Oberlin Votes for Change in Elections
Oberlin residents elected a new City Council, replaced one member of the School Board and voted on tax levies for Oberlin City Schools in Tuesday’s election. Along with the rest of Lorain County, Oberlin voters also voted on funding for health facilities and on an increase to the sales tax.
According to unofficial results from the Lorain County Board of Elections, Oberlin’s City Council saw the re-election of current Councilmembers David Ashenhurst, Charles Peterson and Ronnie Rimbert, as well as the election of new councilmembers David Sonner, Jack Baumann, Sharon Soucy and Scott Broadwell.
Councilmen Everett Tyree and Tony Mealy were not reelected. Mealy filed ethics complaints against several other candidates and was censured by the Council in August. Current councilmembers Eve Sandberg and Daniel Gardner did not run for re-election. Shanton Bland, who was running for City Council for the first time, was also not elected.
Oberlin residents favored Oberlin natives Broadwell and Soucy with the highest percentages of votes. Broadwell said of his election, “I’m pretty shocked actually. I didn’t expect to do this well. I thought I had a pretty good chance, but I’m pretty overwhelmed by the whole thing.” Sonner, Baumann and Sovey had previously served on the Council.
The Council has also been front and center in Oberlin’s attention lately with its recent vote on the proposed AMP Ohio coal-fired power plant, for which Councilmembers Mealy, Tyree, Rimbert and Sandberg all voted in favor.
Councilman Peterson suggested that the power issue, along with the East College Street project, was responsible for the outcome of the election. “This campaign really focused on issues….I think that was largely reflected in the outcome of the election in terms of who did not make it back on [to the City Council] and what challengers did…with regards to questions of energy sources and how we acquire and satisfy the energy needs of the city in the future.”
Broadwell said that the AMP-Ohio issue is going to be very important when new councilmembers take their positions in January: “I think there are a lot of people who want to get out of it…but I’m going to be open-minded and see how things go.”
Oberlin City Schools – which are currently seeking to become the first fully-authorized International Baccalaureate K-12 District in Ohio – also held elections for positions on its School Board. Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs at the Conservatory and current School Board President Marci Alegant was reelected with the highest number of votes. Current School Board Member Carol Correthers lost to Paula Jones in a tight race; Sandra Redd was also not elected. Alegant expressed her hopes for Oberlin’s schools by saying that she “would like to see Oberlin progress from ‘continuous improvement,’ to ‘effective’ and finally ‘excellent.’”
Also decided at the polls were two funding resolutions for the Oberlin City Schools: Ballot Issue 21 and 22. Issue 21, a replacement and increased technology levy for Oberlin City Schools, was intended to replace outdated computers and improve communication technology, while Issue 22 was a progressive readjustment and net increase in income tax of .75 percent over five years. Issue 22, which also lowered property taxes, was designed to increase funding for Oberlin City Schools. Issue 21 passed by 16 votes, while Issue 22 failed by 14 votes. These results are not final as the Board of Elections has yet to count provisional and some absentee ballots.
Alegant, referring to the divided nature of the Oberlin community over Issues 21 and 22, said that now is “a good time to try to bring together various constituencies to find common ground and to build trust among the board and the greater Oberlin community.”
City Councilman Ashenhurst ascribed the close vote on Issues 21 and 22 to New Russia Township residents. “The issue on zoning in New Russia Township brought out a bunch of people who don’t usually vote at all to vote against a major zoning amendment in New Russia Township. And when they came out to vote on that, all these people who don’t usually vote at all and voted against [the zoning amendment] saw a couple of tax levies and voted against those, too.”
Oberlin also voted on several other local ballot issues, including Issue 24, a renewal of the levy for mental health care services and facilities, which passed easily, as did Issue 43, which allows the sale of alcohol at the Oberlin Wal-Mart.
Issue 25, a referendum resolution to increase sales and use tax in Lorain County by .25 percent, did not pass. Despite the defeat of the sales tax increase the County Commissioners put it up for a vote again next year, according to the Lorain Morning Journal.
In a non-competitive election, Thomas A. Januzzi was re-elected to the position of Oberlin Municipal Court Judge. In New Russia Township, John Piwinski was elected a trustee, and Elaine King was elected as Fiscal Officer. Both ran without competition.
State Issue 1, which concerned regulations for strip clubs, appeared on the ballot but votes on this issue will not be counted since the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that backers of the measure collected too few signatures. The issue could not be removed before the election because the ruling was issued after ballots had been distributed to boards of elections and absentee voters.
By most accounts, student participation in the election was an important factor in the eventual turnout. Peterson said, “I think student participation in the election was very important. I think at the least students provided an opportunity for candidates to speak with the public.”
Student organizations also mobilized to get out the vote, especially the Oberlin College Democrats. “Given that it was an off year and the complications with voting absentee, I think [student turnout] was pretty good,” said College sophomore Sam Lewis, co-chair of the OC Dems. “But in the future, with primaries and the upcoming presidential election, we’re looking forward to more help from the College to increase student turnout.”