When voters go to the polls March 4 for the primary election, Democrats in Erie County will be asked to choose between two Erie County commissioner candidates: Businessman Pat Shenigo and real estate agent and retired schoolteacher Linda Miller-Moore.
The winner of the primary will oppose Republican Joe Hayberger in the November general election.
The two are vying for a post on the Erie County commission that's being given up by Nancy McKeen, who plans to retire at the end of this year.
We asked both candidates to take questions from voters here at sanduskyregister.com. Below is the complete transcript from Monday night's chat event.
jobs.eriecounty asked: What are your feelings on School Levies?
Pat Shenigo: I was on the Sts. Peter and Paul school board for years, so I am acutely aware of the difficulty of managing a school budget. I think today every school system in Ohio has more needs than dollars. Unfortunately, until the state remedies the way schools are funded, levies are going to be a fact of life that voters will ultimately decide. Right now, today, I think each school district must prove to its voters that they are spending their tax dollars responsibly.
Linda Miller-Moore: The courts have found Ohio financing unconstitutional, yet the legislators have not been forthcoming with any solution. Homeowners cannot continue to foot the bill.
4rkids asked: Which one campaign topic do you feel will most help Erie County and why?
Pat_Shenigo: I think it's jobs, jobs, jobs. Good paying, living wage jobs with benefits.
Linda_Miller-Moore: Economic development will most help Erie County because it involves both quantity and quality of jobs. This will directly impact the lives of everyone in Erie County. We need to sell Erie County to the potential developers and encourage and support the businesses already here.
Vladimir asked: What makes you consider yourself a Democrat?
Pat_Shenigo: I have never had an interest in holding political office before, and have always voted for the person I felt was most qualified for the job. My overall views have more closely aligned me with the democratic principals, which is the party of the common man. I fell an obligation to represent all of the citizens of Erie County equally and base my decisions for the good of all the people. I bring to this race a new vision and a new attitude.
Linda_Miller-Moore: I am a lifelong Democrat, active in the party. I am a member of the Central Committee, treasurer of the county party and have served on many democratic campaign committees. I am a lifetime member of the Erie County Democratic Women and am active in the organization,
myvotecounts asked: what are your qualifcations for the seat of county commissioner?
Linda_Miller-Moore: My life and work experiences have prepared me for this position. I will be a full time commissioner with honesty and integrity. I believe I can represent the people in Erie County fairly. I have been active in my teacher union and held every office including negotiations. As a communications major I can offer the knowledge and experience of connecting people and issues.
Pat_Shenigo: I have successfully started and managed many businesses, created jobs and met payroll for almost 30 years. I have created 1000's of construction jobs for men and women, both union and non. Most of the businesses I cretaed started out on a blank piece of paper, with just a vision of what it could someday be. The road from vision to completion is a long and complicated one, full of twists and turns and many obsticles. My business involves zoning, environmental, legal, engineering, budgeting, banking, finance and sales, all before an actual building ever begins. These are he same procedures that will be needed for any business looking to locate in our area. I understand what is required because I have spent the last 30 years doing it. My company has developed several office parks where today 100's of people work. These are real jobs that could have ended up in other cities. I know I have a positive vision for Erie County and its future.
Jim asked: What would you have done differently on the landfill gas issue
Linda_Miller-Moore: First of all. I need more background information. Because there is a contract involved, it has become a legal issue. I believe that there needs to be an analysis of the landfill in general.
Pat_Shenigo: My understanding of this indicates it be a contractual problem, and without proper review, its hard to analyze this situation properly. I have written and reviewed 1000's of contracts, and my experience would be invaluable in avoiding these conflicts in the future. I do feel that the intent of the county was admirable, to use a currently useless by-product of the landfill to generate revanue for the county, while at the same time helping the environment.
myvotecounts asked: what is your involvement with the senior citizens in Erie County?
Linda_Miller-Moore: I am a member of the SOS Board and have actively participated in finding new space for the office. In addition I served on the committe for the open house have helped Sue Daugherty by filling in for her when the seniors visited the area high schools. Because my mother is a senior citizen I have also helped her solve some problems. I am also a Senior Housing Specialist.
Pat_Shenigo: I am on the Serving Our Seniors board, but more importantly, I have worked with director Sue Daughtry and Matt Buderer on an exciting new pilot program available here in Erie County called the drug repository. This program is the 1st of its kind in the state and allows qualified senior citizens (those w/o insurance or under insured and meeting certain affordability standards) to purchase prescription drugs for only $7.40 a month per prescription. When I 1st learned of this program, I thought it would be an overwhelming success, but most people evidently aren't aware of it. Tomorrow I meet with the pastoral ministry council, which is ministers, priests and clergy from our area to hopefully persuade them to make an announcement every sunday that this program is available to our seniors. I have had opportunity to talk to medical professionals of our community to educate them on this great program.
questionnaire asked: Will you, as a county commissioner, get the county involved in establishing Youth/Adult Recreation Centers. I would like them created in conjunction with local high school gyms and tracks. We pay taxes to the county and to our schools. I want to see the kids have a place to go to after school and early evening hours. What are your thoughts.
Pat_Shenigo: Kids need youth centers and I have been supportive through our school system for years of contributing my time and money in whatever way I've been asked. I've recently met with people from the new YMCA project and have agreed to invest both my personal time and money. Our children must have activities to do after school; and unfortunately, not every child can be invlved in organized sports.
Linda_Miller-Moore: The area could certainly use such a center. Bellevue has a very nice rec center with a great program as does Norwalk. We counld certainly discuss with them how to go about it. Cost will be an issue but maybe they could help out with some ideas. It is vital that Erie County's children have a safe and fun place to go.
concerned_voter asked: How do you feel about the progress on cell phone 911 Calls?
Pat_Shenigo: Currently the location of cellular 911 calls cannot be determined in our county. Our police participation committee, on which I served, met with Bob Hall a few months ago to learn about how these calls are executed and just how detailed this process is and should be. Mr. Hall has a great knowledge as well as great enthusiasm for getting this much needed change of service off the ground and running. I was excited to see some progress on this recently, and I think all public officials involved in this should push this along quickly.
Linda_Miller-Moore: We should continue progress toward a more reliable 911 system especially in the areas of pinpointing origination of calls. It would be beneficial in the search for missing children and the public in general. It would also aid in solving crimes in progress.
jobs.eriecounty asked: What are you going to do about jail overcrowding?
Pat_Shenigo: I met recenlt with sheriff Terry Lyons to discuss this cvery subject. He has been working with variouos judges to come up with ways to deal with this problem, some of which are sophisticated electronic monitoring devices for non-violent offenders that do not require secure jail space. Right now we are actually forced to rent jail space in neighboring county jails, which is of course expensive. I would like to see us consider using alternative incarcaration methods, perhaps utilizing existing affordable commercial space, such as hotels that are vacant in the off-season anyway for non-v iolent offenders as deemed by the courts. But with all of the above, I still want to believe that the demand for jail space would drop if more people had access to good paying jobs that would provide a better future.
Linda_Miller-Moore: An initial step is to house the no-violent offenders in a an alternative setting and to monitor using the GPS system for those who are in home detention. Secondly, we need to get all the judges, probation officers and law enforcement together to determine optional sentencing.
TJ asked: What person do you look up to locally and why?
Linda_Miller-Moore: The Sheriff of Erie County, Terry Lyons, because he is in charge of keeping the county safe on a limited budget. This is a 24-7 operation that has to make due with less. He is a good communicator and supports his staff and his community.
Pat_Shenigo: That's a hard question to pinpoint. But if your question is "Who has given the most time, talent and treasure", I would say that has to go to Ruth Parker or George Mylander. For his help in keeping Cedar Point headquarters here, I would also like to thank Dick Kinsel. But who has affected my life personally the most as both my friend and mentor would definitely be my Dad, Hank Shenigo.
Jim asked: My street is a mess. What are you going to do about it
Linda_Miller-Moore: Where is your street? Is this a county problem, a city problem or a township responsibility? All problems are not equal.
Pat_Shenigo: First I would determine who's juristiction your street falls under, city, township, private or county. I have worked with county engineer Jack Farscvhman for many years and have always felt that he and his staff have the best interests of the taxpayer first and foremost. He is faced with the same problem as every other department in our county, declining revanues and increasing costs. My background affords me the ability to look at this from a position of experience. This county has 1100 mils of roadways and 250 bridges to maintain. Erie County has spent over 84 million in the last 20 years repairing roads and bridges. Obviously, this is a monumental task and requires the ability to prioritize our resources and work in cooperation with the engineer's office to accomplish this responsibly and safely.
jobs.eriecounty asked: Will you raise our taxes?
Pat_Shenigo: All communities in Erie County are in a tough position right now with the forecasted declining revanues while our operating expenses continue to rise. I think what we must due is work to increase our tax base through job creation, jobs that pay living wages with benefits that a family can live on. How? Explore any and all opportunities that are b rought before us and stop the negative attitudes that drive prospective jobs away. Let's start working together as communities and neighbors. This NASA opportunity with its potential 2500 jobs should be first priority for every government official. Thesze jobs and the spin-off businesses that will surely follow are our children's future and require of us a can do attitude. As a businessman I have spent 30 years dealing with expenses and revanues and would look at our situation the same as I have in my businesses. The advantage if I were your Erie County commissioner is my experience balancing expenses with revanues available. And I would use the same common sense approach in balancing the county's budget that I do in my own business.
Linda_Miller-Moore: Hopefully not. There are other means of gaining dollars -- for example, I would like a full analysis of departments spending and look for ways to be more cost effective. New business will mean an increase in dollars and forming partnerships will be beneficial to everyone.
TJ asked: Please explain in some detail your action plan to obtain these jobs?
Pat_Shenigo: As I said above, NASA and the potential airport are an important key to Erie County's future. If this project as well as other projects, such as development of our shoreline come to fruition. our economic future will improve. I can tell you that our budget last year in Erie County was approx 169 mill, which is up 6% from the previous year. However, based on financial forcasts, if expenses continue to climb, and our revenue stream starts to fall, our financial future becom es rather gloomy rather quickly. We must explore all opportunities that come before us with the attitude that all of us in business try to keep: How can we make this happen?
Linda_Miller-Moore: I want to think "outside the box" - try some new approaches. I would like to attend some large job fairs, trade fairs, etc. and sell our county to new developers. In addition, let's look at new energy sources, medical research facilities and ways to expand the businesses we already have. Erie County is a great place to live and work - let's tell everynone! We have great schools, medical facilities and an experienced and educated work force.
sanduskyresident asked: What are your positions on the relocation of the Health Department?
Linda_Miller-Moore: As a health board member, I can say that we have expanded and need more room to provide the services we have to offer. Our present location is difficult to find and does not provide the space we need. As we increase our programs, we need to increase our space, but there is no place to go! Our health department is known over the state as progressive - let's keep it that way!
Pat_Shenigo: I've always said don't get trapped in two payments. Sell one propertry before you buy another. While I think the health dept in the future will definitely relocate and we certainly should plan for the future needs of this very important service, in our present financial situation we must be cautious on the purchase of any major capital expenditures.
mamapiano asked: Do you believe GEM has any useful life left for our area? Will you make the agency more accountable to voters?
Pat_Shenigo: Any person, agency or service that can effectively bring jobs to our area while at the same time being good stewards of the taxpayers' money should be utilized to their full advantage in these difficult economic times.
Linda_Miller-Moore: GEM still has life! Perhaps we need to make some changes in our expectations of GEM and join them in some new directions, but they still have a place in our county. When I speak of partnerships, this is one area where maybe two or three can merge and help one another accomplish goals to work WITH each other and not compete against each other.
terry asked: What is your position on the role unions should and do play in county government?
Pat_Shenigo: Unions play a very important part in not just county government, but in all aspects of our workforce in Erie County. Our company has employed over the last 30 years 100's of unions' tradespeople who have done excellent work for us. I realize as a businessman that the more people in our community there are that earn a good living wage with benefits - everyone benefits!
Linda_Miller-Moore: Unions are important to our county and to our nation. The unions are the ones who have given us the middle class and salaries and benefits that we have enjoyed throughout the nation. I have been a union member, first in Local 913 and then later in the teachers union. I support them because they have helped to support me. I have held every elected position in the teachers union and served many times on the negotiating team, so I believe I can say: Together we can make it happen!
Makingchange asked: How many years are you planning to serve?
Linda_Miller-Moore: I will serve until either the people vote to remove me or until I feel I am no longer effective in my role. How many years is that? It's up to you - the voters!
Pat_Shenigo: I have no desire to be a career politician, but I promise that I will serve my term and accomplish the things that we have talked about above. The NASA project and the possible airport were the reason I decided to become involved in this process and I would like to serve until their completion. Our waterfront development is another exciting opportunity from Sandusky to Vermilion and I would like to see progress on this during my tenure.
TJ asked: Would you continue to use taxpayer money for all the studies or would you rely more on staff?
Linda_Miller-Moore: There are some studies certainly would call for an outside study, but I have always believed that if you want to know how to "fix" something, ask those who work with it every day. If studies just "collect dust" on the shelf, time and money have been wasted. When I was in education, I felt that those in the classroom knew what was needed as much as a university who has no knowledge of the community. If you talk about statistics, then the experts probably have more data to work with than the person on the street. In conclusion, it depends on what you want from the study. Then you can decide on the steps you need to take.
Pat_Shenigo: My role on the Perkins - Sandusky Police Participation Committee was truly enlightening. It taught me that we have a wealth of talent in a variety of subjects right here in Erie County. Local people with an expertise in whatever the subject matter is become involved in Erie County issues not only can have the expertise but also can possess the passion to make their committee the best it can be for all the people of our county.
TJ asked: What is your position of the centralized dispatch proposals?
Pat_Shenigo: As I said above, I served on the Perkins Sandusky police participation committee. We were asked to make a recommendation regarding the feasibility of housing two separate police depts under one roof. Dispatch between Perkins and Sandusky is only one part of this process. Our committee's conclusion was that there was significant savings in both labor and equipment to recommend that the two communities work together to achieve this goal. My belief was that if we could save $$ and provide a safer service to these two communities, that it is absolutely essential that we look at combining dispatch for the entire county. It was amazing to me that in this day and age there is not a method to determine the closest ambulance, police car or rescue vehicle available to possibly save someone's life.
Linda_Miller-Moore: I support the study the commissioners have ordered for centralized dispatch. Do the benefits outweigh the cost? Will it save money? There are several types of dispatch, so we have to look at what will work best for us. Some areas may want to keep what they have because it works well for them - they should be able to do that. Once again, let's partner in this area and maybe we can find something that works better and will save everyone money. The important thing is that all stakeholders must play a part so it does not become a power struggle or ego builder for one area over another.
xoxo asked: Jobs are extremely important. But so is sustaining our tax base. Will you follow in the path of granting tax abatement or will you tell potential developers that tax breaks will not be a part of the package?
Linda_Miller-Moore: I cannot say that I support tax abatements or not because it depends on what we are looking at. What are the developers looking for? Tax breaks are important, but at what cost? Will they go somewhere else if we don't grant them? There are also many kinds of tax breaks but we need to discuss all of the benefits and detriments of each. If we say we will not grant any more tax breaks, will we grow economically? It is a case by case package. We must use caution and reason to make certain these breaks are not so numerous that we lose our tax base.
Pat_Shenigo: Tax incentives are a way of life, not just in Erie County but throughout the United States. We must remain competitive with competing cities while at the same time being conscious of what I have said above, which is not sustaining but growing our tax base. My nephew and I have knocked on over 1400 doors in the last few weeks and I have met some great (and interesting) people. The one thinng on everyone's mind is jobs, jobs, jobs. We have to use any tool available to attract businesses to our area. Businesses that pay good wages that you can support a family with. Jobs pay taxes, provide for our economy and support our schools. I'm not going to be happy with just sustaining our tax base. I want to GROW our tax base, which is a by-product of creating not just jobs, but good living wage jobs with benefits that can sustain a family. We all want the same thing: a community where our children can return home and raise their families. The same opportunity that our parents gave to us. This is a great place to call home, and I hope for your support in the primary. I promise I will work hard to improve our community.