Voter Guide: Yellow Springs Village Council

Voter Guide
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Voter Guide

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

The Dayton Daily News, Springfield News-Sun and Journal-News invited local candidates to fill out the following questionnaire to inform readers.

VOTE FOR 3:

Carmen V. Brown

No response

Lindsay Burke

No response

Laura Curliss

ajc.com

City: Yellow Springs

Education: J.D.

Current Employment: Laura A. Curliss Co., LPA

Community Involvement: Planning Commission, Environmental Commission (alt), YS Speaking Up for Justice, Greene County Coalition for Compassionate Justice, Porchfest, Citizens to Preserve Mills Lawn Greenspace, World House Choir, Pride supporter, Greene County Bar Association, Arts Council/YS Ukulele Club.

Why are you seeking elected office? Until recently, I had the usual reasons — wanting to make a positive difference in the community, to focus on the basics of local government (local services) and do those well. Now, authoritarianism is a real issue in local government. There is no tolerance for people who voice different opinions (they are “obstructionist” and “divisive” and cussing is not allowed). Strange for Yellow Springs but true. Also policing of women’s behavior (but not men’s) is evident.

Why should voters elect you? I will ask questions regarding proposals and will do so directly. Democracy is in crisis in the U.S. and even locally. Council needs to be much more egalitarian and collegial than it has been. Right now, minority council members are considered “obstructionist” and get almost no staff services, room to work on legislation or express themselves publicly regarding a different proposal or vision for the future. Voters value experience with local government and those who look behind the curtain. Voters want us to make some attempt at saving money, keeping taxes in check, and I would like to do this. However, meaningful cost-cutting is the “third rail” in local government. Governance reform is needed and again will not be easy. Something as simple as having council committees to work with each department (water, sewer, streets, public safety, etc.) is resisted, despite that being a very common practice statewide.

If elected, what will be your top three priorities? Hard to pick three! Governance issues, infrastructure (green and traditional), local economy.

What specific plans do you have to address those top priorities? If the voters see it as I do, we need two new people on council, so that is up to them. Without others with these priorities, nothing will happen. Local government could spend almost all of its time just focusing on the infrastructure we have, preserving/creating green infrastructure to address stormwater/climate change challenges, and, due to COVID, focusing on the local economy, which has taken such a huge hit in the past 18 months. Yellow Springs is known for its vibrant small businesses, and they are hurting. Our local chamber lost its source of funding with the cancellation of four Street Fairs. Other issues include justice system reforms that have been a topic of study and activism for many years, and, finally, cost of living. Yellow Springs has become expensive in terms of utility costs, taxes and the cost of housing, and the truth is that government has some control over the first two and can make some small impact on the last. We need moderately priced apartments and condominiums, and this will have the most impact on diversity and inclusion.

Anything else? Yellow Springs is a welcoming community for people of all backgrounds, colors, LGBTQ+, all circumstances in life, and, yes, diversity of opinion. Sometimes it is a challenge to live up to that ideal.

Brian Housh

ajc.com

City: Yellow Springs

Education: JD/MBA

Current Employment: Midwest Policy Manager, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Community Involvement: Village of Yellow Springs Council President, Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission, Regional Planning & Coordinating Commission of Greene County, Yellow Springs Kids Playhouse (President), Ohio Trails Partnership (Vice President), Human Relations Commission, Economic Sustainability Commission, Community Access Panel, YS Arts Council, American Chamber of Commerce, Next Century Cities

Why are you seeking elected office? I am running again for council because Yellow Springs is in pandemic recovery mode with many important projects in process, and I am confident that we can complete them in the next few years; my institutional knowledge, experience, collaborative nature and determination add significant value in continuing to move forward as a community and for getting things done. I have learned that “it takes a village” to sustain a thriving and vibrant community, especially given a constantly changing world that requires elected officials to be vigilant, dynamic and nimble. I will continue to listen carefully to all citizens’ concerns and make decisions that balance those interests as much as possible. Our energetic nonprofits, community organizations and commissions do a great job innovating to improve the lives of residents, and I will continue to work closely with these groups. The skills I developed as a public assistance lawyer, small business owner and leadership communications consultant help me to be a more effective local elected official. I will remain open-minded and committed to rational and informed decision making aligned with Village Values. The village has continued to be healthy and thrive during the pandemic, and your local government has been able to maintain a balanced budget and to support the many needs of community members while staying focused on “keeping the lights on.” My top priority is to make the village more affordable, delivering on our commitment to being a “welcoming” and inclusive community, and proactively confronting gentrification. I appreciate your vote.

Why should voters elect you? If chosen to represent our community, affordability and improved village efficiency will be priorities. Expanding our tax and utility base by facilitating growth of current businesses and encouraging new complementary businesses aligned with Village Values is critical, along with developing our housing stock, including rentals; actively pursuing community development opportunities, e.g. broadband/fiber, is key. Continued work on service delivery effectiveness means better quality and improved investment of taxpayer dollars. I have proven that I can successfully collaborate and have the energy and capacity to make hard decisions and serve as an effective elected official. Importantly, I am a “doer” and proud of the progress that council has made over the past eight years, especially with balancing our budget and tackling difficult problems that have been “kicked down the road” for decades. I am willing to take a stand on controversial issues, remaining objective and sensitive to our village culture. My regional policy work with Rails-to-Trails Conservancy further strengthens my problem solving acumen; I am constantly learning from leaders who are making a difference in their communities. However, the knowledge gained from rich interactions with villagers is my primary asset as your representative. Notably, the COVID crisis is not over, and our community must be proactive to be ready to respond to future challenges; the Culture of Health initiative formed a coalition that was ready to act when the pandemic hit, and we have learned that local government can be nimble in taking action to help our residents, nonprofits and businesses.

If elected, what will be your top three priorities? One is providing all villagers access to municipal broadband. High-speed internet at a reasonable cost is critical for equity in education and work, as well as smart economic growth and net neutrality. Another priority is expanding housing stock of all types. Many families with students attending our schools and individuals working in the village would love to live here; more affordable and market rate housing, including rentals, is needed to sustain our thriving community and promote aging in place and diversity. A third priority is implementing meaningful actions to mitigate climate change. A strong Village Value is to reduce our carbon footprint, and we have made significant progress with our renewable energy portfolio and such policies as promoting community solar; the Climate Action & Sustainability Plan will help us recognize efficiencies in local government services and strengthen village resiliency. The village’s focus on economic “sustainability” should remain our policy, encouraging resilient business activity that directly supports our creative community and thriving downtown. Yellow Springs has incredible assets — great schools, locally-controlled utilities, diverse arts and cultural offerings, beautiful environs — that allow and direct us to be strategic about land use. I strongly support current council policies that prevent big box development, and facilitate businesses that provide good local jobs and are socially responsible. The village continues to be healthy and thrive during the pandemic, and your local government has maintained a balanced budget while supporting the many needs of community members and staying focused on “keeping the lights on.”

What specific plans do you have to address those top priorities? I understand that community development, reliable infrastructure and service, and proper planning & zoning are critical success factors for adding “good” jobs. Yellow Springs has intentionally positioned itself to attract innovative entrepreneurs and sustainable businesses managed by smart, progressive people. Our extensive recreational amenities, dynamic arts and cultural offerings, vibrant downtown, schools of excellence, and many other factors create a quality of life that few communities enjoy. The village must continue to support local business expansion and be highly responsive to inquiries from “good fit” prospects, showing our willingness and ability to provide high quality customer service. Another critical success factor for creating new jobs is to be regionally connected so that Yellow Springs can take advantage of opportunities in line with our goals. I have developed an extensive professional and personal network that promotes collaboration and allows me to add significant value with our local efforts. I advocate prioritizing grant funding opportunities to improve infrastructure and services — over the past several years, we have secured millions in grants that are supporting the building of sidewalks and trails, relining of water/sewer lines, repairing of homes, expanding of municipal broadband and the list goes on. High quality planning processes, such as the state-funded YS Active Transportation Plan, have been fundamental to securing significant funding for our villagers. Employing Complete Streets and Safe Routes To Everywhere best practices will improve walkability, bikeability and accessibility for villagers, prioritizing safety for our students and seniors while meaningfully addressing climate change.

Anything else? I have served the Yellow Springs community as a Village Council member for nearly eight years, appointed vice president in 2015 and council president in 2018. My council liaison roles with the Economic Sustainability, Arts & Culture, Human Relations, Community Access and Miami Valley Regional Planning commissions have improved my ability to address community issues. I have become closely engaged with the community through the YS Arts Council and Little Art Theatre and being Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Midwest policy manager and YS Schools speech and debate coach. I am committed to securing at least three new “good fit” businesses. Village Council must support existing businesses, as well as attract new complementary enterprises to improve affordability via good jobs as well as tax base and utility user expansion. As we encourage villagers and visitors to walk and bike, I recognize that downtown parking solutions are needed; I support paid parking as another revenue source, similar to the lodging tax generating over $40K annually, that can be used for community development projects that enhance everyone’s quality of life. I am committed to completing a parking study and implementing recommendations that best serve residents and local businesses. The Village Team has been executing various solutions over the past two years, expanding parking assets and identifying potential areas that maintain quality of life balance; I believe that paid parking downtown will improve flow while generating significant revenue to support community development, and we can offer free parking a few blocks from the central business district.

Scott Osterholm

ajc.com

City: Yellow Springs

Education: High School

Current Employment: Truck driver for BD Transportation

Community Involvement: Human Relations Committee (alternate), Search Committee for the Village Manager, currently on the Board of Zoning Appeals, and Citizen Advisory Board in the search for a new police chief.

Why are you seeking elected office? I want to add the voice of the working class to Village Council. I believe I bring the perspective of the struggle to live here since I used to struggle myself. I changed careers in my mind 40s from construction to a CDL.

Why should voters elect you? If you’re a voter that wants to be told only what you want to hear, then I’m not the one. But if you appreciate someone who will give topics sincere and honest thought, then I’m your candidate. I know I can’t make everyone happy but I believe I can make them feel respected. I will not ignore a person just because we don’t agree. Different opinions is a Yellow Springs tradition.

If elected, what will be your top three priorities? Hiring a new police chief, securing more affordable housing and infrastructure.

What specific plans do you have to address those top priorities? We’ve already started searching for a new chief using the Citizens Advisory Board. As of now the board is going over resumes. Pocket neighborhood housing that Home Inc just finished called Glen Cottages is one area of development I like. I would encourage more where possible. Another means is to encourage Section 8 housing to be utilized by some of our property owners. While we are moving to having our own broadband internet, I feel we need to upgrade our electrical grid — possibly go underground where we can or update. Hopefully we can secure grants for this work.

Anything else? This election is about our soul. Our vibe that is Yellow Springs. As we are a tourist destination we can’t forget where we came from. From the Sidewalk Sale to 2 Street Fairs. We’ve grown so much. But I keep hearing from people that have lived here for decades or their entire lives. We’re losing our identity that made all this possible.

Kevin D. Stokes

ajc.com

Credit: A Jonny No

City: Yellow Springs

Education: Master of Education from University of Dayton; Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems from the Ohio State University

Current Employment: Sr. Director of Facilities and Technology at Antioch College

Community Involvement: In addition to serving on Yellow Springs Village Council, I am also on the Little Art Theatre Board of Trustees (President), Greene County Public Library Board of Trustees (court-appointed), and Yellow Springs Development Corporation Board of Trustees as a representative from council. As an extension of my council responsibilities, I also serve as a Village representative in the Inclusive and Resilient Yellow Springs and Livable/Equitable/Age Friendly Partnership. I am also the YS Village Council liaison to the Library Commission, the Human Relations Commission and the Municipal Broadband/Fiber Advisory Committee.

Why are you seeking elected office? I am nearing the end of my first four-year term as a member of YS Village Council. The village is at a potentially pivotal point with opportunities for implementing Smart Growth principles — a way to build towns and neighborhoods that are economically prosperous, socially equitable and environmentally sustainable. We should continue to espouse and demonstrate those principles as we move into the future in a mindful manner. There is now a renewed community will to embrace the need for more homes, more families and more industry, but we want to be respectful of our local culture in the process. I have been involved with several initiatives that have contributed to improvements in the social and economic fabric of the village and I want to continue that work. I am a servant leader, and I bring to council a long history of community service, social leadership, business acumen and an attitude of collaboration.

Why should voters elect you? I have a proven record of stable, collaborative leadership and a willingness to aggressively advocate for the benefit of my constituents and neighbors. As a servant-leader, I am motivated by opportunities to improve the lives and livelihood of those I serve. I provide a particular perspective and bring a critical element of cultural diversity to council that is indicative of our value as a welcoming community of opportunity for all persons regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, economic status, mental/physical ability or religious affiliation. While I support the idea of adding a degree of differing perspectives and experiences to council to contribute to lively debate, I believe it is equally important to maintain experienced leadership to help navigate the village through this period of historically significant change as we work to reach the optimum balance of economic growth and sustainability, and management of our reality as a destination community in the region.

If elected, what will be your top three priorities? There are several village strategic goals that I will continue to support and am currently working to bring to fruition. Perhaps three of the most critical areas are a) Provide an affordable community, b) Support residential and economic development, and c) Repair and maintain infrastructure.

What specific plans do you have to address those top priorities? Providing an Affordable Community entails supporting the various initiatives around climate action and sustainability, working to improve programs that provide utility assistance to residents in need and continuing the work of the Inclusive/Resilient Livable Equitable Age-Friendly Partnership, which is a coalition of members to help identify barriers to opportunity and success for marginalized communities in Yellow Springs alongside assisting with the recommendation of program and policy solutions. Regarding residential and economic development, I continue to work to guide the Oberer housing development planned at the south end of the village, and I am actively engaged with the Yellow Springs Development Corporation, which is tasked with advancing, encouraging and promoting the industrial, economic and civic development of the villages of Yellow Springs and Clifton, and Miami Twp. in Greene County. In terms of village infrastructure, I will continue to support progressive legislation that facilitates improvements in the hard infrastructure that serves the needs for water, sewer and electric utilities. I will also work to expand the definition of infrastructure to include municipally owned broadband as a right for all citizens, and to address the needs of our human infrastructure in terms of fairness and equity in housing and other social support structures.

Anything else? I have always enjoyed volunteering in my community, and I especially enjoy the privilege of living, working and serving in the village of Yellow Springs. There is a common thread to all of the civic and social responsibilities that I hold. That thread is my unconditional love for all living beings coupled with my desire to leave every situation with which I am involved better than it was upon my arrival. I hold very dear the trust that the residents of the village of Yellow Springs have placed in me, and I will continually endeavor to repay that trust by serving the village with integrity, and a boundless determination to keep Yellow Springs a wonderful community in which to live, work and play in the region.

Issa Walker

No response