Commentary

Letters to the Editor: Chagrin Valley Times, June 15, 2017

http://www.chagrinvalleytoday.com/viewpoint/your_viewpoint/article_6dba9882-511e-11e7-98ee-eb708f744159.html

Officials need to talk to people they serve 

I’m sure most of us feel that we should be able to question our public officials, get a response and express our views on relevant issues.  Wishful thinking?   If you’ve ever called the Washington office of our Senator Rob Portman you may recall his answering machine tells you to “leave your phone number and  we will get back to you.”  I’ve phoned his office many dozens of times in the last year to ask questions and leave comments with just about no luck receiving return calls and answers to my queries.

Among local public agencies our Geauga Park District should get an award for disinterest in the public’s views or answering questions about park plans and operations. They have paid many thousands of dollars for a recent professional public survey yet have made no effort to publicize the results or use them as a  guide in the parks operations.

At the May park commissioners meeting I asked park commissioner Andrej Lah for a video interview which would hopefully be available for the public to view on the Protect Geauga Parks website.  Frankly, I was rebuffed in a rather discourteous manner. One would think he would be glad to share his views on park related matters. Frankly his attitude fits in well with a board that refused to allow public comment during commissioners meetings and typically refuses to allow citizens to ask questions. What gives? Is he afraid of being interviewed by individuals with backgrounds in science, natural history, conservation?   

One might well ask why people would be interested in a park commissioner position that pays no salary. Prior to the Grendell era people were chosen as commissioners because of a background in natural history, conservation or science often coupled with experience in business or other skills. These folks were honored to volunteer. Nearly all of them were wise picks and were left to do their job by wise probate judges. Since the Grendell era began, appointees typically have evidenced little past interest in parks, preserving natural areas, conservation, science or the like. Park district commissioner appointees with no previous interest in parks, in general, often take these positions because they feel the position will benefit them. Maybe the title would look good on a resume?  

Judge Grendell appointed Brian Johnston as a commissioner at the same time he was running for county commissioner. On the day before election I received a special mailing from the park district, paid for at taxpayer expense, presumably, with action photos of Mr. Johnston. A coincidence?  

Once again I publicly invite commissioner Lah to be interviewed on video tape.   The tape will be offered to protect Geauga parks to be put on their website only if they agree to leave it completely unedited.  n fact this offer extends to all three of the park commissioners. The public wants and deserves to know about you, your background and your views on parks and natural areas.                                         

John G. Augustine, Parkman Township

Bill harmful and unnecessary

Ohio Revised Code 1545 is the law that enabled citizens of Geauga County to take steps to create our Geauga Park District fifty-six years ago.  Under this law, citizens petition their Probate Judge to establish a county park system with the Judge appointing a three member Board of Park Commissioners.  Ohio law states that a Probate Judge has the authority to appoint County Park Commissioners and to remove County Park Commissioners, period.

One of the wise provisions of ORC 1545 establishes a method for ensuring continuity in Park governance and stewardship by staggering the terms of the Park Commissioners. This practice assures that a newly appointed Commissioner would join two previously appointed Commissioners who had at least one and two years of experience already under their belts. Common sense, rather than explicit legal provisions, calls for the appointment of Park Board Commissioners who have relevant experience, an understanding of conservation, and who respect the wishes of Geauga residents. This simple, sensible system worked smoothly in Geauga County over the course of five decades.

Timothy J. Grendell now sits as probate judge, and this simple, sensible system does not seem to suit his needs. This judge fired all three park commissioners at once and has appointed and removed a series of Park Commissioners who have not had the benefit of experienced colleagues to work with. Geauga Park District under Judge Grendell took a public survey in 2015 and the results were ignored. Public comment at Park Board meetings has been eliminated.  Judge Grendell appears to have no respect for Ohio Law nor for the residents of Geauga County.

And now, this Judge wants lawmakers in Columbus to give him more power over parks.  Judge Grendell has written a bill for state senators and representatives to consider.  If you think that it is not necessary, and would be harmful, to change Ohio Law to give more power to a Probate Judge over our Parks, then please take a simple action.  You can visit www.protectgeaugaparks.us to find out who to contact in Columbus to express your opposition to HB 281, the bill written by Judge Tim Grendell to increase his power over our parks.

Kathleen O. Webb, Munson

Categories: Commentary

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