Does Loveland Want Term Limits?

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Late in the 2017 City Council Election season, Loveland saw a group of citizens and business owners start a push for a charter amendment to directly elect the mayor of the city, and another one to install term limits for all elected officials. Due to a misunderstanding with the local board of elections, neither amendment made it on the 2017 general election ballot. The issue(s) seemed dead in the water.

The Loveland Charter Review committee was formed in the early days of the Mayor Kathy Bailey administration. I went to one of the early meetings of the new committee to advocate for the inclusion of term limits into the charter. Since I brought up the idea of term limits, the committee has not yet made a change to the charter concerning terms of elected members of council, and the majority members of the committee have vocally dismissed the idea. It was said that term limits were unnecessary because the public did not want them for the Loveland City Council.

Is that true?   

Recently The Loveland Tattler commissioned a poll to see if the voters had tired of the idea of term limits for elected members of the city council. The fact is that the voters have not tired of the idea. The reality is that a large majority of Loveland supports term limits for all elected offices, including city council. Over 1400 people who were identified as registered voters in Loveland, Ohio participated in the poll. 62% of those polled said that they would be in favor of a charter amendment putting term limits on the city council. There were no specifics offered on what the term limit amendment would look like (i.e. number of terms, length of terms), yet nearly twice as many people support term limits than those who oppose. 

In the spirit of true community engagement, it is the opinion of The Loveland Tattler that the Charter Review Committee, the Loveland City Council, or both bodies, should call for a public hearing on adding term limits to the city charter.

This call to action is likely doomed for failure. I do not anticipate anyone on the Charter Review Committee, or the City Council, to even mention term limits. The politicians, and their political supporters, are predictably against the idea. The public at large is strongly in support of the idea. Given the poll results, if the local government does not want to hear the will of the people, then it may be time to revive the idea to put a charter amendment on a future ballot. 

The numbers do not lie. Loveland wants term limits.

Want to see the poll for yourself? Here it is: Loveland Ohio Term Limits Poll: Spring 2018

RD

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

Hit him 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.

The Malaise of Loveland

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Spring has seemingly finally sprung in Loveland. This weekend should see a large influx of people enjoying the bike trail, Cappy's porch, Narrow Path's outdoor area, and any number of places around the Little Miami River that cater to the outdoors. Loveland Canoe and Kayak is getting ready for the season, along with hourly bike rentals from Montgomery Cyclery and the Loveland Bike Rental. Very soon we will see the grand re-opening of Tano Bistro along with a new exciting business in the building on the corner of West Loveland and Karl Brown Way. The outdoor splendor of Loveland is about to be on display, and the people who live, work, and play in our great city will be able to brag once again about how awesome the the best part of Ohio's heart of it all actually is.

The thing is that all those businesses mentioned were either founded, experienced great growth, or were reborn under the last council administration. The 2017 municipal elections featured a lot of talk about how recent develop was hurting Loveland, and the politicians who were supported by the anti-develop group(s) won seats on the council. It is true that Vice Mayor Rob Weisgerber, formerly Mayor Weisgerber, was the lead in deciding on the location, developer, and look of Loveland Station. The election never made mention of former Mayor Weisgerber's instrumental role in Loveland Station, but hey hindsight is 20/20 and all that. The former Mayor should be proud though, Loveland Station is an economic gem to the city, at least once all the hidden problems were solved that is. But the issue today is that the fact is without Loveland Station, the new council has yet to approve any new positive economic development. 

Why?

What has the new council done? For starters, Mayor Kathy Bailey made the city rejoin the Little Miami River Chamber Alliance. The council goals voted on, and approved in a 5-1 vote at the March 27th meeting, made sure to include the Loveland City School Board in any economic decisions relating to city owned property. The Chamber Alliance and the Loveland City School Board does not just represent the taxpayers of Loveland. The school district reaches into neighboring communities, and the Chamber deliberately became an alliance that represents businesses including, but not limited, to Loveland. This is who Mayor Bailey wants to align with, people who have interest in Loveland, but also have interests outside of the city? It should be noted that Mayor Bailey has at least six council members on her side to vote how ever she wishes them to vote. Loveland is not a city of collaborative governance, we are a city that can be ruled by decree. Who is in charge of our tax dollars?

If one were to look at the neighboring communities, things look good. Miami Township is booming, new businesses and homes are going up at a rapid rate. Symmes township is seeing new development, and reinvestment into legacy businesses, on par with the national recovery. What about Loveland?

Once again, all of those great businesses mentioned at the top, all part of the Mayor Mark Fitzgerald era. The improvements to Tano, and the neighboring Bishop building, all of that happened under the last council. I know because I was at the Planning and Zoning meetings that approved the plans for the buildings. The only new development project brought to the new council was a residential neighborhood. After tons of work by City Manager Dave Kennedy, the project was kicked back to committee. After years of growth and success, Loveland is most definately in an economic malaise.

Why does this council accept this malaise as our neighbors grow? It was celebrated that the city rejoined the chamber alliance, but what has this economic alliance done for the taxpayers of Loveland. The other municipalities in the alliance are thriving, why is Loveland the only entity experiencing a malaise? The Loveland City School Board depends on property taxes for their sustainability, why would they accept the malaise in Loveland? These questions, along with many others, need to be asked.

There is no debate that Loveland is falling behind it's neighbors when it comes to economic development. The new council majority said that they could do better than the Mark Fitzgerald group, yet they have proven to only stand still while everyone else grows. Again the question is why? The next and most important question is who will pay for the malaise of Loveland. We may find out sooner than we hoped for.

RD

RD Kulik  is a resident of the City of Loveland and the editor at The Loveland Tattler. Can you get us out of the malaise? Contact us on twitter @TattlerLoveland or email us at lovelandtattler@gmail.com.

The Sisyphus of Loveland

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The legend of Sisyphus tells the story of the karmic punishment delivered to a former king who was deceitful in his living years. The gods of ancient Greek literature decided to punish King Sisyphus by making him push a boulder up a hill in the afterlife. Once Sisyphus was near the top of the hill, the boulder would fall back to the bottom, causing the deceitful king to go back to the beginning and start the task all over again. This myth from the Ancient Greeks has given us the modern term sisyphean, a word that means any task that is futile. 

At the last Loveland City Council meeting (5.9.2018, see video here), City Manager David Kennedy, along with Councilman Ted Phelps, presented a plan for a redesign of Loveland Madeira Road. This redesign would add a bike/pedestrian path along one side of the road. Not all of Loveland Madeira Road would be redesigned, the initial plan looks at a portion near Kroger to West Loveland Avenue. Read the report here.

This idea to create a bike / pedestrian path along Loveland Madeira Road dates at least back to 1993. For twenty-five years the City of Loveland has been looking at options to ease up parking near the Little Miami Scenic Trail, and to decrease the amount of traffic brought in to downtown because of the trail. City Manager Kennedy and Councilman Phelps just happened to be the latest Loveland officials to propose a new plan. 

So how did their ideas go over with the assembled crowd at City Hall?

A public hearing, only the second one called by the current council, was part of the Kennedy and Phelps presentation. Six members of the community spoke. Most of the speakers were against the project, or they were wishy washy and gave no indication of how they felt so it is assumed they were against what the city presented. Many of the speakers stood up because of an article they read in Loveland Magazine that spoke directly about the lack of transparency related to the bike/pedestrian trail expansion project. The Mayor Kathy Bailey administration had just received their first taste of community discord. 

How did the new council majority handle this negative community engagement?

Councilman Phelps and Mayor Bailey seemed defensive about the idea that the city government were acting in a non-transparent fashion, yet we have seen them suspend council rules to appease the Farmers Market. Councilman Phelps said that no legislation was being offered, yet just a few minutes later City Manager Kennedy declared that he would be asking for legislation at the next scheduled city council meeting. Many members of council stressed the importance of a project like this, yet there was no defined reason to why the city needed to pursue it. The public that spoke seemed to have a more cohesive argument than the people elected to lead. No one won the argument.

How does the deceitful king Sisyphus relate to the drama going on down at city hall?

City manager Kennedy has been tasked by council, and has delivered, a viable plan for expanding the options for bikers and pedestrians interested in gaining access to the Little Miami Scenic Trail. Kennedy has also presented a well thought out plan on how to redevelop parts of a Loveland Madeira Road, a part of Loveland that needs a some serious redevelopment. He, along with Councilman Phelps, tried to thread the needle of serving the city, and making the general voting public happy with their plan. Unfortunately the confusion of the presentation at the beginning of the public hearing, the contradictions stemming from the council and their recent words/actions, and the dismissal of the public's anger, caused any momentum created by the city manager to come crashing down. Years of planning and work looked to be undone by 30 minutes of the public saying they are being left in the dark. The boulder of transparency had no strength, it fell to the bottom of the hill and needed to be pushed back up.

City Manager Kennedy has been behind this boulder for most of his tenure in Loveland. During the administrations of Mayors Linda Cox and Mark Fitzgerald, development seemed to be moving forward. A very engaged group of the electorate was not pleased with this and worked to vote in a majority of council that was different than those under Cox and Fitzgerald. In the first few months of the Mayor Bailey administration, Kennedy has seen every major development project he has worked on be tabled, or kicked back to committee, by the new majority. Years of work disappear in a, usually, 6-1 vote in council. No matter how far the City Manager gets a redevelopment project up the hill, the whims of council will knock that progress right back to the bottom. Reasonable regulations on the Farmers Market, back down the hill. A new tax base increasing housing development, back to the bottom of the hill. A much needed redevelopment of Loveland Madeira Road, one that will spur positive development and could alleviate parking and traffic concerns in downtown Loveland, sorry but we are pushing all of forward progress down to the bottom of the hill. City Manager Dave Kennedy does not come off as a deceitful king, but he sure seems to be pushing the boulder of positive economic development in Loveland up a hill, just to have the city council push it back down to the bottom and make him start over. That sure sounds sisyphean.

Near the end of the public hearing Councilman Tim Butler made a remark about how Loveland Madiera has probably looked the same, sad underdeveloped way, for many generations. He said the time to to talk is over, we need to act. Councilman Butler was trying to help and get the boulder further up the hill with his remarks.

What more will it take to push the boulder over the top?

Council needs to be bold, it needs to be actually transparent, it needs to acknowledge it's hubris, and it needs to engage all the public. The boulder of redevelopment is almost at the top, and Loveland's Sisyphus can see the summit, the only thing missing is vision. Who will make the politically courageous choice to be that vision and get behind the boulder to push it over the edge?

I can not wait to find out.

RD

RD Kulik  is a resident of the City of Loveland and the editor at The Loveland Tattler. What do you think Loveland needs to get the boulder to the top?

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