EAST LIVERPOOL - Five candidates are vying for three Council-at-Large seats in the Nov. 5 election, all of whom are either incumbents or former council members.
Incumbents Sherrie L. Curtis, Russell E. Dray Jr. and Ryan C. Stovall are challenged by former council members Lawrence
"Bink" Applegate and Brian E. Kerr.
The only other contested race is the 4th Ward, where incumbent Scott E. Barrett is vying against newcomer Brian Vaughn for his seat.
All candidates were asked the following questions: Why are you seeking this office; if elected, how would you try to change or improve your community; what do you see as the biggest issue facing your community and how would you deal with it?
Sherrie L. Curtis
Curtis said she is seeking re-election because the city "is in the midst of some exciting downtown development."
Saying the administration has worked many years trying to turn around the business community, Curtis said, "I want to try to help in whatever way a member of council can to make this come to fruition. There also are other opportunities coming, and it would be a pleasure to continue serving our community to see these plans finally come to life."
Curtis said her goal, since originally running for council, has been to provide citizens the best services possible in the most cost effective way. She pointed out that, over the past 10 years, the city's budget has been trimmed, with benefits given to new employees cut to "more closely reflect the economic reality of our community."
She continued, "With a very small percentage of our citizens paying any taxes, the financial challenge has been great."
With help from the Planning Department and Law Director's offices, Curtis said, council has become more aggressive in dealing with slumlords who live out of town and "who do not care about our neighborhoods."
She said, "I am willing to continue to make unpopular decisions to hold these slumlords and their non-contributing tenants accountable."
The biggest challenge facing the city has been and will continue to be finances, according to Curtis.
"We need to continue to pursue economic development. All of our problems cannot be solved by throwing money at them, however, many of them could be more readily addressed with increased revenue for manpower, materials and machines," she said.
This need for revenue can best be achieved through economic development with people willing to invest in the city, Curtis said.
Another major problem facing the city is the number of residents who lack pride in their own neighborhoods, according to Curtis, who said she has been researching land banking, a program she said needs to be initiated by the county to address abandoned buildings and blighted buildings throughout the county.
"I plan to discuss this program with one or more of our county commissioners," she concluded.
Russell E. Dray Jr.
Saying he is a lifelong city resident, Dray said he is seeking re-election to continue working for the residents.
"In these tough economic times, we must strive to work more efficiently. I want to be part of the revitalization that has begun in the downtown area," Dray said, pointing out that, in the past few years, paving projects have been very productive, including Bradshaw, Lisbon Street and St. Clair Avenue completed, as well as others.
"Thanks to the voters, in 2014 we will be able to move into the neighborhood (streets)," Dray noted.
The loss of revenue to the city is the most challenging issue facing residents and council, according to Dray, who said, "We need to work with upper government as closely as possible, secure grants, deal with abandoned houses and make our city more attractive. We need to bring pride back into our neighborhoods."
Saying council needs the help of citizens to maintain their own properties, Dray said, "I have cared for the playgrounds in our community so the children have a safe place to play. It takes everyone doing their part to make a difference."
When financially possible, Dray said he would like to hire more fire, police and street employees, pointing out, "It is important to always work within your means and be a good steward of the taxpayers' money."
Ryan C. Stovall
Stovall said he is seeking re-election because he would like to continue the work that has "begun to move East Liverpool toward becoming the educational, medical and entertainment hub of the tri-state area," saying the next two years are critical in achieving that goal.
As the current chairman of council's Economic Development Committee, Stovall said, "I have been able to work hand in hand with the administration and Better City organization to help finalize the plans to bring a much needed trade school to downtown. This is just one example of the many projects currently in the pipeline to be developed in the business district."
As for improving the community, Stovall said council has to keep moving forward with development and bringing new jobs into the city and said he would like to see staffing of city departments changed.
"The street, fire and police departments are all understaffed and deserve more manpower. Hopefully, with an increased tax base coming from new businesses and development, we can do that," he proposed.
East Liverpool doesn't have just one big issue; it has several, according to Stovall, who cited a dwindling tax base, neighborhood blight, road problems and short-staffed safety forces.
Again, he said these issues will be solved by increasing the tax base with the new jobs and development that will be brought the proposed trade school.
The issue he hears the most about is condition of city streets, Stovall said, noting that the recently passed street levy will help make tremendous strides in resolving that problem.
He pointed to the recent completion of paving projects on West Fourth Street, St. Clair Avenue and Eutaw Avenue, saying Nentwick Convalescent Center will add a new wing with the improved Eutaw Avenue, creating more jobs.
In 2014, he said, paving projects are already planned.
Lawrence A. "Bink" Applegate
Applegate said he is seeking a council seat because "the city needs changes,"
citing specifically the need to finish development of the former Riverview Florist property.
If elected, Applegate said he would work toward better streets and look for funding to repair as many as possible.
The need for new business is the biggest issue facing the city, according to Applegate, who said he would promote those businesses that appeal to young people.
"We have a college right here in our town. Promote it," he proposed.
Brian E. Kerr
Kerr said he is seeking the council seat to "be the voice of the people," to change legislation to bring about improvements to the city and clean it up.
To change or improve the city, Kerr said he would use his business experience to work with citizens and to "change the 'yes' mentality of council."
Kerr listed several issues facing the community, including bringing jobs, balancing the budget by cutting costs, improving infrastructure, snow removal and the general appearance of the city.
Drugs were also cited as an issue facing the city, with Kerr proposing starting neighborhood watches. He also proposed working with landlords to improve rental properties.
Scott E. Barrett
Completing his first term in office, Barrett said he is seeking re-election to help improve the city and bring trust back to city leaders.
If elected, Barrett said he will help improve streets for the long term and also clean up the city to bring in new businesses.
The biggest issue facing the city, according to Barrett, is lack of trust in the leadership, saying, "The leaders of our city need to step up and follow up with the issues and concerns of the public."
A newcomer to politics, Vaughn said he is seeking the council seat because he has an extensive community service background and hopes to further his passion for the city by broadening the scope of his service.
"It is my desire to be a part of the continued improvement (of the city). I believe that everyone has an obligation to the community in some way," Vaughn said.
If elected, his ideas for changing or improving the city include working with a team to improve housing, financing projects, infrastructure, safety forces and economic growth.
The biggest issue facing the city is negativity, according to Vaughn, who said, "To turn around a community is a work in progress. Not every decision is popular. I plan to know the 4th Ward residents on a personal level. This will facilitate feedback and help them be more educated on what we are trying to accomplish."
Incumbents 1st Ward Councilman Ray Perorazio, 2nd Ward Councilman H. Charles Wade and 3rd Ward Councilman Thomas Cunningham are unopposed for their seats, as is President of Council John A. Torma.