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.

MORE: Clark County seeking ideas for bicentennial celebration

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.

MORE: Clark County, Springfield continue land use plan update process

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.

MORE: Springfield ex-addicts: Recovery possible

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.

MORE: More prevention needed to curb opioid epidemic in Springfield

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.


Census: Fewer Clark County residents living in poverty

Clark County to move 9-1-1 dispatchers, could become combined center

No requirement in $420K CVB contract with Springfield for major events

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Politics

Solutions from local opioid forums presented to state leaders
Solutions from local opioid forums presented to state leaders

Proposed solutions to Ohio’s addiction crisis that grew out of a collaboration between journalists and local communities will be presented to Gov. John Kasich’s office. Through a series of community forums, including five in southwest Ohio in February, journalists with Your Voice Ohio heard from an estimated 500 individuals who have been...
What is State Issue 1 on the May ballot?
What is State Issue 1 on the May ballot?

On May 8, Ohio voters will decide on major changes to how Ohio draws district lines for members of Congress. The issue, put on the ballot by the General Assembly by a bi-partisan vote of 83-10 in the House and a unanimous vote in the Senate, is supposed to create a fairer process. After every census, Ohio lawmakers change the state’s congressional...
Gov. Kasich orders review of Ohio gun background check program
Gov. Kasich orders review of Ohio gun background check program

Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed an executive order Monday to get an update on weaknesses in the state’s gun background-check system. Failure by local courts and law enforcement to send timely data to the state, which forwards it to National Instant Criminal Background Check System, could mean guns are being purchased by people who are ineligible...
Guns, minimum wage top issues in Democratic governor primary
Guns, minimum wage top issues in Democratic governor primary

Four years ago, Ohio Democrats pushed hard for a gubernatorial candidate who looked good on paper and found one: Ed FitzGerald. The campaign was soon run aground by scandal — including news reports that he had been questioned by police after they found him in a parked car in the early morning hours with a woman who was not his wife — and...
Fire Mueller? Don’t do it, Ohio Republicans say
Fire Mueller? Don’t do it, Ohio Republicans say

Most Ohio lawmakers on Capitol Hill — including Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton — say it would be a mistake for President Donald Trump to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, though taking action to block the president from doing so has more opposition among local Republicans. “We need to let Special Counsel...
More Stories