MOUNT VERNON — In the first confrontation of a campaign that is sure to heat up over the next six weeks, the city’s two mayoral candidates began staking out territory for the coming campaign.
jay maners opening statement
richard mavis opening statement
the future of mount vernon
audience questions: brick streets
Incumbent Mayor Richard Mavis, a Democrat, and his Republican challenger Jay Maners, a City Council member, were each given a few minutes to introduce themselves at the beginning of the event sponsored by the Mount Vernon-Knox County Chamber of Commerce, then each answered a series of questions. At the end, each answered questions submitted by the audience.
Maners said he is “running for the future of the city.” He wants to create a better job market so fewer residents have to leave.
“We have to market where and who we are,” he said.
He then launched attacks on Mavis’ administration, first criticizing the bowstring bridge restoration project at Foundation Park, then saying the city had received a black eye because of the fire chief situation.
He called the bridge project a “bridge to nowhere” and that the $180,000 city share could be better spent elsewhere. We have to focus on making the best decisions for the future of the city, he said.
“I would not have let the fire chief resign,” Maners said, “I would have fired him.”
He also referred to an incident a year ago in which a city water department foreman was caught using city equipment and personnel for private projects, and noted that the state auditor said the city needs a whistle-blower program.
“That would punish the bad apples and make the city more viable,” he said.
He emphasized that he was not a professional politician, would give straight answers and is “about solving problems.”
“We need to restore confidence. We need a bridge to the future, not a bridge to nowhere.”
Mavis did not address the fire chief case, but mentioned his 46 years of experience in business and government and started with a defense of the city’s ban on political signs prior to 45 days before an election. Apparently the issue had been raised to him because no questions were asked about the sign measure.
Although he noted that a similar ban had been overturned in Painesville, he said council had passed the law based on what they thought the people wanted and the mayor’s office would enforce it.
He then compared his 16 years as mayor to Maners’ single term on council. He defended the bridge project (80 percent of which is paid by ODOT grant funds) as an investment in the future.
“It will be part of a trail system that will be part of the future of Mount Vernon.” Mavis said, and described it as part of the effort to create a climate to bring jobs to Mount Vernon.”
He said people have come up to him at events and, unsolicited, comment on what a beautiful city Mount Vernon is.
“The next four years are important to the city,” Mavis said. “If you didn’t like the last 16 years, you won’t like the next four,” and cited the U.S. 36 widening project, the crossover road and development of the Ohio 13 corridor as ways the city is advancing.
The two returned to this theme as the session advanced: Maners said the city needs to plan for both good and bad contingencies and that he is willing to make the hard decisions because he won’t be worried about his political future; then Mavis described how his administration is already working to keep and attract jobs.
Maners said that, if elected, he will have a plan in six months for redirecting state routes through the city, while Mavis talked about how the city is methodically restoring the city’s brick streets and is working with Rolls-Royce and the Ohio Department of Transportation to create a permanent route for moving large items from the Rolls-Royce plant.
In response to a question about critical issues facing downtown Mount Vernon, Mavis said people need to work together for a viable future, and cited the need to deal with parking, traffic control (keeping trucks out) and development of the Ohio 13 corridor.
Maners said it is a big question during a difficult economy, but cited downtown traffic patterns (and here made his state route plan promise), and talked about how beautiful the square would be if the brick streets around it could be restored.
“We need to adjust, not be dogmatic, get the public involved and open the door for enterprise,” Maners said.
In response to a question about the city’s future, Mavis said the city needs to create a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) district to help with the development of Sandusky Street (Ohio 13 north), annex the old PPG property so it can be cleaned up and used for industrial development and work with Clinton Township on providing water to developments in the area.
Maners said he supports parks, noting that he regularly fishes at Foundation Park and in the Kokosing River, but decisions need to be made with the best interests of the future in mind, and cited the need to find money for improving the city’s baseball park.