Mechanicsburg mom: Mayor ‘degraded me’ over student safety concerns

A Mechanicsburg mom says she was degraded by the Champaign County village’s mayor after she raised concerns about safety for students going to and from the elementary school.

Mayor Greg Kimball has apologized and said he addressed the mom’s concerns. But he also believes it’s unfair to imply the village doesn’t care about children’s safety.

Kirsten Rodriguez, a mother of three students at Dohron Wilson Elementary School, was concerned about kids getting to school because the sidewalk on the school side of the road is closed for construction. That means many kids cross Ohio 29 where there is no crosswalk, she said.

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“I don’t want them to get hurt,” Rodriguez said. “I’m trying to change it before that happens.”

She raised the issue with the school, she said, and was told the closed sidewalk could be used at the discretion of parents. But she said the condition of that sidewalk — holes, water pipes sticking up and piles of gravel — makes it unsafe.

She’s seen a police officer near the intersection in the mornings to assist students, she said, but not after school. Children have been nearly hit while crossing the busy road, she said, so she decided to text Mayor Greg Kimball about her concerns.

She received an email response from the mayor that shocked her.

“It was very degrading,” she said. “He degraded me as a mother. He degraded me saying that I couldn’t parent my kids.”

The email starts with Kimball saying he’s read her texts several times.

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“Each time I have reached the same conclusion. What a waste,” he says in the email. “What a waste of a mother’s perfect opportunity to be a parent to their offspring.”

In the email, Kimball goes onto say, “Crossing a street is not rocket science,” that “Every person has done this many times in their lives,” and, “You have so alienated village officials, school teachers, school teachers, school administrators and the police department with your mindless whining, that it now falls on deaf ears.”

He also accuses Rodriguez of wanting village and school officials to be her “children’s parents.”

Kimball has apologized to Rodriguez for the email.

“My response to her was, let’s say, insensitive,” he said. “My response to her was personal, which was totally out of character with me and probably not the smartest thing to do.”

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But he said she should know that the village’s top priority is the safety of students.

“The safety of the kids is our prime concern and no matter what you do there’s somebody that always has more issues,” he said.

The police department has instructed an officer to now be present at the intersection both before and after school, he said.

Rodriguez said she accepted the mayor’s apology.

“I accepted it because he acknowledged what he did was wrong,” she said.

But she said she now feels unprotected by local leaders.

Mechanicsburg residents shouldn’t be deterred from bringing concerns to the village, he said, and the construction project is expected to be completed in a few weeks, with new sidewalks to follow.

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