The Register will present candidate forums for the Sandusky city commission, Sandusky school board and the Perkins Township trustee races later this month at the State Theatre.
A prelude to those took place Thursday at Sandusky High School, however, during the Erie County Chamber of Commerce candidate forum at Sandusky High School. It was a pretty good presentation by the chamber, given the unwieldy nature of these “debates,” but the Q&A was not as penetrating as one might like. Hopefully, the Register can build on the fine work the chamber began by providing deeper answers from candidates to difficult questions.
The big winner Thursday was challenger Mike Printy in the Perkins Township race. In the city commission race, candidates Diedre Cole, incumbent city commissioner Craig Stahl and challenger Kim Nuesse stood out.
Printy came out of the gate strong, questioning incumbent trustees Bill Dwelle and Tim Coleman about “turmoil” in the township caused by out-of-control lawsuits and counter lawsuits and the status of fired police Det. Al Jenkins, who is awaiting an arbitrator’s ruling on his termination.
Printy was calm and confident. Dwelle and Coleman held their own but fell a bit short in their explanations in response to the concerns raised by the challenger.
It was a good exchange among all three, but left more questions on the table than answers.
It’s obvious city commission challenger Deidre Cole has given great thought and a lot of time studying the issues. Every time she spoke there was power in her voice that showed passionate commitment. She tooted her own horn eloquently and spoke of waterfront development, openness in government and collaboration with clear conviction. If performance equals leadership, then Cole won the night, hands down.
Then there’s Craig. Craig, Craig, Craig. You have to love this guy despite all the baggage he brings to the table.
In his opening statement, ex-officio mayor Craig Stahl held up his lightly clenched right hand, his thumb on his index finger and waved it in a circle as he ticked off all the things he said had been accomplished over the last four years. It was theater and it was well done, almost Bill Clinton-like. My guess: Stahl’s gotten some great coaching these past few weeks. He never once said, “I love Sandusky. We all love Sandusky.”
Fired police Chief Kim Nuesse was the other winner in Thursday’s Chamber of Commerce forum.
Nuesse was clear, but reserved, in every answer she provided. There’s so much meat on the table where she could have gone, but she chose decorum over hard debate. From a political standpoint, that might be a wise path for a candidate who very well might already have huge support due to the serious and costly mistakes Stahl and others made during the past two years. My guess is there will be more meat on the table during the Register’s candidate forum.
Nuesse’s integrity shined through despite the expensive “integrity probe” of her launched by city manager Matt Kline, with a huge assist from Stahl and others, way back in February 2008.
Nuesse wins just by being at the table, and if ever there was a woman with courage and commitment, she’s her.
RULING COULD COME WEDNESDAY
If you’re unsure who has integrity and who does not, just go back and read the transcripts from Nuesse’s civil service hearing. The transcripts are available at sanduskyregister.com, but you’ll need more than a few minutes to read through them. The coordinated accusations from the frightened Sandusky police command staff and other public officials who wanted Nuesse out, are a mile wide but just an inch deep.
And as you read the transcripts, remember this: Most, if not all of Nuesse’s accusers refused to allow their testimony to be videotaped, opting for a cloak of darkness over openness.
But Nuesse, who was grilled by the city’s expensive hired attorneys for more hours than any other witness, allowed all of her testimony to be videotaped. She had the courage of her convictions. The other side had none.
The city’s Civil Service Commission could finally bring an end to Kline’s integrity probe as early as next weak. The commission will meet Wednesday and can vote to accept the recommendation written by the city attorney for the hearing officer, judge Joseph Cirigliano; reject it and reinstate Nuesse; or table the whole matter for further deliberation.
Whatever happens, it’s sure to put a twist in the trajectory of the campaign, and it very likely will come up when the candidates meet again at the Register forums later this month.
It will be interesting.