Polivka is better choice in race for commissioner

Incumbent Trumbull County Commissioner Dan Polivka and challenger Niki Frenchko both list economic development and government fiscal responsibility among their top priorities for Trumbull County.

Frenchko says she will focus on improving the reputation of Trumbull County by improving the culture and hiring practices in the county. She also wants to focus more attention on agriculture in the county’s planning efforts and create a team of grant builders to better locate funds to help develop needed infrastructure.

Polivka, 56, a Democrat, says he will work to keep taxes low through continued use of fiscally conservative business practices. He also wants to see the county improve its business relations, possibly through improving efforts in the county’s building department.

While the goals of each sound good on paper, we are troubled with the attitude and approach of each candidate.

We have consistently raised questions about Polivka’s dual role as Trumbull County commissioner and Trumbull County Democratic Party chairman, both powerful political positions in the county. We believe doing both jobs presents a conflict of interest that does not serve the Trumbull County voters well. Party leaders should not hold public office because the threat and the appearance of impropriety are great.

Transparency in the county commissioners office also needs improvement, as is evidenced by a questionable commissioners meeting that came to light the day our newspaper editorial board interviewed Polivka about his candidacy.

During the interview, Polivka spoke about a meeting that all three commissioners attended to discuss sewer line plans for the new General Motors-LG Chem vehicle battery plant under development in Lordstown. The meeting never had been announced to the media nor the public, as required by Ohio law.

Frenchko, 46, a Republican, is pushing hard for improved transparency, particularly in hiring and appointments. Both are points with which we agree.

Frenchko’s residency, however, is a concern to us. Despite her assurances that if she is elected, she will be here to do the job, she has stated openly that she splits her time between two residences, one in Warren and one in Mentor, Lake County. Her daughter attends high school in Mentor, and Frenchko shares a home there with her boyfriend. Following a hearing on the matter, Frenchko was cleared by the Trumbull County Board of Elections to appear on the local ballot and to cast her ballot here. Still, the issue remains a concern to us. When asked by this newspaper’s editorial board about her residence, she declined to say how much time she spends in Lake County, and would say only, “I will be here.”

We further are concerned by Frenchko’s controlling and divisive attitude. While we strongly believe there needs to be challenges to the status quo of operations within the commissioners board, we also believe that the spirit of cooperation gets things accomplished. Argumentative approaches to issues accomplish little without the ability to debate professionally and compromise when needed.

Frenchko has not demonstrated to us this ability. She even has alienated members of her own party. Trumbull County Republican Party Chairman Kevin Wyndham recently told Tribune Chronicle politics writer David Skolnick that Frenchko “picks fights with everybody.”

She responded that she only is standing up for what is right.

We have no problem with that, but disagreements must be handled with diplomacy — something we believe will be absent if Frenchko is elected.

In the past we have expressed our disappointment with the divisiveness that existed between Polivka and fellow commissioner Frank Fuda. However, it now appears that Polivka is making attempts to cooperate and debate issues more professionally, despite he and Fuda not frequently seeing eye to eye.

Yes, we have issues with Polivka, as well. We strongly encourage him to step down from his role as Trumbull County Democratic Party chairman if he is to continue to serve as county commissioner. And we cannot stress enough the importance of transparency and openness in government.

We are pleased, however, that the county has been able to maintain its status quo on property taxes, despite past threats of layoffs. Of course, we still believe room always exists for more cuts to spending, particularly during this pandemic.

We believe Polivka is the better of the two candidates. We endorse Polivka to maintain his seat as Trumbull County commissioner.


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