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A CITIZEN`S SNAPSHOT OF PENINSULA`S VILLAGE COUNCIL
I attended the Regular Meeting of the Peninsula (Ohio) Village Council on March 11. It was a long meeting — about 3 1/2 hours, but it needn`t have been.
The meeting became bogged down, as have others I have attended. The muck was almost always the argumentative, courtroom-style of discussion favored by Councilman Kaplan, regardless of the topic. His comments at times were preceded by a declaration that he knew nothing of the subject, but that never stopped him from pushing forward with his thoughts. In fact, Mr. Kaplan has thoughts on everything. He uses a forceful, bullying style that quashes dissent as well as comment and discussion by others. This is not to say that Mr. Kaplan never adds to the discussion, because sometimes his comments are insightful and relevant. But healthy discussion does not take place as would-be participants are overwhelmed by Mr. Kaplan`s style and "I`m-the-smartest-person-in-the-room" attitude and approach.
Our Mayor is the President of the Village Council. It is his job to run and control the meetings, but his voice was never there as Mr. Kaplan ran off with the March 11 meeting. We have a Village solicitor — our lawyer, who is paid by the Village to make the legal determinations. But, with Mr. Kaplan making claims of possible illegality, conflict of interest and/or ethical violations, there was no input from the Solicitor or protest from Council regarding Mr. Kaplan`s lawyering. Why wouldn`t members of Council stop the Kaplan barrage and ask the Solicitor they are paying for his opinion? Mr. Kaplan is not the paid legal authority and it is not up to him to categorically make such determinations. In fact, Mr. Kaplan is usurping the Solicitor`s role and being allowed to do so by the Mayor. It is hard to tell if the Mayor is intimidated by Mr. Kaplan and therefore simply allows the behavior, or whether the situation is worse than that and he is allowing Mr. Kaplan to act as the de facto person in charge. I do not know the answer, but it is concerning.
It doesn`t take long at one of these meetings to see that Mr. Kaplan has a favorite target and that is Councilwoman Dee Holody. It appears that Mr. Kaplan tries hard to control what she does and what he does not want her to do. It also looks like the Mayor approves of Mr. Kaplan`s treatment of Councilwoman Holody. During a previous Council meeting, when Ms. Holody reported to Council that she had met with ODOT to discuss options for managing the flow of heavy truck traffic through the Village, Mr. Kaplan objected to her meeting with ODOT, asking her by whose authority she had the meeting. But wait — don`t we want our representatives to meet with people and ask questions and research things like that?
When Mr. Kaplan learned that Ms. Holody was meeting with one of our State Representatives regarding Wastewater funding challenges that face the Village, he launched into a tirade about her acting outside of her role as a Councilperson. In fact, he did everything he could to prevent her scheduled meeting, even writing a letter on behalf of the Mayor to be sent to the Representative`s office. Fortunately, even the Mayor saw through Mr. Kaplan`s bias on this one. Kaplan went further on March 11, telling Ms. Holody she might be acting illegally and unethically with her intended meeting with her Senator. What??!??!!
Then Mr. Kaplan continued the attack with back and forth arguments regarding the maintenance and repair to Bishop Road. Ms. Holody, one of three residents on the road, had asked for repairs after several years of no maintenance to the road. Mr. Kaplan`s comments on the subject included talk of abandoning the road, then questioning whether it was the Village`s responsibility (it was, the Mayor acknowledged) and finally telling Ms. Holody that she likely had a conflict of interest because she lived on the road and so on. There are other 0, 1, 2 and 3-resident roads in the Village. Are there such discussions about abandoning those roads instead of fixing them? Maybe, but I seriously doubt it.
So, is Councilwoman Holody really acting illegally, unethically and in conflict with the interests of the Village by asking for repairs to the road on which she lives, or by exploring options with ODOT for limiting large truck traffic through Peninsula`s quaint, pedestrian-filled downtown district? C`mon… Mr. Kaplan (and the Mayor) can paint Ms. Holody as a bad actor and continue to question her actions, even abuse her. But, as an observer, what I see is that she is one of several very good people trying to do good work for the benefit of Peninsula.
The fact is, Ms. Holody is a doer! She marches forward with willful, but polite determination to make things happen. Isn`t that what we want from our council representatives? And Councilwoman Holody is not alone. Councilman Matusz has been diligent with his excellent work regarding road improvements and the Service Department. Councilman Schneider has contributed and managed the issues in Peninsula on all fronts for many years in one capacity or another. Councilman Weigand has shown excellent results in his work with the Chamber of Commerce, and in updating the Long Range Plan with the Planning Commission. Councilwoman Booth successfully managed the care and maintenance as liaison for Building and Grounds.
From what I have observed, all of our Council members are capable people, with much to contribute…if Mr. Kaplan will let them. There is an interesting dynamic at the Council table when the thrashing of Ms. Holody begins. The others shake or lower their heads as they seem to wonder how things got so far off the rails. I am sure it is hard to remain enthusiastic about doing work that benefits the Village when there is such risk of being verbally attacked and maligned by the loudest voice at the table..
Mr. Mayor — Take control of your meeting. Don`t let one self-proclaimed "authority" shut down those elected to serve our Village. Encourage Council members to continue to look for resolutions to the issues, problems and challenges the Village faces. Stop worrying about who will get the credit for good ideas. Let the ideas flow. Some will be good, some not so good and some great. I believe you will find solutions among them.