Fahl and Swank

Athens City Council Fourth Ward incumbent Chris Fahl and challenger Alan Swank. Photos provided.

The League of Women Voters of Athens County is a nonpartisan organization that works to promote political responsibility through active, informed participation of all citizens in government. The League does not support or oppose any political party or candidate. Questions and word limits in this Guide are set by the League. Information is printed as submitted.

According to the guidelines of The League of Women Voters, the League does not alter, edit or correct candidates’ responses to questions; however, “and” and “&” have been interchanged where needed for layout purposes only. Candidates were instructed to this effect and told that any words over the stated limits may not be printed. Each candidate is solely responsible for the accuracy of his/her statements. A candidate’s answers are printed with the understanding that the material will not be used in any way that may be deemed to be an endorsement by the League of his or her candidacy or views.

The primary election day is Tuesday, May 4, 2021. To find your polling place, phone the Board of Elections at 740-592-3201 or visit: www.boe.ohio.gov/athens.

Occupation, training and experience

Fahl

Party: Dem

Biographical Info:

35 Morris Ave. Athens Oh 45701

740-589-6325

Masters Regional Planning, University of Mass PhD Conservation Biology, UMass Chair, Planning and Development Comm. President, Athens Conservancy Board member Athens Special Improvement District

Swank

Party: Dem

Biographical Info:

40 Townsend Place Athens, Ohio 45701

740-591-5891

Muskingum University B. A., Chair Athens Arts, Parks, and Recreation Advisory Board, Vice President Far East Side Neighborhood Association, Former Ohio University Green and White Club President

Question: “What do you think is the most important issue facing the City of Athens over the next year? Why?”

Fahl: “For the next year Athens will be in recovery mode from the COVID pandemic. We must remain diligent in our efforts to minimize the spread of the virus, increase vaccination rates, and work toward community recovery. While helping our businesses connect and successfully navigate the recovery process, Athens also needs to work toward a broader recovery. Diversifying our economic base is essential. The city should expand the use of proven tools, such as Downtown Redevelopment Districts and TIFs that show promise in both commercial redevelopment and housing development. We must continue to work closely with Athens businesses and our economic development partners so we can quickly identify problems and leverage our efforts.”

Swank: “Maintaining city services in the face of the greatest reduction in city tax revenue and fee collections in years will be the city’s greatest challenge in 2021 and beyond. Contracts for purchased goods and services will need to be written and negotiated to provide the best value for the community. Capital project considerations must be thoroughly vetted as to their necessity and include the cost of ongoing maintenance. With the continued decline in enrollment and employment at Ohio University, further diversification of our local economic base becomes more important than ever. Homegrown, good-paying, sustainable jobs provide additional tax revenue as well as help mitigate the exodus from Athens of our recent graduates and young workers.”

Question: “What, if anything, should City Council do to ensure that city code violations are dealt with quickly and appropriately?”

Fahl: “How can City Council help address citizens’ concerns about code violations? First, Council can revise the current code. For example updating definitions, including new standards, and removing unnecessary language. This is an ongoing process. The city needs to do a better job communicating with citizens about state mandates for specific code violations. We also need to better market our Athens City Source app. The better citizens are connected, the better service the city can offer. Other Ohio cities have effective policies we can learn from. For example landlord incentive programs have been shown to improve rental quality in Dayton. In Athens, this would free employee time to work on other types of code violations.”

Swank: “Timely and appropriate enforcement of existing code can only occur if the code office is adequately staffed and provided with the tools necessary for enforcement. It is Council’s responsibility to work closely with the administration to provide the funding for proper staffing. At the current time, we are short one code officer. That position must be filled as soon as it is economically feasible to do so to insure the health and safety of the thousands of residents in rental housing throughout the city. As the elected legislative body for the city, Council writes the code. As such, particular attention needs to be paid to the necessity of creating new code provisions as well as the enforceability of the existing code.”

Question: “What, if anything, should City Council do to support a vibrant economy in our area?”

Fahl: “A vibrant Athens economy means local businesses and employers thriving and new businesses opening. But a vibrant economy also requires a community where individual citizens are flourishing and infrastructure is up-to-date and efficient. City Council has focused on infrastructure development. Council worked with the administration to upgrade both the sewer and water plants. Council has worked to ensure affordable, reliable transportation benefitting both the City and the regional economy. Quality, affordability, and diversity of the housing stock is an ongoing issue. Using new state development tools the city has worked with private developers on two new affordable housing projects which can be models for further housing development.”

Swank: “In addition to purchasing local products and services and utilizing local labor whenever feasible and appropriate, Council should work to create an environment that encourages existing business expansion and employment growth as well as attracting new and emerging industries and technologies to the area. A thorough review of Code that eliminates and/or modifies impediments to responsible job creation should be an ongoing Council and constituent discussion. Fair wages, environmental impact, and the utilization of local resources must be major points of emphasis and consideration in that discussion. An informed Council working energetically with existing economic development organizations can help pave the way for a more vibrant economy.”

Editor’s note: This guide was created and paid for by The League of Women Voters of Athens County. More information about The League can be found at their website, www.AthensLeagueofWomenVoters.com. The League can be contacted at AthensLeagueofWomenVoters@gmail.com.

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