FAIRBORN — Democratic candidates for Greene County Commissioner highlighted priorities like compassion for others and government transparency at a debate April 18 hosted by Wright State University College Democrats.
Moderator Thomas Caltabellotta, President of the WSU College Democrats, asked Susan Lopez of Beavercreek and Dr. Steve Bujenovic of Yellow Springs a series of questions.
“I have a social service background not only in my education but in my work and I believe strongly that that is missing in Greene County Commission offices,” Lopez said in opening. “We need somebody that is there listening to the people … No matter their background, no matter what the community is like, no matter the color of their skin, or their belief, I will walk strong for everybody in this county.”
Bujenovic, who is a medical doctor at a free clinic, said voters would be smart to elect either of them.
“We both have backgrounds in actually helping people. And I think that’s very important. Either one of us would balance a three-member board of commission. And right now the board is composed of businessmen and lawyers … they’re trained to take care of money and not people,” he said.
When the candidates were asked about current commission work, the two differed on their opinions regarding funding projects at the Greene County Lewis A. Jackson Regional Airport.
“I believe they are making decisions in our county without fully investigating,” Lopez said. “They’ve allocated $3 million for the airport in two and half years which serves in their own estimation 200 people. It houses private planes and jets at this time. And during that time they closed two family resource centers [which] could have operated for 20 years with just 1 million of that money.”
Contrastingly, her primary opponent said improving the airport is just a part of economic development.
“Airports are not going to go away and as we increase online sales, we need to get competitive. We need to have places for these planes to come, whether it is in the future — a drone or radio-controlled plane — we need things that are going to be ready for the future. We have a 20 million dollar airport — we shouldn’t abandon it,” he said.
Despite some shared differences with the current commissioners, the two both said they each had good, respectful relationships with the men and would be able to work effectively on the board.
Caltabellotta hit on controversial topics — like gun violence, medical marijuana, and spending. The candidates remained fairly similar in their views.
“I stood on the courthouse square with the students when they stood for the March for Our Lives,” Lopez said. “I believe we need to listen to our students.”
Lopez said she is speaking with local superintendents and law enforcement in an effort to match grants to schools to increase security in classrooms.
On the topic of placing restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries, Lopez said she’d like it to be prohibited in jails, corrections facilities and courtrooms. For Bujenovic, not stigmatizing the use of marijuana is important, as well as enforcing similar restrictions that liquor stores have, he said.
Both debaters spoke with a sense of urgency when asked about the opioid epidemic.
Lopez said prevention and affordable, long-term treatment is crucial, and deserves an increase in spending.
“We can’t just hit them with Narcan and send them out or put them in jail and not offer treatment. They have to be offered treatment. It’s cost-effective and morally responsible,” she said.
Bujenovic said as a doctor in a free clinic, he sees these patients first-hand. He cited a program he’s working on with TCN Behavioral Health, which would allow patients without transportation to have mobile Suboxone units come to them.
Contact Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498 or follow @annadbolton on Facebook.