MIAMI COUNTY — While the audience listened or watched from their homes, Leadership Troy Alumni partnered with YWCA Piqua to host its first virtual Meet the Candidates night on Wednesday evening for locals to learn more about the candidates and issues of interest to people in both Piqua and Troy, which will be on the ballot in the General Election on Nov. 3.
After 30 minutes of candidates and issue introductions, they fielded questions from members of the local media and the public that were submitted prior to the event. All participants abided by social distance protocols and spaced out in a room at the Piqua YWCA with Karen Wendeln as the moderator.
Ohio House of Representatives Candidates Ted Jones and Jena Powell were asked what they would do to ensure “dark money,” such as the Larry Householder alleged corrupt campaign contribution activity, doesn’t happen again.
Powell said there are, unfortunately, “a lot of shady characters” in politics and Ohio already has laws, rules, and regulations in regards to public office at all levels to ensure trust in the legislature.
“There are many things already in place that help push against the wrongdoings of many people in politics,” she said. “But my commitment to my community since day one is to continue moving forward on my conservative values with trustworthiness, honesty, and integrity.”
Jones said he believes issues regarding “dark money” came about with the Ohio Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s ruling regarding Citizens United in 2010 and called it a gross misjudgment and said it had severe ramifications on the entire political body.
“I have the luxury, if elected, of going into the legislature untouched by Larry Householders’ money,” Jones said. “It’s common knowledge that he gave lots of campaign money to lots of people in our legislature. I’m not picking on Jena Powell, but she was a beneficiary of a lot of his money.”
Jones said there is a lot of corruption in the statehouse and it needs to be addressed “by cleaning it up.”
In the race for the open Miami County commissioner seat, to be vacated by sitting commissioner Jack Evans at the end of this year, Republican Wade Westfall and Democrat Jack Bastian presented their ideas at the forum.
They were asked if they planned to raise taxes as commissioners, their thoughts on a downtown Troy parking garage project, and what the county should plan to improve next.
Westfall said Miami County commissioners are good fiscal stewards of county funds and have “weathered the storm,” in regards to the economic downturns relating to COVID-19, because of conservative planning. Westfall said the future is unknown in terms of county taxes, but there’s an adequate surplus at this time and he’d continue to practice conservative spending if elected.
Westfall said he’d assess the county’s needs first, such as renovation and restoration of the county’s properties, include the Courthouse, Safety Building, and jails, before adding a capital project like a parking garage. Westfall said the parking garage would have to be a city of Troy-led project, but if elected as commissioner, it is a “conversation worth having and hopefully won’t take another 35 years.”
Bastian said raising county taxes would negatively impact the efforts to bring new business and industry into the county. Bastian said there’s no need to burden taxpayers with added taxes or to push residents to spend funds out of the county to save money on major purchases. Bastian said there are many questions regarding funding, location, and management as well as community input needed before moving forward with a project such as a parking garage. Bastian said he’d “need a lot more information” before he could provide his opinion regarding the future of a parking garage for the county and city of Troy’s use. Bastian said he thinks a new jail is needed to replace the Safety Building’s downtown incarceration facility that was built in 1973.
At the forum, Troy City Schools Superintendent Chris Piper represented the Troy City Schools which is seeking a 0.25-percent earned income tax levy on the Nov. 3 ballot. The 0.25 earned income tax would raise $2 million per year if passed for general operating costs. The district currently has a continuous 1.5 percent income tax. The 0.25 percent is on earned income tax only and will not affect property taxes. This levy will cost someone who makes $50,000 per year approximately $2.40 per week.
Piper addressed the question of why the district is seeking a continuing earned income tax levy instead of a limited-term proposal like 5 years. Piper said the district looked at its finances and determined the district has a revenue issue and not an expenditure issue. Piper said the district isn’t looking to expand its programs, but rather maintain the level of education and programs that currently exist. Piper also mentioned the state budget cuts and the fact that state funding of school districts has been deemed unconstitutional more than a decade ago and legislature has not addressed that ruling.
• The Miami County Board of Developmental Disabilities, also known in the community as Riverside, is seeking the renewal of a 2.5-mill property tax levy for services on the Nov. 3 ballot. Superintendent Brian W. Green emphasized the levy was a renewal at the forum.
• Miami County Engineer Paul Huelskamp presented the Miami County Bridge Property Tax Renewal of the 0.45-mill levy which funds the maintenance of the county’s 342 bridges and 2,693 culverts.
• 8th District Congressional Candidates Congressman Warren Davidson, Dr. Vanessa Enoch, and Isaac Reed; and 2nd District Court of Appeals Judge Candidates Chris Epley and Marshall Lachman were also in attendance.
For a replay of the event, a video recording is located on the Troy Area Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook site.