Delaware voters Nov. 7 face a choice between adding a new voice to City Council or returning three incumbents to the city's at-large council seats.
Councilman George Hellinger and Vice Mayor Kent Shafer, both of whom have served on council since November 2013, will seek new terms, as will Mayor Carolyn Riggle, who has served on council since 2003. The trio is being challenged by 23-year-old newcomer Dustin Nanna, a caretaker for people with developmental disabilities.
According to Delaware County Board of Elections records, Christopher Bryan Cook, 45, and Laura Helena Roberts, 69, have been certified as write-in candidates in the race.
The election comes one year after voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to increase the city's income-tax rate from 1.85 percent to 2 percent to pay for road maintenance and improvements.
While all three incumbents pointed to the necessity of finding new funding for infrastructure, they also took lessons from the failed campaign.
Riggle, 60, said she thinks residents were uncomfortable approving a tax increase with no sunset provision.
"The biggest thing I've heard is they don't want a permanent tax, and I get it," she said.
Hellinger, 58, said some voters saw the permanent increase as a "blank check" for council. He said he was disappointed by the vote, but noted council likely will return to the ballot soon with a request to increase taxes for five or 10 years.
"The transportation issue is our biggest issue and it will continue to be that way," he said.
Shafer, 63, said city officials "clearly didn't do as good of a job as we thought we did" on communicating the need for a permanent tax. He said residents may respond better to a tax with an expiration date that can be renewed.
"I think the people want to see us prove that we're going to be good stewards," he said.
Nanna said if city officials choose to return to the voters, they should lay out exactly what improvements are planned and ask for the amount needed to complete those projects.
"I feel like a permanent tax increase is not the answer," he said.
Delaware's at-large council candidates have varied opinions on the parking situation in the city's downtown.
Riggle said circumstances aren't dire for folks who are fine with a bit of a hike.
"If you're willing to walk a couple blocks, you can usually find a spot," she said.
Riggle said updated signs and a mobile app to help residents find public parking spaces could be inexpensive tweaks that would help residents and visitors. She said she does not think building a parking garage would be a wise investment.
"Where would we put it?" she said. "We have a historic downtown and nobody would want to look at that concrete."
Hellinger said he views the idea of a downtown parking garage as far-fetched.
"That will never happen in our lifetime," he said. "There's just not the money (for it)."
Hellinger said finding ways to educate the public about available spots and tweaking time limits on certain lots and spaces are more-feasible solutions for improving the parking situation.
Shafer said the city already has taken an important initial step by commissioning a parking study and creating an action plan with short- and long-term goals. He said a parking garage may seem unlikely now, but added it could be a solution if the city's population and downtown continue to grow.
"We should be looking down the road," he said.
Nanna said he thinks a garage could be a viable solution for downtown Delaware. He said the city at some point should ask voters if they agree.
"I don't want to speak for everyone in town and say we should have a parking garage," he said.
Delaware City Council on Oct. 23 approved legislation allowing residents to carry and consume alcohol outdoors after purchasing it from businesses within the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area in select circumstances. Under the legislation, DORA rules take effect only during special events, and the district's boundaries are limited to an area surrounding North Sandusky Street.
Hellinger was the lone council member to vote against establishing the DORA. He said he thought it would have minimal benefits for downtown businesses and could set a bad example for children about the importance of alcohol.
"I just don't see the value in it," he said. "I see the potential for more negative things happening than positive things."
Shafer said he supported the legislation because feedback from businesses owners and residents largely was positive. He said city officials will revisit the decision after initial DORA events take place.
"We certainly don't have to continue to do it if it doesn't prove beneficial," he said.
Riggle said plenty of family-friendly venues -- from theme parks to zoos -- sell alcohol. She said she thinks the DORA can benefit local businesses without taking away from the downtown's quaint atmosphere.
"I think the DORA is a great idea to enhance our downtown," she said.
Nanna, who serves as the communications director with the Libertarian Party of Ohio, said he describes his views as fiscally conservative and socially liberal. He said those views led him to support the DORA.
"I think it would be a good thing," he said. "Adults are responsible enough to have a drink and walk around."