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A Town Called Athens: Students must be active in city politics

This fall, Athens will have elections for City Council and the mayor.

The candidates have been campaigning for months now, and the primary is May 3. Advertising and local discussion of the issues have been in the various Athens newspapers for weeks.

But how many of you Ohio University students could have said before reading that opening paragraph that there would be an election this fall?

Are you able to name your City Council representative? Do you know the mayor’s name or the name of his challenger?

I am willing to assume that most of you didn’t have the answers to those questions, but you should. These candidates all have different stances on major local issues which affect all of us, whether you’re a  student or resident.

What are those issues, you ask? Well, one that has been very prominent lately is the noise ordinance. How loud should student parties be allowed to be? Is it the place of Athens City Council, which has no current student representatives, to put a law answering this question into place?

Another that has been discussed substantially this election season is the city’s litter problems. In fact, this has become a prominent problem in the First Ward City Council race between the incumbent Kent Butler and Andrea DeMott, the challenger.

This area has an interesting mix of student rentals and townie properties, making for a unique set of opinions that all need to be represented by the member that makes it onto City Council.

Athens City Council has no members who are OU students. Therefore, how is it the council’s place to make laws that govern the actions of the more than 20,000 OU students?

Students could argue they are being governed without representation, but there is a fatal flaw in that argument. OU students can participate in local politics and are encouraged to do so.

College students are a major force in Athens in almost every area and on every issue, except in city politics. Student turnout is typically low for local elections, despite serious attempts by political student organizations to turn out the student vote.

Why should an undergraduate who will be at OU for only four years care about a local election? City Council couldn’t possibly affect their lives that much in such a short time span, right? Wrong.

A few undergraduates are running for at-large bids, as has happened in the past. But for some reason, this has not energized OU students to get out and vote in the past and likely will not this fall either.

The current OU undergraduates running for City Council — Nate Hall and Ibrahim Alassaf — have both said they want to put serious effort into improving town-gown relations and airing student concerns to City Council.

But will that energize the student vote? Sadly, I think not.

Now don’t get me wrong; all of the current City Council members and the mayor are good politicians, in my opinion, working hard for the betterment of Athens. But that doesn’t mean there is no need for new blood in City Hall.

Students need to examine all the candidates, make their choices and do their civic duty.

Will Drabold is a junior at Athens High School enrolled in Ohio University classes and a columnist for The Post. Do you support the students running for city council? Email Will at dd195710@ohiou.edu.

 

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