Term limits, Tom Horst, plaza meetings


A few political tidbits this week…

Downside of term limits

Issue 1, a statewide ballot initiative, would change the way state legislative districts are drawn. That’s fine, but a better ballot initiative would be one that overturns term limits.

Case in point: Less than a year after becoming Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, Cliff Rosenberger from our own 91st House District announced recently he is seeking reelection to what will be his final term in the House. Why is it his final term? Because term limits force him out.

Ohio’s ridiculous term limit law of just 8 years in either legislative body, the House or Senate, borders on insane. Just when an elected official gains enough seniority and clout to begin making a difference, he or she is forced out the door. The end result is that lifetime unelected bureaucrats and staffers, who can work in the Statehouse forever, end up having all the real power. We should overturn term limits.


End of an era

Tom Horst’s decision not to seek re-election as Highland County Commissioner truly marks the end of an era. Tom has been a familiar public face in the county for four decades, first as a police officer, then as county sheriff for three terms and now as commissioner for two terms.

Tom has taken heat and criticism from time to time, but every time voters go to the polls to render a verdict he always comes out on top. For my part, I’ve always been a fan of Tom’s.

Lee Koogler, the Hillsboro City Council president, pulled petitions this week to run for Tom’s commission seat next year. There are rumors of others jumping into the race, but we’ll have to wait to separate rumor from fact.

Lee has done a good job as council president navigating some very tricky and controversial issues in recent years. He has a knack for bringing together divergent points of view and reaching a consensus. It also wouldn’t hurt to have someone on the county commission to build a stronger relationship between the county and the city of Hillsboro.

But again, others may toss their hats into the ring, either Republican or Democrat, and we’ll see how it all plays out by the 2016 filing deadline.

Shane Wilkin’s commission seat is also up next year, and it will be interesting to see if anyone files to run against him. Shane does a good job and the county is well-served by his presence on the board.

But as I consistently point out, our democracy is best served when voters have a choice. No one has a right to any seat beyond the immediate term to which he or she is elected. Having said that, it will be surprising if anyone, Republican or Democrat, files to run against Shane next year, assuming he seeks re-election, which is a pretty sure bet.


Meetings vs. hearings

One of the points made by Pam Limes in The Times-Gazette’s mayoral coverage last week is that when it comes to the proposed uptown plaza, “town hall” meetings that were promised have not happened. In a reader comment, council member Tracy Aranyos countered that various meetings have indeed been held, and Pam responded to Tracy, saying she did not appreciate being called a liar.

While I can’t find a past article that specifically promised “town hall” meetings, it was my recollection that those kind of meetings were promised. What I did find was a comment back in March from council President Lee Koogler, when I contacted him for a comment on a story about an upcoming plaza design review meeting.

My story said, “Koogler has said that council would meet with administration officials, study the pros and cons and hold public hearings regarding the plaza project. He said that because the project would impact businesses, affect parking and close a street, ‘this is not something we’ll make a decision on in one meeting.’”

Pam is right when she says that the plaza design committee meetings held at the county administration building, led by Rocky Coss, specifically discouraged comments on whether or not to do the plaza. It was made clear that those meetings were only to discuss the design of the plaza, not to discuss whether to do it, even though the conversation did veer in that direction at one meeting in particular.

Pam is also right when she says that council committee meetings are not the same as town hall meetings. But a committee meeting held in August was very well attended. A picture from the meeting bears that out, and if you are reading online you can see the story and picture at this link.

Pam was there, along with several others who I believe are opposed to the plaza. Public input was taken, and people had a chance to object or raise any questions or concerns they wanted. No one except local attorney Susan Davis actually said anything directly opposing the plaza, although she said at the end of the meeting that many of her questions were answered and she would be on board with whatever decision was made.

It was a public meeting, but does that qualify as a “public hearing?” It’s a matter of semantics, and people can argue both sides with legitimacy. Pam is certainly not lying when she says she recalls a “town hall” being promised, even if that exact phrase wasn’t used. But Tracy is not wrong when she says public meetings have been held. Whether you think there has already been enough opportunity for public input probably depends on whether you are for or against the plaza.

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.


By Gary Abernathy

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