County commission candidates discuss issues in virtual forum

Candidates for two contested Montgomery County Commission seats discussed a range of issues including racism, troubles at the county jail and the county’s response to the coronavirus pandemic during a Dayton Daily News-Dayton League of Women Voters virtual forum Friday.

The participants included incumbent Commissioner Debbie Lieberman and her challenger Bob Matthews, a Republican. Democratic Commissioner Judy Dodge also participated in the forum livestreamed on the Dayton Daily News Facebook page. Her Republican opponent, Arlene Setzer, did not participate.

Matthews, a former Miami Twp. trustee, said if elected he would give back half his first three months of pay to help the county recover from coronavirus revenue losses and challenged other candidates to do the same.

“It would help me feel the pain that our residents are suffering,” he said.

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When asked about the county’s response to racism, Lieberman said the county acted swiftly on declaration of racism as a public health crisis and put a list of action items together with “teeth” that includes financial and brick and mortar investments in the county’s racially diverse communities.

“We know that an unbalanced community is inequitable and it’s unjust,” she said.

Matthews said racism and poverty go hand-in-hand and Lieberman has had 16 years to work on poverty reduction yet recent federal data show one in six Dayton residents living in poverty.

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“The problem really is racism and racism is real, but it itself is a symptom — it’s a symptom of people’s hearts and attitudes toward other people and you can’t legislate, spend money to get people’s attitudes changed,” he said.

Dodge acknowledged all three current county commissioner seats are in the hands of Democrats but asked that voters don’t cast a ballot solely for the sake of change.

“As a county commissioner you don’t make decisions based on if you are a Democrat or a Republican, you make decisions based on the concern and the safety for our citizens here in Montgomery County,” she said.

With news Friday of President Donald Trump’s positive COVID-19 test, Lieberman said commissioners can’t set public health rules but she encouraged people to "follow the science. To wear a mask, to socially distance, to continue to wash your hands, continue to not gather in groups.”

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Matthews said his view of coronavirus precautions runs counter to some in his party.

“I’m a big proponent of masks and I do everything I can to avoid inside meetings. I think that’s probably the biggest spread I believe,” he said. “My family takes it very seriously. My best recommendation at this point would be for us to do everything we can to influence everyone to take it seriously independent of party.”

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