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Wednesday, May 11,2011

First contest emerges in upcoming Council election

By David DeWitt
RJ Sumney Pic
Photo Credits: Third Ward City Council candidate R.J. Sumney
Photo Caption: Third Ward City Council candidate R.J. Sumney
The first contested general election race for a City Council seat emerged last week when independent R.J. Sumney filed petitions to run for Athens' Third Ward.
Sumney, who sits on the city's Planning Commission, will square off against Democratic nominee Michelle Papai for the seat being vacated by longtime City Council member Nancy Bain.

No Republicans filed to run for the seat, so unless any other independent candidates file petitions, the Nov. 8 general election will pit Sumney against Papai. No other City Council races are contested at this time. However, Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl is being challenged by Republican Randy Morris in his re-election bid, while Law Director Pat Lang and City Auditor Kathy Hecht also remain unopposed.

Sumney said Monday that as a 35-year resident of Athens with involvement in a variety of organizations around town, he decided he would make a good candidate for council.

"As far as issues are concerned, the things that I'm really trying to work on are what I call balance and partnerships," he said. "Number one, as far as the balances are concerned, as (Ohio University) changes, how will Athens adapt to it?"

Sumney spoke about balancing relationships between students and non-students, as well as balancing economic and business opportunities with the goals of the city.

"That's something I feel like we've lost over the last few years," he said. "How can we as a community connect the dots between the Chamber of Commerce, ACEnet, the city, the university, and generate the type of businesses and recruit the type of businesses that we want to have come into the city?"

With regard to partnerships, Sumney said the neighborhoods, the city and the university should all be formulating ways to work together.

"How do we generate and maximize relationships we have here in town and create a better city than we've got now, which is still a great place to live," he said. "I want to stay in Athens, and I want to see Athens continue to thrive."

Sumney said it's important to maintain great neighborhoods that provide safety and a good quality of life.

"We want to improve on the infrastructure we have here, improve the sidewalks, improve the roads, which helps with that quality-of-life issue in the neighborhoods and the city itself," he said.

As for his decision to run as an independent, Sumney said that this has been his political inclination for many years.

"I don't tie into the Democratic or Republican parties," he said. "I have issues there, probably philosophically. I just feel the independent position is probably where I come down."

He said being independent fits with his political belief of being as inclusive and open-minded as possible.

Sumney, who has worked for years as advertising director at The Post, OU's student newspaper, was appointed to the Athens Planning Commission a year ago. In that time, he said, he has dealt with issues regulating cell towers, Internet or "sweepstakes" cafs, and signage.

One thing Sumney said he really wants to focus on in the campaign is accentuating the commonalities between students and non-students in Athens.

Meanwhile, Bain announced in January that she would not seek re-election to the Third Ward after serving on City Council since 1985. She said at a Democratic Central Committee meeting that she had discussed with Papai the prospect of her running for the seat instead. Bain said she thinks Papai will be a "great replacement" for her on council. Papai said at the time that she is excited about running.

"This is where I want to be," Papai said.


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Just a bunch of buzzy sound bites here....not much of an independant view either, nor any real answers to the many "How" questions he poses.....His platfrom so far doesn't seem 2nd ward related either...he sounds more like an at large candidate...His candidacy is good free advertising for The Post though....