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September 11, 2009

 

Medina GSA founder seeks seat on city council

Medina--The co-founder of the Medina County Gay Straight Alliance is running to become the city’s first openly gay official.

Jay Smith, 23, says the GSA was founded in 2008 with the help of his partner Dan Coleman, formerly an organizer for Equality Ohio, because Medina had nothing for advocacy or support of LGBT people. He also had plans for the organization to begin laying the groundwork for LGBT affirming human rights legislation in the small city, which he will champion when he gets to council.

But before then, the 20-year resident says the city needs to find ways to repair infrastructure, including aging water lines, without raising taxes.

Medina is often viewed as a distant suburb of both Akron and Cleveland, about 20 miles to the east and north.

The city’s public square, a quaint green space with a gazebo, is bordered by three state highways and U.S. 42. Smith says this brings excessive truck traffic and makes the square unfriendly to pedestrians.

He wants to allocate money to do a traffic study, then act on it to solve the problem.

The other issue on Smith’s mind is making Medina more green by modernizing building codes and using community development money to improve existing structures.

Smith is seeking one of the two at-large seats on the seven-member council.

The race is non-partisan, though Smith is a Democrat and will face Republican Paul Rose, Sr. on November 3. The seat is open due to the retirement of incumbent Linda Hoffman Joseph. Coleman manages Smith’s campaign.

Smith is endorsed by the Ohio Teamsters Drive. He has applied to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a Washington, D.C. group that backs openly gay and lesbian candidates, but has not heard of an endorsement by press time.

Smith works at the Medina license bureau and is finishing his degree in hospitality management from the University of Akron. He did an internship at Disney World.

“My interest in politics is lifelong,” said Smith. “My mom is a history and government teacher, so conversations around our house were interesting.”

He said he has always had a passion for civic involvement.

“Politics is a great fit for me,” Smith said, “It’s the way I can help the most people. For me it’s all about improving people’s lives.”

Smith began preparing for the race about a year ago. Most of his campaigning is door-to-door. The race he would like to run would cost $6,000 to 12,000. Currently, he has raised about $700.

“I get good feedback from voters,” Smith said. “They say I have fresh ideas.”

Smith said his being gay is “semi-known,” which he clarifies by saying that it is stated on his website and Facebook page. Democratic Party operatives know, as do other elected officials, but the issue does not come up when he is talking to voters at their doors.

“It’s out there for people to see, but it’s not an issue,” Smith said.

Smith said Democratic elected officials are ready to come to his side if anyone makes anything negative of his being gay, but so far, there has been no need.

Smith’s campaign website is located at www.jaysmith.me/09/Home.html and at Facebook and Twitter.

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