Drugs, jobs dominate conversation at second Hamilton council forum

Candidates for Hamilton City Council participated Tuesday in a forum presented by a Hamilton High School student organization. MIKE RUTLEDGE / STAFF

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Candidates for Hamilton City Council participated Tuesday in a forum presented by a Hamilton High School student organization. MIKE RUTLEDGE / STAFF

What issue do candidates for Hamilton City Council find most pressing for the city right now?

Of the seven candidates running for council and mayor on Nov. 7 — the mayor is the seventh council member — 3½ said drugs were; 2½ said the need for jobs were; and one said need for recreation and workforce development topped the list. Most argued the three issues were related, with lack of jobs and recreation worsening the drug problems.

Council member Tim Naab represented the half vote, listing both drugs and jobs as critical for Hamilton.

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The answers were offered Tuesday evening at a city candidates’ forum put on by a Hamilton High School group called Hamilton High School Junior State of America, part of a nationwide organization that introduces students to government operations and civics.

Mayoral challenger Ramon Batista did not attend the forum. It is the second one he has missed. The other one was in early September.

Here is part of what the candidates said…

Delbert Price, a challenger: "I believe the most pressing issue in Hamilton currently is the drug epidemic. It is rampant."

Shaquila Mathews, a challenger: "I believe the drug epidemic is definitely a huge thing in our community. I believe it's not just in one community, but it's in all neighborhoods."

Even in areas of the city where drugs are not rampant, those areas are experiencing robberies and other drug-fueled crime, she said. Prostitution is another problem, she added.

Shawna Noble, a challenger: "Opportunities for recreational activities and workforce development for our youth and for our blue-collar workers. That is our demographics for our city, and often times I feel the lack of hope that these people have, that is one of the main reasons why they turn to drugs."

Michael Ryan, a challenger: "The most pressing issue to me is economic development and jobs. Our residents need employment opportunities and options. When we create jobs, we create more tax base. When our city has more tax base, we can continue to staff our police, and our fire, and expand our city departments that will benefit our community…. With job creation, employees will move into our neighborhoods, and raise their families here."

Explore AN EARLIER FORUM: Candidates for Hamilton council, mayor talk top priorities

Robert Brown, incumbent: "The most important issue right now in our city is the heroin problem." It's important to get money to fight the scourge from Columbus, he said.

Tim Naab, incumbent: "I was torn on this question," he said, citing the need to create more jobs. But also critical is "the opioid epidemic," he added, saying police are working hard to eliminate the sources and flow of drugs. On the other hand, "We have to have our people in Hamilton ready to be able to go to work," he said, and drugs affect that.

Pat Moeller, incumbent (mayor): "I think the most pressing issue is job-creation and job-retention, followed by strengthening of our neighborhoods, and one does follow the other."

Moeller said the closure of major employers harmed the city.

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