Grassroot Efforts Underway to Push for Changes on Swanton Village Council
A group of Swanton residents and business owners met in the banquet room of the Studio 101 Salon and Spa on Sunday, April 18, to discuss a strategy seeking to make changes on the Swanton Village Council as well as supporting legislative initiatives for economic development and transparency in government. The event was organized and hosted by the Studio 101’s owner, Janet Ritter, after numerous appeals for assistance on these matters were made to the Council by Ms. Ritter and many others but were either ignored, dismissed, rejected or otherwise went unaddressed.
Ms. Ritter spoke first and explained her motivation for organizing the event and creating a Facebook page called “A Community Forum” for anyone interested in these efforts. One of her suggestions to enact change would be to have candidates who have the best interest of the Village run for office this November. Currently, four Council seats are up for re-election. Those seats are held by Council President Craig Rose, Mike Rochelle, Kathy Kreuz and Anthony Stewart. Rose, Rochelle and Kreuz all obtained those seats by running unopposed in the 2017 general election. Mr. Stewart was appointed to his seat to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Councilman Paul Dyzak in 2020.
Mayor Neil Toeppe spoke next and explained the process for filing a petition with the Fulton County Board of Elections (FCBE) to appear on the November 2021 ballot. According to the FCBE, a minimum of 50 valid signatures of Swanton registered voters would be required to run for a seat on the Village Council. A minimum of 10% of the number of Swanton votes in the last gubernatorial election would be required to have a legislative initiative appear on the ballot. All petitions must be notarized and filed with the FCBE by 4:00 PM on August 4, 2021.
The Mayor also related some of his proposals to the Council that were turned down, such as the creation of an Economic Development Commission (EDC), the live streaming of all Village Council, Village Committee and Village Commission meetings and the increased cooperation with Swanton Local Schools with respect to the youth sports program. He also explained how Council President Rose was able to change the Rules of Council beginning in 2021 to have the Mayor’s Report removed from meeting agendas and, by extension, Council meeting minutes and also have the Mayor removed from serving and providing input as an ex officio on Village Committees for Water and Sewer, Public Safety (Police & Fire) and Finance. All meeting agenda items must now be approved by Mr. Rose.
There was a great deal of discussion among the attendees and before the meeting concluded, a committee was formed to work on three goals. The first is to find four individuals willing to run for a seat on the Council and serve for the benefit of the Village of Swanton. The second is to place a legislative initiative on the November ballot to form an all-volunteer Economic Development Commission to serve as an advisory board to the Council to bring more business and businesses into Swanton and expand the tax base and minimize the tax burden on Swanton residents. The third is to place another legislative initiative on the November ballot to live-stream all Swanton Village meetings to allow the public-at-large to remotely attend the meetings or view the proceedings at a more convenient time in order to be more aware of the direction of the Village.
The next meeting is scheduled for May 2, 2021 at 1:00 PM at the 101 Salon and Spa located at 124 North Main Street in Swanton. Everybody is welcomed and encouraged to attend.
Pictured: Janet Buckenmeyer Ritter, Community Organizer