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Thursday, September 27, 2007

mayoral debate tonight

O.K., here's my take on the mayoral debate this evening (good turnout with about every seat filled);
First of all I'll pat myself on the back, because Main Street used four out of my five questions verbatim, plus my question about support of the school levy was in there in another form.

The first of my questions was about their priorities regarding demolitions vs. incentives and support of maintaining and saving existing housing stock (see my previous post for the specific questions). Mr. Anliker gave the most coherent answer and stressed saving homes appropriately. He seemed to be aware of a broader range of possible approaches and incentives. Mr. Culliver seemed to be just standing on his own record of supporting rehab money on Council and his participation in committees. I didn't think he caught the message in the question...that there should be encouragement of investment and homeowners who make an effort rather than handouts to homeowners just for getting in line for the HUD funds. Mr. Versaw talked more emphatically about cracking down on code issues, and surprisingly said he didn't support further building of the "tax credit" homes, indicating they were taking tenants away from existing housing stock. Mr. Culliver rebutted some on that issue, indicating Council was relying on outside expert advice in going in that direction. Overall it was clear that Anliker sensed what the question was looking for, and gave a more comprehensive answer... no way to tell if he had any prior thoughts or plans in this direction.

The second of my questions they used was about the relative priority of downtown retail and service establishments:
I think Culliver gave the most measured response, without automatically saying these were the highest priorities. Anliker used the question as an opportunity to stress moving forward with the Strategic Plan developed by the Alliance and Main Street Mansfield in 2003. And also the "Brookings Study". He consistently referred to these two items repeatedly through the debate. Versaw's response was more generic, I think. At least in my few notes I only noted that he feels the health of downtown is very important to the city overall, and I believe he did bring up the issue of keeping county government from continuing their shifting offices out of downtown. I have to give him credit for bringing that up a couple of times which is a good point.

My third question that was used was whether the candidate saw any other city as a model or whether they had their own unique plan for the city;
I really thought it would be a mistake for a candidate to say he had a unique plan and there wasn't any model he was aware of. Culliver came closest to saying this, in fact indicating he had more of his own unique plan than any city to emulate. He did mention Akron. I thought his answer showed some lack of knowledge or study of other cities, which I think is essential to getting a handle on our own solutions. Anliker mentioned how New York City got a handle on Subway crime etc. He also brought up the Brookings Study. (I guess I need to have a look at this). Versaw brought up a previous trip by city council committee to Lexington Kentucky and also the development of an arts community in Paducha Kentucky. I didn't think his answer showed he had done much delving into other cities problems and solutions on his own.

My question about the VOA brought a unanimous response;
All three candidates would make every effort to get the VOA sexual offender facility out of downtown. Culliver's response was the most candid I thought, in that he indicated council had to rely on the opinion of the law director in not pursuing legal action. Versaw and Anliker were a little more strongly voiced, but I didn't feel they had any better idea how to go about it than anyone else in the room. Anliker seems to have studied up on the ins and outs of the problem...he seems to have been doing his homework on this and other issues.

The question about support of the school levy didn't bring a strong endorsement from any of the candidates. All three seemed to be saying they would probably vote for the levy personally, but wait and see before possibly supporting it publicly. It was without a doubt the hottest potato question and none of the candidates stuck their neck out either way on the issue. I figure at this point, as a public figure, and on such an important issue they would all three have formulated a definite opinion on the subject, but from their responses you would have thought this was a new issue they hadn't had time to think about yet. Hmmmmmm.

Overall I'll give Anliker the most points. He was the most animated and seemed to have the clearest focus on the questions (they received the questions ahead of time, so there shouldn't have been much excuse for being out of focus). I have heard Anliker previously talk about "restoring" his Park Avenue house, but in this debate he referred to it as "remodeling" which sounded like he has subsequently learned more about historic preservation and the distinction between the two words... point being that his exterior alterations on the house would be considered inappropriate to preservation or restoration if that was what he was calling it. The house isn't in an historic district and he has every right to do what he wants with the house, but as mayor of the city it would be a big plus if he understands the difference.

Of the three candidates Culliver seemed the most knowledgeable of the inner workings of the city, but also the most likely to not rock the boat. Versaw seemed least organized...he spoke more off-the-cuff and would have looked better if he had been better prepared. Anliker was definitely the best prepared and came across the most forceful on significant issues. I think he repeatedly made one very good point which is to take a good look at the studies and strategic plans that are on the table, and take action whether to move ahead or discard the various aspects.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I was in northern Kentucky the last two days, and they haven't had any rain since July 3. By comparison it looks like the Garden of Eden up here in Mansfield.

Friday, September 21, 2007

?what is it?

I got this giveaway thing at OAR trade show in Columbus and I can't figure out what it's supposed to do. It has a clip, like it would clip on your belt, and it hinges open like it is in the picture or snaps shut and looks like a big bug. The inside of the two halves have black dense foamish pads. It looks like you could snap it over something thin and flat and grip it! Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

chicago bungalows

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley started the Bungalow Preservation initiative in 2000 to help insure the survival of the historic bungalows in that city. Here's a good article from 2005 that highlights the workings of that project and its results. Expo Spotlights Historic Chicago Bungalows
This is the kind of initiative Mansfield needs to look at when considering whether to focus on demolition of old houses or incentives to rehabilitate or restore them.

more on homestead exemption application

Well, I returned to the courthouse with the homestead application and my mother's drivers license, only to be told that since her home is in a revocable trust, I need to have a copy of the deed and trust agreement. The good news is that I can return her driver's license to her because they've already noted it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

homestead exemption

I tried to submit some helpful comments to the auditor's office about the statewide homestead exemption information on their website. After writing out my comments on the e-comment form on the auditor's website and pushing "submit", nothing happened. Tried again...nothing happened. So I called the auditor's office and wasn't too happy with the response.
My concerns are several: The website says you have to bring the forms to the courthouse, not mail them (contradicted by information in the FAQ about mailing and postmark dates). But it doesn't say that a picture ID is required... I'm going to have to make another 35 mile round trip to Perrysville to get my mother's ID and bring it in. The second problem is the confusion between the 2 1/2 percent Homestead Rollback (HRB) on the auditor's tax itemiztion vs. the Homestead Exemption (HOM). People will confuse these and think they are already enrolled, missing out and not applying for the automatic, over 65 exemption.
The response from "Amy" at the auditor's office (third person I was redirected to) was that this was a state mandated program, that people are calling in if they are confused and they are answering their questions about whether they are enrolled already or not, and that they addressed the issue of bringing in a picture ID with an article in the News Journal.
I'll just say from a common sense point of view that there will be a lot of people missing the Oct. 1 deadline for these reasons and I don't think Richland County is doing its best with this. Just the fact that everyone over the age of 65 living in their own home in Richland County must drive to the courthouse is pretty incredible. It was up to the county how to implement this. Crawford County allows you to mail in the application with a copy of your photo ID... very clearly laid out on their website. Ashland, Knox, Morrow, and Huron Counties have nothing on their sites about applying for this...they have the kind of static websites that never get updated with current information.

Friday, September 14, 2007

my questions

Here are the questions I have submitted to Main Street Mansfield for the mayoral debate:

1. Do you support the upcoming school levy?

2. We’ve heard more than one candidate advocating stepped up demolitions of vacant and abandoned properties. Do you plan to direct any city resources, tax rebates, grants, or other incentives to homeowners or investors to encourage rehab of existing older properties? If so, will that approach be your primary focus or do you think demolitions are more important?

3. How important are smaller downtown retail and service establishments to the health and vitality of the city? Would you rate their issues and concerns as low, medium, or high priority?

4. Are there any models of cities in similar situations as Mansfield around the country that you have focused on as examples of how to tackle our problems here? If so, what are they? Or do you have a unique approach all your own?

5. Do you have any thoughts about the concentration of sexual offenders in downtown at the VOA?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

mayoral debate

A mayoral debate will be held on the subject of downtown revitalization on Sept. 27 (Thursday) at 5:30 pm at the Richland Academy. Questions submitted for the candidates must be received by Sept.19 at Main Street Mansfield.
I have been hearing about the same thing from all three candidates regarding demolitions. The vacant lots multiply year after year and the process of creating empty lots hasn't slowed the further deterioration of surrounding houses. Yet all of the candidates seem to be emphasizing that they would make demolitions a top priority, as if this process would work if we just did it fast enough.
I would just once like to hear someone in the city administration or a mayoral candidate admit that demolitions haven't worked any magic in the past and maybe there are better ideas out there in similar communities around the country for encouraging the maintenance and restoration of existing housing. It seems the combined benefits of restoration, maintenance of the tax base of a property, and eliminating the wastefulness and high cost of demolition would make it far more cost effective in dollars spent, or tax benefits bestowed on homeowners or investors than this single-minded approach that isn't working!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

back from o.a.r. in columbus

Ohio Assoc. of Realtors annual convention in Columbus ended today. The highlight for me was attending the Legislative Committee where Ohio Treasurer of State Richard Cordray spoke, outlining the state's approaches to handling the mortgage foreclosure crisis.
One of the initiatives I hadn't heard of before was a bill passed in December '06 which mandates that students entering high school in 2010 receive personal financial education. Cordray co-chairs the Treasurer of State Committee that is working to implement the bill. About 300 Ohio teachers have already been trained in the program and it is already implemented in about 200 schools.
Cordray is working with the Franklin County Save Our Homes task force, an established leader in foreclosure intervention training for homeowners and professionals , and he is working with them to develop a SOH starter kit for implementation in other counties.
Another initiative in the state mentioned in the Legislative Committee was the Montgomery County Auditor's efforts to work through recorded mortgages and identify ARMs that will reset so that homeowners can be made aware of their impending situation. The work is difficult, but is being looked upon as a possible model for around the state. In our Richland County Predatory Lending Task Force that I've been attending, I have previously suggested this approach.
On the federal level, HR 1825 would eliminate the statutory 3 percent minimum down payment on FHA mortgages and give them flexibility to offer varying down-payment terms. This bill has been voted out of the House Financial Services Committee for a floor vote likely in Sept. This bill has Presidential support.
SB 1394 and HR 1876 would eliminate treating the forgiven indebtedness resulting from a short sale as income. Voinavich is a co-sponsor of the the Senate version and this bill also has presidential support.
In other sessions I attended, the effects of foreclosures are a major source of concern.

What's bad news for some may be good news for others because there will be an increased supply of tenants moving back into rentals. In the recent past, renters who were being turned down for apartments based on their poor credit, could turn around and be approved for a home mortgage.

One more related thing: at our Directors meeting we unanimously approved a committee recommendation to fund the completion of a Vacant Property Costs Impact Study in Ohio Cities that is being undertaken by ReBuild Ohio.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

river again

The sidewalk's turned into a river again.

convention in columbus

The OAR annual convention will be held in Columbus this week. Foreclosures will be high on the agenda, along with the general state of the markets. If I can get on line this time from the hotel, I will try to post some updates.

home of tomorrow etc.

The Westinghouse Home of Tomorrow on Andover Road is still for sale (bank-owned after foreclosure). The listing office has changed this week and the price has been dropped to $199,900. According to the listing, the roof has been replaced, which was what the previous listing office was promising.

My listing at 317 Park Avenue West has been reduced to $104,500.