Pencilstorm Interview: Lowell Toms for UA Council

There are eight candidates running for four seats on Upper Arlington City Council.  Pencilstorm asked each of the candidates five specific questions centered around issues that impacted Upper Arlington residents and questions that were being raised by fellow voters.  Pencilstorm will be posting their complete and unedited answers individually throughout October and reposting all their answers together in the first week of November. Answers will be posted in order they're received. Our second candidate, Lowell Toms, is featured below.

Lowell Toms

If the election were today, would you vote for or against the school levy and why?

Simply put, UA is pretty much UA schools. Yes, UA is centrally located in the city, has an outstanding police and fire force and some good parks, but but when asking people why they moved to UA, the talk almost always gravitates to the schools. That said, the school ballot issue consists of two separate parts, being operating funds and new building funds. The school board combined these issues and they now say there is no backup plan for failure to pass - it’s all or nothing. A transparent government that trusts voters would have broken this into two ballot issues.

What qualifies you to be on Upper Arlington City Council?

I’m a retired engineer (P.E, State of Ohio) with an MBA and 42 years of work experience in the US Navy, General Electric, US Department of State (10 years overseas), and at the Ohio State University, but are those qualifications for UA Council? I am not a politician, but I would like to think that I am instead an agent of change, being an outsider looking inward at politics through a engineer’s eyes. If elected, I promise to attempt to change the culture of UA Council from the present court room with distant personalities sitting on a dais literally looking down upon the citizenry that has the audacity to occasionally speak out, to a culture of open venues, round tables, open floor debate, and slowing things down to find maximum consensus.

If you had a magic wand and an unlimited budget, what infrastructure project you would implement?
A community center.

With the recent .5% tax increase, infrastructure upgrade is the primary (and promised) concern. There are literally 100 year old pipes in the ground that need to be replaced, along with sewers, lights, and the continual task of street repair. But, once infrastructure has been tamed, it sure would be nice to have a grand community center. Exercise classes, facilities for diverse meeting groups, art instruction and display, technical learning and creation centers (idea centers), winter time play spaces for children, etc. Presently, the library attempts to do a few of these tasks, but a dedicated community center would be a project that would hopefully bring residents together and enhance community life.

Looking around Central Ohio, give an example of a community you think is doing it right and one that’s doing it wrong. What could Upper Arlington could learn from both? 

Clintonville is an odd and fascinating beast. It is a Columbus community that has kept its own, very strong, identity with High Street meandering through the center generating a myriad of shops and forming the backbone for a “walking” community. People walk around, go to interesting restaurants and grocery stores, and get to know their neighbors that sit on the porches that only existed in pre-war houses. I have always wondered what UA could do to emulate the community atmosphere that permeates Clintonville. Certainly High Street is a prime element of the town, but the same street wanders through other neighborhoods and the result is not the same, so there is something else. I don’t know what it is, but the most simplistic thing UA can learn from Clintonville is the power of sidewalks. There are still lots of streets in UA without sidewalks, and these should be part of the ‘.5%’ tax for infrastructure upgrade, and there should be no cost to the homeowner. It simply makes community walking easier while making it safer for children.

Not. Going. There.

I may not be a politician, but I will not point out a “community that is doing it wrong.” We all know some communities that are troubled. In many cases they simply do not have the resources left after a large business closure to turn things around. Sometimes it’s crime (with roots in economic decline). In other cases it’s housing decline, and as previously mentioned we have a strong school system that attracts families with resources. There is a deeper philosophical discussion about the inherent unfairness of Ohio school financing ( ), and you must keep in mind that UA is benefiting from this unfortunate state of affairs.

At Pencilstorm, we all have a love of music. In that vein, what's your favorite album and why?
I’m not trying to be highbrow, but in my mind, the best music is that which plays on emotions, and certainly everyone is different, especially on that plane, but nothing hits my emotions as hard as the Bach Cantatas. The best at capturing Bach, in my humble opinion, is John Eliot Gardiner. Bach was prolific, and Gardiner has attempted to capture a vast part of his repertoire, but one of my favorites is:

Bach: Cantatas 10: Bwv 5 48 56 79 80 90 & 192
J.S. Bach (Composer), John Eliot Gardiner (Conductor)

Pencilstorm would like to thank Lowell Toms for taking the time to answer our questions.  Learn more about Lowell at his website: Look for responses from future candidates in the coming days. Pencilstorm is an independent news source and does not endorse any individual candidate.

Local UA Politics coverage provided by Wal Ozello. You can email him at or try to catch him at Colin's Coffee. 

Check out coverage of all the candidates we've received responses from by clicking here.