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Village Council snagged on public arts policy

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Village Council discussed the Village public arts policy once again at their meeting on Monday, Dec. 3. Against the advice of a group of citizens trying to help Council write and approve the arts policy, Council veered toward the draft recommended by Village Manager Laura Curliss, that included a two-phase approval process for all art installations in public spaces.

The issue was discussion only. Council will continue to revise the public arts policy, with the intent of completing the document around the end of the year.

At their meeting in November, Council agreed to establish a public arts commission to advise Council on matters regarding art in public spaces. They asked the ad hoc group, known as the Public Places Resource Group, to revise the “purpose of public art” statement in the policy and recommend candidates for the arts commission.

But both Council and the Public Spaces group brought to Monday’s Council meeting different ideas than the ones they had agreed to previously. The Public Spaces group presented a complete revision of the draft arts policy that included a simplified proposal process for art projects and exhibits. And Council floated an idea to use the arts commission as a “jury” to judge the merit of the art being presented for exhibit in a public space.

According to Public Spaces group member Nevin Mercede, the draft policy’s two-stage application process doesn’t work well because Council members, who aren’t trained to evaluate the parameters of an exhibit, won’t necessarily understand what they’re being asked to approve in the first phase as a concept plan. If they approve it and ask the Village staff and the applicant to refine it, the proposal could return to Council for final approval and turn out to be completely different than what they had first conceptualized. Instead, the application process should start with a refinement of the proposal, using the arts commission for the initial vetting, before it comes to Council for a one-time approval, with contingency measures if needed.

“If you allow the [arts commission] to develop the proposal with Laura [Curliss] you’d see the project better and understand it better than you would” otherwise, Mercede said.

Several Council members, including President Judith Hempfling and member Gerry Simms, said they preferred to use the commission as a judge of the art.

“I’m not for a commission vetting proposals first and making a recommendation to Village Council,” Hempfling said, adding that Council and the public needed to have an initial look at the proposal with an opportunity for meaningful public discussion. The arts commission could be involved in that initial discussion as well, as both an advocacy group for the artist and a jury of the art to appear in a public space, she said.

Brian Housh, representing the Public Spaces group, stated clearly that the group did not see the arts commission as a judge of art or content. Rather, he saw the commission as a facilitator that could ensure that art proposals are fairly represented and evaluated with the fullest disclosure.

“We can help ensure proposals come out based on the intentions of the artists,” Housh said.

Local resident and art promoter Richard Lapedes cautioned Village Council not to let the need for perfection prevent them from approving a policy altogether.

“The 80/20 rule applies here — let’s not try to make it perfect, let’s start something,” he said. “It could be a test, and you can rewrite it in a year or two…Thousands of communities have done this, this is not the bleeding edge, it’s not even the cutting edge. This is old-time stuff. It shouldn’t be that hard to get something going.”

In other Council business:

• Council approved the first reading of its budget, totalling $14,135,052 in appropriated funds. Included in the total were a general fund budget of $3,358,590, enterprise fund budget of $8,770,057 (including $5,155,700 in electric, $1,624,881 in water, $1,764,456 in sewer, and $225,020 in solid waste); a streets budget of $1,372,457; a capital spending budget of $506,000; and a debt service budget of $127,948.

As part of the its budget discussion Council introduced the idea of increasing compensation for Council members. Council members are currently paid $4,000 per year, which was increased from $2,000 three years ago. But all five Council members agreed that the work demands of the job warranted an increase in pay, which might also enable more villagers to volunteer for the public post. Council President Judith Hempfling also proposed increasing compensation for the Village mayor.

If Council approved an increase, the change would not go into effect until after most of the current Council was reelected next November.

“Council and the mayor do a tremendous amount of work for the Village…this is real work that benefits the community, and to treat it as volunteer work is wrong,” Hempfling said.

Hempfling suggested increasing Council member pay to $7,000, which would qualify members for Ohio Public Employee Retirement System benefits. Council member Karen Wintrow suggested that the increase wouldn’t necessarily have to align with OPERS, but that some increase made sense.

Villager Richard Lapedes commented in favor of the increase.

“It’s a no brainer,” he said. “The work you do is extremely difficult, both cognitively and emotionally. The key is to get talented people who are willing to do it, and at the very least, you should pay yourselves.”

• Council tabled a resolution to purchase and install an electric car charging station in the village. Council had initially favored a proposal to purchase a SemaConnect pedestal with two charging units for $7,800, planning to install it at the north end of the Bryan Center parking lot. The Village would levee a fee for each electric charge, but the SemaConnect contract was unclear about how long a charge would take. According to Council two hours was a reasonable time, but eight hours was too long. They agreed to resume the discussion after further research.

• Council unanimously approved a resolution to “strongly oppose the passage of House Bill 601” which “includes provisions that require state oversight of municipal income tax operations” and “will drastically reduce revenue to all municipalities in Ohio.” Council has in the past supported a long list of tax uniformity reforms to simplify the Ohio tax code. However, HB 601 “goes far beyond this and will result in a loss of income to municipalities by changing collection rules,” Curliss wrote in a memo to Council.

“Municipal income tax is difficult to deal with, and uniform rules make sense — I support that,” Wintrow said. “But this got extended in a direction where…the state is taking away our money. It’s mind boggling that they think they can mess with our income tax!”


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