Copeland, Stegner talk issues at candidates forum

Judge, city school board candidates also participate.

Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland and challenger Fred Stegner went back-and-forth on several issues Monday evening, including red light cameras and the combined 9-1-1 dispatch center.

Candidates for the Clark County Municipal Court judge seat and the Springfield City School District Board of Education also spoke at the annual Council of Neighborhood Associations Candidates Night at the City Hall Forum.

Copeland, a Wittenberg University professor, has served on the city commission since 1988. In 2003, he became the first directly elected mayor in the city and was re-elected in both 2007 and 2011, running unopposed both times.

The key to Springfield’s future is attracting jobs, Copeland said, and the city is ready with two new industrial parks.

“You can’t get tenants if you don’t have a place to put them,” he said. “If you don’t have a place to put them, they go somewhere else.”

Stegner, who owns and operates the Springfield Soup Kitchen, 830 W. Main St., called himself “the defender of the third world of Springfield.” The Soup Kitchen serves about 250 people each Monday and Wednesday.

“We’re the No. 1 food insecure city, maybe in the nation,” Stegner said. “We’ve got to fight hunger and the deficits plaguing the city and many other issues.”

On the topic of the possible combined city/county 9-1-1 dispatch center, Stegner said the city should better regulate where money is distributed. It’s important city residents can call 9-1-1 and get fast response, he added.

“We need to fix the financial situation,” Stegner said.

Springfield’s police and fire/rescue divisions take up about 75 percent of the city’s general fund budget, Copeland said. The combined dispatch center, which is currently on hold, would provide better service and save money for both the city and county, he added.

“We’re talking about how much we put in and how much they put in,” said Copeland, who added the 9-1-1 service will be available regardless of the whether or not the deal gets done. “I’m firmly committed to continuing that process.”

When asked about red light cameras, Stegner implored Copeland to tear them down. Stegner said he was once given a red light camera ticket while his car was in the body shop. He also disagreed with the city’s lawsuit against the state, and said he believes the cameras are an impediment to attracting businesses.

“They’re an injustice,” Stegner said. “They target the vehicle owners and not the drivers.”

The cameras are not about money, Copeland said, but rather making the 10 highest-collision intersections in Springfield safer for the public.

“Collisions at those intersections have gone down about 50 percent by them being there,” Copeland said. “We’re not spending any money on court cases. We have a law director, that’s his job, but other cities are taking the lead on those cases more than we are.”

Municipal Court Judge Gene Nevius and challenger Daniel Carey, an assistant Clark County prosecutor, also gave brief statements about themselves, but were not asked any questions at the forum.

Nevius was appointed Municipal Court Judge in 1981 and was elected for the first time in 1985. He’s since won five consecutive six-year terms and is one of the longest-tenured judges in Ohio.

Carey is the younger brother of Clark County Probate Court Judge Richard Carey. A North High School graduate, Daniel Carey served for 24 years in private practice before joining the prosecutor’s office seven years ago.

If elected, Daniel Carey wants to start a drug court to help battle Springfield’s heroin epidemic. More than 40 people have died from drug overdoses this year, he added.

“They’re the most effective criminal justice innovation that we’ve had,” Carey said.

The Municipal Court has tried to start specialty courts, Nevius said, but couldn’t get financial backing from the county or city. The court uses similar tactics as a drug court, including intensive probation programs.

“We do the same thing those courts do through our intensive probation program, and we look for the underlying problems people have and we refer them to all the service agencies that we have,” Nevius said. “We accomplish the same thing without the expense of the drug court that we just can’t afford.”

Four city school board candidates — incumbents Ed Leventhal, Jamie Callan and Chris Williams and challenger Veola Moore — also spoke at the candidates night. Candidate O. Danny Mapp was not in attendance.

Springfield City Commissioner Kevin O’Neill, running unopposed in the election, also spoke at the forum.

CONA also endorsed levies for both the Clark County Heritage Center and the local parks system. The Clark County Historical Society is asking voters to approve a 0.3-mill levy for operating and maintenance expenses at the museum. The Clark County Park District and the National Trail Parks and Recreation District are asking voters to renew a five-year, 0.6-mill joint levy to maintain green spaces, which expires at the end of 2016.

CONA will host a debate between Copeland and Stegner from 7-9 p.m. Oct. 20 at the City Hall Forum.