This is part one of a multiple part series on changes to the Loveland Farmers' Market. Have something to add? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org, We will keep your contact information anonymous.
At the February 27th Loveland City Council Meeting, the issue of restructuring the rules concerning the local Farmers' Market was scheduled for a first reading. The issue was first brought up at the previous council meeting, yet no formal action was taken, and the Farmers' Market proposed legislation was once again slated for a first reading on February 27th. Under normal circumstances, the ordinances would be read into the record, the public could then decide if they needed to voice any support or opposition, then council would vote at the March 12th meeting to accept or decline the proposed legislation. This has been the process followed by the new Mayor, Kathy Bailey, and her six vote strong majority.
Citing a sense of urgency expressed by coordinators of the Loveland Farmers' Market, the city council decided to act. Mayor Bailey's majority, after an explanation of legislative rules from Vice Mayor Rob Weisgerber, decided in a 6-1 vote to suspend the rules of Council and pass the proposed legislation after only one reading (note: 3/4ths of council are needed to do this action). After one official reading the rules governing the Loveland Farmers' Market were now changed. No more vendor licenses, no more background checks conducted by the city, no more perceived heartache between the city and the market organizers. What is left is a $300 lease agreement between the City of Loveland, and the Loveland Farmers' Market. Let peace prevail along the Little Miami River.
Let's first tackle the given reason that the pro Farmers' Market legislation was pushed through in a swift, and what we believe to be a non-transparent, fashion. Mayor Bailey, echoed by others in her six person voting majority, claimed that the Farmers' Market needed this legislation passed before their season started. This seems fair, except I have one big question.
Why did coordinators representing the Farmers' Market not make their concerns known earlier?
Since the new council was sworn in, no one from the Farmers' Market has advocated at the public forum for changes to the rules governing their organization. There have been no editorials written in local news publications, or Loveland centric blogs, about changes needed to the Farmers' Market. Those of us in Loveland who watch the actions of our local government expected changes to the governance of the Farmers' Market. We were just waiting to see someone speak up about the changes. Yet instead of public discussion, there was only silence, followed by a decisive action along a 6-1 vote.
The funny thing is that there was communication from the Loveland Farmers' Market expressing a concern for swiftness on changing the laws to better suit their business needs. Through a public records request, The Loveland Tattler learned on December 7th, 2017, one of the coordinators of the Loveland Farmers' Market wrote a letter to Mayor Bailey and Vice Mayor Weisgerber expressing the market's wishes for new legislation. In the letter the market asked that the process be "expedited" and listed the ordinances that the market wished to be amended. On December 9th, Mayor Bailey responded that "We are looking into this."
Why then was legislation not even discussed until February?
Sorting through the various communications between the Farmers' Market and the City of Loveland, there is not a lot of information that helps inform the public of why there was a delay from December 7th 2017 to February 27th 2018. There is notice of multiple meetings to clear up the issue of criminal background checks on the market vendors. The old law required the checks, the new law(s) does not. Since no one from the Loveland Farmers' Market spoke in public forum to advocate their case, the public at large is unaware of the market's grievances, or what solutions they seek. Here at The Loveland Tattler we invite supporters of the Farmers' Market to communicate and explain why they think the local city council waited months before legislation was introduced to allay the market's concerns.
Should there have been changes to the way Loveland legislates it's local farmers' market? That question is irrelevant to questioning how the market was able to get the city council to change the ordinances the market wished to change. We are interested in the process right now, not the outcome. When exploring the process, The Loveland Tattler has concerns on why the local government, one that knew about the market's concerns at the end of 2017, would allow multiple council meetings to pass before legislation was considered. Then, once legislation was presented, why six members of council would vote to suspend rules and pass the amendments on one reading. Vice Mayor Rob Weisgerber, and Councilmen Neal Oury, Ted Phelps, and Tim Butler ran on a platform of community engagement and full transparency. Their actions concerning legislative changes to the Loveland Farmers' Market stinks of backroom deals, and a total lack of concern for all opinions of people who live, work, and play in Loveland, Ohio.
RD Kulik is a resident of the City of Loveland and the editor at The Loveland Tattler. Have something to say about the Loveland Farmers' Market?
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