About 150 turn out for 14-candidate MidTown political forum tonight at the Columbus library

The overflow crowd for tonight's MidTown Inc. political forum showed little reaction to most of the questions about growth and redevelopment, but an inquiry about how Columbus Council handles its public agenda during which residents address city leaders drew more response.

The question posed to council candidates: "Would you be willing to consider an alternative arrangement for city council meetings whereby the public agenda is available to citizens only one meeting a month? If not, do you have other suggestions for a more effective use of time allowed for the public agenda?"

Citywide council candidate Travis Chambers got a round of applause for saying that when residents have concerns, council needs to hear them. Then one of his opponents, Bert Coker and a frequent visitor to council, got a laugh in noting that the time-keeping system for tonight's forum was the same as the one used to limit speakers to five minutes on council's public agenda: a traffic light.

"I think the five-minute rule is a good rule, and I just want to know where y'all get all these traffic lights at," he said.

Other candidates expressed no objection to the five-minute rule, except that citywide candidate Winston Pitters said he felt speakers needed five to seven minutes. and District 1 candidate Nathan Suber said he thought council should restore a weekly meeting it recently voted to eliminate.

MidTown Inc. drew a full house for its 14-candidate political forum tonight at the Columbus Public Library, where the auditorium has an overflow crowd of about 150 people, some standing in the back of the room.

The 6-8 p.m. forum has drawn candidates for mayor, citywide Columbus Council Post 9 and council Districts 1 and 7.

The council candidates are first on stage, each allowed 90 seconds to make a statement before moderator Trip Layfield asks them questions in no particular order. The candidates for mayor will take the stage next.

The four candidates for mayor are Wayne Anthony, Zephaniah Baker, Paul Olson and Teresa Pike Tomlinson, a former MidTown director. The five citywide council candidates are Travis Chambers, Bert Coker, Shep Mullin, Winston Pitters and Judy Thomas. The three District 1 candidates are Jerry "Pops" Barnes, Alfred Stewart and Nathan Suber, and the two council District 7 candidates are Andrea Franklin and Mimi Woodson.

MidTown, a nonprofit neighborhood revitalization group focused on the city's core, solicited questions via e-mail and posted them on its website. They are:

1. The first stated goal in the city’s 2028 comprehensive plan is to revitalize in order to minimize sprawl. How will your policies encourage infill development and revitalization to attain this goal?

2. What measures would you take to address “deadbeat landlords” who marginally maintain residential and commercial properties that diminish neighborhoods?

3. Columbus has hundreds of vacant, abandoned and under-performing properties. What role should the city play in the redevelopment of these properties? The Columbus Land Bank Authority has the capacity to acquire and transition properties to owners with plans to improve properties and enhance their value through redevelopment. Will you empower the land bank in these efforts?

4. Midtown is built upon an interconnected grid pattern of streets that lends to its neighborhood character. What kind of transportation improvements would you support that enhance the area’s walkability, bikability and alternative transportation options? What means would you support to facilitate traffic flow citywide (other than the often touted use of signal synchronization)?

5. The Fall Line Trace (bike trail) stops and detours near Buck Ice and then at The Medical Center. The Riverwalk still breaks at the Bibb Mill dam. How do you propose completing and connecting our bicycle trails?

6. How does MidTown play a role in Columbus’s overall response to changes brought about with BRAC?

7. What city do you think currently mirrors the economic progress and development you’d like to see emulated in Columbus and why?

8. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 the best, how would you rate the current effectiveness of the city planning activities of the city? What vision do you have for the planning within the city and how would you propose to transform city planning under your mayoral administration?

9. Would you be willing to consider an alternative arrangement for city council meetings whereby the public agenda is available to citizens only one meeting a month? If not, do you have other suggestions for a more effective use of time allowed for the public agenda?

10. What are your transportation plans and how do you propose to avoid the dichotomy of redesigning Veterans to be more aesthetic and pedestrian-friendly at the same time modeling Talbotton Road after the old Veterans Parkway?

11. Would you favor/support city approved financial initiatives such as a TAD or TIF to encourage business development and redevelopment in south Columbus and midtown? Explain your answer.

12. What would you do to help Columbus become a more harmonious city in which to live, helping to erase the current racial and economic divides?

13. The Local Option Sales Tax is permanent city revenue, 70 percent for public safety and 30 percent for infrastructure. How would you prioritize projects funded by LOST revenue?