Sunday, June 21, 2009

Save Ohio's Public Libraries!

Dear People: Author Ray Bradbury said in today's NYTimes: "Libraries raised me...I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”

I hope all of you will write our local representatives before July 1--this is important!
--- On Sun, 6/21/09, Greene County Public Library <> wrote:

From: Greene County Public Library <>
Date: Sunday, June 21, 2009, 7:10 AM


Dear Library Friends and Patrons,

As you have probably heard on the news, Governor Strickland has proposed a last minute change to the State Budget: he proposes to cut funding for Ohio’s Libraries by an additional $100 million dollars a year for the next two years.

Public libraries are a vital lifeline to job hunting information, education, and family fun in a down economy. Greene County Public Library receives 55% of its funding from the State of Ohio. This funding rises and falls with the State’s income, and funding for libraries has already fallen dramatically in the current recession. If the Governor’s new cut became permanent, it would devastate the services we provide to children, teens, adults, and seniors throughout Greene County.

Under the Governor’s proposal, the funding for Ohio’s libraries would drop to nearly half of 2008 levels. The cost to the Greene County Public Library would be $2.2 million in 2009 and $3.5 million in 2010. The cut for this year would be in addition to the $3.3 million reduction the library is already facing because of declining state tax revenues.

We have already absorbed large drops in state funding while working as hard as we can to not reduce services for our wonderful patrons. But, without this key state funding, we will have to make deep cuts in hours, eliminate services, and possibly even close branches.

You can help us protect the funding that will keep us doing what we do best — serving you — by contacting your representatives and the Governor’s office by phone and email this week to let them how you feel about the Governor’s proposal: the decision on this proposal will be made before July 1.

Please contact:

Governor Ted Strickland
(614) 466-3555
(614) 644-4357 (Fax)

Representative Jarrod Martin
(614) 644-6020
(614) 719-3970 (Fax)

Representative Robert Hackett
(614) 466-1470
(614) 719-6984 (Fax)

Senator Chris Widener
(614) 466-3780

On behalf of the entire Greene County Public Library family, thank you for your help and support.

Monday, June 15, 2009

VC Tonight! (Slow on the posting, sorry...)

Dear People: At tomorrow night's Village Council meeting (7 pm, Bryan Center, 2nd floor, Village Council Chambers) we are mostly focusing on economic development ideas; however we'll also be discussing the Water Treatment plant, the possible renewal of the property tax levy (that we have been using on streets, police, the pool and the library), increasing Council pay, and developing a plan for fixing/replacing sidewalks in town. Additionally we'll be going into executive session for a teleconference with our village attorney, John Chambers, regarding pending litigation.

There's no legislation so we'll immediately turn to old business:

1) the Water Treatment Plant's interest in testing the use of potassium permanganate to deal with brown color in our water;

2) an update on Visioning/ Planning (see page 12 and following of this week's packet); and then Economic Development.

Karen and Judith have developed a plan for an Economic Sustainablility Board that would especially focus on non-traditional forms of economic development (see page 18 and following of this week's packet). Kathryn and Karen, I believe, both support a plan to hire an economic development director, probably along the lines of the plan that we had VM Cundiff develop. (See page 9 of last meeting's packet).

I remain unconvinced that hiring a person for this specific job for a variety of reasons but especially: 1) economic development officers rarely earn back to the municipality the cost of their salaries; 2) no other position in Village government has solely one job responsibility as this would have.

After this discussion we will turn to the issue of a pay raise for Village Council that would, per ordinance, take effect on the next Council (after the November election). See page 20+ of this week's packet. I support a pay increase for Council. Our pay has not been raised since 1996, when it rose from $1500 to $2100 per year; this is $155 / month. I attend a MINIMUM of 5 meetings per month; regularly, I attend 6 or 7 meetings, when we have special meetings, etc., and some of these are day-long retreats. By contrast, our own school board earns $125/meeting for up to 24 meetings / year. They can join the retirement program and buy into the medical insurance program; we cannot. Township trustees--where admittedly there is no manager's salary--are paid $9,000 / year and have acces to the state health insurance and retirement programs.

If I had children, there's no way my child care would be paid for by this meager stipend. Comparing our pay to other municipalities, we are, I would say, underpaid---only a few municipalities pay less, and they have stronger mayors (e.g., Hamilton pays only $1,500 / year but over $17,445 for the mayor; Monroe pays only $1,800/year and also only pays its mayor $4,200/year). Kettering pays over $14,800 per year (the mayor gets $21,900), while Oxford pays $3200, and there are many in between those figures.

I did not run for this position for the money. But I did run with a basic platform of encouraging broad participation in the democratic process. When we pay too little, only people who are wealthy can afford to participate. This is wrong.


We will finally be turn to levy renewal and our process for examining that, including the possible appointment of a blue ribbon finance committee to look at the whole picture of our budget.


Then we'll turn to sidewalk rules, giving consideration to the idea of having the village pay for fixing sidewalks as well as to our current status of having property owners pay. After standing reports, we'll turn to executive session with our solicitor, via teleconference, about a possible litigation.

I hope that is clear! Frank and I want to watch a DVD tonight (Vicki Christina Barcelona, by Woody Allen) so I'm going to log off now, but feel free to write me with questions, ideas, concerns, as always!

(Oh, and I'm sorry I've been kind of a slouch about my office hours! I will be in the Emporium on Wed. morning at 10, but must leave right at 11 for a meeting in Spfld).


Monday, June 1, 2009

Brown Water, Comp Plan, Economic Development, Levy?, and Visioning

Man, oh man, dear people--it's going to be a big meeting tonight.

There's no legislation on the docket (or public hearings), but we'll have:

1) SPECIAL REPORT: BROWN DRINKING WATER SOLUTION? from Joe Bates of our Water Treatment Plant with engineer John Eastman and Ohio EPA rep Dan Cloyd. To try to deal with, and possibly even eliminate, the problem of rusty-brown water that many villagers experience, Joe Bates has been exploring treating the water with potassium permaganate. This is a relatively expensive option, at about $13,300 / well, or approx $66,500/year, which would need to be passed on to rate payers.

I have done only a very quick research of this issue online, e.g., here's Wikipedia's entry on the compound and would welcome comments.

References to the Jacoby Greenbelt (which may need to be emphasized in more places) and to development and annexation within the "Urban Service Area" will probably figure in this discussion. Please come!

The draft of the new comp plan is online in last meeting's (5/18/09) packet, beginning on page 12.

The Jacoby Greenbelt is mentioned on four pages: page 22, 38, & twice on page 41. The "Urban Service Area" is defined on a map by areas that can be served by gravity-based seweres (the map is not included in the packet that is online); it is first mentioned on page 28 (under "Planned Growth"), and then again numerous times, where the land use principal #9 is invoked: "Principal 9: Promote new retail, commercial, and industrial development in areas in the community where these land uses already exist (are already zoned for), and/or to yet undeveloped areas in the community and the Urban Service Area where compatible land use adjacencies already exist."

3) ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Mark Cundiff has prepared a budget and a proposal for hiring a part-time economic sustainability director. That is worth reading, and it begins on page 8 of this week's packet (pdf file, 19 total pages). Council President Judith Hempfling will also present ideas about an advisory group for this area--a draft of her ideas begins on page 10 of last week's packet. She hopes to present a new document for us to consider tonight.

4) LEVY RENEWAL? / BLUE RIBBON FINANCE COMMITTEE: We have been advised by our Clerk of Council, Deborah Benning and by both interim manager Weithofer and current manager Mark Cundiff that municipalities need to plan for a levy renewal approximately 18 months ahead of the vote for any such renewal, which, counting back from when the renewal runs out in 2012, is right now. So we have thought that it might be wise to have a group of citizens look closely at our budget and needs, and how we're spending the levy, to determine what would be the best plan for potential renewal, or creation of a smaller levy with possibly different goals.

SIDEWALK THOUGHTS: I, for one, am interested in really tackling our sidewalks and soon, which seems to be very difficult for some reason. However, since we focused so much on streets in our last levy, I think it's really time for sidewalk attention, and I have a somewhat radical thought. Right now, sidewalks are the responsibility of the property owners whose property they pass over. But what if we revised our ordinances to make those sidewalks village responsibility, and had a levy for sidewalk revamping, so that rather than billing individual community members for sidewalk fixing, we collectively decided to re-do our sidewalks and possibly even add some on streets where there are none. The whole town would benefit, it seems to me.

I have not publicly proposed this, or thought about it a very long time, so I'd like your feedback. The initial downsides that I see are: 1) the need to get an ordinance drafted and passed would further delay the already delayed repairs, 2) this could mean an increase in village liablity for sidewalk, which our insurance might have to be changed to reflect, and 2) that some people have diligently made upgrades to their sidewalks, at their own expense; but if those sidewalks were in the future to be maintained and repaired by village crews, it seems to me that most home owners would be glad.

5) VISIONING UPDATE: Here's the email I sent earlier this week regarding our meeting last Tuesday: This notice is appearing in this week's YS News, which some of you may have already seen: "The Yellow Springs Village Council and Miami Township Trustees have begun a Visioning/Planning Process in conjunction with the consultant ACP that will help us develop a roadmap for the future of the community. The first order of business is to form a Steering Committee that is representative of the community to lead and coordinate the process. The Steering Committee will meet a minimum of once a month for a period of nine months. If you are interested in being involved or have questions, please provide a brief statement of interest to Len Kramer via email at or by calling 767- 2324." I'd like you to think about who would be good members for this committee--including you yourself?--and for the other committees that will be formed (most of which will require less time than this Steering Committee). Bear in mind that we want people, maybe about 24?, who represent (or are connected with and trusted by) the widest possible variety of constituencies--in terms of the standard demographic groups (by ages, genders, races, abilities, orientations, etc.), geographic locations (around the village and the township), and roles in the community (young adults, people who work here, people who work outside town/township, people with children and child-free, artists, business people, people who may be not so visible). The other committees (logistics--helping line up meeting locations, etc.; advertising, etc.) will be formed soon as well, so feel free to notify Len or me if you think you'd like to play a role, but maybe a more short-term, less intensive one than the steering committee would be. I bet we can find a role for you. Many of us, many of you, are already active and engaged in the community, but some of us are not so engaged. The Visioning process could be very important in helping us to better understand what the community wants, and helping to direct the way we direct funds and make decisions, but the value of the information we get will be directly proportional to the participation in the process by the widest possible variety of people--including people who are feeling somewhat disenfranchised. I am concerned that if only the people who are already vocal are included, the information will be seriously skewed in a way that would be detrimental to the whole process, possibly for years to come. The task force that helped us to choose a consultant is now helping to collect names for this effort, and to consider how we will get broad representation on board. Please help us think of good people to ask to be a part of this--and/or groups who you think might be forgotten or fall through the cracks. You can contact me or go directly to Len Kramer via the contact info listed above.

Finally, I am very saddened and angered the murder of Dr. George Tiller while he was attending church in Wichita, Kansas, yesterday. Dr. Tiller was a fearless women's health advocate and, yes, an abortion provider, particularly for women who often desperately wanted children but who discovered late in their pregnancy that their fetus's health was so compromised that the child's life would extremely short and full of pain. A few of their "Kansas stories" are included on a website entitled "A Heartbreaking Choice", which offers support "for parents who have interrupted a wanted pregnancy after poor prenatal diagnosis."

These women, writing out of grief and pain, tell powerful stories. One parent of a child whose life was guaranteed to be short and full of pain said, "Our hearts ache with sadness and no words can describe how much we miss [our child] and how deeply we love him. He will always be close to our hearts, mind, body and soul. And if it was not for the Kansas doctor, giving us a little help, we are not sure what we would be writing … Death and life are the same mysteries."

I stand with these women and their grieving partners and families, and for the rights of all women not to be forced by the state or by fear of terroristic attacks on her person, to carry any pregnancy to term--for reasons she should be allowed to keep private between herself and her doctor. I can do no other.