Kirtland to Increase Taxes Without a Vote of the People

Kevin Potter and John Lesnick, Who are They?

Written by Kirtland Resident
November 16, 2020

I am a long time Kirtlander who, like most others, cherishes our wonderful little town.  I am not one to speak up as I prefer to stay out of the politics and mud.  I have a naturally positive view of people and life.  My strong Catholic Faith guides my love, tolerance, and acceptance of my neighbors and fellow Kirtlanders.  I am a proud member of Divine Word and like so many was a big supporter of John Lesnick and Kevin Potter.  I am now regretting that decision.

For years, Kirtland has been a sleepy town, with good schools, great people, but a lackluster downtown corridor.  For whatever reason, Kirtland never seemed able or willing to attract appropriate and complimentary development such as a Chardon, Chesterland, or Chagrin Falls (all having similar population size).  We seem to languish on with little to no new businesses or development.

In 2016, Doug Davidson was elected.   He brought a fresh new perspective.  Under his tenure, the downtown Kirtland landscape seemed to change.  The new and beautiful Kirtland Vet Center, Mike’s Meat Market, Kirtland Creamery, Madalina Cocoa’s Housing Project, and the Tall Oaks Complex adorned and lifted our beloved downtown corridor.  And with each development, comes new visitors, jobs, property taxes, and payroll taxes.  Gosh, we saw more development in those four years than the proceeding 30.  Things really seemed to be moving in a right direction.  Then came the 2019 election.

Kevin Potter ran against Doug Davidson.  I know Kevin and Jenny well.  They are fine and decent people with a beautiful family.  They have had their fair share of life’s hard knocks, God bless them.  For the two years leading up to the election Kevin and John Lesnick were very critical of then Mayor Doug Davidson.  They repeatedly stated that Doug had poorly managed the budget, wasted lots of money, and failed to fix Kirtland’s roads.  Kevin ran on a campaign promise to fix our badly failing roads WITHOUT raising taxes.  

Like so many of my fellow parishioners, I supported Kevin.  I heard him speak several times.  I was very impressed with his sincere, genuine, warm, and down home feel.  He made sense to me and I felt his vision to fix our roads without burdening those of us with limited abilities to pay more in taxes was exactly what we needed.  I was confident he would do what he promised; and most importantly, I saw Kevin as a really decent, warm, honest, and good man.  Sincerely, what was not to like?

I then started hearing things which made no sense to me.  I listened to reports of Kevin Potter and John Lesnick which stood in stark contradiction to my impressions of them.  Far more than a few disgruntled folks, it was a growing, common, similar, and contradictory message to how I viewed John and Kevin.  At first I dismissed these reports as sour grapes for a lost election.  But over time, the stories became more numerous, detailed, substantive, and fact based.  More importantly, they were starting to come from people I trust, people who supported Kevin and John.  I needed to see for myself.

I then started listening more closely.  I quietly viewed/listened in on the many Council and Planning and Zoning Meetings.  COVID and Zoom have made attendance very easy and it was a new experience for me.  I also supported most of the downtown businesses as I want to keep my dollars local. With each visit, I casually asked the owners about how things are going, how has COVID-19 affected them, and how they feel about our new leadership in City Hall?  I even made a few records request (completely foreign and intimidating process for me).  Finally, I spoke to several of my friends who work or have worked for the city.  I sought to better understand how things are truly going, when the roads are going to get repaired, and to be confident my support and defense of Kevin Potter and John Lesnick was right and just.

What I learned and witnessed was/is simply shocking.  It turns out Kirtland has almost no monies to fix our failing roads and our budget is barely break even.  Current estimates by hometown engineering firm SME states current road repairs will cost Kirtland $14 – $17+ Million and growing with each passing winter. 

Morale among city workers is simply horrible with several Kirtland city workers/residents, who have families, being fired right before the holidays. The dispatch staff was sent to the street in the middle of a pandemic, much of their work is being outsourced to cheaper/local vendors, equipment lay idle in disrepair for there is no money to fix it, and department heads report being told, “You are employed at will and can be cut at any time, so you better be loyal to Kevin”. It’s no wonder why the service department, for the first time ever, elected to have a Union to represent and protect them.

Making matters worse is what I have personally heard and witnessed.  Kirtland business owners are furious about the excessive government overreach and regulations.  I have been told story after story about the the new Law Director (Matt Lallo) and City Engineer (Doug Courtney), who allegedly threaten, bully, and terrorize local business owners under the auspices of being “compliant” with Kirtland ordinances.  And when a few of these business owners challenge Kevin and his administration, he publicly criticizes and vilifies them in mayoral letters to the community, which I am deeply saddened to report, had outright lies within them! 

I suspect this is why Kirtland now has a record number of lawyers representing angry citizens and business owners who have sent letters of representation to the city!  More specifically, it is a fact that Matt Lallo is in discussions/negotiations with a growing number of attorneys over Kevin’s wrong doings!  How does Kevin claim to be keeping Kirtland safe and avoiding litigation and yet he apparently is acting to the contrary???  It’s all public record, and I was shocked at how much money we are wasting on legal defense versus fixing roads.

And now, they want a massive tax increase.  Kevin and John revealed their plan this week to fix the roads.  This plan includes 5 different options which could result in the repeal of the local city tax credit requiring citizens who work outside of the Kirtland to pay city payroll taxes twice (once in the city where they are employed and then in Kirtland). 

They also have several other plans to raise taxes including a 4 mill levy.  These options could easily increase resident taxes by over 300%. 

Making matters worse, Kevin and John are unwilling to put it to a vote of the people.  Instead, they will enact these changes through a simple vote of the Council. I have it on good authority that Council Members Scott Haymer, John Lesnick, Rich Lowry, and John Smolic refuse to put this to a vote for they know it will fail.  Instead, all four Council Members support forcing this massive tax increase onto Kirtlanders with a 4-3 vote of Council (Wolf, Ruple, and Shultz oppose any tax increases).  

In closing, I have quietly listened to my Mayor and his closest ally, John Lesnick.  I am shocked by what I have seen.  In each meeting, they are smug, closed minded, patronizing, disaffected, and condescending towards several of the Council Members and residents who challenge their thinking.  They seem to act as a dictatorship with little concern or regard for their political colleagues or fellow residents.  I have been simply flabbergasted by the real John Lesnick and Kevin Potter who now run our beloved city.  They are nothing like what I thought I saw at Divine Word on Sundays and NOT anything like what they represent themselves to be.

I encourage all of my fellow Kirtlanders, especially those like me who supported Kevin and John, to start asking questions.  Please call your Council Member and voice your disgust for how things are being run.  State your opposition to any new taxes without a vote of the people. 

Please, take some time to thank those employees in the Service Department, Police Department, Fire Department, the three new Council Members (Wolfe, Ruple, and Schultz) for their extraordinary efforts on behalf of Kirtland residents. The current business owners would also like to hear from you about your opposition to the proposed new taxes.

Sadly, it is alleged by Fire Chief Hutton’s peers that the strained relationship between the Chief and his new bosses have him actively interviewing for another position elsewhere.

Start attending the Zoom Council and Planning and Zoning Meetings.  And, if comfortable, make some public record requests.  I must sadly and reluctantly attest, Mayor Kevin Potter and Councilman John Lesnick are not what they claim and appear to be.  They are very bad men; and if allowed to go unchecked, will ruin this city.

For this reason, I deeply regret my decision to support them both and apologize to my Kirtland friends and neighbors for being duped.  

*****


[LFC Comments: In keeping with our policies, we offer any Kirtland resident a forum to present their views about the proposed Kirtland tax increases. Send all letters in a Word Document, or in a .pdf format to LobbyistsforCitizens@gmail.com.]



Categories: Kirtland, Lake County Cities & Townships

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