LIMA — Safety, housing, business growth, downtown investment and minority issues were just a handful of topics discussed during the Lima City Council Forum held Thursday night.
The two-hour event was hosted by the African-American Chamber of Commerce and will be broadcast on GTV on a future date. It gave both incumbents and their challengers a chance to explain past votes and candidate’s stances on particular issues.
Here are a few highlights.
While some, like Council President Jon Nixon, 6th ward candidates Derry Glenn and Cleven Jones and 4th ward incumbent Rebecca Kreher chose to give short recaps of their resumes as opening statements, others used the moment to set up aspects of their platforms. For example, 2nd Ward incumbent, Sam McLean, talked about how Lima can utilize its water system as a commodity as well as the need for a good business environment. His challenger, Tony Wilkerson, spoke on the need for an upgraded police department and encouraged city-wide instead of concentrated growth. In the 4th Ward, challenger Peggy Ehora stressed the need for inclusivity in Lima’s decision-making.
Many candidates also used the moment to voice their love of the city by highlighting their choices to stay in Lima throughout their lifetimes.
While candidates’ views differed on a number of topics, they widely agreed with re-configuring the role of the Lima Police Department by pushing for higher policing standards and encouraging community policing.
Nixon, Jones, Wilkerson, McLean and Kreher all named increased safety as one of the top issues plaguing the City of Lima (Ehora and Glenn opted for housing and economic development, respectively). All candidates talked about the need for some changes at the police department with some minor differences between answers.
Wilkerson, for example, spoke about the need for more minority representation among the ranks of the police department, and many council incumbents, as well as Ehora, spoke about difficulties the Lima Police Department currently faces trying to find candidates to fill open positions.
At one point, McLean drew a response from the crowd when he used the phrase “that’s what you guys call it,” when talking about “targeting,” which the NAACP has pushed against. The moderator asked McLean to clarify who he was referring to with the phrase. McLean said he was talking about the NAACP.
Between the pool of candidates, many questions — some of which were pulled from the audience and others from the groups hosting the event — were directed at incumbents at the table in order to clarify past actions.
Nixon, who’s challenger Josiah Mathews has dropped out of the race citing personal reasons, often took his time to explain the process of council to the wider audience when questions sometimes misconstrued the past actions of council.
Incumbents also wrestled often with the idea of access to council members, which has some roots in past council actions, such as the voting down of a Community Development Block Grant citizens review committee. Incumbent members, historically, have encouraged citizens to get involved in the process of council to be able to voice their opinions instead of relying on the institution baking in the need for the city to directly ask residents.
“All council meetings are open to the public,” Nixon said near the end of the night. “Everyone has email. Most of us have Facebook. … We get messages. We have voicemail, texting, the excuse for not participating is simply unacceptable. It’s not about us holding meetings somewhere else. It’s about people choosing to become involved.”
The next public forum involving the Lima City Council races will be hosted by Lima/Allen County Neighborhoods in Partnership in a number of different locations across the city, where more focus will be directed toward the differences between each incumbent and challenger.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.