Meet the Candidates — City Council: Joe Michaels

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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 candidates here.


JOE MICHAELS

Q: What most qualifies you to serve on City Council?
A: I genuinely care about the future of Warren, and I want to represent and serve the citizens of the city. As an engineer, I am a problem solver, as an outdoorsman, I want access to trails and recreational opportunities, as a taxpayer, I want to ensure my money is used responsibly, and as a citizen, I want to help my community prosper.

Ultimately it comes down to the voice of the voters, they will be heard at the ballot box, and decide if I am qualified to represent them.

Q: Why should someone “cross the aisle” to cast their vote for you?
A: As a Councilman, I will endeavor to represent all the citizens in the city. Reducing local regulations and fees will help individuals and businesses alike regardless of party. Better employment opportunities are a concern for everyone in Warren. Fiscal responsibility is something everyone can agree upon. Overall, I will be respectful of everyone’s viewpoints and consider them carefully.

Q: What is the most pressing issue currently facing the City, and how do you propose to solve it?
A: I believe our most critical long-term challenge is the steady decline in family-supporting jobs in Warren. I will support existing businesses and promote new economic development. By strategically reducing codes, ordinances, taxes and fees, it will be easier to start and expand businesses and improve homes and properties.

Q: What does development of Washington Park look like to you?
A: I think there is value in having additional biking and walking trails within or around Warren in close enough proximity that the average teenager can access them independently. Whether Washington park is the spot for that is another question. Any plan to develop Washington Park must address the criminal activities and vandalism currently occurring after hours, improve accessibility to the park from the city, and maintain the natural beauty of the overlook itself. My support of any project at Washington park will depend upon how it addresses these concerns, as well as the total cost to the taxpayer.

Q: What budgetary solutions would you offer in order to hold the line on taxes?
A: I know from my experience as an engineer how to perform cost-reduction exercises, how to cut costs, and how to perform in-depth investigations into the drivers of the costs and the cost of the alternatives. Also, I will push to build a reserve fund, insulating the taxpayers against further increases, and enabling large city assets to be replaced without burdening city taxpayers with further increases.

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’ve gone around door-to-door and had hundreds of conversations with local citizens. Generally speaking people like living in the city of Warren. They enjoy the close-knit, family-oriented community, affordable cost of living, and plentiful outdoor recreation opportunities. The biggest reason people leave Warren is to pursue a career. This is why I believe the most important missing piece is family-supporting jobs.

Q: Aside from withdrawing from the mutual aid agreement, what steps can the City take to help solve the EMS crisis?
A: For the most part, the city and EMS management identified a workable solution during their EMS meeting which I attended on October 18th. The next step is to enter into negotiations with surrounding townships and boroughs. The way to trigger these negotiations is to notify the various mutual aid members and begin the process of withdrawing from the mutual aid agreement. This process is outlined within the agreement itself.

Q: How do you plan to involve residents in the decision-making process in the City?
A: First, I would like to make the city’s meeting website and calendar much more accessible and more user-friendly. I would like citizens to see the entire schedule of meetings in a monthly view with both regular and special sessions listed. It would be great if the proposed agendas for each meeting were also listed in the calendar. This would make it much easier for citizens to participate in the decision-making process. Second, as a councilman, I will make my contact information available in order to facilitate communication, I will acknowledge citizens’ input, and I will take their ideas into consideration when making decisions.

Q: If elected, what steps would you take to put the City on more sound financial footing?
A: I would like to shift the city’s approach to budgeting. Currently, the police department has a system in which they replace equipment in a steady and gradual manner, cycling through equipment as it reaches the end of its useful life. This enables that department to hold their expenses “even” from year to year. By adopting a similar system to the rest of the city departments, we can plan ahead for expenses and budget accordingly. Instead of needing a tax increase the next time we need to replace a fire engine, perform road work, or other significantly expensive city assets, we can have a replacement fund that has been gradually accumulated in years prior.

This will stagger major asset replacements instead of hitting the city budget all at once.