Council veterans battle for city’s 7th Ward
WARREN — A former six-term 7th Ward councilwoman is seeking to unseat a former council colleague now serving in that position.
Susan Hartman, 64, said she is seeking a return to council in 2022 because she enjoyed being on council and felt she did a good job representing the ward’s residents.
“People deserve good representation, and I will do my best to give it to them,” Hartman said.
She served as the 7th Ward council representative from 1997 through 2009. She was defeated in the 2009 race by then- newcomer Eddie Colbert, who is now Mayor Doug Franklin’s safety service director.
Incumbent Ronald White is hoping to win a second term in the council seat. Although a first-term councilman in the 7th Ward, White served two terms in the late 1990s as the 4th Ward councilman.
If elected, Hartman said she would like to persuade her colleagues to pass legislation to establish an Emergency Medical Service program in the city.
“This is a vital service and the people living in Warren deserve it,” Hartman said. “We pay a police and fire tax, as do the areas around us, which supply these services. We too often need to rely on our neighbors to provide these emergency services.”
Hartman questions why neighboring communities, such as Howland, Champion, Warren Township, Braceville and Southington can have their own EMS through their fire departments and Warren cannot.
“These neighboring districts keep up with very modern equipment,” she said. “In Warren, we have dropped the ball and let our residents down. In these communities, if you are a resident and you need the services of an ambulance, the only cost to you is what your insurance pays.”
Hartman said city leaders need to sit down and determine what the criteria would be for an acceptable emergency service with qualified people helping to design it.
Hartman also would like to use grants to re-establish a Community Oriented Police Service program to encourage better relationships between the police department and area young people.
“We have more young people that have lived with much trauma,” Hartman said. “It is now estimated that 60 percent of our youth have lived with some sort of trauma. That data was prepandemic.”
Hartman believes that COPS, and other programs like it, empower young people to live good, productive lives without getting into trouble with the law.
The former councilwoman would like to see the former fire station on Palmyra Road used to create a junior fireman program, where impressionable kids can meet and work with firefighters.
“You would not see an immediate payoff, but I think seeds would be planted and we would see a reduction in crime,” she said.
Hartman, like her opponent, would have liked for council to have approved directing 15 percent of the net funds earned from tow yard fees to the city’s poorest neighborhoods to help clean up blight.
She believes the $29 million in stimulus funds should not be spent on things that are not long lasting or things that already should be addressed in the regular budget.
“We should be making long-term investments,” she said.
Hartman said some 7th Ward residents still do not know who their councilman is.
“There’s a lot of people still feeling neglected,” she said. “They do not know who their councilman is. That makes me sad.”
White said some of his biggest accomplishments include beginning the discussions of adding dashcams to police cars and purchasing body cameras for individual officers. He also was a proponent of passing police and fire levies in the city.
“I was talking about these issues 20 years ago when I was a 4th Ward councilman,” White said. “I continued pushing them when I returned to council.”
White described working hard to convince voters of the need for the police, fire and road levies.
“I was arguing for dash board and body camera 20 years ago,” White said. “We ended up with dash cameras. When I came back in, (getting body cameras) was one of my focuses. There’s a need. We have not gotten them yet, but I will continue to make sure they are in the conversation.”
The administration and the police department have said they intend to have body cameras for officers, but they will be purchased with new police cruisers. The new body camera system will be linked up with dash board cameras in the cruisers.
In recent years, the councilman has been pressuring the administration to dedicate some funds for sidewalk repairs.
“I’m not saying we should totally finance the replacement of sidewalks,” White said. “There are 185 miles of sidewalks in the city. We have community block grants that can be used to help. In some street replacement projects, Engineer Paul Makosky will try to replace sidewalks as part of the projects.”
White said an increasing number of middle age and elderly people prefer walking than going to gym, so they have less of a risk of being exposed to COVID-19.
However, he added, the poor sidewalk conditions in some neighborhoods make them dangerous.
The councilman said the city can pay for the repairs of sidewalks and bill the cost to property owners through their property taxes.
“I’ve been talking to the administration,” he said.
White said blight must be addressed. He would like to use some of the stimulus funds expected by the city to do neighborhood improvement projects, including the demolition of houses when appropriate.
He also would like to explore the idea of financing a dirt bike racing park in the former Westlawn area.
White, like Hartman, said he wants the administration to focus funding of long-term projects with the stimulus funds.
“Public officials should be held accountable for their decision making that affects our communities,” White said. “We have some elected officials that do not read or do the homework which is necessary for this position.”
White was a vocal critic to recent tow legislation that removed direct language that stated any person whose vehicle has been towed and / or impounded and who has not been cited for any City Code Violation, City Ordinance or State Law shall be exempted from payment of fees.
“Why take something out that was not necessary,” White said.