Heidi Samuel for Columbus Neighborhoods
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Debate comes up a candidate short
Thursday, November 1, 2007
ThisWeek Staff Writer

Columbus City Council candidate Heidi Samuel focused on the importance of neighborhoods in revitalizing the city, as what was meant to be a debate turned into a speech.

Samuel, a candidate for a two-year, unexpired term on council, spoke to the Clintonville Area Chamber of Commerce Oct. 25.

The chamber luncheon was scheduled to include a debate between Samuel and her opponent, Priscilla Tyson, who currently holds the seat. Chamber President Ernie Hartong said Tyson had committed to the debate, but her campaign called before the luncheon to cancel because of a scheduling conflict.

Samuel said she was disappointed in her opponent's absence, as a debate would have given voters an opportunity to compare candidates and formulate opinions.

"It's very difficult to do that if you don't have both parties present," Samuel said.
During her speech, Samuel, a former Eastmoor Civic Association president, said the city must work to meet neighborhoods' basic needs, such as safety, to ensure the city's success.

"Neighborhoods in the city are under great strain," Samuel said. "Until we address the basic needs of neighborhoods ... we stand to lose a lot."

Samuel said neighborhood crime needs to be addressed by the city. In her work throughout the city, Samuel said she has heard repeatedly from Columbus police officers that there is a shortage of more than 400 officers.

She said the department has done a good job, as statistics reflect, on keeping rates of violent crimes and major crimes down, but other crimes, such as graffiti and prostitution, flourish throughout the city.

"We're falling further and further behind in the crimes that impact quality of life," Samuel said.

Samuel said FBI statistics rate Columbus as the ninth most dangerous big city, and, most importantly, Samuel said she hears from residents and neighborhood leaders across the city that they feel crime in their neighborhoods is rising.

"Statistics don't matter. What matters is how you feel in your neighborhood," Samuel said.

Samuel said if crime isn't dealt with, residents will take note, and those who can afford to will move outside the city, leaving a hollowed-out center.

"Once they go, we see businesses follow," Samuel said. "We've seen it before. We've got to make sure we leave things intact."

Samuel said her solution is to funnel more money toward safety. In addition, Samuel said the city needs to pay more attention to things like crumbling roadways and vacant buildings.

"Crime begets blight, and blight begets crime," Samuel said. "Prevention is key."

Samuel, who credits herself with being a neighborhood advocate, said the city also needs to work better with neighborhoods so neighborhood leaders, who devote their time to bettering the city, understand how the city works.

By holding workshops to explain how departments work, Samuel said the city will find ways to make things work in a more open manner and more efficiently.

"Right now, many of those departments work separate of each other," Samuel said. "That's exhausting to city groups."

The city also can work better with neighborhoods to understand their needs, voice the city's priorities in addressing problems and projects and help neighborhoods across the city to work together.

"We've got to start looking and tallying what it is our neighborhoods need," Samuel said.
Samuel said the Nov. 6 election is crucial to the city because it's the first time many council members have campaign, with the majority having been appointed to their seats.

"A lot of people voice their concern that there's only one party represented on council. That's not our biggest concern," Samuel said. "Six out of seven council members were never elected."

Samuel and Tyson are the only two candidates running head to head for a council seat. Nine additional city council candidates will run for four, four-year terms on council.



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