2008-11-01 / Editorials & Letters

More Letters: 'Watchdog' explains why township is no longer 'quiet'

Editor:

I hate to go backwards, but I have to make to respond to our "dog warden's" comments about our once "quiet" township and why things may have changed. More people coming to township meetings is a good thing. That means more opinions can be heard. Unfortunately, some people use that for personal attacks rather than focusing on township business and issues. That's one one of the reasons I ended up becoming a "watchdog." From my perspective, the reason the township was "quiet" for years was because nobody even cared to attend trustee meetings. So trustees could do whatever they pleased with little public scrutiny or input. How many township residents were aware of the issues I have written about in letters?

Previously the board normally had a short 15 - 30 minute monthly meeting, which was mainly a rather short discussion, followed by signing the checks. When I was campaigning last year some people told me they simply gave up attending trustee meetings. When asked why, most said when they "had" attended a meeting, but the board did not take them seriously, or worse yet, they were ridiculed, harassed or felt threatened enough to never return. If the board did not do enough to discourage them at the meeting, then their right hand man (town bully/township road worker that I have previously written about) would come up to people and challenge them "after" the meeting. He did that with me on several occasions, but he didn't know me well enough to know that I don't back down. Apparently some residents were even challenged at their property, while this part time worker was in a township vehicle, clearly on township business/time.

My first personal experience with our township officials happened a couple months after I moved here in 1996. This visit was prompted by a discussion with my neighbors about the sad shape of our short dead end township road. The dust was so bad that one neighbor could not sit on his front porch due to the dust clouds stirred up by every passing vehicle. This dust was also a major health issue for him.

I decided to take my concerns directly to trustees at their next meeting. I was the only "public" person in attendance and had no idea how things were done. There was no agenda, so I wondered when I would be able to even ask a question. There were four people sitting around a table, facing each other and basically mumbling to themselves. Most of the discussion was so low key, I could not even understand half of what they were saying. But eventually, I was acknowledged and asked them about our road. Well, this is when I got my first taste of being a "newbie" in our quiet township! I got the old "you city folks want to move out to the country and as soon as you do, you then want your road paved." I also got the old standby, "we are a poor township....we don't have much money" routine. Apparently they had "no plan," since nothing was said about any sort of a road maintenance schedule. They made me feel like I was just a "nuisance" to them. A few years later, one member called me a "nuisance."

I attended a couple more meetings over the next nine years, mostly the same as before, except one hot meeting. A township resident wanted to talk about having a local police presence in town. He asked about the possibility of being a "part time" officer and how he could pay for himself. Apparently this was NOT something our town bully wanted to hear. He called this resident all sort of names and accused him of trying to get into peoples' business. I remember hearing, "I know who you are.....we don't need people like you snooping around" and the old "we don't need you getting into our business." This resident gave up after that reception. The issue died and as far as I know that was his last trustees' meeting.

I didn't go to another township meeting until 2006. Then I got to see first hand how GOB Watkins was conducting his campaign of personal attacks against our newly elected trustee, Jeff Chorpenning. At this meeting, there were lots of folks in attendance, so it was held in the community building. This was the first time I saw our new trustee in action. Trustee Chorpenning was trying hard to stay on business, but he was repeatedly attacked by GOB Watkins. This meeting also showed me clearly that Chorpenning was the only trustee that even bothered to read the resumes and interview the candidates for the open zoning inspector position. It was clear to me that our GOB's had already made up their mind and were ready to vote, no matter who else applied. It was the absolute worst case of blatant "pre-selection" that I have ever witnessed. But they didn't care, because who was going to challenge them.

People familiar with me know my work ethic, what I believe in and how I operate. They knew if it was wrong, it did not matter who I had to get with to correct it. These folks know why I then started to attend every township meeting and why I would get vocal about what was going on! There's been a price to pay. I have been attacked verbally, called out to fight and threatened with physical harm. The GOB's have tried to even use the power of their elected office to get the prosecutor and sheriff's offices to take action against me. What this really did was to make me to educate myself about the Ohio Revised Code, as it applies to public officials and the board of trustees. It also convinced me to run for public office, where I could personally have a hand in changing things for the better.

We need to get where we have local government that is open and accessible, conducts "all" business in public, and has an written plan, that tracks how we do business and spend our public funds. One where "newbies" will be welcomed into our community and given an opportunity to participate on the same level as "oldies." One where personal public attacks will no longer be tolerated. Change is not easy, especially when you have many years to get set in your ways. It will take vocal action by "the people" in order to make change happen! I believe that "we the people" have an inherent responsibility, to know exactly how our local elected officials are conducting business and how they are managing "our" money.

Will "Watchdog" Kern Bowling Green Township

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