Two newcomers are challenging an incumbent in the race for the Ward 4 City Council seat, with a primary election slated for Sept. 14.
The polling location for Ward 4 residents is Church of the Resurrection, 32001 Cannon Road.
Vying for the seat are Councilman Marc R. Kotora, who is seeking his third term in office, Michael Kan and Antonino Machi.
The top two vote-getters will face off in the Nov. 2 general election.
Also on the ballot in November are Mayor Edward H. Kraus, Ward 2 Councilman Robert N. Pelunis and Ward 6 Councilman Robert Shimits, all of whom are running unopposed.
“I’m a lifelong resident of Solon,” said Mr. Kotora, 47 and a 1992 graduate of Solon High School, “and my identity is firmly established as a result of it.
“I’ve shown a strong sense of responsibility to maintain and contribute to keeping our town, which is my hometown, a safe, secure and well-run community,” Mr. Kotora said. “I respectfully ask them [Ward 4 residents] to support my re-election with a promise to serve with commitment and integrity as an active, cooperative member of Solon City Council.”
Mr. Kan, 40 and an attorney, said, “we should demand better representation.”
He commits to a proactive leadership style versus a reactive one, Mr. Kan, who works for the Cuyahoga County’s Public Defenders Office, explained.
“I believe our ward wants proactive leadership,” he said. “They want a representative who is visible and one that doesn’t wait for residents to come to them with a problem, but rather actively communicates with them what is going on in the city and their ward.”
If elected, Mr. Kan said he would first reach out to every resident in the ward through multiple modes of communication and then continue that dialogue regularly, asking them their concerns and their ideas.
Mr. Machi, 19, a sophomore at Kent State University and 2020 graduate of Solon High School, said he will bring a youthful energy to the seat. He also will work to raise awareness of the city’s agenda, whatever the issue, he said.
“There is a lack of communication going on,” Mr. Machi said, and he wishes to change that and find ways to keep his constituents engaged.
One of his ideas involves creating some sort of neighborhood leadership, he explained, where representatives from each neighborhood can bring their concerns to him. This would be a more efficient way of doing things, Mr. Machi said, and also help build connectedness within the community.
Mr. Kotora, a business owner and member of City Council’s Public Works Committee and the former Enterprise Zone committee, now referred to as the Economic Development Committee, said that Solon has been a fortunate recipient of generous tax revenues from well-planned industrial and office spaces, but COVID has introduced a whole new understanding of what the workplace is.
Because people are working from home, Mr. Kotora said that he is concerned that the need for office space is changing. That becomes an issue because if employees are not working within the city limits, Solon cannot collect adequate income taxes to run the city government, he explained.
“Revenue, I believe, is a primary issue,” Mr. Kotora said. “In order to overcome the potential revenue losses, we must maintain conservative fiscal policies and utilize our economic development resources to attract and maintain new businesses.
“As a six-year member of our economic development committee, I have played a substantial role in doing that,” he said, noting the negotiations with Swagelok, which opened a world headquarters and, when complete, will bring in 350 jobs to the city.
Mr. Machi, who is studying political science, said he is a big proponent of utilizing technology to its fullest.
“I think that is a big thing we don’t see too much of,” he said of the city’s practices. He would utilize such things as Facebook live to get the word out on a variety of issues.
He will also work to get more young people involved in the city as a whole, he said.
“On the campaign trail, people were excited to see someone young participating in our city,” Mr. Machi said. “I hope to bring more youth to get involved and to teach and talk to them about the importance of getting involved in our city.”
Mr. Kan, a former public high school teacher prior to pursuing his career in law, said there are two visions for Solon, one for the past and another for the future. His is for the future, he noted.
“We need to make Solon a walkable city,” he said.
One of the reasons he moved here, similar to why others come to the city, was for the top school system, “but we need to build on that.
“As a city, we need to offer more,” Mr. Kan continued. That involves creating a walkable community, both to and from the downtown area and the surrounding area.
“We need 21st century infrastructure,” Mr. Kan noted, “and we shouldn’t accept things the way they are as far as infrastructure is concerned. We need to be proactive to take care of the problems that we are facing.”
Mr. Kotora also agrees on the importance of addressing infrastructure needs.
“We are the second largest suburb by area and with that comes a lot of infrastructure, from roads to sewers and city buildings to sidewalks,” Mr. Kotora said. “It’s always going to be an issue to maintain and preserve the infrastructure because if we don’t, the city will rot from the inside out.
“Having chaired the Public Works committee, and served on it for eight years now, I’m well aware of what it takes to maintain the proper infrastructure,” Mr. Kotora said.
The son of immigrants who worked their way through college, achieving doctorate and master’s degrees, Mr. Kan said he has a passion for public service.
“My parents instilled in me a spirit of service and sacrifice that has directed my whole life and my career choices,” Mr. Kan said. “Most of my career has been in the public sector in public service jobs” both as a public defender in his current position, a prosecutor and a public school teacher.
“For me, public service is my life’s mission,” he said. “Serving on City Council would be the greatest honor of my life. It’s the next step for me to be able to serve.”
Mr. Machi said he would be a good voice for the people.
“My agenda is not as important as the people’s,” he said. “I think I have a good understanding of that.” He said representing the people is what he has a talent to do.
“I will also find new ways to build a sense of community and who we are as Solon,” Mr. Machi said.
Mr. Kotora said he is a “common sense public servant.
“I do pride myself on prompt constituent correspondence,” he said. “I always respond with a sense of urgency.” Mr. Kotora said he is often called by fellow city officials a “voice of reason.
“What distinguishes me from my opponents in the race is my eight years of serving as a councilman,” Mr. Kotora said. “It gives me benefit of legitimate experience in government as well as the confidence to go forward with current projects and proposals.”
His private sector experience gives him an added insight into the challenges the city faces, he added.
“I have successfully managed our family business for over 20 years, and I’m very familiar with the responsibilities of ownership,” Mr. Kotora said.
Mr. Machi said his past employment at Heinen’s food stores has helped him understand how to work within a business and understand its needs. He also developed leadership skills as a member of the Solon High School Band, he said.
Mr. Kan said he is very good at working with outside partners, giving as an example communicating with outside utilities regarding ongoing power outages city residents experience.
“I do that in my day job,” he said. “I need to work with a prosecutor and with a judge and with my clients,” he said. “There are many pieces that need to fit together to reach reasonable, fair resolutions.”
His job as a public defender is essentially negotiation, he added.
“I am not afraid to stand up and fight, but only when all attempts at negotiation has failed,” Mr. Kan said.
Mr. Machi said he will work to find ways to revitalize the city’s downtown and bring it to life to ensure people want to both visit and live in Solon. He will also work to provide bus shelters at the stops in Solon, he said, and put pressure on the right people.
“I think I’m a good option on the table,” Mr. Machi said of why he should be elected. “I’m young. I’m able to engage, and I have the energy to be part of the community.”
Mr. Kan said that, while he supports such projects as Solon Connects to provide mobility throughout the community, and Rails to Trails projects, he knows residents in his ward have concerns, especially with the trail connecting Solon to Bainbridge due to its proximity to their homes.
“I do support the trail, but I do believe we need to listen and address the concerns of residents,” Mr. Kan said. Fiscal responsibility also must be considered when it comes to this project, he added.
Mr. Kotora, who is married to Lisa, said he has the public service experience and success in the business world which has given him the confidence to seek re-election and to assure his constituents that he will serve them with the same dedication and enthusiasm that he has shown the past eight years.
Mr. Kan, who is married to Karin with one young son, said he works well in a team, and all of his jobs throughout his career have been in a collaborative setting. He is not afraid to be the lone vote in one direction, though, but would not do it to be an obstructionist or send a message, he said.
“My number one concern is the thoughts of his residents, Mr. Kan noted. “That is why I want to be proactive to find out what their thoughts are and listen carefully to them before I decide on any vote.”
“I look forward to working with people and the rest of council,” Mr. Machi added. “It will be a fun experience. I look forward to being a vocal part in the community and to have a say and see it improve heading into the 21st century.”