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Newcomer seeks to unseat veteran 4th Ward councilman

Newcomer seeks to unseat veteran 4th Ward councilman

WARREN — Residents living the city’s 4th Ward will have to decide whether they like the leadership of their current councilman or are seeking a new direction by voting in someone new.

Kristin Riley, 50, a Republican, is seeking to unseat Councilman Mark Forte, 60, a Democrat, who is completing his third term.

Forte initially was appointed to complete to the term of James Bluedorn, who left the city for a job opportunity. Forte was unopposed when he ran for the following two terms.

Forte expressed pride about road project funding passed by council during the last five years.

“I’m very proud of being on council,” he said. “We have worked real hard together, although we have our differences. It is very good to have several different thought processes on different issues.”

FORTE’S PRIORITIES

Forte described having long discussions with Councilman Ken MacPherson, D-5th Ward, about sewer infrastructure improvements, their costs and what impact the investments will have on the average city resident and the city overall.

Although there may be some disagreement on this issue, Forte said it all must be openly discussed, so decisions that are best for the city can be made.

Forte said there are times when council members, who often disagree, will be on the same page and can support one another.

For example, Forte plans to support an initiative being sponsored by MacPherson to help property owners repair and replace sidewalks in front of their homes using the $28 million in American Rescue Plan funds being received by the city.

Forte said he believes investing in small businesses will bring more business to the city.

“If they get busy, they’re able to hire more people to work for them,” he said. “And some of the other businesses around will also benefit.”

Forte has attended several of the community meetings set up by the administration to talk about how to use the ARP funds.

“The General Motors and Packard Electric, they’re pretty much dinosaurs,” he said. “They’re done.”

Forte suggested new businesses coming to the city will be smaller or they are moving into Lordstown or other nearby communities.

“I’m a big proponent of small business,” he said. “I think small business is really what’s the lure of Warren right now. They are what is really holding us together.”

Forte said he has not led his own 4th Ward meetings. He has had joint ward meeting with MacPherson.

“I’d like to branch off from that and have our own meetings,” he said. “A lot of the people who were going to the 5th Ward meetings had similar issues.”

He wants to continue working with Warren Pollution Control Director Ed Haller to make sure the city’s sewers are back in order.

“I know they’re going throughout the city again looking at sections and drilling out lime and calcium buildup,” he said.

Forte said he wants to continue as the ward councilman because he enjoys helping people.

“There are times where it’s frustrating because a councilman can’t do everything,” he said. “We have issues on Washington Street with some prostitution. I can’t stop that. However, I can bring it to the police’s attention.”

RILEY’S VIEW

Riley, a first-time candidate, said she decided to run this year because she wants to address a variety of issues facing the ward, including crime, landlords not taking care of their properties, flooding, maintaining the city’s safety forces and making sure elected officials are responsive to their constituents.

Riley said she decided to run for office because there has been at least three shootings in her neighborhood over the past year-and-a-half as well as an increasing amount of prostitution and home burglaries.

“People deserve to feel safe in their homes,” Riley said. “I understand that it takes time to build cases. However, those committing the crimes also understand it, so they stay around just long enough and then move to new locations.”

She said people making statements on social media are being made targets by the offenders.

“They begin watching out,” she said.

Riley said she wants, with the help of other council members, to find ways to strengthen the city’s housing inspection program.

“We need to look at problem rentals, when the last inspection was conducted and then (do) follow-up inspections to determine which problems were addressed,” she said. “Once corrections are made, follow-ups are needed to ensure properties are being maintained.”

Riley has been working at Arlene’s Cuisine School Food Service since 2017. A wife and mother of one son, Riley earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and anthropology from West Virginia University in 1993.

She has worked as a teacher at Eagles Christian Preschool and Daycare and as an engineering technician with a firm in Austin, Texas.

Riley said she would like to find ways to attract and retain recruits for the city’s police and fire departments. Saying that starting salaries for police officers should be higher, she would like to propose a program that quickly escalates the base pay or benefits of starting officers.

“These people put their lives on the line for our community every day,” Riley said. “Although I do not have specific grants in mind, we need to consider every possibility out there in terms of grants, local incentives and looking at other communities that have faced similar challenges.”

If elected, Riley said she will work closely with the law director, as well as others in the city, to ensure the city has and can maintain the maximum of people in these departments.

Riley said a lot of city residents believe their voices are not being heard.

“We need to change that,” she said. “We need to first be able to acknowledge there is a problem. We need to work together instead of tearing each other down when we disagree.”

Riley suggests city leaders take a long, hard look at where the residents’ tax dollars have been going.

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