Meet the Candidates — City Council: Doug Hearn

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election

Your Daily Local reached out to the candidates for City Council to get their take on some of the most pressing issues currently facing the City of Warren. Their responses follow.

(Editor’s note: we are running the questions and responses in their entirety, with only minor corrections made for spelling/grammar where applicable.)

See all the candidates here


DOUG HEARN

Q: What most qualifies you to serve on City Council?
A: I already have experience serving on Warren City Council as well as the Warren Redevelopment Authority.

I did in-depth research into how the Council works in order to have a well-run meeting before I joined Warren City Council.

I serve the community with several organizations in Warren including the Jefferson DeFrees Family Center Board of Directors, Treasurer of the Warren Concert Association and previously the Crary Art Gallery.

I bring with me life experiences of living in other communities where I was actively involved in successful neighborhood improvement and redevelopment projects.

Residents already look to me for leadership and come to me with questions and concerns.

I am fortunate that my career allowed me be a leader in companies where I was charged with planning and leading innovation and turning businesses around.

I have extensive experience in planning, building budgets, and making adjustments throughout the year to make sure the budget is adhered to.

In one business I was charged with successfully growing the business from $500K to $1B and at the same time drive profitability.

Q: Why should someone “cross the aisle” to cast their vote for you?
A: This is an interesting question.

I do not see Warren City Council as a partisan arena. I have great experiences in working in a bipartisan manner with others. We understand that an opportunity we are considering is far more important than party. We often have the same end goals in mind.

Another reason is that I currently have bipartisan support. I am humbled when someone from the other party says “I am voting for you because I know you’re the best person to have a seat”. Or when I am told “I am voting for you because you listened to my concerns when no one else would hear me”

Demeanor is important. I have a way about me that is not threatening to any of my fellow council people. Because of my lifetime experience in large companies, I learn that shouting and demeaning speech does not accomplish a collaborative working environment.

Q: What is the most pressing issue currently facing the City, and how do you propose to solve it?
A: An issue facing our town is the loss of residents and specifically the youth.

The latest census shows continued loss of residents which also results in lower revenue for city services and projects. I have sat in the living room of a mother that son has left Warren for better opportunities. I heard the passion in her questions of what I would do to make it easier for young people to live here. I agree that many young people do not return home after receiving their post high school education. But studies show the trend nationally is for them to move back to their hometowns after having their first child—due to the lower cost of living, proximity to family and friends, and other benefits.

Warren must do some work to recruit and retain young people. Five strategies to engage young people include – Reliable and Affordable Broadband/High-speed internet. Many young people recognize high-speed internet access as a basic staple of modern life. In smaller, remote towns like Warren, it enables long-distance learning and online business opportunities.

Warren needs to invest in priorities that the youth value. Socialization is important. We need to create additional third spaces or in other words places other than home or work. As a City Councilperson, we can work to step out of the way, of startup opportunities such as Internet cafes, small music venues and other places where people want to gather.

We need to embrace more festivals and public celebrations. I took a leadership role this year in helping to plan Warren Pride, a successful event that hosted nearly 1,000 people. It represented a very diverse cross-section of our community both in terms of age and cultural differences.

Warren should consider making it easier for entrepreneurial opportunities. Studies show that many young people want to own a business; a growing number already do. Public markets, shared workspaces, financial incentives and “Buy Local” campaigns are all indications of an entrepreneurial culture.

It is important to our future to actively engage and consult youth. We need to make sure they know their ideas and opinions matter. We need to involve them in community planning, local government, surveys and focus groups.

It is time for Warren to market our community to attract young people. We could create marketing campaigns that target young people in short, digital formats. Promote small-business friendliness and utilize peer-to-peer recommendations.

Q: What does development of Washington Park look like to you?
A: When I first came to Warren I was warned to stay away from Washington Park. I was told it was a hotbed for drug and criminal activity. I went up there one day to see what it was like. There was no one around. The view was spectacular and I thought that other cities should be so lucky to have views such as this. My mind started to envision that day what it could become.

It is time for many of us to break out of the status quo. It is time to embrace those that dream big and stretch our imagination of what can be. This park was given to the residents many years ago. We have a responsibility to not only protect it but to thoughtfully enhance it.

I have called for, in partnership with the Parks and Recreation Authority, for signage in town to direct visitors to the Washington Park Overlook. This is an asset our city has and we need to share it with others.

I embrace a plan that would:
-Upgrade and develop the road leading into the park.
-Upgrade and develop parking
-Install restroom facilities
-Install educational kiosks that explain the background of the park and some of the things that can be seen there
-Upgrade walking trails to include a sensory trail
-Improved security to include a gate that would be locked when the park closes

Residents can engage in a project I call “Good Eyes.” It is as simple as “if you see something that does not look good” anonymously call it into Warren City Police.

Q: What budgetary solutions would you offer in order to hold the line on taxes?
A: Budget time is upon us now. I do not see a need for new taxes.

I look at history first of what has been spent in previous years. If there is growth in the budget request then I ask questions and probe for reasons.

I ask questions to understand each piece of the budgeting request. If we need to reduce the spending to be aligned with the revenue then I look for ways to reduce the spending and continue to dig down to see if we can cut an item to align with the available revenue.

At no time would I suggest we cut anything from the budget that would jeopardize the health and safety our residents and surrounding communities.

One thing I am passionate about are fees for City Services. Often times a fee may be seen as a revenue generator and I have to consider if it is equitable for all.

I urge the city to plan for the future. Plan a budget for the years after the one we currently work on. Plan out what our revenues will look like in 2 – 5 years. Plan out expenses for 2 – 10 years. Identify a strategy of what equipment will need to be replaced. This is a concept that many voters understand as we handle our own budgets and plan out for future purchases and growth within our own families.

Lastly, and very important is I encourage our City Management and Directors to dig for and apply for any of the grants that are available to us. Revenue from grants offset the need for tax increases to cover spending.

Q: What key piece is the City missing that would allow it to attract more residents/businesses and how would you propose to find it?
A: I think we are missing a long-term Comprehensive Plan that all can understand. This needs to be a plan that will assist city leaders in decision-making. It is factual reporting that explains how our past has led us to where we are currently. It is a plan that charts the city’s path into the future. A plan that is visible and transparent to all stakeholders. A plan that can be shared with current and new residents and businesses. And perhaps most importantly a plan that can be used consistently to chart and document how were are making progress.

Q: Aside from withdrawing from the mutual aid agreement, what steps can the City take to help solve the EMS crisis?
A: EMS is truly a crisis. I am reluctant to threaten our neighbors with withdrawing from the mutual aid agreement.
We are currently seeking legal advice on the situation.

The city needs to do some good old fashion negotiating with our neighbors. We need to come to those negotiations with an attitude of respect and care for our neighbors.

An easy-to-understand, accurate description of the problem needs to be shared with the communities we are in partnership with. We need to share with them what our need is and negotiate an equitable solution. I would like to see us arrive at one solution for all communities involved but understand we should be ready for individual negotiations.

Q: How do you plan to involve residents in the decision-making process in the City?
A: This is a problem I have seen in Warren for as long as I have been attending meetings as a private citizen. I have witnessed council discussions about a very important topic that could change the lives of residents and there are few residents in the gallery as visitors. Then, weeks or even months later there is an attempt to overturn a decision.

One reason I want to serve again on City Council is that I still hear “no one listens to me”. I am one Councilperson that does listen. I will even go out to a home to witness the problem or concern. We need to be visible and accessible in our City for our residents.
-Community outreach and Visiting neighborhoods periodically in a bipartisan manner so Councilpersons hear firsthand from our residents.

We need to foster an atmosphere of “Community Involvement and Community Commitment”. This can be accomplished through:
-Involving residents in small discussion groups
-Marketing to residents to explain that “this is your community. We want to hear from you”

Q: If elected, what steps would you take to put the City on more sound financial footing?
A: Similar to what I stated above on Budget Solutions. We need to have budgeting not only for the next year but also for 2-10 years. We need to be able to project revenue as well as costs 2-10 years out. Many expenses can be predicted like the replacement of equipment needed to provide vital services. I would plan the budget and spend like many of our residents have – save for the future. Finally, we need to recruit businesses, families and individuals to consider Warren, PA as home.

One additional point I would like to bring up is Warren is to receive nearly $900,000 in American Rescue Plan dollars. The American Rescue Plan goal was to provide needed relief to local governments and to enable us to continue to support the public health response to the pandemic.

It was a goal of the American Rescue Plan to lay the foundation for a strong and equitable economic recovery. In addition to helping Warren address the revenue losses we have experienced as a result of the crisis, it should be used to help the city cover the costs incurred responding to the public health emergency.

The American Rescue Plan was also meant to provide resources to cities like Warren to invest in infrastructure, including water, sewer, and broadband services.

I would first look at shovel-ready projects that Warren has planned and prioritize those projects to use the nearly $900,000.

We need to strategize and arrive at a plan that also combines additional grants to the $900,000 to increase the amount to spend on projects that are needed for economic recovery. Warren has a professional City Manager that can propose projects to City Council to consider.

It should be our job to consider the benefits and obstacles of any project and to use the money before the deadlines arrive. One such project that I believe would bring economic growth to our area is the thoughtful development of the riverfront. This may include the inclusion of infrastructure work to be accomplished on the Boat Launch along some portion of the river.