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Portage mayoral candidate forum

Portage mayoral candidate Republican John Cannon fields a question at the Portage mayoral candidate forum Monday, Oct. 14.

Portage has suffered both documented and untold damage from the previous mayor's criminal betrayal of public trust.

The effect of former Mayor James Snyder's conviction on federal bribery and tax charges has left a haze of uncertainty in the city that can be hard to see through.

Now, Portage voters have the important task of looking through that haze and considering the directions in which two candidates might take the city if elected mayor on Nov. 5.

On one hand, Portage residents can take some comfort in having two candidates in the upcoming Nov. 5 mayoral election who are personally invested and appear to care very deeply about the city's future.

Both Republican candidate John Cannon and Democratic candidate Sue Lynch say the right things when talking about their affinity for the city and desire to move forward past the scandal and mismanagement Snyder left in his wake.

For his part, Cannon, a past city council member, has been serving as mayor since early this year, when a Republican caucus appointed Cannon to finish Snyder's term following the former mayor's felony conviction.

Lynch, a councilwoman who serves as president of the Portage City Council, also served for a brief time as interim mayor after Snyder's conviction before a Republican caucus voted Cannon in as mayor as a matter of state law.

Both Cannon and Lynch have shared, along with other city leaders, in the unenviable task of picking up the pieces shattered by Snyder's scandal.

They differ on where they want to take the city and how they want to get there.

Lynch prioritizes a "walkable" downtown connected to the rest of the city by sidewalks.

She also wants to ease the permitting process for building and doing business in the city to become more business friendly.

Her environmental science background would seem to have strong applications in Portage, where erosion issues threaten the viability of the Portage Lakefront Park and Riverwalk and where industrial pollution has killed fish and threatened the health of our lake waters.

On the other side of the aisle, Cannon wants to see Portage build off its strong medical corridor, recreational lakefront locations and to rely on a long-term master plan for keys to developing a downtown, which has never fully been realized.

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While it's clear Cannon has begun chipping away at the stack of debt, unpaid bills and unfinished city business Snyder left behind.

We're concerned with Cannon's past allegiances with Snyder. Both were strong political allies in the past.

But Cannon appears to have disavowed Snyder, even calling the former mayor a "scoundrel" during a recent interview with our editorial board.

Meanwhile, we have reservations about Lynch's ability to react and adjust to the challenges that loom in the city.

The future mayor, whomever that may be, must be able to think on his or her feet to repair the damage and help dig the city out of millions of dollars of debt that will carry over.

When conducting interviews for this endorsement, both Cannon and Lynch were invited to be present, at the same time to answer the same questions, at The Times Valparaiso office.

Both arrived at the prescribed time Wednesday, but then Lynch chose to leave after claiming she was unaware both candidates would be in the room together.

Cannon noted our office made it clear to him that both candidates would be present at the same time for questioning.

Lynch claimed she was not aware.

Even if there was some form of miscommunication, Lynch's departure from the situation, rather than thinking on her feet and adjusting, gives us pause she would be the leader Portage needs right now.

It should be noted we interviewed Lynch over the phone the next day, but it shouldn't have been necessary.

Uncertainties still exist, but we endorse Cannon, who has inherited a difficult task and seems willing to roll up his sleeves and move forward.

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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editor Marc Chase, Deputy Editor Kerry Erickson, Assistant Local News Editor Crista Zivanovic and Regional News Editor Sharon Ross.