On Election Day Nov. 2, area residents will cast votes for important national and statewide races, with congressional races, an election for Ohio governor — and an equally important number of local races.
Toledo Free Press and the Toledo chapter of the League of Women Voters will host a three-in-one debate Oct. 26 between candidates in three of these races.
“The Art of Politics” starts at 7 p.m. Oct. 26 at the Toledo Museum of Art’s Great Gallery. This public event will feature three debate pairings moderated by FOX Toledo anchor Laura Emerson and live blogged by Lisa Renee Ward on the Glass City Jungle and Toledo Free Press websites.
The debate begins with the Lucas County Auditor race, followed by the District 11 Ohio Senate race and then the Lucas County Commissioner race. Tickets for the debate are available through each candidate’s campaign.
Lucas County Auditor: Kaczala vs. Lopez
Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez (D) is seeking to retain her position against Gina Marie Kaczala (R), a former employee of the auditor’s office.
Lopez, who believes citizens are the boss, hopes to continue to work to make sure property values are fair and equitable and that citizens are engaged, she said.
“The more we can engage the public, the more feedback we get and we can make sure our descriptions of their properties are accurate,” Lopez said.
Since 2007, Lopez has cut the previous administration’s department spending by $500,000 and has added three new tools to the Auditors Real Estate Information System (ARIES) to provide more transparency, she said.
The levy estimator allows citizens to see how much a proposed levy would cost them annually; the sales report allows citizens to see the price of sales in their market; and the tax distributor allows citizens to see dollar for dollar which government entity their property taxes are going to.
If re-elected, Lopez hopes to add links to the ARIES website that allow citizens to look directly at how money is being spent by the government entities receiving their property taxes, she said. In addition, Lopez hopes to work with the state to grant authority to the county auditor’s office to perform random audits on government entities.
“I think that’s important in these tough economic times,” Lopez said. “The state only comes around once a year. There’s no way of randomly keeping folks on their toes, to make sure they’re in compliance with the law.”
Prior to serving as auditor, Lopez was Lucas County Recorder and member of the Toledo Public Schools Board of Education.
Lopez’s opponent, Kaczala, said the development of ARIES has been virtually stagnant since her late-husband Larry Kaczala’s administration.
“That office was once a pinnacle,” she said. “We had people visiting the office from China, Europe and Australia just to view ARIES because of our financial responsibility. It’s no longer that pinnacle.”
Kaczala worked for 21 years in the Lucas County Auditor’s office and for 18 years as director of internal audits in the finance department.
“That experience is invaluable. I know every aspect of that office. I know financially how that office should be run,” she said.
Kaczala said if elected she already has an award-winning team with experience in finance and real estate ready to start working right away in the auditor’s office.
As auditor, Kaczala would immediately reevaluate all properties to make sure the values were fair and accurate because state reports show property values being inaccurate, she said.
Kaczala said senior citizens in Lucas County have been neglected and she will make sure they are being taken care of in a responsible manner.
Kaczala worked on the office’s comprehensive annual financial report that helped the county come up with its yearly budgets, she said. Every year the team received awards for its report, Kaczala said.
Kaczala is a graduate of the University of Toledo where she received a degree in political science.
District 11 Ohio Senate: Brown vs. Waniewski
Ohio House Representative for District 48 Edna Brown (D), who cannot run for re-election due to term limits, is seeking office within the Ohio Senate to continue serving Northwest Ohio.
“I want to continue the work I’ve done in the House,” she said. “Take that experience to the Senate. I think that it will serve this area well.”
Brown said more than eight years isn’t very long to get up to speed and get legislation moving, so she is seeking election in the Senate to continue her work.
Brown said she understands Columbus and how the legislature works and will be able to utilize that experience, she said. Brown previously worked with some current Senate members in the House and will be able to use her past relationships to help the region, she said.
Toledo City Councilman Tom Waniewski (R) decided to run for Ohio Senate because politicians were hopping from one legislature to another and he “couldn’t reward bad behavior.” While Waniewski hasn’t completed his full term as councilman, he said serving on Senate would be a greater way for him to assist the region.
“I want to ramp up my public service. There’s nothing wrong with that if it’s in true public service fashion,” he said. “Some politicians may be looking for their next paycheck, and I see it as an opportunity to shout more loudly and more clearly for Northwest Ohio.”
Waniewski hopes with a little energy and engagement he can help Northwest Ohio get out of its “funk.”
Waniewski wants to engage the community and work with them to find solutions, he said.
“Instead of being, “Here’s what we’ve done, let’s do this because it’s what we’ve always done,” let’s look at analyzing and finding new solutions,” he said.
Waniewski wants to focus on fiscal responsibility and the education system, he said.
“Government is spending more than they have. The culture of government has to change from one of politics to one of public service,” he said.
In addition, Waniewski wants to explore underemployment insurance, putting people back to work and not having them depend on the government, he said.
Prior to serving five terms, Brown was a member of Toledo City Council for six years.
Waniewski worked for 25 years a journalist before starting an Internet company. He has served as resource director for the Boys & Girls Club of Toledo. He is also a past chairman of the United Way of Greater Toledo board.
County Commissioner: Contrada vs. Sarantou
Both Sylvania Township Trustee Carol Contrada (D) and Toledo City Councilman George Sarantou (R), candidates for Lucas County Commissioner, said if elected commissioner they’d focus on economic development and fiscal responsibility.
Sarantou, who has experience working with joint economic agreements with Maumee, Monclova and recently Perrysburg as part of Council, said he would bring 28 years of business experience to the commissioner position. His top priority would to make sure the county is focusing on sound economic development, he said.
If elected, Contrada would begin securing federal dollars to develop a comprehensive economic development strategy for the region, she said.
Both said they’d go through the county’s budget line by line, eliminating waste.
“I think it’s critically important to manage expenses and be accountable to the taxpayer. We need to make sure the service they think they’re paying for, is what they are getting,” Contrada said.
Sarantou said he has helped cut the city’s budget for the past nine years.
“We need to go through each department’s budget. They just found a reserve in the dog warden’s budget. I suspect there are other reserve funds,” Sarantou said.
Contrada wants to bring an outside voice to the Board of Lucas County Commissioners. Her experience in Sylvania Township will help her represent the 11 other townships in the county, she said.
Sarantou said if elected to the commissioner’s office, he would host meetings in townships and villages.
“My goal is to improve the communications, work with the suburban government,” he said. “It’s important for us to go out and find out what we can do to improve their situations.”
Sarantou said electing him as commissioner would help balance the county government, which is run by two Democrat commissioners.
Sarantou has served eight years on council and was re-elected for this third term as an at-large member in November. Sarantou is finance committee chairman and is a member of Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Government’s transportation council as well as a member of the Downtown Improvement District board of directors.
As trustee, Contrada helped the township achieve a Double-A rating, maintained and improved the township’s infrastructure and improved emergency services, she said. Contrada has served seven years as trustee and is first chairwoman of TMACOG’s executive board.
A personal injury lawyer, she is a member of the practice Contrada & Associates.
Tags: Anita Lopez, Brandi Barhite, Edna Brown, FOX Toledo, George Sarantou, Gina Marie Kaczala, Glass City Jungle, Laura Emerson, League of Women Voters, Lisa Renee Ward, Toledo Free Press, Toledo Museum of Art, Tom Waniewski