Marietta City Council At Large

Kathy Downer

¯ Age: 65.

¯ Address:

¯ Political party: Democrat.

¯ Occupation: Retired nurse.

¯ Previous public offices held: Two terms on Marietta City Council.

1. Do you support an increase in the city income tax? If yes, how much and how should that money be spent? If no, what ideas do you have to generate revenue for the city?

I would vote to put an income tax on a ballot. It is not up to a mayor or the city council, it is up to the citizens. Keep in mind, income tax is on earned income only, not retirement, disability or social security income.

Our city has made big cutbacks already. In 2005, a Maximus Study was done and it predicted we would be broke by 2011. Well, it’s 2017 and we are almost broke now. We have lost several sources of income, including the Estate Tax and others. Requests for new employees are being denied, workers are not being replaced as they leave and we might be facing layoffs. We no longer contract out for tree trimming and removal, our streets crew now does this along with the repair of brick streets.

The State of Ohio continues to make things very difficult for us. Because House Bill 49 passed recently, our city income tax will be collected by the state starting 1/1/18, and “most” of it returned to us. We have a very well respected and efficient Income Tax Department already in Marietta, and are certainly capable of collecting our own taxes.

Our city administration and our engineering departments are constantly reprioritizing needs. It is my job to represent the citizens by supporting grants to pay for paving, storm water, the bike path, etc. We use summer help funded by Job and Family Services. We have experts that serve on commissions for free. We have a wealth of volunteers. But our infrastructure is 150+ years old, and many water lines need to be replaced, roads rebuilt, utilities upgraded, etc.

As a citizen, my priorities are police and fire and safety services. I am sure my fellow Mariettians agree.

2. What do you see as the biggest issue facing the city and how specifically would you help to address it?

The biggest problem now in Marietta is how to continue to increase our economic development. Attracting more businesses to Marietta would expand our tax base. I have been attending the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority meetings, and I have been the guest of my husband at some Economic Round Table meetings. I have made learning about the city’s finances a priority.

Marietta is on its second T.I.F. area. Tax Increment Financing encourages new businesses by offering a temporary tax break (with the public school’s permission, of course). Our newer hotels, Wings, Etc. and soon to be IHOP are examples of this.

As a councilperson, I supported businessmen who came to us seeking help with festivals, restaurants, a kayak launch, new wheelchair ramps and Marietta Main Street. Our Development Department welcomes new businesses, and our mayor works to find available parking and address accessibility issues as they arise.

Having a freeway, two rivers, trains and good streets to transport goods is something entrepreneurs look at. Broadband availability is necessary for work, school and play. I was one of only two local elected officials to attend the Appalachian Ohio- West Virginia Connectivity Summit at WSCC.

To help fill the empty buildings downtown, Marietta offers a historical tax credit. Several businesses have used this.

Families moving here want job security, good schools, churches with youth programs, parks and community activities. Marietta has all that. That’s why we chose to move here in 1987. We have owned a small business downtown for 30 years and have never felt restricted by over regulations regarding our right of way or signs as my opponent has suggested.

I am proud to live and serve in Marietta.

3. Should the city allow businesses to sell medical marijuana within city limits? If no, why not?

The definition of the word compassion means feeling or being sympathetic to the plight of others. As a former Cancer Care Coordinator R.N., I can tell you that there are patients who would benefit from the use of medical marijuana. After the patient has failed traditional treatment for pain, nausea, and anxiety, they could obtain a recommendation (like a prescription) for the use of THC and CBD. PTSD, Epilepsy, Parkinson’s Disease, ALS, Glaucoma and other chronic conditions would be on the state list of approved conditions.

But when House Bill 523 passed on 9/8/16, the State of Ohio had not yet thought about guidelines. Our City Council then declared a moratorium on medical marijuana as the prudent thing to do. We did not want to grandfather in growers, processors or distributers. Now that Ohio has set up some guidelines, Marietta is considering allowing state controlled dispensaries. They would follow guidelines similar to alcohol sales– not be allowed by schools, churches, etc. The amount of THC and CBG as ingredients in medications needs to be researched and measured like any other prescription.

Employers, schools and law enforcement can still have a “zero tolerance” policy, and should. Since it is still illegal federally, doctors may be reluctant to order it. For example, no one wants anyone operating heavy machinery using medical marijuana. If you are caught with a moderate to large amount of it, it is still illegal.

Medical marijuana dispensaries would be taxed and employ local citizens. It is a business like any other drug store that sells drugs for pain or anxiety.

No one knows what battles our neighbors are facing. And because of that, I hope the citizens of Marietta would be compassionate about medical marijuana being sold in Marietta City limits.

Stephen Harper

¯ Age: 20.

¯ Address: 715 Second St.

¯ Political party: Republican

¯ Occupation: Junior at Marietta College majoring in Petroleum Engineering, technician at James Knobloch Petroleum Consultants.

¯ Previous public offices held: None.

1. Do you support an increase in the city income tax? If yes, how much and how should that money be spent? If no, what ideas do you have to generate revenue for the city?

I do not support the city income tax increase previously put on the ballot. I believe the city did not review all its options before deciding on a tax increase. I believe that taking a pro-business standpoint will allow an increase in revenue for the city. We need to realize that turning down businesses trying to come to the area, as the city has done in the past, is detrimental to the town. Also, although many people feel the city is currently facing an over-spending issue, it is an issue with a smaller population wanting to continue to receive the same resources/services as well as the same budgetary appropriations without realizing it is not within the city’s means.

2. What do you see as the biggest issue facing the city and how specifically would you help to address it?

I see the biggest issue the city is currently facing is an aging population. This issue has been taken for granted for a long time but we need to step up as a town to attract younger families to the area. This ties back into encouraging new businesses to provide jobs to these new families. Long lasting jobs are also important to families here as Marietta is a wonderful city to settle down in. We have a lot to offer but we need more family friendly options as well as providing things to do for younger people. We also need to realize that schools are losing students with the declining younger population and this negatively impacts the resources they receive and can also negatively impact the quality of education.

3. Should the city allow businesses to sell medical marijuana within city limits? If no, why not?

The issue of medical marijuana is one that is controversial for many reasons. As an area with many people that have cancer I believe that medical marijuana may be beneficial to them. However, there exists medicines that localize the THC found in cannabis while not having to be smoked. Though I do support new jobs in the area, this venture may take away from Marietta’s family friendly atmosphere. This issue is one that needs to be further debated to assure the voice of the city is heard. We should not simply say no to a budding industry but should however, study the details in depth to assure the right thing is done.

Cindy Oxender

¯ Age: 52.

¯ Address: 633 Sixth St.

¯ Political Party: Republican.

¯ Occupation: Teacher, Ohio Valley University adjunct faculty member and consultant to the United States Department of Education.

¯ Previous public offices held: Current Marietta City Council member, at large.

1. Do you support an increase in the city income tax? If yes, how much and how should that money be spent? If no, what ideas do you have to generate revenue for the city?

Within the past week I read in The Marietta Times that over 33 percent of Marietta citizens have an income of $25,000 or less. As a single mom with a college student and someone who lives very frugally, I am not in support of an increase. I see my neighbors struggle even on two incomes, hear from small business owners who say they can’t keep up financially and if taxes increase they will move their business elsewhere. My belief is that we will need to make a few more cuts to the budget, but there simply is not too much more to trim without making cuts to staff. While making additional necessary adjustments, the following should be explored:

¯I proposed to the chair of Police and Fire that we discuss a service fee per person for college, nursing home and assisted living citizens who do not pay taxes, but utilize the services of our safety personnel. For example, if between the two institutions of higher education we have 3,500 students, between nursing and assisted living facilities we have another 300 persons and they pay $10 a half for the services, this would be revenue stream of $76,000.

¯ Currently the Fire Chief is promoting that fire staff seek additional certifications which will allow the city to bill insurance companies a higher service fee for emergency calls; this will yield a future revenue stream (projection of the amount is not currently complete).

¯ For non-infrastructure projects, my belief is that private endowments, planned gifts and partnerships should be explored. The Smith Trust helped complete the Aquatic Center while private/corporate dollars completed the Senior Fitness Park.

¯ Lastly, Economic Development efforts to continue to attract new businesses and create an expanding tax base is critical to the long-term well-being of the City.

2. What do you see as the biggest issue facing the city and how specifically would you help to address it?

I think that the biggest issue facing us is Economic Development and the attraction of new people to the Mid-Ohio Valley; those that are able to not only contribute to the community, but the local tax base, as well. As technology liaison, I am proud to share that this past year the Marietta Technology Team worked alongside many other stakeholders to develop a new city website which not only highlights the many services which the City provides, but features some of our recreational opportunities and special events. In addition to this, there exists links for those hoping to develop a business in Marietta – critical numbers for permitting folks, Economic Development Office staff and Chamber, Main Street and Port Authority liaisons are noted. It’s my belief, after serving on council for one and a half years, that this is a step in the right direction towards recruiting new businesses. Historic tax credits, like the one awarded to the Perry and Associates, breathe new life into an old building, while encouraging business to expand at a reasonable cost. In this case, local construction companies were awarded contracts which created jobs for local taxpayers and the new space allowed for the company to expand and hire additional employees. Some of these new folks decided to not only work in Marietta, but live here. It was a huge win for all! Thus, I would like to again assist with this process for other interested parties. Certified Re-Development Areas also permit businesses to expand with tax incentives being offered if the business locates or expands within; one such area was created this year via the Planning and Zoning Committee on which I serve. Council is currently exploring an additional CRA and my belief is this will continue to be a valuable future development tool.

3. Should the city allow businesses to sell medical marijuana within city limits? If no, why not?

When asked difficult questions, I always try to take into consideration, many peoples differing viewpoints on the matter in order to make the most educated decision. The issue of allowing medical marijuana to be sold within city limits is a very challenging subject. Everyone agrees that those with medical issues should have what they need and such a local dispensary would create an additional revenue stream – but at what cost? As council members we have discussed this topic on several occasions. However, in order for me to make the best decision possible on behalf of our local citizens, it has been my request to hear from the Police and Fire Chiefs about how such a dispensary might affect the delivery and impact the finances of local safety services. Additionally, I have made a request to hear from the Director of the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority in regards to how such a dispensary might affect the marketing of our local area to prospective business owners and employers wishing to relocate within our City boundaries. As of this writing (7:30 a.m.-10/16), I have not been given a written opinion from any of these entities. Originally the safety service information was requested when we first discussed the matter months ago and the Chair of PZA is in the process of acquiring this information for council members prior to voting on the issue — final vote scheduled during third reading of legislation during special council session on 10/26. My position at this point, is neutral due to the fact that all the data needed to make a decision has not been acquired.

Cassidi Shoaf

¯ Age: 30.

¯ Address: 525 Third St.

¯ Political party: Republican.

¯ Occupation: Industrial engineer/ leadership consultant. Full-time mom.

¯ Previous public offices held: None.

1. Do you support an increase in the city income tax? If yes, how much and how should that money be spent? If no, what ideas do you have to generate revenue for the city?

We need to show the taxpayer that we’re going to squeeze every dollar they’ve already given us before we should even consider asking for more. I can understand the argument to put the decision in the taxpayer’s hands. However, moving to that option without being able to say that we have done everything we can to best utilize our funds feels like we’re shifting the hard work onto the taxpayers. From discussions with residents, it’s apparent that the city needs to do more to convince the residents that they are responsibly stewarding their tax dollars. Every household must learn to manage their resources. Likewise, so should the city.

From attending council meetings and speaking with residents and business leaders I am convinced that there are opportunities for the city to more effectively use the current funds available to us. When you improve performance, savings will follow. We can implement performance audits to examine city services to find recommendations on outdated, duplicate, and counterproductive processes. We can use this data to benchmark against the best run comparable towns in Ohio. One of the first principles I learned in industrial engineering was that the person 20 feet from the process was the expert. Our residents have solutions to issues they face everyday and city employees have insight as to how we may be a more efficient workforce. Other towns have developed innovative solutions in dealing with challenging issues. We can leverage their successes.

On the income side, let’s boost revenue for the city by focusing on empowering local businesses by reducing unnecessary regulations. Marietta is a hidden gem. Our business leaders have started some amazing initiatives to reveal her to the world. As city leaders we should continue to support these endeavors and do what we can to remove any obstacles.

2. What do you see as the biggest issue facing the city and how specifically would you help to address it?

I believe our financial predicament is a symptom of a deeper issue. As a city we do not have a vision. Without a vision we cannot have a strategic approach to tackling issues. The book of Proverbs reminds us that without vision people go unrestrained. Leadership is not about reacting to every problem but being proactive in finding solutions.

A vision allows us to balance the aspirations of our residents with the realities of a finite amount of time and money. Having an agreed upon vision/destination helps remove the tension from some decisions. When items brought up for consideration do not align with our vision, it’s an easy answer. When a project will help us make that vision a reality, it is also an easy decision. A vision is a guiding principle that will keep us focused and moving into the future that we want to create.

Our current financial status must lead us to looking at things through a different lens. Yes, there are many things we want to do as a community, but are they necessary? What is the right timing? That is the essence of strategic planning.

3. Should the city allow businesses to sell medical marijuana within city limits? If no, why not?

I am a researcher by nature. In dedicating my time to campaigning I have not had an adequate amount of time to be able to thoroughly understand both sides of the issue in order to make an informed decision.

Before coming to any decision I will consult with the experts on the matter such as law enforcement, medical professionals and economic development personnel. Locally we have the Board of Behavioral Health and the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority in addition to law enforcement as resources.

I will consider all aspects. I’ve heard from those in support due to the perceived economic development. I’ve also had residents voice their concerns as to what this could introduce to our city and how it may affect job productivity. Questions around the distribution and control would need a clear evaluation.

This issue, like every issue, is not black or white. There are positive and negatives to consider and unfortunately, future ramifications cannot always be anticipated. That is why it is of the utmost importance that we perform our due diligence for the residents and thoroughly understand the impact on our community.

I am committed to the best interests of Marietta, her families and her future. Given the current environment of drug addiction, introducing this business model may have unintended negative consequences.