Following the Nov. 7 Upper Arlington City Council election, those chosen to hold four seats say there remains a need to engage and unify a divided community.
For a city and its residents who often tout the idyllic qualities of the community -- from the quality of schools and public services to low crime, fiscal stability and even its stock of trees -- Upper Arlington has seen no shortage of controversies in recent years.
They've included skirmishes over a proposal to build private offices on land outside the Municipal Services Center and other proposed developments throughout the city, a decision to scrap the Upper Arlington police and fire divisions' 911 dispatch center, the redevelopment of Northam Park, how vacancies on council can be filled and whether the public should be privy to a council conversation about the city's decision to outsource 911 dispatching services to the Dublin-based Northwest Regional Emergency Communications Center.
With those instances in mind and the notion that feuds between city leaders and a portion of the community still simmer, those elected to council Nov. 7 echoed calls for better transparency, community engagement and civility that city officials have promised since at least the January 2016 State of the City Address.
"Our community is still divided and there are those that don't feel their voices are being heard, but as I promised during the campaign, I want to be part of the solution in bringing our community together," said Brian Close, the top vote-getter in the eight-way race for four council seats. "I look forward to working together with the other council members and the city administration to restore civility, foster reconciliation and bring positive leadership to our great community."
According to unofficial results from the Franklin County Board of Elections, Close received 7,691 votes (17 percent), followed by Jim Lynch with 7,350 (16.66 percent), Kip Greenhill with 6,908 (15.66 percent) and Michele Hoyle with 6,725 (15.24 percent).
Those numbers were enough to re-elect Greenhill and to elect three others to seats being vacated by John C. Adams, who chose not to seek re-election, and Debbie Johnson and David DeCapua, both of whom were ineligible to run due to term limits.
Also on the Nov. 7 ballot were Michaela Burriss, who received 5,672 votes (12.86 percent), Bob Foulk with 4,666 votes (10.58 percent), Omar Ganoom with 4,130 votes (9.36 percent) and Lowell Toms with 979 votes (2.2 percent), according to unofficial results.
With three new members joining the seven-person council, Lynch said now is the time to bring forward "new ideas to improve communications, citizen engagement and civility, which are essential in our ability to keep our community on a competitive path."
"I believe voters are hungry for new ideas and an improved way of interacting with council and know all of us elected understand the importance of getting this done," he said.
Greenhill has weathered development controversies such as one currently brewing over a plan to build a J. Liu restaurant and the city's second hotel on West Lane Avenue. He did not publicly call for the release of the disputed council audio recording from a January 2017 retreat until after Foulk successfully petitioned the Ohio Court of Claims to require the city to give the redacted portion of the recording to the court so Clark could determine if the withheld conversation qualified as attorney-client privilege.
During his latest campaign, however, Greenhill called for council's meetings to be video recorded and broadcast live via the internet, and recommended that a moderator be used to settle the dispute between developers for the J. Liu project and residents who oppose it.
"I believe the first task for our city government is to work on coming together," Greenhill said. "The divisiveness in our community is not acceptable."
He said the city needs to "develop a resident-created vision of what we want our city to be and look like in 10 years," which he believes will help bring the community together by discussing areas of common ground.
"As I look at the (election) results, I believe they indicate that the community expects to be more engaged in the future planning and direction of our city," he said. "I don't think our community will ever settle for less than that level of engagement from candidates.
"Residents expect to be heard and it is our duty to follow through on that expectation throughout our terms in office."
Hoyle was the lone council-elect member who didn't emphasize outreach and community unification in her post-election comments.
She said her focus will be on long-term financial planning and "providing funding to balance the services and amenities that young families value with the needs of those who wish to age in place.
"So my first priority will be to study the city's budget in depth and become well versed on the state of UA's finances," she said.
Hoyle added that the council election results and the passage of Issue 43, which included a $230 million bond to build a new high school and renovate five elementary buildings "signal a new day in Upper Arlington."
"I believe the electorate sent a clear message that we believe in our city and our future, and that we want the city to move forward as we enter our second century," she said.