Name: Ronda Grassi
Relevant leadership or community experience:
Volunteering for the past 4 years I have been Treasurer and am now President of our HOA. I was part of ESAP, the Erie Stakeholders Project which helped the Town set its goals and vision and recently I’ve been involved in the formation of the Erie HOA Coalition which helps HOA leaders communicate with each other to solve issues.
In business for 23 years, I own and operate a small company called CADCO. My office is right on Main Street in old town Louisville and this location gave me an opportunity to get involved in the Louisville community. I have participated in the review process for new development, long term planning and historic preservation.
For the past 10 years, I have been a Board of Director of the Downtown Business Association in Louisville. Our volunteer efforts have created the Street Faire and Winter Skate. I am responsible for fundraising and the week to week operation of the Street Faire. These events helped Louisville receive the distinction of being the best place to live in the USA in 2009 according to CNN. The Street Faire also won the Governor’s award for excellence in a downtown event.
What are the three top issues for Erie in the coming years? What will be your plan for fixing/solving/dealing with those issues?
1. Economic Development: The key is stakeholder involvement and tapping into the productive energy that exists throughout our community. We need to develop relationships with current business leaders and be in places like trade shows and conventions to meet the potential new business looking to move or expand its operations.
2. Erie Airport: The new Board needs to meet with stakeholders, address safety issues and find common ground to start to solve problems there. The Airport is a major asset to all Erie and should be recognized as such. There are unique economic development opportunities here. I remember having dinner at the Convair!
3. Finances: I believe in fiscal responsibility. Our Town has saved money in good times and that will get us through this slow down in the short term but we need a long term vision. Retail will come with rooftops but we can do things now to improve our bottom line. We can educate residents about the importance and benefit of spending money in local retail and restaurants. We should explain what services and events are supported through the sales tax dollars collected locally.
What does future successful economic development look like in Erie? What is the board’s role in making that happen?
As a Trustee, we have many tools available already to help guide us when considering growth and development. The Comprehensive Plan and Land Use Plan are great guidelines that have been through a very public process. We should work with the Chamber and the EEDC to create an advertising packet, in print and on line, about Erie. Erie has different areas available now that will appeal to many business personalities. We can offer choices like our I-25 corridor with easy access to Denver or DIA, the quaint charm of Briggs Street the exciting and unique airport opportunities or the community aspect of our 4 corners area. As a Trustee, I would like to be at some of the Trade shows and conferences that allow us to meet and mingle with businesses looking to relocate or expand. We should be courting retail businesses. We know Conoco Phillips is building a state of the art research facility in Louisville. What kind of businesses will support that facility? How can we get Erie in their minds as a great place to be?
What role should the town take in supporting and attracting business downtown? Do you believe the board should do more to support the business of Old Town area? If so, what?
The heart of Erie is its old town! The Town should take an active role in supporting and attracting business here. My experience with the Street Faire in old town Louisville is a perfect example of what can be done. We should use our HOA coalition to educate our community about old town, help current businesses get the word out about specials and events, create a story night at local restaurants and find some “seed money” to establish the Arts Coalition of Erie here. A little investment now can provide the energy old town needs to thrive.
What actions —if any—should the board take to make the town a stronger regional player?
We have done much to secure our borders and negotiate IGA’s with our neighbors. Unfortunately, the state is set up so that every Town is pitted against each other for sales tax dollars. Erie should be very aggressive and fight for its right to compete for employers and retail establishments.
As far as the airport is concerned, what is your stance how the board has handled the recent situation? What are future steps the board should take?
The current Board is not unanimous in its thinking so there is lots of room for improvement and new ideas. When a Town is trying to sell itself and create a unique identity, it should tout the things that make it different from its neighbors. Many surrounding towns can say they have a library, a rec center and even a golf course but the Airport makes us different and is a wonderfully exciting and fun place. Again I will say the new Board needs to meet with stakeholders, address safety issues and find common ground to start to solve this problem. The Airport is a major asset to all Erie and should be recognized as such.
What is Erie’s biggest transportation need in the coming years?
Most Erie residents use their personal vehicle to get where they want to go. I don’t see that changing any time soon. It is financially prudent to maintain streets well throughout the years and avoid letting them deteriorate to a point where they need to be replaced. We have a long term vision for commuter rail connections and a good foundation has been laid to achieve that goal.
Give me your philosophy on growth in Erie? In your vision, what does future growth look like and how is it managed?
Erie already has big developments approved and ready to move forward. Certain property rights have been established for years. We will continue to appoint thoughtful and knowledgeable residents to the planning commission, give attention to open space and trails and grow with a sense of community as a whole. We should investigate new energy technologies, water conservation and fiber connections and upgrades throughout our existing community and new projects. I believe in leading the way.
What action—if any—would you like to see the town take on waste collection or recycling? T
he Town should not take any action except to state that the citizens of Erie are aware of the environment and engaged in recycling efforts. Right now, every carrier providing service offers recycling to its Erie customer. HOA’s have taken the lead and realize their strength in numbers when negotiating contracts. We have a free market system that provides choice and competition and it should stay that way.
What’s your stance on the Bonanza Drive connection?
This ballot issue was rushed to the voters with little to no information available to the average Erie citizen. We have no need to rush this through and call it a mandate by the people, regardless of which way the people vote. We need to examine the actual need, costs, impacts on the surrounding area and overall benefit if any. The discussion about the connection has not been through any public process yet so the people can’t actually make an informed decision. It’s a shame it’s on the ballot.
Once you are elected, how will you stay in tune with the ideas, issues, concerns and questions of your constituents?
As part of the HOA coalition and a current Board member in my own HOA, I know how to communicate directly with individual neighborhoods and I’m able to reach out to areas that don’t have a formal HOA. I believe the Town should have a cooperative attitude when addressing HOA issues. We can do so much more together if we foster an overall community spirit.
Ronda was probably the most versed candidate at the forum. And her experience in both Erie and Louisville (helping bring the Louisville DBA & Street Faire to the force it is today) is worthy of notice.