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The Most Important Summer News from Athens

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Welcome back to OU — Here’s what you missed:

Athens in the summer is strikingly different compared to Athens during any other time of year: the nights are quieter, the streets are emptier and the days are hotter. Students returning for fall semester may look to pick up where they left off a few months ago, but for the city of Athens, the political machine kept on chugging while they were gone. Here are some developing topics to be on the look out for throughout this semester.

The Charter School Issue:

Earlier this year, Gov. John Kasich announced his plan to fix the lack of regulation for charter schools. Charter schools are meant to offer students the opportunity to experience a higher quality education than they would at their public schools, however, this does not seem to be the case in Athens.

An analysis by the Ohio Education Association shows that all charter schools servicing students who would otherwise be part of the Athens City School District have lower performance indexes for the 2013-14 school year than the local public schools.

Athens City Schools received a “B” by the Ohio Department of Education, while the charter schools received ratings ranging from “C” to “F.”

Findings by the state auditor’s office also showed that attendance at these schools is extremely low. While visiting 30 charter schools around the state, State Auditor David Yost found that at least six schools were missing between 34 percent to 85 percent of their enrolled students, according to an Athens Messenger article. Findings at another school showed that all 95 students enrolled were missing from the school.

Problems With Fests:

Athens was turned upside down this year during 13 Fest. Some people who live out near The Venue and residents surrounding the Ohio University area voiced concerns about Fest policies and proposed ideas for how to improve the event.

The group of residents met with Athens County Commissioners at the beginning of June to present a list of demands ranging from sobriety checkpoints to no more ‘bring your own beer’ policies and a better transportation plan that doesn’t leave students stranded and wandering down Ohio Route 56. The ‘bring your own beer’ policy has since been removed.

What the Frack Is up With Fracking?

Hydraulic fracturing has become a hot-button issue in Athens over the past several years, and the debate surrounding the controversial practice continued this summer.

Athens residents voted in favor of Issue 7 in last November’s elections, banning fracking within city limits. Now, a group of residents are trying to also put a proposal for stricter county-wide regulations on the county ballot this year. However, this August, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted ruled that the issue could not appear on the county ballot this fall.

The issue has earned a ticket to the Ohio Supreme Court, which agreed on August 20 to hear the case, according to the Ohio Supreme Court’s records. Voting in favor of the plaintiffs would potentially give the local government the ability to further regulate oil and gas drilling in Athens County, and if the court votes with Husted the issue would be removed from November’s ballot.

Pipeline Update:

Plans to place a gas pipeline from the Ridges underneath the Hocking River to the Lausche Heating Plant are still underway after protesters criticized the idea over the summer. Many of the demonstrators belonged to the Ohio University Student Union and protest group Appalachia Resist.

Plans for the pipeline came after the OU community expressed interest in turning away from a coal-based power source, which Ohio University plans to be independent of by the end of 2015. Ohio University currently has a seven-year contract in place with Columbia Gas to supply gas through the pipeline.

It’s a new semester at Ohio University, but for the rest of Athens it is business as usual. Keep up to date with politics this year with The New Political!

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