To the editor:
I have attended almost every Steubenville Council meeting in the past five months. The first two months were contentious as citizens struggled to be heard on several issues and attempted to make sense of data pertinent to the water rate increase. The citizens were able to extend their right to address council to include sunshine meetings, although with issues that made council uncomfortable one might find himself being talked down to or rushed to their conclusion.
In all fairness, I did witness a change in the activities of various committees and an effort to institute change. One evident flaw in their new approach lies in a reluctance to acknowledge and analyze past failures. Areas such as overspending and a lackluster performance involved in the construction of our filtration plant were not examined as we experienced a rate hike that is destined to fall short in addressing our needs. As plans are being worked on to re-create a failed downtown, no one wants to acknowledge that the hundreds of thousands of dollars doled out to several agencies or committees charged with the revitalization of our downtown have done nothing to bring major employers to downtown.
We have several proposals to reignite interest in the downtown, but the admission of prior failures is not forthcoming. Facing past failures, it is imperative to avoid the same approach and expect a different result. One trip downtown will show the result of spending massive amounts of money, and should prove that we cannot gamble $15,000 without the promise of renewed growth. A proposal to hire a new employee to ticket violators of the two-hour parking restriction will create only one job, that being the enforcement officer, and will not render a profit. Also the lack of code enforcement is part of the failing downtown because of the eyesores created over several decades by commercial landlords who allowed their buildings to fall in disrepair. This code enforcement is one of the keys to making our downtown attractive. Knowing that the building department has its hands full with our hilltops, that $15,000 might be better spent hiring a part-time assistant to the building department.
An enforcement officer is not needed. All that would have needed to be done was offer a free parking lot to downtown employees, and those people doing research at the courthouse should be given notice that we will tow their vehicles if left beyond two hours. When we create an interest in the downtown then we must examine a more comprehensive approach that involves multiple parking lots strategically located.
I attempted to discuss with council the chance of reconsidering its approach but was not well received. Since I no longer intend to speak at council, I will continue to speak to the citizens through letters to the editor. We no longer have a margin of error because of past failures so we must encourage the people to whom we have entrusted our community to work smart and act diligently when spending our money.