NILES - Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. And . . . . . jobs.
Economic development and job creation in Ohio are priority numbers one, two, three and beyond among candidates - Democrat and Republican - in the May 4 primary election for Ohio's 65th House of Representatives seat.
On Thursday in Niles, three Democrats and a lone Republican seeking their party's nomination next month had the opportunity to talk issues: from the development of passenger rail in the Buckeye State to preferred committee assignments and to top priorities, which of course, was jobs.
Tribune Chronicle /?Ron Selak Jr.
Four 65th District candidates participated in a forum Thursday in Niles.
Participating Democrats were Sean J. O'Brien, 41, of Brookfield; Edward Stredney, 28, of Niles; and J.D. Williams, 48, of Liberty; and Republican Geno Capone, 43, of Hubbard, the lone candidate on the GOP ticket.
A fourth Democrat, Michael Boccia, 51, Niles, did not participate.
They are looking to succeed Niles Democrat Sandra Stabile Harwood, who is prohibited from running again because of term limits.
Each candidate at the event hosted by the Regional Chamber and League of Women Voters of Trumbull County were asked written and screened questions from the crowd. On the issues raised, in the order candidates were asked, had this to say:
l On plans to maintain or improve state provided services, including passenger rail service:
Capone, a business owner, said a close examination of the proposal, its benefits and estimates that it will need a $17 million to operate is necessary before any forward action is taken, saying lawmakers now should have their focus elsewhere, like job creation.
O'Brien, an assistant Trumbull County prosecutor, said the proposal needs to be developed with the support of business community who would benefit from its creation. He also supports a Cleveland to Pittsburgh connection.
Stredney, a retail manager, said the system needs a stop in Youngstown, enabling local residents to travel easier for work. It might be a good idea to put the proposal on the back burner until other issues are solved, like plugging Ohio's budget gap, he said.
Williams, a commercial airline pilot and special assistant to the wing commander at the 910th Airlift Wing in Vienna, said economic development will help Ohio to continue to provide services, saying ''We want new taxpayers, not new taxes.'' On passenger service, Williams said if it's going to be done, the sooner the better because the cost will likely rise in the future.
The budget and $8 billion budget hole, all said.
Stredney said the gap means cuts, increased taxes or a mixture to balance the next two-year spending plan. He also forsees some consolidation of services. ''That is the biggest priority for Ohio right now,'' he said.
Williams acknowledged tough decisions are needed to balance the budget and those would be made easier through job creation and economic development.
Capone said a combination of more jobs and cuts in spending by trimming waste would help plug the hole. ''We need to look, dig, to find these places,'' Capone said of cutting wasteful spending.
O'Brien said the difficult task facing lawmakers next budget cycle would be to balance it without the one-time funds, like stimulus funds, Ohio received to fill the most recent gap.
Each candidate said they could easily cross party lines for the best interest of Ohioans.
Capone said, ''My loyalty is to the people of the district, make no mistake about that,'' and O'Brien, said ''I don't think because you are a Republican or Democrat you are necessarily on the wrong side.''
''I would do what is best for our community, do what's best for the district,'' said Stredney, and Williams said, ''We need to come up with American solutions for our problems.''
O'Brien said continued support of the green energy business incubator in Warren and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 573 and continued partnerships with local universities is necessary. ''It will help bring in skilled labor, high-paying jobs,'' he said. ''It's the wave of the future.''
Stredney said improvements to the district's infrastructure, such as the installation of a fiber optic communication line, would help lure business to the area. ''Without moving our community forward in this high-tech area, we don't have the means or ability to attract business looking for this technology,'' Stredney said earlier in the debate.
Williams said continued support of the building trades is necessary to train and prepare those who aren't interested in college.
Capone said he would like to see more of the funding used for education, used for education, not administration. Ninety-five cents of every education dollar should be put toward children, he said.