LIMA — When it comes to who will represent the 7th Ward on Lima City Council, challenger Jon Neeper seeks to unseat what he believes is a rubber stamp for the city’s current administration.
Both Neeper, a funeral director at Chiles-Laman Funeral & Cremation Services, and incumbent 7th Ward Councilor Ann Miles, a retiree from Whirlpool Corp., met at The Lima News on Tuesday to outline their visions for representing the residents living in the city’s northwest. During the forum, Neeper criticized what he described as complacency from Miles when it comes to legislating the priorities of Mayor David Berger’s administration.
“I have a hard time believing that your votes are not swayed one way or another,” he told Miles. “In the last four years, 100 percent of your track record has voted with the administration. That’s dismal, at best.”
Going back to 2015, Miles did vote “no” on one ordinance, a 2016 moral obligation to pay Jerilyn Neeper, the wife of former Lima City Councilman Kurt Neeper, for damages caused by a manhole cover that was raised up because of heavy flooding. That ordinance was defeated in three readings.
Miles said that she would let her track record, including 10 years on the Lima City Board of Education, speak for itself, also saying that she has not had an issue working with Berger or others in city administration.
“Even in things that I may not agree with [Berger] about, I express my concerns,” she said. “Sometimes he may change his mind or we may agree to disagree. But I am not the type of person who will, in council chambers, try to affront or degrade him or anyone else. That’s not my style.”
Both candidates spoke about aging housing as an issue for the ward, with Neeper saying he does not agree with the current proposal for a landlord registry, describing it as too restrictive. Miles is in favor of a registry, saying it would help inspectors have a means to contact absentee landlords. She did, however, say that she thought a $25 registration fee per unit per year was too expensive, citing examples of other cities that have one-time registration fees that can cover multiple units.
On crime, Miles expressed concern over black-on-black crime as well as increased burglaries driven by the growing opioid epidemic. She also said she was glad to see crime declining in the area. Neeper took issue with the assertion that crime is decreasing, saying that FBI Uniform Crime Reports are showing more crime is taking place.
Miles would like to see more officers in the Lima Police Department, especially in the community-oriented policing program, saying that it has been an effective means of fostering relationships between law enforcement and residents. Neeper wants to see more officers sworn in to get them more visible in neighborhoods, even speculating about potential means to get officers to move into various neighborhoods in the city to help deter crime.
On business development, Neeper sees a lot of impediments from current administration when it comes to growing small business.
“Much of the retail in this area has moved or been closed up because of the city, through the nonresponsive building and zoning departments, the hyper-vigilant income tax department as well as hidden utility taxes,” he said. “As a councilman, I would fight for the real creators of jobs in this community — small businesses.”
Miles said that the city has been working hard to create a business-friendly environment, looking specifically at workforce development.
“They’re trying to get our manpower ready for future developments here,” she said. “It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s something that’s going to take time to get there, but I believe we’re headed in the right direction.”