After more than a decade leading Liberty Township as a trustee, you would think that Jodi Stoyak has lost her enthusiasm for public service, or is taking her bid for another term for granted.
You would be wrong on both counts.
Spend some time talking to Stoyak about her three terms in office and her agenda for the next four years if she is re-elected Nov. 3, and you come away with a strong sense that Liberty is benefiting by having her and the two other trustees who aren’t on the ballot this year, Jason Rubin and Stan Nudell, in office.
Two years ago, we endorsed Rubin and Nudell for re-election, noting that they, along with Stoyak, had been good stewards of the public treasury.
Critics of the trustees will undoubtedly argue that the state designation of “fiscal caution” is proof that township government’s budget is not being managed well. However, we would note that the designation was triggered by state audits going back to 2010 that contained two main findings: a $3,000 overpayment to the law director; and the improper transfer of $246,692 from the fire- and police-district funds in an attempt to balance the general fund.
We would also point out that Liberty Township is not alone in juggling money to balance its operating budget. Local governments have had to absorb major cuts in state funding and have also had to face the reality that taxpayers, by and large, aren’t willing to approve tax increases.
State-designated fiscal caution, unlike fiscal watch or fiscal emergency, allows local officials to maintain control of the budget, which is why we don’t see it as a defining issue in the trustee’s race in Liberty Township.
Indeed, in interviews with The Vindicator Editorial Board, none of the three challengers – Jeffrey Seidler, Gregory Cizmar or Lisa Sicilian – blamed the incumbent, Stoyak, for the township’s fiscal problems. They also stopped short of charging her with not performing her duties as a trustee.
Seidler, Cizmar and Sicilian offer similar reasons for seeking election next week: a desire to serve the public; concerns about the budget, especially spending; and the condition of the township’s roads.
All three challengers insisted that they would not advocate tax increases to pay for the infrastructure improvements, but would seek grants.
Stoyak is aware that after 12 years in office, some residents may wonder if it’s time for new blood. Here’s how she framed her candidacy to us:
“I have the experience necessary to keep the township going towards fiscal solvency. This is extremely challenging when the state has eliminated most of our state funding and continues to do so. I have built many relationships over the years within other townships, the county and the state. These relationships are invaluable in order to accomplish the things our township has been able to do. I would provide the residents continuity in leadership as well.”
LONG LIST OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS
As for her accomplishments: a contract for a single garbage hauler, including recycling, that will keep the price the same for five years; a senior-watch program; grants to install sidewalks and beautification projects along Belmont Avenue; limited home rule; consolidation of 911 emergency dispatching.
The passage of a 1.25-mill road levy – after being rejected twice before – came after a series of public hearings and intense debate. Trustees were able to win over taxpayers when they gave back a 1.25-mill levy that had been dedicated to the 911 emergency telephone service.
Given Stoyak’s record in office, her commitment to pursuing shared services with other communities, and her pledge for a balanced budget while providing all township services, we find there aren’t any compelling reasons not to support her for re-election.
That said, we acknowledge that the three challengers – Seidler, Cizmar and Sicilian – are well versed in the issues and have offered thoughtful solutions to many of the problems confronting the township.
However, only one of the four candidates on the ballot can win Nov. 3, and we believe it should be the incumbent, Jodi Stoyak. We, thus, endorse her for a fourth term as trustee.