Coffee with Your Lake County Commissioners
On Monday, March 7th, our only event was "Coffee with Your Lake County Commissioners" which was organized by the Eastern Lake County Chamber of Commerce. It took place at Madison Village Hall and Ms. Linda Reed, Executive Director of the chamber, initially thought only 25-30 people would be interested and was greatly heartened when almost 80 signed up.
It was neat to gather in the small village hall (which had an old-time town hall atmosphere) and hear what Ms. Judy Moran (2016 President of the Board), Mr. Dan Troy (2016 Vice-President of the Board), and Mr. Kevin Malecek had to say about what is taking place now in Lake County and what is planned for the future.
First of all, as their website reads, it is the purpose of the Lake County commissioners to "set the administrative policy for county government. While the Commissioners have no power to initiate legislation, they do exercise powers granted to them by the Ohio General Assembly through state law. The Commissioners are responsible for the appropriations of the county tax revenues through the adoption of the annual county budget. .... The budget includes appropriations for the numerous county offices, including those offices headed by other elected officials. The Commissioners have the power to levy taxes and to approve the placement of tax levies and bond issues on the ballot for consideration by county voters. The Commissioners also administer all federal grant monies. The Commissioners hold the titles to all county owned property and are responsible for the upkeep. By law, they must provide office space for all county offices. They must build the facilities necessary to house various offices such as the Courtrooms, the Jail, Engineer's facilities and parking. The Commissioners award all contracts for purchase and construction projects planned for the future."
For almost an hour, the three commissioners discussed issues concerning economic development, disbursement of grant monies, local taxation, and budgetary allocations. We were surprised when Mr. Troy mentioned that the commissioners can only exercise a small amount of discretionary spending because most of their budget goes to items mandated by the state. Along these lines, 2/3 of their budget goes to various aspects of the criminal justice system in Lake County.
Ms. Judy Moran, President of the Board of Commissioners, talked about the need to focus on fighting the heroin epidemic which continues to worsen. She also talked about a promising program wherein young students are taken on field trips to various local manufacturers to let them know that there are alternatives to attending college in terms of choosing a career. She also said plans are in the works to create a "wine trail" connecting the local wineries inspired by the famous "Kentucky Bourbon Trail" which might collectively enhance the standing of the area (because Lake County wineries have an excellent reputation for their output) and attract more tourists here.
Mr. Malecek discussed the need to for Lake County to provide service to a population that is increasingly aging while attracting young people tosettle here. Mr. Malecek had great hopes for the Tall Ships Festival and the RNC spillover into Lake County, both happening this summer, to give favorable exposure to the area.
One of the people who was at the Madison Village Hall for this program was Mr. Ken Weber, CEO and President of Goodwill Industries of Greater Cleveland and East Central Ohio. Mr. Weber was also at the City Club program last week, as were we, where Dr. Riyad H. Mansour, Palestinian Ambassador to the U.N., spoke so we talked for a moment about how good that program was.
As we were leaving, we gave our contact information to Madison Village Councilperson Dan Donaldson and talked with him for a moment about worthy projects that he had taken part in where he sincerely tried to engage local agricultural workers, many of whom were foreign-born. Afterwards, we got in our car and were getting ready to pull out of the parking lot before we spied a friend of ours who had attended the program so we stopped to say hello. He told us that she felt like asking a serious question about the economic development situation in Fairport Harbor but he didn't feel comfortable asking it because he had asked another official about it who danced around with his/her answer. We talked to him for a moment and said that it was the commissioners' responsibility to listen to such questions and reply to the best of their knowledge and it was, in turn, his responsibility to persist until he obtained a straightforward answer. Our friend thought about this for a moment and said that he would ask the question at the next opportunity available and hold whoever he talked to accountable.
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.