By Sue Botos
The delicate balance between budget and a continued high level of city services were major threads that wove through the discussions of candidates for city council at large during last week’s forum presented by the Rocky River chapter of the League of Women Voters. The event was moderated by Susan Jankite at the Don Umerley Civic Center.
Candidates gave a brief biography, then answered three written questions from the audience, which were screened by LWV volunteers.
Seeking the four at large council seats are incumbents Anjanette Arabian Whitman, David Furry and Jim Schieda. Bobbie VanAtta, who narrowly lost the at-large race in 2009, is once again challenging current council members.
Whitman, a lifelong resident of Rocky River, is finishing her second term on council. She is an attorney with the county juvenile court and serves as chairwoman for the parks and recreation committee. The avid runner and coach of the Magnificat High School cross country team began the successful Healthy Rocky River program three years ago.
Furry, also seeking his third term, owns and operates Northern Title Agency in Rocky River with his wife Deb. A 1982 graduate of Rocky River High School, he has served on the finance, safety and parks and recreation committees. He was a member of the city planning commission for two years.
Completing his first term on city council, Schieda was a member of the school board for 16 years. A resident of the city for 37 years, he is chairman of the economic development committee and served on the city charter review commission.
A member of the city board of building and zoning appeals for eight years, VanAtta is an attorney practicing municipal law. She is a member of the Rocky River Development Code Review Committee and has participated in various community organizations and has been a regular attendee at city council.
When questioned about tax abatement as a way to jump-start business on Center Ridge Road, the candidates were generally opposed, but Schieda was willing to consider such a move, saying, “You always have to take everything into consideration and weigh the pros and cons to see what the advantages are.”
Furry recalled his time on the planning commission when Westgate mall, part of which lies within the city, was being redeveloped.
“They said there was going to be a spillover factor, but that never really happened. If anything, they poached some of the tenants from Rockport. I’m personally opposed to tax abatement,” he said.
VanAtta agreed that tax abatement was not the way to go. She proposed a public-private partnership to improve the area, specifically, the Rockport Shopping Center, which she said could be made more attractive with green space.
The possible outsourcing of trash collection was also a hot topic, with the at-large candidates assuring voters that this is still in the talking stage.
“We are ahead of the curve on that,” said Furry.
“I have had seven people say we love our scooters; we want our scooters,” he said, referring to the carts that gather garbage from yards.
“We do love our scooters,” agreed Whitman but, she added, “not being able to give a complete answer is not acceptable. We want to know what is out there what can be available to choose from and what will be the best decision for the community.”
While none of the candidates came out in favor of tax increases, all agreed that that the city would be hard-pressed to find more budget areas to trim.
“The state is solving its problems at the local municipalities’ expense. How much more can we cut without a noticeable drop in service?” asked Furry.