I am running for Athens County Commissioner in the March 7 Democratic primary. I will run on a high tech and low tech job creation platform in harmony or actually restoring the environment. I will also work to increase citizen participation in County government to create innovative and creative ways to better manage our county. I will work to make the budget and operations of the county much more open to the public.
I would hold regular town meetings at least every month to get more input into county government for the majority of citizens who are prevented from attending Tuesday County Commissioner meetings because they are held during the day. I would make all county documents more easily accessible for citizens. I would make greater efforts to get more participation of citizens throughout the county in the county government to get new ideas about how the county manages its resources.
A living wage for all
Utilizing the resources of the county, I would work to bring in innovative industries that do not harm the environment, so people in the Athens area can make a living wage without harming the environment. This can be done through internet employment, solar and wind technologies and recycling technologies for the high-tech using the educated populace thanks to Ohio University and Hocking Technical College. Internet jobs can move easily with the easy flow of intellectual data over the web and email. Athens can help to pull in this lucrative market with a web-savvy Commissioner.
Further, the growth of SunPower and other solar electric firms in Athens shows the strong interest in solar and alternative industries. By showcasing how Athens is becoming a model community with such innovative ecological means of generating electricity, Athens could become a leader in providing the inevitable transition to renewable energy sources. This is investing in the long-term economy and environment, something we all need to start thinking about as we turn a new millennium.
Utilizing the forested landscape without destroying the forests, non-timber forest products can provide much more employment and revenues from living forests than from cutting them down. Maple syrup, ginseng and goldenseal cultivation, shitake and other mushroom growing and many more lucrative, growing demand healthy products can be grown in our forests. For trees that are cut, value-added wood-working and furniture making industries could greatly increase the number of jobs and the economic benefit of the lumber produced from our region rather than shipping out raw logs.
Eco-tourism can be enhanced by better publicity of the nature trails in the numerous public lands around Athens and by better publicity of cultural events at Ohio University. Further restoration and acquisition of critical natural areas and non-erosive, low-impact nature trail development could further enhance the eco-tourism attraction to Athens. The Wayne National Forest will purchase land and manage it free of charge to the county, but County Commissioners have opposed Wayne National Forest acquisition in the past. Recent reports have found about 1,500 jobs are created in Athens County from tourism. This could be greatly expanded.
Bicycle trails can both help aid ecological and healthy transportation through the county and increase tourism as the Adena Hock-hocking bicycle trail has proven to provide. Numerous more bicycle trails are feasible through the county with low-cost, high-benefit development for the long-term.
Ohio University, the largest single institution in our county buys most of its material and many of its services from out of Athens. Working in partnership with the university (I was employed by the OU administration in 1997), I would work to get more and more goods and services provided from the Athens area. Organically grown local food could greatly enhance the health and quality of cafeteria food: increasing the quality of life and allure of Ohio University. Further, it could create hundreds if not thousands of jobs in the Athens area growing and processing food. This infrastructure could also provide the majority of food for our county and region with intensive buy local campaigning by our county government, ensuring a living wage for all even without any net increase in outside economic input into our county (though many of my platform ideas would increase outside capital flow into our county). Worker owned businesses could be encouraged by county government. This could increase economic equality in our region through increased social consciousness and help to provide a living wage for all through a greater sharing of the wealth, as well as the more-than dozen economic development ideas mentioned in this platform.
I would work to get a barter currency as the Ithica Greens have to increase the local economy. This is done by issuing barter dollars and directories of service providers and businesses that accept the barter currency. One hour of carpentry can be exchanged for locally-grown organic produce; haircutting for web design: Ithica has more than a hundred businesses listed. This ensures that economics stay local and recirculate locally.
I would propose public hearings about having a local market bazaar with extremely low-cost rental of spaces on the old airport off East State Street for local farmers and producers to sell to the public. It would be like a greatly expanded farmers market except it would be every day. This would greatly expand opportunities for local artists, farmers and craftspeople to make a living and enhance the culture of Athens. I would like to landscape the public land so as to be much more aesthetic. Though Ohio University owns the land, they might be amenable to such a proposal if the public showed support for it at public hearings. Other sites such as the armory could be used as a local market as well.
As commissioner I would work to make more bicycle trails and lanes available, and to bring passenger rail transportation to Athens. Athens County once had a rural bus service. I think this could be a major help to rural residents and could be largely self sufficient if managed right. I would work with Ohio University to commission studies free at cost to the county to look into feasibility studies for bicycle routes throughout the county, rail transportation, solar and recycling industry development and whatever other innovative ideas county citizens come up with. I would hold regular town meetings at least every month to get more input into county government for the majority of citizens who are prevented from attending Tuesday County Commissioner meetings because they are held during the day.
Road maintenance would be done with the least environmental damage as possible, with the least toxic methods used that will still maintain the same if not greater safety and quality on our roads. By getting more and more people using bicycle trails, buses and possibly trains, there would be fewer people on the roads, making them safer and less congested. This would greatly enhance the quality of life for all county resident while increasing the tourism attraction of our area.
I would not increase taxes in the county, as I think they are high enough already. The projects I propose could be done within the current budget of the county, as many include cost savings to offset the meager costs in other proposals. All would help to create living wage employment and enhanced quality of life for all Athens County residents. The increased tourism I would work for would greatly increase the sales tax and hotel tax that makes up a large portion of the county revenues.
I would like to shift taxes toward pollution, and other environmentally damaging sources that are agreed upon by the county after numerous public hearings; while reducing other taxes so as to cause no net increase in taxes. This would tax what we don't want, as we currently do with tobacco and gasoline. Athens County should look into whether it has authority to tax pollution, which is already quantified and listed in the Toxic Release Inventory by the Environmental Protection Agency. Again, I would work with Ohio University to do studies as part of student class projects at no expense to the county. Athens County has more than 40,000 pounds of toxic air emissions. This could be taxed to generate revenue while encourage pollution prevention. We are all being poisoned with an elevated 13 cancers per year in Athens County because of just the toxic air emissions that EPA lists (a small amount of the actual chemicals).
By nature, there is no such thing as waste. The more we can eliminate waste in our society through reduction of excessive material garbage, reuse of items and recycling, the more efficient is our economy, creating more jobs. I would increase the hours of operation and number of drop-off facilities for recycleables. The menace of landfills will be greatly reduced the more we recycle. It also greatly improves the quality of the environment...our home.
I would launch a full investigation into the 691 landfill to examine and correct any contamination problems coming from the landfill. I have worked for a decade with state agencies in a variety of fields involving toxic remediation and environmental restoration and could work to bring state and federal money to clean up the landfill as well as past coal mining damage around the county. Hundreds of millions of dollars are available federally to clean up the rivers and streams from past coal mining abuses. I would lobby Washington to give Athens its fair share and employ out-of-work miners who are the few who have the expertise to use the heavy equipment needed to do most Acid Mine Drainage reclamation work.
This could create hundreds of jobs while restoring the waters of our county so we can swim and fish with safety, bringing massive tourism dollars. I would also like to increase wetland filtration of sewage, which has proven to be the least cost, most-effective means of waste treatment. This could greatly decrease sewage bills for the county over time while enhancing our water quality and wildlife habitat..
paid for by the Campaign to elect Chad Kister; 7807 State Route 56 Apt. C; Athens Ohio 45701 Brittany Sacash, Treasurer