The following responses from each Hilliard City Council candidate to four questions posed by ThisWeek are complete and unedited.
1. Hilliard leaders have convened a charter-review commission. Two of its expected topics are a potential switch to a city-manager form of government to replace the current "strong-mayor" form and the elimination of partisan seats on Hilliard City Council. What is your stance on both topics?
Tom Baker: I SUPPORT THE REVIEWING OF THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF A CITY MANAGER FORM OF GOVERNMENT AND FROM WHAT I KNOW AT THIS TIME I BELIEVE THE ADVANTAGES WOULD CAUSE ME TO SUPPORT IT.
I'M FOR NONE PARTISAN ELECTIONS AT THE LOCAL LEVEL.
Les Carrier: I strongly support transition to a city manager/Executive form of government. We need full time, qualified leadership, focused on serving our community.
I support the elimination of partisan elections at the local level.
Kelly McGivern: I support the review of our Charter which is the framework for our community. I will rely on the Commission to look at all sides of the issues, receive public input and make recommendations back to Council on their findings. Ultimately, it will be voters that will decide which type of government they prefer and whether partisan elections are getting in the way of effectively leading our city. I do support a vote of the people and our residents deciding their own fate. Do they want to give up their right to decide who should lead the city and leave that decision into the hands of those they elect for City Council? That might give too much power to members of City Council. However, Hilliard is growing and whether we have a strong mayor or city-manager - it is definitely a full time job and the person in that role needs administrative experience and be committed full time to the position.
Chad Queen: First, I commend Hilliard's current leadership for assembling a long overdue charter-review commission. Both of the expected topics, that you mentioned, I would agree, will most likely be visited My stance on this issue, and really any issue in Hilliard, is that I will not push my wants on Hilliard and in government. I want to listen to the thoughts of every opinion I can gather and then be the voice for those opinions.
I believe it is important that leadership in local government is held accountable for their choices. In Hilliard, we do that by keeping our current system of governance.
As to the question of partisanship in council, I am in favor of continuing on in our current fashion as well. While local government is rarely about any party's wider ideology, I believe a person's party affiliation can give you an idea into who they are and what they believe in. I am a proud Democrat and I hope that someone can look at that "D" next to my name and know that I believe in an inclusive and welcoming Hilliard, and that Hilliard will be better when we grow our community together.
Sarah Schregardus: One of Hilliard’s greatest assets has always been its residents and their loyalty to their community. The charter-review commission has been appointed after a lengthy vetting process, and I trust the process enough to believe they will diligently review both of these issues and come to an educated decision.
I think that a decision changing from a mayor to city manager form of government needs to be made after evidence-based studies and then the recommendation put to voters. Because in the end, it will be voters who chose to trust their city council members to choose a city manager, or continue to believe in voting for a mayor to lead this city.
With regards to whether Hilliard should continue to have partisan elections, I believe that voters should be able to have as much knowledge as possible about the people they are voting for. I believe having people of different viewpoints in a legislative body like city council is essential to representing the entire community. While I do not believe that one’s political affiliation should define them, I do think that giving voters some indication of the candidates’ values is important.
Andy Teater: I support the City switching to a City Manager form of government. Council would hire the City Manager to administer the daily operations of the City. This type of agreement would compel the administration and council to work together to advance the goals of the City. In our recent history there has been too much divisiveness between the administration and Council. This has been inefficient and to the detriment of our city. A City Manager – Council relationship would be similar to the relationship between the School Board and Superintendent. I have served on the school board for 12 years and even though the board and Superintendent do not always agree, this type of governance requires that we work together to do what is best for our community.
I would also support nonpartisan elections for City Council. Turnout is traditionally low in the council primaries and by holding nonpartisan elections more of our citizens would have a voice in selecting their public officials.
2. Last year's Issue 9 charter amendment prohibited emergency rezonings by City Council and the use of tax-increment-financing districts for developments with residential components. It also caused tension in the community, effectively pitting most of City Council and the city administration against school district officials, township leaders and others who formed the group Keep Hilliard Beautiful. The two sides even scheduled separate public forums at the same time and date in February. How should a council member approach this situation as a representative of the community?
Baker: AS A REPRESENTATIVE OF THIS COMMUNITY IT IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO LISTEN TO OUR RESIDENTS AND REACH OUT TO THEM FOR THEIR OPINIONS. WE NEED TO MAKE SURE OUR GOVERNMENT IS TRANSPARENT AND WE NEED TO MAKE SURE IT COMMUNICATES AND PROVIDES EASY ACCESS TO INFORMATION. CLEAR, CONSISE, AND CONSISTENT COMMUNICATION IS THE KEY TO A REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT THAT DESIRES TO LISTEN AND TAKE THE CONCERNS OF IT'S CITIZENS SERIOUSLY.
Carrier: As a leader working to stop taxpayer subsidies that support apartments, and preserving the community’s right to have a say in development decisions (Issue 9), I would encourage those who advocated for more taxpayer subsidized apartment complexes to stop treating apartment development as a form of commercial development and listen to those we serve. Our community wants tax incentives used to create jobs, new development to create a win for everyone while lowering our overall tax burden, better connectivity/walkability and recreational opportunities, and improvements to our current roadways to reduce traffic. We can only get there with all of our community agencies working together and understanding each other’s challenges.
McGivern: Issue 9 was an opportunity for our community to weigh in on an important issue impacting the future of Hilliard. It is now time for all our leaders to work together on solutions to the problems our neighbors face. There are wonderful things happening in Hilliard such as the redevelopment of our downtown area with Hilliards’ Station Park, a new Hilliard Library that will be a destination location, the opening of Bo Jackson’s Elite Sports which is only their second location in the country, improvements underway to our East Pool, overhaul of many of our neighborhood roads and new opportunities for recreation and play. However, we have ongoing challenges as well such as maintaining the safety of our schools, keeping drugs out of our neighborhoods and addressing our aging infrastructure. We need to get politics out of the way of doing what is right for those we serve. If elected, I will continue to focus on ensuring positive communication with other elected officials and working to find common solutions that benefit our neighbors.
Queen: I've spoken to a lot of people as I've knocked on doors and the one issue that keeps coming up is the amount of apartment properties in Hilliard. While the value of apartment buildings is a different question, and as the adage goes, what's-done-is-done; the issue here is that our current leadership failed to listen and work for their neighbors. I will do that.
This is no different than any other in government and my approach isn't different than I mentioned in the first question. Hilliard needs a council that will listen and make government work in their best interest.
Schregardus: Last year's Issue 9 charter amendment prohibited emergency rezonings by City Council and the use of tax-increment-financing districts for developments with residential components. It also caused tension in the community, effectively pitting most of City Council and the city administration against school district officials, township leaders and others who formed the group Keep Hilliard Beautiful. The two sides even scheduled separate public forums at the same time and date in February. How should a council member approach this situation as a representative of the community?
Now more than ever, it is important for elected officials to have the trust of voters, as well as outside entities. Many residents of Hilliard do not trust that current leadership will represent their interests, and potential businesses don’t trust that City Council can get anything done. If elected, I plan to rebuild the integrity of City Council and provide a fresh perspective for potential development.
Teater: Keep Hilliard Beautiful was formed and issue 9 was placed on the ballot because City Council ignored the majority of the community and passed (6-1 with Carrier dissenting) a tax incentive for a developer to build apartments. Council then voted (again 6-1 with Carrier dissenting) to pass this as an emergency which removed the right of the community to challenge the previous vote by referendum. Issue 9 was not the City vs. the School Board and Townships. Issue 9 was about the Citizens of Hilliard insisting that the Mayor and City Council listen to the desires of the people. This was evidenced by the over one thousand people signing the petition to place Issue 9 before the voters and then the voters approving issue 9 by 72% in favor. I was proud to be a part of Keep Hilliard Beautiful and the positive changes that resulted from the grassroots campaign of all the people who were involved in the process.
3. In the past decade, numerous development projects (Landmark Lofts, the Britton Parkway corridor, new single-family and multifamily housing in locations all around the city, to name a few examples) have been completed or are underway. How have these changed Hilliard and what changes do you think they will bring in the future?
Baker: WE NEED MORE COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT, WE NEED TO SHORE UP OUR INFRASTRUCTURE, WE NEED TO CONCENTRATE ON QUALITY OF LIFE ISSUES LIKE RECREATIONAL SPACE, AND AMENITIES THAT ARE RESIDENTS DESIRE. I BELIEVE WE NEED TO STAND BACK AND SERIOUSLY CONSIDER ANY MORE RESIDENTIAL GROWTH UNTIL WE DO THE ABOVE. I DO NOT BELIEVE WE NEED ANY MORE APARTMENTS, AND THE MAJORITY OF OUR RESIDENTS AGREE. THE GROWTH OF ALL RESIDENTIAL HOUSING HAS NEGATIVE AND POSITIVE IMPACTS. THE POSITIVE IS BUSINESSES NEED HOUSING FOR THEIR GROWTH AND SUSTAINABILITY. MANY BUSINESSES ARE EXPERIENCING GROWTH AND THATS A GOOD IMPACT. THE PROBLEM WE ENCOUNTER IS THE PRESSURE ON OUR ROADWAY INFRASTRUCTURE WITH THE INCREASED TRAFFIC, PRESSURE ON OUR POLICE FORCE, FIRE & EMS SERVICES AND OUR SCHOOL SYSTEM.
Carrier: These changes will bring increased traffic and more demands for governmental services ( SCHOOLS, EMS, POLICE and FIRE ). I think the community will demand better amenities, more indoor recreational space, upgrades and additions to our current buildings and more meeting space for group interaction and activities.
McGivern: While these developments have helped to diversity the type of housing available to young adults, newly married couples, and others not yet ready to invest in real estate, we do not need any additional apartments in the community. Any additional housing should focus on price point options for our senior population and those looking to downsize. With the addition of 7,000 new jobs over the last 10 years, Hilliard needs to ensure we maintain opportunities for individuals to live, work and play locally.
Queen: I applaud any improvements and development Hilliard has made to our infrastructure. Outside of the roundabouts, it seems that most people are on the same page in this regard. I, however, believe too much of an emphasis has been made in growing the residential sector in Hilliard as opposed to the commercial sector. These short-sighted decisions shift the tax burden onto us rather than companies that we should be investing in. The kicker is that it's those companies, that we are not pursuing or developing, that will grow this community. It's time to put Hilliard's future first.
Schregardus: In the past decade, numerous development projects (Landmark Lofts, the Britton Parkway corridor, new single-family and multifamily housing in locations all around the city, to name a few examples) have been completed or are underway. How have these changed Hilliard and what changes do you think they will bring in the future?
Hilliard is a thriving, growing community and with that comes opportunity and challenges. This is why I believe that we need to have smart and sustainable development. Hilliard is, and always has been, a beacon for families, both young and old. Hilliard should continue to support its families, from school-aged to seniors. We are a welcoming community that supports all of its residents, and I want to continue that legacy.
Teater: Hilliard cannot continue to promote rapid residential growth which increases the need for services for the schools, city and townships, without an increase in commercial growth to help offset the tax burden of our current residents. We need to stop developing apartments and high density residential and focus on commercial development. Everyone is concerned about real estate taxes. Our school taxes are higher than Dublin’s. This is not because the Hilliard City School District is inefficient. In fact our District spends about 10% less per student than Dublin. The reason for the disparity is that Dublin has a more favorable commercial tax base. We need to slow down or stop developing apartments and residential until we can attract more business and industry to increase our commercial tax base. The rapid residential growth has increased traffic and stressed our infrastructure. We must continue to improve our roadways in order to help ease the congestion. Our population increase has also increased the need for City Services. We need to support our Safety services by hiring more Police Officers.
4. What else would you like to say to voters?
Baker: MY GOAL IS TO WORK TO CONTINUE TO MY EFFORTS TOWARD A MORE COLLABORATIVE APPROACH AND TO CONTINUE TO ENCOURAGE OPEN AND HONEST DISCUSSION BETWEEN THE CITY, THE SCHOOLS AND THE TOWNSHIPS. THE CHALLENGES WE FACE REQUIRE US TO BUILD RELATIONSHIPS OF TRUST.
Carrier: I have grown very concerned and more vocal about our current development policies in Hilliard We need to have a more balanced approach to growth, increasing our commercial tax base, while allowing our current infrastructure time to catch up to the thousands of new residential units being added to our community.
You can’t add this many new residents and new community events and not increase your police staff. I will continue to push for more police officers.
Additionally, I also believe we need to take a more regional approach to traffic development impact studies. Having a developer submit a study relative to the small area they may develop, or only requiring the developer to widen a small portion of a road, while ignoring the many other area residential units being built is short sighted. An example being – (½ mile to the northeast of Tarleton Meadows and the Buck Liesman development at Hayden run is Columbus development with approximately 1000 apartments coming north of Hayden run at Avery ); There is very little regional analysis and this piecemeal approach has, in my opinion, caused some of the issue we have now. We are a wonderful community, a destination community, but if you are stuck in traffic all the time, that community identity can quickly change. Continued accelerated residential development of the Darby Accord area will exacerbate all the issues highlighted above- (Traffic and the need for more tax levies and services). I advocate for balance, a more measured approach relative to residential growth.
I am very excited about our future, the things we can accomplish together, and have really tried to work hard and understand the needs of our community. I have tried to be as approachable, work hard, and make the right decisions. I hope you will give me a chance to keep working.
McGivern: As the only woman on Hilliard City Council, I know firsthand how the decisions government make impacts our families, neighbors and friends. Since moving to Hilliard, I have always been actively engaged in our community. Whether it was volunteering at my daughter schools or local events, serving on the Hilliard Community Foundation or being a founding member of Destination Hilliard, I have strived to make Hilliard a better place than it was yesterday. There are so many positive things happening in our city that we should celebrate. As Vice-President of Hilliard City Council I am proud of the following accomplishments:
Working with the Township to secure land, at no cost to residents, and dedicating a funding source for a potentially new fire station to support the growth to our west;
Serving on the Joint School/City Council Safety Committee that revealed the need to better train crossing guards and give them authority to report dangerous drivers;
Increasing the number of officers we have in Hilliard to combat emerging threats and keep our residents safe;
Dedicating additional resources to improve our roadways;
Supporting the location of businesses providing over 7000 jobs;
Securing state funding to help build First Responders Park;
Voting against proposed tax increases that would negatively impact our residents; and
Supporting the development of affordable senior housing options.
My priorities moving forward will be to ensure our police have the resources they need to keep our residents safe, address our aging infrastructure to address traffic concerns, seek grant opportunities that can help pay for new recreational facilities such as development of sports fields to generate alternative revenue for our city, focus on continuing to connect our neighborhoods to schools with bike/walking paths, supporting affordable senior living options, attracting new businesses with good paying jobs and pushing for efficiencies in government operations in an effort to lower the taxes our residents pay. I hope you agree with these priorities and vote for me on November 7.
Queen: The days of the good-ol'-boy network of Hilliard politics can be over. Let's move our community forward with candidates that will listen to your concerns, act on your behalf, and think of our future.
Schregardus: I am full of hope about the future of Hilliard, it is why my husband and I choose this community to raise our two boys. However, we need to make sure City Council reflects our community, and, right now there are too many with the same partisan affiliation. It's time for change in our local government to give a new voice in the conversations about Hilliard's future. I respectfully ask for voters' support to be that voice.
Teater: I am committed to helping our community work together for what is best for our Citizens. The City, School District and townships need to communicate and cooperate to help bring efficient services to our residents. Serving on the school board has been a tremendously rewarding experience. The District continues to be recognized as one of the best Districts in the State of Ohio. I believe the experience and work that I have dedicated to the school district has prepared me for City Council. While it is a difficult decision to leave the Board of Education, I am excited about a new opportunity to serve the Hilliard community.