Upper Arlington News

City council races

Shared services, development top Johnson's priorities

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Incumbent Debbie Johnson said if she is re-elected to Upper Arlington City Council, she'll work toward more shared-services partnerships, support economic development efforts and create strategies for containing the city's costs.

Johnson, 52, is seeking her second term on council Nov. 5.

The 21-year resident of Upper Arlington will be among five candidates -- along with fellow incumbents John Adams and David DeCapua, and newcomers Carolyn Casper and Kip Greenhill -- vying for four council seats.

Married to her husband, Mark, for 29 years and a mother of three children, Johnson is the founding director of Ross Leadership Institute, which provides leadership development resources to companies and organizations throughout central Ohio.

She received a bachelor of arts degree in business administration from Otterbein University.

She said she's seeking re-election, in part, because she's gained valuable experience and insights into issues affecting the community through civic activities and public service.

"I have been committed to community service throughout my residency in Upper Arlington and have been a longtime volunteer," she said. "During my four years on city council, we have started many ongoing projects that require periodic evaluation and modification.

"I understand the history and intricacies of these projects, and I want to see them to conclusion.

"The city needs strong leadership and experience on council to meet challenges to city finances caused by changes in state law. I believe my leadership experience and years on council will allow me to be an effective council member for the next four years."

Johnson identified the city's budget as the biggest challenge facing Upper Arlington.

In the face of revenue lost through the elimination of the estate tax and cuts by the Ohio General Assembly to local government funding, she said council must bring "stability while maintaining those city services that residents identify as essential to the character of Upper Arlington as a desirable community in which to live and work."

She said budget issues must be addressed through "cost control," or balancing expenditures with prioritized needs, and maintaining the city's AAA credit rating, which she said lowers the cost of financing capital needs.

She also said the city must continue to look for ways to do "more with less," share services with other municipalities or organizations, foster economic development explore new or alternative ways in which to generate revenue.

"During my first term on council, we have reduced the size and cost of city government through careful restructuring of various departments, combining and eliminating positions in ways designed to minimize any impact on services to residents," Johnson said.

"We have been successful in negotiating bargaining agreements with our employees that will shift an increased portion of their benefit costs to the employees, while limiting compensation increases to levels well below historical levels."

Johnson noted she has supported electricity aggregation as an option for lowering utility costs for residents and small businesses, as well as the consideration of consolidating the city's 911 dispatch services with nearby communities to cut costs.

Through economic development, she said council should work to "continue to revitalize commercial areas while maintaining the character of local neighborhoods," which she said lessens tax burdens on residents.

Johnson added the city should "explore alternative revenue sources (by) evaluating other ways to supplement city revenues other than from taxes, such as from public and provide grant programs."

She also supports evaluating "creative ways to fund and prioritize necessary infrastructure improvements."

"Maintaining our city's streets, water lines and other infrastructure is critical to the city's future," she said.

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