In the May 7 Democratic primary election for three Athens City Council at-large seats, we recommend the election of three challengers, Michael McSteen, Michael Bart and Jennifer Cochran. All three will bring thoughtful and fresh perspectives to City Council.
Granted, it's not easy to choose among the six competing candidates - none of them seems that different from one another in terms of ideology, policy, goals and vision for Athens. However, after careful consideration, we feel that McSteen, Bart and Cochran offer the best opportunity for shuffling the deck on a City Council that lacks dissonant or challenging voices. Council, as currently constituted, seems monolithic in its often patronizing and dismissive attitude toward the biggest demographic segment in Athens, Ohio University students.
This is especially the case since at-large council member Elahu Gosney decided against running for re-election. He held the wildcard seat on council, and the city will miss his questioning, if not skeptical, approach to city affairs. It's worth mentioning that Gosney has endorsed Michael Bart, who not so long ago was a student himself, for an at-large seat.
In choosing the three challengers, we're conspicuously not endorsing two City Council at-large incumbents - Steve Patterson and Chris Knisely. Both have been hard-working public servants who deserve praise for their service. In particular, they and council as a whole did noteworthy job of working with the city administration and Police Department to finally get a handle on the heretofore out-of-control spring street fests in the OU student neighborhoods.
In this case, controlling the troublesome street parties happened to serve the interests of both permanent residents and the great majority of students who don't cause trouble.
Both Patterson and Knisely have done a good job working on important city issues, especially involving the arts and transportation. They also have a working familiarity with a plethora of other city issues, including finances and public safety.
Bart, a local pizza shop manager and well-known DJ around town, has expressed concern that City Council doesn't get challenged enough on city affairs. He would encourage more community involvement, and that's a good thing.
McSteen, who served on council previously representing the west-side First Ward, would bring his common-sense, small-business perspective back to a City Council that's sorely lacking in that area.
Cochran, meanwhile, has a wealth of experience both in administration at the university and an impressive array of community activities. She can use her many connections and diversity of local experience in representing the city as a whole.
The city of Athens is lucky to have such an excellent selection of local candidates for city office. This makes the choice especially challenging in this Democratic primary. However, on balance, we feel that Democratic city voters can bring the greatest benefit to City Council by adding one or more new perspectives. Vote for Michael McSteen, Michael Bart and Jennifer Cochran in the May 7 Democratic primary for Athens City Council.