Small turnout for Loveland City Council candidates forum last Thursday

By Chuck Gibson

LOVELAND, OH (October 21, 2021) – A small group of less than 40 turned out last Thursday for the Loveland City Council Candidates forum held at the LIS/LMS Cafeteria.

Judge Brad Greenberg served as emcee for the council candidate forum. (Chuck Gibson)

Six candidates were on hand to respond to questions submitted in writing by the community prior to the forum hosted by Little Miami River Chamber Alliance (LMRCA). The Candidates included newcomers: (in alphabetical order) John Hart, Kim Lukens, and Kip Ping along with current council members: Timothy Butler, Neal Oury and Ted Phelps. Also on hand to emcee the event was Judge Brad Greenberg with LMRCA President Cee Cee Collins keeping close watch on the timing of a strictly adhered to format.

Each candidate was given two minutes to introduce themselves and make any opening remarks before moving to the question and answer (Q&A) segment of the forum. The Q&A segment also allowed each candidate two minutes to respond to the questions submitted by the public in writing prior to the start of the public forum. Each question was introduced by Judge Greenberg with every candidate given the opportunity to respond to each questions. Greenberg rotated the order of response giving each candidate an opportunity to be first, and last during the course of the planned hour-long forum.

LMRCA President makes openign remarks to begin Loveland Council Candidate forum Thursday, October 14 (Chuck Gibson)

Collins flashed a yellow card as a :30 second warning and a red card to signal to the candidate they had :10 seconds to conclude their remarks or response.

 There were five questions posed during the forum. They were as follows:

 

1 – What do you think is the single greatest attribute in being an effective council member; tell about a recent action you’ve taken that exemplifies this characteristic?

2 –  Do you agree that parking is a problem? If so, what do you want to do about it and please be specific?

3 – When I see an obvious grouping of candidate election signs, I draw the conclusion that are forming a cabal with an undisclosed agenda and not necessarily representing the citizens. I ask each of the candidates, is that the case? If so, what is this agenda? If not so, why the grouping?

4 – Council is considering annexing 95 acres of land just east of downtown owned by Grailville. There is a known developer planning to build 250 homes on this site. If council approves this annexation, the property will be developed and the city will be responsible for providing all public services: sewer, water, police and fire while Miami Township will retain the right to collect all property taxes. If the annexation is denied, the property will likely stay as is because of the exorbitant cost to bring services from Clermont County. What is your position on this proposed annexation and why?

5 – What is your definition of progress for the citizens of Loveland?

Council candidates Tm Butler, John Hart and Kim Lukens during candidate forum Thursday, October 14, (Chuck Gibson)

All candidates offered a fair response to define an effective council member along with example of exemplifying this attribute without any one candidate distinguishing themselves from the other. It could be said that pattern rang true throughout the Q&A forum with some exceptions indicating a lack of preparation, experience, or specific knowledge. I will not cite any specific candidate here for their failures during the open forum. If you were there, you are able to decide that for yourself. It is not for Loveland Beacon to render that opinion in this story.

It was no surprise questions about parking, development (ie: Grailville annexation) and progress received some clearly differing opinions and responses. Credit goes to the candidates for clarifying exactly what type of annexation has been proposed, who the parties involved are, and the fact council has forwarded a resolution to approve the annexation to Clermont County Commissioners for action. Current Councilman and attorney Ted Phelps offered the clarification of the different types of annexations and why he supports it. Tim Butler, also a current councilman and attorney, explained his opposition to the resolution due to his desire to see more data before acting.

Council candidates Neal Oury, Ted Phelps and Kip Ping during the candidate forum Thursday, October 14 (Chuck Gibson)

Parking has long been a hot-button topic for the community and leader so the City of Loveland. Again, no surprise it was a question posed during the forum. The surprise may be the discussion about parking was mostly centered on traffic congestion, not parking. All candidates agreed traffic congestion is an issue equally important to address. The proposed parking garage received quite a bit of discussion both pro and con by the candidates. In the end, the intended hour-long forum ran about 90 minutes including the opening and closing remarks by all six candidates. The candidates were very respectful of one another and honored the two minute limit with no one running more than a few seconds over.

Here is what a couple of the people attending the forum said afterward. Dan Peterson thought the question regarding  the definition of progress offered some good information.

“We got some information and insight from everybody in terms of what they think is important for Loveland going forward,” said Peterson. “I thought we heard some really good answers on that. It seemed to be a consensus; you don’t want to ruin what’s great about Loveland. You also want to be able to improve on what we have. I agree with that. I think it is a strategy that makes sense.”

Peterson would not single out any one candidate as standing out over the others indicating he liked many of them. He did note it was his first opportunity to get to know something about the new candidates and thought both Kip Ping and John Hart represented themselves well as an introduction, at least to him. Derek Drake also took time out to share his thoughts following the forum. The Grailville annexation stood out to him as something he was not very familiar with.

“I didn’t know what the Grail was,” said Drake. “It was interesting to hear the differing opinions on that and understand what the type of annexation is. I appreciate council member Phelps for explaining what a Type II Annexation is.”

Drake believes there is a value to hearing the different viewpoints.

When considering growing the town, especially in that direction, it is important to understand all the facts and all the data. It’s important to understand it’s not just one party that is responsible for that, it’s not just the council’s responsibility; there’s other entities involved in that, not just council, but community as a whole and the county.”

The traffic congestion and parking is also an issue Drake considers important to understand and hear the candidates’ positions.   

“Hearing all the different ideas of what could alleviate that is interesting to see how Loveland eventually progress,” Drake said. “The city is going to grow because the city is a great place to live.”

Drake mentioned his familiarity with candidates Oury, Phelps and Butler, but expressed his appreciation for hearing all the candidates during the forum. His nine year old son attended the forum with him and seemed to listen intently throughout the forum. When asked, he offered what he liked most about the forum.

“I liked listening to the decisions of the candidates,” he said. He also pointed to Kip Ping when asked which candidate he liked best during the forum.

Election day is Tuesday, November 2, 2021. Exercise your right to vote.