Home City Five takeaways: Athens mayoral forum with Mayor Patterson, challenger Damon Krane

Five takeaways: Athens mayoral forum with Mayor Patterson, challenger Damon Krane

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Damon Krane and Mayor Steve Patterson at the forum. Photo by Cole Behrens.

Democratic incumbent Mayor Steve Patterson and independent socialist challenger Damon Krane participated in a mayoral forum Tuesday night at the Athens Public Library, which reached maximum capacity, prompting overflow seating in the lobby.

The forum was hosted by the League of Women Voters of Athens County, an organization that works to empower women in politics.

Krane, who said he felt ill, sat in a chair the entire forum, while Patterson stood and moved about. 

The mayor focused his opening statement on improving infrastructure, ensuring Athens is a welcoming community, diversifying the economy and recounting his own experience as a public official.

Krane, on the other hand, touted his progressive policy positions, including his disdain for hate crimes committed against members of the LGBTQ community, anti-landlord sentiments and planned reforms to city housing laws. Krane also mentioned his past arrests at anti-war demonstrations during former President George W. Bush’s era.

The candidates answered questions from a panel of local reporters, including a staffer from The New Political, then from the audience. Here are five takeaways from the event:

Infrastructure: 

Patterson has routinely mentioned the city’s infrastructure and improvements at campaign events, and this forum was no different.

“Every city leader is really wanting to make sure our roadways, our water systems, our sewer systems and everything you can think of from an infrastructure standpoint is safe and operational,” Patterson said.

He touted favoring public transit funding in order to connect Athens to neighboring cities like Nelsonville, Albany, Glouster, Trimble and Coolville. 

Krane supported the bus route, though he is opposed to funding it through a sales tax, which Patterson supports. He also mentioned the need to improve sidewalks, blaming shoddy walkway infrastructure on landlords who do not keep up with housing laws.

Crime and Safety: 

When discussing sexual assaults, Krane specifically associated the national increase in rapes to the rise of President Donald Trump. He said it shouldn’t be a surprise that Athens is also experiencing an increase in rapes. 

Krane said more needs to be done in order to help rape survivors and to hold the police department accountable when it handles reports of sexual violence.

“We need to do more to listen to survivor advocates to make sure that people who are receiving these reports are trauma-informed and know how to quickly respond to them,” Krane said. “So that it becomes known to the community that if something awful like this is done to you, you have a sympathetic, informed person to report to.”  

Patterson discussed rape kits, improving city lighting by converting the current street lights to LED lights and working with Ohio University to improve students’ safety on campus.

Housing Codes: 

Krane’s campaign is largely focused on reforming housing laws and holding landlords accountable, which he mentioned numerous times during the forum.

“As you may have heard, I’m the anti-slumlord guy, but there’s a little more to it than that,” Krane said. “The reason I am the anti-slumlord guy is because for the past 24 years of my life, I’ve been organizing ordinary, disempowered people to fight for and win a world that’s more just, more equitable and democratic.”

He accused Patterson’s campaign of being financially supported by Athens landlords, which he calls “slumlords,” including landlords John Wharton and Alan McMillan. 

Environment: 

Patterson expressed enthusiasm when discussing ways for Athens to be eco-friendly.

“I am so proud of you,” Patterson said, addressing the crowd. “It is you who voted on the ballot initiative to have a carbon fee. We’re gonna be the first city in the nation to deploy a carbon fee, where it will go towards solar panels.”

Krane reflected the topic to socio-economic themes, while again mentioning housing laws.

“I’m a socialist because capitalism is ecologically unsustainable,” Krane said. “In the meantime, I think there are steps we can take to reduce the city’s carbon footprint. Namely, strengthening our housing codes to include reasonable insulation standards that would save tenants from devastating utility bills, and shrink our city’s carbon footprint at the same time.” 

Leadership and Experience:

Krane did not spend much time talking about his leadership or experience, given that he’s never held public office. He did, however, describe his experience in public advocacy and community organizing in Athens. He also spent his closing statement fact-checking several of Patterson’s recent public statements, accusing him of lying on numerous occasions.

The independent candidate also unearthed a seven-year-old report from The Athens NEWS that Patterson was censured by a professional ethics committee for including two false publications credits on his CV when he applied for tenure as an Ohio U professor of psychology.

Patterson stuck to his points of past public service experience, striving for “public service, not self service.”

“As your mayor, I think I have a proven track record of working for all the citizens of Athens,” Patterson said. “I work for everybody. I work for all the citizens of Athens on a lot of different issues.”

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