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Columbus Voters Will Decide City Leadership Changes

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Columbus faces potentially big leadership changes beginning next year at city hall and at the city schools. A crowded field of candidates will be pared beginning tomorrow when voters cast primary ballots for school board, city council, and for mayor. In the mayor's race, four candidates are asking voters to give them a chance to lead.

During appearances on WOSU'sAllsides with Ann Fisher the mayoral hopefuls, three democrats and one republican,  honed their messages to voters on subjects ranging from schools and jobs to city neighborhoods. Council President Andrew Ginther touts his record as qualification for moving to the mayor's office.

"But I would argue that the overwhelming majority of our investments and capital budgets and operating resources all go into our neighborhoods. It's the reason why Columbus is so different," says Ginther.

The next mayor of Columbus will inherit an $813 million dollar city budget that's bathed in black ink. Thanks in part to a 2009 income tax increase approved by voters.  The lone republican candidate, Franklin University professor, Terry Boyd, promises more scrutiny of city tax and spending policies while keeping a focus on neighborhoods.     

"Issues are not always resolved with money. It's resolved by people putting their minds together, cooperating with one another and deciding the best strategy in which to approach an issue," says Boyd.

Boyd's campaign waited until the last few days of the campaign to air broadcast voter appeals.  He says that's by design since voters attention is now focused on the contest.

Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott is critical of the city's past annexation efforts. He says the next mayor should give more attention to job development within the city limits.

"When we have 6, 7,000 blighted homes. You have vacant lots. You're not receiving income from those areas. So my idea is we've got to get jobs back in here. So that way we can actually get income tax so that we can raise our revenue and get homes where people are living in the city again and not three or four counties that we've sprawled out into because we've annexed," says Scott.

Community activist and educator James Ragland says there's too much poverty in the city. He says the city's top elected official should fund programs to help stabilize families.

"When it comes to issues surrounding poverty we always say that things are too expensive. What I will do is I will divert resources for the city of Columbus to those neighborhoods that have been underserved and unserved for quite some time," says Ragland.

The open, competitive primary election for Columbus Mayor is the first in 13 years. Two of the four candidates will move on to the general election in November.  Columbus voters will also decide contested primary races for city council and for Columbus Board of Education.