This year's race for Oberlin City Council brings someone new, as well as an unusual campaign promise. College senior Sarah Kotok joins 10 others in vying for seven two-year Council positions, and two term incumbent Fran Baumann promises not to fall off any more roofs following an accident two and a half weeks ago.
At the Oberlin Community Candidates' Night on Monday, all but one of the candidates-who was unable to attend the event due to extenuating circumstances-spoke in response to the question "How do you see Oberlin developing in the next five years?" during the allotted five minute response period.
Response suggestions included concerns about downtown, industrial and residential development, a strategic plan for development and zoning.
Candidates focused on keeping Oberlin at its best. Baumann, for example, said development goals are needed to "preserve the character of the community" and to keep it livable. Kotok emphasized sustainability. Among her key points she discussed maintaining Oberlin's small town quality while promoting growth of nonharmful industry within industrial areas and keeping money paid locally within the area for as long as possible.
Ten term incumbent Dick Lothrop talked about "working together on positive planning and development"; Floyd Ramp cited his professional experience to assist him in promoting the community's energy efficiency, for example.
Ken Sloane, who has served one term, is concerned with the location of new development. He said that building on the outskirts of town will hurt the downtown area and that the town must "avoid the economic hardships of sprawl."
Two term incumbent Brent Smith indicated that development and housing demands must be met and that such items as fire codes in area houses should be examined. Philip Verda hoped to distinguish himself from other candidates by emphasizing the different perspective that he, as a retired member of the Oberlin Police Department, would bring to Council. He also discussed more affordable housing and keeping the downtown "full, viable and energized."
Candidate Jim White said that development is the most important issue facing Council since it is guaranteed to occur in outlying areas to the east and north of Oberlin. Herbert Willis, three term incumbent, said that he would look to citizens in order to accomplish what they want. Richard Wood indicated that Oberlin needs a modern building code and an examination of its energy code, as well as a long-term plan for the future.
Calvin Waite, a four term incumbent, was unable to attend the event.
Particular emphasis was placed on development issues because Oberlin's industrial park, the area in which industrialization is permitted, is almost full. According to Lothrop, who is the current vice-chair of Council, the issue then becomes whether or not the community wants more industry to increase the number of jobs and amount of tax money and, if so, what type of industry is desired.
Each candidate discussed further issues that pertain to Oberlin's future.
Following the candidates' presentations, the floor was opened to questions from the audience, which consisted primarily of community members. Questions involved what candidates would do for older residents who are unable to maneuver around Oberlin by walking and driving, their reactions to the possibility of making Lorain County Regional Airport a major airport and its implications for the community, and what to do about the diminishing amount of space available for development within Oberlin.
To this last question murmurs and a shout of "annex" emerged from the audience.
The evening's event will be rebroadcast on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 4.
Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 126, Number 7, October 31, 1997
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