With the November general election fewer than 60 days away, and campaign signs sprouting like weeds throughout the city of Athens, it’s officially campaign season for candidates.
The Democratic candidates for Athens city elected positions held a kick-off event for their campaigns in the small city park located next to the Athens Armory on North Court Street Monday afternoon (aka Armory Park).
The candidates included most of the Democrats who are running for office in Athens this year, as well as all of those running in contested races. Candidates in the contested races spoke during the event. They are: Steve Patterson, who is finishing up his first term as mayor and served on Athens City Council prior to that; incumbent Pete Kotses, who is finishing up his second term as an at-large City Council member; incumbent Sarah Grace, who is concluding her first term as an at-large City Council member; and first-time candidate Beth Clodfelter, who is running for an at-large City Council seat.
Brief summaries of each of the candidate’s remarks is below.
Meanwhile, a League of Women Voters of Athens County candidate forum for the Athens mayoral race – with Patterson facing off against first-time democratic socialist candidate Damon Krane (who owns a local food truck and is running as an independent) – is set for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at the Athens Public Library. A candidate forum for the at-large City Council race is set for 6:30-8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 3, at the Athens Community Center, and will feature the candidates mentioned above as well as:
• Incumbent independent at-large City Council candidate Patrick McGee, a former public defender and former managing attorney of the Center for Student Legal Services who has held that at-large City Council seat since November 2015.
• First-time independent candidate Ellie Hamrick, a self-described socialist who has advocated for cracking down on Athens “slumlords” and for other reforms targeting the rights of the city’s renter population (Krane is an advocate on these issues as well).
• First-time independent candidate Chris Monday, a progressive candidate who has argued for similar measures meant to protect working-class residents and student residents, including rent control.
PATTERSON WAS UP FIRST during the kick-off event Monday. He argued that the city of Athens has increased the amount of spending on “road paving” – from six miles each year typically to about nine two years ago, to about 18 miles last year, although it’s not clear if that includes the East State Street project – and has worked hard on other infrastructure improvements during his time in office.
He also noted that he serves on the board of directors for the National League of Cities and serves on the advocacy organization Ohio Mayor’s Alliance, which he said originally only allowed city representation from municipalities with a population of 40,000 people or more.
In terms of goals if he’s re-elected, Patterson said the city needs to increase the amount of affordable housing for young families and retirees, and to continue “diversifying our local economy” by bringing more jobs and businesses to Athens.
Council member Kotses was next. He touted his experience as a local business owner (Athens Bicycle on Stimson Avenue) and as a longtime participant on city volunteer commissions going more than a decade. As chair of council’s transportation committee, he said he wants to continue to make sure the city’s streets function better for “everyone,” including for pedestrians, public transit, cyclists and drivers.
Incumbent Sarah Grace spoke after Kotses. She said that she’s committed to the city’s “health and sustainability” as chair of the city’s Affordable Housing Commission, and a member of the Joint Police Advisory Council (which just held its annual campus and community barbeque Wednesday evening). She said the city should act on the Housing Commission’s recommendations (which is up for a final reading during City Council’s next full meeting). According to a copy of those recommendations, they suggest focusing on the city helping encourage development of houses in the $125,000 to $250,000 range, and to be inclusive of individuals who are retiring, low income or living with a disability.
Finally, first-time candidate Clodfelter introduced herself during the event. She said she’s worked a “variety of jobs” at Ohio University, including as a staffer who helped students apply for, and successfully obtain, many Fulbright Scholarships over the years. She’s also a board member of the Athens-Hocking Recycling Center (she spoke against the city’s proposal to drop AHRC as its contractor during a controversy earlier this year) and the Athens Peace & Justice Network.
Clodfelter said that as a candidate, she wants to see “more solar panels on public buildings” and other sustainability measures, but also wanted to be a careful steward when tax dollars are being spent on big city projects. She added that she wants to find a way for the city to help neighborhoods improve the conditions of their sidewalks (which are currently the adjoining property owner’s responsibility for the most part).