By Jeff Gallatin
Mayoral candidates Kevin Kennedy and Thomas O’Grady continue to differ as to the merits of their respective administrations.
Both men noted those differences in their remarks at the Sept. 25 Cuyahoga County League of Women Voters candidates forum held before a packed house in the North Olmsted branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library.
The two are again matching up in the mayoral race. Kennedy is nearing the end of his first term as mayor after previously serving as council president. He and school board President John Lasko came out of the primary in the last election, with O’Grady, the incumbent mayor and then businessman Tim Smith losing out. O’Grady had served as a councilman and council president before moving into the mayor’s post when Norman T. Musial resigned. He then won a full term beating school board member and city union official Tom Herbster.
In presenting their views at the forum, Kennedy cited his making changes to city government and working closely with the business community. O’Grady contends the city cannot afford another four years of Kennedy in the city’s chief executive’s job, saying he is not controlling city spending and that sewer rates have grown dramatically with Kennedy as mayor.
In his opening remarks, O’Grady cited his wide-ranging background of serving as an Army staff officer and member of the Special Forces, obtaining an advanced business degree from Harvard, speaking several languages and also being a middle school teacher in the North Olmsted school district. After leaving office four years ago he has been an administrator at Max Hayes and James Rhodes high schools in the Cleveland city school district.
Kennedy focused on his efforts to change city government, noting his work in eliminating one community director’s post and merging its responsibilities into other administration posts including the mayor’s office. He also cited his merging the safety/service departments under one director, saying the various moves have saved money and increased efficiency. He said the city has done a much better job of maintenance, saying that as of May his administration had cleaned 2400 catch basins compared to 117 during O’Grady’s administration.
O’Grady said not having separate safety and service directors is ill-advised and that not having a separate service department director caused unnecessary additional problems during the massive rains and ensuing flooding issues two years ago.
O’Grady acknowledged having rate hikes for the North Olmsted wastewater sewer plant during his administration, but said the additional rate hikes under Kennedy are excessive and a result of poor management. Kennedy in turn says the city has to contend with ongoing federal Environmental Protection Agency mandates and that all the city rate hikes stem from them.
O’Grady also said Kennedy and the current city council have raised their pay 11 percent during tough economic times, saying that is unfair to residents and businesses. Kennedy said the mayor is paid less now than during O’Grady’s term. He said the administration negotiated contracts with city workers, which cut their pay to help deal with financial problems in the recession and that the mayor and council also took pay cuts during that time period. He said the recent pay hikes are making worker’s salaries whole again.
O’Grady continued his criticism of Kennedy taking much of North Olmsted’s traffic offenses and minor misdemeanors out of the Rocky River River Municipal Court system, contending it was unnecessary and that a mayor’s court creates the potential for conflict with the mayor being involved in the judicial process.
Kennedy restated his beliefs that the city is better off with the mayor’s court saying it should gain about $250,000 annually from keeping court costs and money which otherwise would have gone to the Rocky River court. Citizens also benefit from paying lower costs and being able to attend court at night, he added.
Kennedy said the city business sector and development have grown under his administration while O’Grady says there are more vacant storefronts in the city under Kennedy.