Three Vandalia City Council members are facing a challenger for three seats in this November’s election.
Council members Mike Blakesly, Dave Lewis and Candice Farst are running for re-election. Challenger Amber Aivalotis-Weaver is hoping to win one of those seats.
We asked all four of the candidates what they thought the biggest challenges facing the city are.
From job creation to fighting the opioid epidemic, here’s a look at what they had to say:
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Q: What are the biggest problems facing the community? What do you propose doing to tackle these challenges?
Amber Aivalotis-Weaver: The heroin epidemic, cost and crime have the potential to so do much damage. Appropriate economic developments, getting residents input on all developments & becoming more transparent. Another issue is the loss of state funding for basic services, it is time Ohio invests Vandalia residents’ tax dollars back in Vandalia. Since beginning this campaign, a major problem discussed as I meet with neighbors is the lack of information shared with residents. Residents need to be aware of the threats Vandalia faces, so they have the opportunity to work with the Council to share ideas for a solution. Council members are elected to approve solutions; but, Council members cannot overlook getting input from Vandalia residents. Our Police & Fire Depts. have worked hard during this heroin/opioid epidemic. Reaching out to residents to notify them about developments sought & I’ll work with residents & our Miami Valley State Representatives/Senators to proactively advocate for additional municipal funds
Mike Blakesly: The biggest problem facing the community is proper land development and management through strengthened Zoning Code and Comprehensive Development Plan. It is imperative development is done in a responsible way to control future exposure to the ever increasing vehicular traffic in and through our community as a result of the many large distribution centers in the surrounding areas of Vandalia. This is why I am currently on the committee to re-write Vandalia’s Zoning Code. I feel the current code is outdated and obsolete in many sections. My experience and background in Code Enforcement allows me to understand and help improve the Zoning Code to better match the City of Vandalia’s current trends in development while maintaining its character. This makes for a safer community and enhances the look of the city, which equates to a better quality of life for all Vandalia citizens.
Candice Farst: Our region is in the midst of a very difficult health crisis with the opioid epidemic. Every area city and township is sharing in this struggle. Our city devotes many hours of police and fire to persons experiencing the consequences of overdoses. I will initiate discussions among city council during the budget process about options to reduce the influx of drugs into our area. Another challenge facing Vandalia is truck traffic through our downtown corridor from the new distribution terminals outside the City of Vandalia to the west. This traffic causes safety issues and will cause excessive road foundation deterioration. Excessive truck traffic also affects quality of life for our citizens driving and walking in our town. We have begun a multi-phase approach to reduce the thru traffic. Since we cannot force this issue, we will continue to take steps to “encourage” thru trucks to take the 70/75 route which is the ideal solution to the problem.
Dave Lewis: The biggest issues generally surround development in and around the community and its current and future effect on the quality of residential life. Continued evaluation of planning and zoning of our community and programing to allow for a structured redevelopment of our retail areas is the best way to approach these challenges.
Q: What can you do if elected to help grow the local economy and add jobs? What ideas do you have for attracting new jobs and investment?
Amber Aivalotis-Weaver: Vandalia’s economic development plan/investment portfolio should mirror what Vandalia’s residents want. What types of developments/investments would be supported by our community? That is what I’d ask residents if elected. Vandalia needs to seek more input from residents to determine what developments/investments residents would support. No one-size fits all economic development/investment approach works for municipalities. I’ll work tirelessly to seek input from residents about developments/investments and I’ll work to make sure community supported developments/investments happen
Mike Blakesly: I am constantly encouraging city staff to seek new economic growth but not at the expense of losing the sprit and identity of the city. I am proud to say that I have helped to oversee the City of Vandalia actively seek new development in a responsible way. I have made sure that it has been done with foresight and proper planning according to our comprehensive plan. I presently help promote the retention of our current businesses which I believe is just as important as economic growth.
Candice Farst: Vandalia City Council decided recently to pass on further businesses in our city which will add significantly to the truck traffic dilemma. We made a conscientious objective to wait for businesses that will be beneficial to our community along with adding desired tax payroll. City Council has recently agreed to add “community development” to the job description of our Economic Development Director. This means that we will be working to make Vandalia an inviting place that businesses will want to locate and those employees will want to live.
Dave Lewis: The direction of economic development should concentrate not on development for development sake but that which is compatible with existing businesses and does not distract from the quality of residential living. The population of Vandalia has been and is projected to be fairly static thus we need only to concentrate on those opportunities that are the best fit for the community.