City Candidates Fire it up at First Church
Oberlin City Council and School Board candidates, residents and students packed the pews of First Church on Monday, Oct. 29 to attend a forum in preparation for the November 6 election. A similar event, mostly attended by students, occurred the following night in West Lecture Hall.
Much of the forum was dedicated to the City Council race; ten candidates are running to fill seven seats. With neither Eve Sandberg, a professor of politics at the College, nor City Council President Daniel Gardner running for re-election, voters will be electing at least two new city council members this year.
Candidates were posed with a selection of questions and given a limited amount of time to speak. Ronnie Rimbert and Everett Tyree, both elected to the council in 2000, spoke primarily on their previous experience. David Sonner, David Ashenhurt, Charles Peterson, Shanton Bland and Scott Broadwell expressed their support for the East College Street Development; all except Tyree, Rimbert and Tony Mealy expressed their desire not to buy into the coal plant. Sharon Fairchild Soucy spoke of the need for more economic development in Oberlin and expressed her concern over the fact that none of Oberlin’s police officers currently live in the town.
Candidates Night also included presentations on a number of ballot issues. Diane Wolf, treasurer for Oberlin City Schools, spoke on Issue 21, a renewal of the technology levy, which would provide money for computers, projectors, smart boards, software and all other technology spending for Oberlin’s public schools. The issue comes on the coattails of last spring’s failed one-to-one laptop initiative; however, Oberlin City Schools Superintendent Geoffrey Andrews was quick to distinguish Issue 21 from the laptop initiative, noting that this is a renewal and not a program requiring new spending.
Andrews also spoke in favor of Issue 22, a .75 percent raise in the City’s income tax to increase funding for Oberlin’s schools. Currently, most of the school system’s operating budget comes from property taxes; as a result, the College does little to fund Oberlin’s public schools because most of its property is tax-exempt. According to Andrews, if the issue is passed, “property tax[es] will drop between 18 and 19 percent and income tax[es] will rise about three-quarters of one percent.”
The tax increase would also even out what Andrews referred to as a currently regressive tax under which “those with the least pay the most.” The additional funds would go to ongoing improvements in Oberlin City Schools, including the planned implementation of the International Baccalaureate Program into the curriculum.
Wolf’s and Andrews’ presentations on Oberlin School District issues were followed by presentations on ballot initiatives for Lorain County. District Issue 23 would change an existing levy funding ambulances and emergency medical services in Lorain County. Issue 24 would renew .6 mill property tax for mental health services and facilities. The ballot also includes Issue 25, a referendum to increase sales taxes in Lorain County.
After the presentations on ballot issues came speeches by school board candidates. Paula Jones, the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association’s office intern, spoke first, followed by Conservatory Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs Marci Alegant; Sandra C. Redd and Carol L. Correthers, a special education teacher.
The School Board staggers its elections; two seats, currently filled by Alegant and Correthers, are up for election this November. Jones, Alegant and Correthers all expressed support for the IB program. Of the two non-incumbents, Jones spoke of the need to balance rigor and deal with children who struggle in school, while Redd expressed a desire for more openness from the school board and concern over the change in the school sports teams’ mascot from the Indians to the Phoenix.
The forum ended with questions from the public; after it was over, a woman accused School Board President Marci Alegant of doing little to hire more minority teachers in Oberlin’s schools, a confrontation that escalated into a shouting match.