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Third time’s the charm?

Royster challenges Saffold again for Warren’s 6th Ward

WARREN — Will the third time be the charm for Erica Royster’s challenge of Cheryl Saffold in the 6th Ward?

Royster hopes so, but Saffold plans to keep control of the reigns for a seventh term on Warren City Council.

Democratic voters will decide who to put forth in the May 4 primary election. Early voting is ongoing.

The candidate who wins will not have a Republican challenger in the November election. The deadline for independent candidates to file is not until Friday, but none have filed yet.

Royster ran against Saffold in 2013 and 2015. In 2015, Royster lost by 29 votes, according to Trumbull County Board of Elections records. With just 469 votes cast, Saffold won about 53 percent of the count. It was even closer in 2013, when Saffold beat Royster with 13 votes, about 51.5 percent of the 431 votes cast.

Saffold, 65, Maple Street, has been in office since 2009. She was an educator for the state, local schools and Kent State University until 2020. She has served as chairwoman and vice chairwoman of several council committees, including fair housing and public utilities.

Royster, 38, of Ferndale Avenue SW, worked for years in her family’s business, South Central Tire and Auto on Main Street, was a service coordinator for Morgan Furniture and now is an independent insurance broker.

COMMUNICATION

Royster said one of her top priorities is to improve communication between city officials and residents and mobilize residents to take an active part in the community.

“Oftentimes, residents are labeled as not caring, but when you understand the dynamic of a neighborhood, you can better understand the people and bring about change through communication,” Royster said. “There are so many advanced ways to let the community know exactly what is going on as it pertains to them.”

There is a “breakdown” in communication between the city government and the public, Royster said. She listed the recent removal of stop signs and stop lights in the city as an example.

“Talking to constituents as I canvas the neighborhood, what I heard is they went to bed one night with stop signs and woke up the next day with no stop signs,” Royster said.

Royster isn’t saying the stop signs shouldn’t have been removed, but rather that there should have been more “mindful” communication about which ones would be taken out so people were prepared.

Saffold said the city administration could have done a better job communicating about the removal, but efforts were made. The information was provided to the media and reported on and Saffold said she participated in an question and answer virtual meeting with Ohio Department of Transportation officials to explain the changes.

CRIME

One of Saffold’s top issues is reducing crime in the ward, she said.

“Crime was at an all-time high last year; there were 18 murders, six in my ward,” Saffold said. “That is extreme. Two were right around the corner from my house.”

Saffold said she didn’t understand why it takes so long to solve murders and contacted CrimeStoppers to see if they could provide more of a presence in Warren.

“If they offer a reward, maybe some people will start talking about these unsolved murders,” Saffold said.

Saffold said she asked the city administration to place one of the new cameras they installed near the Sunoco on West Market Street as a crime deterrent. The high-tech equipment shows images clear enough to catch license plate numbers and faces, she said.

Saffold said she also is researching to obtain video-recording doorbells for free or at a discount to install in homes where people want them. She said she also is advocating for a police substation in the 6th Ward. Although there wasn’t funding to do it last time she brought it up, the city’s COVID-19 relief money, about $29 million, might make it possible, she said.

Royster said it is time to rethink how crime is prevented.

“Policing is one thing, but crime is the result of something. When you really want to fix crime, there are things you can do. Give people jobs, retool people that might not have training, give people something to look forward to in life. Protect children, expose them to good education,” Royster said.

At her family auto repair business, four girls and four boys are hired as interns every summer in a mentorship program that gives young people experience and keeps them busy, she said.

“There is hope. There are things we can do that don’t cost a lot of money,” Royster said.

COVID-19 FUNDS

When it comes to spending the city’s COVID-19 relief money, Royster said she wants to see a recreation center built that offers activities, but also supports the family and provides educational opportunities about technology, financial literacy and home economics.

Saffold said she’d like to invest more funds into renovating Quinby Park. The shelter house needs more amenities in order for it to be fully utilized, and needs new picnic tables and benches.The sidewalks in the city are also in disrepair, and more workforce training might help increase opportunities to residents, she said.

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