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Who deserves credit for Kingsdale?

City Council incumbent candidates Frank Ciotola's and Wade Steen's campaign flyers are proclaiming how they got Kingsdale done.

"With Linda Mauger and Don Leach both leaving Council, we need moderates to replace them --- members who will put the people's business first. We think Mike Schadek and Debbie Johnson are those two candidates."

--- UAPA Executive Cmte

But who really negotiated on behalf of Upper Arlington constituents for the best deal with developers? Who had the backbone to stand up and get the best deal for Upper Arlington?

As it turns out, Ciotola and Steen are two of the least deserving of all the praise they are heaping on themselves.

The market idealogues vs. the pragmatists

We heard it 100 times during the Kingsdale debate from Council's right-wing block --- "let the market dictate what goes in at Kingsdale". In this Columbus Dispatch story entitled 'Big-box approach OK'd for Kingsdale', Ciotola thought that UA was negotiating too aggressively on Regency's big box Target store proposal:

"I think municipalities are getting overzealous in dictating what the mix of development is instead of letting the market dictate," he said.

If UA had solely relied on market forces, as Ciotola suggests, Jacksonville, Fla.-based Regency would have "dictated" our future and we'd likely have a big box Target store or something like it at Kingsdale today.

A view of the Continental's proposed Kingsdale site from Tremont Road. Many of us breathed a sign of relief when Regency failed in their bid to build a big box Target store at Kingsdale. If Ciotola had been in charge of the negotiation, the market would have "dictated" the outcome and UA would likely have a Target store at Kingsdale!

And thanks to Council's moderate, pragmatic majority we will have something much better than Steen or Ciotola were willing to settle for.

The audacity of negotiation

Instead of the passive role of government that Ciotola recommended, the city staff and other Council members embraced their responsibility to the community to get the best deal for UA.

By effectively tempering market forces with the needs of the community as described in the Master Plan they brokered a Kingsdale compromise has been well received throughout our community.

The role of government


At the heart of the Kingsdale debate was how active and engaged City government should be in making economic development decisions.

As early as 2005 the right wing block of UA City Council, Frank Ciotola, Tim Rankin and Wade Steen, was saying that negotiating at all with Regency, then owners of Kingsdale, would be "overstepping". Here's Ciotola quoted in This Week story from February 9, 2006 entitled "Redevelopment at Kingsdale tops agenda at council retreat":

Council member Frank Ciotola expressed concern that the city may be overstepping its bounds by discussing plans for Kingsdale, since the property is privately owned.

"Should we be telling Regency what it can and can't do with its property?" Ciotola asked.

But that's exactly what zoning laws do -- limit the uses of private property for the betterment of the community. And negotiating with Kingsdale developers for anything less than the best deal possible would be an abdication of UA City government's responsibility to its citizens.

A survey conducted in 2006 put Ciotola's and Steen's market fundamentalist positions at odds with their own UA constiutents. UAers wanted a mixed-use facility and saw it as providing an improvement in their quality of life:

"The majority of Upper Arlington residents support converting the Kingsdale Shopping Center into a mixed-use facility as outlined in the city's master plan, according to a preliminary draft of the recently-completed 2006 community survey."


"Survey participants indicated that "having a mix of those would improve their overall quality of life," said Orie V. Kristel of the Columbus-based Strategy Team Ltd., which conducted the survey throughout September."

Moderate majorities work

So who deserves the credit for negotiating Kingsdale in UA's best interest? By holding firm through the dark days of Regency, it was the moderate majority Council members Don Leach, Ed Seidel, Mary Ann Krauss and Linda Mauger working closely with staff that delivered the deal Frank Ciotola and Wade Steen thought was overstepping.

With Mauger and Leach both leaving Council, we need moderates to replace them --- members who will put the people's business first. We think Mike Schadek and Debbie Johnson are those two candidates.

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