Mayor Kathy Bailey

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

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. 

Shouting Into the Void of City Hall

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The June 26th, 2018 meeting of the Loveland City Council did not go by the script. Once again Mayor Kathy Bailey, and her loyal group of five other councilmen, had to face people upset with a policy the council majority was trying to push through. To say that the council was unprepared and flustered is an understatement.

This new potential public relations disaster centered on the painting of the Loveland city owned water towers. The towers desperately need to be cleaned. The stark white paint has been a magnet for dirt and mildew ever since they were first painted. The half white half muck look of the towers does not help enhance the brand of Loveland. No one disagreed that the towers needed cleaning.

The issue in front of the City Council concerned an idea put forth by Mayor Kathy Bailey in an earlier meeting that the towers should replace the city logo with the logo, or branding, associated with the Loveland City Schools district. The Mayor said that the logos would be at the expense of the school district, or another entity, and would not be paid for by the city. Two people spoke in public forum about their disagreement with placing any logos on the water towers. These were people who had a vested interest in the city's actions since their homes, or livelihoods, would by affected by any changes to the towers. The council, like always, did not immediately address the speakers, or their concerns. A bit later, councilman Neal Oury did ask if it was possible to look at painting the towers the preferred color one speaker referenced. He was not given a clear answer. The ordinance to paint the towers, with city or school logos, passed 6-1. Councilwoman Angela Settell was once again the only dissenting vote.

Shortly after the concern of the public forum speakers was swept aside, a public hearing was conducted on changing the procedure for approving a special planning district. In simple terms, the council was voting on if they wanted to add another public hearing before approval on a new business development in an area not specifically zoned for the type of development. Two residents spoke at the public hearing, one for the change and one against.

I was the voice against the ordinance. 

An additional public hearing, in other words more bureaucracy, is not going to help speed up any economic development in any city. If anything, the additional layer of bureaucracy will send business development to other communities where the local government favors economic growth. I expressed my concern, explained my position, and offered a solution. I told the council to get out into the community and talk with the taxpayers who can not, or do not want to, come to the council chambers. Once again, no member of council acknowledge my words or engaged in any sort of discussion.

Before the hearing, councilman Tim Butler, along with councilwoman Settell, said they do not agree with the extra regulations being proposed for new development. Councilmen Kent Blair and Ted Phelps said they support the measure because they prefer to be on the on the side of more community engagement. The measure was not put to a vote. After the hearing Vice Mayor Weisgerber did feel the need to say that he hated bureaucracy. Yet he also voiced support for the measure. Right now it is hard to say where the Vice Mayor stands on this issue dividing the city council. Maybe the Vice Mayor will vote the ordinance down when it is up for a vote and show the community how much he hates bureaucracy. 

The June 26th Loveland City Council meeting showed that the majority of council feels the need to only engage with the concerns of the community at large strictly in the council chambers. These elected officials choose only to discuss the city issues on their home turf. They get unlimited time to talk about whatever they want on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month. The concerned public gets five minutes in public forum. That does not seem like a good environment to have quality community engagement.

Why does the new council majority demand that the public bring their concerns only to the halls of government? Why does the new council majority ignore, and refuse to engage in meaningful debate, with people who do not blindly believe everything Mayor Bailey and her five councilman voting block believe in? For Loveland to thrive, we need all viable thoughts to be acknowledged. No one is infallible. Good government is achieved by listening to all voices, not just holding back room secret meetings with one's political supporters.

As a resident, a parent with a child enrolled in Loveland City Schools, and a taxpayer, the secrecy and aloofness of the Loveland City Council majority is disheartening. The council committees have been stacked with political supporters, and people who are not even residents of the city. The council itself gives dissenting voices five minutes on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month, then refuses to have any meaningful discussion. There is very little opportunity for a different opinion to be heard with the elected officials of Loveland. It is frustrating trying to have your concerns heard by an uninterested city council, but there is hope that things can be different in the future. Every person gets an equal voice, and equal time, at the ballot box.

RD

RD Kulik  is a resident of the City of Loveland and the editor at The Loveland Tattler. He wants to hear from all voices, especially those who disagree with his ideas. Find out about one of our many community meetings by contacting him on twitter @TattlerLoveland or email lovelandtattler@gmail.com.

The Fog of Transparency

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Every election sees candidate(s) promising the electorate that if selected the candidate will be transparent. The conceit behind using the word transparent is that the current government is not being straight with the public, the government is hiding important things. When the allure of transparency, and the disdain for secret dealings, catapults the candidates into elected office the public sees what transparency really means. The promise of being transparent is just another campaign promise that almost always gets left behind, only to be revived when the next election rolls around.

The 2017 Loveland City Council election saw a group of candidates run on a unified slate rallying around the idea of being the transparent choice for Loveland residents. Longtime council member Rob Weisgerber, one term incumbent Ted Phelps, and newcomers Neal Oury and Tim Butler claimed that the current council had been acting in a secretive fashion and their coalition, if elected, would bring openness and community collaboration to the city government. The unified slate would be transparent with all the city's business. That was their central campaign promise. 

So how has the new majority done with their promise of transparency?

Immediately after the 2017 election, the new majority tried to pass a water rate hike on Loveland residents and business without a public hearing. It needs to be noted that Neal Oury and Tim Butler had not been sworn in as members of the Loveland City Council. Once it was clear that the new majority would lack the votes to pass the rate hike, a public hearing was called by Councilman Weisgerber.

Early in 2018, Vice Mayor Weisgerber curiously complained about a person's public records request.

Once the council was ready to fix perceived transgressions by the previous majority against the Loveland Farmer's market , Vice Mayor Weisgerber called for a suspension of rules to rapidly push through changes on three city ordinances. Councilmen Butler, Oury, Phelps, and Weisgerber voted with Councilman Kent Blair and Mayor Kathy Bailey to suspend the rules and fast-track the changes to the ordinance. No input from the public again.

Just recently during a discussion for a community award, Councilwoman Angie Settell nominated a well known community leader so there could be a discussion on her nominee and the person put forward by the majority of council. There was no second from any other member of council and there was no discussion afforded to a person deserving of recognition.

At the same meeting, Councilman Blair read a thoughtful, and emotional, statement about his desire for the City Council to recognize Gun Violence Awareness Day. Councilman Blair was echoing the sentiment of people who spoke about the issue at the last two council meeting. Once again there was silence from the other elected officials. The Loveland City Council was not interested in hearing about the concerns of the community if it did not fit within their own individual ideological beliefs. 

With a record like the first six months of the Mayor Bailey majority, transparency is not the first word that comes to mind. Any issue that may invite controversy has been either ignored by council, or pushed forward in a way that tries to shrink opportunities for the public to engage. When confronted with being non-transparent, the new council majority, along with their supporters, invoke the old council and how they conducted business. It was obvious during the 2017 elections that the unified slate of Butler, Oury, Phelps, and Weisgerber, along with support from Councilwoman Bailey, cultivated an image of being a community first, fully transparent group of people. This new majority would erase all the secrecy of the previous regime, that is what they said on the campaign trail. Their actions have yet to match up to their words.

Transparency is an easy target to talk about when a person is running for elective office for the very first time, or if they are in the minority of a governing body. Once the election is over, and people have to actually govern, keeping the vague promise of transparency becomes more difficult. The Mayor Bailey majority has fallen short of being transparent. The new council majority has catered only to their supporters, and positive economic growth in Loveland seems to be at a standstill. Will the false promise of transparency be a liability for the council majority when they go to the Loveland community asking for reelection? That will be a question left up to the soon to be engaged voters.

RD

RD Kulik  is a resident of the City of Loveland and the editor at The Loveland Tattler. We are now on something called Facebook. Check it out

Contact us on twitter @TattlerLoveland or email us at lovelandtattler@gmail.com.