MARION – Opposing visions for the future of Marion and concerns about city spending are providing the basis for a four-way race for an at-large City Council seat Tuesday.
That race features an incumbent, Craig Adamson, who is running as a write-in candidate, and a former council member, Mary Lou Pazour, who hopes to return to the council as well as two fresh challengers – Dwight Hogan and Ron Swearingen.
Voters in this suburban community of 35,000 also will pick the winner in Ward 2 race between incumbent Joe Spinks and challenger Chris Schumacher. Councilman Nick AbouAssaly is unopposed in Ward 4.
All are long-time residents of Marion — Schumacher and Adamson are the “newcomers” with 14 and 15 years, respectively, in the community – and all speak glowingly of the community and many of the recent developments.
“It’s just a great place,” according to attorney AbouAssaly, who grew up in Marion. The city has the potential “to be the star of the metro area.”
“I want to help Marion be what it can be,” he said. “We can get there and we are certainly on our way.”
Schumacher cited the schools and parks and trails as contributing to a high quality of life for families in Marion.
With the city projected to grow to 40,000 by 2020, Schumacher, a Transamerica accounting analyst, wants to focus on helping Marion continue to grow while maintaining its small-town atmosphere that, he said, makes it a great place to raise a family.
Sometimes it’s hard for Spinks to believe all that has happened in the six years he’s been on the council.
“Sometimes I feel like I have to pinch myself driving through town seeing how much it has changed,” the Rockwell engineer said.
The change may be occurring too fast and at too high a cost, according to some candidates in the at-large race who are calling for fiscal restraint and for an application of the brakes to some of the planned developments.
“Spending needs to be curbed,” said Hogan, a 52-year resident who has worked as an engineering technician and a claims adjuster.
“Remember, a lot of the money being spent is your money,” said Pazour, a retired teacher and sheriff’s deputy. “I want to help take care of that.”
The sharpest split between the candidates is over changes in traffic routes through town, including proposed roundabouts on Seventh Avenue, the main east-west thoroughfare through Marion.
Adamson, the incumbent defended the plans that include shifting much of the traffic off of Seventh. Rather than pass through the heart of Marion’s Uptown District, traffic would be moved south to a recently reconstructed Sixth Avenue.
That has some people concerned about the loss customers who now travel past those businesses.
He also said the city is doing a good job of planning for future development with proposals for downtown as well as Tower Terrace Road. Those improvements are needed to attract development, he said.
“A lot of work I’ve done has been for economic development, Adamson said. “The building you see going on in Marion, a lot of that has to do with me going to a lot of meetings and working with a lot of different people to try to make that happen.
“So if you want more parks, if you want more trails, if you want nicer streets, then you should be voting for me so we can keep this train rolling.”
Hogan agrees streets need attention.
“Our roads — the residential streets in particular, really, really need repair and they need action now,” he said. Asked at a forum about what Marion might look like in 2020, Hogan said he hopes “our streets will be drivable.”
Swearingen has confidence the city will be prepared for the changes that come with growth.
His hope is that as the community grows, commercial development will provide a larger percentage of the property tax base, perhaps as much as 50 percent. That, he said, would help keep residential property taxes low.
Pazour, who served on the council for 20 years before leaving to care for her late mother, thinks Marion will shake off its bedroom-community image by attracting industry and commercial development.
“Marion is a super place to live. It has tremendous school districts. It’s got law enforcement that makes us the safest city in the state,” Pazour said. “Things are good but could be better.”
As things change, however, she doesn’t want the city to lose its sense of community. There are so many new people in Marion, including council members, Pazour said “they don’t understand the legacy of the town, the background.”
“It just seems like I need to be there,” she said on Tuesday. “The council needs someone who understands why certain things need to happen.”
One thing that needs to happen, Hogan said, is the construction of a new fire station to serve the north end of Marion that has experienced rapid growth.
“That’s a major, major need,” he said.
Marion has a downtown station and another on the eastern side of the city.
The at-large candidates also disagreed on a property tax levy for the Marion Public Library that will be on the ballot. It calls for taxing property 23 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
Swearingen called the increase “massive.” Adamson said because of increased library use, a larger building is needed. Pazour and Hogan disagreed with the way the library board went about putting Public Measure 1 on the ballot.
However, Hogan said that since citizens would be voting to tax themselves “that’s a personal choice.”
For more on the candidates and issues, visit The Gazette’s Digital Voter Guide at http://thegazette.com/2013/10/23/election-2013-digital-voters-guide/.