Issues and races I will be watching this fall

We are officially one hundred days from the November 8th election, one which carries massive consequences both locally and nationally. Here are four races that I am watching closely, from a local tax issue to the Presidential election:

The Proposed Municipal Tax Increase for the City of Wilmington

City Council has decided to put a 0.5% temporary income tax increase on the ballot in November. This is probably the issue that I have written the most about in this space (here and here and here), so I think my thoughts are well-documented on the issue. I have taken a role in the campaign to pass the tax increase, so most of my efforts on communicating the need for the tax will be made through the campaign. Bottom line-I have had conversations with people at the City Building, and there is no doubt in my mind that we must pass this tax. It is imperative. Whatever your beliefs on taxes, if you want our safety services (police and fire) to stay close to where they are, I believe it is in our best interest as a community to emphatically pass this tax.

Clinton County Commissioner

The election to replace Mike Curry, who is retiring from his post at the end of this term, took place in the spring Republican Primary. Brenda Woods, who has significant administrative experience in city, township, and county government, won the five person race.

The other race is still ongoing, as incumbent County Commissioner Kerry Steed has a Democratic challenger in Dean Feldmeyer. Democrats in county-wide races have faced an uphill battle, and Feldmeyer will probably be no different. Feldmeyer, whose involvement in several local organizations including Community Action spurred his entrance into the race, is running an unabashedly progressive campaign focused on what he calls a “caring economy campaign.” Mr. Steed focused his rhetoric of his campaign in the spring on his experience as County Commissioner and his focus on fiscal responsibility. Feldmeyer’s goal will likely be to continue to push for more local control of money from the Clinton County Senior Levy and continue his conversation on the “caring economy” model.

United States Senator

Not only is Ohio one of the most important states in the presidential election, but the election for Rob Portman’s Senate seat is arguably the most important senatorial race in the 2016 election. Challenging Portman for his seat is former Congressman and Governor Ted Strickland, who has spent the last few days campaigning with Hillary Clinton on the trail in Ohio. Portman, on the other hand, has endorsed Donald Trump, despite being openly critical of him.

Portman has opened up a 4-point lead in the polls, although they were taken before Strickland went on the road with Secretary Clinton. Recently, Portman has picked up a few union endorsements, including from the Teamsters organization that endorsed Strickland in his gubernatorial runs. Strickland does have several other big endorsements, including President Obama and several other unions. This race will likely come down to the wire, with Strickland touting his progressive agenda while Portman hits him hard on the job loss during Strickland’s time as Governor of Ohio. It also may be affected by rhetoric of the candidates for President, as Trump has already shown Portman’s early endorsement of him to be a questionable decision.

Presidential Race

I have written about Donald Trump before, and even gave my prediction for the contest at the state and county levels. Mr. Trump, of course, is running as the Republican nominee against former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was officially named the Democratic Party nominee last week. This is a race of historic proportions. On one side, Hillary Clinton has been involved in politics and government for thirty years, while Mr. Trump has often discussed entering politics but finally decided to pull the trigger last summer. There is not much more that I can say on this race that I haven’t said before. A Trump presidency would be a true disaster, and his comments about minorities and women, as well as his complete lack of understanding of foreign affairs, make him unelectable. If one of the candidates decides to swing through any small towns in southwest Ohio, I will cover it, but there are many out there who can do a much better job than me of covering this particular race.

 

This election is important and historic on a local and national level. If you are reading this, and you are eligible but not registered to vote, please click here to see more information on registering. Do it today! If you have questions or comments about the article, feel free to comment below or email me at thewilmingtonbulletin@gmail.com.

We Have an Open Meetings Problem in Wilmington and Clinton County

Let’s say you are a person who is interested in an issue being presented at a Clinton County Commissioner’s meeting, and you want to attend. You do your homework, prepare your statement, get some supporters to join you. Only one problem-you can’t because you have a job. As you may know, our Clinton County Commissioners meet at 8 am on Mondays and Wednesdays. This is a time that allows retirees and the lucky few who can get off work to be a commissioner or participate in meetings, but prohibits those of us who work full-time to attend meetings.

City government is not immune to this issue. I challenge you to find the regular meeting times for the commissions that are administered by the City on the city’s website. Personally, I have ties to multiple commissions/boards, and I struggle to understand or know when these meetings are.

Several local public bodies do a much better job of getting the word out for their meetings. City Council has their meeting times readily available online for both council committees and council at large. They even post the agendas for full council meetings online the day before (and have an email list you can join for the agendas). Council meeting times give more of an opportunity for people who do work to attend. The Clinton County Regional Planning Commission has their next meeting front and center on their website, showing that there are easy ways to do it.

So why do we have so many government organizations that have the issue of inconvenient meeting times or non-posted meeting times? The former is the biggest concern. It raises questions about who these boards serve, especially for the Commissioners. These meetings should be for the benefit of the public, as we are the people who are affected by their decisions. The meeting times also prevents many working people from not only attending meetings, but potentially being a county commissioner.

It is time for us, as a community, to move forward from the days where everyone who lived here, worked here, and people were more available for public meetings during the day. We must demand that our local governmental organizations abide by the spirit of the Open Meetings Laws and accommodate the vast majority of people who are unable to attend meetings during the day. Our elected and appointed officials need to know that these meetings should be held at the public’s convenience, not their own. Wilmington will likely be putting an income tax increase on the November ballot, and citizens should know that their city is actively working to make citizens be a part of the decision making process. Hopefully, the County Commissioners will consider holding their meetings at a time that will actually allow ordinary, working citizens to attend and have their voices heard. The government must work for the people-not the other way around.

My Way Too Early Prediction for the Clinton County Presidential Results

*Note: I am aware that Donald Trump is not the nominee yet. I think it is likely at this point, especially after his performance in Tuesday’s primaries. Either way, my quick and dirty analysis would stay very, very similar. As far as Hillary is concerned, she is basically the nominee at this point, so I am writing about her specifically.

2008 and 2012 Results

The first thing I did was look at the results of the 2008 and 2012 primary and general election results for the county. In 2008, Democrats had a larger-than-normal turnout in the primary with 5,296 voters taking a Dem ballot. Republicans still had more ballots cast, with 5,963 voting in the Republican primary. This is closer than normal, and from a distance could look like a good sign for the Democratic presidential candidate in the general election. Barack Obama, however, was beaten 64-34 by John McCain in the county. Why was this? My theory is that the Republican party had no really competitive local contests. The County Commissioners races were uncontested, and the contested races were mostly for state judge or party representatives. On the Democratic side, along with a heated presidential race with two candidates trying to make history (Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama), there was a state senate race that featured Joy Brubaker and Bill Horne, who were fairly well known in Clinton County.

2012 was an entirely different story in the primaries, but with a similar result in the general election. Rick Santorum. who had a wide base among evangelical, socially conservative Christians (a staple of Clinton County politics), had the most votes in the Republican presidential primary. Over 6,500 people voted in the Republican primary, an increase of 500 in 2008. This primary also featured candidates for US Senate and many candidates for county commissioner. In the Democratic primary, only 741 people voted, likely because there was an incumbent president (Obama) and no real local races. In the general election, Mitt Romney doubled Obama’s votes in Clinton County, beating him 66-32.

What does this mean for 2016?

It is hard to say, in part because both parties will likely nominate candidates that are wildly unpopular in the opposing party. This could drive a #NeverHillary campaign to join the #NeverTrump campaign, creating a situation where people are voting against a certain candidate as much as they are for a certain candidate. The numbers show Republicans winning Clinton County by large margins, even as the state has gone blue in the last two presidential elections. How does this bode for Trump? He had almost as many votes in the Republican primary as Romney and Santorum combined in 2012, so it is clear that he has significant support in the county (especially places other the the city of Wilmington). He did not, however, get a majority of the votes in the Republican primary. With Kasich and Cruz, who took 51% of the county together, going more anti-Trump by the day, one wonders if some of those voters will follow. Hillary Clinton was relatively popular in 2008, posting a Clinton County primary win over then-Senator Obama, but was beaten by Bernie Sanders in the primary this year.

I could see Trump winning Clinton County by around 25 points, judging from past performance by Republican candidates and judging from him being around the same place in statewide general election polls as McCain and Romney lost by. Clinton County fits Trump’s demographic well: hit hard by the recession; overwhelmingly white; and rural. Clinton should do well in the city, where many of the county’s Democrats live, but will still probably lose by some margin. This will be an interesting campaign to watch in terms of how each candidates policies would affect those in Clinton County, and it is certainly a race we will be following here at the Wilmington Bulletin.

Clinton County Election Review

A quick review of the 2016 Primary Election Results for Clinton County

County Commissioner-Open Seat

Winner: Brenda Woods

Mrs. Woods ended up winning with almost one-third of the vote, with Mike McCarty and Terry Habermehl finishing second and third, respectively. Woods ran an impressive campaign, with well-designed signage and campaign literature. Additionally, she received broad support from community leaders, including current Commissioner Mike Curry and President of Wilmington City Council Randy Riley. Woods performed well in precincts throughout the county, including some in areas that figured to be strongholds for other candidates. She will bring years of experience in both county and city government to her new post.

 

County Commissioner-Kerry Steed’s seat

Winner: Kerry Steed, Incumbent

Steed won a very close race with Fife. Steed ran a strong campaign with good social media presence and advertising. Fife kept this race close, despite an apparent lack of campaigning beyond his statements to the Wilmington News Journal and his participation in the candidate forums. Steed will have to get by Dean Feldmeyer in the General Election, where he will need to answer questions about transparency with the usage of the hospital money.

Republican Presidential Primary

 

CC Winner: Trump
Ohio Winner: Kasich

Neither result is really surprising. Trump was strong in a place that has seen difficult financial times and is overwhelmingly white, doing particularly well outside of the city of Wilmington. Kasich did take the state, however, slowing the apparent Trump juggernaut.

Democratic Presidential Primary

CC Winner: Sanders
Ohio Winner: Clinton

Clinton winning Ohio after her loss in Michigan wasn’t a surprise, but it was certainly a disappointment to those who still think Bernie Sanders has a chance of winning the Democratic Primary. Sanders winning Clinton County, however, was interesting to me at first glance. I do wonder if it has to do with the strong pacifist Quaker community here and Mr. Sanders’ history of strongly pacifist rhetoric. Either way, Ohio was part of a fantastic night for Clinton, and it would be a shock for her to not get the nomination at this point.

 

2016 Primary Preview for Clinton County

With the Ohio primary elections quickly approaching, here is a quick preview of some select races that have been closely followed in Clinton County.

County Commissioner-Open Seat

Running: Greg Grove, Terry Habermehl, Scott Holmer, Mike McCarty, and Brenda Woods

This race has been closely followed by many in the county, in part because of the number of people running and their ties across the county. All five candidates have been pushing hard throughout the county and attempting to separate their message from the message of their competitors. Driving through the county, you can see signs for all five candidates everywhere. I believe that there will be a geographic slant to this race, with certain candidates winning areas where they either live or work due to name recognition. Many are championing Mrs. Woods and Mr. Habermehl for their experience in government, while the others have been touted for their records in business or elsewhere. This race will likely come down to who voters believe has the best plans for the two main issues that have defined this race: the sales tax rolloff and the “hospital money.”

County Commissioner-Kerry Steed’s seat

Running: James Fife and Kerry Steed

Support for these two men has been fairly split. Steed is running heavily off of his experience as a commissioner, saying that he stuck to his campaign promises from the 2012 election. Mr. Fife has said that he will bring his experience working for a state agency (ODOT) as well as his experience as a Union Township Trustee to work on cost-saving measures. It appears that this race will be very close on election day, much like the other race.

Republican Presidential Primary

Running: John Kasich, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Donald J. Trump

In what has quickly devolved into a race that some speculate may drastically change the GOP, four candidates have stayed in until Ohio (from over a dozen). Kasich, the current governor of Ohio, is certainly the biggest challenger to Trump’s success. He is currently polling ahead of or tied with Trump in Ohio, perhaps in part to Mr. Rubio’s campaign encouraging voters to support Kasich as the best chance to stop Trump in this winner-take-all state.

Clinton County’s demographics point to Trump potentially taking the county because of the heavy influence of “blue-collar” jobs and large population of Evangelical Christians. Kasich’s appearances in Wilmington should help him, and his balancing of the budget in Ohio (albeit controversially) will appeal to the pragmatic side of Clinton County voters. The other candidates running will certainly have their supporters in Clinton County, but it is almost certainly a race between Kasich and Trump.

Democratic Presidential Primary

Running: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders

The Democratic primary has had fewer candidates and fewer direct jabs between the candidate, but the debates have not been lacking in substance and the campaign speeches have still been passionate. So what does this mean for Ohio and Clinton County? Mrs. Clinton is leading Sanders in polling, leading anywhere from single digits through twenty-five points. Sanders could have a decent showing in the county due to his strength among working-class, white voters (with whom Mrs. Clinton did very well in 2008). This race is difficult to predict for the county, due to many Democrats choosing instead to vote in the Republican primary because of the commissioner’s race.

 

Make sure to get out and vote on Tuesday, no matter what party. For information about where you should vote (and to make sure you are registered), check out the Clinton County Board of Elections website.

Conversation with the Candidate-Terry Habermehl

A couple of days ago, I sat down with current County Auditor and commissioner candidate Terry Habermehl for a conversation about the race and his ideas for Clinton County. Mr. Habermehl is running against Scott Holmer, Brenda Woods, Mike McCarty, and Greg Grove in the Republican Primary.

On the senior services levy…

After the forum at the senior center, senior-specific issues have been on the candidates mind. Mr. Habermehl, having just come off of a talk at the senior center, was no different. Habermehl countered some of the information that has been discussed about the contract with the Council on Aging. While some have talked about the amount of money spent on administration of the levy that is paid to the CoA, he has said that their administrative costs may well be lower than if the county tried to administer the grant themselves. He said that when he first came on as county auditor a few years ago, there were discussions between Job and Family Services and the county about the grant being locally administered(Community Action had also inquired about this). According to Habermehl, they decided that there would be too many new positions that would need to be created in order to fulfill the expertise that would be needed to administer such a levy.

However, Habermehl did say that there were some things he would like to see done regarding the levy. He said that there is not enough input from seniors right now that is shared with the Council on Aging, which could include independent surveys. Additionally, he said that he would like to keep the administration local if it were a feasible option, which would need to be researched more.

On the 0.5% sales tax rolloff

Habermehl said that he is cautiously optimistic about the possibility of a sales tax rolloff. He believes that the rolloff should happen because it was passed as a temporary tax to begin with, and from the data from the last few years it would be fiscally acceptable. Mr. Habermehl added that the county has actually seen a rise in sales tax revenue over the last few years, with each of the last 3 years showing an increase from the previous year. According to Habermehl, as commissioner, his focus would be to continually explore long-term reports for revenue and expenditures to work to avoid re-adding the sales tax.

On moving from auditor to commissioner…

One of the questions I had for Mr. Habermehl was what inspired him to run for commissioner after spending the last several years as auditor. He said that he desires to work more closely with the people of Clinton County, which is not afforded to him as often in his role as auditor. He added that as auditor his role is providing information, but that in the commissioner’s role he could help people solve problems.

On the “hospital money”…

As with every candidate, the money from the sale of Clinton Memorial Hospital is an important consideration for Habermehl in the campaign. In his opinion, long-term planning is the most vital piece for using that money. He believes that money should be spent on infrastructure where possible, especially where it increases productivity in county offices and helps save money. With much of the rest of rest of the money, Mr. Habermehl believes that a legacy fund through the Clinton County Foundation should award grants with the interest earned on the money.

On efficiency in county government…

One of Habermehl’s passions for county government is increasing efficiency and collective action among the individual departments in the county. One of his interests is increasing the information technology infrastructure of the county government, which he claims is inadequate right now. There is currently no full-time IT person for the county, and most individual departments are responsible for their technology needs. Habermehl believes that this is an area where the government could be more efficient and save money, because departments would be purchasing items and services together rather than separately and could therefore increase their bargaining power.

On the possibility of a community center…

Mr. Habermehl said that one question that is not answered in specifics is “what is the definition of a community center?” He stated that this needs to be answered before anyone moves forward with it, because the services it provides will affect the support of it. One thing Habermehl said he may explore is the possibility of putting it to a vote, perhaps with the additional piece of a levy for operating costs. The operating costs, he said, were his biggest concerns in the long run.

 

This was another interesting conversation with a commissioner candidate. Thank you for reading, and I hope to talk to more candidates before the primary on March 15th.

Conversation with the Candidate-Dean Feldmeyer

In my second conversation with a commissioner’s candidate, I sat down with Dean Feldmeyer to talk about his campaign. Mr. Feldmeyer is the Senior Pastor at the Wilmington United Methodist Church. He is the only Democrat running for County Commissioner, and will face the winner of the Steed/Fife primary in the General Election. Here is a synopsis of our conversation:

On county services:

Mr. Feldmeyer said that he believes county services mostly fall into two categories: protecting and enabling citizens. In the first category, he includes infrastructure such as bridges and roads, and emergency services. He stated that in his he is also concerned with the amount of area the Sheriff’s office has to cover with the manpower they currently have and that we need to be assured that they can cover it. Dean was also adamant about protecting Caesar’s Creek Lake, the main source of water for the county. He proposed a study of the areas up to one mile from the lake to assure there were not any sources of contaminants for the lake for the foreseeable future.

As far as the duty of county services to enable residents, Mr. Feldmeyer placed an emphasis on providing health services for the people of Clinton County. Included in this is increasing funding for county trails and parks and providing nutrition and exercise programs for residents, especially those who could not otherwise access them.

On the Council on Aging and seniors services in Clinton County…

This is undoubtedly a major (if not the major) issue of Mr. Feldmeyer’s campaign-his concerns about how the money is being spent from the senior services tax levy. His interest in working closely with seniors comes from his experience with Clinton County Community Action, where he is currently the Board Chairman. He has worked with the group for around ten years, he said, and has seen an increase in needs for services for the growing senior population in Clinton County.

This levy is administered by the Council on Aging, a group based in Cincinnati. Mr. Feldmeyer had an issue with this on its face, because “we are giving money to a group from outside the county so they can tell us how to spend our tax dollars.” During our conversation, Dean expressed three main concerns: the decrease in funds from the levy geared towards recreation and fitness, the carryover of the monies from year to year, and the amount going to administrative expenses. With the first concern, Mr. Feldmeyer believes that seniors need more access to recreation and fitness opportunities, not fewer, for both social and health reasons. His concerns about the carryover of money from the levy stems from his belief that there are immediate needs not being addressed, and that “the levy is not there to create a savings account” but to provide services. As far as the amount going to administrative expenses, Dean says this runs about $80,000 per year, which again stems from his initial hesitation to pay an organization from outside of the county to spend this money.

According to Mr. Feldmeyer, these issues can be resolved by the creation of a local agency to administer these funds. That way, there is a direct link between taxpayers, those receiving the services, and those administering the services. He claims that there is no current system for oversight, even though there is supposed to be a citizens’ advisory committee for the money to work with the Council on Aging.

Feldmeyer continued about his desire to see increased access to services for senior citizens by discussing the current issues with Meals on Wheels. Feldmeyer claims that dozens of seniors have been cut off from services due to changes in certain criteria for the program. He believes that many of the seniors who have been cut off from the services still truly need them. According to Mr. Feldmeyer, these issues could have been potentially avoided with more local controls of the levy money. Instead, Community Action has had to pick up some of the costs from the decrease in funding for the program in order to continue to provide services for those seniors.

On being a Democrat in Clinton County…

Considering the Republican dominance in Clinton County politics, I wanted to know how Dean planned to get voters to look past the fact that he is running as a Democrat. Mr. Feldmeyer said he was focused on targeting issues and values that are universal to all people, and he stated his belief that people will support him. His platform of governing with responsibility, strength, and compassion are what he sees as something a wide variety of people can get behind.

On the hospital money and a community center…

Mr. Feldmeyer views a community center as not a goal, but as a tool to achieve goals. During our conversation, he said that the question that needs to be answered is “how would a community center meet the needs of the community?” Before he would commit to something like the center, he said he wanted to truly see if it was something that would be fiscally responsible and a true community need. Dean pointed out that it could be worth doing an exploratory committee to assess the needs of Clinton County, as well as the short-term and long-term costs. He pointed out that a concern with the center would be operating costs, which it would be difficult to guarantee from the county’s standpoint over the long-term.

With the hospital money, Mr. Feldmeyer noted the importance of the restrictions on its use. His focus would be on health and safety of Clinton County residents. He wants to invest in recreation and fitness opportunities for all people, including parks. Additionally, Dean stated that he believed the county needs to find programs to support the efforts of Judge Rudduck’s drug court. He said that exploring the possibility of a drug and alcohol treatment center in Clinton County could provide a lot of support to residents struggling with those issues and allow their families to provide more support to them while in treatment.

Finally, Mr. Feldmeyer emphasized that we should be using the money we have to address current needs. While he supports the creation of an endowed fund, he said that the county needs to address immediate needs while looking at the long-term. He believes that there are many needs in relation to health and safety throughout Clinton County that the money could be used for right now.

 

As I did after my last conversation with the candidate, I invite all other candidates for a one-on-one conversation about the issues currently facing Clinton County. If you (or a candidate you know) is interested, please let me know!

A Conversation with Kerry Steed

This is the first of what will hopefully be a series of conversations with candidates in the commissioner’s race. I am inviting all candidates to sit down for a conversation to expand on their expressed views in both forums.

I sat down with Kerry Steed, current Clinton County Commissioner running for re-election in the Republican Primary against James Fife. We discussed a variety of topics. I will summarize our conversations on each topic.

On using hospital money for a community center:

This was one topic that has been brought up by a variety of residents of the county since the YMCA financial situation became obviously dire several years ago.When I asked Kerry about the possibility of building a community center locally, he acknowledged that it was something that the commissioners had considered. Steed said the main problem with this idea is that “building the center is the easy part, but maintaining operations is where you run into trouble.” He stated that this is what they have been told during discussions with governmental organizations about their centers. He cited the YMCA building repair costs as an example of a potential long-term issue with regards to costs.

On the creation of an endowed fund for the remainder of the hospital money:

For anyone that has read the Wilmington News Journal, the creation of an endowed fund is something that has been discussed for the hospital money. Steed emphasized his belief that an endowed fund is the best way to ensure that the money is safeguarded for the long term. Under Steed’s estimation, putting the $3 million alone into an endowed fund would lead to somewhere between $150,000 and $280,000 available for a committee to give out each year.When I asked Mr. Steed about using the money immediately, he said that any large-scale project would require extensive operating fees, which could potentially negate positive effects from the money in the long-term if those were not viable.

A little later on in our conversation, I questioned Kerry about the apparent lack of action related to the $3 million endowment fund. I compared it to the movie Groundhog Day, where I felt like I was reading the exact same report about every commissioners’ meeting since the beginning of the year, especially regarding the need for more legal counsel in regards to who can sit on a board to give out the money. Mr. Steed explained that there were a variety of legal issues surrounding the investment of the money and who had to be in control of it. Apparently, this had to do with how the money could be invested from a governmental organization.

On the 0.5% sales tax rolloff:

After talking about the investments from the “hospital money,” Kerry and I turned our attention to the oft-discussed potential 0.5% sales tax rolloff. As I had mentioned about the commissioner’s forum, all of the candidates said that they supported lower taxes in principle, but a couple (Mr. Fife being one) reiterated that it was something they needed to examine how it fits into Clinton County’s fiscal future. When I asked Mr. Steed about it, he said that it is something he has been looking at for a few years, and is still looking into. Kerry stated that he views the .5% tax as a “tool to balance the budget.” He also said that he tries to abide by statements by the Ohio Tax Commissioner encouraging local governments to “tax what you need and spend what you tax.” For Steed, this means that governments should not be in the business of collecting tax revenues for the future as much as they should focused on providing services to taxpayers, but that they should not be imposing taxes without a need.

Another important part that I was curious about (this will be covered in an upcoming post) was whether he was worried that allowing the tax to roll off would lead to a situation like the City of Wilmington is currently in, with years of declining revenues and a sizable budget deficit. Here, Steed was bullish on Clinton County’s future, emphasizing that revenues are going up as more businesses are moving in. This, Steed said, has been a factor in the discussions regarding the sales tax rolloff.

On the future of Clinton County:

As I previously stated, Steed was very bullish about the future of Clinton County. Steed told me that according to his figures, Clinton County has 400 jobs waiting to be filled by qualified candidates. He said that we need to continue discussing plans for workforce development so we can match workers with appropriate skills to jobs. In addition, he said that he wanted to see more partnerships like the partnership between Laurel Oaks and AMES with their aircraft maintenance program.Steed was also adamant that, as a county, we have to start looking forward towards attracting more people who work here to live here too. He looks to the construction area as a place that can be a major part of the focus on the future, building spec homes so that when people decide to take a job in Clinton County, they could move her right away as well.

My thoughts

Overall, I thought it was an enlightening conversation with Mr. Steed. I was able to get more of a perspective on local issues and what the commissioners are doing to try to plan for the future. In the future, I believe that the commissioners must do a better job in communicating some decisions. Obviously, this is not all their fault, but it seems that they could avoid criticisms about their lack of long term planning or their handling of the hospital money with more communication with the public.

I hope that more candidates and/or local politicians are willing to sit down for a conversation. We are at a crossroads locally, and it is vital to have an informed electorate. The invitation is open to all candidates-I would be happy to hear from you!

EDITORIAL: Unanswered Questions in the County Commissioner’s Race

With such a loud and vicious Presidential race, in many ways it is a pleasant change to see a gentler tone in our local County Commissioner’s race. However, the race is lacking something that could be beneficial: real, concrete plans to help the county solve problems and continue some of the success it has seen. Here are 3 questions I would like to see the candidates address and why I believe they are important:

  1. Being as specific as you can be, what would you like to see done with the hospital money in both the short-term and the long term?

This has been the $3 million question over the last few years in the county, along with the money that the county will be receiving in the coming years. The current commissioners seem to be dragging their feet over the issue, and are still lacking a concrete plan to move forward with the money currently in the coffers, much less the money that will be coming in. The most recent, glaring example of this is the issues surrounding the creation of a separate board to control the money. It seems that so many commissioner meetings have been rehashing the same conversations surrounding the issue, but is anything being done to cement a long-term plan for that money and the money that will continue to come in?

2. Should the 0.5% sales tax roll off? If so, do you see a need for the revenue loss to be countered?

The tax roll-off is an interesting fiscal issue for the next few years in Clinton County. The county is in good financial shape, thanks in part to the sales tax that has been in place for just over a decade. The sales tax was originally set up for five years, but has since been extended by the commissioners. The current commissioners have said that they support this roll-off, as did many candidates at the forum. The candidates should be prepared to say whether or not they would replace this revenue stream or if they believe that the county does not need to replace it.

3. What are some specific ways you would address public health in Wilmington?

This could go hand-in-hand with the question of the hospital money. Many residents of Clinton County will remember the saga of the YMCA from just a few years ago. Part of the discussion around the YMCA was the idea that Wilmington needed a community recreation center of some type as a public health necessity. Obviously, this has not happened. Some candidates for commissioner have mentioned that they believe Wilmington should build a community center, but the conversation has not gained significant traction recently on a large scale.

Obviously, another side to the public health issue in Wilmington is the apparent rise in drug-related health issues, including death by overdose. This issue has people concerned throughout the country, and many are wondering how to best address the problem. Education and availability of after school programs for youth seem to be steps in right direction, and it would be exciting for Clinton County to be seen as a progressive force towards a healthy citizenry.

 

There are many more important points in the election that people would like to see covered, but these are issues where commissioners could come out with more specific plans. The candidates have certainly been working on some specific points for their campaigns, but when a campaign is so localized scale, I had hoped we would her more about specifics at this point.