Local recap: Portage County issues and candidate results announced Tuesday

Democratic candidate Vicki A. Kline and her daughter, Lisa Kline, react to her lead in the race for Portage County Commisioner at The Italian American Society watch party in Ravenna on Tuesday, November 4, 2014.

Emily Mills

While Republicans swept state elections, the majority of the Democratic ticket won Portage County executive seats. 

Election results also determined that the city of Kent will not add a Community Bill of Rights to its City Charter, and the Portage County Jail will not receive additional tax money to address overcrowding conditions in its female section. 

Vote totals remain unofficial and will be verified in the coming days by the Board of Elections.

Issue 21

Issue 21, or the “Community Bill of Rights,” failed to pass in Tuesday’s election. 

With 100 percent of the Portage County voting precincts reporting, 46.23 percent of voters voted “yes” for the issue, and 53.77 percent voted “no.”

The amendment to Kent’s city charter would have guaranteed residents’ legal rights to clean air, pure water, local community self-government, freedom from toxic trespass and protection of natural communities. It would have also prevented fracking within city limits.

“I’m just glad it didn’t pass,” said Kent Law Director James Silver, a strong opponent of the issue. “That about sums it up. It’s the wrong forum. They should be arguing these on the state level. I still think it’s unconstitutional. It has the city doing things the city doesn’t have the power to do. I’m just glad the process is done for now.”

Perry Phillips, a founding member of the Kent Environmental Rights Group, said he vehemently disagrees with Silver’s opinion of the issue’s unconstitutionality. The proposed bill of rights was similar to legislation passed in other Ohio cities, he said.

“I think that the law director and his team successfully convinced enough people that somehow our legislation, which was very similar to the legislation passed in Broadview Heights and Mansfield where no law director helped to write theirs and to implement it was different,” Phillips said. “We did not attempt to go out into uncharted territory into something that, according to Silver, was poorly written, by people who have been involved in national campaigns all over the country writing similar legislation to protect communities from unwanted, toxic trespassing.”

With the issue’s failure, the city charter will remain as it is.

The bill of rights faced opposition from community leaders, as several city council members formed Citizens for Good Legislation, a group opposing the amendment.  

Silver said the bill of rights called for the right to clean air untainted by contaminants, meaning Kent would “need to ban gas/oil powered automobiles, trucks, machinery, lawn mowers, etc. from operating in Kent. They all produce substances known to cause harm to health.”

Before polls closed Tuesday, Phillips sent an email to KERG members and supporters explaining that he felt media coverage of the issue was biased and what it would mean if the issue passed or failed.

”Even if we lose in Kent, we will have helped educate some of the population here that the ODNR (Ohio Department of Natural Resources) has all the power to site any oil and gas operation, no matter how dangerous, anywhere they please,” Phillips said.

Issue 18

Issue 18, a $1.2 million tax levy to improve overcrowding conditions for female inmates in the Portage County Jail, also failed at the ballot Tuesday. With 95.4 percent of the Portage County voting precincts reporting, 67.42 percent of voters voted “no” for the issue, and 32.58 percent voted “yes.”

The levy would have lasted two years, and would allow the jail to create 32 additional beds for female inmates. The jail averages 45 female inmates at one time, but only has capacity for 34.

Jails have seen a spike in overcrowding over the past two years due to a rise in drug use. Without the money provided from the levy, the jail’s conditions will remain the same.

Portage County Sheriff David Doak spoke with KentWired in a previous interview and stressed the importance of passing Issue 18.

Doak said the jail is liable to be sued for the condition, which could result in court ordered action. 

Portage County Candidates 

Democratic candidates took all Portage County seats besides county auditor, according to unofficial election results posted on the Portage County Board of Elections website.

Janet Esposito, the Republican candidate for Portage County auditor, defeated her Democratic opponent Christopher Mallin by 15,320 votes, according to the Election Summary Report.

Esposito pulled ahead with 69.84 percent of the votes while Mallin had 30.16 percent of the votes at 12:43 a.m., according to vote.ohio.gov.

“I’m very humbled. I’m happy to be available to serve the citizens again. This isn’t about politics or what party, it’s about the people,” said Portage County Auditor Janet Esposito, who will keep the seat with almost 70 percent of the vote. 

“My door is open to the public, always. I come to work and represent the people,” she said.

Vicki Kline, the Democratic candidate for Portage County commissioner, defeated opponents Sabrina Christian-Bennett, the Republican incumbent, and Richard Duncan, an Independent candidate.

With 95.42 percent of precincts reporting, Kline won the seat with 48.63 percent of the votes, compared to Christian-Bennett’s 44.47 percent and Duncan’s 6.9 percent, according to the Portage County Board of Elections’ Election Summary Report.

Becky Doherty defeated Eugene Muldowney for common pleas court judge by 3,628 votes, according to the Election Summary Report.

With 95.4 percent of precincts reporting, Doherty received 55.52 percent of the votes to Muldowney’s 44.48 percent.

Bob Berger defeated David Brode for probate-juvenile court judge with 52.25 percent of the votes, according to the Election Summary Report.

Contact Emily Mills at [email protected]. Christina Bucciere and Hannah Armenta contributed reporting.