(Audio from last Thursday’s Medina Mayor Forum is available above.)
Medina mayoral candidates speak out on issues
Citizens provide questions about downtown, economic development
By Logan Watson
Mayor Vance Coleman, Steve Murphy and Alderwoman Piper Jenkins stood before more than 100 Medina residents last Thursday night to lay out their vision for the city and address some hot-button issues facing the bedroom community.
“Our goal here was for everyone to get to know our candidates,” said Bradley Owens, who moderated the forum. “We want to know what they would do in these situations. This is not a debate.”
The candidates introduced themselves, then briefly explained their plans for the city. Jenkins’ opening remarks offered her supporters ‘leadership they could trust’, stating that her time serving the city on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and as Alderwoman had “opened her eyes” to certain problems in the city. Murphy stated that he has plans to “grow Medina so that no one has to travel to Jackson,” and also to create a safe community that students can return to and raise a family. Mayor Coleman told those in attendance that he would continue the stability, leadership and growth that the city has experienced over his 12 years in office.
A number of the 13 questions asked of the candidates centered around revitalizing the city and its economy, specifically the Downtown area. Jenkins stated that while highways have helped many cities expand, they have caused many downtown areas to deteriorate. She stated that she would like to expand the park downtown and also clean up the surrounding neighborhoods to potentially aid in attracting investors, but also because it was important for citizens to do their part in keeping the city beautiful. According to Jenkins, the parks have come along well, but are being fully utilized and the city would need more land opportunities to expand the facilities. Jenkins also stated that economic growth would happen in time, but that she felt her supporters did not want factories to move into the area. She stated that she would encourage more retail growth and would be open to the citizens for input as to what businesses they would like to see in Medina.
Steve Murphy also stated that he felt the next mayor should be active in recruiting businesses and supporting those that have been a part of the city. He stated that while the city is growing in terms of population, the growth of retail businesses is lagging behind. Murphy also stated that he would like to see more attention given to the downtown area, as housing codes are not being enforced. Murphy stated that some downtown homes looked “abandoned”, which encourages crime and that the poor appearance is bringing down property values in the city, especially those houses located next to businesses. Murphy stated that he would seek grants for homeowners to assist in cleanup of their properties. Murphy also told the crowd that he would look into expanding the parks with stations to help keep kids healthy, as well as additions such as a bike lane or a disk golf course.
Mayor Coleman stated that he, too, would love to renovate the downtown area, but that space was limited due to the fact that the railroad owns much of the prime property in the older part of the city. The mayor stated, however, that there had been several additions to the downtown area during his administration, including the Hornet’s Nest museum inside the old Civic Center and the Farmer’s Market. Mayor Coleman also stated that his first act when he took office was to work on expanding and improving Lion’s Park, which is located downtown. Coleman told the crowd that he was committed to the Gibson County Special School District, and that their use of the parks saved the district a hefty sum of money. He also stated that he was proud of the fact that 65 new businesses had come to the city during his administration and that, while retail growth would come to the city, it was up to the residents of Medina to support the businesses that come to the city.
Safety was also a concern among the candidates, some of which felt that traffic in the area of the schools needed to be more controlled. Murphy and Jenkins both stated that traffic should be directed by someone on the scene. Murphy suggested police at the high-traffic intersections, while Jenkins stated that crossing guards would free up police officers to focus on other parts of the city. Murphy and Jenkins also supported the creation of neighborhood watch programs to assist the police in investigating and preventing crime, but Murphy called for more transparency in the city’s police department, stating that he would bring transparency to the department and let the citizens know what is going on in the community. Jenkins stated that she would work with the police and fire departments to help them find money and prepare for their inevitable expansion. Mayor Coleman stated that he would continue to work with the police and fire departments, possibly expanding both as the city continues to grow.
The candidates also explained their first priorities as mayor, should they be elected to the office, and what they felt the biggest issue would be for the city as they moved forward. Jenkins staed that she would work with the various city departments to make sure they have everything they need to do their jobs effectively. She stated that citizens do not feel that their opinions are important to the city’s current leadership, and that she would open her doors to the public. Jenkins felt that traffic issues would be the biggest concern to the city in the next four years, stating that she would work with the city to determine the best routes to and from schools as the city continued to grow. Murphy stated that while there were several issues within the city that needed to be addressed, such as involving the community in city business, that he would make sure all of the city departments were on the same page. Murphy felt that keeping the city safe as it grew would be an uphill battle as the city grew, but that he would do his best to implement plans at all levels of public safety, from police transparency and training to crosswalks and neighborhood watch programs. Mayor Coleman stated that his first priority upon reelection would be to continue to provide the city with the same level of service he has shown in the last 12 years, recruiting businesses and taking care of the parks. While the mayor felt that school traffic would be an issue as the new elementary school neared completion, Coleman stated that increased traffic showed growth and was “a good problem to have.”
Early voting will begin on Wednesday, October 19. Voters may cast their ballots at the Gibson County Election Commission office inside the courthouse in Trenton or at Medina City Hall Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., or on Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.