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.


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