Hillsdale residents will decide whether to keep Mayor Scott Sessions or replace him with City Councilman Adam Stockford on Tuesday.
Voters should ask themselves three key questions: Has the City of Hillsdale seen improvement under the mayor’s leadership? Is there a plan in place that addresses citizens’ concerns and aids the city’s growth? And could the challenger do better at raising the standard of living in Hillsdale?
The first question can be answered in part by looking at the city’s economic growth. More than 58 small businesses have opened in Hillsdale within the past five years, many of which were funded through federal grants. Not all have stayed open, but some — like Handmade Sandwiches and Beverages and Rough Draft Coffee and Cocktails — are still thriving. Both candidates are in favor of using federal grants such as those from the Tax Increment Finance Authority. This is a slippery slope, however, for businesses that often find it hard to maintain foot traffic — when the federal funding runs out, they are hard-pressed to stay open.
The drug epidemic must also be addressed. The majority of patients Hillsdale Hospital sees on a daily basis have methamphetamine or opioid-related issues, according to Shirley Curtis, emergency department manager at Hillsdale Hospital. The city has seen more than four heroin-related deaths in the past two years, and statistically, the problem appears to be getting worse. Residents are right to expect the leadership to provide a safer and better community — tackling this problem needs to be a priority.
In regards to the second question: No mayor could have solved all of Hillsdale’s problems in four years. But a coherent, effective plan to give Hillsdale a brighter future is vital, and the mayor needs to be at its head.
Many residents continue to vocalize concerns about issues that affect their day-to-day lives, such as deteriorating roads and job availability. The mayor needs to take an active role in listening to these concerns, and then act on them.
To answer the third question, the quality of life in Hillsdale is far from what it should be. The city’s poverty rate is dismal, with 37.5 percent of residents living below the poverty level — compared to the state’s 20.2 percent, according to the State of Michigan. Both candidates have shown an emphatic desire to fix this, but residents must decide who is better suited to lead the charge.
The City of Hillsdale is in need of strong and effective leadership. On Tuesday, residents have the opportunity to elect a mayor that will provide this. If Hillsdale’s growth is to continue, citizens from every corner of the city must pull together and make it happen.