Student senate, city officials discuss issues

Breanne George

The Undergraduate Student Senate, three members of Kent City Council and City Manager Dave Ruller held an informal city forum in the Governance Chambers yesterday to discuss safety, a citywide smoking ban and zoning issues.

A major issue discussed was public safety, which the council members agreed is primarily a student issue.

The area near University Townhomes was of particular concern to the senators because of the poorly lit area and lack of sidewalks. The disrepair of many of the streets and sidewalks in Kent such as Lincoln, Sherman and Linden streets was also mentioned.

The lack of money is a main reason these issues are not being fixed, Ward 5 Councilman Edward Bargerstock said.

“The city is currently in a ‘discovery stage’ working to get finances in order,” he said. “There has to be ways to spend less and provide more.”

Ruller said the upkeep is more about the Kent’s road-upkeep policy than money. He said he is working to get the policy changed.

One of the issues discussed is the zoning code prohibiting Greek organizations from displaying their letters on their houses.

The Greek organizations have to follow a sign ordinance similar to businesses, Bargerstock said. They are not permitted to display their letters in residential areas.

The council members also discussed the expansion of the downtown area with new development and a two-level parking deck on Haymaker Parkway that will be public parking.

“There are a lot of niche stores in downtown, and the majority are supported by Kent State students,” Bargerstock said. “We want to increase the out-of-towners (coming) to the stores.”

Another issue that came up is the proposed smoking ban in Kent, which Ward 6 Councilwoman Beth Oswitch described as “two-fold.”

“I’ve talked to a lot of people – mostly families – and it makes sense health-wise,” she said.

Bar owners feel the smoking ban would decrease their business since people could go to other cities in the area to smoke, Oswitch said. The ban could also increase the amount of smokers outside, so people would have to walk through smoke in order to get in the bar, defeating the purpose.

Ward 4 councilman John Kuhar said he would like to see the smoking ban on the ballot at the state level.

“New York, Florida and Maryland went non-smoking,” Kuhar said. “But I can’t see us making a decision for a long time.”

Contact student politics reporter Breanne George [email protected]