During the past two years, Athens City Council has come up with some strange “solutions.”
- Council’s solution to unaffordable housing? Build more expensive homes.
- Council’s solution to local poverty? Entice wealthier people to move here.
- Council’s solution to racial injustice? Empty gestures and broken promises.
I don’t believe these are actually solutions.
Our community has the worst housing problems in Ohio. The highest income inequality in Ohio. Some of Ohio’s worst poverty. And the same issues of systemic racism and unaccountable policing as the rest of the country. I’m frustrated with Council only pretending to address these problems and often making them worse.
I’m also frustrated with Council’s lockstep conformity and its opposition to democracy. Council members usually vote unanimously without discussing alternatives. Council routinely breaks its own rules to eliminate opportunity for public comment. Local party leaders take power away from voters by working to prevent competitive elections.
What makes this even worse is that Democrats are to blame. Republicans haven’t held a single Athens city office since 2005 and don’t even bother running candidates any more, because there are too few Republican voters to elect them. Yet in the absence of any Republican opposition, local Democratic politicians often have behaved like Republicans themselves by pursuing gentrification, lax public safety regulation, giveaways to the wealthy and over-spending on policing, while covering up racial injustice.
This results in our community’s staggering inequality, coupled with our failure to model a progressive alternative that could defeat Republican control of our state. Ohio University graduates several thousand students each year, and our Democratic city simply sends them off into the world with a collection of rental housing horror stories instead of a familiarity with progressive city policy and experience participating in local governance.
I believe it’s time for a change — and I’m not the only one. In the past 7 months we’ve seen one local leader after another either being shown the door or clamoring to jump ship. The only incumbent Council member to be challenged in the May primary election was voted out of office by a stunning 30-point margin. Three more incumbent Council members decided to not seek re-election. Two of them resigned before their terms were even up! Meanwhile, the mayor eyed a run for Congress, which, if successful, would have resulted in him leaving office halfway through his term. Even at Ohio University, former president Duane Nellis resigned two years before his contract ended.
Athens has never seen such an exodus of incumbents — and it gives us the opportunity to send the status quo packing, too!
Come January 2022 a majority of Council will be new. At least 4 of 7 regular voting members will be different people than the folks elected in 2019. Sarah Grace is the only elected incumbent left in the at-large Council race, and she’s been the driving force behind Council’s strange “solutions”. If Grace becomes the latest incumbent to be voted out this November, the number of new Council members will increase to 5!
With new faces and new ideas, we can finally turn over a new leaf. We can correct what’s gone wrong these past few years. We can model for other communities a positive alternative to the growing Republican control of our state. We can become the progressive city we claim to be.
As a dedicated community organizer with a 25-year track record of winning positive change, I believe I’m the best candidate to lead Council in a new and better direction. In just the past 2 years, without even being a member of Council, I’ve got Council to pass its most pro-tenant legislation in decades, held city officials’ feet to the fire on racial equity, and helped bring about the most diverse and representative Council yet. I can do much more if elected.
As an unapologetic democratic socialist, my values are in tune with the same Athens, Ohio that voted 63% for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary. And as an independent, I don’t owe anything to the party leaders and major donors responsible for our city’s status quo. I’ve never been in this for myself. I’ve always put social responsibility first. And I’ve never been afraid to rock the boat to do what’s right.
I hope once you’ve read about my agenda, my record and my positions on the issues, I’ll win your vote for Athens City Council At-Large.