GREEN Voters in the city of Green's Ward 1, 3 and 4 will vote Nov. 7 on contested city council races.
In Ward 1, incumbent councilman James Ahlstrom is being challenged by Barbara Babbitt. In Ward 3, incumbent councilman Ken Knodel, who was appointed to his position when Anthony DeVitis successfully ran to represent Ohio's 36th District, decided not to run for re-election. Rocco Yeargin and Susan Ridgeway face off to replace Knodel after advancing in a contested primary. In Ward 4, councilman John "Skip" Summerville has reached his term limit and voters will decide between Matt Shaughnessy, Jeff Noble and Sondra Clevenger. In Ward 2, incumbent Bob Young is running unopposed.
INVOLVEMENT IN GREEN
Ahlstrom: "I have lived in Green for over 10 years. Over the years, I have been involved in many municipal and business groups. I’ve been Ward 1’s councilman since 2013. Before my first term on Green City Council, I was a member of the Board of Zoning Appeals, Green Chamber of Commerce's board of directors, and numerous other fundraising and community involvement initiatives. Currently, as Ward 1’s Councilman, I’m also vice president of Green City Council, chair of the Intergovernmental and Utilities Committee, vice chair of the Rules and Personnel Committee, and a member of the Planning and Economic Development Committee."
Babbitt: "I have lived in Green for 43 years. I am a sixth generation Green resident and I’ve been involved with my family’s farm for many years. In the past, I practiced law in the city, and currently I have a residential real estate business in Green. I have spent many years volunteering in the Green Local Schools, and served as vice president of the Green Council of PTAs. I also served on the Green Local Schools Strategic Planning Task Force."
Shaughnessy: "I've lived in the City for 13 years and volunteer for Community Legal Aid, which provides legal services to those in need who otherwise cannot afford access to the courts."
Noble: "I have lived in the city for 20 years. I have had extensive involvement in city government. Mayor Croghan appointed me to the city of Green Design Review Board (DRB) 15 years ago. I still sit on that board and am currently chairman. The DRB focuses on building architecture, site layout, parking, site circulation, landscaping, signage and access. The goal of the board is to increase the quality of commercial development in Green. Six years ago, during Mayor Norton's administration, I was appointed as a Green representative to the Portage Lakes Advisory Council (PLAC). Through my work on Portage Lakes Advisory Council, I have successfully lobbied for a multiyear dredging program in the Portage Lakes that will have a positive impact on navigation. I also worked with city leaders to develop the Wonder Lake stormwater wetland project (in Ward 4) that is in the city’s capital budget and will improve water quality on Portage Lakes. These are concrete examples of how my commitment and expertise has a positive impact on the citizens of Green. Most recently, Mayor Neugebauer appointed me to the city of Green Storm Water Committee. On that committee, I am using my education and expertise as a civil engineer to begin the process of updating the city's storm water codes, policies, and procedures to reduce flooding and improve water quality."
Clevenger: "I have lived in the city of Green for 22 years. My husband, Dan, and I were married in 1991 and lived in an apartment in Fairlawn where he was a decorated police officer and detective. When we decided it was time to start a family, we moved to his hometown of Green, purchased our home and have lived here, in the same house ever since, making Green our family's hometown. Because I was a working mom with a demanding career, my involvement within the city revolved around my son. I have served on Green's levy committee, was part of the community committee giving input to choosing a school superintendent and was treasurer for Green's Youth Football League. During these earlier years, my life was dedicated to being a wife, mother and being highly successful in my career for the benefit of my family."
WHY ARE YOU RUNNING
Ahlstrom: "Green is fortunate to have a very strong local government. My role on council, representing Ward 1’s residents, is about making sure my neighbors have an active voice in how their city is run. Over the last four years, I’ve built many relationships across Green, and across Summit County in an effort to not only protect Ward 1’s residents and businesses but help them thrive. I’m seeking re-election to continue using my experiences and diverse background to help continue our success into the future."
Babbitt: "I am running to represent the residents of Ward 1 on Green City Council because I want to give something back to the community that has given so much to me. I have lived in Green most of my life, and while the community has changed over the years, Green remains a wonderful, friendly place to live. I will represent the interests of the citizens of Ward 1 and make decisions that will shape a positive future for all of Green. My purpose in seeking this office is to use my skills and abilities to better serve the residents of Ward 1. l will use the knowledge and experience I have gained as a former assistant prosecutor, a community volunteer and a mom to effectively serve on council. As an attorney in the Civil Division of the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office, I worked on many of the issues facing our city today, including zoning issues, complex litigation, budgeting and safety concerns. I will use my legal background and experience advising local governments and county agencies to make informed, sustainable decisions for our city. My volunteer work and experience on community boards will benefit me on council as well. The ability to be flexible and work with many different kinds of people to solve problems is crucial to my volunteer and board service, and these skills will benefit me in working with council, the mayor and other city officials to get things done. Being a mom has enhanced my patience and communication skills; these qualities will help me provide a voice of civility on council. The residents of Ward 1 deserve a representative who communicates with them regularly, listens to their concerns, and acts as a problem solver. I will meet with residents consistently, not just during election season. I will address residents’ concerns and be a conduit, updating them on the city’s plans and activities. I will use community feedback in decision-making on council. I am dedicated to transparency in government, and communication will override expediency while I’m in office. My experience and approach toward public service will provide Ward 1 the leadership it deserves. I will work hard to ensure Ward 1 residents can be proud to say I am their councilwoman."
Shaughnessy: "I'm running because I want to give back to this community. I've lived in a number of Northeast Ohio communities and can attest Green is by far the best. My family and I have benefited tremendously by enjoying its parks which are second to none, its excellent schools, and top notch safety and service departments, and I'm now at a time in my life that I want to give back. I'm also running because my work experience and education have uniquely prepared me for this position. For instance, public safety is arguably the most important city service, and I'm the only candidate with a public safety background. I am a retired Fairview Park firefighter/paramedic, and I started my career in public safety as a Cleveland police officer. I gained additional applicable work experience in 2007 when I joined the University of Akron as project manager/real-estate coordinator where I managed property acquisition and site clearing projects for the university's $61 million InfoCision Stadium-Summa Field. Through that experience, I became well-versed in how the public bidding process works, which is directly applicable to city government. And finally, while working at the university, I earned my law degree at night which included elective coursework on local government law where I learned about the development and implementation of zoning regulations. Zoning is likely the most important and consequential issue Green faces today, so, if elected, I'll be ready on day one to contribute. My positions: I'm against Nexus; I'm for zoning that protects our neighborhoods; I want sidewalks on our busiest streets; and I'm for alternatives to roundabouts."
Noble: "I am running for City Council because I believe I can help improve the quality of life for residents of the city of Green today and into the future. As a growing city we have an opportunity to shape this city for the next generation. I believe my education and background as a civil engineer has prepared me to navigate the complex issues of city building. I want to play a role in shaping our city’s future. As a Civil Engineer for the last 23 years, in my professional capacity, I have advised Northeast Ohio communities on how to reduce traffic congestion, improve the safety of their roadways, and resolve storm water issues. I plan, fund, and design many types of infrastructure projects. I believe this experience makes me uniquely qualified to represent the citizens of Ward 4 on City Council."
Clevenger: "As life would have it, things change. My son has grown up and my career, by choice, has wound down. However, because of my 27-year career as a treasurer/CFO, I have gained more knowledge than an average person when it comes to public finance. There is a huge difference between public and private funds. I have that knowledge. It has been my way of life for the last two decades. In many ways, I forget and take for granted the experience I have. I have put many large projects out for bid, I have negotiated with unions, I have had to explain complicated public finance to people who would love to prove me wrong. I create and manage budgets to control spending. In one district, I challenged the status quo and changed the property insurance carrier to save the district 75 percent of what they were spending. In the same district, I made changes to the structure of their healthcare system that brought in 48 percent cost reductions instead of the past 23 percent. These are just a few examples of my accomplishments. By the way, these changes were met with great resistance. I didn't have an army of staff behind me helping with defense of these new ideas that were going against the establishment. I did these things by myself. I can fight for what I believe in, things that make the best financial sense for the least noticeable difference in service. I was successful working for a board of five and I look forward to being a part of council. This is why I am running for Green City Council."
MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE IN YOUR WARD AND HOW TO ADDRESS IT
Ahlstrom: "The city of Green has experienced unprecedented growth. Our excellent schools, stunning parks and welcoming business climate have brought folks from all over the world to our city. With this growth come other factors that need to be managed as well; factors like crime and traffic, increased public services demand and more students in our classrooms. Managing this growth is of paramount importance and is the greatest issue for many, if not all of Green’s wards. I’m the only candidate to conduct ride alongs and spend time first hand with Green Fire and EMS, Summit County Sherriff, and Green’s Service Department. I feel it is important to continuously gather first-hand experience to best translate the needs of my constituents into effective leadership and policy. While we are a vibrant economic hub, it is critical to protect our residents’ way of life. Through smart zoning and development strategies and a relationship with Green Local Schools and school board, I’m able to protect Ward 1’s neighborhoods, environment, and educational experience for our students."
Babbitt: "There are a number of critical issues presently facing the people of Green. After speaking with many residents all around Ward 1, as well as representatives from the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, I have determined safety concerns to be the most important issue facing our ward. The rapid growth of Green has caused an increase in traffic, and an increase in crime against people and property, particularly in Ward 1. I will work with the Sheriff’s Department, the Green Fire Department, council and the mayor to keep our neighborhoods, roadways, parks and commercial areas safe. The personal safety issues were particularly evident to me over the course of a four-day period in September when Ward 1 experienced an armed robbery at a restaurant, multiple vehicle break-ins, and a car theft. An increased presence by the Sheriff’s Department is critical to address our safety needs. I will push for increased patrols, and advocate for an additional law enforcement presence in our neighborhoods, which could take the form of actual law officers or equipment such as cameras and speed-monitoring devices. I also support construction of a third fire/police station, located in Ward 1, in order to better serve Green’s growing population. While I will act as a vigilant steward of Green’s resources, I will ensure our law enforcement and fire services remain adequately funded to keep our city safe. The safety of our roads is also paramount to Ward 1 residents. Our city’s roadways are becoming unable to accommodate the current volume of traffic flowing through Green. Many of the most highly trafficked roads, including Arlington, Massillon and Route 619, pass directly through Ward 1. I will see that each roadway and intersection project receives proper, critical attention. Some situations may be best served by roundabouts, while others require different solutions."
Yeargin: "The biggest challenge we face in Ward 3 is making sure our community grows in a balanced and responsible way. Ward 3 contains parts of both of the city’s main commercial districts, the Massillon Road corridor and the Arlington Road corridor. These business areas sandwich several residential neighborhoods. The residents here are increasingly feeling the squeeze of increased development and congestion around their homes. It is important that our zoning laws work for both these residential neighborhoods and businesses. I believe it is time for a comprehensive review of our long-range plan and zoning code to ensure that growth is balanced and sensible for every facet of our community. Finally, the growth of new housing and businesses has placed additional strain on our streets. Through smart planning and timely updates to infrastructure, we can make sure our community remains both a great place for business and a great place to live and raise a family."
Ridgeway: "After polling Ward 3 residents during this campaign, I learned that the single most important issue was the NEXUS Pipeline. Understandably, no one wants this monstrosity going through our community. If elected, I will support a comprehensive catastrophic safety plan in an attempt to keep residents and property safe, and protected areas like the Singer Bog pristine. The installation of these large, high pressure pipelines will create a challenge for our community and state. Specialized equipment for fighting large fires like an aerial firefighter can’t be found east of the Mississippi if the need arises. A safety plan would also benefit the airport in case of an air disaster or security issue. Anyone following the installation of the Rover pipeline knows that this has been one disaster after another. I am disturbed and worried about what will happen if litigation should fail to stop NEXUS from going through Green."
Shaughnessy: "The most important issue is safe passage for our children on our busiest streets, in other words sidewalks. Nobody wants another tragedy like the one that happened on Main Street in Coventry Township when two 14-year-old girls were hit and killed and one 15-year-old boy seriously injured; sidewalks would have prevented that tragedy. Moore Road and Main Street in Green pose the same danger and the stores at Arlington Ridge plaza attract young children and teens from Robin's Trace and the surrounding neighborhoods; sidewalks will provide a safe path away from harmful traffic. To address this issue, I will push a resolution in city council to provide sidewalks on Moore Road and Main Street and if I get resistance I will invite the naysayers for a walk down those streets during rush hour. I've been there, I've done that, and that experience will change minds."
Noble: "I believe the most pressing issues facing our city today are infrastructure related. From congestion and safety along major roadways, to drainage problems in our residential developments, to lack of a safe place for people to walk along our roadways, or proper planning for new development; my education, background and experience have prepared me to solve these issues. Attracting and retaining businesses is critical to the long-term health of this city, but as we grow, our infrastructure must keep pace. As we improve our infrastructure, I believe we should prioritize pedestrian safety so our citizens can safely walk or bike to school, stores, work, or our parks and not have to do it in our roadways. As a PLAC member, I developed a walkability plan for the Portage Lakes covering much of Ward 4. The goal is to make Green more pedestrian friendly by linking our neighborhoods, parks, and businesses. Studies show that walkable communities are not only safer for pedestrians, but also result in increased property values and are critical to attracting young professionals and businesses to a community. I am running for City Council because I believe I can help improve the quality of life for residents of the city of Green. I have a history of involvement in our community that no other candidate can match. I ask for your vote on November 7th."
Clevenger: "I have been out talking to a lot of people. Everyone has issues that are important to them for any number of reasons. I want to always stay in touch with the people who live in Ward 4 to accurately present their concerns to city leadership. As in most governments, trust is the most important thing to keep and the easiest to lose. As soon as people think you are trying to hide anything, trust is gone. This is why I am a proponent of government transparency. Government is the people and belongs to the people. One form of transparency that is easily available is Ohiocheckbook.com through the Treasure of State's office. This is a very easy tool that allows the citizens, or anyone, to look at the spending of governmental agencies that choose to post their information. It is simple to use and the information it displays is amazing. If you wanted to see what the city spent on parks and recreation, you could do that very easily with the click of a mouse. I would also like to arrange neighborhood meetings to stay in touch with the ward. Coffee and conversation to stay in touch with the concerns of Ward 4. I am transparent. I believe government should be transparent. If elected, I will be available, your opinion matters to me."
WHAT SETS YOU APART FROM YOUR OPPONENT
Yeargin: "I am a careful listener and proven problem solver. I have dedicated my 26-career as a lawyer to defending citizens’ rights, providing affordable legal assistance to families, and serving the needs of our elderly population. I have established myself as a hard worker who goes the extra mile to achieve the best result. This commitment was demonstrated in my work to protect my neighbors’ homes on April Drive from a proposed strip mall. When I heard the new mall would be constructed right next to their homes, I conducted research, drafted briefs, and successfully represented my neighbors as co-counsel before the Board of Zoning Appeals, where we presented evidence and argument concerning the impact on the neighborhood. Whether the problem is on April Drive or Mt. Pleasant Road, my experience and skill set translate well to representing the people of Ward 3 on council. I am devoted to working with all members of the city government regardless of political affiliation. I believe a councilmember’s loyalty should be to the residents and not to any political agenda. That means being dedicated to working with the mayor and council members to single-mindedly pursue what is best for the community. My candidacy is not encumbered by old political alliances and divisions. Instead, it offers a fresh perspective that is high on personal commitment and low on political drama."
Ridgeway: "My experience as a community activist and public servant sets me apart from my opponent. After graduating from Green High School, I served in the U.S Navy for 3 years and used the GI Bill to put myself through college. After receiving an undergrad degree in Art History, I went back to the University of California, Irvine, and received a graduate teaching credential with a specialization in Cross-cultural Language and Academic development. As a California public school teacher, I worked with a diverse, multicultural student population. When I moved back to Green, I went to Kent State University and received a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science. As a teacher librarian I became a union activist and lobbied for better funding for our schools at the Ohio Statehouse, and lobbied in Washington to keep libraries in our nation’s schools. I served for two years on the Green Historic Preservation Commission and went on to serve one term on Green City Council from 2006-2009. I was also a professional blogger for the Ohio Education Association and helped exposed corrupt charter school operators here in Ohio. I also supported the Coalition to Reroute NEXUS, in any way that I could. I continue to be a union activist and hopefully have the opportunity to serve Ward 3 once again."
THOUGHTS ON LEAF REMOVAL PROGRAM
Yeargin: "The threshold question is whether residents want leaf removal. That is why I believe the city’s quest to first getting an answer to this question through a survey is key. I urge residents to complete the survey on the city website and to leave detailed notes in the appropriate box indicating: (1) whether residents want the service; and (2) if so, the type of service desired. If residents indicate they want leaf removal, then it would be incumbent upon the city to provide quality service in the most cost-effective manner possible. If, however, residents indicate they do not want the service, it should not be forced upon the community. Public input for this proposal should dictate the direction taken."
Ridgeway: "Leaf removal programs already exist in many communities around Summit County and Ohio. In high density neighborhoods, it is a much needed service which would help make an arduous job more tolerable. Cities exist to provide services and a higher standard of living for its citizens. If the costs are similar to what other communities pay for leaf pick up, I think this would be money well spent to help our citizens."