Wednesday, January 16, 2019 Elyria 30°


Mark Jessie should remain on Elyria council: ENDORSEMENT

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    Mark Jessie



Elyria City Councilman Mark Jessie, D-3rd Ward, is seeking his third term and voters would do well to return him to City Hall for another two years.

Jessie, 60, has demonstrated a strong understanding of the city and the issues it faces, including the chronic budget woes that seem to plague the city's finances every few years.

In fact, Jessie was one of the main instigators among Council members of the successful push to pass Issue 6, a five-year, 0.5 percent income tax increase, which generates money for the Police Department, improvements to roads and parks, and economic development in the city.

Jessie has set himself up as a watchdog for how Issue 6 money is spent, smartly arguing against trying to broaden what the money can be used for and opposing an idea to somehow fold Issue 6 in with another city income tax issue. Messing with Issue 6 money, he argued, would be a betrayal of the voters, who broadly supported the carefully crafted issue that won the city much-needed funds.

"What trust you do have, you can't lose," he said.

Jessie has also said he would oppose spending

Issue 6 money to fund the city's Fire Department in the wake of the city's loss in its long-running negotiation battle with the fire union over minimum manning. Both a fact-finder and a conciliator sided with firefighters, who wanted 14-man shifts.

He was one of two members of Council who voted against a new fire contract after the city decided it would cease the fight, although that was more of a protest vote than anything else. It was clear that Council had little choice but to approve the contract and that the city had little hope of prevailing against the fire union if it kept up the legal skirmishing.

Jessie rightly worries about whether the new contract will cause the Fire Department's overtime budget to soar and require hiring additional firefighters, expenses the city's finances will have difficulty absorbing.

That's not to say that Jessie is without fault.

He was critical of Mayor Holly Brinda for what he described as a lack of transparency, but in the same interview argued that Brinda should have kept secret a memo she wrote on financial options for the city, including discussions of how Issue 6 money should be used.

Transparency is vitally important in government and that sometimes means having uncomfortable information come out. Jessie should remember that, should he be re-elected.

But that brief flirtation with secrecy seems to be more of a blip than a true cause for alarm. Jessie championed a community meeting set for later this month that will focus on the Issue 6 revenues and expenses, which will go a long way toward keeping the budget issues in the public eye and shows that he wants to do right by all city residents.

He also has a solid reputation for responding to the concerns of his constituents in a timely manner.

"I love this city and I have proven that I will go the extra mile," he said.

Jessie's opponent this election is Republican Gerald Roig, an 82-year-old retired autoworker who has become active in Republican Party politics in recent years as a precinct committeeman.

He said he's done a lot to recruit Republicans to run for often-vacant positions as precinct committeemen and leaned toward the Tea Party efforts last year to oust long-serving establishment Republicans from leadership positions in the county party.

Roig's political engagement can't be denied and he spoke passionately about several issues affecting the city and the ward, particularly the traffic problems surrounding Chestnut Commons. He's right that the traffic in the area can be a nightmare at times and needs work.

However, Roig said he knew very little about Jessie and the work he's done while serving on Council and his pitch for replacing Jessie wasn't strong enough.

"Do you want the same old, same old or do you want some change?" he asked.

But that's arguing for change merely for the sake of change and it can't overcome all the good Jessie has done on Council. Voters should re-elect Jessie.

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