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  ELECTION FORUM  
  Incumbent Trustee Larry Moliterno Faces Challenge From Three Candidates:   September 26, 2019 Edition  
     BY JOHN A. DARNELL JR.
      associate editor
      All four candidates who will be in the November ballot for a seat as a Boardman Township Trustee spoke last week at the Boardman Civic Association’s annual election forum held at the Lariccia Family Center at Boardman Park. About 70 persons attended the event.
      The seat on the Boardman Board of Trustees currently held by Larry Moliterno will be contested.
      Moliterno, 57, of 427 Gardenview Dr., will seek re-election.
      Challengers are Tabitha Fitz-Patrick, 32, of 162 Melrose Ave.; Tracie Balentine, 49, of 743 Indianola Rd.; and Jason Pavone, 44, 573 Squirrel Hill Dr.
      Moliterno has served as a township trustee for 12 years and said he and fellow trustees, Brad Calhoun and Thomas Costello, as well as Fiscal Officer Bill Leicht “All share a focus of doing what is right for the people of Boardman.”
      “Over the past decade we have had challenges, and faced them head on,” Moliterno said, noting, for example, there have been issues with some commercial properties on Market St., particularly the former Terrace Motel, and more recently, the Wagon Wheel Motel.
      “The Terrace Motel was demolished. We are taking care of other problem sites like the Wagon Wheel Motel,” Moliterno said.
      He noted the current ‘township team’ built a new, main fire station, in collaboration with the local school system, adding “That’s why you can have confidence that we will work together for a viable solution for the Market St. Elementary School property.”
      In an effort to reduce costs of operation, and in light of a loss of some $3 million in state subsides, Moliterno said the township has entered into collaborative arrangements for the purchase of asphalt for paving bids, automatic mutual aid agreements for the fire department, and an emergency dispatching system (that is funded by several local governmental agencies).
      “That’s why you can continue to have the confidence that we will continue to operate the township efficiently,” Moliterno said.
      He noted that only 21 per cent of property taxes paid by township residents go to services provided by Boardman Township.
      “For that, you receive ‘24-7’ police security, ‘24-7’ fire protection, road paving, snow removal and zoning enforcement,” Moliterno said, adding “for most residents, that is less than the cost of a daily, medium-sized coffee at Dunkin Donuts.”
      In an effort to maintain the integrity of local neighborhoods, Moliterno said a township landbank was created “that has allowed us to demolish some homes, while supporting the rehabilitation of others.
      “We created the landlord registration program to make sure our residents live in safe environments, and property values are preserved.
      “That’s why you can have confidence that will continue to protect the integrity of our neighborhoods.
      Noting proposed improvements to the Southern Park Mall, Moliterno said township officials went to Columbus to meet with the mall’s owners, Washington Prime Group.
      “As you’ve seen by recent announcements, you an continue to have confidence that we will continue to support jobs and businesses in our community.”
      Acknowledging surface water issues on the township, Moliterno said the township has completed over $3 million in storm water projects and formed a water district that will provide funding to make repairs and storm water infrastructure improvements.
      “We have received funding (a grant) to repair damaged infrastructure in Huntington Woods, and used water district funds to repair a culvert on South Cadillac Dr.,” he said, adding $1.2 million in grant funds will aid in a disaster mitigation program through the acquisition of property located in flood plains.
      “[Government] always faces challenges and problems. Handling those challenges and solving problems is a major part of a trustee’s job...It’s easy to run for office, but it is a lot harder to do the job,” Moliterno said.
      Fitz-Patrick opened her address opining “When you drive into Boardman, you’ll see signs that say ‘Boardman, A Nice Place to Call Home.’ To me, that means successful schools, a beautiful park, fast responding safety services and belonging to a community I’m proud to say I belong to.”
      Saying she is a 2005 graduate of Boardman High School, Fitz-Patrick said “We need a strategic plan to improve our infrastructure, we need competitive pay for our safety service employees, and we need additional funds for the schools so they can continue to thrive.”
      She said her background is in social work.
      “I’ve advocated for a lot of cause. I have experience in policy writing, grant writing and I’m co-writing a bill with Rep. Tim Ryan to help...provide a more safe base for students being shamed and embarrassed,” Fitz-Patrick said.
      She said as a “representative for Boardman, what I have to offer is my advocating skills and finding additional funds and helping the community to rally together to fight for these changes.”
      Balentine told those in attendance when she was a little girl, she grew up on a farm.
      “My grandmother was my hero. She told me “Tracie, you can be anything you want, as long as you work hard, keep learning and remember where you came from.’”
      Next, Balentine asked “Has Boardman worked hard for you? That’s the question. We review some of the same issues year after year...dealing with reduced funding, dealing with how we can get some of those tax dollars to stay in Boardman that are generated by Boardman.
      “And, the answers are all the same...There’s no hard work there. Levy, tax the people, they’ll pay.”
      Holding-up a notebook entitled ‘Ohio Economic Development Manual,’ Balentine said the booklet contained a myriad of ways we can spur economic development and also bring revenues to our township....
      “Instead of learning about these tools, and implementing them, we continue to levy upon levy, and now it gets us to where we are now, one of the highest-taxed places in Mahoning County.
      “The taxpayers have said ‘enough,’ and I am listening,” Balentine said, adding “How can we forget where we came from? It’s been a long time since Boardman was a farm, but my goodness, aren’t our leaders ready to just give it away.”
      She decried a proposed 15-year tax abatement on new development at the Southern Park Mall.
      “At what cost Boardman, are we going to bankrupt our township and our schools? Or, get into an emergency situation where we need to levy our people and bankrupt our residents?
      “I think not, there are other tools we can use.”
      Balentine said where she comes from, “my Boardman, is one where trustees should be ambassadors for business, and work with other entities and partner with them, “not be beholding to them.”
      She provided a very dim view of ‘her’ Boardman.
      “My Boardman is not just millionaires and career politicians.
      “My Boardman is teachers, fire-fighters, social workers, small business owners, single parents, people that are addicted to drugs and trying to stay clean, people that are laid off and trying to hold onto their homes that they hold so dear.
      “These are real people, like you and me, and this is our Boardman.”
      Balentine concluded, “I am not a yes man. I am a get it done girl.”
      Pavone said he has lived in Boardman for 40 years.
      “I was born in Mississippi, but don’t hold that against me. My wife and I live over in Boardman. We’re foster parents. We used to be. We have kids adopted through foster care. They both go to Boardman schools.”
      Pavone said he entered the Trustee’s race in the belief that some changes are needed.
      “I like a quote attributed to Mark Twain--Politicians in diapers should be changed often and for the same reason.’ Basically, when you have politicians that stay in office for years, and years, and years...it leads to complacency, no new thinking. It leads to stale ideas,” Pavone said.
      He said his platform was based on three concepts---term limits, pay for public employees that is compatible with the private sector, and assurances public funds are not wasted.
      Terms for township trustee are governed by state law and Pavone said if two, four-year terms are good enough for the President of the United States, that should be good enough for township trustees.
      On public employees’ salaries, Pavone quipped, “Comparable salaries and comparable benefits. This is something that needs to be looked at.”
      Claiming the ABC Water District had no building and it spent $2000 for furniture and $1000 for a phone line, Pavone asked, “Could that money be used elsewhere, used to do another project?”
      Pavone said ‘the other issue’ is flooding...
      “The simple fact remains, that amount of rain we had in May, there’s nothing that is going to help that...
      “But the ABC Water District was created. Now it becomes executing that plan.”
      Fitz-Patrick said that “local universities” like Ohio State, Youngstown and Kent State could send their senior engineering students to Boardman for a “senior project to give recommendations” on water issues.
      Balentine said “Trustees need to keep their ear to the ground and see where the challenges are.”
      Pavone said follow-up is needed on water issues. “It has to be reiterated over and over again, that [ABC Water District] projects need to happen in Boardman.”
      Moliterno noted that all money collected from Boardman residents for the ABC Water District “Can only be used for projects in Boardman.”
      This is the first of a three-part series on the Boardman Civic Association’s Candidates and Issues Night.
 
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