Sunday, January 25, 2009


Dear People: What a great week for democracy and the human spirit. The economy is in dire straits, the weather is frigid, and the last eight years have been a disaster on many fronts. But I went to Washington for this week's inauguration and experienced the warmth of standing on the Mall, next to the Washington Monument, having walked two hours to stand in the frigid air for three hours, with two million of my fellow Americans as we watched Barack Obama being sworn in as our 44th president. It was the single biggest, most uplifting, grand-scale, deeply joyous event I have ever participated in. (If you're interested, you can look at my inauguration pictures here. This 360 / interactive picture from the Washington Post, taken on the opposite side of the Washington Monument, captures pretty well what it was like from where we stood!)

In keeping with the spirit of being in a new era, tomorrow night we have our Village Council goals meeting (Bryan Ctr 7 pm); this is one of the most important meetings of the year, so I hope that you'll attend, bring your ideas and youur friends. I will as usual have my office hours in the Emporium on Monday at 12 noon.

All my fellow council members have turned in their goals for our packet this week, which is available on the village's website. I, however, was bowled over by the beginning of the school year and the inauguration, so I am the delinquent Council member. I therefore include my own goals below, which were written after I had received the goals of everyone else. So in my goals, I tried to indicate where I'm overlapping with other Council members' goals.

Here's the email outlining my goals that I sent to my fellow Council members today, as well as our Village Manager, Mark Cundiff, and our Clerk, Deborah Benning:
Sunday, 24 January 2009

To: Judith, Karen, Kathryn, & John

From: Lori Askeland

Dear fellow Council members: At long last, these are my goals, written with the benefit of reading your goals and having consulted with the EC, the PC, and other villagers. Thanks for your patience.

While assisting with our revision of our Comprehensive Plan, John Eastman provided these standard definitions to the Planning Commission, which I have found helpful and am striving to use here:

GOAL: suggests an idealistic or long-term purpose.

OBJECTIVE: implies that the end, or goal, can be reached, often within a specified time frame.

I have read all of your goals/objectives and tried my best, in this document to indicate where I'm in agreement, instead of re-inventing the wheel. I have also revised the language of a few of our last year's goals mostly as a matter of word-smithing to get more accurately at what I think is the spirit of each over-arching goal:

Lori Askeland's Suggested 2009 Goals & Objectives:

1. GOAL: Deepen democratic decision-making processes with active citizen participation and effective representative governance.


  • I agree with John's bulleted points here, regarding professionalism, inclusion in the Visioning process, and reaching out to historically disenfranchised groups.
  • I also agree with the emphasis that both Karen and Kathryn placed on youth.
  • Several of us mentioned continuing to improve electronic communication and use of our website. I have two specific suggestions:
  1. Make sure the online packet archive is complete for that last 6 months (back to August). [I believe the Sept 18th packet is not online as of now, but otherwise the packets are all up to date.]
  2. Make the online archives of Village Council minutes absolutely complete for at least the past year. [Many 2008 minutes are not posted in the Minutes section.]
  • I would like to ask staff to have those minutes and that missing packet up within the next month, if possible.
  • I agree with Kathryn that we need to be especially mindful of our Commissions and seek to better define their roles and relationship to Council. I'm not sure how best to do this, if a retreat is the best way, but it is something we need to consider.
2. GOAL: Strengthen the village as an excellent employer and provider of services within a responsible fiscal framework.

  • Carry to completion the service projects listed by Judith at the beginning of her document: WWTP, Morris Bean/Glen Helen sewer mains; water/sewer rate study.
  • From Karen's/Kathryn's list, special attention to Capital Improvement plan, the Tax plan (the end of the current levy), and Power Contracts.
  • In particular, I would like to see us strive to begin the goals/budget process in the fall (Sept/Oct) so that we do not have to do emergency budgeting at the beginning of the year.
  • Implement Phase I of the ESTF's recommendations with regard to improving distribution within our electric system.
  • Direct staff to actively consider diversity in subcontractor and consultant contracts with a goal of hiring diverse subcontractors (Here I agree with John).
3. GOAL: Be a welcoming community of opportunity for people of diverse ethnicities, backgrounds, orientations, identities, and incomes. [Note slight re-wording]

  • I support all John's/Judith's recommendations here, including funding for HRC, pool passes, transgender inclusion and a domestic partnership registry. I would like to be sure that we do provide domestic partner benefits to our staff.
  • I also support Judith's objective of joining the HUD program and passing inclusionary zoning legislation.
  • I also support Karen's and Kathryn's discussion of the Safe Routes to Schools and Sidewalk enhancements, which also fit with our energy-related goals.
4. GOAL: Establish a plan for improving the economic condition of the community that is in keeping with our identity as a vibrant, walkable/bikeable village rooted in a tradition of valuing diversity, the environment, and educational / artistic / technological innovation. [Note my suggested rewording]

  • Use the Visioning process to help us bring together the energy-jobs agenda put forth in the ESTF's Phase II report, economic localization ideas, and the retention and expansion of the current business, arts, and education communities. Transparency is key.
  • Poise ourselves to seek out and take advantage of the state/federal initiatives regarding renewable energy and conservation that are likely to arise in the coming year, and the development of the CBE (see Karen's ideas under land-use. My main question would be, is the marketing of that property our responsibility, or Community Resources'? Or to what degree is it our responsibility?).
  • From Karen, revamp EDRLF. Possibly consider changing it to a small business grant fund. Suggestion from a villager (Benjy Maruyama): hold a yearly contest for the best business plan; the winner receiving a grant of start-up or revamping (for current businesses) monies, rather than a loan which we have to then manage.
5. GOAL: Develop a comprehensive plan that seeks to reduce the carbon footprint of the community and encourages sound ecological practices throughout. [Note my suggested rewording, which comes courtesy of Tim Tobey of the Planning Commission.]

  • I agree with Kathryn and Judith that we should set aside money each year for the green-space fund. I would like us to commit at least $50,000 each year to this long-standing agenda in our community.
  • I agree with Karen and Judith about establishing the new ETF, with the involvement and participation of the existing Environmental Commission so that our initiatives can be coordinated—e.g., the current Green Pricing program through AMP-OH and the planned rate-study/possible increase proposed by the current ESTF. I would be happy to see up to $50,000 go to this goal as Karen suggested.
  • Direct staff to develop a standard procedure by which they consider lower-emissions / energy efficient vehicles and equipment when making new purchases/upgrades, even if their initial cost is slightly higher. (Here I'm pretty much agreeing with Karen)
  • On that note, can our building (internal and external) / street light bulbs be replaced by LEDs or other low-energy alternatives?
  • Encourage local industries to adopt state-of-the-art environmental protection measures, particularly as related to air pollution, but also water and ground pollution. The EC will soon be presenting a report based on our research into the proposed tire-burning at CEMEX (which we expect will be pressed again when the economic situation improves). We believe that Ohio needs much stricter emissions standards for all industries that burn coal, coke, or alternative 'fuels' like tires. The EC will present a letter to this effect to Village Council, with recommended courses of action.
  • Steven Conn suggests a "no idling" ordinance that would prohibit leaving cars running while parked within city limits.
6. GOAL: Develop a comprehensive land-use plan.

  • Complete the two major land-use projects currently underway: the CBE projects and the Friends Care Apartment PUD final approval.
  • Complete the update of the Comprehensive Plan by April. (I agree with Karen)
  • Fund and complete the Visioning and Planning process already begun, as promised, with a goal of producing a comprehensive land-use plan that will facilitate our goals as a village.
  • Karen's goals regarding sidewalks, Northern Gateway, and way-finding signs seem on point and do-able to me. I support them all.
  • The Planning Commission concurs with Kathryn's goal of seeking to write legislation for the protection of historical properties, without undue burden on property owners or those who would like to develop new, efficient buildings.
  • Here's what John Struewing said at our last meeting which seems to convey the spirit of the Planning Commission: "This is not a village that has design review; the eclectic nature of the village won't stand for it. We would just like people/developers to have to go through a process before they tear down historic structures." And we support the current work being done by Ed Amrhein's office in dealing with neglect of properties in the village. The Barr property did go through a process of consideration on this front, but it was both informal and ad-hoc; we believe it would be clearer and fairer to have a clear process—not one involving a new review board, but administered by the Planning Commission possibly with advisory help from local architects and historical commissions as the need arises. We plan to try to update the inventory of historic structures and begin creating proposed language for considering historical relevancy for adoption by Council.



Saturday, January 10, 2009

Shuman deadline today; Mon: no office hours, yes PC; new VC schedule

Dear People: TODAY is the deadline to sign up for next weekend's workshop with Michael Shuman, Jan 17-18. (Note: His Friday night presentation is totally open and requires no reservations; but the workshop, while free to anyone who signs up, does require an RSVP.) See the attached overview for more information/background.

To reserve a spot, contact Megan Bachman or Dimi Reber (shoot me an email and I'll give you their contact info.)

Monday is the Planning Commission meeting, we'll be discussing the Comprehensive Plan.

Monday is also the first day that Wittenberg is in session and, while I don't teach until Tuesday, I have a lot of work to do for which I need to be on campus. So, I'm canceling my office hours. Do of course feel free to

Now, over the next two months we have a veritable carnival of Village Council regular and special meetings. Here they are and their primary purposes:

Jan 20th: regular mtg CANCELED. Happy inauguration!
Jan 26th: Council goals for 2009 session, 7 pm
[Feb 2nd: regular meeting]
Feb 3rd: First Budget workshop (7pm)
[Feb 16th: regular meeting]
Feb 23rd: Second Budget workshop (7:30 pm)
Feb 28th: Third Budget workshop (9-12 am)

On top of those meetings, I'll be attending the regular PC on Feb 9, and EC on Feb 12 & 26.

By the way, I'm not sure if I've recently told y'all that my major emails to you are archived, and generally accompanied by pictures!, at my blog,, which is available to anyone in the world who wants to look at it/subscribe to it. Feel free to share that link with anyone you think might be interested.

Oh, and if you get tired, or are tired, of receiving these emails, or would rather just check/subscribe to my blog periodically, feel free to tell me and I'll take you off the list--I won't be offended!


Monday, January 5, 2009

New Year Goals and Coal

Dear People: I meant to get to this yesterday, but time slipped away. In this email, I discuss the agenda for tonight's meeting (7 pm, Bryan Ctr), and will reflect a little on this past year's work and my concerns about our electrical power sources. I'll be in my office hours TODAY (new time for spring!), in the Emporium, from 12-1 or so.

1) Ordinance to approve a temporary budget as an emergency while we sort out our plans for this year's budget.
2 & 3) 2 Resolutions paying dues to Ohio Municipal League and the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission.
4) CBE Development and Funding agreement: This is an extension of a 2007 agreement with Community Resources to complete the infrastructure on the CBE, a project that we hope to complete very soon.

Code Enforcement/ Zoning: We received a list of all the properties in town that requested building permits, variance applications to the Board of Zoning Appeals, and the public hearings conducted by the Planning commission. I suspect Ed Amrhein will simply go over this report with us.

1) Setting Budget Workshop dates.
2) Rescheduling our reception for new manager Mark Cundiff
3) An update from Visioning and Planning on the numerous responses to our RFP and their process of evaluating those responses.

2008 Goal Report and scheduling goal sessions: Contact me and I'll be happy to email you an initial draft put together by Judith Hempfling and Karen Wintrow of all the things Council has accomplished this past year in relation to our 2008 goals--Karen will be doing a power point of this review tonight. Please take a moment to read the report over, and share any comments or concerns you have with me--better yet, plan to come to Council tonight to do so. Some of these items clearly need follow-up--e.g., especially, the sidewalk issue.

I think we will keep similar overarching goals for 2009, which can serve sort of like a mission statement for us, but will seek this year to be much more specific in our main objectives under each goal. We need to finish the improvements on the wastewater treatment plant, complete the infrastructure work on the CBE site, to deal with our sidewalk problems, etc.

Another issue that we are thinking carefully about is our electric system and this Council's decision to reject helping to build two new coal plants this past year, and how we will replace that lost power source.

A little history: The decision to vote against those plants was actually very challenging to me. Since the new plants would have had much lower emissions than our current base-power providers, there was a logic in supporting them that was hard to refute, and which kept me awake at night: if we reject these new coal-burning plants, will we just wind up buying more expensive and dirtier electricity, from older and less efficient plants, on the open market--and not reducing our actual carbon footprint at all, indeed possibly, arguably, raising it?

But when Elisa Young of Meigs County came and spoke about the farm she lives on that's been in her family since the Revolutionary War, how they already have 4 big coal-burning plants in view, the high cancer rates that already exist in the county, the ash they wipe off their cars every morning, and the effectiveness of big coal companies at keeping the problems with coal mining, burning, and dealing with the waste from public view, I was solidified in my decision. In addition to all the problems with committing to a 200-year old technology for burning coal, for yet another 50 years or so, during a time of global warming, I couldn't see approving coal plants as anything but a NIMBY move on our part.

In her power point presentation to the village shortly before our vote on the AMP-OH plant, Elisa pointed out that large piles of toxic ash were typically created, sometimes within yards of elementary schools, and that there have been problems with on-going leakage and major spills from these toxic ash piles in the past. Well, 3 days before Christmas,the worst ash spill in history happened at the ash-heap in Kingston, Tennessee, creating environmental devastation that was immediately quite visible by NASA satellites, as you can see in these pictures.

"Clean coal" is obviously a misnomer: coal is not clean at any stage of the process, from mining to burning to dealing with the ash heaps that remain long after the energy is used, not to mention the warming of our planet. But we need to be seriously thinking about what alternatives we can possibly tap into. We are in the process of re-commissioning an Electric System Task force to help us think about our future energy needs and how to move forward on this front. Now that the Antioch campus is closed, etc., do we need the same levels of electrical service as were being predicted? What electricity levels do we need, and can we find alternative energy sources to provide those needs?

Those are the questions I'm especially taking into this new year.