Meet the Candidates — Mayor: Phil Gilbert

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election

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

Photo courtesy Phil Gilbert – Warren City Council Facebook page.

PHIL GILBERT

Q: What most qualifies you to serve as Mayor?
A: Over the past seven years, I have demonstrated a commitment to community service and to redevelopment in the city which makes me the most experienced candidate in this race for Mayor. I have served as a councilmember and on numerous city council boards; chaired the County Redevelopment Authority and helped them turn over more properties and increase return on investment; dedicated myself to the Farmers Market, Habitat for Humanity, Second Harvest food drive, Warren Area Student Union, Innovault Co-Work, and various other nonprofit charity organizations. As Mayor, I will bring that level of commitment and ability to work with others, of all political persuasions, and bring everyone together to accomplish big and bold projects for the city that are desperately needed to change the trajectory of our region into prosperity.

Q: Why should someone “cross the aisle” to cast their vote for you?
A: As a council member and a community member, I have a demonstrated track record of working with Democrats, Republicans, and Independents to accomplish big tasks. When it comes to the future of our community, party affiliation is completely irrelevant and I have shown that.

By continuing the playground program; keeping the swimming pool open when city staff wanted to close it; waiving the hazard food tax or “egg tax” for the vendors at the farmers market; squashing the Hotel development and opting for boutique hotels instead; helping fight blight with my involvement with the county RDA; working towards the development of a land bank, opening Innovault -a Co-Working space, I worked hard for this city to take on tough tasks without regard for political gain.

Q: What is the most pressing issue currently facing the City, and how do you propose to solve it?
A: The EMS crisis is the most pressing issue, but that is currently being worked on and I feel we have a good solution coming. With that being addressed, we need to focus on business development and increasing tourism. All of council needs to come together with ideas, contribute to work sessions, and be proactive in solving these issues, rather than waiting for ideas to be presented to them. As Mayor, I will bring the council members together, involve the local business community, engage with the nonprofits and other community agencies, and build a coalition based on our existing strategic plans to rebuild Warren and create an environment for success.

Q: What does the development of Washington Park look like to you?
A: Washington Park needs to be redeveloped, but the general question is how? That could come in many forms. We need to make sure that we bring all of the interested parties together and execute a plan that incorporates as much input and awareness as possible. Fundamentally, we need to make sure people are aware of its presence. Make sure we have signs up pointed to its location, and advertising so that tourists can see the overlook, and enjoy the view. Everything else should be a matter of revising plans with public input.

Q: What budgetary solutions would you offer in order to hold the line on taxes?
A: Having our EMS serve other municipalities has caused our taxes to be increased by roughly one mil. Solving the EMS crisis is crucial to holding the line on taxes. With a proper plan in place, a successful plan, we should be able to cut taxes. Also, we need to do a better job of collaborating with other municipal and county leaders and as Mayor, I will bring people together to solve tough issues, create efficiencies, and in the end save money.

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 City of Warren has not traditionally done a good job of marketing itself. As Mayor, I would take a strong leadership position on Marketing and make it a priority. That would include building a marketing website with local business collaboration; creating a stronger collaboration with agencies like the WCCBI and the Visitors Bureau; and coordinating our events and promotion for maximum effect. We need to bring the right people together and push the idea home.

Q: Aside from withdrawing from the mutual aid agreement, what steps can the City take to help solve the EMS crisis?
A: Withdrawing from the mutual aid agreement, as much as it hurts, needed to be done. Our city residents live in the city, pay higher taxes for a reason: to be provided the services they are paying for. We need to continue having discussions with city staff and collaborate with the County. This isn’t just a city problem, but a county-wide problem, and we need to work together. I will take an active role in working with the County and regional municipalities to come up with mutually beneficial solutions to the problem.

Q: How do you plan to involve residents in the decision-making process in the City?
A: I will continue having zoom video as an option for all, even after the pandemic; insist that we follow in the county’s footsteps, and provide video recordings of our meetings on a YouTube page; make regular trips to businesses downtown (as I have already done) and speak to local leaders for input; encourage public information sessions at locations around town to gather input on specific projects.

Q: If elected, what steps would you take to put the City on more sound financial footing?
A: Solving the EMS crisis with a shared solution will help ease some of the burdens on the City, but there’s much more to do. Another priority is paving and making sure we take care of every bit of road we can with the budget we have available. As a council member, I have always functioned from a perspective of fiscal responsibility and I will continue to do so as Mayor. Making sure that the taxpayers of the City of Warren get every ounce of service they can for their dollars will be my top priority.