The Know Nothing Council

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In the mid 1800’s the United States saw the rise of a new political party, the American Party. This new political coalition was able to get a few legislators elected, and even fielded a candidate in the 1856 Presidential election. Many of us learned about the American Party, but we know them by a different name, the Know Nothings. This name was given because of the secret nature of how the party acted in public. When anyone was to ask a member of the American Party anything about their political group, “I know nothing” was the response to be given. The Know Nothings believed only their supporters and colleagues were important enough to know what was going on. The groups secrecy, and lack of transparency, led to a very quick downfall of their political coalition.

During the course of the Mayor Kathy Bailey administration, I have asked a lot of questions about the governing thoughts of the Mayor and her five loyal members on the Loveland City Council. I have spoken in open forum to ask my questions, I have made a number of public records requests, and I have even sat down on the rare occasion with members of the Mayor’s majority. In all three instances I find myself asking the questions, and the council majority responds with a form of “I know nothing”.

Let’s start with the public forum. At the charter required public meetings of the City Council, the public is given five minutes to speak on a subject of their choice. Many people use this time to talk about an issue that faces them personally. I have used my time in the public forum to ask questions, or voice concern, over policies that the council is considering. At the March 12th meeting I used my five minutes to ask questions related to the proposed DORA (Designated Outdoor Recreation Area) legislation. As a point of clarification I should say that I spoke in a public hearing, not the open forum. I asked very specific questions about the legislation, questions that had not been answered in the past. City Manager Dave Kennedy answered most of my inquires, yet not one elected member of the city government said a word. When the time came for the council to discuss the legislation, without me being at the podium, a discussion did not take place. No one addressed any of my concerns. The council acted in manner of knowing nothing or not wanting to know something.

This has happened at almost every public forum / public hearing that I have participated in. Yet I am not the only citizen to be told by the council that they know nothing. At the February 26th meeting, the council was silent in the face of serious questions from a resident. The resident was eventually engaged, but it was not a pretty sight (read about it here). Last summer, the Mayor Bailey majority was presented with concern from another resident about the painting of the city water towers. Once again that resident was presented with no information on the council majority’s plans. When it comes to residents that do not 100% agree with the council majority, residents with valid questions, the council majority sits back and says “I know nothing”.

Public records brings the know nothingness of the council majority to a whole new level. Public records are exactly as stated, records that are for the public. Shortly after the Mayor Bailey majority took power, Vice Mayor Robert Weisgerber lamented the burden of the city having to produce public records (read about it here). The political action committee that supports the council majority has used the public forum, and social media, to criticize people who make public records requests. The idea of the public wanting information seems troublesome to the council majority and their political supporters. Wanting to know something seems to be a problem for the council majority and their supporters.

Yet what happens when the public does receive public records. Of the requests I have personally made over the last year, the records I get have almost no communication from the Mayor Bailey majority. When it comes to the farmer’s market (read about it here), PACE financing (read about it here), or problems in the city’s public works department (read about it here), I requested the communications of the elected members of the city council. In each instance there was little to no dialogue going on for the public to see. When we look at public records to see how the Mayor Bailey majority governs, and what questions they ask on important legislation, the council majority says “I know nothing”.

When it comes to engaging with the council majority away from chambers, my experiences have been a mixed bag. I have approached members of the majority in public, and they have been gracious with their time. When the time comes to vote on a questionable ordinance, my discussion with the member of the majority is forgotten. When I question their promise of transparency and engagement, attacks come from social media, and elected members of the city council engage with those attacks. It does seem that discussions are being had outside of chambers. Councilman Kent Blair said at a recent council meeting that “we (the council majority) have discussed this (road funding) at meetings in the hallways and over pizza”, but when a citizen with a question about how the council majority governs, the council majority says “I know nothing”.

Does the Mayor Bailey majority discuss any of the issues that face the city? If they do, then why are those discussions not there for the public to see? If all the discussion is being done in “the hallways and over pizza”, do we have a transparency problem in Loveland? If all the the discussions are being done in a way to hide the intent of the council majority from the taxpayers of Loveland, what must be done to bring these discussions into the sunlight? If there is no discussion going on at all with the council majority when it comes to the governance of the city, should the taxpayers of Loveland be afraid of the lack of curiosity coming from our elected officials? What ever the answer may be, what we have seen from the communication strategy of the Mayor Bailey majority is that all difficult questions are answered the same way. “I know nothing”.

Note from the author: On February 27th, 2019 I made additional public records requests related to the city’s public works department. On the date of this posting, I have not received the records. If the council majority does have any discussion related to questions or policies, I will update this article.

RD

RD Kulik  is a resident of the City of Loveland.

Contact him on twitter @TattlerLoveland or email him

City Council's No Good Very Bad Meeting

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Since I have been following, and writing, and podcasting, about the Loveland City Council I have had many disagreements with the current majority. I do not feel like they have embraced any real positive economic development (read my thoughts here). I believe the council majority puts the wants of their friends , aka cronies, ahead of the city at large. (read my thoughts here). I also believe the council majority used the concept of community engagement as a campaign slogan and they do not practice it at all in the way they govern (again, I have written about this). The February 26th, 2019 meeting of the Loveland City Council put all of my issues on display, along with a few new troubles.

Let’s talk about the idea of community engagement. During the part of the meeting where city council gives anyone five minutes to talk about any issue, known as the open forum, a resident informed city council of an issue with city owned property in his neighborhood. The neighborhood in question is White Pillars, and the property is the homestead known as the White Pillars Mansion. The City of Loveland bought the property in 1996 with an understanding that the city would maintain the house and land in perpetuity. In those decades, the city has not taken very good care of the White Pillars Mansion. The grass tends to get a bit long, the paint is peeling, and the building has sat vacant for a while. Right now there are homes surrounding the White Pillars Mansion and the homeowners do not appreciate an eyesore in their community. The resident who spoke wanted real answers on what the city was going to do with the property. When this engaged taxpayer stopped to hear from his elected city council, they were met with quiet indifference. Mayor Kathy Bailey stared straight ahead and said nothing. An eternity seemed to pass, and the council majority was ignoring this resident’s questions about his city. Vice Mayor Rob Weisgerber finally broke the silence and told the resident to email his concerns, even though the concerned citizen has previously sent numerous emails to all of council and has received little or no response from the members. The City staff responded and made excuses for their delay and explained that the city was under no obligation to pay home owners association fees, or to do anything with the property. The resident was joined at this meeting by many homeowners in the White Pillars community. The mood among the homeowners was one of dismay for a council majority that is ignoring their concern. The council majority had a real chance to engage with the community, but since it was a group of residents they did not want to engage with, the concern was met with silence, punting of the problem, and excuses.

What made this latest dismissal of the public by the city council majority so disgraceful was the way it was handled by the council. Mayor Bailey’s cold silence in the face of questions was stunning. Vice Mayor Weisgerber’s solution of having the resident email their concerns showed that the longtime councilman did not want to discuss this issue when their was a nearly full house of residents in the council chamber. Speaking of the larger than normal attendance for the council meeting, Mayor Bailey encouraged them to leave after the public forum instead of truly engaging with the public and encouraging them to stay for the entire meeting. The City Manager’s State of City presentation was scheduled for this particular meeting, would you not want a full house? Silence, excuses, and dismissals, this is how the Mayor Bailey majority likes to treat concerns from the public.

I believe the reason for the ill advised actions of the council majority on February 26th, 2019 is because the White Pillars issue is a political problem for Mayor Kathy Bailey. The Mayor’s current term ends this year, and it is presumed that she will ask the voters to giver her the votes for another four years on the Loveland City Council. Mayor Bailey was not on the ballot in 2017, but she gladly put her arms around the political action committee that was supporting Rob Weisgerber, Ted Phelps, Neal Oury, and Tim Butler. Since this majority took over, they have looked at everything through a political lens. When the council majority had upset residents about a proposed plan for changing Loveland-Maderia Road to accommodate traffic for the bike trail, Mayor Bailey was defensive and dismissive (read about it here). When they decided to “fix” the politically manufactured problems with the farmer’s market, Mayor Bailey and her majority found the least transparent way to reward their political allies (read about it here). Anytime there is any question about the governance from the council majority, their political supporters are quick to give words of support to Mayor Bailey and her cohorts, and words of scorn towards political adversaries. The Mayor’s priority, or the priority of any member of city council, should not be to win elections. Their priority is to govern the city. The priorities seemed to be going the other way with the Mayor Bailey majority. The actions towards the concerned residents of White Pillars was all the proof the eye needed to see.

The February 26th no good very bad meeting showed the lack of governance, or concern, for the City of Loveland with long presentations about spending more money on a minor problem in the downtown district. There was also the issue of City Ordinances that were being voted on, and being incorrectly created. The sloppiness, and fiscal irresponsibility, on display on February 26th should be a wake up call to all the taxpayers in Loveland. When holding onto power is an elected official’s only concern, then those officials should lose that power. We deserve a city council that listens to the concerns of all residents. White Pillars deserves it as much as any political action committee, or politically connected organization. February 26th showed that Loveland deserves a better class of representation.

Thank goodness there is an election on November 5th.

RD

RD Kulik  is a resident of the City of Loveland and the editor at The Loveland Tattler.

Contact him on twitter @TattlerLoveland or email him

The Silencing of Loveland

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The Loveland City Council has scheduled an emergency meeting for Wednesday October 17th, 2018. The agenda for the special meeting consists of a second reading for three ordinances related to a private development project in the downtown area. The three ordinances are labeled as being an emergency, meaning they need six council votes, and the legislation will go into effect immediately. There is no public forum, or public hearing, scheduled for this emergency meeting. The only people who can comment on the pros and cons of these emergency ordinances are the seven members of council. No one else in Loveland will be permitted to have a voice.

The three emergency ordinances looking for passage in this emergency meeting are not new to the council agenda. They first appeared at the September 11th meeting. They were also tagged as emergencies then. I spoke in the public forum on the complexities of the legislation and the potential downside to bringing a new, untested, program into the city. The council tabled the ordinances and promised to bring them up at the next meeting.

The ordinances were once again labeled as an emergency in the September 26th meeting, but they were pulled from the agenda. There was no further discussion on the potential impact the new program would have on the entire city.

At the October 9th council meeting the ordinances were once again on the agenda, and they were once again labeled as an emergency. Councilman Tim Butler was absent from the meeting, so all six present members of the Loveland City Council had to vote yes for the ordinances to pass. Councilwoman Angie Settell voiced support for the individual project, but felt like the city was introducing an unknown new program into the city without understanding all the pros and cons. She voted no. The emergency legislation failed.

Just over one week later, Mayor Kathy Bailey, and her majority consisting of the five men on Loveland City Council, will take up these three pieces of emergency legislation at a non regularly scheduled meeting. Only the city council will have a say on creating this new program. No public input will be sought.

I fully expect the Mayor Bailey majority will pass these three emergency ordinances. Vice Mayor Rob Weisgerber, who says he does not like emergency ordinances, may say something, but I expect him to vote yes. I shared some of my concerns about the potential consequences of the new program with Councilman Butler. He may address those concerns, he may not, but I full expect him to vote yes. I sent an email to the council, per Councilman Butler’s request, asking a few basic questions. No one in the majority has seen fit to respond. Even Councilwoman Settell, who can speak tonight, has had her concerns brushed off by eye rolls and indifference from Mayor Bailey. The council majority does not care about opposing views. They have the votes tonight, and they will use any non-transparent means to get their way.

Why silence the city to push this legislation? Is it out of spite for people like me and Councilwoman Settell? I do not think so. My thought is that the council majority is using non-transparency because they want to hide from the city that the passage of these three pieces of legislation is for one project and one very small group of people.

Cronyism is the reason for the emergency meeting.

In less than one year, Mayor Bailey and her loyal majority have used every non-transparent administrative tool in the book to serve their cronies. Why should this be any different? The City of Loveland will have a new complex financing program brought into the community because of cronyism. The public shall have no voice when a crony needs a favor. That is how the council majority governs. The majority of the city will be silenced for the benefit of a few., the future be damned. Tonight’s meeting is just another reminder of the council majority’s indifference to the greater good of all.

I will be at the emergency meeting, and I will update to any shocking changes that may occur. I expect a quick meeting with three 6-1 votes. I expect no discussion. The majority wants to keep this hidden and quiet.

The council majority may have taken our voices away, but they did not take our vision. The record of non-transparency and cronyism by Mayor Bailey and her majority has been in full view all year long. I wonder how it will look next year for the city council elections? That is where the City of Loveland will no longer be silenced.

RD

RD Kulik  is a resident of the City of Loveland and the editor at The Loveland Tattler. Do not be silenced. Let us know what you think.

Hit RD up on twitter @TattlerLoveland or email him lovelandtattler@gmail.com. 

Building the History of Loveland

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Recently I attended a meeting of the Loveland Historic Preservation Design Review Committee (HPDRC). This is a new city council approved committee that is tasked with drawing the boundaries for what is to become the codified historic district for the City of Loveland. So, why did I attend this latest meeting, and how is this group’s actions important to the people who live, work, and play in Loveland?

Let me first answer the question to why I decided to attend the HPDRC meeting on September 26th. Being a resident of Loveland, I was very curious on how this particular group of people decided what should be considered historic, and therefore afforded certain governmental privileges due to the recent addition of Loveland into the Certified Local Governments (CLG) program. My curiosity was also peaked because at the meeting where the committee drew the historic boundaries, longtime council member, former Mayor, and current Vice-Mayor Robert Weisgerber was in attendance and addressed the the HPDRC. What the Vice Mayor said is not known because the meeting minutes did not include his comments (minutes to the July 25th HPDRC are included in the Agenda packet for the August 22nd meeting). What we do know is that Vice Mayor Weisgerber did speak, and his house is included within the historic boundaries. Anytime an elected official speaks at a meeting and their comments are not recorded for public viewing, my curiosity starts to peak. That is why I attended the September meeting of the HPDRC, I wanted to know how the committee decided on these particular boundaries for Loveland’s soon to be historic district.

Now let’s answer the second question, why should we care. One needs to understand what the benefit of having property in a historic boundary created under the CLG program. The one benefit I want to highlight today is the economic advantage of owning property inside a historic district. It only takes a quick Google search to see that having property in a historic district makes that property more valuable. Even Loveland’s HPDRC acknowledges that they want to create the protected historic boundaries “To stabilize and improve property values” (from the agenda packet of the September 26th HPDRC meeting). Again what we know is that Vice Mayor Wesigerber attended the meeting where the boundaries for the historic district were decided, the Vice Mayor spoke at the meeting, the Vice Mayor’s home is included within the boundaries, and being a part of a historic district is economically beneficial to property owners. Anytime an elected official benefits from a program that does not serve the entire community, every taxpaying voter should be asking questions.

So, how did the HPDRC answer my question on how they decided what should be the Loveland Historic District?

I will say the committee was generous with their time and attempted to answer my questions, specifically what Vice Mayor Weisgerber said at the meeting and why his home was in the historic district. The answer I was given was that the Vice Mayor did not advocate for the inclusion of his property, he just gave perspective on what areas of the proposed historic district could be marked for future development. The committee said they decided on the boundaries by using the Little Miami River and the O’Bannon Creek as natural boundaries. The Vice Mayor’s home just happened to be within those confines.

After considering the answers given by the HPDRC, my curiosity is growing.

The first new question I have is why would a committee that was created to preserve historic buildings, things built by people, use a natural formation to make their boundaries? The majority of older buildings are on both sides of the Little Miami River. The architecture is very similar on East and West Loveland Avenue. Even the Little Miami River Chamber Alliance, who uses property on the proposed non historic side of the river, refers to their area as the “West Loveland Historic District”. Even the Loveland Historic Society sits on the wrong side of the historic boundary. Using natural borders for a district made up of non-natural structures makes zero sense. Why was the other side of the river not included?

As for Vice Mayor Weisgerber’s home being included in the historic boundaries. By not having a record of what the Vice Mayor said at the meeting where the HPDRC drew the historic boundaries, friends and foes will make their own assumptions to why the Vice Mayor gets the economic privilege of having his personal property included in this government created protected area. No amount of scorn and disdain will silence the curious taxpayer.

The last, and in my opinion most important question that needs to be answered and will shine a light on the purpose of the HPDRC. Is the purpose of these boundaries to preserve or is the purpose of the boundaries to allow the city government to be the primary entity in determining how the private property in the historic district will be developed?

Preserve or develop, that is the question. What we know right now, with the information available to the public, is that the government of Loveland will decide on the city’s new historic look.

RD

RD Kulik  is a resident of the City of Loveland and the editor at The Loveland Tattler. As of right now, the city council has not scheduled a vote on the historic boundaries. Stay tuned to this space for all of the updates you crave.

Hit RD up on twitter @TattlerLoveland or email him lovelandtattler@gmail.com. 

Loveland Has Been Drinking with Cronyism

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Many municipal governments have the power to allow the drinking of intoxicating liquors outdoors. The government will pass what is called an "Open Container District" for a set amount of time to allow people to have their chosen alcoholic elixirs while walking the streets. The Historic District of Savannah Georgia has an open container district year round, and many fresh out of college people go to the city to take part in the marvelous act of drinking their booze under the stars. Drinking outside is pretty cool to a certain portion of the population, mainly the population that does not have kids. 

For cities and towns that do not have year round open container district, the power to grant this special exemption is usually used for large celebrations run by the city. The Fourth of July is a very common time when a local government may declare parts of the city to be an open container district. We all like to have a nice beer, or finish off a great wine, while we watch the fireworks explode in their colorful glory. Outside of the Fourth, most cities are hesitant to allow an open container district on a regular basis.

Loveland is not like most cities.

In the last few months, the Loveland City Council, led by Mayor Kathy Bailey, has granted three open container districts. The Fourth of July event in downtown Loveland was the first outside drinking event. That is an obvious one, and the council voted 7-0 to allow the district.

A few weeks later, the Little Miami River Chamber Alliance started planning a weekend long event in mid September. The open container district was going to be on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Councilwoman Angela Settell and Councilman Tim Butler questioned the hours, and days, of the proposed district, but after some amendments the Chamber Alliance was granted their wish of an open container district in a 6-1 vote. Councilwoman Settell was the lone dissenting vote.

Just a few weeks later another open container district was on the agenda. This time a private company was requesting the city lift outdoor drinking restrictions for an event in late October. There was minor debate on why the city was now in the outdoor drinking business, but the ordinance passed with a 5-2 vote. Councilwoman Settell and Councilman Butler were the dissenting votes. 

The most telling part of the debate surrounding the latest open container district was how the five yes votes said they trusted the event planner, and that is why they granted the district. The event planner is a known political supporter of Mayor Bailey and her (mostly) reliable votes of the five men on the Loveland City Council. Councilmen Butler, Ted Phelps, Kent Blair along with Vice Mayor Weisgerber and Mayor Bailey all made a point to say they believed the event planner would put on a great event. They wanted to reward their supporter.

Of course the council majority would believe a political supporter would do a good event. Even Councilman Butler said nice things about the event planner, but he at least realized it was not about the person, it was about the policy. Being a nice guy should not be the reason to grant the open container district. Only Councilwoman Settell and Councilman Butler seemed to grasp that concept, but the majority's political ally was granted his political favor. That is how cronyism works.

The upcoming September event also shows cronyism at work. The event is being planned by the Little Miami River Chamber Alliance, yet the city of Loveland has been advertising the event. It is not a city event. A different organization will be selling beer and wine, a similar situation was set up for the city run Fourth of July event, and this other group will make money, not the City of Loveland. When a municipal government grants favors to political allies, that is cronyism at work.

With the constant approval of open container districts in Loveland, how is the city council changing the brand of Loveland? Why are cronies the only people who have a voice in what others think of our community. Many people, myself included, moved to Loveland because we have a family. Open container districts every few weeks does not sound family friendly. Who wants to bring their kids downtown to Graeters or the Loveland Sweets on a weekend when outdoor drinking has been encouraged by the city government? Loveland was known as family friendly and filled with outdoor activity, now it is going down the path of being a town where you can drink in the streets. Will the elected city officials, and their political allies, hold your hair as you vomit into the city sewers. Is that the Loveland that the Mayor Bailey majority wants to present to visitors to our city? Sounds dreadful.

The lesson of this latest chapter in our city's long history is that if you are a political supporter of Mayor Bailey and her majority, then go ahead and ask for your open container district, or whatever you want the city to do. It looks like the big time swamp of Washington DC is here on the banks of the Little Miami River.

I am left with one question after this latest turn from our city government. What if a great event planner, who is not a political ally to the majority, came to the city with a great event. Would they get the same benefit of the doubt that the council majority cronies who planned the September and October events received? Would this non-connected person also get their open container district just a few weeks after the last? 

I think not.

Let's have a toast on the streets of Loveland to cronyism.

RD

RD Kulik  is a resident of the City of Loveland and the editor at The Loveland Tattler. He has a lot of experience in event planning. Stay tuned to see if he gets his open container district approved. The event is being planned. 

Hit RD up on twitter @TattlerLoveland or email him lovelandtattler@gmail.com.