Issues

Here are my positions on Worthington's issues. If there's a question I haven't answered, contact me at issues@sethkraut.com.

The greatest challenge for Worthington is deciding collectively what we want to be. We are living through a period of massive change. Globalization and the internet are transforming our world. Part of this has been massive urbanization. Economic opportunity is clustering in cities. When I was young, Bethel Road was farmland, and now I work at the Columbus office of a Silicon Valley startup.

Against this backdrop of massive change, Worthington is trying to stay the same. It seems like most development is met with resistance. People are anxious and concerned. We are running deficits for the foreseeable future, so our current path does not appear economically viable.

We should look to nearby cities for ideas, but we don't have to be those cities. We can be Worthington, but we have to be the Worthington of the future, not the Worthington of the past.

I believe that resident led initiatives to define a vision for Worthington are critical. The visioning process is one I wholeheartedly support. We need to understand what is special about Worthington and should be maintained, so that we also know what we can allow to change.

To me, smart development means knowing where we're going, understanding the tradeoffs, and making strategic decisions.

The lack of economic development has put a strain on Worthington's budget. We are scheduled to run a budget deficit of over $500k this year and over $1.5m next year. Some of this is related to one off events like the Anthem building being vacant and the development of Worthington Gateway project. However, the current projections also show deficits of $200k in 2021-2024. Worthington has over $30m in various funds, so we have a cushion. However, it is concerning that we are running deficits even in a very good economy.

I believe that we should take these recurring deficitis seriously. One off events will happen, and we don't need to panic in response. Recurring deficits are indicative of an imablance, though. We also have desired improvements like the Bike & Ped Master Plan, which are not funded. Our current path is not sustainable.

Part of what makes Worthington an attractice place to live is our high quality city services. I do not want to cut those.

Instead, I want to encourage more economic development. I believe a significant element of this is building more support among residents.

See smart development for more information.

Here are the basic facts as I understand them. Lifestyles Communities (LC) has an option to purchase the UMCH property. This means they have already paid UMCH a relatively small amount of money to reserve the right to purchase the property later. Therefore, LC controls the property for another 5-7 years. They will only exercise their option to purchase the property if LC creates an adequately profitable plan that City Council then approves.

For this reason, I believe the park proposal is unrealistic during the next 4 years and likely beyond. Selling 3/4 of the land for $5 million is incompatible with a profitable development. This is especially true at the density levels the park proposal envisions for the remaining 10 acres. Beyond that, Worthington is not well positioned financially for even $5 million, which is likely too low.

I believe that the visioning process and other resident centered exercises including the park proposal can allow us all to understand the needs of the community and produce a clear vision of what Worthington should become.

I would like to see the UMCH property developed as mixed use. Commercial office space contributes the most income to the city compared to other uses, whereas residential costs the city more than it delivers in revenue. I believe that the level of development should be data driven. We need to understand how traffic and schools will be affected. I believe that City Council should provide high level guidance and constraints.

Since Lifestyle Communities controls the property for another 5-7 years, it would be ideal if they could come up with a development that would be appropriate for the location. For our part, it would be preferable if the community had an affirmative of vision of what Worthington should become, as I describe in smart development. Regardless of the timing, City Council should only approve development and rezoning that works for Worthington.

Worthington's outdoor pool and natatorium are a concern for many people. Both are outdated and in need of replacement according to the consultant who reviewed them. The cost of completely renovating the outdoor pools is $4-5 million.

The ownership structure of the pool is complicated. The school owns the land, but Swiminc, a private 501.3(c), owns and runs the pool. The city sometimes loans money to Swiminc for capital expenditures, but the pool is largely unsubsidized. The school uses the natatorium for meets and practices and pays Swiminc.

I believe that Worthington should work with Swiminc to renovate the pools. Of the potentially $5m cost, the state has reserved $1m for pool improvements, which will go away if not used soon, Swiminc has stated that they could pay back a loan of around $2m. That leaves $2m that Worthington would have to provide. This will need to be evaluated against our constrained budget and full capital expenditure plans.

Outdoor pools are a valuable part of our community just like our parks and recreation centers. This will become more true as our climate continues to change. There are numerous potential ways that the pool operation could be structured. I would like to see Worthington more involved over time.