After successfully making it through the primary election, we have an exciting summer and fall before us leading up to the general election. Thank you to everyone who contributed to my campaign and volunteered time and talent to help make it a success. I will need even more help to create a vision of change for Lima. Please use the form at the top of this page to join my team. Whether you want to put up signs, walk neighborhoods, stuff envelopes, or call your friends, there is room for you on Team Hardesty. Please contact me today. I look forward to working with you!
Lima is ready for a real change. We have been going down the same path for 30 years and will continue to do so unless we bring in a fresh set of eyes, new ideas and a different perspective on how to help Lima ensure a great future. Growing up in the city, I have seen first hand that to do this we have to make changes and improvements to the city that work for all the people of Lima. We must overcome old obstacles and pave a path forward for the city as a whole!
My administration will be pro-growth with investment in three key areas:
1) Investment in Essential Services, 2) Investment in Our Economy, and 3) Investment in Our People
INVESTMENT IN ESSENTIAL SERVICES
Every time someone runs for office, you hear them say they want to protect or expand safety services. And it is true that safety services are the primary function of local government and account for nearly 80% of the City’s budget…but what am I going to do that others before me have not?
My commitment to safety services will begin with my political appointees. Coming from a business background, I am used to supervising my own staff and completely comfortable leading a team, so my vision is to create a Safety Services Director in my cabinet to replace the current Chief of Staff position. This position will ensure that safety service concerns and priorities are constantly at the forefront of my administration’s strategic plan. They will assist the chiefs with public relations and grant procurement, recruitment of new officers and firefighters – from all demographic groups – and serve as an independent facilitator of sorts, evaluating department policies and procedures. My Safety Services Director will also work with fellow local and county departments to examine areas for inter-jurisdictional collaboration and cost savings.
Another essential service is our parks, which are one of this community’s greatest treasures. It pains me to see Schoonover Pool fall into such disrepair that we are now unable to open it for the summer season. This is a place where many of our youth could come together and enjoy time with friends, catch some rays, and be safe. It’s near and dear to me as I was the youngest lifeguard to work for the city of Lima, starting just months after my 15th birthday. The families of Lima have enjoyed it for many generations.
It is also sad to see that we still have nowhere for our residents to ice skate here during the winter months. I have traveled around the country and around the world seeing historical landmarks and well known icons in cities only to ask, “Why can’t Lima keep our historical landmarks?” The answer in quite simple: we need a new approach to funding departments like parks and recreation. The city cannot be everything to everybody, so we need to be really good at what we can be. We have a sound parks infrastructure already – now let’s go make it great. Make them useful for everyone in the community. For years, we have utilized our Community Development Block Grant funds to balance our General Fund budget. This should not be needed. We should be using these funds to tackle our largest community goals.
It may seem foolish to some to invest in a non-essential service like parks, but I do not see it that way. An investment in our parks is an investment in our children, who need safe places to play and BE KIDS!! It’s an investment in community health, where residents young and old can go to walk, jog, and participate in a ball game; and an investment in our quality of life, which plays vital a role in the recruitment of outsiders looking to relocate and businesses seeking new locations. They are a vital part of Lima.
INVESTMENT IN OUR ECONOMY
Right now, there are a lot of people here in Lima who are not working, for various reasons. Residents complain there are not enough jobs, yet we have over 1,700 open jobs within a 10 mile radius of Lima. And I assure you, these are not just entry-level positions; these are full-time jobs – almost 1/2 pay more than $50,000 annually and many come with benefits. However, businesses are complaining they cannot find good employees and the unemployment rate is still over 5%.
So where is the disconnect? What can we do?
I plan to devote significant resources towards investing in our economy to ensure the city a bright and better future. This includes programs that match our residents and learning institutions with local businesses and companies for internships, training and education programs. My vision is for the Director of Community & Economic Development to focus on creating opportunities for the residents of Lima to get people back to work! Encourage the community to find their skills or give them resources to develop them through the many great programs we have.
Filling these job openings not only helps our local businesses meet customer demands, but also provides pride in bringing home a paycheck to those who might not currently have one. When businesses grow and more people go to work, the city’s tax base grows as well. If the cycle continues on long enough, our city’s economy will begin to grow again.
As Mayor, I can assure you the buck will always stop with me. We need our leaders to set the tone on the most important issues so everyone else knows where to fall in line. If you are a business in this city, then I am here to support you. It will not be just a tagline, it will be our vision statement: “Lima is open for business, and we are ready to work.”
The third is by far the most important!
INVESTMENT IN OUR PEOPLE!
It is more than just jobs. Improving the city for a brighter future is MORE THAN JUST JOBS! It’s providing the youth and the WHOLE community with opportunities to gain tech skills, certifications in the trades, and even degrees so that we can be prepared for any company that would come to town and have people ready to fill much-needed skilled positions! When speaking to people of the community there ARE projects underway to increase the resources for ALL the people of Lima.
Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Let’s change the world and prepare the Lima community to succeed in the future and for years to come. Education is the key to eliminating all inequalities and reducing poverty while adding positives to the community.
The Mayor should be working to build unity rather than sowing the seeds of division. Why does it matter whether our children are educated in the Lima City Schools or the Lima Catholic schools? We should be striving to have the very best public education system and the very best private education system and the very best technical education so that our young people are given every opportunity to learn and succeed. We cannot continue to treat this as a zero-sum game where it’s just a big competition – where no one wins.
Finally, we need to invest in our neighborhoods. For a middle-class community like Lima, owning a home is a wonderful thing! People should have pride in where they live! It’s also the best method to create credit and help people achieve net worth. But unlike generations past, owning a home inside the city limits is often not profitable or even a breakeven proposition. There are close to a thousand homes in Lima that can and should be torn down. Yet many of these houses remain inhabited and represent a clear and present danger to the renters occupying them. The abundance of cheap housing also makes it easier for things like drug houses to move around and stay one step ahead of our law enforcement. As your Mayor, I will work diligently to allocate the resources necessary to tear down dilapidated properties and go after slumlords and tax delinquent properties, but stopping short of running off good investors and community home owners.
Another element that our city government has a lot of control over is the local regulatory system. Because of my experience in the private sector, I understand the impact government can have on our daily lives. Career politicians don’t get it because they don’t deal with it. We need to examine our Codified Ordinances and cut the red tape.
One of the biggest regulatory burdens in our city has been the building department. The building department has a role to both protect residents and also give businesses the tools they need to expand. Neither of these are more important than the other. Yet, every few years, we go through the same debate with the county, townships, and contractors about service levels, pricing, and rules.
We need to encourage private investment in our housing stock, not discourage it.