Home Politics City council candidate Pat McGee discusses local issues

City council candidate Pat McGee discusses local issues

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Patrick McGee

Patrick McGee is not your typical candidate for Athens City Council.

Then again, he’s not your typical Athens resident: he is a proud owner of a boat hat, he’ll occasionally play the harp on College Green and everyone in Athens seems to know him.

Most days, McGee can be found working in the Center for Student Legal Services, where he’s been for about 15 years. Located two stories above College Bookstore, the CSLS represents any student who pays the $12 retainer fee, although McGee has had clients of all kinds.

The office grants him a beautiful view of College Green, a view he took advantage of when I visited. Looking out at a tour stopping at the Civil War Monument, he decided that coffee would be preferable to a “stuffy office.” Once the signature boat hat made its appearance, he was ready to go.

He decided to go to Whit’s for coffee, and on the short walk over, he was greeted by name by no less than three people. Once in Whit’s, he was greeted by the man behind the counter as “Athen’s next councilman.”

After a brief debate on whether he was allowed to buy me coffee (he isn’t, but the offer was appreciated), he picked a bench right inside College Gate and we started talking about why he’s running for city council.

McGee is focusing on an often-underrepresented population in Athens government: students. In his work with the CSLS, he’s found that students often don’t know where to turn when they’re having problems on a city level, and he wants to fix that.

“Students are temporary residents in many ways, but they are still residents,” McGee said. “I have some specific interest in protecting students from what I think are actions that are detrimental to them.”

His plans include helping and emphasizing accessibility to students. He said he’s worked closely with students ever since arriving at the CSLS in 2000 and talks to students whenever possible.

He recently spoke at an Ohio University College Democrats meeting, where he explained that despite decades of aligning with the Democratic party, he is running as an Independent candidate.

When speaking to me, he described his decision as “almost a protest” against how most students are gone by the time city council primaries roll around in May.

“Those students who have an interest [in local elections] weren’t here for the main primaries,” McGee said. “How can you claim to represent the city of Athens if you have 600 votes and you won a council seat? Six hundred votes certainly doesn’t represent the citizens of Athens.”

McGee also understands the potential in appealing to a broader base of voters. He considers himself a “very progressive” candidate, but doesn’t wish to be pigeonholed into any one specific party.

He also mentioned how he fears he might lose outward support from Democrats who might otherwise be on his side due to party lines, although he doesn’t think his lack of affiliation will cost him any votes. He doesn’t believe anyone should vote strictly on party lines, but rather he urges people to vote whichever way they feel is best

The lack of party support isn’t holding him back. Although it makes covering campaign expenses a little more difficult — McGee regretfully told me how he funds the entire campaign himself — he thinks he still has a shot to make a real impact on local politics.

Some of the biggest issues facing Athens are some of the problems he feels most strongly about. When I asked him to weigh in on the charter government concern Athens is currently facing, he said he felt it was more of a cover-up issue that allows us to ignore the effects of fracking.

“I think the real issue is the fracking issue,” McGee said. “It’s a pity that the charter is not on the ballot for voters to consider, but I don’t think that’s the remedy. I think the current Ohio Supreme Court would strike it down, so the remedy is really dealing with the Supreme Court, changing the members on the court who perhaps have ties that are too close to the oil and gas industry.”

McGee also said that he could support a $15 minimum wage for Athens residents, as long as the money could stay in the city.

The idea brought up a comparison to Bernie Sanders. Sanders, an Independent senator from Vermont vying for the Democratic presidential nomication, supports a national $15 minimum wage. McGee respects and supports Sanders and hopes he gets the Democratic nomination, but he draws on one major difference: McGee can play the bagpipes, and there is no confirmed evidence that Sanders can, too.

Patrick McGee is not what you might expect from a city council candidate, but he’s running anyway — and with the help of student voters, he strongly believes he could be the next Athens City Councilman.

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