Although the race for three seats on Upper Arlington City Council is uncontested, voters had a chance last week to hear their soon-to-be council members' thoughts on several issues affecting the city.
Although the race for three seats on Upper Arlington City Council is uncontested, voters had a chance last week to hear their soon-to-be council members’ thoughts on several issues affecting the city.
During a Leadership UA-organized candidates’ debate Oct. 20 at the Municipal Services Center, council candidates Don Leach, Mike Schadek and Erik Yassenoff fielded a number of questions from moderator Ed Seidel Jr., discussing such issues as Upper Arlington’s safety services, the relationship between economic growth and residential needs, and how they intend to fill another seat on city council recently vacated by council member Wade Steen.
During the forum, Seidel questioned the three men on how Upper Arlington should examine its infrastructure needs, and whether more funding than currently allocated (about $5 million yearly) should be considered.
“I think that’s something we should look at, and if it’s something we would do then we would need to hold hearings and get public input, find out how important that is to the community,” Leach said.
“The reality is we live in an aging community in terms of infrastructure, which is like living in an old house. There is deferred maintenance, that’s reality. We have to address it, and that will be a challenge for us.”
“There’s no easy answer to this,” Yassenoff said. “We do have an aging infrastructure, and we have a roughly $40 million EPA mandate coming along in a couple of years that we’ll have to comply with, especially in south Arlington.
“We have a Triple-A bond rating right now,” he said. “As much as I’d hate to carry more debt, we need to take advantage of that and repair what we have, not only for our current residents but our future residents, and exploring a bond package definitely needs to be considered.”
When asked what sort of emphasis the city should place on promoting economic development, and how it should handle the vacant position of economic development director, Schadek said the city needs to tap its community resources.
“You’ve got to put your money where your mouth is, and we need good people out there willing to do the hard work,” Schadek said. “I think the priority is (a full-time economic development director) working in conjunction with the city manager, but again we’ve got to tap our resources.
“We’ve got business leaders like no other in this community. We need to actively engage those who live here about how we can be more competitive, because right now UA doesn’t have the greatest reputation for growing business and being business friendly.”
Yassenoff said the city needs a face for economic development, but that the city’s supporting organizations need to stay engaged in the process, as well.
“This is really two issues – attracting economic development, but also retaining businesses,” Yassenoff said. “I think we’ve done a fantastic job of attracting businesses; we’ve done a mediocre job of retaining businesses.”
Seidel asked the candidates how they would handle development that would affect residential neighbors.
“The issues are always challenges, but we are first and foremost a residential community,” Leach said. “Fifteen percent of our property is devoted to commercial, and I don’t see us changing that dramatically. I’m not in favor of changing that dramatically. We have a residential community. We need to take best advantage of the economic opportunities we have, without damaging that residential nature.”
“I think the focus often has to be compromise. Things don’t always have to be black and white,” Schadek said. “Yes, we have to make a decision, but I think we as a council and as a city have an obligation to bring all parties to the table and at least allow them to have their views heard.
“That might not always have happened in the past,” he said, “but I think it needs to be a priority in the future. Everybody needs a voice – we’re a city of neighborhoods; that’s our priority. That’s why I live in Upper Arlington. It’s a special place. That being said, the focus has to be on compromise.”
Yassenoff said that economic development near or abutting residential properties has resulted in difficult issues for the city, but that there are some parts of town that need to be considered more seriously for development.
“I also get frustrated about certain parts of the community that are plum for economic development that we don’t really take advantage of,” he said.
“(U.S. Route) 33, I constantly think there’s an opportunity there, and there’s very little residential impact along 33, especially the portion between Lane and Fifth. Henderson Road, there are a lot of opportunities there. So there are areas of the community that I feel are underdeveloped, that don’t abut residential property, that we really need to take a stronger, serious look at in the future.”