Hillsdale resident Penny Swan, who has only missed one city council meeting in the last three years, has plans to run for city council in Ward 4 this November.
Swan said she wants citizens to feel good about local government and that, currently, residents do not feel they have a voice because the council is swayed by the hospital, the college, and big businesses. A self-proclaimed ‘real citizen without an agenda,’ Swan said she aims to combat local government apathy by attending meetings, forming groups, sharing information, and being active on social media.
Patrick Flannery, one of the two current representatives, will finish his first term in 2017, but has yet to announce whether he will run. He could not be reached for comment at print.
Swan adopted the “It’s the People” slogan from the sign debate last fall as her mission statement for her campaign, a way of demonstrating to voters that she aims to reopen the council to the people.
“The college is a part of what makes ‘It’s the People,’” Swan said.
In approving the new signs that read “Historic Hillsdale: Home of Hillsdale College” quickly rather than correctly, however, she said the college shut the people out.
While a fan of the free concerts and plays, Swan said the college could do more for the city, especially since it makes use of municipal services like streets and fire engines without paying taxes on some of its property. The college pays property tax on non-college properties that fulfill the college’s mission.
Swan also pledges to “take a hard look at every penny,” already taking it upon herself to read the sometimes-175-page proposals the city council puts together. In particular, she disagrees with the the decision of the city of Hillsdale’s tax increment finance authority (TIFA) to purchase the Dawn Theater and the Keefer House.
“We can’t fix the streets, so why are we spending money on dilapidated buildings?” she said.
According to Jeff King, Swan’s focus on economics is a step in the right direction for a council that has been distracted for the last six to seven years. King is a resident of Hillsdale County who knows Swan through political and civic involvement.
He said Swan will focus on the projects the council will take on that sound good but may cost more.
“They’re boring but they make the town survive,” he said.
He also said Swan recognizes that one of Hillsdale’s most important issues is its economy, which needs a sound industrial base following the damage NAFTA did in the last 20 years.
“The whole college debate is a side-show,” he said. “It’s not so much the college that’s the problem — it’s a great thing to have, but it can’t support a community.”
He said he aligns with her generally conservative, limited government ideas, and even though the council is technically nonpartisan, he wants to see his opinions represented on a politically divided council.
“When it comes to the local economy, hard, tough decisions will have to be made as to the direction of the town,” he said. “Penny is a good person to help those decisions. It’s not going to be easy or popular, but they have to be made.”