I was asked by this newspaper to explain in 1,000 words or less “why you are seeking this office, sharing anything you want to say to voters about the issues and your vision for the city.”
Let’s take a step back for a second and look at the big picture. America.
We look at Washington and we’re pretty disgusted. A lot of our elected officials not only seem to be doing nothing, they seem to know nothing of what’s really going on in this country, and we get the feeling that a lot of them are looting from us in any number of ways. We look at this national state of affairs and say to ourselves, “Who is running this place? I could do better than this!”
Which is precisely what I said in 2010 as I walked through uptown Hillsboro and decided to run for mayor.
Early on in the campaign, a well-known businessman in town said to me; “A number of people around here have tended to treat Hillsboro as a common tramp. They don’t care about her. They’ve used her, taken what money they can, then cast her aside.”
Harsh words. And I didn’t really know exactly what he meant at the time. I know now. I’ve seen example after example of it.
The problem in Hillsboro, is just a smaller version of what is going on in our nation’s capitol.
Right about now, some of you are thinking, “For a guy who is running for office this is a rather depressing state of affairs considering that he wants my vote.”
In this column, I am not asking for your vote, I’m asking for your attention. The Times-Gazette asked me to talk about the issues. Well, I just discussed one of the issues facing us.
One of the things that some people like to make as a big election issue in Hillsboro is that I’m not from here. I’ve heard it all. “You could live here 25 years and you’ll still be an outsider.” “Because you’re not from here you don’t understand Hillsboro.” And my favorite, “Where exactly is he from?”
I’ll tell you where I’m from. America. That’s where I’m from.
So to the guy who drove by me on the street recently and yelled, “Why don’t you go back where you came from?” I’m inclined to yell back, “I already AM where I came from.”
So now maybe you see why I made the comparison between Hillsboro and the nation. Because even though I’m the mayor of Hillsboro and my job is to govern our city, I am still that American citizen who is kind of disgusted with a lot of what is going on nationally. So when I go into the office every day, I’m not just trying to fix our city, I’m trying to fix the little part of America that we sit on top of.
We may not be able to change what is dysfunctional in Washington. But we can darn sure solve our problems here in our own front yard. The part of America that is called Hillsboro Ohio, we can fix.
We can make a difference and we are doing it. If I had a campaign motto, I guess it would be, “Believe your eyes.” Because I think you’d agree that Hillsboro no longer looks like a city on the way down, it now looks like a city on the way up. We’ve gotten a lot accomplished in my first four years.
We turned an $800,000 deficit in 2012 into a carryover of just under a million in 2015. We passed important Group Home legislation that gave the city some control over these facilities. We were able to put moratoriums the last two years on rate hikes for water sewer bills. The city has worked hard to codify and update ordinances, and has procedures for far better recordkeeping that previously left the city open to liability.
Our budget in 2012 was $1.7 million for our fire/EMS coverage. By 2015 it’s down to $617,000, with no loss in services.
We created our own Building Department and have aggressively stepped up code enforcement for dilapidated and dangerous structures. We’ve paved over 12 miles of streets in just the last two years. The city has created contacts and built relationships across the state to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.
And when I say “we,” I mean all of our city employees. Hillsboro has a lot of talented, hard working city employees who are especially good at creative ways to solve problems. We are fortunate.
And we are poised to make great strides in the future. We have many more streets to repair and pave. Alleys to fix. We have ideas about how to continue to keep a lid on water/sewer costs. We have plans and money budgeted for improvement to our parks.
People ask me what is the most difficult part of my job. That’s easy. It’s not crunching numbers or trying to find funding for projects, or even the fact that nothing happens as fast as you want it.
The most difficult thing I fight is the seemingly unrelenting negativity that we see. There is an undercurrent of chronic negativity that wants to do its best to poison and overshadow all the good we have in our town.
As someone who is naturally optimistic and tries to maintain the “can do” attitude that has always been one of our nation’s strengths, the rampant negativity that runs through some of our sewers seems anti-everything. It provides no solutions or alternatives. At their core, the negativists want us to give up.
But really if you think about it, to give up on Hillsboro is to give up on America. And that’s not going to happen.
Drew Hastings, a Republican, is the incumbent candidate for mayor of Hillsboro.