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Editorial Board

City manager must ‘get’ university

The city is jealous of the university. The problem, though, is the university is the city — or at least half of it.

Half of Kent’s population is comprised of college students who attend the university. But visit any City Council meeting or talk to many local residents, and you’ll hear a different tune. The city simply can’t stand to think of the university as being the breadwinner in the family.

Enough hate. With the current hunt for a new city manager, Kent must choose a candidate who understands the value of working along with the university. The new city manager must do this or face complete failure.

Kent State is a valuable resource. It is the largest employer in Portage County and provides Kent a cultural, educational and, most importantly, economic resource. The trick for the new city manager will be to tap the potential buying power of Kent State students, which can be done through the city’s Bicentennial Plan and with student-oriented shopping.

The new city manager will be forced to cut through council member hatred for the university. To them, students are loud, drunken partiers who haven’t a care in the world. During discussion over adding a handicap ramp to Ray’s Place earlier this spring, Ed Bargerstock, Ward 5, was worried about skateboarding punks defacing the property. The irony is if those “punks” weren’t around, nearly every bar on Franklin would face extinction.

The city has taken a step in the right direction with the Bicentennial Plan, in particular the Campus Link portion of the project. The new city manager must be the entry point for university-city dialogue. The manager should represent the city’s interests but must see the university as an integral part of the community. Emulate the impressively functional relationship between, for example, Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan.

College students are part of a different lifestyle. It’s the college experience, and it’s important the city recognizes that. Large parties and a laissez-faire attitude are part and parcel to college life. So the city must make sure it sets up a neighborhood for those displaced by the proposed development of College, Willow and Lincoln streets. Yes, those houses are in disrepair, but as one landlord said, college is a time for fun before you start the rest of your life. You sit out on the front porch with a beer and say hello to friends walking down the street. Where will that fun go if it doesn’t happen in college?

Lead City Council. Take its members beyond the petty squabbling and Bargerstock banter. Council members become too focused on appeasing single individuals in their wards, and the city manager must look beyond the individual complaints to the big picture. Navigate a course of action.

The new city manager has the ability to lead Kent into a new era. The city has the potential for actually becoming a college town — something Kent finally has to admit.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board, whose members are listed to the left.