Council candidates talk transparency

Final questions in four-part election questionnaire

By Jennifer Woods - [email protected]

The general election on Nov. 5 has five people running for three seats on the Washington Court House City Council: Jim Blair, Jim Chrisman (running for reelection), Jason Gilmore, Kathie Oesterle and Kendra Redd-Hernandez (running for reelection).

The Record-Herald supplied questionnaires either through email or on a printed document. Answers were collected, organized and then split into four articles. The following is the final article in the series detailing the collected answers:

13) Do you support a Mayor form or City Manager form of government? Why?

Blair—I prefer a type of government which best serves the majority of the citizens. I feel that our current system is not without its flaws but am not sure changing to Mayor is the best option. I believe that citizen involvement is key to whatever form we may have.

I was not a participant in the decision making process with our current form of government, but with my observation I would tend to be looking to “tweak” some things in the charter to more clearly define the responsibilities of council and the city manager. We should always remember that the elected officials (city council) are ultimately in charge. They are the ones elected by the people and report to nobody but the citizens who elected them. They are “servants” not “masters” of the populace, and we must never forget that. So to sum up, I believe if Council does their job honorably, honestly, and keeps every issue in the open, then the people will have no need to desire any other form of government than what they currently have.

It’s when people perceive that their elected officials are abusing their power or hiding issues that should be in the open that problems occur and people start looking at options.

Chrisman—I favor city manager. Look at Hillsboro, New Holland and Mount Sterling. A mayor is a popularity contest, they don’t have to know about the city.

Gilmore—I support the discussion of having a Mayor form. I have not made up my mind yet but am leaning towards a Mayor. There are aspects that I like of both. Under a Mayor, there is a system where voters can easily assign blame for failure—with a manager this is nearly impossible with a Council of seven and staggering terms. Plus, the mayors in Chillicothe and London seem to have it down in terms of growth. I only wish the Council supports and works with the public’s wishes if in the future they would decide to have a Mayor.

Oesterle—I believe there are pros and cons to both forms, however, I believe the Mayor form is the most responsive to voters and produces the most growth when we compare Washington Court House to London or Chillicothe. It does sadden me that many who do oppose the mayor use fear mongering to advance their message instead of rational, empirical evidence that would help voters make the best decision if faced with the decision. Nonetheless, the most important thing for Council is to work on the growth of Washington Court House from its ability because whether we have a mayor or manager is ultimately up to the voters and not the Council.

Redd-Hernandez—I support a city manager form of government because it is more democratic and less political. Our City Council has seven members, all of whom represent a diverse group of people. The City Manager reports to these seven Council members. These Council members may hire, fire and provide constructive feedback to the City Manager. The City Manager has the knowledge and expertise to run the City; that is a big job.

A Mayor is one person who is elected by popularity and accountable to no one once elected. It is highly unlikely that the elected Mayor knows how to run the city. Therefore, the Mayor would need to hire a City Manager to run the city which adds more expense to payroll and benefits.

14) Define transparency:

Blair—This is one of the main two points I am running on along with accountability. They go hand in hand. Transparency means that citizens should have access to information about every dime received and spent by their city government. This would be best served by our city joining the “Ohio checkbook program.” A state supported program that has no cost to the city. This has been presented to city council but for some reason city council has not chosen to implement it.

I also believe (and I have advocated at city council meetings) in the name of total transparency that every council meeting be videotaped and made available live and archived to any citizen who wants to see what is going on. For a while this was happening, but the taping has been very inconsistent.

Chrisman—Our city government is transparent. Everything we do is public record, including every dollar that is spent.

Gilmore—Being as open, honest and accountable as possible—working in a way that welcomes public inspection and criticism of government.

Oesterle—Working in such a manner that it is easy for all to see what actions are performed. Thus, Ohio’s Checkbook is the easiest and free way to view the city’s finances, yet we continue to burden taxpayers by having to request that information—which is not the easiest way.

First, Ohio’s Checkbook is a free, transparency program that allows citizens to easily access online at any time where their tax dollars are being spent. Right now, you must request that information. The budget sheets do not list the payee of purchases/expenditures and it is an unnecessary hurdle to require citizens to go through public requests to access that information.

Redd-Hernandez—Transparency is holding people accountable and having the ability to obtain information. The public has the ability to evaluate anything within the city including, but not limited to, appointments, meeting minutes, salaries, budget, expenditures, etc. Many items can be obtained from the city’s website For example, if you do a Google search “43160 city budget” it brings up the budget for 2019 along with the prior five years. If you can not find what you need on the website, please contact the City Administration building for further assistance.

15) Do you support neighborhood watches, why?

Blair—In my original platform and on my Facebook Page (James Blair for Washington Court house city council), I have advocated for a City-wide neighborhood watch system. A few years back at a “Meet the Candidates” event, I brought this idea forward but no running member or even the police chief, who was present, would support this concept. But I continue to believe it is needed for the safety and peace of mind of our citizens. Safety forces working hand in hand with citizens would make a formidable duo and hopefully make potential lawbreakers think twice.

Chrisman—Of course I support neighborhood watches, why wouldn’t I? This is a silly question.

Gilmore—I do. I believe neighborhood watches help provide awesome connections among neighbors as well as the police. They are the eyes and ears on the ground right now and can then relay that information to the responding officer or call in a report. I hope to see Council support the program and its members.

Oesterle—I do. I spoke to my son-in-law that works for the Washington C.H. Police Department and the neighborhood watch groups provide a tremendous tool in terms of “eyes” for the police and help report crimes that may never have been known without the help of neighborhood watch. I look forward to working to advance this partnership on Council.

Redd-Hernandez—Whether there is a formal neighborhood watch group or an informal group, yes I support residents looking out for their fellow neighbors. Honestly, I believe that is one of the best benefits of being in a small town. We care about neighbors.
Final questions in four-part election questionnaire

By Jennifer Woods

[email protected]