Incumbents endorsed in 2 Niles wards

Niles 2nd Ward

In contested Democratic primary races for Niles 2nd and 4th Ward council seats, both sitting office holders have earned our endorsement for repeat terms.

In the 2nd Ward, incumbent Sheri Smith exhibited that she was both educated and knowledgeable on issues the city is facing.

During her personal interview at the Tribune Chronicle office, Smith presented and defended her top three priorities. Those included fiscal responsibility with regular reviews of fund balances. She wants to focus on economic development, including continued work with the regional chamber and Eastgate Regional Council of Governments and with newly created business development incentive programs; and strict code enforcement.

Smith was appointed to her seat in recent months after the former ward councilman Steve Mientkiewicz took over as mayor.

We were especially impressed with Smith’s organization and awareness of the city’s financial issues. Smith, who serves as finance committee chairwoman, said she regularly reviews fund balances and discusses legislation that impacts those balances prior to every council meeting. Especially now that the city has emerged from fiscal emergency, Smith said she intends to provide fund balance synopses to fellow council members at each council meeting.

Smith is being challenged for the Democratic nomination by two newcomers, Sam Ragozine and Al Rosenberg.

Rosenberg is a small-business owner in Niles who says he understands financial accountability and promises to make himself available and to improve communication with constituents.

Ragozine is a longtime Niles resident and graduate of Niles McKinley High School. He said he would like to see a focus placed on city parks, including Stevens Park, located in the city’s 2nd Ward.

We applaud both Rosenberg and Ragozine for their desire to serve residents of Niles and for their regular attendance at city council meetings. Still, we feel their knowledge and suggested plans fall short of what Smith offered.

Smith deserves the Democratic nomination.

Niles 4th Ward

As a business operator and sitting councilman, incumbent Albert Cantola Jr. has the experience needed to continue steering the city of Niles forward after its recent emergence from state-imposed fiscal emergency.

And where Cantola may have lacked knowledge, he has worked hard to make up for it by taking the time to travel at his own expense on two occasions to Columbus in order to take part in local government training courses, focusing on things like ethics, grant writing, networking and more.

His desire to learn and ask questions and then to cast his votes even when he realizes it may not be popular is admirable. Cantola, for example, acknowledged as much as he wanted to see the Waddell Park pool reopen, he spent much time researching both sides of the issue. He learned about the condition of the pool and the building, needed repairs and costs. In the end, he supported the decision not to open the pool.

“I am a firm believer that you speak your piece, and then you move on,” Cantola said.

Cantola listed among his priorities keeping safety services strong. He wants to see economic development efforts focus more on the downtown, saying the U.S. Route 422 corridor is important to the city, but he believes it will take care of itself.

We see his approach to public service as refreshing.

Challenger Aaron Mymo lists priorities that include improved environmental issues and infrastructure in the city.

He says he would like to work with the Army Corps of Engineers to alleviate flooding problems in the city, including the possibility of dredging the creek near McKinley High School. Mymo said he also would like to organize volunteer efforts to clean litter and debris from areas surrounding the creek.

He also would like to create a block watch to help keep the city safe.

We applaud Mymo’s interest in his city and think he offers some good ideas. However, we like Cantola’s experience and believe he deserves the opportunity to continue his efforts on council.

Cantola deserves the Democratic nomination for the 4th Ward Council seat.