Wiehl, Morris Debate Bobcat Lane, Fracking, Safety
Ohio University Student Senate hosted a mayoral debate between current mayor Paul Wiehl (D) and challenger Randy Morris (R) in The Front Room coffee house Tuesday night in which the candidates answered students’ questions.
Candidates had one minute to answer a question and 30 seconds for a rebuttal. They were asked questions selected by representatives from The Post, the Residence Life Commissioner for Student Senate and the audience. The questions ranged in topics from underage drinking violations, local business vitality, campus safety, fracking and student involvement in the city government.
To begin the debate, Morris spoke about why he wanted to be the next mayor of Athens.
“This is a unique place we live in because of the university, because of the mix of long-time residents and students. I enjoy working with students along with student organizations,” he said.
Wiehl used his opening remarks to comment on his current term as mayor.
“My term in office has been four years,” said Wiehl. “I know we have had hard economic times since 2008, but I think I have been running the city pretty well. I think I represent everyone in the city.”
With the election fast approaching, OU students had the chance to observe the different opinions of the candidates. When speaking about the topic of opening Bobcat Lane, an extra road for emergency vehicles, the candidates disagreed. Bobcat Lane is better known as the closed off road connecting Baker to Richland Avenue.
“Bobcat Lane should be opened,” said Morris. “When a fireman gets to a fire four minutes later than he could have the building is more dangerous and it increases the danger to him. I think that is the most tangible way to show support for your fireman by making the situation safer.”
“Bobcat Lane should not be opened,” Wiehl disagreed. “We have already lost line of sight outside of Porter and Bentley Hall Annex … and it’s a problem. I have really tried to make this a pedestrian and bike friendly city for the majority of pedestrians and bikers. That’s why I put the bike lanes on Richland, and I would be loathe to cut it in half.”
The candidates did agree on topics such as campus safety being a top priority, promoting local businesses, decreasing unemployment and preventing fracking in the Athens area.
“The fracking issue is coming at us like a tsunami,” said Wiehl. “Hopefully we are not making mistakes. The most disturbing thing is that we do not control outside of the city limits.”
“City council is considering outlawing fracking within the city limits,” said Morris. “I agree with that. Our water is very precious.”
The candidates also addressed the role of students in the Athens community and how they can impact the community.
“Your civic duty is to vote and be good citizens,” said Wiehl “The students and the people who retire here want the vitality of the community.”
“I don’t think there is any more responsibility on the part of students than any other citizen,” said Morris. “Students are just as much a part of this community as anyone else who lives here. You have the same rights and responsibilities.”
Students who attended gave their opinion on which candidate they were leaning towards for the election, and many voiced support for Morris.
Dylan Gustafson, a sophomore at OU, said, “I feel for the most part that Randy Morris has made more of an effort to reach out to students.”
“We were really impressed with Mr. Morris’ stands on sexual and gender-based violence in Athens,” said junior Ellie Hamrick. “I am also really opposed to Senate Bill 5 and I would like to learn more about what the mayor can do with that.”