Springfield candidates debate north-south divide, discrimination law


With early voting set to begin in two weeks, Springfield City Commission candidates debated several topics affecting the city, including equality and the divide between the north and south side.

Four candidates — incumbent City Commissioners Joyce Chilton and Dan Martin and challengers David Estrop and Rob Rue — are vying for three open seats. They spoke at the Council of Neighborhood Associations’ Candidates Night on Monday at the Springfield City Hall forum.

RELATED: Four Springfield residents will vie for three commission seats

Early voting in Ohio begins Oct. 11. The general election will be held on Nov. 7.

Martin, a local attorney, is seeking his sixth consecutive, four-year term on the commission. He previously worked as an assistant attorney general for environmental enforcement for the state but recently opened a private practice downtown.

He said he understands that he works for the citizens of Springfield as a commissioner, as well as the community’s visions and goals. He always makes decisions based on the facts and the evidence, he said.

“When I have decisions to make on the commission, they’re driven by what will best serve all of the people in this community and sometimes that’s not always easy because the community doesn’t always agree and there’s division, but I do my best,” Martin said.

Chilton, a freelance paralegal who retired from the Clark County Public Library, is vying for her third consecutive term. She currently serves as the city’s vice mayor.

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Chilton said she’s running so that all residents can have a seat at the table, she said. Her campaign is about insightfulness, inclusiveness and transparency to create change in Springfield, she said.

“I’m not a ‘go along to get along’ representative,” Chilton said. “I’m working to represent you.”

Estrop, a first-time candidate, is the retired superintendent of the Springfield City School District. Estrop will bring experienced leadership, tireless collaboration and community-building to the community if elected, he said.

After retirement, Estrop and his family decided to stay in Springfield.

“We believe in this community and we believe in its people,” Estrop said.

Rue, also a first-time candidate, is co-owner of Littleton and Rue Funeral Home. He watched as his classmates from the former North High School moved away over the past 30 years, he said.

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Rue wants to make decisions so that future generations will choose to stay in Springfield, he said.

“I want them to have a good life like I have here in Springfield,” he said.

When asked about the divide between the North and South ends of town, Martin said commissioners must hear voices from all areas of the community and fairly divide resources appropriately among all areas of town.

“I’ve been on the commission for 20 years now and I don’t think I’d be able to do that if I was ignoring people and have tried to focus on making sure all parts of the community felt addressed,” he said.

Chilton, a south side resident, will continue to advocate for all areas of Springfield, she said.

“If you call me from any end and you have a complaint, I will address that,” Chilton said.

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If elected, Estrop said he would visit all four major quadrants of the city and downtown each month to engage with residents about problems in their neighborhoods.

“The community should have an option to talk on a regular basis with their commissioners,” Estrop said.

Rue wants the best for Springfield residents, he said, whether they’re poor, rich or middle-class.

“I care for people and I have a listening ear,” Rue said. “I care about their needs in their family.”

All four candidates were asked about whether or not they support adding sexual orientation to the city’s non-discrimination ordinance.

The current ordinance prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, ancestry, sex, national origin, age and disability.

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In February 2012, commissioners voted 3-2 against amending the city’s anti-discrimination codes. Martin, Chilton and Commissioner Kevin O’Neill voted against the issue, while Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland and Commissioner Karen Duncan voted in favor of adding sexual orientation to anti-discrimination language.

Estrop spoke out in support of adding sexual orientation to the equality ordinance.

“Government, and specifically, Springfield city government, should not discriminate against any group,” he said. “We should welcome people to our community to make it stronger.”

Rue doesn’t believe people should be discriminated against based on their choice on how they want to live, he said, as long as it doesn’t harm other people. He’s met with city officials about what’s been proposed and said he wouldn’t have a problem with adding sexual orientation to the ordinance.

“I don’t believe that we should discriminate against people who choose a different lifestyle; maybe I don’t agree or disagree, but that point is moot,” Rue said.

While no one should be discriminated against, Chilton believes adding sexual orientation to non-discrimination ordinances is a state issue. It would apply only to Springfield and not the rest of Clark County, she said.

RELATED: Board: LGBT discrimination exists in Springfield

“I still stand by my original thought,” Chilton said.

The local civil rights commission’s role is to implement and enforce federal protected classifications, Martin said. Local government shouldn’t get involved in these larger issues, he said, similar to a city’s role in gun control or mortgage lending.

“(Those issues) are really not within our jurisdiction,” Martin said.

Duncan isn’t seeking re-election and plans to end her 12-year political career at the end of the year.

The three candidates for the Springfield City School Board — incumbents Anita Biles and Wanda Truss and challenger Carol Dunlap — also spoke about their campaigns.

The forum was broadcast live on Springfield City Access Channel 5. It will be re-broadcast on a loop throughout the month of October, CONA President Mike Robbins said.

CONA doesn’t endorse candidates but it voted to back the levy for the Clark County Heritage Center at the end of its meeting.

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