Bexley News

Task force recommendations opposed

Council's committees to mull over ideas

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Don't look for speed cameras or parking meters to pop up in Bexley anytime soon.

A package of recommendations from the Bexley Alternative Revenue Task Force encountered significant opposition following a mid-January public hearing on the proposals, which included using speed cameras and parking meters as potential revenue sources.

A week later, during City Council's Jan. 22 meeting, council members voted to assign each of the task force's recommendations to council committees for further study.

In an email message to fellow council members, Councilman Tim Madison proposed assigning the task force's four main proposals to specific committees "for them to review, dissect and analyze the recommendations, the public input and the mayor's position paper."

Those committees and recommendations included:

* Safety: Speed cameras.

* Finance: Digital ad revenue.

* Service: Parking meters.

* Strategic: Safety fee/Payment In Lieu of Taxes.

" I believe that 30 days is a sufficient period for each committee to complete their due diligence and that the committees' recommendations should be submitted to council for deliberation and a vote at our first meeting in March," Madison added. "I have not discussed this proposal with any member of council nor the mayor and it is solely intended to set a timely timeframe and game plan for council to address and resolve the task force's recommendations."

Opposition to the speed-camera suggestion surfaced Jan. 15 when Lee Nathans, chairman of the Vote Yes on Issue 24 (city income tax) campaign, called the idea "preposterous." Police Chief Larry Rinehart and several Bexley residents also spoke out against the idea.

Howard Schottenstein was among those who questioned the need for parking meters in the Main Street business district. Service Director Bill Harvey said he had looked into the issue and found no central Ohio communities, other than Columbus, have parking meters in their downtown areas.

Three Bexley educational institutions -- Capital University, St. Charles Preparatory School and the Columbus School for Girls -- all opposed the idea to charge nonresident students between $5 and $20 a month as a public service fee.

Councilman Matt Lampke said he could not support the student fee proposal.

"I am very pleased with the hard work and unique proposals brought to us by the Alternative Revenue Task Force," Lampke said. "With the exception of the student tax, I will be gathering additional information and evaluating the feasibility of each proposal. I will evaluate any proposal against our need to maintain the quality of life, walkability and friendly business environment in Bexley."

Only the recommendation to raise funds through a city-owned digital advertising project appeared headed for approval.

With various sides heard from, Councilman Steve Keyes said he looks forward to the opportunity for council members to discuss the suggestions in committee meetings.

"We've heard a number of people ask where council members stand in terms of whether we will reject or accept the various recommendations of the Alternative Revenue Task Force," Keyes said. "But this type of question creates a false dichotomy, implying that each of the task force's suggestions must somehow be considered on a "yea or nay" or "take it or leave it" basis. I don't view the situation that way at all -- quite the contrary.

"To me, the beauty of the important work done by the committed citizens of the task force is that much of it has generated a whole range of creative ideas for consideration -- and council and the administration now need to examine those ideas from a variety of angles, and discuss them in an iterative way that will allow the best solutions to emerge from both a policy perspective and a revenue perspective," Keyes said.

City Council Finance Committee Chairman Rich Sharp said council will not approve or reject the recommendations as a group.

"Will the recommendations be enacted as written? No," Sharp said. "Will the recommendations be completely rejected? No. Council and the mayor will be taking those ideas from the task force and the many other ideas and variations that have been suggested and looking at what is best for Bexley not just financially, but in the context of what we want our city to be.

"Bexley is more than a sound bite or sensationalist headline, and the solutions to problems and the pathway to vibrant independent city takes and deserves more effort than just a knee-jerk yes-or-no response."

Councilwoman Anne Lewis said the recommendations are appreciated by council.

"Like all of council, we appreciate and need the time and input from all of Bexley's residents," she said. "Being tasked with overseeing the city's well-being is both challenging and rewarding. Ideas like those put forth by the alternative revenue task force challenge our way of thinking and, I believe, will ultimately lead to a stronger city."

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