Home Politics Opinion: Athens Deserves More From Local Politics

Opinion: Athens Deserves More From Local Politics

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“As Ohio goes, so goes the nation” is a line that was drilled into our collective heads over and over again this election season and for good reason, as it is rooted with deep historical backing. Since the 1944 election between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Thomas Dewey, Ohioans have sided with the losing candidate only once – choosing Nixon over Kennedy in 1960.

This sort of streak in predicting our nation’s president has deservedly garnered the attention of those with the intention of reaching the highest office and has forced their hands deep into their collective checkbooks.

In the 2012 election cycle, the Romney campaign spent over $43 million in Ohio only to be outspent by the near $73 million put forth by the Obama campaign.

Although the state of Ohio keeps our elected officials in the national spotlight, Athens County cannot say the same due to a different type of consistency: Known throughout the state and most likely to political strategists on the national level as a democratic stronghold, the same attention paid to surrounding areas such as Chillicothe and Lancaster by both the Romney and Obama campaigns was seemingly never paid to Athens.

Headlines such as “Dems Sweep Athens County Races” from WOUB and “Dems Roll In County Races” from The Athens News were commonplace when Athens residents woke up on Nov. 7 as the Democratic Party swept the county election. This blind party line voting style we so often see in Athens serves as an incubator of political corruption.

Corruption in small town politics happens all across the country and goes largely unnoticed, but it may finally be starting to rear its ugly head here in Athens County beginning with re-elected Sheriff Pat Kelly. As reported by Jacob Betzner of The New Political, Kelly lacks enough money to pay off $14,393 charged to a Furtherance of Justice fund.

According to Betzner, a Furtherance of Justice fund is intended to provide sheriffs with a readily available source of taxpayer money for expenses related to bringing about justice. A vague guideline yet still one that should be followed with common sense by an elected official.

What exactly did your tax dollars provide for Kelly and his lack of said common sense? According to a report by state auditor Dave Yost and echoed further by The Athens News, the money, amongst other items, provided tailored suits and steak dinners at a local Athens restaurant. Kelly has already paid back $600 dollars into the FOJ account and is expected to reimburse it with an additional $813 dollars as well in personal funds.

But his challenger in this year’s election, Steve Kane, didn’t think this was good enough: “If you go to a bank and rob it, and you give the money back, does it mean you’re not still guilty of what you did?” Kane asked The Athens News back in October.

Kelly has corruption company here in Athens thanks to County Treasurer Bill Bias, who has largely escaped criticism for his improper use of his old city council position to give his private employer an advantage over other firms trying to open a retirement community in Athens. Bias and his fellow council members assisted in blocking University Estates from opening a retirement community on Stimson Avenue before later approving his own project of the same genre. Margaret Topping, a main promoter for bringing a retirement community to Athens commented on this, saying Bias stopped “every other project that could have happened” except his own.

This sort of entitlement from our locally elected officials is a result of the mindset we have in Athens County. Members of our local Democratic Party have little to no fear of repercussions from corruption such as those abovementioned, thanks to their seemingly annual assurance of re-election. We need to instill that fear and begin to hold them accountable.

French diplomat Joseph de Maistre once said, “every nation gets the government it deserves.” In a town founded around and surrounded by academia and a political history dating back to the 18th century, don’t we deserve better representation than these men? Or as we blindly fill in our Democratic ballot ovals, have we become too apathetic to care?

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