Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Ins and Outs of Ohio Voting

by Amanda Fondriest

Being an informed voter is important in every election. However, being informed is not merely a matter of knowing about the candidates and the ballot issues, voters also need to know about the voting process.

Registering to Vote
Ohio residents have until 9:00PM on October 6 to register to vote and have many options for how and where to do so. Registration forms can be filled out at any county board of elections office, the Secretary of State's office, any public high school or vocational school, offices of the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, public libraries, offices of the county treasurer, and any offices that provide public assistance. The Athens County Board of Elections will remain open until 9:00PM on Monday for voter convenience.

Board of Elections Director Debbie Quivey discusses places to register for the November election.

Because an original signature is required on all voter registration forms, Athens County Board of Elections Director Debbie Quivey says, "you can download the form online, fill it out, and send it to [the Athens County Board of Elections]." The form can be downloaded at theAthens County Board of Elections website. Employees at the Board of Elections will accept mail-in voter registration forms through October 11, so long as they have an October 6 postmark.

William Biddlestone, a member of the Athens County Board of Elections, says that taking one's time is key to ensuring a successful registration. "The most important thing is to take your time and make sure it is filled out completely. The big mistakes people make when filling out their registration forms are failing to list their date of birth, their driver's license number, their social security number, and their signature," Biddlestone said.

Board of Elections Member William Biddlestone asks voters to take their time while registering.

Absentee Voting

Because of new legislation, Ohio now has what is called "no-fault" absentee voting. This means that this year voters can cast an absentee ballot without providing a reason. Absentee ballots can be cast beginning September 30 at 8:00AM.
Voters can request an absentee ballot on the Ohio Secretary of State's website.
Otherwise, the Athens County Board of Elections can assist registered voters with submitting their absentee ballot in multiple ways. Voters can cast their ballot at the Board of Elections office located at 15 South Court Street or by requesting a ballot by phone at (740)592-3201.

Board of Elections Director Debbie Quivey explains absentee voting.

"Applying for an absentee ballot--you can do that up to November 1 at noon. We will be here that day. Any requests we get, we will send them out," Quivey said. Absentee ballots can be cast in person through November 3 at 4:00PM. The Board of Elections will be open Saturday November 1 from 8:00AM to noon for any last minute absentee voters.

Provisional Voting
Quivey urges voters who have changed either their name or address to register this change by October 6. Otherwise, they run the risk of being considered a provisional voter.

Board of Elections Director Debbie Quivey reminds voters to register changes to name and address by the October 6 deadline.

Provisional voters, according to Quivey, are those who have missed the October 6 deadline for name and address changes. There is nothing wrong with voting provisionally; however, Quivey says that it does make voting more difficult for the voter. "You get caught having to fill out an envelope, waiting in longer lines. You take the chance of doing something wrong on your ballot. Really, you take the chance of your ballot not counting."

Board of Elections Director Debbie Quivey describes the pitfalls of provisional voting.

Polling Locations
With nearly seventy polling locations in Athens County, it is important for voters to know where they are going. A complete list of polling locations can be found here. Check out our previous Athens MidDay story on changes in polling locations.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ohio University Gets its Green On

by Carlyn Lynch

The streets and sidewalks were a sea of green Saturday as floats inspired by this year's environmentally-focused homecoming theme, "Get your Green On", rolled by.

Although the Office of Sustainability didn't come up with the theme, coordinator Sonia Marcus was excited about the opportunity to spread awareness about the importance of conservation on campus, "I was thrilled because I recognized the possibilities of pushing the sustainability agenda."

Sonia Marcus on why the green theme means good things for sustainability.

Dumpster Diving Recycling
The dumpster diving team has been part of homecoming since 1995, salvaging whatever they can from homecoming floats to be used again. The voluntary recycling effort doesn't cost the university anything, but cut down expenses by reducing waste. This year as many recyclable materials as possible were used in float construction to get close to a zero waste homecoming. The lead float ran off biodiesel fuel from dining hall greas, nice to know it's good for something.

Adopt-a-Game Recycling
Eco-friendly efforts were amped up throughout the entire weekend, not just for the parade. For the first time ever, the Adopt-A-Game program was in full force at Peden Stadium. The program uses volunteers, including local boy scouts, to walk around the stadium collecting trash and recyclables from the crowd during and after the game. The program has been very effective at home basketball games and this weekend's green theme was the perfect opportunity for it to make its debut at a football game.

Graduate Student Leah Graham talks about how creativity goes hand in hand with sustainability.

Green Giveaways
Green tote bags and recycled key chains were distributed for free during the parade and the Office of Sustainability donated a solar-powered cellphone charger for the homecoming football game raffle. Recycling was promoted at picnics and tailgates as part of the zero waste campaign as well. A tour of the university's ecohouse was offered Sunday afternoon for anyone who wanted to know more about environmentally friendly efforts existing on campus.

Ed Newman on why recycling efforts are beneficial for the community

Recognizing Green Success
Ohio University has one of the best established and most recognized recycling programs in the country, according to the Office of Sustainability. Ed Newman, campus recycling and refuse manager, received the lifetime achievement award from the National Recycling Congress last week for the 'Recyclemania' program and his efforts to get other campuses to recycle. He says, "It's a really good way to preserve the town/gown relationship." After this weekend, the sustainability team is hopeful that more people and students in Athens will be moved to help out the environment.

If you find yourself moved to help the cause, visit www.greenopia.com for tips on how to live a little greener every day.

The green theme gets students going.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Storm Damage Tax Reduction Deadline

by Dante Brunetto

After the windstorms from Hurricane Ike swept through Ohio two weeks ago, the focus for most people was getting power back and clearning up the damage. But Athens County Auditor’s office has switched damage control, to damage repair. Jill Thompson, Athens County Auditor, sent out a news release last week to inform home and business owners they can receive a reduction in the taxable value of their property to account for any structural damage caused by the storm.

Taxpayers can receive up to a 50 percent reduction for damage that occurred anytime from July to September as long as they file a claim on or before December 31st. However, any damage occurring from October to December can only get a maximum 25 percent reduction and must be filed on or before January 31st.

Even though the application deadline for a 50 percent reduction isn’t until the end of December, the county appraiser must come out to assess the damage before October 1. If the damage is assessed after the month of September, the possible reduction is reduced to 25 percent.

Bob Drain, Athens County property appraiser, talks
about the process for claiming property damage.

According to Ohio law, property owners are entitled to claim a reduction in the taxable value of their property. Thompson stated in a news release, “With the tremendous wind damage that occurred recently, property owners deserve the relief that this law provides. My staff will be available to assist applicants in completing the form properly so they can get the reduction they are entitled to.”

Dave Owen, Chief Deputy Auditor, says that only few reports have been turned in all year, most of which were for fire or flood damage. Athens resident, Ross Golding, was not aware of Ohio’s tax reduction law until his home was damaged by the storm. Golding says his landlord informed him that he would need to assess all of the damage and fill out the property damage form for the County Auditor.

Athens resident, Ross Golding, describes the damage that
the windstorm did to his home.

To make a claim on property damage, stop by the Real Estate Division of the County Auditor’s Office at 21 S. Court Street. The form can also be retrieved online at www.athenscountyauditor.org. For additional information, contact the Auditor’s office at 740-592-3223.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ohio Legislative Candidates on Early Childhood Education

by Molly Smith

Tuesday night candidates for state senate and house seats in Athens County debated issues surrounding early childhood education and healthcare in Ohio. The debate was sponsored by Groundwork, a campaign for high-quality care and education for all children in Ohio up to age six.

In attendance were Clyde Evans (R-Incumbant) House 87th district; Debbie Phillips (D-Challenger) House 92nd district; and Rick Shriver (D-Challenger) and Tim Kettler (Green-Challenger), Senate 20th district. Ohio University's Director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Tom Hodson mediated the debate.

Hodson began with explaining why Groundwork's mission was essential to Ohio. Governor Ted Strickland has budgeted $300 million to the 2008-2009 budget for education and Groundwork wants to ensure that enough of that money is focused on early childhood education and development.

Questions proposed at the debate focused on three areas: access to education services, quality and funding of early childhood education. The candidates were asked if they supported tax increases to secure funding for education programs, their position on all-day Kindergarten and voluntary behavioral screening. The debators all agreed that funding was the most important priority for the Groundwork mission because without funding, it is are unable to achieve any of its goals.

Shriver and Kettler were the only two competitors who showed up at the forum. Their positions on the questions were similar until it came to tax increases. Shriver does not support a tax increase, but Kettler said, "I believe education is a priority and the return on investment in education is more than three-fold." Evans has previously voted on a sales tax increase to education funding.

Attendees of the debate also included Ohio University faculty of the Early Childhood Education program. Joan McMath and Anne Oberlin gave their opinion following the debate.

OU faculty give their take on the prioritization of access quality and funding.

Three of the seven candidates who RSVPed to the event were not there. OU Education Professor Joan McMath said at the end of the day it could affect voters' opinion on these candidates.

OU faculty weigh in on senators lack of attendance.

Following the debate, attendees were given an opportunity to register to vote for the upcoming election on November fourth.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Proposed Noise Ordinance Causing Public Noise

Whitney Hare

Current Ordinance
Athens county residents want a new noise ordinance that will deal with Uptown businesses. The current city ordinance is targeted at residences and not businesses. Athens City Council has a difficult time enforcing the current law with business because determining the one person who is making the noise level too loud is almost impossible with the combination of music and multiple voices. So who pays the $1,000 when the noise ordinance is violated? See the bottom of this story for the full city ordinance.

Proposed Ordinance

The new ordinance would be targeted at businesses rather than residential areas. The proposed ordinance would close outdoor patios within 200 feet of a residential area at 10 o'clock on weekdays and midnight on weekends. Business owners like David Cornwell of Courtside Pizza think this new ordinance would affect his business. He says closing the patio before the restaurant would cause confusion and make him look like a bad business owner.

David Cornwell, Owner of Courtside Pizza

Public Reaction
The Athens Planning Commission held a public hearing on Thursday to see what the community members had to say about this issue. Those residents who attended were is divided on the issue at this point in time. Some believe it is necessary and want to be at peace in their homes. Others say this noise should be expected in a college town and enforcing an ordinance like this would hurt businesses that aren't causing any problems.

Dylan Armstrong, Athens Resident

Jim Sillery, Athens Resident

Who Would be Affected?
The ordinance would affect every establishment with outdoor patios, not just bars. Places like Donkey Coffee and O'Betty's which have outdoor tables would have to close their outdoor seating and potentially lose business if this ordinance took effect. Uptown establishments like Courtside and Broney's would most likely have to ask costumers to leave when the patios close because the inside of the locations are typically at capacity.

The next step for the Athens Planning Commission will be to draft an official ordinance and send it to City Council.

Double click on the ordinance page to see it full size.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More than Half of Athens County Polling Places Change

Brianna Savoca

On Election Day, Athens area voters may not realize their polling location has moved.
The Athens County Board of Elections relocated 39 of the 69 voting stations around the county.

After receiving complaints about parking concerns and handicap accessibility, the Board of Elections changed the locations in order to remain compliant with the American Disability Act (ADA).

Board of Elections Director Deborah Quivey explains why 39 poll locations changed.

The Board of Elections' changes affect more than 22,700 voters, and community members are concerned that many voters may be unaware their polling location has changed.

"Election notification cards went out September 5th with location changes," Athens County Board of Elections Director Deborah Quivey says.

However, some precincts were changed after the first round of cards went out.

"New cards will be sent out to voters September 19th," Quivey says.

Community members worry some voters may accidentally discard their notification as junk mail.

Kim Bail says she never knew poll locations changed until a neighbor told her.

David Croston says voters will still show up at the polls November 4th despite changes.

The Board of Elections does have a plan for voters who do not read or receive their notification cards. "We're going to put signage at old polling places," Quivey explains.

The Board of Elections received nearly $8,000 to make sure all polling locations are ADA compliant. Much of the money will be used for information signs at the new and old polling locations. Since many schools are already ADA compliant, they serve as better locations for polling stations, Quivey says.

Another concern among voters is congestion at the polls during bus pick-up and drop-off times in the morning and afternoon, but Quivey says to use common sense.

"Don't go vote during busy times at school," Quivey says.

Schools have been cooperative about becoming polling stations, Quivey says. Principals of schools hosting polls are asking teachers to park in alternative lots to leave parking spaces for voters on Election Day, Quivey adds.

"If you have any doubt please call us," Board of Election Director Quivey says. "That's why we're here, to help you."

"The voting locations we have now are better for the voter," Quivey says. "Overall, we think we made the right choice with everything."

Below is a list of all polling places in Athens County, if you have any questions, contact the Board of Elections Office at (740)592-3201

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

No Traffic Worries for Uptown Event

Amanda Fondriest

Uptown trick-or-treaters will only have to worry about the amount of candy they collect this year. That’s because Athens City Council approved the Athens Uptown Business Association's(AUBA) request, Monday night, to close Court Street during their annual uptown trick-or-treat event next month. AUBA Chairperson Josh Thomas says closing Court Street during the event is not only an issue of safety but also one of prevention.
"All it takes is just one accident," Thomas said. "So we just said this year, if we can just have the street closed so we're not in fear that the kids aren't going to have any trouble with the traffic that would work out a lot better."

Brennen's owner Josh Thomas discusses the need for closing Court Street for this year's event.

The number of kids trick-or-treating has increased from 100 in 2005 to well-over 400 in 2007, so it seems the change comes just in time. As approved Monday night, Court Street will be closed between Union Street and Carpenter Street from 5:00-7:00PM on the day of the event.

City Council

However, some details of the uptown trick-or-treat event are still up in the air. The issue of parking came under scrutiny at last night's Athens City Council meeting.
Council member Christine Knisely introduced the ordinance request for the street closing. Knisely says that parking will be prohibited between 2:00-7:00PM, to provide both citizens parked on Court Street and towing companies adequate time to clear the street.

Athens City Council member Christine Knisely recommends prohibiting parking on Court Street.

When the ordinance was brought into discussion, Council Member Nancy Bain expressed concern for uptown businesses. Bain says that businesses will lose customers if parking is restricted.
"[It's] going to disrupt the uptown area substantially: having parking removed at 2:00 PM," Bain said.

Athens City Council member Nancy Bain questions the need for parking limitations.

At the conclusion of the meeting, members agreed to review the need for parking restrictions. The next Athens City Council meeting is September 29 at 7:30 PM in the Council Chambers on the third floor of the City Building.

Event Details

Even with parking details still in question, the event will continue as planned. It is scheduled for Monday, October 27 from 5:30-7 PM.
The event began in 2005 after Thomas and other members of AUBA found that several Athens neighborhoods did not have trick-or-treating.
"We said there's got to be a place for kids to go, a safe place also," Thomas said. "So when they come up town hopefully they feel and their parents feel they're in a safe environment and they can still have a good time, collect candy, and not have to worry about where to go to trick or treat."

Brennen's Owner Josh Thomas explains how the event came to be.

To assist parents with children in strollers, business owners will hand out candy outside their business. The event is open to children of all ages. Even those, Thomas says, who are still just kids at heart.

Brennen's owner Josh Thomas invites all members of the community to attend the event.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Catching the Copper Crooks

Sara Shookman

Criminals looking for a quick cash fix by selling stolen scrap metal may be out of luck.

A new state law aims to prevent the crime by requiring scrap metal dealers to ask for identification and keep better records of the metals they purchase.

State Senators passed Bill 171 in March to slow metal thefts brought on by the high prices scrap dealers pay for recyclable metals such as copper and aluminum.

After the House and Senate disagreed over whether Ohio cities should be allowed to have their own tougher laws, Ohio legislators okayed a compromise plan in May.

The law took effect Thursday, September 11.

Scrap sellers are now required to show a photo ID and must prove that they own items such as utility wires, beer kegs, catalytic convertors and other high dollar scraps.

Bad for Business

The crime has become increasingly common across the nation, including in Athens.

Danny Cullison owns Cullison Metals in Athens County.

Cullison says that he's been asking for identification for months after a rash of thefts made him nervous about his business.

Cullison makes changes after being hit hard with scrap metal thefts.

Just down Salem Road, another scrap metal dealer is thinking about how the new law could affect his business, but Terry Boch says he hasn't heard anything from the state on how to follow through.

Scrap dealer Terry Boch says he's not sure what the new law will mean for business.

Desparate for Dough

Scrap items have become increasingly valuable and in these tough economic times the temptation to steal the precious metals and sell them to scrap yards is high.

Across the state, thieves have been ripping air conditioners and aluminum siding from homes and offices, copper wiring from telephone lines and cutting catalytic converters out of cars.

Boch says a single catalytic converter can earn a seller anywhere from $10 to $100, depending on the make and model of the car.

Scrap sellers can find the current market values for each type of recyclable on the Web.

Athens Police Lt. David Williams says local police have been fighting converter crimes all summer.

Athens Police Lt. David Williams says metal thefts are common in the city.

Williams says the new law will help them catch and prosecute metal muggers, but preventing these crimes is also important.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI), the national trade association for the scrap recycling industry, has partnered with the National Crime Prevention Council to raise awareness of scrap metal thefts.

ISRI has instituted online theft alerts to help "take a bite out of crime."

Williams says he hopes Athens County scrap dealers work closely with police as the new law is enforced.