The Nov. 7 Upper Arlington ballot includes eight candidates competing for four seats in an at-large, nonpartisan election.
Because the city charter stipulates that council members can serve no more than two, four-year terms, current President Debbie Johnson and Councilman David DeCapua will leave office at the end of this year. Councilman John C. Adams decided not to seek re-election.
Councilman Kip Greenhill is seeking re-election to a second term in office.
The other candidates are Michaela Burriss, Brian Close, Bob Foulk, Omar Ganoom, Michele M. Hoyle, Jim Lynch and Lowell Toms.
Another candidate, Malika Jacobs, filed to run for council, but withdrew her candidacy Aug. 24, citing other obligations.
Each of the eight council candidates responded to questions posed by ThisWeek Upper Arlington News.
Their responses will be published alphabetically; those from Burriss, Close, Foulk and Ganoom are included in this week's edition. Answers from Greenhill, Hoyle, Lynch and Toms will be published Sept. 28.
Why are you running for office?
Burriss: Overcoming homelessness and poverty wasn't easy. I'm a fighter with an open heart. I'm running because Upper Arlington residents deserve someone who will fight for them.
We are at a moment of inflection in our community. Tensions have lingered and many feel hurt in connection to the recall. At this critical time and in this election, we are going to decide what kind of UA we want to be. I'm running for UA City Council to be a part of the solution and to remind my neighbors that through our growing pains, we are a welcoming, kind and caring community.
Close: We all chose Upper Arlington as the place to live and raise our families because the city and the schools are in a unified single community and our fellow citizens are educated, involved and will accept nothing but the best for their families and the community. But with differing opinions as to how to accomplish what's best for the community, we seem to have lost our unity and direction over the last few years. I am running for Upper Arlington City Council because I want to bring pride and solidarity back to our community and I want to lead Upper Arlington forward to ensure we remain the best community in central Ohio.
Foulk: The greatest challenge for our community governance will always be to ensure that the wide range of opinion within our community is pursued by all means possible and meaningfully incorporated into policy and project priorities through efforts at genuine compromise. It is only by doing this that any plan or policy can honestly reflect the range of views and opinions that will exist for any topic. I am running for office to ensure that residents will no longer need to resort to yard-sign campaigns and recurring referendums against city actions to force their municipal government to meaningfully represent their interests.
Ganoom: As a landlocked community, UA faces significant financial challenges regarding aging streets, sewers, water lines, curbs, gutters and stormwater issues. Some of our infrastructure is over 100 years old. I have 35 years of extensive public and private experience in public finance which can help lead the city in prudently managing these limited resources. My prior experience as a deputy director-treasurer of state and a budget director has provided me the necessary skills to help lead the city with delivery of these resources. Coupled with my private-sector experience, I bring a skill set unlike any other individual.
Identify the top two issues facing the city in 2018 and explain how you would deal with them.
Burriss: My mother, a German citizen, raised me to be truthful because even if uncomfortable, it comes from a place of love. Honesty is necessary in strong relationships and leadership. Upper Arlington needs leaders who are committed to making these next 100 years our most golden yet. That means speaking out on issues our neighbors may need help facing.
This includes substance abuse, addiction and the paralyzing opiate epidemic. My family was rocked by addiction. I know how traumatizing and painful this is. UA is not immune. According to information from the Upper Arlington Divison of Fire, as of August, the department has responded to more overdoses than it did in the entirety of 2016. These are preventable losses and we have a great opportunity to become a leader in this fight.
As a council member, I will work with local medical experts and the Stand Project to convene anonymous, informal focus groups with families impacted by addiction. We will learn what they needed in crisis and what UA can do better. We will partner with OSU to conduct research on national best practices, discover UA-specific warning signs and aim toward prevention. We have the resources and conviction to end overdoses in UA.
Continuing in the spirit of honesty, UA must continue progress on increasing communication between council and the residents. As a council member, I’ll support initiatives to video stream meetings. I’ll modify our agenda to allow for public comments on non-agenda topics, allowing citizens to come before us on the record when they need a cathartic release. I’ll create neighborhood commissions allowing areas impacted by commercial development to work with employees and developers before BZAP and council meetings on important concerns. I’ll also work to revamp our city’s webpage to make it more user-friendly.
Close: Infrastructure: Our city's roads, sewers and parks are the literal bedrock of our community, but as we approach our centennial, many of the community's bones are showing their age. We need to make sure the city's infrastructure is in line with the same high expectations we have for our own homes. We need to update our parks and common spaces and make sure they are accessible by well-maintained streets and sidewalks. I vow to keep our city leaders focused on repairing, replacing and improving our city's aging infrastructure and I will provide oversight of our city's spending on these projects.
Smart and thoughtful development: As a landlocked community, we need to make wise decisions regarding development. First, we need to develop a clear plan for our community's expectations, including the size, location, aesthetics and character of each new development. Next, we need to demand that any new development fits the character of our community and does not change it. Last, we need to ensure that each new development provides a substantial tax return so the city can continue to provide the services we expect and infrastructure we deserve. I will ensure that our City Council balances these factors for all new commercial development.
Foulk: My primary motivation for seeking office is to ensure greater openness and public input on plans and policy development from the moment of first consideration. In addition, we need more effective mechanisms to ensure the recognition and then consideration of the range of values and opinion in our community concerning any proposed initiative. The use of expensive consultants and questionably generalizable surveys clearly has not proved sufficient.
The second priority is to direct more Issue 23 dollars first to deteriorating streets, curbs and gutters, bridges and other aging but invisible infrastructure such as sewers and water lines before spending on elective projects and amenities. While headway is being made, it could be accomplished faster and more effectively by focusing on the real infrastructure needs before spending on elective projects.
Ganoom: Recent issues of transparency have taken a toll on our citizens as demonstrated by the yard-sign campaigns regarding Preserve Fancyburg Park, Save 911 and Save Northam Park. We must do better at communicating the delivery of vital city services, including informing the public and listening to the needs of our residents. The Issue 23 income tax increase highlights one instance where information was not clearly stated. We must do a better job of communicating public policy. Referendums and yard-sign campaigns arise from our residents feeling that they are disenfranchised. I'm running to ensure all our citizens have a voice to be heard at all times. I understand the need for varying opinions, needs and sensitivities that constituents may have and I will ensure that they are heard. I will provide truthful and transparent leadership.
Economic development has become an issue in UA as to how we are treating our residential neighborhoods. The successful signature-gathering for a referendum against the medical office near Trouville at City Hall and the proposed Lane Avenue hotel leading Westmont residents to pursue a referendum demonstrate that we must do better when considering commercial development that abuts residential areas. While development can be beneficial, we must consider how it impacts our housing stock, traffic flow and its developmental impact to neighborhoods. Elected representatives must pay attention to the integrity of all our neighborhoods and seek solutions that balance the needs and concerns of neighborhoods. As we are a landlocked community, the ever-increasing demands of delivering services the citizens desire will present challenges to the needs of revenue generation that economic development provides. My finance experience in government and the private sector uniquely qualifies me to balance these needs.