Warren, OH

Who’s Kristin Riley? And, What Are Her Goals for the 4th Ward?

Jessica N. Abraham

Kristin Riley, running for Warren Councilwoman, 4th WardImage via Jessica N. Abraham

On November 2, residents in the 4th ward of Warren, Ohio, will be voting for their next election, and one candidate is really standing out.

She’s a registered Republican on the ticket but considers herself to be more of a middle-of-the-road advocate for the community as a whole.

Those closest to her would definitely agree. She’s not one to take sides but rather fight for what’s right while keeping the peace between everyone involved.

“It shouldn’t be about parties. It should be about people,” states Riley.

Riley Grew up in southwestern Pennsylvania in an extended portion of the Greater Pittsburgh Area. She’s lived in small towns, big cities and has traveled widely across the world. She double-majored in Sociology and Anthropology at West Virginia University, Morgantown and has had a very interesting career, to say the least.

Since moving to Warren from Austin, Texas, a few years ago, she’s made the city her home and doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon. Currently working within the local school system, she’s a mother of a 10-year-old son named Aurelio and the wife of a pretty cool guy named Dave. She supports local animal rescues and often helps dogs find homes with families they can love.

Riley originally moved to Warren to be closer to her late mother and father that lived nearby. But, she decided to stay because of the “many wonderful people” she’s met along the way. And, it’s because of those beautiful people that she’s ready and willing to fight.

“There are a lot of amazing people in this area. We need to encourage that. We need to do what we can to keep that — against all odds and despite all stigma.”

Full disclosure: I am proud to say I know Kristin Riley.

I am proud to say that I know Kristin Riley. Although my opinion is not to be asserted as the opinion of NewsBreak or its affiliates, I personally encourage someone like Riley to run for a position such as Councilwoman, where she can truly make a difference.

She’s outgoing, fun and has a quirky sense of humor. She’s first to take the shirt of her own back and give it to someone who’s living without— no questions asked. She’s tactful but not someone who keeps her mouth shut if it’s something she’s passionate about.

If she sees something that needs done, she often takes the initiative. And when she can’t make something happen, she makes sure to find someone that can.

She’s one of the kindest, sweetest people I know. But, at the same time, she can be pretty blunt. She can show tough love at times, but that same love surpasses politics and color lines, as she truly sees a better Warren, Ohio, on the horizon.

She’s highly intelligent and uses logic when making decisions that impact the lives of others— even if it means making selfless sacrifices to improve the lives of others.

And most importantly, she’s down-to-earth and approachable (to the point, you’ll most often see her in public wearing athletic wear and a t-shirt). She’s fully intent, eager and willing to listen, without criticizing others or passing judgment directly or indirectly.

With that said, I thought it was only right to highlight some of the things she wants to fight for in making the 4th ward a better place for single parents and families, veterans and retirees, students and young professionals, while not missing anyone in between.

She wants to provide a better outlet for the community to voice their opinions — and actually, be heard.

I met with Riley about her decision to run for 4th Ward Councilwoman, and she discussed the importance of forming stronger bonds between the police, the community and the leadership within it.

She feels that some people are being ignored and is personally willing to speak up on behalf of the problems faced by everyday people.

She’s not discrediting current leadership. In fact, she thinks many of them are great people at heart — but she wholeheartedly believes that as a leader, it’s almost necessary to step into office with a “balls to the wall” mindset (her words, not mine).

She believes that as residents of Warren, we deserve to have better. She feels that certain decisions are being made without considering local communities and that very important meetings are being held when people can’t chime in— whether it’s during business hours or when other community activities are taking place.

Riley stands by the notion that as a community leader, you need to make yourself available, dedicating time to the people you serve, either through phone or email, to better understand your constituents and what it is they feel will make the community a better place.

She believes this is a citywide problem and that leadership should be more apathetic to the concerns of their constituents. If not, “nothing’s going to change.”

“As Councilwoman, I promise to address things the best I can. If there’s something I can’t personally address, I’m going to be honest and tell you that I don’t know. I have no problem finding out the answer— and going out of my way to find that answer — before getting back to you in a timely manner, even if it takes a little bit of digging.”

Riley believes that certain laws aren’t being enforced — or they’re being enforced selectively — while other laws are being used as political weapons to quiet the opposition. But, this is interfering with the people’s right to live in a safe environment with their families and where businesses not only feel it’s safe to operate - but that it’s also a place they can thrive.

“God forbid we listen to each other,! she exclaims. “Everything is going to depend on working together — especially in today’s times. We need to drop the arrogance, no matter what side of the fence you’re on. We can’t be so arrogant to know better. Maybe we can learn what works in one area and what’s not working in others.”

She continues, “There’s too much of ‘You’re one of them, we’re one of us.’ Take time to know and learn from each other and respect the ideas of those who live around you — to work together. Everyone has different life experiences. And we can learn from that. In fact, it’s because people are different, you can learn from people’s differences. It’s to be embraced, not ridiculed. People do things differently based on their own reality— their life experiences — you can’t condemn someone for having different experiences than others. But, you can learn how to evolve by bringing those experiences to the table and living for the people (referring to the entire community).”

Places that were condemned are being sold and immediately rented out.

Riley cites residential concerns with lax rental policies in place. She wants to close the loopholes that allow criminals to continue breaking the law, making it less uncomfortable for businesses to operate while welcoming more into the area — or for kids to play outside.

“Slumlords are a huge issue. You got good people that will move in, you get to know them — and they won’t stay because of poor housing conditions. They also move because they fear the illegal activities taking place where other rentals exist in the area — or, worse, in the same building they live in.”

She continues, “Homeowners are suffering because the value of their homes are depreciating under these conditions. If they wanted to move, they couldn’t. And, they shouldn’t have to just to protect their families… or because of the filth coming from buildings just a few feet away.”

“Some of these places look like a McDonald’s drive-through. We need to be proactive in staving off crime instead of band-aiding it. We also have to have decent, affordable housing in place. It takes at least three months to build a case. What can we do to find the loopholes and close them immediately? How many people have to potentially die or get sick in those three months — whether for concerns for health or safety? I don’t want to sound like I’m bashing everyone — We need to work together. We need to stop shifting blame, and everyone needs to do their part. We, as a community, need to give just a little bit extra because what we have now just isn’t working.”

She begins to breakdown a scary, but very common situation:

“Management companies that neglect the situation at hand often leave it up to decent people to make it their problem. It then becomes frustrating to them (the renter), and they get to the point they no longer want to fight. They just want out. They just want to be rid of the problem. Most people don’t have the funds to legally fight the conditions being placed on them, and most of them can’t afford to move. In the case of poor housing, most renters are subject to the terms of leases and agreements that keep them financially tied to a property for the next 12 months. Without funding, they can’t move, can’t pay for a lawyer and sometimes can’t even afford healthcare should they get sick!”

She discussed an incident where someone lived in a property where a tree fell on the street. The management company refused to remove the tree and instead tried to pass this on to the tenants. In this same building, the walls were sagging — the building wasn’t even up to code — and the tenant was expected to live there, as-is, in deplorable conditions.

Promises were broken, and new tenants began moving in, creating “by-hour-activity,” as she puts it. Half-naked women were showing up on random doorsteps, people were walking up and down the street soliciting drugs, and environmental concerns continued to grow as hazardous materials were piling up behind the building.

In a place like this, it seems that no background checks are put into place. Sometimes, landlords don't even care if a tenant was kicked out of a former residence for creating unsanitary conditions for themselves or those around them.

As a result, roaches, rats and bedbugs are pouring into neighborhoods. Infestations are getting worse, and trash continues to pile up, regardless of warnings and complaints received by existing tenants and the health department.

We need better communication of citywide ordinances.

So often, we communicate with our neighbors on apps like Nextdoor and places like Facebook, asking whether or not we can build a fence in our yard, how close it should be and how high. When we do, we see a plethora of mixed messages — and no one with a solid answer. Those answers are available online but not easily found.

Riley believes communicating city ordinances and criteria are of key importance and an easy fix for the community to solve. Situations that arise where trash is concerned, for example, aren’t always the fault of waste management but rather the missed communication of procedure — a procedure that, if handled incorrectly, could domino into community-wide litter and waste being scattered across the neighborhood.

“The way an overloaded trash can faces, for example, can become a major problem for companies that rely on the mechanics of their trucks to discard this trash quickly and effectively.”

She points out that procedural awareness is absolutely key to how particular operations function and that people need to know what the rules are so they can be carried out like clockwork. She believes regular classes, literature and training might facilitate this process.

“We also need to start learning how to throw it away in the trash, especially beer cans, not in a random yard or a storm drain” — which can also be counterproductive to citywide efforts to fight littering and flooding while dismaying neighbors from taking pride in their community.

She wants to work on creating programs — or implementing more programs for volunteering and community service that will do good for the neighborhoods in and around city limits, agreeing that as a city, we need to try to do better.

She believes that code enforcement needs to be stepped up and that uniformity and clarity must be conveyed, especially in the case of fire codes and inspections.

Protecting our kids means understanding the people that are moving into the area, it means investigating condemned buildings, and it means keeping dangerous situations from entering — or staying in — the 4th ward.

“As a mom,” states Riley, “It scares me to put my son to bed, wondering if a bullet is going to fly through the window. And, that’s not right.”

“Speaking about kids, Child and Family Services have their hands full right now. It’s up to us to keep our families safe, to be responsible and to hold people accountable across the board — even if it’s ourselves. But, we also need to get back to the community raising the child — stop turning a blind eye to everything. That’s what puts the community in danger.”

She wants to create more initiatives to build the community and the relationships within it, to give people a chance to get to know their neighbors and how to get involved in the initiatives that matter — to find the programs and services that help.

“We need to drop the stigma, ‘Oh, it’s just Warren.’ Why are we good with that stereotype,” she asks. “We talk about Warren’s renewal and revitalization. Why can’t we take the necessary steps to make it happen?”

The “Honor Orchard” Initiative

In honor of Riley’s late stepfather and all veterans of past, present, and future, Riley started the “Honor Orchard” to show appreciation for how they served our Nation during times of war and maritime duty. It was created to memorialize their efforts in ceremony and is maintained with pride at the center of the 4th ward.

In addition to the memorial, Riley wants to be a voice for these veterans. Learning of the struggles many face — whether physically, emotionally or mentally — she wants to help them find assistance, provide them with encouragement and to show her appreciation — even if it means hours of playing phone tag.

She feels it’s crucial to find the programs and help they need to let them know they are not forgotten when many go unnoticed. She believes support systems are everything and that they shouldn’t have to leave their homes or family to find relief from addiction, PTSD or alcoholism — unless it's a necessary evil in restoring a better quality of life.

Get Out and Vote!

To find out more about Kristin Riley and her initiatives, visit her “Elect Kristin Riley” Facebook and, regardless of party affiliation, be sure to vote for her on November 2. Riley can also be contacted via email at kristinriley259@yahoo.com, or reached at (234) 8300-5461.

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Jessica N. Abraham is a writer, designer and publicist, specializing in Business, Technology and the Jobs Industry. https://www.jessicanabraham.com | contact@jessicanabraham.com | Twitter: @jessicanabraham

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