Just My Opinion – Post Election Elections
As we are all aware, sometimes painfully so, elections have consequences. Who, as a people, we choose to lead us, may have a significant impact on our lives. And once those governing bodies are seated, they elect someone to lead them. For example, when the 117th Congress began, the House of Representatives re-elected Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. It is a position that carries a lot of power and influence.
Like most municipalities, the Village of Swanton has a similar protocol. One of the first orders of business to begin the new year is for the newly seated village council to elect a President pro tempore. According to the Ohio Revised Code, Section 731.10, “When the mayor is absent from the village or is unable, for any cause to perform his duties, the president pro tempore shall be the acting mayor, and shall have the same powers and perform the same duties as the mayor.” Simply put, the president pro tempore is the mayor’s understudy.
However, the Swanton Village Council calls this position “Council President” and gives this individual far more power than just serving as a fill-in. He is allowed to include or reject items of discussion on meeting agendas, including ones proposed by the mayor. He is also allowed to call for votes to “table” issues indefinitely without any timetable to bring the issue back up before council, effectively killing any proposed legislation. This “arrangement” severely limits the mayor’s ability to guide the Village of Swanton down a path of continuous improvement if the council president objects to it.
Last year, Neil Toeppe took the gavel as the newly-elected Mayor of Swanton, having defeated incumbent Mayor Ann Roth by a wide margin. It was a result not result easily accepted by all council members. During the first Swanton Village Council meeting, Councilman Mike Rochelle nominated Councilman Craig Rose for council president. What quickly developed and continued over the next 12 months was a culture of obstructionism aimed at almost all proposals brought to the Council by Mayor Toeppe.
The mayor proposed the formation of an all volunteer economic development commission that would work to increase the number of businesses within the village and expand the tax base. The increase in business tax revenue would allow the village to maintain and improve village services to the residents without adding to their individual tax burden. This was vigorously rejected several times by Mr. Rose and Mr. Rochelle, even when small businesses in the local economy were heavily and negatively impacted by COVID-19 pandemic.
When the Council was forced to meet remotely because of the pandemic, they were also required to broadcast the meetings using Zoom. Mayor Toeppe recommended broadcasting all meetings to the public as standard operating procedure to allow all Swanton residents to attend and be informed without having to be physically present. This was rejected by Mr. Rose and Mr. Rochelle, first on the grounds that there was not enough interest and then because of cost. When the interest was shown to be significant and the cost could be covered by COVID relief funds, Mr. Rose cited potential legal consequences because of words spoken during the meeting though no examples these consequences involving village councils in the state of Ohio were found by the Village’s solicitor.
Mr. Toeppe forwarded and supported a request from the Swanton Local School District for assistance with the Village’s youth sports programs. Mr. Rochelle and Mr. Rose both cited agreeing to this request would be “bad business.” Supporting the youth of our community should never be considered as bad business.
This obstructionism has its roots in personal agendas and is detrimental to the progress and economic future of the Village of Swanton. Tonight, January 11th, 2021, the Swanton Village Council meets for the first time in the new year. Another election will be conducted to name the council president. We can only hope that personal agendas are checked at the door and the council chooses wisely.