Olentangy Valley News

Powell City Council race

Brenner: I've fought to keep city fiscally sound

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The theme of Sara Marie Brenner's campaign to be re-elected to Powell City Council is "Promises Made, Promises Kept."

She said she has shown that she will stand by her promise "to fight for low taxes, smart development and policies that help our small businesses" by leading the opposition of the proposed doubling of the city income tax in 2010, voting against an apartment complex earlier this year and refusing to participate in a proposed Joint Economic Development Zone with Liberty Township and the city of Bexley.

"When I can be a voice for residents on council and see a change in the end result of what we do, I know I've fought hard and for the right cause, and in the right way," she said. "That's what serving on City Council is all about, in my opinion," she wrote in an email to ThisWeek Olentangy Valley News.

"Powell is where I want to be -- I love this area, its people, and the way of life we have here," she added. "I also believe, though, that we have to be fiscally conservative in our city's governance, and I have fought to ensure that, even when it means I am the lone vote."

Brenner is one of six candidates running this fall for four seats on council, including incumbents Tom Counts, Jim Hrivnak and Brian Lorenz, and candidates Frank Bertone and Daniel Swartwout. Former candidate Sarah Minto has ended her campaign, though her name still may appear on ballots.

Brenner was the only council member to oppose an income tax increase on the 2010 ballot, which failed with only 29 percent of votes. Although she received backlash from her peers who said the city couldn't afford capital improvements because of the levy failure, Brenner said sticking to her convictions paid off when the voters approved a levy last spring that will pay for capital improvements and didn't raise taxes.

"Being able to pivot from the intensity of 2010 and accomplish our goal together in 2012 was important, and means that the city has a reasonable level of funding for capital improvements," she said.

Taking a strong stand on certain issues isn't the only reason her peers and select residents have taken issue with the first-term council member. At an Oct. 4, 2011, meeting, council drafted an amendment to its charter to include rules that govern committee representation and attendance.

The topic was introduced by councilman and current candidate Jim Hrivnak. At that meeting, from which Brenner was absent, council members discussed Brenner's attendance record and the possibility of adding a charter amendment that allowed for a council member's pay to be decreased if he or she repeatedly missed meetings without legitimate excuses.

A charter amendment was strongly approved by voters in May 2013 that allows council to declare a seat vacant if a member is absent for two consecutive calendar months, or to impose other punishments such as forfeiture of pay.

"If I could work full time for $250 per month as a council member, I would, but I do have to have other work," Brenner said. "I travel throughout the country, so I do miss meetings from time to time. However, I spend many hours during the week listening to and speaking with residents and businesses."

In 2010, the first year of her term, Brenner missed three meetings. Attendance records show she was absent for eight of the 22 meetings in 2011 and eight of the 22 in 2012. So far in 2013, she has been absent from eight meetings.

When asked if she would continue to miss an average of one-third of council meetings each year if she were re-elected, Brenner said her absences don't reflect how hard she works for the city and its residents.

"Yes, being at meetings is important, but I would assert that I have the best pulse of the community of any member serving on council, because I inquire, listen and work with residents and businesses whenever necessary and possible," she added.

A lifelong Liberty Township and Powell resident, Brenner is the owner of Engage Marketing Strategies. In addition to her membership on council's operations committee, Brenner is a radio-show host and political commentator.

Brenner, 33, is married to state Rep. Andrew Brenner.

To learn more about Brenner and her campaign, visit SaraMarieBrenner.com/Powell.

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