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Early Voting Begins, Columbus' Mayor Race Will Be Top Draw

Columbus skyline
Columbus City Hall (center) will house a new mayor in 2017. A May primary will decide the contenders.

Early voting began Tuesday. Past primary elections in Columbus drew few voters for lack of contested races.

This year, a four way race for mayor tops the city ballot.

During an appearance on WOSU TV’s Columbus on the Record, the candidates addressed a range of issues, including the city’s tax burden.

In next month’s primary, three democrats and a republican seek a chance to get on the November ballot. Democrats James Ragland, Andrew Ginther, Zach Scott, and republican Terry Boyd, staked their positions on the city’s tax policies. Republican Boyd is a business professor at Franklin University and former member of the Columbus school board. He says Columbus residents might be overtaxed.

“I would be for rolling back some of that income tax. You know when we passed that income tax in 2009 it was a very sensitive reason for doing so. We were under the impression that fire service would improve, police services, there would be more police on the street,” says Boyd

City voters approved a 25 percent increase in the city income tax, in 2009, as city leaders threatened police and fire lay-offs. Public Safety is the largest expenditure in the city’s $815 million budget.

None of the democratic candidates indicated they’d consider an income tax rollback. Sheriff Zach Scott says, if elected, he’d re-examine city hall’s tax abatement policies that often give incentives to businesses that promise job growth. Council reviews abatements to determine whether companies deliver on their promises.

“The problem is we bail out corporations and then we ask for zoo levies and school levies. We ask for increase when we’re doing things that we shouldn’t be doing and then going to the taxpayers and saying we need some more of your money. Well, should we not look to make sure we’re taking care of the dollars we have that they’re actually doing the priorities, what the citizen’s priorities are,” says Scott.

Candidate James Ragland is new to city politics. He seeks elective office for the first time. He urges voters to take a simple test to determine whether city tax funds are properly spent.

“You know, I’d ask voters to look outside their front window. I think there are plenty of neighborhoods around Central Ohio, around Columbus, that have not seen that area of return. And I’m wondering if the Hilltop sees that return on its investment. I’m wondering whether Linden sees that return on its investment,” says Ragland.

Candidate Andrew Ginther wants to move from the head of City Council to the mayor’s office. He has the backing of outgoing mayor Michael Coleman and the Franklin County county Democratic Party. Ginther says increased revenue from the 2009 tax increase has improved safety and reversed cutbacks in other city departments.

“I think there’s been a great return on investment. We’ve opened up all the rec centers that were closed before Issue One in 2009 and we’ve added curbside recycling which has been a very popular and very much in demand service,” says Ginther.

Columbus voters will choose two of the four mayoral candidates in May to . The two vote leaders will then square off in the November general election. The new mayor will take office next January. in January of next year.