Voters in Oberlin will elect seven members of City Council from a field of 12, including five incumbents.
What are the biggest issues facing the city?
Burgess: Last year, Oberlin rejected a 50-year commitment to coal-fired electricity. In my capacity as the chairman of the Public Utilities Commission, I have spent the past year and a half investigating future energy sources for Oberlin. Maintaining reliable and affordable electricity for Oberlin will be the greatest challenge of the next Council.
Meadows: The biggest issues facing the city are securing affordable, sustainable energy and economic development.
Sloane: Those following Council proceedings know that Oberlin’s being green is a big issue, and I feel that I am possibly the “greenest” candidate running. I have demonstrated that by my persistent “non-car” transportation lifestyle and my commitment to local gardening and markets.
Pilacky: The most important issues are to ensure Oberlin’s position as a leader in Northeast Ohio communities in areas of sustainability, and healthy lifestyles for people, businesses and the environment. The current economic challenges call for a different approach … solving the challenges of keeping downtown Oberlin vibrant for tourism, attracting businesses — including “green” businesses — finalizing our opportunity to move from dirty coal electric generation to sustainable energy generation and keeping our citizens employed with a good quality of life. We need to pursue that vision, and not second-guess ourselves into immobility and miss this chance to be in the forefront.
Gaines: Baseload energy for the city of Oberlin, completing the city’s strategic plan, community relations with city departments and economic and housing development.
Peterson: There is no single most important issue. The economic challenges facing the country are tied to the energy challenges facing the world. These issues are as pressing in Oberlin as they are everywhere else. Oberlin’s advantage over most communities is a public and private sector belief in Oberlin as an example of how to handle these challenges and the confidence in our ability to realize this belief.
Mucciolo: On the surface Oberlin is in good shape, financially and otherwise, meaning the issues we ultimately face are the looming issues that face everyone — providing good jobs and driving business to town; working with each other to reduce tensions and promote respect between our varied populations; powering our city without hurting the planet; and keeping government itself as efficient as possible. These issues often lurk below the surface, hence my focus on city communications and effective, open dialog.
Broadwell: The city also, while instituting well-planned development in the southern sector, must continue to provide assistance to our core downtown historic district. Through Community Development Block Grants, by supporting the chamber of commerce and Main Street Oberlin, seeing through the completion of the East College Street Project and encouraging residents to shop locally and sustainably as much as possible, the city will continue to foster economic development.
Sonner: The over-arching issue for Oberlin and for all communities, large and small, near and far, is the need to adapt satisfactorily to the radically changing circumstances of a post-fossil fuel world.
Ashenhurst: The biggest issues facing the city are how and where we will get the cleanest power possible to replace the baseload currently supplied by the Gorsuch station through American Municipal Power when that facility goes offline at the end of 2012. Continued sustainable economic development and appropriate in-fill and land use is also an important issue, complicated by the current regional and national economic situation.
Soucy: The biggest issues facing the city have to do with energy acquisition and sustainability; economic development to provide jobs and maintain the health of our downtown; maintenance and repair of streets and sidewalks; encouraging police to live in town; and fast-tracking initial development of the Underground Railroad Center.
Mealy: I feel the most important matter facing Oberlin is leadership and the current Council’s failure to secure our future base electric power load. I am committed to finding viable “green” solutions to these needs, but I will not make decisions based on unreliable or unproven technologies to the detriment of our utility users as the present Council has done. Oberlin must continue an aggressive push toward energy efficiency as we shift to more carbon-neutral energy sources to abate global warming, but we need to be realistic as we move in this direction.
How do you plan to address them?
Burgess: After months of talking with industry experts and company representatives, I have become convinced there are plenty of affordable options to power the city of Oberlin with green power. The City Council recently approved the issuance of an RFP for renewable power sources. The next step will be evaluating the responses and determining which offered projects best meet the criteria of reliable, affordable and renewable power. Finally, power supply contracts will be signed with providers prior to the December 2012 deadline.
Meadows: If elected to Oberlin City Council, I will partner with Oberlin’s capable staff to research sustainable power sources that can be utilized in the Oberlin area. Likewise, working with Oberlin’s staff, I will support plans that attract new businesses that create new jobs in our city.
Sloane: I hope to make the old Legion Field into a community garden. On the energy side, being green is not just about where we get our energy but how we use our energy. Conservation is the most important tool we have to wean ourselves from energy that is not renewable, and I will try to implement measures to subsidize and/or reward conservation. Should we buy electricity from coal-fired generation? The decision to burn coal for any reason is a no-brainer — of course we shouldn’t. I pledge to work with AMP Ohio — Ohio’s largest provider of renewable fuels — to have our energy portfolio be as green as possible.
Pilacky: Specific opportunities include expanding the use of wind and solar power and the capture of methane gas. The key is looking for smaller, local options that will employ local people.
The city can offer energy rebates, tax incentives or low-interest loans to residents and businesses to curb our energy consumption through insulation, the installation of energy-efficient windows and appliances. Students can research public funding to make homes and businesses in the city more energy efficient and help with the hands-on work.
Oberlin can be instrumental in spearheading a green manufacturing industry. We must work toward making Northeast Ohio into a center for innovation and being the economic engine of the future. Sustainability is the business opportunity of this period in time. Let’s not miss our chance.
Gaines: Based on the fact that the current City Council voted against maintaining our relationship with AMP Ohio, we currently have no contract after 2012 for supply of baseload power. I believe that we, in our goal of green, need to thoroughly research the correct avenue for obtaining the baseload and being green at the same time. Without a strategic plan in place, it is vital that we complete a plan ASAP to give our city administrator our vision for future growth and development. We must revisit all committees’ guidelines and procedures to eliminate the wedge between the departments and the community. Completing the strategic and marketing plan for the city is the beginning.
Peterson: As a city councilman, I will continue to encourage, recommend and support those policies which on the fronts of sustainable energy and sustainable economic development will provide the most long-term benefit to Oberlin and its residents.
Mucciolo: Oberlin government needs a few specific focuses so good discussion, and real solutions, can emerge. We need a city-wide strategic plan. City administration needs to be more in the habit of putting out information about itself and taking in information in the form of feedback. Council has to expect to see options and be clear in its requests when dealing with all parties. And we need to be making better use of technology to cut costs, free up staff time and provide even better service.
Broadwell: One major issue that the city needs to deal with is how we will meet our huge baseload power shortage that will occur in 2013. This baseload shortage will need to be met by scarce renewable power sources or, unfortunately, by the purchase of coal-based power on the open market. We need to look for renewable power sources whenever possible while considering availability and affordability.
Sonner: By helping to lead city government, in collaboration with other local institutions, toward maximizing Oberlin’s adaptive advantages. The chief advantage is Oberlin’s deserved identity as a place of education, culture, the arts — especially music. This identity is a supremely valuable economic tool, supremely applicable to the necessities of a post-fossil fuel economy and society.
Ashenhurst: A councilmember’s role is to act as one-seventh of a body charged with ensuring that city government accurately reflects shared concerns and community aspirations for our common local future. I think my role is to encourage and listen to good ideas about the Oberlin we want to bring about, promote reasoned discussion of them and work with the city administration to embody the best of them in legislation formally encouraging the directions and developments we want.
Soucy: We must reduce Oberlin’s carbon footprint by increasing the use of alternative fuels that are both available and affordable to all residents. We must provide incentives to businesses such as Green Field Solar to bring them to our industrial park. We must provide incentives to our police to encourage them to live in town. We must begin work as soon as possible on the Underground Railroad Center. We must develop a program of city grants to residents who purchase energy-saving appliances or choose to swap old refrigerators for new, more energy-efficient models.
Mealy: I am very proud that Oberlin is a leader in the “green” movement with 17 percent clean energy assets in hydroelectric, wind generation. As a councilman in 2007, I voted to authorize the electric utility to achieve a goal of 25 percent renewable generation with the addition of three hydroelectric projects. The city is currently waiting for a study by the professional electric consulting group Black & Veatch, who are to present a 20-year plan for future generations. I will want to review these findings before making any commitment to Oberlin’s need for our baseload.
What makes you best suited for the job?
Burgess: I joined the family business, Burgess Electric, in 2004 to expand the company’s offerings to include renewable energy services. Consequently, Burgess Electric installed Ohio’s largest commercial solar array at Oberlin College in 2006 and the state’s largest residential solar array in 2008. I have been a member of the Oberlin Public Utilities Commission since January 2008 and currently serve as that commission’s chairman. I believe my experience in the public and private energy sectors will provide a valuable skill set to my fellow councilmembers.
Meadows: The Oberlin City Council consists of seven members; I feel my love for the community and ability to analyze issues makes me a good fit to join the governing body of this community.
Sloane: I have demonstrated during my previous service on Council a willingness and ability to work with others to get things done.
Pilacky: I have been active in community government for nearly five years. In 1997, I founded the Firelands Land Conservancy; in 2006 the FLC merged with seven other land conservancies to form Western Reserve Land Conservancy. We have preserved nearly 2700 acres in the Firelands area since the merge. We learned through this merge that there is strength in partnerships. I am not one to reinvent the wheel. When necessary I start something from scratch with the help and wisdom of others. We will need this ability as we look to alternatives to coal for our energy needs. I am a proven leader with the ability to see the big picture and get things done.
Gaines: My experience in business, being a lifelong resident of the city, accountable to the residents and not afraid to say yes or no and give reasons why. I am a believer in the community and what we as Oberlinians have been, are and will be if we listen to each other and work together. We are not three different entities — city, schools and college — we are one.
Peterson: I am running to continue the progressive policies that have been the earmarks of the last eight to 10 years of Oberlin City Council policy. In my last campaign, I argued for the centrality of economic development and sustainable energy development. The growth in the quantity and quality of Oberlin’s economic and energy development have only strengthened my conviction that sustainable energy policies and sustainable development policies are necessary and beneficial to the entire community. I am best suited for the job on the strength of my open-minded and fair consideration of all issues, consistent record on issues of progressive economic development, support for sustainable energy policies and my belief in Oberlin’s unique position to be a model for civic development in the 21st century.
Mucciolo: I’m willing to put in the effort to talk, learn, and work on issues from start to finish, putting aside my own views when the facts paint a different picture. Giving residents of Oberlin the answers to their questions, the solutions to our problems and the bang for their buck means respecting the system of government that is in place while not being afraid to say it needs improvement.
Broadwell: I have lived in Oberlin my entire life. I care about the city and all its residents and will listen to and take action on their concerns. I believe I am well-qualified to continue serving the citizens on City Council.
Sonner: See answers to questions one and two.
Ashenhurst: I understand thoroughly both the potential and the limitations of this local elected legislative office; I listen well, I approach governance analytically and systematically, and I both communicate clearly and seek clear communication from city officials and offices in responding to both citizens’ concerns and community decisions and plans.
Soucy: I have lived in Oberlin all my life and have deep ties to both the college and the town. I have four years experience on City Council. I have served the city by acquiring experience as a member of Leadership Lorain County, the League of Women Voters, Council liaison to both the design review subcommittee and the Planning Commission, Meals on Wheels, Oberlin America in Bloom and the Oberlin Underground Railroad Vision Council. I respect the views of my colleagues and am a firm believer in civil dialogue and in encouraging wide participation in Council decisions from all interested citizens.
Mealy: I enjoy public service and believe I can help provide improved direction for our local government. My main concern remains adequate public services, facilities and maintenance by responsible spending. I have been involved in our civic affairs for some 40 years and feel that my understanding of the issues as a past member of City Council, chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals, treasurer and board member of the Oberlin Community Improvement Corporation (OCIC), liaison to the Public Utility Commission and Historic Preservation Commission will contribute to the enhancement of our community.
David R. Ashenhurst
Education: Chicago public schools, bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania
Family: Son and daughter
Job history: Self-employed consultant in public and nonprofit management; more than 25 years employment in institutional grantmaking, fund-raising, and association management; and current member of Oberlin City Council
Education: Oberlin High School, 1974; bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University in 1982
Family: Wife, Ellen and a daughter and son
Job history: Painting contractor 26 years; current member of Oberlin City Council
Bryan L. Burgess
Education: Oberlin High School, bachelor’s degree of business computer systems from New Mexico State University
Family: Wife, Amy Burgess, and a son
Job history: Partner in Burgess Electric LLC
Robert A. “Tony” Gaines
Education: Oberlin Schools, Lorain County Community College and Oberlin College, Case Western Reserve Police Academy
Family: Wife, Linda, four children and four grandchildren
Job history: cadet dispatcher Ohio Highway Patrol, deputy sheriff in Lorain County and retired executive Circuit City
Education: John Adams High School and bachelor’s degree from Ohio University
Family: Divorced; three adult children
Job history: Adult literacy coordinator in the Lorain Public Library System (part-time) and consultant with Education and Youth Programs — Lorain County Urban League
Anthony J. Mealy
Education: Northwestern High, Hyattsville, Maryland; attended University of Maryland, North Carolina State, Baldwin-Wallace College and holds a corrections officers certificate from Ashland University; graduate of Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) iInspector’s program in Tucson, Ariz.
Family: Single, most of family lives in the Washington, D.C., area.
Job history: Retired with more than 21 years service as corrections counselor and supervisor with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections in Grafton and more than 27 years service as immigration inspector with the United States Department of Justice; air traffic controller with the Federal Aviation Administration for 16 years; U.S. Air Force veteran
Web site: www.loraincounty.com/government/candidates/?id223
Education: Bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College in 2002
Family: None local
Job history: Self-employed as a Web designer and consultant, former assistant director of Oberlin College’s annual fund, former research associate at the Center for Contemporary Conflict
Web site: www.aaronmucciolo.com
Education: Bachelor’s degree of philosophy from Morehouse College, master’s and doctorate degrees in philosophy, interpretation and culture from Binghamton University
Family: Wife, Meredith Gadsby Peterson, and two sons
Job history: Visiting professor of African American Studies, Temple University, Philadelphia; associate professor of Africana Studies, The College of Wooster; and current member of Oberlin City Council
Education: Bachelor of fine arts, Kent State University
Family: Husband, David DiTullio
Job history: Associate field director Western Reserve Land Conservancy, Firelands Chapter; founded the land conservancy which merged with seven other land conservancies to form Western Reserve Land Conservancy in January 2006; artist and mural painter; 2000-02, program director of Organize!Ohio; and 1999-2000, executive director of Citizen League of Lorain County
Education: Pennsylvania State University (mathematics) Theodore Steinway Technical institute (Steinway Piano Training Department)
Family: Married, two children
Job history: Retired, former director of piano technology, Oberlin College; served four terms on Oberlin Council from 1996-2003 and instrumental in various projects including Splash Zone and securing funds for Underground Railroad Museum
Party: Democrat/non-partisan race
Education: six years of college
Family: Divorced; two children, two grandchildren
Job history: Real estate broker; currently serving as president of the Oberlin City Council
Sharon Fairchild Soucy
Political party: Democrat/non-partisan race
Education: Oberlin High School, Ohio Wesleyan University
Family: Parents both public school teachers, husband retired Oberlin College history professor, two grown children
Job history: 30 years running the Adult Literacy Program serving the county from Lorain County JVS — helping the undereducated and underemployed improve the quality of their lives through education and training; current member of the Oberlin City Council