Five Democrats are competing in that party's May 2 primary for the chance to make the November general election ballot for seats on Reynoldsburg City Council.
The list includes former council member Cornelius McGrady III and newcomers Stacie Baker, Kristin Bryant, Kelly Cruse and John Stearns.
The three top vote-getters in the primary election will move on to the November race, when residents will decide which of six candidates -- three Democrats and three Republicans -- will fill three at-large seats on council.
Baker, 35, is a policy consultant. He and his wife, Latasha, have one son.
He earned a bachelor's degree from Ohio State University and is currently working on a master's degree at Ohio University.
Baker is a member of the Licking County Democratic Executive Committee and formerly was secretary of the Franklin County Young Democrats and the Franklin County Democrats executive and central committees.
Bryant, 47, is an attorney and small-business owner. She has a 24-year-old son who attended Reynoldsburg City Schools. She earned a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University and post-graduate and law credits from the University of Oklahoma. Her law degree is from Capital University.
She was appointed in 2015 and elected in 2016 to be Reynoldsburg's Ward 1 representative on the Franklin County Democratic Party Central Committee.
Cruse, 42, is an insurance agent and business consultant. She is a 1992 graduate of Reynoldsburg High School. She earned an associate degree in business administration, a bachelor's degree in public relations and a master's degree in marketing and communication, all from Franklin University.
She is a director for the Reynoldsburg Area Chamber of Commerce and is Reynoldsburg's Ward 4 representative on the Franklin County Democratic Party Central Committee.
McGrady, 64, is former member of Reynoldsburg City Council. He also is a three-tour combat veteran and a retired accountant examiner for the state of Ohio. He and his wife, Connie, have two sons who graduated from Reynoldsburg High School.
McGrady studied at Columbus State and Franklin University. He is a former trustee and vice president of the West Licking Joint Fire District board. He founded the Reynoldsburg Youth Human Trafficking Coalition and is on the advisory board for Keep Reynoldsburg Beautiful.
Stearns, 35, is a 1999 graduate of Reynoldsburg High School and is a new-hire trainer at a health care company in Columbus. He and his wife, Crystal, have two young children, ages 8 and 4.
He earned degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Franklin University, in communications and social media design, respectively. This election is his first experience running for a public office or committee.
ThisWeek posed several questions to all candidates. The Democrats' responses are below. Republican candidates' responses appeared in the April 13 edition of ThisWeek Reynoldsburg News.
What are the top three issues or challenges facing the city of Reynoldsburg?
Baker: The top three issues are safety, economic development and infrastructure. A lack of vision in the current makeup of City Council has left the city with infrastructure that is crumbling and in need of repairs, such as city roads and water pipes. I do believe Reynoldsburg is a thriving city where people want to establish roots. Safety must be a part of our discussions because of an increase in homicides in the city. More is needed to elevate the resources currently used to protect the city.
Bryant: Safety: Our safety forces are not at full strength; they lack updated equipment and our city is at an all-time high in homicides and shots-fired calls. Infrastructure: Our city sidewalks are crumbling, our water and sewer systems are out of date and the traffic flow in and out of town is clogged. Workforce development: There has been a lack of economic development, which has caused a deficiency in our tax base and impaired the city's growth. We need new businesses with meaningful salaries to revitalize our city and broaden our income tax base.
Cruse: Safety: As Reynoldsburg continues to grow, the police force is down officers and plagued with morale issues. The force needs to add additional officers and have a thorough review of the current policies and procedures. Infrastructure: Many city streets need maintenance. Several buildings, both vacant and occupied, are showing signs of decay. Economic development: The city has lost several businesses and millions of dollars in tax revenue. We need to fill the vacant buildings and bring new businesses to Reynoldsburg. A five- and ten-year plan needs to be developed, implemented and regularly evaluated and adjusted.
McGrady: Public safety: Building strong relationships of mutual trust is critical to maintaining public safety and effective policing. Infrastructure: Our roads are the corridors and indicators of our city. Our current status represents a lack of vision, economic development and modernization that must be addressed. Resident property devaluation: We should establish a healthy neighborhood program that enables renters to purchase. Such a program would positively impact quality of life and residential value.
Stearns: The top three issues are infrastructure, lack of businesses and lack of community voice. The roads are in need of repair and are littered with potholes. New businesses that would be conducive to the growth of the city are not finding their way in; however, check-cashing places and dollar stores are popping up every day. I feel the community has lost its voice in the sense that they are not being heard when it comes to what they would like to see happen in Reynoldsburg.
If the income tax issue fails, what can be done to shore up city finances?
Baker: The City Council should go back to the drawing board to re-evaluate and prioritize and come up with a solution on how to generate funds. One of the things I will push once elected is to create a long-term plan that can grow city finances and create a positive identity for the city. The city of Reynoldsburg has lost millions of dollars due to laissez-faire style of leadership on council. I will work to make sure our neighborhoods are safe, create the funds needed to fix infrastructure and create economic development to strengthen our community.
Bryant: We need to collaborate with surrounding municipalities to share resources and look toward federal, state and local grants. We need to work with our state and federal legislators to seek opportunities for our city to encourage economic growth so we can restore our income tax base, which has become depleted due to the loss of business and the state balancing their budget.
Cruse: Responsible spending and economic development will be the keys to the city's financial issues. We must review the books and ensure that all current spending is in the best interest of the city. This should include an evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of R.I.T.A. Bringing new business, with higher wage opportunities, will be a long-term key. A solid economic development plan can start producing fairly quickly. Even if the income tax issue passes, this is still an important step. If we rely on the new taxes alone, the city will find itself in the same situation down the line.
McGrady: We should bond-fund our projects and dialogue with our congressional, state representatives and county commissioners for financial assistance in securing grant funding to ease our tax burden. This is something long overdue. As a last resort, reduce the tax credit by 50 percent. Passage of this initiative would generate $3.5 million annually to begin addressing some of the much-needed issues in our city.
Stearns: If the tax issue fails, the city should take advantage of outside funding. This would include federal, state and philanthropic assistance. There are many grants that are out there and would assist with some of the needs of the city, and if the money is utilized correctly, more personal interest will be gained and you will begin to see more private investment, because people will realize that the community vision is being supported. Community-created financial and incentive programs would help as well.