Election 2013: City Council at-large race

Three seats. Five candidates.

That’s what will face voters when they head o the polls on Election Day, Nov. 5, or go through early voting beginning Oct. 1.

For Marietta City Council, the five candidates are Michael Mullen, Independent incumbent; Harley Noland, Democratic incumbent; Kathy Downer, Democrat; Michael Boersma, Republican; and Jon J. Grimm, Republican, are vying for the three available at-large seats.

Having a five-for-three race is not unusual. The elections of 2009 and 2011 had such as a race, while the race for three at-large seats in 2007 had six candidates.

Here’s how they stand on some key issues:

Michael Boersma

He says the ongoing armory renovation effort has no real plan. He also thinks the sidewalk tables, sign and vendor issues are a simple matter that council keeps dragging out and not addressing.

Boersma said he’d like to see the armory be made into a transportation hub with tourist information and business, such as the Marietta Adventure Company. He added that it might not be feasible in that building, so the city would have to figure out the best plan.

“I think I could do some good for the city,” said. “As the next generation coming in, I represent a demographics that’s not usually represented.”

He thinks the city should pay more attention to college students and he would be crucial to trying to help cut back on bureaucracy.

He said he gets most of the pulse of the people by sitting at the Townhouse bar after work and listening to people complain about things.

“After running the last time and seeing nothing change, it made me want to run again, said.

Kathy Downer

Downer’s main goal in running for an at-large seat is she wants to continue the work council already has started.

She said she is concerned about the fire and police departments, but she understands those areas already are being addressed.

She also supports a police/fire substation near Walmart on Pike Street because of new hotels opening and the Kroger intersection (Pike and Acme streets) is very busy.

“I’d like to see the parks better maintained,” Downer said. “There aren’t as many people working for the city as they did a few years ago.”

She also wants to see the armory become self-supporting, a very doable goal, she said; businesses should be able to move in, paying rent.

“I’d like to see Marietta attract new businesses, which would be a new source of revenue,” Downer said. “There are a lot of historical buildings downtown. It would be nice to see them occupied.

Downer said she has done a lot of volunteer work, including work at the Red Cross disaster shelter and teaching CPR. That volunteer work would continue regardless of the election’s outcome.

“I have more life experience,” Downer said. “We have traveled extensively to other cities. We have other cities we can compare Marietta to. We like Marietta.”

Jon Grimm

Grimm said he gave up his 3rd Ward Council seat to run for mayor two years ago. His bid fell short.

Since then, he said he has watched this council display a lack of financial restraint and financial leadership.

“I have the experience … and decided to step up again,” Grimm said.

One example of that lack of financial restraint is requesting a the City Hall roof be repaired and move into a $1.8 million bond anticipation note. Also prime examples, he said, are keeping the grass mowed and the armory.

“It’s been fixed up, and we are no closer to knowing what we’re going to do with it or how we are going to pay for the armory,” Grimm said.

He said the first step for the armory is figuring out what it’s going to be and.

“Maybe if the armory can’t be sustained without tax dollars, let’s ask people if they want to pay for it. If the people want to fund it, let them decide. If you don’t want to save the armory, the next best thing is to sell it.”

Grimm also asserts council has passed a restrictive property maintenance ordinance that no one knew about it. The city is about to spend millions of dollars at Seventh and Greene streets, Grimm said. He also points to the purchase of police and fire boats, without public discussion beforehand. Committee meeting times aren’t too convenient, either, Grimm says.

“I’m not saying these meetings were help in a dark, cigar-filled room, but they aren’t making it very convenient for the voters to know what’s going on,” Grimm said.

Michael Mullen

Mullen said one of the most important things the city can do is to continually invest in community development, such as infrastructure and the major investment in the wastewater treatment plant, which has had no major upgrades since 1981.

“With what may be huge oil and gas (development), industry will come back,” Mullen said. With us sitting on a huge natural gas reserve, the cards are on the table for us to have a successful 10 to 20 years as we see the industrial potential. That’s a big thing to get infrastructure ready.”

Mullen said his focus will be to be aggressive in grant writing and to make things happen in a common sense way.

The city, with the help of a variety of grants, has been able to turn every dollar in street funds for the past decade into four, he said.

Being a business owner, Mullen said he has a keen perspective as a small business owner who is investing and creating jobs.

“I enjoy being a public servant,” Mullen said. “Fortunately, we have a civil environment in city government. We work well with all aspects of the city. … As mayor (before coming to council), I tried to have a balance and respectful attitude. We get a lot more done working together than acting like those fools in D.C.”

Harley Noland

“There is still plenty to be done,” Noland said. “Finances are diminishing, and labor costs are going up.”

That’s why volunteers are so essential to keeping the city going, he said. Noland said volunteers maintain the dog park and Jackson Hill Park, the Marietta Recycling Club is restoring the old lockmaster’s house. Numerous groups are maintaining the bike path, while a new group is forming to help the cemeteries.

“When elected, I will recruit more volunteers,” Noland said. “That is the future of Marietta. We have a rich history of volunteerism. People like to contribute no matter what their age.”

One example, he said was the Ohio River and Campus Martius museums. During deep budget cuts just a few years ago, the state wanted to close most of its museums and other historical sites. Folks in the area were not going to let that happen.

The museums have been open more days to more visitors and offered more activities than ever before, he said.

Noland said it’s an exciting time to live in Marietta.

“The more people that get involved, you have more fun and more ideas.”

Noland said the single best thing during his tenure so far on council was, despite forecasts of mandatory furloughs, the city was able to provide services without furloughing anyone.

“When you start having mandatory furloughs, its difficult for people to live … it’s difficult to keep people,” Noland said. “Some people like to say government gets bloated. That’s not true in the city of Marietta.

Noland said at one time not long ago, the city had about 200 employees. Now, that number is down to 140 to 150, and the city has more parks to mow, the Marietta Aquatic Center to maintain. The city is delivering more services than ever before.”