Archive for Mayor

Does Village Government cede too much power to the Mayor?

Does the current structure of Village Government cede too much power and control to the Mayor?

Mariemont has always had a strong mayor or mayor-centric form of government which is the norm for small communities. In Mariemont the Mayor is elected for four years without term limits.

Six Village Council members with four year terms are the only counterbalance to the authority of the Mayor.  In January 2014, the two elected official positions of Village Clerk and Village Treasurer were eliminated and replaced with a Mayor appointed ‘Fiscal Officer.’

Typically, two or four Council candidates are nominated at an annual Village Town Meeting in March or April every other year and generally run unopposed. Many prominent residents believe the Village Town Meeting construct is an outmoded and antiquated system that as a ‘default result’ produces weak candidates due to a lack of resident participation. Moreover, councilmen receive nominal compensation of about $1000 per year for their volunteer time and efforts that includes many meetings that deal with mundane matters. It is easy to see why so few Villagers wish to become involved in local government and at the present time, most new recruits for Council are ‘persuaded’ as ‘friends of the Mayor’ to run for Council. It is not surprising that the turnover rate for Village Council members is quite high due to term expiration, resignations and relocation.

Unlike corporate America and larger nonprofit boards, the members of the Village Council are not selected based upon their competitive range of skills, knowledge and abilities and, as a consequence, there is limited diversity and narrow skill sets in council membership. Additionally, there is no formal Village Administrator to handle operations and provide input and feedback to the Mayor and Council.

To understand the dominant power and control equation enjoyed by the Mayor consider the following:

  1. All Departments report directly to the Mayor
  2. The Mayor crafts the agenda for Council Meetings
  3. The Mayor controls council committee appointments
  4. The Mayor restricts committee activities to those he personally assigns
  5. The Mayor unilaterally, without review or approval by Council, produces a monthly Mayor’s Bulletin for distribution to each household in the community
  6. The Mayor is a voting member on the Architectural Review Board
  7. The Mayor is the Chair of the Planning Commission and a voting member
  8. The Mayor maintains an official Village website that gives little transparency to Village Government
  9. The Mayor presides over very perfunctory bi-monthly Council Meetings that last an average of 18 minutes, in which real issues are seldom discussed
  10. The Mayor has a three minute time limit for any Village resident coming before Council.

My suggestions to improve the make-up of Mariemont Village Government include:

  1. Form a Membership or Governance Committee of Council to recruit qualified candidates for Council. The committee could be chaired by the Vice Mayor and comprised of an additional Council member, a Village resident appointed by MPF and a representative from the School Board for a total of 4 members.
  2. Modestly increase the compensation for the Mayor and Council members
  3. Hire an empowered Village administrator that has more than just clerical duties
  4. Reinstate the elected Office of Village Treasurer to act as an independent voice
  5. Increase the number of elected Councilmen to eight with the addition of two at-large-members identified by the Governance Committee
  6. The Mayor should be only an ex-officio member of the Planning and Architectural Review Boards
  7. Term limits: two successive terms for both the Mayor and Council members


Responses to this post from Mariemont Residents:

  1. “Agree with your assessment. There are likely 20 more examples of the lopsided nature of government in Mariemont.”
  2. “The problem stems from the mayor being too power hungry compounded by voter apathy and fear of reprisal. Without new faces, nothing will change.”
  3. “I think we would be better off pursuing term limits and would further support the hiring of a Village Administrator as the remedy for the over control of the Mayor.”
  4. “It should be emphasized that the Code of Ordinances governs the Village, and it specifically states that the Mayor reports to Council, not vice versa.”

Opinions on the Sidewalk Issue

In response to a Nextdoor Mariemont post about the removal of sidewalks and putting up of a fence around the tax building by Mr. Dan Spinnenweber, I replied to resident Stephanie Eversole’s post where she shared that the elementary school has now opened the lower lot near the playground for parents to park in for pick up and drop off. Here is my added comment to her post, and then the continuation in response to Cynthia Wolter’s post, sharing a few of my experiences with the Mayor and Council and how I have seen things work.

“Stephanie is right. However, Steph, the school sent that letter only a couple of weeks before school let out. I’m hoping they advise parents/grandparents/guardians again as school starts up so perhaps more people will take advantage of that lower lot. I happen to know the school is also looking into other possible parking lot expansion solutions, but many are cost prohibitive right now, especially with the hill at the edge of the existing lot that goes down into the field. Options are being considered, though, so know that the school board is on top of this. It’s just a shame that talks weren’t pursued more aggressively with Mr. S and the Mayor prior to this sidewalk removal being given the go-ahead.

Cynthia, regarding political posts on Nextdoor Mariemont, the site is great for curb alerts, sales and upcoming events, but it is also a forum for discussion on community issues that all residents need and deserve to know about. Nextdoor are the only two places people can do so freely. Not everyone can make council meetings, and in many, many cases, the public isn’t informed of “hot topics” and so they don’t know they NEED to go. (Although I strongly urge residents to call Sue Singleton at the Village Administration Office and ask to be added to the email list for Council Meeting agendas and minutes.) And even if residents do make it to meetings, the “3 minute limit” that was put in place a couple of years ago stops people from having their full say – or the Mayor threatens to have police throw you out (check out ICRC tapes if you don’t believe me). Town meeting speakers get shut down from talking about topics of importance – or get dirty looks from certain council members, as my husband and I did this year when we brought up the sidewalks, others tried to chime in, and the Mayor kept redirecting the issue.

I do agree that residents should reach out to their Council reps as well. I have personally called my Council rep, Dennis Wolter, regarding chalking tires in the tax lot to see if METRO riders were actually parking and taking up parking space back in 2012 – in hopes of targeting the real issue in Spinnenweber’s lot and avert any sidewalk removal or fence building. Nothing ever came of it, except for the Mayor presenting it as Dennis’ idea during a Council meeting. But it was never pursued.

I called Dennis and Chief Hines about putting crossing guards at the Inn crosswalk to PNC due to the ridiculous timing of lights and the drivers who whip around the corner into the crosswalk without looking. I was told the lights can’t be changed as they are on timers and it’s very intricate, and I was also told there was no money for a crossing guard/officer there. So, I suggested putting up bright “children crossing” signs or those bright green safety men at the crosswalks during school drop off/pick up times. The Chief was really good about getting this together, but the signage was not permanent and eventually disappeared. The Village never did anything else to provide better safety, and the numerous signage posted at stop light level is to confusing for drivers to take in, especially if they are not from around here.

I asked Dennis and the Chief about trimming the overgrown bushes along the tax building’s lot on Madison Rd. because drivers coming out of those driveways could not see around them and it was a safety hazard for students/parents walking in the morning.  The Chief did address this immediately and worked with Spinnenweber to cut down the bushes.

And I asked Dennis about finding a suitable route for kids to walk to school this past year since the sidewalk after the alley by Mios had been torn up due to construction of the new condos. Dennis said he was going to look into it, but I never got any answer or resolution to the issue. Dennis may have pursued this, but I never heard back, nor was anything ever done.

Cynthia, I am aware of the commitment and time Council members give to the Village. I have had several friends who’ve served on Council over the years. They do care about the community, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t problems with leadership. Just a few of these are:

  • Bad decisions being made at the top – some of which are out of the Mayor’s jurisdiction but which he is involved in anyway,
  • Lack of regular and accessible communication with the public,
  • A long-needed for an overhaul of our Village Codes and Ordinances to allow for smoother decision-making and less emergency votes and one-off changes of the code as issues come up,
  • Too much oversight from the Mayor, who sits on almost every resident-seated committee (these are supposed to be separate to allow for fair decision-making),
  • No term limits on the Mayor’s seat, which does not allow for fresh ideas and leadership as needs and dynamics in our Village change.

And these are just a handful of items.

People in Mariemont feel intimidated by the Mayor and are quickly belittled or ignored by a couple of Council members, and so they choose not to spend time and energy where their voices won’t be heard. So, regarding posting political action items on Nextdoor – and – I say let people share what they know and voice their concerns where it works for them and where fellow residents can support and encourage eachother to take action toward positive change. AND I would strongly encourage residents to contact Council members – the more we bring issues of concern to light, the more attentive residents will be on future items of public concern so they won’t mysteriously slip through the cracks like this sidewalk issue did.

Suzy Weinland

The Mayor’s Bulletin… Misinformation?

Chicken Little? “The sky is falling!”

Chicken Little is an endearing and amusing folk tale all of us have heard or told. It has a moral to it, warning us against hysterical beliefs that disaster is imminent or against being unreasonably afraid. The story of Chicken Little came to mind when I read the latest Mayor’s Bulletin (April 2014).

Despite the innocuous title, the Bulletin article “MARIEMONT.ORG IS THE ONLY OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF THE VILLAGE”  had little to do with websites. This was another  use of an “official” Mariemont publication, paid for by Mariemont taxpayers, that digresses from the topic of the Village of Mariemont website into a personal attack, an atttempt to intimidate and bully, and projection of unreasonable conclusions  on other issues. Let’s dissect this article from the Bulletin,hopefully making more rational comments and sense than it contained:


“At Town Meeting, a few citizens were still confused about the Village’s website, so once again, I want to point out to everyone that the Village’s official website is www.mariemont.ORG.  The website with the domain name of www.mariemont.COM is NOT a Village-authorized site.”

  • The Village of Mariemont does not have statutory authority to authorize sites or domain names.
  • has voluntarily and repeatedly expressed publicly and on its website that it is not connected to the Village government and is an independent site, presenting independent viewpoints and information on Mariemont and surrounding communities. These recurring attempts in the Mayor’s Bulletins to discredit it and diminish it border on libel.
  • existed long before!

“The publisher of this unofficial website wrote a letter to ODOT in support of running the Eastern Corridor through our South 80 Park – something we have vehemently opposed!”

  • Why continue to claim this is an “unofficial” site when it clearly is not Village sponsored nor paid for by the Village?
  • What relevance does this comment have to either web site?
  • What is the point of these repeated attempts to deride a differing viewpoint?  While some may not agree on the direction or objectives of the Eastern Corridor, it does not prevent one’s freedom of expression. Differences of opinion and the ability to express them are basic rights and recognized as a sign of a healthy democracy! Where is the respect for others’ opinions?

“Our experience with ODOT leads us to believe that they will use this letter against us, saying that it indicates support from Village residents to build the Eastern Corridor which would destroy our historic parkland and possibly cause us to lose our status as a National Historic Landmark by paving over an important historic Native America village site.”

  • What experiences with ODOT are being referenced here and why would these lead you to believe ODOT would use the letter against the Village? If you’re going to make these claims, provide FACTS, not opinions, assumptions or innuendos.
  • Does anyone seriously believe ONE letter will carry more weight or sway ODOT to act against Village wishes compared to the many opposing letters and opposition groups involved in this project? This is hyperbole at its finest.
  • What evidence exists Mariemont could lose its National Historic Landmark designation if the Eastern Corridor is built? Is there a letter from the Interior Department or cite from a federal act verifying this? My review of the National Historic Preservation Act and 36CFP Part 800 – Protection of Historic Properties did not indicate any reasons for losing an historic landmark designation. What’s the basis for this fear-mongering comment?

“What’s more, we have heard rumors that ODOT is using the four-lane Eastern Corridor like a ‘Trojan Horse’ to lay the groundwork for extending I-74 through our community and into Clermont County.”

  • Who told you these “rumors?” What evidence or facts were presented to give any substantiation to them? Was any investigation or fact finding conducted to verify or dismiss them?
  • Promoting unsubstantiated rumors in a Village sponsored publication would be unsavory and unctuous.

“Can you imagine an expressway running through the South 80 Park?  It would fill our quiet neighborhood with a constant roar of traffic and fill our air with pollution from the large volume of cars passing through.”

  • It already exists. What about the traffic, noise and pollution created every day from the 30,000 cars passing through the heart of Mariemont, and next to schools and parks? This is nothing more than pandering to the emotions of opponents to the Eastern Corridor.

“No longer would the South 80 Park and/or the Concourse be places for relaxing and enjoying nature as they were intended.  Because it is prone to flooding, the area could never be used for playfields or a shelter house. “

  • Because it’s prone to flooding, does that mean we can’t have the South 80 trails or camp site we’re using today? Schmidt baseball fields, Riverbend music center, and other facilities are located in the flood plain of the Ohio River and are used year after year, flood after flood. Why would the South 80 be any different?

“Obviously the publisher of this letter did not have all the facts or understand the significant ramifications of ODOT’s plans before sending that letter to ODOT.  Now that everyone is aware of how harmful this would be to the Village of Mariemont, we respectfully ask that this letter be rescinded and let ODOT know that, in the best interest of this community, the publisher no longer supports the construction of the Eastern Corridor.  Certainly anyone who cherishes the peace and tranquility that is the Village of Mariemont would not want it replaced with a major expressway! Please let it be known that you do not agree with the statement in the letter to ODOT! “

  • What is this obsession with a letter that was written two years ago expressing a differing viewpoint?
  • This is nothing more than a BULLYING tactic and attempt to discredit someone who has a difference of opinion.  Surely the Village has not become a community where people cannot disagree or have a difference of opinion?
  • Why isn’t the” publisher” mentioned several times in this article ever identified? Fear of libel?

While I initially applauded the purpose of the Mayor’s Bulletin to communicate regularly with residents of the community about issues, events and activities in the community, I cannot condone it for what it has become. It’s time for Mariemont Council and its Solicitor to stop allowing the use of taxpayer money to promote unfounded rumors, unsubstantiated claims, personal vendettas and personal agendas in a Village sponsored and paid publication.

The sky is not falling Chicken Little. it’s just a little thunder!

Mike Lemon

Loss of our Voting Rights: A New Ordinance

Loss of our Voting Rights: A New Ordinance would eliminate two elected Mariemont Officials.

The Mayor has unilaterally and with no publicity introduced an Ordinance that would eliminate two elected officials; the Village Clerk and the Village Treasurer. These positions would be consolidated into a ‘fiscal officer’ that would be a Mayor’s appointee that served at the pleasure of the Mayor and could reside outside the Village of Mariemont. This would eliminate a very important check and balance in Village Government as well as an internal mechanism for audit and the loss of an advisor to Council and the Mayor. It would greatly enhance the Mayor’s authority.

The Mayor has tried to quietly push this Ordinance through under the radar of public scrutiny. Already, two readings have occurred at Council Meetings with an intent for final passage of the Ordinance with a third reading at the Council meeting on February the 10th.  The Mayor has made no mention of the Ordinance in his December and January Mayor’s Bulletins, has not held a Civic Association meeting to discuss the Ordinance, has not aired the Ordinance in the Community Press, has not assigned it to a Council Committee for consideration and, if you listen to the ICRC videos of Council Meetings, you will note that the Ordinance is only mentioned in passing.

This is the most important piece of legislation to come before Council in many years, and I encourage all concerned residents to e-mail or phone their representatives to at least delay passage until there has been thorough discussion of the measure within the Village of Mariemont.  We welcome comments on the blog from all Mariemonters.

At the Council meeting on 2/10/2014, the Ordinance was passed unanimously by the Council after the third reading without discussion.

Village Contacts

Dennis Wolter, District 1,

Joe Miller, District 2,

Eric Marsland, District 3,

Maggie Palazzolo, District 4,

Mary Ann Schwartz, District 5,

Jim Tinkham, District 6,