|PAID FOR BY: MORRIS FOR ATHENS - Gary Van Meter, Treasurer - 39 Avon Place, Athens OH 45701
|2011 © Morris for Athens - Site Design by: Emily S. Morris
| of the Air Force are “Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.” I taught those values to future and
junior officers, and I lived those values as an example to others.
Integrity matters in the military. I taught my young charges that integrity is something you establish every day of your life.
Others are watching and they will judge your character, your sense of fairness, and your honor by watching how you
conduct yourself in all situations, those of small importance or great. Why is this important?
It’s important because if an officer must send his or her troops into harm’s way, those men and women should feel
confident in their leader’s motives and veracity. Dedication, loyalty, and commitment are the sort of virtues you earn
from those you supervise and guide. They are the qualities you must demonstrate daily to those who serve with you.
Thus, they are the qualities absolutely necessary for a leadership role in the military.
In city government, important issues of public health, safety, and education are at stake. I know that through
demonstrating integrity I can earn the trust and commitment necessary for the residents of Athens to feel confident in my
Regarding competence: Why is competence so important to this office? In an Ohio statutory city government the role of
chief executive of the city administration falls to the mayor (in contrast with many charter city governments which employ
a professional city manager). Thus, it is incumbent on the voters to elect individuals to mayor who are up to the
challenge of managing the city’s resources and leading its 160+ employees. Consider…
This year, City Council passed an ordinance raising the salary of the mayor, auditor and law director. After more than
three years in office, our current mayor considered whether he should veto the ordinance. His final decision, to not do
anything, came because he assumed that if he failed to sign the ordinance it would not go into effect. The opposite is
true. Click here for an article detailing these events.
In his defense, he probably had not come across a veto situation before this one. That said, from your perspective, is
government functioning well when the mayor, who serves as the executive in a “checks and balances” role to the
legislative branch (city council), spends over three years in office before he even considers vetoing an ordinance
passed by city council? (For the record, if elected I, like the city law director, will not accept the raise included in this
Also consider…recently a local developer worked with the city for nearly a year to gain an access route to his land
above Hope Drive for a development project. Then, only after months spent working with the city, he learned that the city
of Athens actually owned the piece of land he needed to complete the project. The current city administration was not
aware that they owned the land. Unfortunately, they also had not known that, because of the requirements of the grant
used to purchase the land, development of any kind was prohibited. Thus, the entire development to build low- to
moderate-income housing failed. That means a loss of construction jobs, affordable housing within the city limits, and a
loss of property tax income for the city. Click here for an article detailing these events.
I submit that you may expect more from your mayor. You make the call.
I will not speak to the integrity of others, but I will speak to mine. I have lived and practiced integrity my
entire adult life. I am an Eagle Scout, and I served in the US Air Force for over 29 years. The core values
This is an excerpt from the current Athens mayor’s deposition in University Estates, Inc., et al. v. City of
Athens, Ohio, et al. taken 0n March 31, 2011. The mayor’s responses follow the “A”s. The “it” the
questioning lawyer is referring to is the tract of 600 acres of University Estates land:
According to the Ohio Revised Code, public bodies can meet in executive session “To consider the purchase of
property for public purposes, or for the sale of property at competitive bidding, if premature disclosure of information
would give an unfair competitive or bargaining advantage to a person whose personal, private interest is adverse to the
general public interest.” I presume the person(s) they wished to keep the discussions on purchase price from were
those in the organization offering to sell the property (property of which they apparently did not actually own). I do not
believe the ORC exception to open meetings is intended to allow the city to keep the fact that they are considering an
acquisition of property from the taxpayers. I do not believe our city government’s conduct in this case is an example of
openness by our elected leaders.
When I read in the newspaper (a month after the executive session discussed above) that an offer on the land had been
made, I sent an e-mail to the city auditor asking where the city planned to get the $1.75 million they reportedly agreed to
pay. My question apparently was not welcome. Nate Nelson, an OU student blogger, posted an excerpt from an e-mail
sent by Council Member Nancy Bain, in response to an e-mail to her from the auditor. The auditor had apparently
asked Bain where I had obtained the amount of the offer (it seems neither had read the newspaper that day). Here is
what Nate Nelson reported Ms. Bain stated in her response, obtained through a public records request:
I believe this is an indication of the view our elected leaders have toward the citizens of Athens. In my opinion, they feel
they know what’s best for us and they’ll tell us what they’re doing when they want to – according to their schedule,
according to their personal idea of propriety. From my perspective, it seems that little thought is given to the right of
citizens to know how their tax money is being spent, and how their elected officials are conducting business.
For example, when I read the mayor’s deposition, and the earlier deposition by Council President Bias, I learned that an
informal offer had been made by another local developer in which he proposed that he would buy the 600 acres, then
sell the city the 30 acres in the wellhead area of concern, thus saving taxpayers money and keeping most of the land in
private hands. Under that scenario, the bulk of the land would remain subject to economic development, employment,
and the accompanying tax revenues that follow. In my opinion, by pursuing that option our city leaders could have
reduced the size of the loan required to “protect the wellhead.” Instead, they apparently chose to ignore that offer,
without any public discussion or input. I believe they did so because they have issues with the developer who made it. It
appears to me that they did not feel you needed to know such an offer had even been made.
I don’t find this to be a shining example of openness and accountability. If elected, I will ensure that all decisions made
by my administration will be done in the open, so those involved can be accountable to you, the taxpayers of Athens.
I’ve learned that some people are paralyzed in the decision-making process by the perceived need to wait until they
have all information that might possibly be obtained. Others shoot from the hip and don’t wait for data; they make up
their minds without pertinent facts. Still others wait to make sure they won’t make anyone mad—always take the safe
route because it won’t ruffle feathers, not because it’s the best thing to do.
In my opinion our current mayor often appears to have difficulty making decisions. It appears to me that at times his fear
of making a mistake causes him to make no decision – which, of course, has consequences. I do not believe
decisiveness is one of his strengths. As an example, in this recent article the current mayor is quoted as saying “I’ll
probably in this next term be more decisive.”
Successful decision-making is about finding a happy medium. A leader must seek out pertinent, essential facts, but
realize that all decisions involve some unknowns and/or 'unknowables'. This means there is a risk of making a mistake.
Real leaders are comfortable with the risks and make timely decisions.
As a pilot and a military commander, I am very comfortable making decisions. I have studied decision-
making, and I’ve taught it to junior officers.
I’ve practiced these skills in every leadership position I’ve ever held because I believe in the ability of groups with
disparate backgrounds, experiences and perspectives to come together to produce solutions that are effective and
most people support. It doesn’t come easily, but the techniques work. Thus, I really enjoy taking on tough problems.
I believe in Athens we’ve settled for solutions that show a lack of creativity because, for the most part, folks with only one
political philosophy have their opinions heard and considered. With some leadership and the involvement of all
appropriate subject-matter experts, we can come up with the best possible solutions based on our unique situation, and
which will garner broad support.
In my opinion, Athens has been the victim of group think and decidedly unhelpful personalities. From my observations, it
appears currently one council member tends to dominate all discussions and the Mayor appears unable to lead
effectively. I will demand that our problem solving discussions start with a clean sheet of paper and that all ideas receive
due consideration. My two least favorite phrases when solving problems are “that’s the way we’ve always done things”
and “we tried that – it didn’t work.”
Perhaps we’ve found the best possible solution to our numerous problems (e.g., the huge budget impact of Halloween
and fests, parking, noise, trash, litter, deteriorating streets and sidewalks, rental/owner-occupied housing mix, etc.), but I
believe we can do better. When it comes to seemingly intractable problems in our city, I consider Athens a target rich
environment, and I look forward to working with citizens and the City Council to find better solutions that benefit everyone
who lives and works in this great town.
I have taught group problem solving techniques to junior officers at the USAF Squadron Officers
School and to officer candidates in Air Force ROTC at both Ohio University and the University of
From my perspective, our current administration seems to be a bureaucracy on auto-pilot in many important ways. Yes,
there are some good projects undertaken and brought to fruition thanks to the competence of city employees, but these
seem to be the brainchild of council members or city employees.
The auto-pilot I’m referring to involves the core tasks of city government health and safety issues and the day to day
interactions between city employees and the people they work for -- you, a citizen of Athens.
As I’ve gone door to door speaking with residents I’ve heard that some individual city employees don’t exhibit as much
of a customer service orientation as some citizens would like. I’ve heard about phone calls to city employees that have
not been returned and e-mail requests for information that have not received timely responses. I believe we can and
should do better. This is a leadership issue; the mayor should ensure city employees from top to bottom provide high
quality service to their employers – you, the taxpayers of the city.
Poorly coordinated and ineffective enforcement of trash and litter ordinances is a huge concern in our neighborhoods.
As you can see in the photos on my “Issues” page, despite the commendable effort to put a multi-week push for
enforcement this past summer, the city lacked serious commitment and failed to police their own property and keep it
clear of trash and litter. This “do as I say, not as I do” stance has not served the city well.
To truly make a difference in these areas the city must employ consistent, comprehensive enforcement and hold itself to
the same standards. They must set the example. Everyone in town must understand what will and will not be cited
because enforcement is tough, applied to everyone (not just students), and predictable.
Also, the person responsible for violations should be cited. When the residence in violation is an occupied rental, the
landlord, in light of the aggressive ordinances in Athens protecting tenant rights, is not the person to be held
accountable for trash and litter – the tenants must be held accountable. It’s the tenants who must learn the
consequences of a failure to abide by the city’s ordinances.
Thus far, this administration has not pursued this approach, and many citizens of Athens are running out of patience.
I believe Athens city government has excellent employees who would provide its vital public services
better if it had effective leadership.
"Seeing that the residence of Athens voted down water fluoridation 3 times (1964, 1966, and 1970) and that city council
put it in on a 4 to 3 vote in 1999. I was curious what your stance is on water fluoridation? And if your (sic) willing to
remove fluoride from the City water supply? Thank you for your time in answering my question, Ibriham Alassaf"
In researching the issue, it appears the benefits of water fluoridation are generally accepted
science. Evidence shows that it helps to prevent tooth decay, especially in children. It is a very low
cost, low risk way to improve the health of those consuming treated water.
Arguments against fluoridation seem to rest on rare human error resulting in overdosing of the water supply by
employees in a couple of American cities, and on civil liberties grounds (i.e., medication of citizens without their
On balance, I believe the benefits of fluoridating our water outweigh the negatives. In our area, with our large numbers of
low income residents, I believe the dental health benefit to our residents, especially children, is the overriding concern.
To stop fluoridation of the Athens water supply would put an undue burden on the poorest of our children, and I would not
support such a change.
For more on the University Estates litigation involving your city administrators, you may want to review local newspaper
coverage of the events and proceedings:
Mayor Wanted to Keep UE Land Away from Local Developer, David DeWitt, The Athens NEWS, September 21, 2011
What Does UE Mess Tell Us About City's Policies Regarding New Development?, David DeWitt, The Athens NEWS,
December 13, 2010
Bias Deposition Shines Light on City's Efforts to Buy UE, David DeWitt, The Athens NEWS, July 12, 2010
share, there is more that unites us than divides us. For more in this subject, please click on the video below.
The City of Athens has many Democratic voters. I know that the "R" by my name may give some of
these voters pause on election day. That said, I believe that when it comes to matters of the city we all
I'll keep this short and sweet. I support a ban on fracking in the City of Athens. And I further support a ban on selling
Athens' water to the fracking industry.