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Year in Review

Yellow Springs Year in Review: Village Life

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Perhaps not surprisingly, issues of social justice and environmental sustainability captured the attention of many villagers in 2015. 

The local chapter of Black Lives Matter, launched in autumn 2014, continued its activities during 2015, seeking to draw attention to the death of John Crawford, an unarmed black man who was killed by police in the Beavercreek Walmart in August 2014. This year the group organized a letter writing campaign to U.S. Department of Justice attorneys urging that charges be brought against the Beavercreek policeman who shot Crawford, continued vigils at the Greene County Courthouse in Xenia, held an event commemorating the anniversary of Crawford’s death along with other protests and organized several fundraising events.

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The Yellow Springs 365 Group sponsored several conversations about race in 2015. The group hosted discussions about challenges faced by mixed-race youth in the village, how to talk to minority students about police violence and the experience of minority students in the public schools.

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Local police continued to be a topic of conversation in 2015. In the spring the Yellow Springs News ran an eight-part series on police and the village, which included a survey of more than 400 Yellow Springs residents regarding their concerns around the local department. More than 70 percent of respondents said they seek more connections between local officers and villagers.

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Villagers’ interest regarding climate change issues continued unabated in 2015, following the September 2014 climate change march in New York City attended by many locals. Early in 2015 the umbrella group, YS Resilience Network, formed around local sustainability efforts, with smaller groups addressing specific issues, such as local food, waste and transportation.

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In May, Caleb and Erica Wyant and their three children moved into the first Home, Inc. home completed on Cemetery Street, a collaborative effort by Home Inc. and the Village of Yellow Springs. Four houses are planned and by the end of the year the second home had been largely finished, though not yet ready for move-in.

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In June police confirmed that there were four incidents of heroin overdose, including one death, in the village that month. In an August interview Police Chief Dave Hale said that there had been no overdoses before June that he knew of, nor any following so far. An epidemic of heroin use is taking place throughout Ohio, and Greene County is cited as an area in which heroin trafficking is especially active.

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Villagers watched throughout 2015 as the Mills Park Hotel took shape on Xenia Avenue. While owner Jim Hammond originally aimed for a summer, then fall 2015 opening for the building — which will include 26 rooms, a restaurant, a gift shop and a banquet hall — construction took longer than expected (surprise!) and by the end of the year he projected winter 2016 as the opening target.

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In July Tom Gray of Tom’s Market celebrated 50 years in the grocery trade. He linked his store’s longevity to treating his employees the way he would like to be treated, and doing his best to respond to local needs.

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In July Greene County Health Department officials closed down the Tuesday community breakfast cooked by Norah Byrnes at the Yellow Springs Country Bed and Breakfast. The breakfast, a once a week donations-only communal meal that is wildly popular with locals, had in recent years been served at Byrnes’ Walnut Street home, until running afoul of county and village laws and then moving to the B&B.

This time, according to the Health Department, the meal was unlawful because of potential violations pertaining to the operation of the bed and breakfast as a whole.

Later in the year, the Yellow Springs Planning Commission approved Byrnes serving breakfast to 40 people weekly in her home. However, more county regulations needed to be met and at the end of the year, the community breakfasts had not yet resumed.

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In August, Tecumseh Land Trust and Glen Helen announced that a nine-year effort to preserve the 1,000 acre Glen had finally ended, with the land now forever protected by a conservation easement. In November the Glen and TLT hosted a community celebration of the preservation.

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Following the November 2014 overwhelming defeat of public funding of the Center for Business and Education, or CBE, there was no movement in 2015 regarding the 35-acre CBE land, owned by the Community Resources subsidiary Education Village. In the first public interview since the vote a year earlier, in September a CR spokesperson said the group continues to believe that a business park is the best use of the land and believes that the election defeat indicates that many villagers were misinformed.

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The abrupt firing of St. Paul Catholic Church’s longtime secretary in September  highlighted ongoing turmoil at the church, including turnover in staff, members and volunteers. Deacon Paul Richardson and several longtime parishioners spoke with the News about their growing concerns with church leadership and decision making, concerns they also expressed to officials at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, which oversees the parish.

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On Election Day, villagers once again marched to a different drummer, with a majority voting in favor of a state issue that would have legalized recreational and medical use of marijuana. However, the rest of the state nixed the marijuana issue.

In local offices, voters returned Marianne MacQueen and Gerry Simms to Village Council and re-elected former Council President Judith Hempfling. In Miami Township Trustees, Chris Mucher and Lamar Spracklen were also returned to their seats. Mayor David Foubert ran unopposed, as did School Board members Sean Creighton and Sylvia Ellison.

Voters also approved the changes to the Village Charter.

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In November the local Lions Club, which had been holding meetings and doing good works since the 1950s, shut down shop due to declining membership.

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A coalition of local groups spotlighted November as Local Food Month, with a variety of films and programs aimed at educating villagers on how to increase their access to local food. The coalition announced that in 2016 it would focus on other sustainability topics, including construction, waste, energy and individual opportunities for conservation.

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A year of tumult at the Yellow Springs Community Children’s Center ended with new leaders. After longtime head Marlin Newel was let go a year ago, interim leaders ran the center, which suffered from declining enrollment, until administrator Rebecca Lowry was hired in the summer. However, Lowry quickly and abruptly fired several employees and made other changes that some found destabilizing. Lowry left her position in late October.

Hired as interim director was Mary Stukenberg, formerly a teacher at the center. Stabilizing the center’s staff and students are the first priority, accoring to Stukenberg and the YSCCC board.

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In December, the Zero Waste group erected a Christmas tree made of garbage bags downtown to draw attention to the need to reduce waste during the holiday season. However, the initiative drew the ire of many shopkeepers, who saw the plastic bag tree as ugly and needlessly offputting during the holiday season, when most downtown businesses draw the most shoppers. Unidentified vandals destroyed the bag tree, but soon after some shopkeepers and Zero Waste representatives met to resolve their conflict.

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Yellow Springs Year in Review: Village Life

by Diane Chiddister