Rules of the Road

The purpose of this blog is to share with you my thoughts on issues pertaining to Oil City and Venango County and to foster discussion.

However, that requires some basic rules. Personal attacks, inappropriate language and venom-filled postings will not be tolerated. Comments will be screened, and if necessary edited, before posting.

Disagreement and a variety of opinions are encouraged, but I ask that it always be in a respectful, positive manner. So fire away, but do so cleanly

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Of dogs and citizenry

It entailed just a brief discussion at a council meeting, but it spoke volumes about what it means to be a neighbor and citizen.

Being both a neighbor and a citizen carry responsibilities.

The brief discussion at the council meeting was about people who walk their dogs, but fail to clean up after them.

I received a call about a week ago from a resident of East Eighth Street telling me that a woman in the neighborhood had spent the better part of the day cleaning all the dog doo out of the East Eighth Street Island, or circle as it is called by residents of the area.

Now there is a woman who embodies the very best in a neighbor and citizen. You can only imagine how much dog would accumulate over the winter.

I wish I knew the woman’s name. I would like to thank her.

I would also like to tell all those people who don’t clean up after their pets that I consider them rude and inconsiderate. Fundamentally they fail their responsibilities as both a neighbor and citizen.

That might sound harsh, but it’s the truth.

When I brought the subject up, City Manager Tom Rockovich noted that earlier in the day he and Public Works Director Butch Truitt had a talk about that same issue.

Signs will be installed on the island reminding people to clean up after their pets. Of course, individuals can also be cited and fined for failing to do so.

Some of you might think this a trivial rant, but if we want to improve Oil City we need to take responsibility for the little things as well as the big things, and we need to be good neighbors, which makes us good citizens.

And good neighbors and good citizens don’t leave behind a mess for others, and we should remind people of that who do leave messes behind.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Welcom Chad

We have a new member of Oil City Council – Charles T. Rosen, known as Chad to most everyone.

Chad is a welcomed addition, but so too would have any of the other three candidates– William “Bill” Moon, Jr., Joseph “Joe” Womer Jr., and Katharine “Kate” Newman -- who sought appointment to the vacancy created by the resignation of Merrill Whitling.

Lee Mehlburger commented choosing among the candidates would be the toughest decision he would make as a councilman. I share that sentiment.

All of the candidates were eminently qualified and each would bring unique and valuable talents to council. Each is likeable and committed to the community and by my assessment free of any particular agenda other than wanting to move the city forward.

To make it more difficult, I know three of the four people who applied personally and I know their parents. I like to think they are more than acquaintances and are among my larger circle of friends. They are certainly people for whom I have a great deal of admiration and respect.

None of us on council went into the meeting with any idea of what the others would do.

From my perspective, the one commitment I made was that I would not do anything to create or add to any split among the candidates or the current members of council that could lead to a factionalized council. We’ve had that in the past. It didn’t help the city.

So, did we make the right choice based on Neil McElwee’s motion that resulted in the unanimous selection of Chad Rosen? I don’t think we could have made a wrong selection tonight.

I look forward to working with Chad, and with Bill, Joe and Kate as they continue to serve the city in other roles.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

TheOCOutsider's on blight

I thought this comment by the OilCityOutsider was fodder for a post and comment section all its own.

The Oil City Outsider said:
Howdy John. Off the subject. I’m sure City Council is well aware that the majority of Oil City’s citizens aren’t wealthy people. The headlines of The Derrick today (April 7, 2008 “OC Among Poorest School Districts”) really brought that point home. So if I might make just one little suggestion. When you are considering “blight,” please take into account that perhaps not everyone is just lax or negligent in maintaining their home. Maybe, just maybe, they might not have the funds that they need to keep up with their property. All these low interest loan programs that everyone seems to be talking about now look great on paper. However, please remember a loan is still a loan and a loan needs paid back regardless if it’s at 1% interest or 29.99% interest. For some people to add another payment to their already overstretched budget will all but make them homeless. Just some food for thought.

I don’t think for a moment anyone on council has forgotten that some members of our community face tough times.

Unfortunately, there is a real limitation as to what government can do to help out other than to make programs available, such as the HOMES program now in the works. And it is true that loan programs are more common than outright grants.

There is a tremendous opportunity and need in our community for our private nonprofits, civic clubs, churches and even just neighbors to step up and try to find a solution. In some cases, it would be as easy as putting a crew together to paint, nail down a few boards or other simple repairs and routine maintenance.

I believe there is a group in Franklin doing something like that.

Oh so long ago our daughter went with a church youth group on a mission trip to West Virginia where they did simple repairs and maintenance to the homes of a number of impoverished families and elderly residents. We admired her for her willingness to give of her time and labor and appreciated the efforts of the church leaders and others to put the program together. Still, I thought then and think now that the needs here are so great, why travel so far.

On the broader issue of blighted housing, it is my strong belief that the real problem properties – the one’s that degrade neighborhoods and often have the greatest negative impact on those with limited incomes – are more a problem of a poverty of values than economic poverty. Aggressively dealing with blight is a proven way to protect neighborhoods and individual homeowners. Who is at greater risk from the degradation of their neighborhood than those on fixed incomes and/or financially struggling, but doing what they can to keep their places up and maintain the value of their property?

Let’s aggressively fight blight, and that includes neighbors and the community pitching in and helping those in need maintain and repair their properties.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Selecting a new council member

Several people have asked me how council will select a new member to fill the unexpired term of Merrill Whitling.

As a body, we have not finalized details of the selection process. We have asked that letters of interest be submitted by Wednesday, April 9. Individually we will be reviewing those letters over the weekend.

But I suspect what people are really asking me about is not so much the selection process as how I will evaluate the candidates that submit a letter of interest.

Basically, what I seek in a co-council member is what I would seek in a council member as a voter going to the polls.

Someone with integrity, an open mind, who is a visionary but still pragmatic and is optimistic. Someone who has the ability to see different points of view, has the ability to work with others and is capable of putting personalities and personal and political differences aside for the benefit of the community.
Someone who is respectful, can argue a point with civility and shies away from bombast, but is fully capable of taking a stand for a position they believe in. Someone who will do what they think is right, even when it is not the popular thing to do.
Someone who looks to the future, not the past, but recognizes the value of our past.
Someone with the time and commitment to do their homework.

I would like to think those are my aspirations as a councilman, but like most everyone, my abilities and aspirations don’t always match up. Sometimes the best you can do is strive to do better.

I will tell anyone who is considering submitting a letter of interest that it will be tougher and more time consuming than they think. My three months in office have already taught me that, and I came in with a background that I thought prepared me well for the realities facing local government, and Oil City in particular.

So, if you care deeply about this community and would like to make it a better community, submit a letter of interest.