LIMA — Lima voters had the final chance to hear from the city’s mayoral candidates at a forum at St. Luke Lutheran Church on Wednesday night. The debate served as the last of three debates in the month of September, and the last before early voting is set to begin in October.
Sharetta Smith and Elizabeth Hardesty once again fielded questions across a range of issues that impact the city of Lima. The debate was hosted by LACNIP, Lima’s neighborhood partnership association, which put a greater focus on how each candidate would improve the quality of life in Lima through issues like neighborhood improvement and housing.
“I think that housing is a critical issue that the next mayor is going to address because it really leads to the pride that individuals have in our community,” Smith said. “But some of the facts that are surrounding housing are, number one, we have aging housing stock, and that means that there is a significant amount of rehabilitation that needs to be completed with respect to our housing.”
Smith went on to stress the importance of making housing in Lima more affordable and providing funding to promote homeownership and improvement.
Hardesty emphasized the importance of having starter homes to attract younger residents looking to lay down roots in Lima, as well as providing more incentives for landlords to fill their vacancies within the city limits.
“I feel that this administration as long as it’s been in office has taken the definition of affordable housing and defined it as subsidized housing, and I think we needed that 30 years ago, but we’re not at the point where we need that now,” Hardesty said. “We need to use our land to build houses that people can own, families can live in, and that they’re proud to have.”
Crime and policing has been another recurring topic during each debate. It’s also another area where Smith and Hardesty differ greatly on how the issue is approached.
Both candidates agreed that the Lima Police Department needs to be fully staffed, but had different opinions on their approaches to community policing.
“(Community policing) is putting a police officer in the community so that they get to know that community of people. That’s wonderful when we have 90 officers and we can do that,” Hardesty said. “We think community policing is a wonderful secondary measure that I hope to get to, but in the meantime, we have to get rid of the crime and we have to get rid of the drugs now.”
Smith expressed her support of continued community policing in Lima and its effectiveness as a preventative measure. She also said that plans to hire more officers have already started and are accounted for in future budgets.
“Community policing is more than coffee with a cop. Community policing is more than having a substation in the neighborhood,” Smith said. “Community policing is the ability of police officers to get out of their cars and build relationships with individuals that are in the neighborhood.”
Smith and Hardesty also addressed how they would like to see Lima’s incoming COVID relief funds used.
Hardesty said that she would like to see the money used for fixing Schoonover Pool, as well as removing vacant properties and providing financial support to small businesses.
Smith said that the funding should gravitate towards supporting education, as well as continuing to protect front-line workers as Lima and Allen County continue to deal with higher COVID rates compared to other parts of the state and the country.
With all three scheduled debates now completed, Sharetta Smith and Elizabeth Hardesty will have to wait until Nov. 2 to find out if they will become Lima’s next mayor. Early voting for elections across the state of Ohio is set to open on Oct. 5.
Reach Trevor Hubert at 567-242-039811