Five candidates are seeking three seats on the Nov. 5 ballot for Canal Winchester City Council.
Incumbents Bob Clark and council Vice President Mike Walker are being challenged by Scott Conner, Chuck Milliken and Randy Stemen.
Each candidate was asked to weigh in on three questions posed by ThisWeek Canal Winchester Times. Stemen did not respond to several attempts to reach him.
What is the greatest challenge/need facing the city and, if elected, how would you address it?
Clark: I believe that proper and balanced planning is the greatest challenge facing our city. As City Council's representative to the CWICC (Canal Winchester Economic Development Committee), I think it is imperative that we attract our share of jobs to increase revenue for city services, so that we can keep taxes low for residents. We offer a 100% tax credit on income taxes for individuals who work outside our city but live in Canal Winchester. To do that, we must continue to attract new jobs so that we have the revenue to pay for police, streets, parks and many other services the city funds. I opposed the largest single-family housing development proposed in the past 14 years. The main reason I opposed this was because developers were asking taxpayers to fund road improvements at the cost of $610,000.
Conner: I believe that the single most important need facing our city is public safety. We currently are served by the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office, and they do a great job; we just need more of them. We have had an ongoing speeding issue throughout our city and a recent uptick in theft. The majority of the city also falls within Madison Township Police jurisdiction. I would like to embrace them into our city to work alongside our deputies to assist in addressing our needs. I am a believer in that all forms of government should work cohesively together to better serve the community. I also see the need for more planned, controlled growth. We are a growing city and a very desirable place to live. I want to maintain our small-town feel, especially downtown, and ensure that the right infrastructure is in place to support our growth.
Milliken: I feel the greatest need for Canal Winchester is a recycling program that isn't an inconvenience to our residents.
Our waste-removal contract is up for renewal in 2020, and if it makes sense financially for the city and its residents, I would like to help usher in a new contract that includes curbside pickup.
Walker: Making sure we always have enough deputies and cruisers on every shift for the safety of our citizens. I would like to see a third-party review happen for the amount of deputies needed on all shifts. And based on the results of this review and the citizens' feedback, I will work hard to insure that we are always at the level we need to be. I had months ago spearheaded a meeting with Madison Township, and to my understanding, it is now in the hands of the county prosecutors to draft a memo of understanding for police coverage and where the charges will be filed. Our law director, mayor, some Madison Township police officers and the Madison Township administrator were also in attendance at this meeting. I was pleased to assist in getting this all moving in the right direction. This meeting was called together for us to receive more police coverage from the Madison Township Police Department for the tax dollars that the citizens are paying in Canal Winchester.
If elected, which city services/departments would you like to see expanded or changed and why?
Clark: I believe maintaining the right level of security personnel is vitally important. I would like to see an extensive study done to determine the proper amount of officers for our city.
I supported adding an officer to our security forces provided by the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office. I am open to adding more officers if research shows we need additional coverage. Also, the city parks would be high on my list of priorities. I was pleased to support legislation that was passed to establish our newest park, McGill Park. When complete, it will be the largest park in the city and have many first-class amenities.
Conner: I would like to expand on our current police services and our community watch program. I am a strong believer in proactive policing, and we need more people in uniform to address the needs of our city. I also would like to expand on our current recreational programs.
Being involved in sports and other extracurricular activities as a child, I know how important these programs are in shaping our youth. Lastly, I would like to bring in curbside recycling. I have been involved in (CW Recycles) that offers recycling drop-off on the first and third (Saturdays) of each month, and I have seen that program grow each week. This program has shown the need for recycling in our community.
Milliken: As we continue to grow, our public safety and law enforcement has to grow in stride. A majority of fellow residents that I speak with are concerned about our current level of law enforcement. I believe we do a great job making our residents feel safe. However, we need to be vigilant about monitoring our public-safety solutions. I would be in favor of expanding our current law enforcement program so long as it would not require a large financial strain.
Walker: The (Fairfield County) sheriff's department, depending on the results of the third-party review and our citizens feedback.
To always make sure sure we have enough deputies on all shifts for the safety of the citizens.
How do you plan to involve residents in the decision-making process in your community?
Clark: I spearheaded a rule change necessary to permit a new format that will allow all seven council members to be present in a town-hall style meeting to be held quarterly. It will permit conversation to flow back and forth between residents and all council members. Before this change, only three members were able to meet in this type of meeting format.
Conner: I believe in transparency in all forms of government. I think the best way to involve our community in decision-making is to be approachable and available to speak to anyone, anywhere. I welcome the opportunity to have more town-hall style meetings and community coffees.
I look forward to being the voice for our community on City Council.
Milliken: I would like to take a proactive approach to involving our residents. My goal is to actively engage members of this community. In order for me to make a decision on what is best for our community, I have to seek out the community and solicit their input.
Most candidates will knock on your door prior to their election. Don't be surprised if I knock on your door after I'm elected.
Walker: I was pleased to support efforts made by City Council to organize a town-hall, more-casual-type meeting where all seven council members can be present at the same time for the citizens to engage.