Your Daily Local reached out to the candidates for mayor 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
Q: What most qualifies you to serve as Mayor?
A: I think I have a unique experience base and leadership experience that enables me to approach leadership and problem-solving in effective ways. I was born and raised here in Warren and grew up during a time of tremendous growth and opportunity in the city. The values that my parents, family and friends within this community instilled in me are lasting and true and have been a source of strength my entire life.
I have always sought out ways to serve our Nation and the city in which I’ve lived. I served for many years as an officer in the Regular Army with the 101st Airborne Division during Desert Shield/Storm and later with the Special Forces Regiment in Command positions throughout the Middle East.
When I left the active Army my wife Jennifer and I moved back to our hometown of Warren to raise our family. I was fortunate to earn a position with United Refining Company and continue there today in an executive role. Additionally, I continued my military career in the National Guard as a Special Forces officer and deployed numerous times in command and leadership positions in support of both combat and other sensitive National security missions. I have served a term on the Warren City Council, the Warren County School Board, and many charitable and service organizations.
Most importantly, Jennifer and I have raised five great children here in Warren and have been very active in their school, sports, extracurricular and faith lives. People want a mayor that can address their concerns and help with issues that are important to them. I believe I have the background and understanding of many of the issues that concern our residents.
Q: Why should someone “cross the aisle” to cast their vote for you?
A: In good humor, I grew up in a house divided with both a Democrat and Republican parent. I have children that are also divided Democrat, Republican and Independent. I’m hoping that at the very least, they will cast their vote for me! Most importantly though, I have always treated everyone in my life with dignity and respect, regardless.
Nobody has a monopoly on good ideas and throughout my military and business careers and service on the City Council and School Board I have been able work in the best interest of the people many times “across the aisle”. I have never and will never tolerate the “politics of personal destruction”. We can and will debate the necessary issues and will many times walk away agreeing to disagree, but personal attacks will never be part of that mix.
Q: What is the most pressing issue currently facing the City, and how do you propose to solve it?
A: The biggest issue facing the city and the county is the loss of population. This however is a symptom of the underlying problems themselves, most importantly the exodus of many of our businesses and specifically manufacturing companies that provided the family-sustaining jobs this city and county need. There is no silver bullet that will solve this immediately, but the role of government is to set the conditions for our businesses to thrive. Our best businesses to help address this problem are right here in Warren. Working with them on the issues that are important for their long-term success such as favorable tax structure, safe and secure working environment, quality educational opportunities, affordable housing and high-quality life-sustaining services provided by our city is critical for them to continue to thrive and to invest in our community. Being engaged as the mayor in the business community is critical to understanding the needs and working together to keep them strong.
The silver lining in there is a real opportunity today to take advantage of the global supply disruptions that are plaguing all facets of our supply chains and bring that manufacturing base back. Many of our local businesses have a real chance to do just that. This will require work to shore up our educational systems and opportunities to develop and attract the workforce needed.
The other issue I’d like to discuss is the Roundabout, it’s been a disaster. During my campaign that is still the number one concern of our citizens, they don’t want it and it’s not good for Warren. How our residents and business community were not listened to when making this decision is not acceptable and needs to be remedied going forward. The big problem now is what to do about it. The next steps for the new council will be difficult but necessary and that is to reopen up the conversation with PennDOT and explore what it will take to stop this from happening.
Q: What does development of Washington Park look like to you?
A: I am going to broaden the scope of the question a little to provide a little more context on how I view the very exciting new project ideas such as potential development at Washington Park and the Trestle to Trestle initiative. I have been participating in the city’s important work of developing a long-term strategic plan which if done properly will serve as a guide on the future direction and development of Warren.
Washington Park and the riverfront are incredibly valuable assets to our city and what happens there as part of a broader long-term plan is key. Certainly, these initiatives will be part of that effort but can’t be viewed in isolation. This must be done in a manner that sets the city up for long-term success and foremost in the analysis of any actions taken on behalf of the city is the financial impact it will have. Last year the Warren City Council raised taxes for the first time in many years placing a tremendous burden on our residents in an already very difficult year, an action I do not support. In a situation where we are choosing between raising taxes, losing services and/or paying for projects, the cost benefit analysis of said projects must be at the forefront of our decision analysis.
Q: What budgetary solutions would you offer in order to hold the line on taxes?
A: As discussed in previous questions I am optimistic that Warren can return to growth as our businesses see opportunities to expand and meet needs that are not being met with overseas manufacturers. We are seeing a very strong demand for housing within our city and the surrounding communities which will certainly help stabilize revenues.
Focusing on the economic development primarily with our job providing businesses and the redevelopment of the downtown is critical, more people living, working, shopping and spending their recreational time in the city is great for keeping the revenues where they need to be.
As with any enterprise, however, a disciplined budgeting process that ensures that revenues and expenses are in line and the services the city provides are right sized given the city’s population is essential. The default answer cannot be to raise taxes on the residents many of which are on a relatively fixed retirement income.
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: The most important change that needs to take place is that of attitude. We can’t continue to be known for how difficult it is to get things approved and done through the bureaucracy of city and county governments. Rather, we need to bring an attitude that takes great ideas from willing investors and figure out how can help it succeed.
We need to review the ordinances that are currently on the books, many that have long since served a valuable purpose and remove those that no longer make sense.
To expand a little more on the population loss issue, many times where there is adversity there is also opportunity. We have seen over the last year and a half a tremendous uptick in the real estate market here in Warren as we have seen many people looking to move out of the big cities and get back to an area where they can focus on family.
Our businesses have a great opportunity to bring back business that may have been sent overseas in years past. We can and will continue to work with them on the issues that are important for their long-term success; favorable tax structure, safe and secure working environment, quality educational opportunities, affordable housing and high-quality life-sustaining services provided by our city is critical for them to continue to thrive and to invest in our community.
Q: Aside from withdrawing from the mutual aid agreement, what steps can the City take to help solve the EMS crisis?
A: The good news for the city is that it does not have an EMS crisis. The city EMS services are more than adequate to meet the state mandated requirements. Unfortunately, this obviously has been a contentious issue between the city and the townships within the county in terms of what is required and by who.
The core of the problem is the state unfunded mandate that places requirements on the municipalities yet does not return our tax money along with the requirement to pay for the mandated services. In effect creating another tax on the local municipalities. Warren has always provided paid EMS, fire and police services to its residents while some of the municipalities have utilized volunteers. It’s becoming apparent that there needs to be more reliance on paid services as the volunteer numbers decline.
Warren certainly can be part of the mix to help solve the broader problem within the county, but it can’t be at the expense of the city residents alone. There must be an arrangement where critical resources such as ambulances and paramedics can be utilized but the cost is distributed according to who uses the services. I’m confident that a workable solution can be achieved but it will take some additional work with all entities.
Q: How do you plan to involve residents in the decision-making process in the City?
A: First thing is to get residents more involved in the business of the city. Some of the simple ideas I have are to invite guest groups to present ideas or updates on their activities at the monthly council meetings and recognize all the great things that happen routinely in Warren. At the end of each meeting announcements on the upcoming activities that will be taking place.
Specific to the decision-making process we need to do a better job of using informational public meetings to present major initiatives to the public. Finally, votes on major issues that will have a long-term impact on the city, such as the Roundabout should not be voted on the first time it’s presented to the council but after numerous “readings” of said proposal.
Q: If elected, what steps would you take to put the City on more sound financial footing?
A: If done right I’m a firm believer in a long-range strategic plan, going out 10 to 20 years of which the financial component is a big part. Looking at the demographic trends which largely translate to revenue forecasts can and should be part of the analysis of the strategic direction of the city. Another key issue that does not get looked at in enough detail because the budgeting cycle for the city is a year-to-year process, is the large capital or maintenance items that seem to take the city by surprise, for example the replacement of fire engines or the future maintenance of Veterans Bridge or parking garage. In addition to the annual budgeting process, an annual review and update of the city’s long-range strategic plan must be done as well.
The opportunity to help strengthen the future of Warren is why I’m running for mayor. Jenn and I raised five great children here, I would like nothing more than for them to be able to and want to raise a family here as well. Warren has so much to offer but there is work needed to be done to strengthen our future. The role of the government is to set the conditions for the community to be strong and thrive. Conditions such as competitive tax structures that enable businesses to flourish and attract new investment. Safe communities, with great education and job opportunities that will attract and keep our young families. Recreational opportunities that leverage the incredible gems of the Allegheny River and National Forest.
City government can help accomplish this, but the real and lasting work is done by strong business, philanthropic and faith communities. I am hopeful that with the support of the voters the decisions and accomplishments during my time as Mayor of Warren will strengthen our city’s future for decades to come.