The forum featured the Dover schools bond issue, mayor, Ward 3 City Council, law director and New Philadelphia Municipal Court judge. The event was organized by the Dover Exchange Club and co-sponsored by the Historic Canal Dover Association (HCDA) and the Tuscarawas County Chamber of Commerce.
WJER’s Bob Scanlon served as moderator for the forum, which was broadcast live on 1450 AM and the radio station’s website. Dover Exchange Club member Eric Hay carefully timed candidates so each was permitted an equal amount of time to speak.
Members of the audience were permitted to submit written questions regarding the Dover schools bond issue that were subsequently chosen by a panel that included Bob Mueller, president of the HCDA, Shane Gunnoe, president of the Dover Exchange Club and Scott Robinson, president of the Tuscarawas County Chamber of Commerce.
Jack Dooling, a representative for Dover Code Red, “Our School, Our Choice!” committee opened the forum with a 20-minute discussion of the proposed 6.9 mill bond issue that would fund a new Dover High School. Dooling stressed the importance of building a new high school while interest rates were at their lowest in history. “If interest rates go up just one percent, the cost to build a new school will go up $8 million. If it goes up two percent, you can do the math. It will cost $16 million more,” said Dooling.
Members of the audience were permitted to submit questions regarding candidates in writing that were chosen by George Polce, Dover Exchange Club member, Ida Barlock, Tuscarawas County Democratic Party chairperson, and Tom Hisrich, Tuscarawas County Republican Party chairperson.
Incumbent Dover Ward 3 Councilwoman Sandy Moss and Republican challenger for the Ward 3 seat, Nathan Mutschelknaus, introduced themselves prior to answering questions. Moss has served on Dover City Council for 12 years. Her opponent sighted a lack of communication in the current administration and stated he can make a difference in that area. “One of the things I can bring to council is a way to better communicate with people of all backgrounds, not just certain political parties,” said Mutschelknaus.
Democratic incumbent law director Doug O’Meara has served as Dover city law director for five years. He stated his extensive experience in municipal law made him the best possible candidate. Republican challenger John Gartrell stated he is seeking the position because he is angered by O’Meara’s recent reappointment after he retired to collect his pension. Gartrell admitted to no background in municipal law, but explained he would represent the city like any client, as efficiently and at the best of his ability.
Current Republican Dover Mayor Rick Homrighausen and Democratic challenger Tony Korns, a 12-year veteran of Dover City Council, continued the forum by answering a question pertaining to the rehiring of retired employees. “We do have a policy. We don’t rehire if you’ve retired. We have done it in one instance because we didn’t have a succession plan in place at the light plant, but anyone else that has come to us we have indicated that it is not an acceptable practice. As far as elected officials, we don’t have any say in that,” said Homrighausen. Korns agreed the policy was in place. “As mayor, I would stick by that policy,” said Korns.
When questioned about plans for public parking in the downtown area, Homrighausen said, “There is no easy fix. In order to provide additional public parking you would need to do it behind the Third Street businesses and that is private property. I don’t believe in employing eminent domain to acquire property.” Homrighausen listed several available lots. “We do have parking lots owned by the city. There’s enough parking. It’s the simple fact people don’t want to walk,” said Homrighausen.
“I think we can negotiate with downtown businesses that have spaces behind their businesses. We can get merchants and store owners off the street to get more parking downtown for the customers and that would increase business downtown,” said Korns.
Bringing new industry to Dover was a topic of discussion. Korns said, “Owning our own light plant allows us to give new industry a utility break.” Both candidates spoke of the city’s revolving loan fund and how it benefits new businesses wanting to relocate to Dover.
Homrighausen noted the light plant as being the city’s most precious asset. Korns said, “Our most precious asset is our people. Our obligation as civic leaders is to protect them. These are our neighbors, our friends and our family.”
New Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge candidates closed out the evening. Democrat Magistrate Nanette DeGarmo VonAllman of New Philadelphia and Republican challenger, Kristin Zemis of New Philadelphia, a Dover attorney, both saw substance abuse as a major cause of crime in the region. “I see people every day that can’t or won’t take personal responsibility. As a magistrate, I try to impart to people that they do have choices,” said VonAllman.
“Sometimes there are good reasons why people don’t take personal responsibility for their actions. Some of those reasons are addiction or mental health issues. If I become judge, I want to look closely at adding therapeutic dockets to the program,” said Zemis.
VonAllman said her experience in the courtroom sets her apart from Zemis. “I don’t think this is a job you should be learning on the job,” said VonAllman.
“I believe I am uniquely qualified to be Municipal Court Judge at New Philadelphia,” said Zemis. She went on to state the minimum qualifications in the state is six years. “I have [triple] that experience. Please do not be misled. This court also runs a vigorous civil docket. Criminal law experience is not necessary,” said Zemis.
Dover resident Bob Cassidy attended the forum and said, “I vote in every election. I enjoyed this, but it has raised more questions for me with the exception of the law director, where one candidate is angry and the other is just over-qualified.”
Published: October 10, 2011