Leadership, diversity, Creekside and how the outcome of Issue 2 would affect Gahanna were some issues touched on by local candidates during the Oct. 18 Servant Leadership Development Institute (SLDI) and Black In Gahanna's candidate forum.

Leadership, diversity, Creekside and how the outcome of Issue 2 would affect Gahanna were some issues touched on by local candidates during the Oct. 18 Servant Leadership Development Institute (SLDI) and Black In Gahanna’s candidate forum.

Candidates for council at-large, city attorney and mayor attended the forum moderated by SLDI president Sadicka White and vice president Anthony Redic.

White asked city attorney candidates Shane Ewald and Paul Leithart II if they would continue in their private practices or be more dedicated to the city if elected.

“My time would be what’s needed to get the job done,” Leithart said. “Hours aren’t important. I will maintain a private practice. It’s not unusual for me to delegate work. Gahanna will be a top priority.”

Ewald said he’s prepared to be in city hall from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We need someone in city hall for the deals that come through,” he said. “I’m a solo practitioner and don’t have to report to other partners. Deals happen quickly.”

An audience member asked candidates how the outcome of Issue 2, which is seeking to repeal Senate Bill 5 would affect the city.

Mayoral candidate Jim McGregor said SB 5, dealing with collective bargaining changes, has some serious problems. He served as a civil service supervisor before unionization and it was worse for the taxpayers and management, he said.

“Unionization has saved money over the old system,” McGregor said. “On the other hand, there are huge problems with it. Our hope, whatever happens on this, is that we have to do a better job. The state has to sit down and work together with employees and come up with a better solution, because neither is great. It’s a no-win for the taxpayer no matter what happens on this.”

According to council at-large candidate David Samuel, binding arbitration is what hurts the city.

“A lot of times arbitrators will look at comparable cities and come up with pay increases that Gahanna can’t afford,” he said. “That’s typical of what happens in other cities also. The other thing is that a large amount of money is spent on lawyers to deal with arbitrator events. And that will continue if things don’t change.”

At-large council candidate Ryan Jolley said the union system is established.

In education, you know that if cuts are going to be made with teaching staff, it will be the last person hired, he said.

“That’s not a good system but bottom line, you know where you fall in the pecking order and what will happen if cuts will be made,” Jolley said. “Under SB 5, whenever someone is laid off, particularly in education, they are going to get a lawyer and they’re going to sue. And the legal cost for a public entity for a city or school will skyrocket. Any cost savings you might have gained from a lower wage structure or benefit structure would be completely eradicated by legal fees alone.”

There are detrimental effects that can come from SB 5, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t good pieces in the bill, he said.

When asked about Creekside, most candidates expect economic recovery over time. The private portion of the public-private development was foreclosed upon.

At-large candidate Karen Angelou said it’s important Creekside is a success for residents.

“Our taxpayer dollars are invested in the parking garage and park areas,” she said. “The original Creekside was the park. That was the jewel there. It was a lovely place to be, dedicated in April of 2000.”

Angelou said she hopes the private portions are sold soon and the new owner should decide what will be there and what will make it profitable. “Government should stay out of the business of private enterprise,” she added.

Mayor Becky Stinchcomb said most people understand the business side of Creekside.

“It’s the private portion in foreclosure,” she said. “The public portion isn’t in foreclosure. We are in the process of getting all the rents that were due to us from the time it was opened. Rent is being paid now by the receiver and the owner happens to be Huntington Bank and Bank of America. All the taxes are being paid. The city isn’t out any money.”

Ray Kautz, seeking an at-large council seat, said Creekside isn’t what people expected from Gahanna.

“Some people like it and some don’t,” he said. “Creekside, in general, hasn’t been what has been expected. We have money invested and need to look long and hard at it. The area we have can be improved upon greatly. We need to make decisions that will impact the city in a positive manner.”

The economy tanked when Creekside opened, and Jolley said the retail portion will eventually be “a smashing success.”

As for finances, both McGregor and Stinchcomb agree the mayor needs to be accountable to the public.

“I also believe the mayor has to be visionary and look forward into the future,” Stinchcomb said. “The future is our children. That’s who we’re doing all this work for, our children and grandchildren. I believe in transparency of government and I’ve worked really hard to do that. I also know at 55 years of age what I know and what I don’t know. I know how important it is to surround myself with smart people who know more than I do and to listen to them.”

McGregor said Gahanna had a horrible reputation in the black community and Columbus in the 1960s and 1970s.

“Thank heavens we changed that,” he said. “It was my responsibility. I couldn’t shake that or delegate that. It was my duty to call people like Sadicka and say I need you in Gahanna. You need to come here. We had a well-integrated police department that has sort of disappeared. Recruiting hasn’t been done well recently except maybe in Sadicka’s department. It’s something you need to hold me accountable for, if I’m your next mayor.” McGregor served as Gahanna mayor from 1983-2001.

Stinchcomb said diversity is one of the reasons she moved to Gahanna.

“I wanted to raise my children in a diverse community, and I’m so grateful that I did,” she said. “ We have African-Americans, Hispanics and people of all different stripes all over city hall. Can we do better? Absolutely. We always can.”

For complete profiles on city officials and school board candidates in Gahanna, visit thisweeknews.com.