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LWV League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area Education Fund

Smart Voter
Hamilton, Clermont, Warren Counties, OH November 5, 2013 Election
Candidates Answer Questions on the Issues
Member Council at Large; City of Loveland

The questions were prepared by the League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati Area and asked of all candidates for this office.     See below for questions on Qualifications, Basic Services, Budget, Citizen Engagement

Click on a name for candidate information.   See also more information about this contest.

? 1. What are your qualifications for office?

Answer from Barry Kuhn:

Although I have never served in public office, I have experience in the private sector that can be applied here. I have owned my own business, and prior to that, I worked in the Financial Services Industry for over 17 years. As a result, I have strong leadership and management skills, in addition to working cooperatively with others to obtain agreed upon goals. I also have strong communication and collaboration skills that I think will aid me in being successful in the role as a Councilman.

Answer from Pamela Gross:

I graduated from the College of Mount Saint Joseph with honors, Magna Cum Laude and was a member of the National Dean's List and the Sigma Beta Delta Honor Society.

As a local accountant and entrepreneur I bring a business owner's perspective to local government. I understand numbers, budgets and financial statements. Having built my own business I have learned to listen well and communicate clearly. I know what it takes to transform complex issues into practical solutions.

Answer from Robert H "Rob" Weisgerber:

I am the current Mayor of Loveland. I have been on City council for 16 years and I understand the processes and opportunities to improve. I am running for City council again to continue making Loveland the best city in Ohio. I work full time at GE as the Chief Consulting Engineer for the new and advanced derivative engines in support of our war fighters. As an engineer I am a numbers guy, trained and utilized in quality initiatives like Six Sigma and I am trained and an experienced organizational leader. In my position at GE, I drive innovation and creativity.

Bringing the private sector practices to the public sector and not doing things as usual is what has made Loveland great and so far ahead of other Ohio local communities. What you see in Historic downtown, and our balanced budget, are a result of my direct involvement along with council support. We have been chosen by Ohio Magazine as one of "Ohio's Best Hometowns" + issue out in November.

Answer from Brenton A "Brent" Zuch:

My degree from Miami University was in Political Science. This helps me understand concepts that staff propose in a way others may not. My wife is a City Planner and when we discuss city issues, she has invaluable advice. I also served at the Ohio House of Representatives. So I have experienced on a larger scale and I think this helps add to my perspective.

I also believe that military service prepares a person in a way nothing else can. You learn organization, hard work, dedication, devotion, self-sacrifice, responsibility and team work. I received numerous ribbons, accommodations and medals including a meritorious advancement while serving in the Gulf in the US Navy. I was happy to serve my Country but in another way, my Country served me by shaping me into the person I am today.

I served on the Finance Committee before I was on Council. Today I still serve that committee and I also serve as the President of CIC, OKI Rep and a member of Tree and Environment Committee.

Answer from Linda Cox:

I am currently serving my first term on Loveland City Council. I am a lifelong Loveland area resident who was employed over 25 years in the Loveland City School District and at Loveland City Hall. I served as Clerk of Loveland City Council for 15 years where I had the opportunity to learn firsthand about Loveland's government. These experiences afforded me the opportunity to receive valuable input from our residents and business community which helps guide my policy-making decisions.

? 2. What services do you believe should be considered basic and essential for the City?

Answer from Brenton A "Brent" Zuch:

First and foremost it is safety, safety, safety. Safety affects everything from business retention, to insurance rates to quality of life. We are blessed with an excellent private fire department that is first rate and a real bargain. We have had to make some tough choices and lose some "nice to haves" and restructure to 12 hours shifts to make sure there is always a backup police officer. There will also be no added fleet vehicles for the police this coming year.

Next are our roads whether you are talking about finding grants or like when we recently collaborated with Ham. Co. and Symmes on Union Cemetery to keep the roads in the best shape possible or the excellent job public works does plowing the snowy roads.

Loveland has a water utility and our water is hard but is plentiful, healthy and inexpensive. However, we had a water main break near the High School recently and quickly lost pressure in the most elevated part of the City. We have a backup with Cincinnati Water but they to had an issue and almost shut us off. This would have been a real problem because we would not have been able to fight a fire sufficiently at 2 schools, the Lodge Retirement Community or The Commerce Park. There was some confusion why were able to build the new water tower when the state cut so many revenues which the city had depended. The answer is that this utility's funds can only be used for water and the utility issued bonds and the water bill pays the cost. We were able to minimize the impact to the resident's bill by using "wrap" financing to minimize the hit until a large amount of existing debt is retired.

Speaking of your water bill, you may think it has gone up a lot. Actually, your water, garbage and SEWAGE bill has gone up. We were able to reduce the refuse collection cost by collaborating with other governments to broaden the size of the bid. However, your sewer bills keeps going up despite the fact that the city owns the treatment plant and has sued to get the management of it back from MSD, who is gouging you. I don't agree with the court's decisions and the rate increases are so great I'm willing to continue the fight for you.

If you have ever had the pleasure of dealing with Eva in Building in Zoning or Linda or Tom in the Tax or Finance Departments you know we have first rate people in those departments that can be a real help to people or business who have questions or problems.

Answer from Barry Kuhn:

Police and Fire should be at the top of the list, and they should be the last thing considered when having to make any additional budget cuts. Public safety is something that cannot be compromised.

Other services would include water and sewage, and snow and ice removal. These are things that impact the citizens more directly than some of the others, and should be protected.

Answer from Pamela Gross:

Basic city services include public safety (police and fire) and public works (infrastructure). To be able to continue providing these services at a level to which our residents and businesses have become accustomed , we must have a strong and consistent economic development program focused on job creation and private and public investment. A stable and growing Loveland economy will also provide for other quality of life amenities such as special events, parks and recreation.

Answer from Robert H "Rob" Weisgerber:

Basic services are those services the residents feel every day. These include safety services like police, fire, and EMS. Our public works department who maintain the facilities, streets, parks, and our water utility. City services like zoning which protects the residents property values, the Finance department who keeps the budget open and account for every hard earned tax dollar of the residents.

My philosophy is to run the City like a business and stress the basic services that drive property values up for our residents. So many items go into the value of living in Loveland and it the compilation of all these basic services that we focus on.

Answer from Linda Cox:

Loveland residents have consistently shared with me the need to maintain basic city services including police. fire and infrastructure. They also see the need to focus on preserving and capitalizing on our city's natural resources including the Little Miami Scenic River and Bike Trail. In addition there is an expectation that City administration and staff will be responsive, courteous, and listen to residents' concerns.

? 3. How would you balance the City Budget?

Answer from Barry Kuhn:

We are required by law to have a balanced budget, and the recent cuts that have been made have seemed to ensure that we are balanced. In fact, we have seen a slight increase in revenue in 2013.

I think that we need to look for opportunities to increase our revenue stream. This would include the revitalization of the Loveland-Madeira road corridor, and attracting new businesses to the city. Adding jobs in the area will also contribute to improving the overall economy here.

We also need to explore other ideas on how to fund some of the "nice to haves" that may be eliminated in an effort to balance the budget. Local businesses may be willing to sponsor some of these, which would eliminate or reduce the expense to the city.

Any further budget cuts will need to be evaluated closely to make sure that we limit the impact to the citizens.

Answer from Brenton A "Brent" Zuch:

Loveland has been a leader in collaboration and is ahead of the curve in many other areas too. We collaborated with other Cities for trash collection and got that cost down. We outsourced income tax collection to RITA. We outsourced building inspection. Both those departments were downsized as have all others in Loveland. Staff is down nearly 20%, while the state average is closer to 8%. I even reached out to a colleague in Symmes regarding policing. The most obvious is the excellent Loveland/Symmes Fire Department and the Northeast Collaborative, which collaborates on equipment purchases.

On the website you can see the budget, which has won awards. Part of it shows how we use statistics to measure our cost versus our outcomes for the services we provide. We rate very high and this helps guide things like fleet or road replacement. This administration has taken a scientific approach to budgeting and governing. We will continue look for savings while maximizing basic services.

It is important to note the City could have made up the nearly One Million Dollars in state cuts to our budget by decreasing the Tax Credit. I was the first to say I wouldn't support anything that didn't give the Voters a Voice in the decision during this Watershed moment. We then pulled together Resident Panels to review the budget and to suggest cuts. The deficit increased but those cuts were incorporated. We balanced the budget by Reorganizing Departments, Outsourcing, Privatizing and Collaborating and Staff is now down nearly 20%.

The levy detailed the cuts so the residents could understand what would be given up and the residents spoke. I respect that so we move forward with the cuts, I see no reason to ask twice. However, it makes it that much more important to continue to grow the Tax Base through Economic Development and Redevelopment as we are with the Loveland Station Development, which is coming online.

The imminent Loveland Station Development will help but we also have 8.5 acres near the Loveland Madeira Corridor and I have been working on securing funding for an ecologically friendly pedestrian/bike bridge to connect the bike trail with that corridor to spur development an redevelopment on that side of the river.

Answer from Pamela Gross:

The budget can be balanced by:
1. Understanding where the majority of our taxes come from and focusing our economic development efforts on expanding those business sectors.
2. Review, tax code and policies to ensure the tax code is applied fairly and equitably.
3. Be open to forming regional alliances, partnerships and collaboration for delivering city services. The Loveland- Symmes Fire Department is an excellent model for cost savings through this type collaboration.
4. Make retention of existing businesses a priority-80% of new growth comes from expansion of small businesses.

Answer from Robert H "Rob" Weisgerber:

I have maintained our Moody's Aa2 bond rating. I have cut services, reduced headcount by over twice the state average, outsourced some operations, streamlined processes, reduced health care costs, and reduced benefits to maintain basic services and a balanced budget. Our general fund revenues projected for 2014 are going to provide over $900,000 less in buying power yet we have made enough tough reductions to provide the same service levels as in 2013.

I have introduced a margin analysis and a forecasting tool to help manage and maintain a balanced budget.

We use performance measures (a private sector benchmarking tool) to leverage the good practices of other communities and to show where we provide the best in class services.

Going forward I will continue to drive running the City as a business as I have in the past. I will continue to look to the private sector for best practices and leverage from good examples. I will keep the size of our government as small as possible, and provide the best services for the lowest costs. I will continue to use budget disciplines to maintain a balanced budget. I will drive economic development providing for real growth and growth in revenues. I will continue to put all our information on our web page to continue being the most transparent local government around.

Answer from Linda Cox:

First, ensure that City administration and staff live within their annual budget by controlling non-essential expenditures. Continually scrutinize services provided to our residents, businesses, and visitors to ensure they are provided in the most cost effective way. When possible, combine services with other entities. Improve communication with our current business owners and recruit new businesses to increase our tax base.

? 4. Citizen engagement is important to the health of local government. In what ways do you support citizen engagement?

Answer from Pamela Gross:

My guiding principle is very clear: Treat all citizens and visitors to our great city with civility, courtesy and respect. It is important to build relationships with our citizens, business owners and community leaders. We need to plan and implement WITH people, not just FOR people. The involvement on the local level is most important because the actions of local representatives have the most impact on our every day lives. Relationships and consensus building is key because once we have the public's trust we can get things done.The city of Loveland is very diverse comprised of citizens with many talents and perspectives. Our city boards and commissions should reflect and celebrate that diversity

Answer from Robert H "Rob" Weisgerber:

We are very open and transparent. Every memo and communication is posted on our web page. When we were looking at cuts in the budget we created an educational class for the residents to do two thinks, 1st review and understand how our budget is structures and what it is we pay for. the 2nd was to gather the resident's input on service priorities and suggested cuts. I am always open to resident input and hear it every day as I engage different residents and business owners.

Answer from Barry Kuhn:

I strongly encourage citizens to get involved in local government. I have attended several public hearings, and even have served on a committee, to get involved myself. If elected, I will make myself available daily by email, and will also schedule quarterly information sessions where the citizens of Loveland can address any issues or concerns that they have. I'm committed to ensuring that the citizens of this city feel that their needs are being addressed.

Answer from Linda Cox:

Throughout my life I have volunteered for many of Loveland's public and civic organizations where I personally experienced the benefits of citizen participation. I've served as a softball and volleyball coach, a board member in the Loveland Historical Museum and Loveland Arts Council, graduated from the Loveland Citizens' Police Academy, and volunteered in a myraid of community events and organizations including the Loveland Stage Company, Loveland's Amazing Race, and Christmas in Loveland. These organization foster community pride and engagement in programs that increase Loveland's unique quality of life which in turn attracts residents and businesses.

Answer from Brenton A "Brent" Zuch:

As long as I have been involved with Loveland, be it on Finance Committee or City Council, Loveland has been a leader in transparency and outreach.

We routinely have neighborhood meetings (in the warm months) where we go to the residents and tell them what we are up to and take their questions and follow up on their request. I have tried to make as many of those as possible.

Our website has an abundance of information including the budget. The budget has won awards for being reader friendly. We have used the scientific method for statistically comparing cost versus our quality of the services we provide and that is part of the budget. I'm happy to report we rate quite high quality and low in cost for most everything but sewage, which we don't control. There are various ways to contact various people listed on the website. It also contains announcements, legislation and agendas.

We also do a weekly newsletter. It is distributed by email and you can sign up through the website. We had to do away with the print version during budget cuts. We also had to do away with the cable TV broadcast of the Council Meetings. I argued against this as I knew many residents followed it that way and I felt it was important for community engagement but you can still watch it live through our website or review it at a later date.

Responses to questions asked of each candidate are reproduced as submitted to the League.  Candidates' statements are presented as submitted. Word limits may apply. See individual questions for specific word limits. Direct references to opponents are not permitted. Please edit your work before submitting. We are unable to provide spell-check at this time.

The order of the candidates is random and changes daily. Candidates who did not respond are not listed on this page.

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