Mayoral debate gets off to a fun start
John Cannon and Sue Lynch faced off head to head... Podium to podium... And made their case on how each feels they are better served to lead Portage as it's next Mayor.
In his opening statements, John Cannon challenged the audience to pay less attention to the words they are "throwing around" and to focus attention on the "Actions" he has made and the "Lack of action" from his opponent.
Sue Lynch's opening statements emphasized her goal of "fiscal responsibility" and "a better image for our city."
If elected, First action as Mayor Elect?
John Cannon: Said he would continue his improvement of Communication to residents. "I said to my team at City Hall I want to do a video each week, and they said nobody will listen to that." First video had 7,400 views. So the people are engaged. The Residents know I will communicate as I always have. Honest, candor. Sometimes we don't always have the right answer, but we will get it."
Sue Lynch: "Well I think the first thing I would do is call for an Audit of our City's finances." We are living paycheck to paycheck as a city right now." "We have projects going on but we are woefully cash poor." "We might have a deficit going into 2020.
SIDEBAR: Sue Lynch attends budget meetings yet did not include any cost of an audit in the 2020 budget, even though she has attended budget meetings. For 12 years as a councilwoman she has never had a full audit included in the city budget.
What is Portage's greatest asset?
Sue Lynch: Downtown. I want to see it vibrant. We need to develop our downtown. We are not walkabout. "I will do alot of focusing downtown because I think that's where alot of families come"
SIDEBAR: John was the first candidate for Portage Mayor to discuss the lack of pedestrian access in Portage when he announced his intention to run for Mayor in December 2018. He vowed to connect sidewalks to neighborhoods, parks, schools, shopping. He offered up his "Comprehensive 5 year sidewalk plan." John Cannon led the way on this and other candidates followed suit.
Our greatest asset of course is our employees and our people. One thing I differentiate from my opponent is I trust our people. I trust our employees. I trust that people know the best way to get things done by communicating with their Mayor. Our second biggest asset is our lakefront and our waterways. One thing I did right away when there was a cyanide spill was to call on IDEM and Arcelor Mitral to hold them accountable for dumping into our waterways. And our drinking water today is safe because of that.
Plan of action to establish to not only improve residents but to make them attractive for potential residents?
Sue Lynch: I believe neighborhoods have improved because of politics. We need to maintain existing parks. "We put off Brandt Street. What other project superseded this project to make it less important?"
"So to talk about our neighborhoods you have to actually get out into our neighborhoods. To date I have got out to 2,543 doors as of last night and what you hear in the neighborhoods is "Thank you for paving Willowcreek Road for the first time since 1997" "Thank you for connecting sidewalks to other sidewalks that just end"
One thing you have to remember about neighborhoods is crime. Overall crime is down 17.7% violent is down 10.20%. Both are at historic lows. When you look at moving somewhere, you look at our schools, our crime rate, our infrastructure. I have a 5 year $5.5 million sidewalk plan that's already getting started.
What polices or procedures will you change to ensure Portage becomes fiscally sound?
Sue Lynch: "Well first like I said we will do an audit to see where we are."
"We will not drop projects already listed in the budget. I call those pop up projects."
One of the projects that I have particular concern with is the open air pavilian. It's not even connected to our city. It's on the north end of town." "Very poor investment, quit spending money on things that pop up."
Sidebar: Why do an audit to see where we are when you have spent 12 years on the council, shouldn't Sue Lynch already know the state of Portage's Finances?
Sidebar: Just because the Open Air Pavilion (a donation with 30+ acres of land from US Steel to the City of Portage) isn't located downtown does NOT mean it isn't connected to our city. That isn't fair to residents that enjoy ALL parts of Portage. That isn't fair to residents that live in ALL part of Portage.
John Cannon recognizes the need for a variety of parks and recreational activities for families, and will NEVER say any part of Portage is disconnected from Portage.
John Cannon: "I can talk a little about pop up projects, when I was on the city council my opponent voted for a pay raise of 30%. I had to take the pay raise but I donated that raise to the K-9 unit for a total of $2,600."
"So the budget is extremely important to me and to the residents out there. But you can't just give yourself pay raises, our Clerk Treasurer a 17.5% pay increase and he shows up to office at best 3 days a week. That is a budgetary concern that most residents don't know."
"I'm going to be candidate and tell the truth."
The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore recently became the Nation's newest national park. What does this mean for Portage and how can the city build off of this from an tourism and economic development standpoint?
John Cannon: "We were originally were the #1 location in the Indiana State Parks system, right here on the National Lakeshore. We had 15% of the visitation."
"Double tracking will help. We should have bike rentals for folks to use our trails." We need to bring people together when it comes to charters, fishing. We need more launches for kayaking and canoeing and will have more in the future, working with the State and the DNR.
Sue Lynch: "We are just a small part of the whole system up there." "Portage doesn't have the money to invest up there. We are now a national lakefront and I think other entities need to come together to make something positive happen. That would be collaboration with state, the national parks system. We can't make it better by ourself. It's just too much money."
Sidebar: Mayor Cannon's introduction said to pay attention to actual accomplishments versus talking points. Saying things can't be done on your own, and that projects can't happen without collaboration is not the quality of a strong, decisive leader. Strong leaders MUST do not ask for their hands to be held through important projects. Waiting on others to "help" and "collaborate" stifle and delay progress.
John Cannon is a go-getter and will lead the way on projects, as he did with the recent Cyanide and Amonia dump by Arcelor Mittal. Little, ol' Portage Indiana had a Mayor (John Cannon) who demanded processes to be changed by both Arcelor Mittal, US Steel, and Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). He controlled Chicago News Media and was the figure head on change and accountability. As a result he had a meeting with the IDEM Commissioner, not in an office, but on a John Boat, as they assessed US Steel's and Arcelor Mittal's outflows.
John Cannon believes anything is possible as long as you set your mind to it and you find it important enough to get done. And safe waterways and drinking water are without a question important.