Mayor Jim Smith on TV8 talks about Gore proposal

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2007 Avon General Election

2007 Message from Mayor Jim Smith

Avon Mayor-elect Bryan Jensen says Mayor Jim Smith's shadow looms large


The centerpiece of Vice President Al Gore's agenda is called Better America Bonds.

Avon's Mayor Jim Smith is interviewed by Wayne Dawson and Stephanie Schaefer.

STEPHANIE: Joining us this morning is Avon Mayor Jim Smith who has some doubts about this big plan.

MAYOR JIM SMITH: Well, the part of the plan that lets you buy park land with interest-free bonds is a good idea. This gives communities the ability to put an issue on the ballot ... to buy green space. The richer communities will do this ...

[Gore] also wants to stifle some of the highway money that would go to the suburbs. This is a bad idea ...

WAYNE: You guys have a lot of vacant land out in Avon ... You have an alternate to the Vice President's proposal ...

MAYOR JIM SMITH: You've got to be pro-active. Five years ago we downsized the amount of houses per acre. We used to be 2.2 houses per acre ... We went to 1.8 homes [per acre]. We went from 18 units in an apartment to 12; and we went from 12 condominius per acre to 8 ...

We did this somewhat ahead of the development ... It's very difficult to do this unless you're ahead of the game ... We have approximately 3000 approved lots in the City ...

As far as residents moving out [to Avon], we don't try to attract them ... People just want bigger lots.

WAYNE: You feel so helpless when you live in a suburb ... and there's more development. You came out there because you like the greenspace, and all of a sudden that greenspace is leaving ...

MAYOR JIM SMITH: When you buy a 100 by 150-foot lot, that's what you get. You can't expect the person who's owned that property ... to say 'I don't want to sell my property.' ...

The [Vice President's] bond idea actually makes people put their money where their mouths are. If you want the greenspace you're going to have to pay for the greenspace ...

Mayor Jim Smith comments on Vice President Al Gore's Better America Bonds.

The idea of making it difficult for people to get out to the suburbs is not a good idea ... One of the largest growth areas in our economy is small business ... A gentleman or lady has his business in Cleveland. You make it so difficult for him to to get in and out that eventually he moves his business out to the suburbs.

Everybody wants to get to their "country club." That's where the greenspace is at. People want to play golf ... That gentleman or lady who drives back and forth to Cleveland is going to say 'I can't get in there anymore.' ...

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Avon 2007 General Election

The following are the 2007 General Election Avon Candidates/Issues as released by the Lorain County Board of Elections.

Council At Large (Elect 3)

Kevin Patrick Flanigan, II 1,764

Brian Parsons 1,395

Web Site:

Clinton S. Pelfrey 1,861

Craig Witherspoon 1,950 New Council President

1st Ward Council: Bryan K. Jensen 742

2nd Ward Council: Dennis McBride 622

3rd Ward Council: Timothy Nickum (deceased)

replaced by Mark Yonchak on 11-5-07

4th Ward Council: Daniel C. Urban 608

Avon Local School District (Elect 2)

Rudolph Chavez 976

Web Site:

Ruth Ann Keller 1,574

Mary Angela Marsiglia 1,587

Kevin J. Romanchok 1,710


#29 Avon Replacement and Decrease/ 1.90 mills, Street Improvements, 5 years

No. 29 For: 2,647 Against: 1,072

#30 Avon Charter Amendment Ordinance No. 71-07, Amending Article XIII, Sections 7(a) and 7(c) entitled "General Provisions - Charter Review"

This amendment gives the Charter Review Selection Committee sole authority regarding selection of Charter Review Commission members and removes approval by City Council. [In effect this gives the Mayor the power to appoint the Charter Review Commission because the majority of the members of the Selection Committee are appointed by the Mayor. If this charter amendment is defeated, Council will continue to appoint the Charter Review Commission.]

No. 30 For: 2,319 Against: 899

#31 Avon Charter Amendment Ordinance No. 72-07, Amending Article IV, Section 3(a) entitled "President of Council - Separate Office"

This Charter amendment has the Council President selected from the At Large Councilpersons by Council as a Whole. [At present, the Council President is selected by the vote of the people.]

No. 31, For: 2,555 Against: 857

#32 Avon Charter Amendment Ordinance No. 73-07, Amending Article VIII, Section 5 entitled "Public Bidding"

[Raises the no-bid limit from $5,000 to $10,000]

No. 32, For: 2,072 Against: 1,389

#33 Avon Charter Amendment Ordinance No. 74-07, Amending Article V, Section 4 entitled "Director of Public Safety"

This Charter Amendment removes the following language: "The Director of Public Safety shall make all necessary rules and regulations for the government of the Department of Public Safety." [In effect, this allows other persons, such as the Police Chief and Fire Chief to make the rules, although no line of responsibility is spelled out.]

No. 33, For: 2,559 Against: 913

#34 Avon Charter Amendment Ordinance No. 75-07, Amending Article VI, Section 3 concerning Civil Service Commission

The general law of Ohio, except the Constitution, shall not apply to the civil service of this city.

No. 34, For: 2,161 Against: 1,058

#35 Avon Amendment Resolution No R-27-07, Amendment to Section 880.03(a) of Codified Ordinances and Section 880.29(a) Relating to rate of income tax and income tax credit in order to provide funding for a new recreational facility and declaring an emergency

No. 35, For: 2,171 Against: 1,557

2007 Lorain County Issues

#24 Lorain County Renewal/ 0.60 mill, Mental Health

No. 24, For: 37,965 Against: 21,029

#25 Lorain County Referendum on Ordinance No. 07-150, County Sales Tax

No. 25, For: 11,568 Against: 46,280

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To Our Residents:

On November 6th [2007] you will be asked to vote on two issues -- a .25% income tax for a recreation complex and the replacement of a two mill street levy. I am writing to give you information on each issue.

As you may know, a recreation complex is being proposed for the City of Avon. The first phase of the project would see the construction of a 65-67,000 square foot recreation center and indoor swimming pool, built in partnership with the Y.M.C.A. of Greater Cleveland.

In November we will be asking Avon residents to approve a .25% income tax to help finance this project (Ballot Issue #35). This tax will only affect people working in the City of Avon. The only exception to this would be for those working in an area that does not have a workplace tax or has a tax less than 1.5%. There will be no tax paid on pensions, dividends, interest, annuities, etc.

By partnering with the Y.M.C.A. and having funding through this income tax, we will be able to provide a first class facility comparable to those available in other cities. There will be programs for everyone from children through senior citizens.

The Y.M.C.A. will contribute $5.5 million to the project and will operate the center, assuming all operating expenses and saving Avon residents significant costs. During a survey taken approximately four years ago, this was an amenity desired by over 85% of those asked.

The center will also have baseball fields, one of which will be home to a professional baseball team from the Frontier League. In later phases we will add an outdoor pool with slides, indoor hockey and indoor and outdoor soccer. By partnering with the Y.M.C.A. and obtaining the long-term agreement with the minor league baseball team, we will be able to accomplish all of the above at a very reasonable cost for the City and its residents.

We also have on the ballot a replacement levy for the Street Department (Ballot Issue #29). We are proposing the replacement of a 2 mill levy with a 1.9 mill levy. With inflation, asking for replacement of two mills would produce more money than actually needed. The 1.9 mills is appropriate. This levy has been used to fund our Street Department over the last several years and will continue to be used in order to provide salting, snow plowing, patching of streets and the newly implemented service of picking up and mulching tree branches.

James A. Smith, Mayor, City of Avon

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Avon Mayor-elect Bryan Jensen says Mayor Jim Smith's shadow looms large

By Michael Sangiacomo, The Plain Dealer Sun News

November 11, 2013

AVON, Ohio -- The two men could not be more different in demeanor. Bryan Jensen, the newly elected mayor of Avon, is quiet and a bit taciturn. Jim Smith, his political mentor who held the job for 20 years, is the opposite -- ever-smiling, ebullient and talkative. Yet the two came together through politics and a love of their city.

It's impossible to say how much of former Avon councilman Jensen's victory over three other candidates was due to Smith's endorsement, but there is no doubt that it helped. "His endorsement was huge," Jensen said. 'His stamp of approval helped a lot of people make up their minds."

Avon Mayor-Elect Bryan Jensen poses with his nephew, Chris Jensen, at the family's Pinehaven Greenhouses. The new mayor was forced to turn over running the business to his brother, Bruce, and Chris

Photo by Michael Sangiacomo, The Plain Dealer

It also helped that Jensen went door-to-door throughout the city, pushed by his taskmaster daughter, Brittney, 25. "I did so much walking that I actually lost 42 pounds -- seriously," he said. 'That is an added benefit to the campaign. I feel much healthier these days."

Jensen received 2,624 votes. The closest opponent was Avon Councilman Kevin Ward, with 1,527. Councilman Dan Zegarac had 934 votes and attorney Richard Summers took 889 ...

Jensen said he plans to build on what Smith has created in the past two decades, a period when Avon grew from a sleepy, rural community into a shining example of controlled commercial and residential growth ...

And he said he will 'be on the phone with Jim every day' seeking counsel. Smith, 65, grinned and said he would always be there. 'I'm leaving him with an excellent staff and the city is in good shape ..."

Jensen said he's grateful that he has an experienced staff to help him take over the reins of the city, but he recognized that at least some of them are at or nearing retirement age. "We'll find qualified, new people to come in when the time comes," he said. "You have to surround yourself with good people to do this job well."

Smith is 'out the door' on Dec. 2 [2013] and Jensen does not move into the mayor's office until Jan. 1. Finance Director Bill Logan will be acting mayor for the month in between.

Jensen said the biggest issue facing the city is controlled growth. 'We look at our neighbors, Westlake, and try to learn from them," he said. 'I also want to look at improving traffic flow through the city, perhaps with smart traffic lights that detect a traffic build-up and can regulate the flow."

He said the city also needs to keep the stormwater from flooding homes and businesses. "We have a project coming to stop water from flooding the French Creek by diverting it into a 300-acre 'bowl' at Nagel and Schwartz Road. By doing that, 135 homes will no longer be considered in a flood plain and can save $2,000 a year in flood insurance premiums."

Becoming mayor means a major change in Jensen's life as he turns over running the family business to his brother, Bruce. They own Pinehaven Greenhouses on Detroit Road at the western edge of the city.

Jensen, 53, followed his father, Niels Jensen, into politics. His father was an Avon councilman for 10 years and encouraged his son to do the same.


Nagel Road interchange opens today

Published: Thursday, December 20, 2012

By JASON HENRY,, @MJ_Jason_Henry

AVON -- After a 16-year wait, Avon Mayor Jim Smith will finally see the new Nagel Road interchange on Interstate 90 open to traffic today ...

The new interchange, costing about $27 million [$27.7 million as of 12-20-12], will help Avon to continue developing in that area ...

"It was a long haul," he said. "A lot of sleepless nights." But setbacks ultimately allowed the city to take advantage of cheaper interest rates, Smith said ...

Though the ramps will be open, the interchange will not be considered "finished" until likely July 2013. That's when all the finishing touches such as sidewalks and grass seeding, should be completed, Smith said.


Less than a year to serve, mayor weighs in on mindset after almost 20 years dedicated to city

Filed by rturman 3-17-13 in News.

By Rebecca Turman

AVON -- The countdown is on for Avon Mayor Jim Smith as he only has approximately nine and a half months left in his term to serve the city.

Smith has said numerous times, including during a recent interview, that he will not run for re-election on the November 2013 ballot, leaving the position open for someone new to take over for the first time in 20 years.

2014, the year the city of Avon will celebrate its bicentennial, will bring about plenty of change for the city, but it will also allow the city's first full-time mayor to move on to the next chapter of his life.

Beginning in 1994, Smith served two two-year terms as a part-time mayor, and he is currently finishing up his fourth four-year term as mayor.

Initially, Smith wanted the city to pursue city management instead of hiring a full-time mayor. However, the Charter Review Commission decided that year that a full-time mayor was the better option and residents agreed. Smith said he was persuaded to run for the first full-time four-year term. Smith only intended to serve one four-year term, he said, but one turned into four ...

Smith said he was ready to retire years ago, but he ran for this last four-year term because he wanted to see the Interstate 90 interchange project at Nagel Road through to the end. It took approximately 16 years to get the interchange up and running. He was worried if new leadership was in place that the new interchange wouldn't be built ...

The opening of the French Creek Family YMCA was a big deal for the city as well, he said. "We thought that was pretty paramount to get done," Smith said of bringing a recreation center to the city. Smith noted the city is already looking at expanding the parking lot there because the YMCA is running out of spaces to accommodate patrons ...

Plans are already in the works to build a second water tower at the northeast corner of SR 83 and Mills Road to prepare for the city's growing population ...

Smith plans to spend more time at his condo in Orange Beach, Ala., once he retires. "But I'll be up here, too," he said.

Smith, 65, has loved his job serving as mayor for almost two decades, but the duties can definitely take a toll on a person. "I worry every day about what we (the city) are going to do five years from now, 10 years from now," Smith said. "I can't worry about it much longer."

Typically, Smith tries to play off his stress and anxiety related to the job with humor, but he admitted he has let his worrying get the best of him at times. He's had five or six panic attacks while he's been mayor, he said.

He recalled one time, when he was part-time mayor, that his heart rate was 211 beats per minute and he watched it rise on the monitor in the ambulance to 268 beats a minute.

"I thought, 'I'm dying,'" he said. Smith said he now he walks every day to help reduce the stress. "I wake up at 10 (minutes) to 4 (a.m.) every day," he said.

It's hard for Smith to leave his work at work, he said. When the city moves forward on a project, he is all in. So much so that he said he would wake up in the middle of the night, thinking about the interchange or All Pro Freight Stadium, and he would have to take a quick drive over to the sites to check on things.

He blames it on his Type A personality. "I had to be there," he said. 'Just to look at it. I couldn't do anything."

Every year Smith said he only uses two weeks out of his four weeks' worth of vacation time each year. He plans it so that he will only miss two council meetings each year. But vacation time is usually interrupted by about five to six city-related phone calls each day, he said.

In 2004, when he had to have a cancerous tumor and part of his colon removed, he didn't even use sick time. Instead, he used vacation time, he said ...

Every couple of weeks, Smith finds himself getting a little nostalgic and he listens to the song, "Don't It Make You Want to Go Home," which was written and recorded in the late '60s by Joe South.

The song, he said, is about a man who misses home, but when he gets there he realizes things aren't exactly how he remembered. Some of the lyrics that stand out to Smith:

"But there's a six-lane highway down by the creek

Where I went skinny dippin' as a child

There's a drag strip down by the riverside

Where my grandma's cow used to graze.

Now the grass don't grow and the river don't flow

Like it did in my childhood days.

Don't it make you want to go home now.

Don't it make you wanna go home?"

"Even though he went home, he still wants to go home," Smith said. "It changes. This place (Avon) changes weekly." ... but in his opinion, "We've done a good job of taking the city forward."

Today, a resident can expect a rescue squad at their home in 3.5 minutes or less, whereas years ago, with a part-time staff, people would have to wait for a firefighter to be called in to help in an emergency. "And having two emergency rooms in the city of Avon -- that's lifesaving," he said, referring to the Cleveland Clinic and EMH.

As for the growth of the city, Smith said when he started out as mayor in 1994, the population was close to 7,000 with an estimated full-build out population of 67,000.

The higher the population, the higher the expenses are for a city, Smith said. For example, Smith said for every 1,200 people added, the city needs to hire an additional firefighter and police officer. He noted a growing population also takes a toll on the school district as well.

But over the years, Smith said he and his administration have worked to reduce the full-build-out number to today's estimate of 43,000 to 47,000.

"I think we did a good job," he said of lowering the population density. The city used to have 2.4 homes per acre, but now 1.9 per acre is the standard. For apartments, when Smith started there were 18 units per acre. Now the standard is 10 units per acre.

"We did control legislation 19 years ago," he said. 'You can't stop people from moving in, but you can control the number at total build out." Today the city's population is close to 21,000, Smith said. "We've grown fast," he said.

Contact Rebecca Turman at

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