GALION — There was a common theme at Wednesday’s candidate’s night event at AA American Bail Bonds.
“We work for the people,” said Paula Durbin, a candidate for city auditor, running against incumbent Brian Treisch and Susan Bean, a current member of Galion City Council. “We must be responsible to their needs.”
Candidates who chose not to attend a community forum at Galion Community Theatre organized their own informal get-together Wednesday included Durbin, mayoral candidate Jim Hedges, city treasurer candidate E. Roberta Wade and Joe Haley, who is running to represent the city’s 3rd Ward on city council.
If elected, Hedges says he “will work for the people, and not work for special interest groups.”
Hedges owns Memory Lane Auto Museum in Galion. He says if elected he will “regain control of city finances, lower utility rates, encourage job growth and investment and fight back against opiate addiction and drug-related crimes. He also said he will lead a community-wide strategic planning effort.
Hedges, Wade and Durbin talked about things they see as being done incorrectly when it comes to running the city of Galion. They all stressed a need to get out of fiscal emergency.
“As a businessman, I need to be accountable for every dollar,” Hedges said. “The city should be run the same way. I will have 100 percent transparency in everything I do.”
He is a proponent of the Ohio’s online checkbook program initiated by state treasurer Josh Mandel a few years ago. OhioCheckBook.com is described as “a first-of-its-kind government transparency website that shows taxpayers exactly how their tax money is being spent. This initiative sets a new national standard for transparency in state and local government.”
Hedges also wants to bring industry to town and says as mayor, he’ll do what he needs to do in order to accomplish that goal.
“I’ve got companies that want to come,” he said. “It won’t be a problem getting businesses into town.”
He said the first question to ask potential businesses is: “What can I do for you?” he said. “I’ll buy the land for them, I’ll lease it to them for $1, I’ll give them the water for free.”
Durbin has 12 years of city government experience and was Galion’s treasurer from May 2013 to December 2015.
“There are a lot of things that can be done to curb spending,” she said. “The current city council often does not deliberate before spending money. Then need to be aware of exactly how much money is going for anything they agree to pay for.”
“We need to curb spending,” she said. “We need to make a budget and we need to stick to it. That is taxpayer money we are spending and we should take that seriously.”
She said legislation is not always as inclusive as it should be.
Durbin also says department heads in Galion should be responsible for their budgets. Not just the amount of money available to spend, but they must be more accountable for every cent their department’s spend.
“Yes, they do have a budget, but that budget is just a dollar amount,” she said. “Their budgets do not go into detail about what money might need to be spent on in the current year or what money should be saved for projects and purchases in the future.”
Her platform states something the other candidates echoed Wednesday.
“Financial operations need to be clearly explained to the public and to council member they can make informed decisions,” Durbin said. “Utility operations likewise need to be managed responsibly, instead of imposing utility rate increases.”
Wade is a licensed attorney with a degree from Ohio State that focuses on health care and health insurance. She was Galion’s city auditor from 1982-85 and twice served on city council (1980-81, and 2006-13). She was Galion’s director of law in 2013.
“The city has been in one of the worst fiscal emergencies in the history of this state, since 2004,” she said. “Our citizens can not tolerate any more waste or corruption.”
She said there are specific areas where Galion can do better. One problem is the high cost of health care.
“For one thing, we can do what other companies do. If a spouse has access to a different insurance plan, they should take advantage of it. If they want to be on the city plan, there should be some type of a fee to be able to do that,” she said. “There are other mechanisms that can be put in place to lower those costs. I don’t know that the current administration is looking at those things.”
Wade said city council must be more cognizant of where funds they agree to spend is actually going and why.
She’s also unhappy with the current proposed utility rate hike.
“When you add the proposed hike to two (PCAs) Power Cost Adjustments, you’re really looking at a 13 percent increase since 2015,” she said, “because a PCA is just another name for a rate hike.”
Hedges said: “There are a lot of people on fixed incomes in this community,” he said. “They cannot afford these kinds of rate increases.”
Wade said her experience and expertise in health care and utility legislation can benefit Galionites.
Haley, is running against Mike Richert to represent the city’s 3rd Ward. He admitted he’s not a politician but is unhappy with the high cost of taxes in Galion and what he perceives as wasteful spending by the current administration.
“What do we do if we get in trouble with our own money?” he asked. “We have to tighten our budget and quit spending.”
He agreed with others in attendance who said the east side of Galion is often forgotten when it comes to city spending. While he agreed that the splash park facility at East Park is nice, it is not a swimming pool, which is something area residents would like to have.
Recent spending on improvements at Heise Park was mentioned by the candidates and compared to spending at East Park, South Park and the reservoirs.
Haley has gone door-to-door making his case for election. He said he was surprised by one answer that many he visited gave.
“People actually love their community,” he said. “They have specific complaints about certain specific things, like sewers or the parks. They’re certainly not happy about everything that is going on, but they love this town.“
“That’s something we all need to listen to .. and run with it.”
Russ Kent | Galion Inquirer
Galion auditor candidate Paula Durbin and Joe Haley, who is running for the city’s 3rd Ward council seat, took part in an informal get-together Wednesday night to talk about politics at AA American Bail Bonds.