With Election Day less than a month away, campaign season is in full swing for the four candidates angling for three at-large seats on Whitehall City Council.
Incumbent at-large council members Bob Bailey, Karen Conison and Wes Kantor and challenger Gerald Dixon will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Conison, 57, is a human resources manager at SourcePoint, a nonprofit agency in Delaware.
Conison has a bachelor's degree in public relations from Ohio State University.
She and her husband, Mark, have a son and a daughter.
Kantor, 63, is a Whitehall-Yearling graduate and lifelong resident apart from his military service.
He is the father of six children.
Dixon, 58, is a Whitehall-Yearling graduate employed in the restaurant industry.
Dixon campaigned for an at-large seat in 2015 and a ward seat in 2017.
ThisWeek Whitehall News posed three questions related to the city to each candidate, with a limit of 200 words per response.
Bailey did not respond to ThisWeek's questions.
What's the biggest issue facing Whitehall right now, and how should it be handled?
Conison: I am so proud of the progress that Whitehall is making. I feel it is hard to say what the biggest issue would be. Each and every citizen would give you a different answer.
For me, the biggest issue is being able to appropriate enough funds to support more infrastructure needs. However, I also want to see us continue such programs as the home reinvestment program, so homeowners can continue to receive help to take care of their property.
My promise to our citizens is to continue addressing all concerns with our administration and local state representatives. We are a thriving community and the citizens that live here are proud to call it home. It is wonderful to see all the businesses coming in, and to see home values are on the rise.
Dixon: Crime, economics, recreation, these are all things which are and always will be issues facing any community, those which should be rightly addressed.
Right now, I believe the biggest issue facing Whitehall is its community identity, outside of school sports. Who are we as a community, what are we all about? As the mayor pushes for "upscale" housing in our predominately middle- to lower-class community and those on council rubber-stamp this elemental change through, we have to ask ourselves what impacts their decisions will have on our community and how their behavior in their implementation of it all reveals our spirit and character? Can we be a community of friendly, decent, caring and welcoming people while alternately looking the other way while there is abuse of power of office by elected officials in the name of "progress," kicking poorer citizens down the road in order to chase money, and citizens who would unapologetically applaud those moral/ethical wrongs for personal economic upswings?
While I understand and fully agree with forward economic/community progress, the methods used to achieve it are what should always be of concern and most scrutinized by all the citizens of that community. (Word limit exceeded.)
Kantor: I still believe safety is our No. 1 issue in Whitehall. We have made great strides and we need to continue to keep the drug dealers out to make our residents feel much safer.
Drug users need to have money, so with that comes theft, shoplifting (and) breaking into people's homes and stealing things. We need to keep this as a No. 1 focus.
As the city's crime rates fall, what more should be done to continue the trend?
Conison: There is no doubt that our public safety forces work hard. They have done a tremendous job, along with our fire department and EMTs.
Unfortunately, the world we live in today is hard, and many feel that crime and theft are the answer.
Unfortunately, I do not have the answer to make crime go away. If I did, I would grant this to the world.
All communities need to do a better job setting up programs for people to get help, whether it is food assistance, housing, transportation, addiction or mental health.
Our police need to continue making a presence in our community. Statistics show that when someone has bad intentions, but they are confronted, they will not commit the crime.
Dixon: I think what they're currently doing is excellent. I applaud the strategy used -- more of the same please.
Kantor: I think the decrease in crime over the past few years is making Whitehall safer, including some of the lowest crime rates that we've had in years.
I have been a strong supporter of the safety forces and giving them the resources needed to do a good job as they have been doing. We need to keep this going (and) continue to make investments in public safety such as K-9 units, the drug task force and the hiring of additional officers to make Whitehall safer.
How should the city use the former Woodcliff Condominiums property? Is new "affordable" housing there -- or anywhere else in the city, for that matter -- a viable option?
Conison: I realize that this area is prime property. Of course, my wish list would be to see this area developed with some affordable housing and mixed use. I want to encourage young families to look to Whitehall for their future.
I am also not opposed to see more businesses come to this area as well. I know that our economic development department will do their best. It would be nice to see another large corporation or business want to call Whitehall its home!
The voters of Whitehall have always been very kind to me, and I promise to always treat them in the same manner. They have put their faith in me, and I appreciate their confidence. I hope to continue making them proud and serving them with honesty, transparency and dignity.
Dixon: As to how they should use the former Woodcliff property, I believe the die is already cast, particularly as an entryway into Whitehall. I suspect it will be dedicated to "upscale" shopping and housing. No one develops housing anymore for anyone of reasonable means because, simply, there's not enough money to be made from them.
So too, the "viability" of affordable housing on that property was undercut and removed with the city's allocation of those people's property in the first place. I suspect that development is not cheap (particularly with such rampant greed so common anymore); therefore, the idea that so much money would be sunk into "changing" the makeup of an area, only to return it, even partially, to the same economic strata as before is laughably implausible.
As well, as seen in the Whitehall Works blueprint for the city, whitehallworks.com, there seems to be little room in Whitehall's future for anyone of moderate to lesser means to substantially live or exist.
When human life takes a backseat to the pursuit of money, those that can't keep up are always left behind. Surely, American voters have seen the exponential rise of that in the last couple of years.
Kantor: Eliminating the public nuisance that was Woodcliff Condominiums was an important step for our community. I believe that area can become another mixed-use development with housing, offices, green space and retail where people can live, work and play.
Additional workforce housing in Whitehall and other areas of the city will continue to be important to ensure everyone prospers in Whitehall.
Since I've been on council, more than 200 units of new affordable housing have been constructed in our community, and earlier this year City Council approved 100 more units of workforce housing on Etna Road.