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MUNICIPAL ELECTION

What's the most important issue in Auburn? Newly elected council members sound off

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With the 2022 Municipal election behind them, new and returning council members alike are already considering their plans for when the new Auburn City Council convenes in November.

This election saw voters turn out to re-elect existing council members Connie Fitch-Taylor of Ward 1, Kelley Griswold of Ward 2 and Bob Parsons of Ward 6. Additionally, two new council members were voted in. Sonny Moreman will take over Ward 5 for Steven Dixon and Max Coblentz will take over Ward 7 for Jay Hovey.

The Opelika-Auburn News reached out to each of the winners to see what their priorities would be once the new term begins in November.

What’s the biggest issue in Auburn?

Connie Fitch-Taylor (Ward 1): “Too much growth.”

Kelley Griswold (Ward 2): “The citizens themselves are the ones who identified the issues, and all of them are tied to growth. That is traffic infrastructure and schools. And I would like to add to that. I want to make sure that we maintain public safety and our ability to serve all the citizens of Auburn as we grow.”

Sonny Moreman (Ward 5): Auburn residents love Auburn. They love the feel of the place, and its history. It’s a friendly town and folks want to be a part of that. That and the education system is why people come here. It is incumbent on us, the current residents, to foster that atmosphere by encouraging small business in the downtown area. This especially applies to small businesses that connect with citizens and students alike. We have lots of open commercial space for them to choose from.”

Bob Parsons (Ward 6): “I will not use my opinion but I would use the opinion of the citizens of Auburn. The most important as listed in the citizen survey, which came out in 2022, I believe was traffic flow. There’s concern among the citizens so that we could be more efficient in the way the traffic moves around our city.”

Max Coblentz (Ward 7): “Well, the most important issue I think people keep discussing is our infrastructure and traffic and ensuring that we’re growing in the right way. We’ve just got to continue to manage that well and ensure that we’re doing the right things when it comes to infrastructure and that we’re not paying for this stuff down the road.”

What is the most important issue in your ward?

Connie Fitch-Taylor (Ward 1): “I feel like this is a priority: affordable housing. Our community needs affordable housing. And I’m not just talking about Ward 1. I’m talking about all our underserved communities. We have a desperate need for affordable housing.”

Kelley Griswold (Ward 2): “The issues that are applicable to Ward 2 are issues that are applicable across the whole city, and the citizens are the ones that identified the issues. The citizens identified traffic, infrastructure and schools as the three most pressing issues. ... Although Ward 2 is now compact, it doesn’t have a lot of growth issues within the ward. Any growth outside the ward obviously has an impact on everything in the city, particularly as you get closer and closer to the middle of the town, which is where Ward 2 is now.”

Sonny Moreman (Ward 5): After canvassing the opinions of those in the Ward, I believe the most important issue is maintaining the safety, charm and beauty of our neighborhoods. We have been blessed with a very livable city. We want to be careful to safeguard what we have.”

Bob Parsons (Ward 6): “I believe the most important issue at this point still remains making sure that the ordinances over Ward 6, particularly in neighborhood conservation, remain inviolate, they remain as they are written. I will be doing my best to protect the protections in place as they are written.”

Max Coblentz (Ward 7): “The most important issue that we’ve heard in our ward is really the need for gymnasiums and ballfields. We’re working on that need. It’s going to bring two gyms and four ballfields. That’s going to be a good project, but we’re going to try to get that project going as quickly as we can.”

For newcomers: What’s the first thing you’ll do in office?

Sonny Moreman (Ward 5): “I am using the time until then to meet with the other council members and mayor to glean their insight and wisdom. In the next few weeks, the City Manager will provide training to the new council members so we can better understand the Auburn system of government. This will allow us to do an effective job as soon as we are sworn in. My next objective will be to find a place and time to hold a Town Hall meeting for Ward 5 so I can gain perspective from citizens on issues I may be unaware of. My agenda starts with the wishes of the citizens of the Ward.”

Max Coblentz (Ward 7): “The first thing I want to do is to get down deeper into the issues that are going on in Auburn. I want to dig in and know the process and figure out ways that we can start to solve some of those problems.”

For incumbents: Is there anything you will do differently in the upcoming term?

Connie Fitch-Taylor (Ward 1): “Encourage my fellow councilmembers to be more considerate of the needs of the Northwest Community in every aspect.”

Kelley Griswold (Ward 2): “I’d like to figure out a way for me personally to get more involved in some of the boards and commissions. We can still ask for reports or I can attend the meetings and listen and see what the issues are, again, trying to identify issues that are of concern to my constituents before they reach the point where the city council has to make a decision on them.”

Bob Parsons (Ward 6): “For the most part, I will remain pretty much on the same kind of issues of accessibility and transparency. I think if I’ve learned anything, it is to listen more and speak less. I’m thankful that the voters found me worthy of a second term, and I’ll do everything in my power to live up to their expectations.”

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