Home City City Council candidates address excessive force question; discuss rent control at forum

City Council candidates address excessive force question; discuss rent control at forum

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The race for Athens City Council continues as six candidates participated in the first forum Thursday at the Athens Community Center where they discussed topics such as housing reform and city policing.

The event, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Athens County, featured Independent Chris Monday, incumbent Democrat Peter Kotses, Socialist Ellie Hamrick, Democrat Beth Clodfelter, incumbent Independent Patrick McGee, and incumbent Democrat Sarah Grace. About 50 residents attended the forum.

Opening statements

A divide immediately developed between the candidates as they delivered their opening statements. Monday, Kotses and Hamrick all chose to sit down when speaking while Clodfelter, McGee and Grace all chose to stand.

Monday and Hamrick immediately focused on reforming poor rental housing conditions in the city. They both discussed how a guaranteed place to live and reducing poverty could help reduce crime rates.

Kotses began his statement by recounting what he has done for city transportation and what he will continue to do. He also advertised himself as the small business candidate, discussing how he runs Athens Bicycle.

Clodfelter stated her qualifications and talked about her experience she has working through various administrative bodies. She also discussed the endorsements she received from both Planned Parenthood and the Ohio chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

McGee talked about his experience and what he has done for the city. The councilmember also presented himself as the watchdog candidate, and said he often questions why the council spends taxpayers money on expensive projects.

Finally, Grace discussed community and public health. She referenced her connection to the community — having lived in Athens for 20 years — and how she plans to use her masters degree in public health to help advocate for improved health policy.

Excessive force 

The events that occurred over the weekend outside The J Bar — involving a young black man who was arrested by Athens City Police Department officers in a way that some have characterized as excessive — were fresh on all the candidate’s minds. Each candidate agreed that the video was extremely hard to watch, but many had different thoughts on what was actually depicted.

Hamrick was the only candidate who said the use of force was racially motivated. She continued to develop her anti-police platform, expressing at one point that she wants to see the police disarmed.

Clodfelter and Monday believe the force the officers used was excessive. Monday expressed concern for the mental state of Ty Bealer, the man in the video who was arrested.

McGee, Grace and Kotses all said they are waiting for more details to surface before they form an opinion. However, they all expressed faith in Tom Pyle, chief of APD, to investigate the matter and fire the officers involved if the evidence suggests the use of force was racially motivated.

Housing

McGee, Grace and Clodfelter all stated that they do not support rent control, which is fixing a price maximum on rent landlords can charge to tenants. This was in direct opposition to Hamrick who was a staunch supporter for freezing rent, which involves locking rent at a fixed price.

Kotses and Clodfelter expressed their support for an incentive to buy housing. It was discussed that the incentive could potentially be a tax break or a stipend.

Monday presented his own idea that landlords should be taxed more if they own more than a certain amount of properties. He also stated he believes a resolution to the housing issue can be easily found if everyone discussed the issue “like adults.”

Crime and safety

McGee, Clodfelter, Monday and Kotses all stated they believed that the lack of proper lighting across the city is a serious safety concern. Grace focused on transportation, expressing she wants to see more bike routes in the city.

Clodfelter and Hamrick both focused on the large number of sexual crimes committed in the area and how the city could best prevent them. McGee also believes the police could do a better job focusing on dangerous and violent crimes, as opposed to underage drinking.

Economy

Clodfelter was the sole candidate to express concern over Ohio University’s decreasing enrollment numbers. She discussed how the drop in enrollment could have a very harmful effect on the local economy and that it could be avoided by encouraging diversification of local business.

“I’m more interested in supporting the worker than small business,” Hamrick said. She also discussed her belief that the minimum wage needs to be raised.

Clodfelter and McGee expressed their disapproval of the city’s new parking meters, which were heavily debated last year by City Council. They both believe that the parking meters being enforced until 8 p.m. is damaging to Uptown businesses.

Kotses believes the city should encourage businesses to pay their employees higher wages and the city should work to encourage tourism.

Taxes

Kotses, McGee, Grace and Clodfelter were all in opposition to raising taxes. Clodfelter took the matter one step further and stated that she wants to keep taxes low.

Hamrick, in stark contrast with the other candidates, supported a raise in taxes with the goal of wealth redistribution. 

Meanwhile, Monday landed in the middle of this spectrum. He believes the city shouldn’t raise taxes for the average person, but he does believe that taxes should be raised for landlords.

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