Two challengers are trying to unseat Kettering Mayor Don Patterson in the Nov. 7 election.
Patterson, 63, faces political newcomer Nuponu Gorneleh, 25, and three-time candidate Michael Barnett, 69.
Barnett said he originally ran for mayor in 2013 after a dispute with the city over his desire to build a second garage, one that would have been larger than his house, to store his Corvettes. Barnett, who did not get approval for the garage, also ran unsuccessfully for council in 2015.
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Barnett said he is running again because he wants the city to stop spending money buying commercial property for redevelopment.
“People are tired of their tax dollars paying for that,” Barnett said.
Barnett also said he wants the city to repeal part of its income tax. He said he did not know how much lost revenue his proposal would cost the city, or whether it would result in the need to pare back city services.
“I ain’t going to cut nothing. I ain’t’ going to cut nobody’s job,” Barnett said. “Don’t worry about where I get the money. I get in office, I’ll find the money.”
Barnett, a retired General Motors employee, also said the city should stop making citizens shovel sidewalks and pay for repairs to curbs.
“Why do we have to take care of the public right-of-way?” said Barnett. “We don’t own that land. Bunch of crap.”
Gorneleh describes himself as a “Working Man, Barista, Imagineer, Student, Artist, Autodidact, Polymath” in the questionnaire he submitted to the Dayton Daily News voter guide.
He said his main issue is a “lack of transparency” in Kettering government. Gorneleh was unable to cite any examples of the city not being transparent, except that he said council members appear to know what they are voting on when they come to the council meeting. He said he thinks they have attended a work session before the meeting to discuss the agenda. Those sessions are open to the public except when council is discussing matters permitted to be kept confidential under Ohio law.
Gorneleh said he watches council meetings on television but has never attended a council meeting or work session.
He also advocates “participatory” budgeting for all city money.
Under his plan, taxpayers would directly say, “‘I want this much money spent on this thing, that much spent on that thing’ before it would go on the floor,” Gorneleh said.
“Everybody’s opinion matters, so we’re just going to have everybody participate,” said Gorneleh.
The city needs to do a better job of keeping businesses from leaving, perhaps by assessing a tax penalty on companies that leave town, he said.
He also wants the city to allow medical marijuana dispensaries — currently not allowed under a city emergency ordinance — to help battle the opioid crisis.
In an Oct. 24 interview with this newspaper, Gorneleh said he did not know who paid for a large billboard on Woodman Avenue advertising his candidacy and said he had never seen it.
Patterson said the sign violates the law because the words, “A Mayor Who Cares,” imply Nuponu is already mayor.
Campaign finance reports filed Thursday with the Montgomery County Board of Elections show Gorneleh’s campaign paid $2,479 for the billboard, all but $5 of the total amount he has raised.
He could not be reached to respond to the information in the report. Patterson said he does not plan to file a complaint with the state elections commission because he doesn’t want to discourage people from running for office.
Patterson, who has been mayor since 2006, said he is running for a final term in order to complete some projects.
One is Kettering’s redevelopment of the Wilmington Pike corridor. He said the area was plagued with old and abandoned buildings, many on narrow lots that were difficult to redevelop. Patterson said he formed the Wilmington Pike Task Force made up of residents, architects, engineers, business owners and city staff to look at ways to revitalize the stretch from Stroop Road to Smithville Road. Lighting and sidewalks were added, and landscaping is on the way. The city also bought properties along the roadway to get enough parcels for redevelopment as housing and office buildings.
“We have spent a lot of time doing that,” Patterson said. “We put together the last two parcels.
He said that project and the recent purchase of Miami Valley Research Park will provide ground to bring companies and jobs to the city.
Patterson, owner of a commercial real estate company, said he purposely avoids doing business inside the city to avoid any appearance of impropriety.
If re-elected, Patterson said he also wants to continue the city’s “aggressive” approach to enforcing property maintenance rules, such as requirements that people cut their grass, trim bushes, and fix rain gutters.
“You create an environment that people around you want to live in,” Patterson said. “I don’t expect Disneyland (but) I expect you to maintain it.”
Patterson also touted levy-funded improvements to city parks and the Kettering Recreation Center during his tenure. And he said it was a good decision for the city to earmark a 2013 $40 million tax windfall from the estate of the late Oscar Boonshoft to infrastructure and roadway work, including neighborhood streets.
He said he doesn’t understand Gorneleh’s criticism that the city isn’t transparent.
“I don’t honestly know how much more transparent we can get. Everything is online. We have the open checkbook. They can go on and review our spending, view minutes from meetings,” Patterson said.
As for the idea of citizens voting on every budget line item, Patterson questioned how that could work logistically and he noted people elect leaders to make those types of decisions.
The moratorium on marijuana dispensaries, he said, is an effort to wait until state rules are finalized to determine if the city wants to allow them.
Kettering Mayor’s race
More stories by Lynn Hulsey