Five candidates have their sights set on a quartet of open Grandview Heights City Council seats, and it's up to voters to decide who gets them.
The five hopefuls are former councilman Dan Headapohl; incumbents Greta Kearns, Anthony Panzera and Chris Smith; and first-time candidate Melanie Houston.
A sixth candidate, Nicholas Pavlik, dropped out of the race, saying his position as official spokesman for Huntington Bank would cause a conflict of interest.
ThisWeek Tri-Village News asked each candidate to respond to two questions. Here are their answers.
Why are you running for office?
Headapohl: Community involvement is something I get satisfaction out of, no matter how big or small the project. The sense of accomplishment by getting citizens involved in this community is eye-opening. I have been fortunate enough to work with talented people in the private sector as well as in government. Learning from others and passing along their expertise to the Grandview community is very rewarding.
Houston: I am running for Grandview Heights City Council because I want to build upon the qualities that make our community so special. I am eager to listen and ready to lead. As a mother and someone who has spent the better part of her career fighting for Ohio's families, I will bring a fresh perspective to City Council. My top priority as a council member will be protecting children and investing in families. I will be a thoughtful and measured voice on council, and I will work every day to represent the concerns of my fellow community members.
Kearns: I believe community is important and I love our community. I work to unite, not divide. I have been an attorney for 20 years and have the right professional skills to be a leader in city government. I can advocate, negotiate, analyze, evaluate, communicate, build consensus and make sound, rational judgments about complex situations. I remain calm and cool under pressure and always try to do the right thing, which often means persisting through a lengthy, arduous process. I welcome dialogue with residents and always consider and weigh every bit of public input -- that is what makes government work.
Panzera: It's been a great journey and an honor to serve on council for the past 16 years. I am proud and humbled to work with an outstanding group of dedicated colleagues -- it's an awesome team. Together with the combined leadership, fiscal efforts, passion and vision, our "friendly little city" is better than ever. I want to continue our efforts to make sure that Grandview Heights stays strong and successful for the next generations that will also call it home.
Smith: My goal in attaining re-election to Grandview Heights City Council is to continue the progress I and my colleagues have made in accomplishing economic growth while maintaining the sense of community for which Grandview Heights is known. While on council, we have renegotiated the Grandview Yard Development Agreement, providing at least 3,500 new jobs and accompanying revenue to the city as well as millions of dollars in infrastructure while maintaining and enhancing safety and public services. As a member of the Finance Committee, I was able to help formulate the investments for much-needed infrastructure throughout Grandview Heights. I also helped facilitate an agreement to cut the municipal income tax. All of this was done while employing fiscal responsibility in order to help Grandview Heights maintain its AAA bond rating. As Central Ohio Transit Authority liaison, I fought hard to save a commuter bus line that goes through the city to downtown Columbus that was threatened for elimination. I value constituent services and want to continue to work hard for our residents.
Economic growth while maintaining the city's core attributes and values, continued investment while using fiscal discipline and working hard on constituent services is what I value and want to continue for four more years.
What do you consider the top two issues facing the city in 2018 and how would you deal with them?
Headapohl: Development -- The school district has embarked on an ambitious process to address the deferred maintenance of its buildings. In general, I believe the school buildings require significant investment to bring them into the 21st century. However, I believe that specific options to generate potential win-win options -- for example, by exploring ways in which the city and school district could share certain spaces -- have not been fully vetted. Citizens are feeling financial stress from the recent increase in real-estate property valuations and need to know that all public officials are working together in their best interest.
City services -- I think that city services and facilities are a top priority facing the city in 2018. The building in which the firefighters, police officers and municipal staff work in every day to serve and protect us should be safe, healthy and modern. Fiscal responsibility is always a concern; funding collaboration between the school district and city needs to explored so citizens can expect productive long-range results. Given the desire to maintain Grandview as a diverse community where both retired folk and young professionals can live and work means finding creative ways to finance projects without placing a tax burden on households.
Houston: Maintaining the qualities that define our community as we grow -- As we grow and develop our city leaders, must ensure that we are not losing the qualities that make Grandview a sought-after community. The Grandview Yard has provided real economic benefits to Grandview, boosting income-tax revenues for the city and for Grandview's schools. Still, residents are justified in their concerns about how the continued build-out of the Yard and other developments will affect the schools, city services and infrastructure. If elected to City Council, I will advocate for the city to pursue an updated vision and strategic plan for our growth and development. This strategic planning should be informed by community input and by actual data and current trends.
Collaboration between city leaders and the school board -- This year, Grandview Schools' leadership has undertaken and engaged the community in a school facilities planning process. This has resulted in a $45 million to $50 million proposal to the school board to renovate the elementary and high school and to build a new middle school. The next steps are to figure out how to finance the proposal. I believe that city leaders should make efforts to communicate and work more closely with school board members in 2018 and beyond. Collaboration between the school board and City Council has not been a tradition. I believe that this needs to change given the strong link between the community and the schools. If elected to council, I would lead efforts to improve communication with the school board. Such collaboration could lead to efficiencies such as facility sharing and joint financial planning to make sure that residents' hard-earned taxpayer dollars are going as far as possible
Kearns: City government is at a crossroads and needs to invite residents to choose the vision and priorities for Grandview over the next 20 years. This encompasses all the major issues facing the community -- from ensuring the school district remains strong to responsibly managing private development to planning and stewardship for our municipal facilities to recreational programming for current and future residents. I personally invite every resident to get involved and help shape Grandview's future.
The next step is for the city to initiate a facilitated public visioning process similar to what the schools have done, but the scope is much broader than facilities. We are not only building buildings -- we are envisioning the type of community we want to be and establishing our core values that will get us there.
Grandview is a landlocked urban suburb and remarkable for overall quality of life, location, excellent schools, high levels of services and residents who both care deeply and get things done. We have stable revenue and tax base as well as a AAA rating and bonding capacity to perform substantial capital improvements. But we also face rampant development outside of our borders, market pressures to develop the remaining land we have, infrastructure pressures, limited economies of scale, demographic change and limited opportunities for growth of our tax base due to our size. And we are part of a much larger region wrestling with a host of opportunities and challenges such as transportation, regional infrastructure and economic development.
As city leaders, we need residents to tell us the community's vision for the future and establish our common values and principles so we can shape policy. I am excited about this process. We are accountable to the public; local government works for you.
Panzera: Infrastructure and facilities. The focus on the city's capital improvement plan set priority on infrastructure and streets, then our public parks and municipal pool. In the past several years, we have completed critical infrastructure investments and badly needed capital improvements at Pierce Field, Wyman Woods and of course, the fantastic new pool, which opened in May 2017. Next, we will commit to city facilities, including our service/streets department, police and fire and our City Hall. This will be a multiyear process to execute, and we will begin this planning before the end of 2017.
As with the other recent capital improvements completed, effective development efforts and prudent fiscal policy should fund the new facilities without an increase in taxes.
Smith: Two of the more important issues facing the city are continued investment in infrastructure (roadways, water and sewer lines, etc.) and composing a plan to deal with aging public buildings. We have done a tremendous job in infrastructure investment since I have been on council, especially in light of increased revenue that Grandview Heights is experiencing with the Grandview Yard redevelopment. This progress needs to continue. Now that the city has been experiencing increased revenue, aging buildings will need to be updated, remodeled and replaced. An overall strategy needs to be developed in this regard.
The first priority should be a replacement of the fire department facilities. All of this investment needs to be done while practicing fiscal responsibility. As a member of the Finance Committee, my colleagues and I have maintained fiscal discipline while making needed infrastructure investments. This has contributed to the city's AAA bond rating.