Just one candidate will be left out of the fold in an eight-way race for Oberlin city council.
Seven seats, each with a two-year term, are open in the nonpartisan race.
Incumbents Bryan Burgess, Sharon Pearson, Ronnie Rimbert, Kelley Singleton, and Linda Slocum are all seeking reelection.
Council members Scott Broadwell and Sharon Fairchild Soucy do not appear on the ballot — they are not eligible to run due to term limits.
William Jindra and Kristin Peterson, who have previously served on the city’s legislative body, are asking voters to select them to return.
Heather Adelman is a new challenger.
In September, the News-Tribune sent a survey to each of the candidates asking for their insights on five questions designed to help voters choose who is best for the job:
1) What do you believe you can accomplish on city council in the next two years, and why are you the right person to make that vision a reality?
2) What talents, skills, and qualifications do you bring to the table as a candidate?
3) If you could propose any one new ordinance or resolution to affect change in Oberlin, what would it be?
4) Oberlin has always had a commitment to social justice. What social issues do you believe can be improved upon in the city, which has traditionally been an example for the rest of the nation?
5) Affordable housing has been a topic of debate in Oberlin for some time, especially with regard to development of the former Green Acres property. How do you think that land should be developed in a responsible, sustainable way?
HEATHER ADELMAN Occupation: Co-Founder and Director of the Oberlin Food Hub Education: BA, Environmental Studies (alternative energy focus) and Political Science 1) Oberlin is a phenomenal community, one that I am grateful to call home. I bring passion, energy, and tenacity to the table. I have a long history of being the person who gets things done. The focal points of my campaign are: A) Continue the work of Oberlin city council and city staff on sustainability initiatives as outlined in the Climate Action Plan, Zero Waste Plan, and the Community Bill of Rights and Obligations. Oberlin is a leader in the sustainability arena and it is an honor to participate in this important work. Bold commitments require bold action and I look forward to spearheading bold implementation. B) As a member of the Oberlin Community Services board, I am inspired by the Women in Sustainable Employment program. WISE is a career pathways program that encourages women to explore non-traditional careers. As a councilperson, I will work with OCS and other organizations to expand this program to serve all men and women in Oberlin who want new job opportunities or improve the ones they have. C) I am committed to the continued improvement of Oberlin’s drinking water system and providing residents with the best water possible. 2) I bring an understanding of Oberlin through my work with the city of Oberlin and Oberlin College during my time with the Oberlin Project. I am an active member of the volunteer community, serving on many boards/commissions, including the resource conservation and recovery commission, the county’s solid waste management policy committee, Oberlin Community Services, and the Oberlin Farmers Market. Over the past three years, I have worked with a colleague to create and launch the Oberlin Food Hub, a nonprofit effort to increase hyper-local food consumption and provide economic opportunities for small and medium farmers in several surrounding counties. 3) The Climate Action Plan states the city should “Establish procedures and policies that encourage green building.” Recently, a new affordable, green home project was delayed because the footprint was declared too small at slightly under 1,000 square feet. (The total square footage of the entire house was about 1,400). Oberlin municipal code requires the “main residential structure… shall have a ground floor area of not less than 1,000 square feet.” Alterations to the code can ease the burden on homeowners who wish to construct affordable, high-performance housing while maintaining the charm and character of existing neighborhoods. 4) I applaud Oberlin city council’s recent decision to expand anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in Oberlin housing ordinances. The city should continue this important work and expand protections for LGBTQ individuals beyond housing laws to include employment and public accommodation. Ohio is one of 28 states that does not provide protections for LGBTQ individuals, leaving the responsibility to do so to local government. 5) The former Green Acres property is an asset to the city and should be used to maximize community needs. I would like to see the site developed to include mixed uses, specifically housing, open space, and a playground. I was recently invited to join the Oberlin Community Land Bank, a group exploring innovative opportunities for affordable housing options in Oberlin. The Green Acres property could be a good fit for innovative affordable housing solutions such as those offered by a community land bank.
BRYAN BURGESS Occupation: Electrician Education: BA Business Administration, New Mexico State University; Diploma, Oberlin High School 1) Many houses in Oberlin — and especially rental properties — are greater than 50 years old and are often in need of basic health and safety maintenance such as repairing leaky roofs, wet basements, and unreliable heating systems. The city suspended point-of-sale maintenance inspections a number of years ago and I believe these should be reinstated in order to identify issues and provide assistance where necessary. We are expanding some existing programs to assist residents who may not have qualified previously with the goal of assisting everyone regardless of income or ownership status. As a local electrician, I have been inside hundreds of Oberlin homes and have witnessed what could have been a minor repair escalate into serious damage after years of neglect. A robust property maintenance program can also improve the comfort and decrease the utility costs for families by ensuring there is adequate insulation, a reliable water heater, and an affordable heating system. These are not luxuries! This is the goal that a caring community such as Oberlin should strive to achieve. 2) I have served on city council now for four terms and bring years of budgeting and oversight experience. I have learned that how residents and fellow council members feel about a topic is often more important than time lines, deadlines, or bottom lines. I would far prefer a compromise solution over declaring winners and losers in a debate. Members of council may not always agree but I will never question our combined concern for the present and future of Oberlin. It would be an honor to serve a fifth and final term on city council and I appreciate your support. 3) Ten years ago, the public utilities commission’s charge was expanded to include the conservation of utilities beyond the original scope of simply supplying water and electric. I would like to pass an ordinance to explicitly add conservation of water and electric to the scope of the respective water and electric utilities. Modern municipal utilities must transition toward a service-based business model that focuses on lowering a customer’s monthly bill. The electric utility in particular was last updated 40 years ago and I believe the time has come to formally adopt practices such as energy efficiency, environmental stewardship, and energy services. 4) We have tried to break the perception that energy efficiency is something only people of wealth can afford. Unfortunately, rumors spread faster than the truth. The fact is that we enjoy the lowest-cost electricity in Lorain County and that we can dedicate almost $3 million to energy efficiency for everyone in Oberlin without raising rates. Some households and businesses need more energy services than others. Some customers may choose not to participate at all. But the difference between social equity and social equality is that equal benefits will only perpetuate economic disparity while equitable benefits strive to raise everyone to a comparable height regardless of their current standing. I support Issue 16, which will institute the greatest benefit for the most number of residents. This is what it means to live in a caring community. How we distribute community benefits is a testament to our continued resolve for social justice. 5) Because I live immediately adjacent to the Green Acres property, Ohio ethics regulations prevent me from being materially engaged in the development of that property. However, I believe the community learned some lessons from the previous development process. First, the city staff is ill-equipped to manage a design/build process and such a task would be better performed exclusively by an outside firm. Second, the community must be actively engaged and supportive of the design process. Third, the ultimate design must conform to land and energy use guidelines as defined in Oberlin’s Comprehensive Plan and Climate Action Plan. And finally, the property must provide a lasting benefit to the community by catering to mixed incomes, ages, and housing types. The best aspect of Oberlin is our diversity.
WILLIAM JINDRA Occupation: Retired Police Lieutenant Avon Lake Education: Graduate, Avon High School; Lorain County Community College; FBI National Academy Quantico, Virginia 1) Maintenance and improvement of our infrastructure is of primary importance; streets, water, sewer lines, and electric transmission lines. I believe we can continue to focus on fiscal responsibility. I have a proven track record of getting things done with my prior service on city council. 2) I have 40-plus years in public service, which gives me a depth of knowledge in the process of government. I am able to listen carefully to all sides. That is important in making informed decisions. I will represent the entire community. 3) The Safe Routes to School program needs to get back on the agenda. We need to make all of Oberlin a safely walkable place. 4) Oberlin’s history is strong in bold social justice actions, including local legislation to ensure the rights and equality of all. Council needs to continue to work toward fairness and equality to all persons regardless of race, economic status, or sexual orientation and identity. 5) I think one area of development that is underserved is the age 50-plus that wish to downsize. I think town homes that have recreational facilities and a gathering area for residents included would be a good fit. The area in the Green Acres site would also be ideal for those residents to have their own community garden on site.
SHARON PEARSON Candidate did not provide occupation and education information. 1) There is an African proverb that states if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go farther, go together. I desire to be a great team player that assists the city reach its goals while also ensuring that our history of social justice and diversity is the foundation. Over the next two years I will focus my efforts on diversity and social justice along with establishing clear strategies for community engagement. As a member of the Climate Action Plan review committee, I am leader efforts regarding transportation options and involved with the education and awareness committee. We have mechanisms to engage the community through our boards and commissions along with city staff, and also the public comment section of each city council meeting. However, I believe we need to improve these processes and make better use of the mechanism the city already has to engage the community as a part of our social justice strategy. 2) If re-elected, this will be my third term as a member of city council. Previously, I worked for the city for nearly 25 years and served as secretary to just about every board or commission at the city, along with serving as the acting city clerk from time to time. Also, I was the program coordinator for the Oberlin Project. I obtained my bachelor’s degree in green and sustainable enterprise management. This past year I received two awards – one for my vision in government for my work on transportation and the other for coordinating the Green Energy Ohio Tour. 3) There is legislation that encourages the city to work with local vendors that bid on projects that are $50,000 or more. The next step is legislating a goal for purchases that are less than $50,000 should be made with local small businesses as a priority in this order: Oberlin, Lorain County, followed by the state of Ohio. I believe this ordinance would set the example for other institutions, businesses, and organizations in Oberlin and the surrounding area. Although this was not legislated, this was the method and rational I used when employed with the city of Oberlin. 4) It would be to establish a community benefits policy that would allow local residents to work on all local construction jobs in the city. Such an effort would be able to combat any gentrification because each agreement is unique. It would also provide the opportunity for local residents to make a living wage. Oberlin College seems to have a construction project each year and such an effort would go a long way toward town-gown relations. Regardless, this would be a policy for all construction projects that take place in Oberlin. 5) There are many aging residents that can no longer stay in a home but desire to remain in Oberlin. There are other residents that prefer not or cannot afford to own a home. I believe this property should be developed so that it is income-inclusive yet focus on assisting low-income and senior residents so they can remain in the community. In addition, sustainable development, according to the city’s Climate Action Plan, should be a priority. I want the developer and city administration to actively listen to the community and make adjustments so that the development fits the neighborhood.
KRISTIN PETERSON Occupation: Retired Teacher, Lorain County JVS; UPS Store Owner Education: B.A., Oberlin College; MSSA, Case Western Reserve University School of Applied Social Sciences 1) In my first term on city council, I worked with several council colleagues as well as city staff to develop the council orientation handbook. I look forward during the next two years to working collaboratively with council colleagues to maintain the excellent city services we have, and to continue the good work towards reaching the goals of the city’s Strategic Plan and Climate Action Plan. I will work for economic growth and development, to which I bring my experience as a local small business owner and as a member and chair of the Oberlin Community lmprovement Corporation. 2) I bring strong leadership experience from chairing many local, county and state boards and commissions. Other skills are the ability to listen, pay attention to detail, and evaluate both narrowly and broadly defined issues. Thirty-five years as a teacher at Lorain County JVS, in a program that involved students working out in the community, has given me experience collaborating with both management and staff at various county wide organizations. l have owned and operated a small local business for 16 years, giving me customer service as well as management experience. 3) For many years, Oberlin had a full-time code administrator, who followed up on issues such as abandoned housing, overgrowth blocking intersection visibility, and illegally placed signs, to name a few. l would like to see that position brought back so that ordinances already in place can be more closely monitored and enforced. I would also like to review some existing ordinances for possible amendment, such as whether annual fire code inspections of local businesses are done as self inspections by the owners or as regularly scheduled inspections by the fire department. 4) In light of what is currently happening at the federal level in this country, I believe Oberlin must continue to be vigilant regarding our sanctuary city status. The city has also recently broadened its anti-discrimination position and protections. and those protections must be supported. 5) There was recently a grant awarded to help form a community land trust in Oberlin. I support the work of this project as they look at the former Green Acres property to promote affordable housing for those in need of it. There will clearly need to be a consensus within the city to move forward with any proposal.
RONNIE RIMBERT Occupation: A 2 Point B Transportation Education: Oberlin City Schools, United States Marine Corps 1) I want to maintain a strong financial portfolio. I would like to maintain the city’s services at an elevated level. I would like to work on our sustainability as a community. The reason I believe I am the right person to achieve this is because of my excellent people skills and communicating. I have 16 years of experience working with people from all backgrounds. 2) My leadership skills are at a prominent level, as I have been the president of Oberlin city council on two separate occasions and vice president one term. I have never shied away from tough decisions that have come before our community. I am a listener and I believe in getting enough information to make a good decision on behave of our community. 3) I would like to see the Pledge of Allegiance adopted at the beginning of all council meetings and returned into our schools at the beginning of the day. 4) We as a community have embraced people of all backgrounds. It is very important that we are inclusive of all human beings. We need to make sure our workplaces reflect the look of our community’s diversity. As times get difficult, we must not waver in our beliefs to always be on the right side of justice. 5) No response.
KELLEY SINGLETON Occupation: Chapter and Advocacy Groups Coordinator for The Natural Stone Institute Education: Kent Sate University 1) I was born and raised here in Oberlin. I grew up in a single-parent household, often living in close proximity with Oberlin College students who rented rooms from us. My daily interactions with the students gave me an amazing window to the world outside of Oberlin and fostered my understanding of different points of view. One of the many things that we must do is repair our relationship with Oberlin College. Over the last decade, our historic partnership has deteriorated from a symbiotic relationship to an adversarial one. We must be willing to talk to one another and work toward our collective future. Some of the challenges we face are due to the small percentage of taxable property, which strains our city budget. One remedy is to work to grow our tax base by attracting strong companies looking to relocate and by helping local business to expand. With a larger tax base, the city would be able to accomplish more and add amenities that could help with the recruitment of potential faculty and prospective students. In turn, Oberlin College could make a stronger effort to encourage its faculty to live in Oberlin and for its students to shop locally. 2) I am passionate about protecting our incredible small city and heritage while ensuring it moves forward on the right path for all residents. Over the past two years, I have worked to build bridges and strengthen relationships between members of city council. I’ve reached out to all council members, whether on the importance of expanding LGBTQ protections, the need for a quick response resolution supporting the Paris Climate Accord, increasing the minimum wage for city employees, or the potential economic benefits of investment from the medical marijuana industry. 3) I’d love to create a city program to promote affordable housing, turn renters into home-buyers, increase neighborhood pride, and raise property values for all. This program would purchase abandoned properties throughout the city and renovate them to high standards of energy efficiency and modern comforts. I envision a partnership with our local banks that would allow these rejuvenated homes to be sold in the marketplace with a low down payment requirement. This program would give preference to middle- and low-income families and would require a seven-year occupancy and demonstrated commitment to the neighborhood. 4) In the past year, city council has unanimously shown support for social justice issues, including LGBTQ community protections and a resolution in defense of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. But the truth is, social justice is more than a matter of passing ordinances or reading resolutions. Another aspect of social justice is economic justice in the form of meaningful employment for all of our citizens. We have far too many Oberlinians living in poverty and we must do all we can to raise up all boats. Added economic investment will create an influx of tax revenue that can not only help our schools but bring needed funds to expand the nonprofit grant awards the city provides every year to organizations like Oberlin Community Services that helps our most needy citizens. 5) Green Acres should be developed in a way that matches the current aesthetic of Oberlin. I would like to see the inclusion of a playground for children, because there is no outdoor space for children on the east side of town. While the housing study did say we are in need of affordable housing and that our current housing stock needs to be refurbished, it also forecast a very small population increase for Oberlin over the next decade. The property is large enough to build multiple housing arrangements — for example, single family homes along College Street and Oberlin Road and multi-family townhouses in the middle of the current site. I feel it is important to maintain as much green space as possible and reforest the site. I do not want to see another unfinished development in Oberlin.
LINDA SLOCUM Occupation: Retired Managing Editor of Oberlin College Press and Oberlin College Gifts Librarian Education: M.A., University of Massachusetts, Amherst; University of Freiburg, Germany; B.A., Ursinus College 1) In my first term on council, we began work on issues that I want to continue. This includes improving communication, better understanding of the commission’s roles, making ordinances more business and resident-friendly, supporting home renovation initiatives and taking further steps in our Climate Action Plan. As liaison to the historical preservation commission, I brought to the attention of council a low-interest loan program for home renovations, soon to be inaugurated. I will work to encourage homeowners and landlords to take advantage of this and other rehab programs, including POWER and Efficiency Smart. Behind the scenes, I continue to ask the questions that get ideas moving through the system toward reality. 2) After many years of leadership in the League of Women Voters, I committed to bringing my passion for civic engagement into public service. I do my homework. I show up. I listen and ask questions. Then I work to build consensus and take action. After that, I help get the word out and listen again. 3) A top priority would center on transportation and connectivity issues. A well-intentioned ordinance pertaining to sidewalks has unintended consequences and needs to be changed (905.01). Working to update this ordinance will enable us to get a controversial issue right. A new ordinance would address public transportation. Shuttle buses within the city would carry townspeople, students, and tourists north to south, east to west — to appointments, shopping, museums, and recreation. A transportation link at the Underground Railroad Center and downtown would take workers to other communities, helping to keep young, rising singles and families living in Oberlin. 4) An initiative to empower residents is a high priority for me. In individual and small group chats with council in neighborhood gatherings, and in larger town hall meetings, I want to hear residents and to involve them in solutions as we build community together. The community-wide celebration of the 175th anniversary of the cornerstone laying of First Church UCC on Oct. 8 was a model of how to come together to praise our rich heritage while also recognizing our shortcomings. Last year some churches sponsored sessions on white privilege. We need such honest dialogue about our racial history, police practices, and actions that, whether intentionally or unintentionally, marginalize any persons in our community. Our goal is an all-inclusive Oberlin. 5) In 2016, I served on the steering committee for a housing study led by the Cleveland State University Center for Community Planning and Development. While we didn’t specifically discuss the Green Acres property, we did affirm a need for affordable housing for both single persons and families. A concept I like is small “pocket neighborhoods,” groups of affordable cluster homes, perhaps some apartments, built with green practices, gathered around a shared open space such as a garden courtyard, community garden, or playground. The residents share a sense of stewardship for the common property, including such activities as lawn mowing, snow shoveling, and composting. In these neighborhoods empty-nesters and single member households can find friendships. Children can have playmates as well as adult role models.