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Election Preview: Dayton City Council Candidates Answer Questions

Most of the candidates running for Dayton City Council responded to The River City News's survey and their answers are posted below for your consideration.

Twelve candidates will advance beyond the May 20 primary to compete for six seats on the council in November. The mayor's office is also up for grabs and incumbent Ken Rankle faces current city councilman Virgil Boruske in a head-to-head campaign in November. Because of Boruske's mayoral candidacy and because councilman (and candidate) Bobby Allen resigned last week, there will be at least two new additions to the city council.

The other four incumbents are all seeking reelection.

Incumbent Bill Burns and candidate and former fire chief Denny Lynn did not respond to the survey.

Candidate responses are unedited and published in full. Editor's note: Incumbent candidates Jerry Gifford and Penny Mastruserio Hurtt recorded their answers in person during a candidates forum in Dayton while the others responded via email. Answers by Gifford and Hurtt are transcribed in full.

Question: What will you do/have you done to ensure continued economic development in Dayton?

Joe Neary: The most successful economic development programs start at the grass-roots level. I chose to live in Dayton, so I am deeply involved in many efforts to move our city forward. I served on the Historic Board that established our Historic District and guidelines. I serve on Board of Adjustments, and also serve as Chair of the Main Street Board for new improvements, activities, and investment in our city. I’m on the Dayton Independent School District Community Advisory Committee, to help our administration, staff, and students continue the phenomenal improvement in our schools. I’ve volunteered hundreds of man hours on many citizen projects to make our city a better place to live. I patronize and promote the businesses within our city, and always encourage others to see the untapped potential Dayton already has. We already have many solid citizens who want to help our city grow, and that is the most valuable asset a city can have. But we need all city officials to encourage, support, and join in all their efforts, and have respect for their ideas and input. Every city needs more ambassadors to attract more economic development, and economic development starts with citizens and elected officials with a positive and sensible vision for the future.

Jeff Haas: The city has done a good job partnering with developers such as Fischer Homes, Towne Properties and DCI Properties. We need to continue to attract people who want to invest in Dayton whether it’s for new construction or rehabbing our existing historic buildings. If we can partner with right people that want to invest in our city we will continue to see economic growth.

Joseph Tucker: I plan to put a major focus on the "Avenue" and bringing businesses into Dayton and keeping them viable. I think there needs to be more emphasis put on marketing our business district to the Northern Kentucky community and possibly even offer incentives to business owners to get them to open up shop in Dayton. I also would like to focus on promoting the existing businesses in order to keep those viable as there are many great businesses here in town that unfortunately a lot of people don't know about.

Cathy Lenz Volter (incumbent): I continue to attend Main Street meetings, as we are constantly working on ways to populate our Main Street Business district. Additionally, I realize the importance of the development of our Riverfront, and want the riverfront development to thrive as an integral part of the community of Dayton.

Anthony Vincent Cadle: Recently the city of Dayton has seen an abundance of economic growth in the housing sector of the city. Although the city has simultaneously seen smaller growth in business, there is still room for improvement. From my perspective, I believe it is time for the city to switch its focus on business development and allow the housing sector development to finish current projects and the market adjusts appropriately to the new residences. The key to business revitalization in the city of Dayton is marketing and branding. Many people have pointed blame of business failure at the citizens of Dayton for not supporting local businesses. Although I encourage local support from the local residence, it is evident with a town under 6,000 residences and limited budgets; it is unrealistic to expect locals to support blossoming companies. In order to succeed we have to attract consumers from outside of Dayton. I believe the city can do this with an elaborate marketing and branding campaign as well as an investment in the local arts of greater Cincinnati.

Leslie Carr: I have volunteered through Dayton's Main Street program, and Historic Preservation Committee for the last few years. Through Main Street I have organized events such as Art on the Avenue, and our recent Stick Horse Competition in order to promote Dayton as a fun place that embraces the Arts. As a Main Street Committee we recently completed a Facade Grant cycle in our Central Business District where the City reimbursed property owners a percentage of costs to implement improvements to their buildings. Currently I am working to assist Michael Giffen, our City Administrator, to identify grant opportunities and applications that will benefit to our Parks and possible streetscaping.

Ben Baker: I believe that for Dayton to continue to enjoy economic development the city needs to focus efforts on marketing Dayton not only to new residents, but also to our current neighbors. For the past 4 years I have worked closely with the city on numerous projects that market Dayton in a positive light, whether it be through family fun events such as Light Up Dayton, Movie Night, the Easter Egg Hunt, Art on the Avenue, and the Memorial Day Parade. I have also worked with the Main Street Committee to brighten the empty storefronts on 6th new ownership, fight blight through facade grants which helped current business owners further beautify their buildings, was a founding member of the community garden program, and through a private loose organization helped build the manger scene on 6th holiday season. There are so many fantastic opportunities for our current residents to be active in the community, work with our neighbors on events, and help Dayton grow from within. These types of activities are important for our own progress and growth and I will continue to encourage our neighbors to participate!

We will have to market our fair town to newcomers as well. With the new development on the river we will want to be sure that we attract the right neighbors, both for new developments as well as our current amazing housing stock. We’ll need to accentuate the positive benefits of living in Dayton. We have the fantastic benefit of being a quiet river town next to a bustling metropolis. Living in Dayton means being able to walk to the market to get groceries. It means being able to walk to a restaurant to have dinner. Living in Dayton means being able to ride a bike downtown to a Major League Baseball game and watching a first run movie on the way home. The old adage is true, “Location, Location, Location”, and there is no better location than Dayton KY!
We also must, as a community, spend our money at our local stores. If there is an opportunity to eat at any of the restaurants, buy at the local markets or have services completed in Dayton I choose time and time again to do so. Even during this election all of my signs were created by Patriot Signs on 2nd Avenue. The large sign on the avenue was hand-painted by me and 100% of the materials purchased in Campbell County. It would have been cheaper to order them through an online service but I truly believe in buying local. These types of activities will show everyone Dayton is Open for Business!
Jennifer Sierra: I have served the last 4 years volunteering for the city of Dayton. I have been chairperson for the Main Street Association and Board of Architectural Review for the last 3 years. Within that time we have managed to put into place several grants for property owners (both commercial and residential) to fix up their properties with the hope of beatifying the town’s Main Street to attract businesses and residents to Dayton.  I would like to recruit creative industries to open businesses in Dayton. Because of our proximity to Cincinnati and Newport, our downtown area could be a hub for the creative community. We could have advertising agencies, graphic design companies, writers, photographers, film-makers, etc, move their companies into our downtown area and potentially move into our town to live. We can do this by offering tax incentives and grants offered by the state to make moving industries and new citizens to Dayton an attractive option. I want to see the new riverfront development completed in a way that is inclusive to Dayton residents. This should not become a community of have’s and have-nots.
Jerry Gifford (incumbent): There's been a lot of bad economics in the building industry, the housing industry was down for a long time. I hope out of everything that what happens is that we get reputable people coming in here to build their businesses and bring the new homes in and take care of them and make sure it's right. We don't have any do-overs and that when they come in, they become part of our city and not something on the other side of the world because just like a sports team or management team, you have to have rookies and veterans to have a good team. Not all or one of the other. It's the same way with citizens. You're going to have some citizens coming in here that are probably smarter than a lot of the people here because we came froma  different world but we need a mix of them. We need common sense and we need intelligence and when you put that all in a big pot and mix it up and make one pie, you've got a while put, not just a piece of a pie and that's what makes a community. Everyone needs to get involved.
Penny Mastruserio Hurtt (incumbent): Our Main Street manager has done a wonderful job and he's our new city administrator. What I'd like to do is since we have someone in that position, if I read something in the paper where there's a business looking to expand or move, I may contact them or I may get a hold of our city administrator and say, hey, I just read this. Call these people to see if they're interested. It can work. A lot of people don't realize we're here and what we have to offer and we just need to stand up and say, look at us. This is what we have. We have a lot to offer. We have buildings that can be rehabbed, that can be used, and can be really functional. In the past, I've personally contacted different businesses and said come and look. They've been interested but maybe the timing wasn't right. As the economy gets better, I'm hopeful we can bring more people in.
Question: How can the city strike a balance between repopulating the city’s beautiful historic districts with new developments?
Neary: I’d love to rent billboards on I-471 southbound that say “If you lived in Dayton KY you’d be home by now!”, and northbound “If you lived in Dayton KY you could have slept in later!”. People want to spend less time in their cars commuting and more time at home with their families. With Dayton’s perfect location close to the jobs and attractions in Northern Kentucky and downtown Cincinnati, we can market our city as a great alternative to wasting time and money just getting to work and back. For mass transit, we have our TANK bus line #12 running the length of our city right into downtown Cincinnati, and we already have residents who bike to and from work. With our wide variety of housing stock at all price levels, we can meet the needs of new residents all across the income scale, and our property values will go up as the city improves. New homeowners will attract more businesses and services, and we can emphasize these successes to attract even more. And as new residents invest in our community, we have to welcome them and incorporate them into it, so they can contribute their experiences and ideas. We must act fast to take advantage of the new exposure Dayton will get as a great residential community, and leverage that into all our neighborhoods. Dayton is a sleepy little river city, but it’s waking up!
Haas: Striking a balance with the new developments and repopulating our historic districts is vital to our city’s growth. If you look to the other river cities like Newport and Bellevue, their new developments attracted new residents to their cities. More people were not just moving into the newer developments but businesses followed which brought more traffic to the city. As both the new developments and the businesses began to take off, new residents began to move into the older properties as a result of the new economic activity. This is what can happen for Dayton because we have already seen the popularity of the new developments. Now it’s a matter of getting the Main Street thriving with small business owners and we’ll see the historic districts revived due to new economic activity.
Tucker: There is work in progress now by the Main Street Board and other people in town to have a historic district be recognized here in town. I think that is going to really preserve our city's rich history. There has already been great additions to our city with Riverpointe Condos and Grant Park. These newer homes have brought some diversity in the types of properties here in town. I expect all the work with the Manhattan project will bring even more diversity.
Volter: There is no need to separate any of the on-going developments from the existing homes in Dayton, whether they be historic or not. New housing developments are necessary in order for our City to stay financially fit.  The City of Dayton has suffered severe tax base loss as a result of depreciated house values over the past 5 years.  New housing developments are the boost we need. I am interested in exploring incentives that would spark development of existing owner occupied housing.
Cadle: As I understand it, balancing new development and the repopulating of the city’s beautiful historic district lies within a succinct and simple set of zoning laws and simple code ordinance. Developing strong historic preservation policies and executing enforcement; will benefit the historic district wonderfully. Supporting code enforcement on ALL properties within the city limits will also assist in attracting new residents and encourage new development. With that being said, I am a firm believer that a simpler and more concise code ordinance will lead to more voluntarily compliance the city will see.
Carr: The balance comes with there being something for everyone. New residents will be within walking distance to restaurants and basic services. Local shops will benefit from an increased customer base to further economic vitality. Walkability of the City should be supported to connect all of our residents and business owners.
Baker: It is important for us to maintain our historic charm while adding to the town and only by carefully working alongside new buildings and maintaining our current homes can we continue to keep that feel. It’s truly a huge differentiator between our town and other suburbs of Cincinnati. I often hear people speak of the amazing architecture we have in our old buildings and how special Dayton is. I believe that the city should better understand and possibly adopt Form Based Code for future projects. If done properly Form Based Code will give more directed decisions on the changing face of Dayton while keeping her rich history intact.
Sierra: We need to continue to encourage property owners to revitalize their historic properties by giving tax incentives and grants. An aggressive grant program that is promoted correctly will be successful in getting owners interested in taking down chain link fencing, repairing box gutters, painting, etc. We need to crack down on blight and other code violations so property owners make the repairs they need to. I believe that once the houses start going in on the riverfront, people will be encouraged and feel better about investing in their properties. It is imperative that we keep open street and sidewalk connections between the 2 developments so a dividing line doesn’t occur. We want people to be able to access the upcoming revitalization of our downtown district and be able to participate in our community events and support the businesses that are going to move in there. There are many people out there that appreciate the character of old construction and are willing to move into historic districts. Wether you like old construction or new, now we will be able to offer something to everyone.
Gifford: I would say that we need to both of them. We don't want to be cut off from the world but we have a rich history in Dayton and I don't want to lose that culture. One of the candidates' grandfather and I coached baseball for thirty years and I'm hoping that the people that have families or are rich in family will come back to this town and do what their fathers and grandfathers did.
Hurtt: I think the residents, the people who own their homes and have been here a while and even the people coming in and buying our older homes, they realize the value in preserving the history and I think it's going to balance out really well. One of the things with our riverfront development, one of the things I pushed for and that they are doing is, they are not going to be modern-looking homes. We don't want something that is some kind of modern glass (structure) down there. We want that to keep with the style and character we have down there and I think that will bring it all together and it will look like one city and not two different parts of town.
Question: What role does the marina/Manhattan Harbor project play in Dayton’s emerging renaissance?
Neary: Dayton has been able to survive 40 years since the floodwall was built, but finally we have a perfect opportunity to make our riverfront work for us again. We’ve been able to take 140 acres that were an underutilized area owned by the city, attract tens of millions of dollars of private investment, and turn it into the most desirable riverfront location in Northern Kentucky. While many other developments are on hold, Manhattan Harbour has been moving along on track. That steady progress says a lot to other potential investors and their lenders about our city, how we’re willing to work with them to benefit all parties. That “good faith” reputation can only benefit all of Dayton, and all of Northern Kentucky. But the next 2-4 years are critical, any mistakes made by our elected officials could derail the all the work of the past decades to get to this point, and all our hopes for future investment from one end of the city to the other. We need the best ideas and plans to take full advantage of this chance, and now more than ever we need the right people in the right positions making the right decisions.
Haas: The Manhattan Harbor project can play a big role in Dayton’s emerging renaissance.  We need to make sure there is strong oversight of the development as it proceeds.
Tucker: Personally, I feel the Manhattan Harbor project is going to be the biggest factor in our community's growth over the next several years. It has taken a long time get this project finally underway, and now that is moving forward it has to be handled precisely to keep things moving in the right direction. There is a lot riding on this development as it will bring tons of new families, new sources of revenue for the city, and a great landscape for the riverfront of our town.
Volter: A marina is an attraction to the continued development of the riverfront.  The marina could play an important role in continuing to attract Dayton's riverfront development.
Cadle: The Manhattan harbor project is the cornerstone to our current development. As the developers complete the project and as new residence move into the city, there will develop a new culture. A culture of pride, creativity and growth; this new culture will accelerate the repopulating of the historic district. With that being said, I still believe the city must increase its support and investment into the historic district. There must be substantial goals set and met before we will see the benefits from the Manhattan harbor project.
Carr: The Marina is a factor in the desirability of Dayton as a vibrant place to live and visit. The City is actively working toward the best future of this great asset.
Baker: - The changes on the Riverfront are coming and we need to be sure they are being done properly to best serve our current residents as well as our future neighbors. We are fortunate enough to have some of the best waterfront property not only in Northern Kentucky, nor Greater Cincinnati, but truthfully the region. It is important for the incoming council to carefully weigh each and every move on the project as it will not only effect Dayton for our near future, but our children’s children’s neighborhood as well. The incoming council needs to be vigilant for every resident, not just the new ones. The new projects that are taking place on our riverfront will have a huge impact on the rest of the city’s resurgence, felt from the riverfront to main street and beyond, and should be something all Dayton residents can be proud to call OUR neighborhood.
Sierra: This project is imperative to the future of Dayton. Having new homes where there were none before adds to the tax base of our community. This tax money will help with many different projects that will beautify our city. The new people moving in will help support local businesses and hopefully we will get some new volunteers from our new neighbors! The riverfront project comes with publicity and the new spotlight shining on our city will bring interest in more development here.
Gifford: It's a viable business and we really need it. It adds an attraction. In the old days we had a place called Tacoma Park which was a swimming pool. We don't have anything like that. The marina invites different kinds of people. It gives us a recreation we can be proud of. It will offer the people that build the new homes a place to mor their boats and the people that live in the town currently. We do have two marinas and unfrotunately, the Watertown has been mishandled by people. Right now, we've got a lot of people interested in it and it's an integral part of our city. That's my belief.
Hurtt: The marina is essential. People are not going to want to buy or have these million, half-million dollar homes without that amenity. We need it. We need to find the right investor to bring it back to what it can be and bring business along with it. There's a lot of land down there zoned for community use. I'd like t see something like you see in Savannah. They have shops with apartments above them. It's going to take time. It's going to take money. But we're in the right position because nobody has the unique position to do that. We have a riverfront that's open and can be used. If you look up and down the Ohio, you don't have anyone else that has that. We are one of the easiest towns to work with when it comes to a business wanting to come in. Other cities would be a little more rigid. We have our own planning and zonign board. We work with them. As long as it's what we see in our business plan for the future, we'll work with you. I personally worked on the five-year comprehensive plan. We needed to update it and I took it upon myself to do it and we got that rolling. We did it in-house, we didn't pay someone. It was really eye-opening, what our future can be, and I think it looks good.
Question: Would you like to express support for a particular Dayton mayoral candidate (Mr. Rankle or Mr. Boruske)?
Neary: I’ve closely watched all of Dayton’s elected officials’ votes and comments over the years, and measured their contributions to our city. We have 6 months until the Mayoral election, I’ll base my vote on my personal experiences with both candidates, what I feel they’ve done for our city up to that day, and what their plans are for the future of our city.I applaud anyone who is willing to run for the office of Mayor of Dayton, but I’ll vote for the one whom I think gives us the best chance of continued successes.
Haas: If elected to council I will work with whoever wins the mayoral race to help move the city of Dayton forward.
Tucker: I have no comment on the election for Mayor, but I do wish Mr. Rankle and Mr. Boruske luck in the upcoming election.
Volter: I support Mayor Rankle in his run for Mayor Dayton.  Mayor Rankle is truly a working Mayor.  
  -  Working  Mayor, takes time away from his own business and family to attend city functions and meetings and promotes the City of Dayton.
  -  Physically assists Public Works to prepare the city for special events, as well as emergencies, such as weather related flooding and snow.
  -  Decision making is based on what Mayor Rankle believes is best for the city and the citizens of Dayton.
-  Is honest and straight forward , sometimes to a fault, resulting in telling people what they might not want to hear.
-  Open door policy.  Entertains any citizen to listen to their concerns.
Cadle: As a potential council member I do not want to express any support for either Mayoral candidate. My hope is to work with either candidate and do great things for a great city. Both candidates have strong qualifications for the position and will do well for the city. I wish them both the best in their election and I trust the residence of Dayton will choose a candidate that will best reflect their interest and values.
Carr: I will continue to support our current Mayor, Ken Rankle.
Baker: Dayton is lucky to have two qualified candidates for the mayoral election. At this current time there are too many questions that need to be asked to both candidates before I cast a vote in either direction.
Sierra: I would work with either mayoral candidate.
Gifford: Virgil Boruske.
Hurtt: I have supported Mr. Rankle all along. Mayor Ranle has done a wonderful job. He goes above and beyond. There's not many mayors that you would see out sweeping the streets, picking up branches when we have a storm, giving his own time when we have repairs on city buildings. I wholeheartedly support Ken. He has given 200%, not just on things like that but to our riverfront projects. I think he deserves to see it through to the end. He has worked hard for it and he's a good man.
Questions written by and answers gathered by Pat LaFleur, RCN contributor
Photo: Dayton City Building