Incumbent North Olmsted City Council President Nicole Daily Jones and challenger Dennis Lambert were asked identical questions concerning the job for which they are running.
1. Since the North Olmsted Council president does not vote except to break ties, how do you go about expressing your views and beliefs when it comes to legislation?
I actively participate in discussions on legislation before City Council. I speak individually to the sponsors of the legislation in order to express my views on a particular topic and to better understand what the sponsor is trying to accomplish. In 2010, the voters allowed the Council President to sponsor legislation, and when there is a need to sponsor legislation, I would do so.
2. How do you see your role when it comes to working with the rest of council? The administration and the public?
The role of the Council President is to run smooth City Council meetings where the public’s business gets accomplished efficiently, ensures proper procedures are followed, and fills in for the Mayor during a temporary leave of absence. The Council President must have the respect of the members of Council in order to work effectively with them, and serves as a liaison between the Administration and the Council. By having a separately elected Council President, the residents have another voice representing them. The Council President needs to be a steady hand at the helm and is someone who can bring people together to work out contentious issues. My previous government experiences and my time serving as Council President these past few months make me the most effective person for this position.
3. During the past several administrations, there have been criticisms of City Council for either being too contentious and argumentative with the mayor or too much of a rubber stamp for a mayor and administration. How do you see council’s role in dealing with mayors and their administrations and how do you help facilitate that as council president?
The role of the City Council is to pass laws, assist in setting policies for our City, and to create an effective municipal budget. It is unfortunate that Council’s role is being defined as either too contentious or too much of a rubber stamp, because I believe that the most effective Council falls somewhere in between the two. An effective Council understands their role is legislative, not administrative. As Council President, facilitating the discussions on issues is paramount: if an issue is presented to Council for consideration, it should be studied and as many questions as possible should be asked to make the best decision for our City. Council should not take the role of obstructionist for no reason, because then the business of the City comes to a halt, which has a negative effect on our residents and businesses.
An effective Council President understands where legislation needs to be placed in the committee structure for review and, if there is a compelling reason for the issue to be passed under suspension (housekeeping or emergency measures), ensures that the issue is thoroughly discussed in caucus before voting. For example, in 2013, of the legislation that has come before Council, 53 pieces of legislation were considered in committee, and 26 were considered under suspension after being discussed in caucus.
4. What do you see as the major issues in the city of North Olmsted and how do you as council president go about dealing with them?
The continued cuts to our municipal budget from the State are a serious concern facing North Olmsted. As Council President, I will continue to ensure that the City is using our taxpayer dollars as wisely as possible and to be creative with solutions to address the areas in the budget that are being cut by the State.
Another issue facing North Olmsted is keeping ahead of the aging infrastructure in our City. In order to have a robust economy, you need to have strong infrastructure supporting the residential and commercial areas. I would like to see a dedicated fund set aside to address these issues for the future. For example, we could avoid borrowing money to update our streets, or replace aging equipment for our safety forces.
5. Are there any changes that you would like to see in the responsibilities and powers of the council president? And if so, what are they and how do you enact them?
The Council President should take a more active role in continually reviewing the cost/benefit of services and policies throughout the year and update Council as to each review. When the yearly budget is passed, Council will have a more comprehensive view on the programs that are being paid for, and can assist the Administration if there is the need for corrective action.