them," she said. "Give me an opportunity to lead. Invest in my generation."

Keith Smith was appointed in January 2013 and runs unopposed to complete the term for City Council Ward 4 representative.

Email: lfreeman@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9434

Facebook: Laura Freeman, Record Publishing

Twitter: @LauraFreeman_RP

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