3 Niles Dems endorsed for at-large nominations

Niles Democratic voters heading to the polls on or before the May 5 primary election should cast their ballots for incumbents Steve Papalas and Mike Lastic and for newcomer Ryan McNaughton in the four-way race for three council At-Large seats.

The fourth candidate seeking the Democratic nomination is incumbent Reginald Giancola.

Perhaps the most refreshing of all the candidates was McNaughton, who is making his second attempt for Niles council after an unsuccessful bid for the 3rd Ward seat in 2011. McNaughton would bring new blood to the council At-Large post now held by three long-time incumbents who have served a combined total of 75 years. The experience level of McNaughton’s competition doesn’t intimidate him, though, and he is quick to point out that the city’s current fiscal emergency state didn’t occur overnight, despite the experience of the existing council members.

McNaughton is a big supporter of privatizing the city employee health care system (that’s part of ongoing contract talks with the city administration), and he points out the need to advance technology used to eliminate discrepancies in the city’s financials. He also suggests exploring ways to offer economic development incentives that could include combined discounts on city utilities in an attempt to bring in new business and revenue producers.

We were a bit concerned with McNaughton’s desire to extend pay raises to city safety forces. Given the city’s current financial state, this is not the right time to be discussing pay raises for any employees, regardless of how deserving they may be.

Overall, we believe many of McNaughton’s ideas would fall more under the control of city administrator rather than legislator; still we like his enthusiasm and fresh approach.

Also winning our endorsement are incumbents Steve Papalas and Mike Lastic.

Like McNaughton, Papalas and Lastic stressed the importance of following the state auditor’s recommendations to emerge from fiscal emergency.

Papalas exhibited a great understanding of the budget, and obligation to meet deadlines and guidelines established by the fiscal oversight commission. Papalas, who has served on council since 1980, displayed the highest level of concern among all the candidates about the city’s financial state and the urgency to correct its fiscal course.

Lastic, likewise, expressed a deep understanding of the seriousness of the situation and is preparing to make hard decisions. He has served on council since 1999.

A few places that Lastic suggested for cuts included personnel, combining city services, sharing employees and changes to health care. The suggestions were logical places to start creating savings. We also like that Lastic pointed out that if any good is to come out of the current fiscal challenges, it likely will be increased transparency of citywide finances and more accountability of council.

Incumbent Reginald Giancola seems to grasp the seriousness of the financial issues facing the city, but brought few ideas to the table that would trim spending on the large scale needed. When asked, he also was unclear on the answers to basic questions about the city’s budget and employees. Giancola has held Niles council positions – either 3rd Ward or At-Large – intermittently since 1990.