Wednesday, October 25, 2017
By Billy Ludt
Maintaining the township budget and economic development are mutual priorities among candidates in this year’s Austintown Township trustee election.
Two incumbents and three new faces are running for two trustee positions in Austintown Township in the upcoming election.
Incumbents Jim Davis, Ken Carano and new candidate Dawn Blinsky participated in Vindicator endorsement interviews. Matt Schriner and John Mashishka, who are also running for trustee, chose not to participate in endorsement interviews.
For Davis and Carano, the greatest issues they face in office are federal and state budget cuts, resulting in an approximately $2 million loss for the township.
Austintown voters turned down a 1-mill police levy and 1-mill road levy in 2016, but the two said they’ve been able to maintain the township’s $16 million budget without raising taxes for residents.
Davis touts the partnership between Austintown, Boardman Township and the city of Canfield for road resurfacing contracts, which he said allows for lower paving costs.
While in office, Carano and Davis said they saved the township money by conducting employee contract negotiations themselves, rather than hiring an attorney to mediate.
“Who knows more about Austintown and our employees than we do?” Carano said.
Those negotiations resulted in lowering township employee overtime and weekend hours. Davis said working within the budget requires thinking out of the box. The township plans to make the budget available to view on its website.
Carano has held his current trustee position since 2013. Before that, he was a township trustee from 2001 to 2007, an Ohio state representative from 1996 to 2001 and has been a Mahoning County Democratic precinct committeeman since 1988.
Davis has been a township trustee since 2010. He previously worked as a deputy sheriff from 2001 to 2004 and a part-time police officer from 2001 to 2010.
Blinsky said the budget is a priority for her as well. She expressed a concern about a lack of funding to maintain township parks. If elected, Blinsky said she’d make it a priority to draw up a levy for that purpose. Blinsky, who currently works at Tiffany Pain Group, previously sought the position of township clerk in 1996 but was not elected. She is a member of the Austintown Junior Women’s League.
Both Blinsky and Carano mentioned making use of empty properties for revitalization or economic development.
Stemming from that, Blinsky said creating an efficient traffic pattern on Mahoning Avenue in anticipation of incoming businesses, such as Lidl and Meijer supermarkets and Nordson Corp.
If elected trustee, Blinksy said she would have open availability to field resident concerns, and provide a more hands-on approach to local government. Davis expressed a similar sentiment in his endorsement questionnaire, stating that he has open communications with township residents.
In her endorsement interview, Blinsky said she has no personal vendetta with Carano or Davis, and she acknowledges the work they’ve done in office, but she would like to see some changes.
“I don’t have an axe to grind, or an agenda,” she said. “I just want to do good.”
Davis told The Vindicator that he owes the state income tax from three different years.
“It’s never affected my position at the township,” Davis said. “I’ve been making payments on it. On Day One, I’ve always taken responsibility for it.”
Davis said his fellow trustees are aware of the payments, and that he would like to continue his work with the township.
“I just don’t think turning over the keys to a fresh, new face is the right thing to do,” he said.