While Kent City Council members could only pick one of 11 applicants to serve out the rest of former Councilman Robin Turner's term, it looks like they are taking the suggestions the other candidates made during the interview process very seriously.
After Mayor Jerry Fiala swore in attorney Scott Flynn as Kent's newest at-large councilman late last month, the other candidates who applied for the position took turns filing out of council chambers. I can't blame them, as the business of governing the city is not always thrilling, but I do wish they had stayed to see council discuss their concerns.
For example, Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer proposed creating a committee of local landlords, real estate professionals and other residents to suggest areas where the city could improve its housing policies. Council approved setting aside future committee time to discuss the idea.
"I think it would help legitimize any (housing) policies we make in the future," Shaffer said.
Shaffer's proposal followed advice from applicant Doria Daniels, a lifelong Kent resident who currently is a landlord, regarding how to address rental issues in the city.
"I think the city of Kent has some issues dealing with landlords," Daniels said. "We really need to reach out and build stronger relationships with landlords."
Daniels said city officials need to craft policies that are tougher on "absentee landlords" who rarely visit or improve their rental properties in the city without punishing the property owners who actually put effort into keeping up their rental houses.
Market Kent entertainment
Council members also thought Devan Martin, the only Kent State University student to apply for the open seat, also made some good points during his interview.
Martin said the city needed to be more proactive in informing KSU students about entertainment opportunities throughout the city -- especially downtown.
The former Hiram College student correctly observed many of the city's younger residents spend their time and money in downtown Akron or Cleveland, thinking Kent only offers a few bars and tattoo parlors.
"I feel like that money should stay in the city," Martin said.
Martin said his own explorations of the city proved that Kent had a lot to offer younger residents, from shopping to downtown community events.
He said he thought the city should find a way advertise local events on KSU's websites, claiming students rarely, if ever, check the city's official website.
Near the end of the meeting, Councilman John Kuhar suggested the city's administration contact university officials to discuss the possibility of the city getting a spot on the KSU website to let students know about events downtown and throughout the city.
Willingness to listen
Council could have easily ignored the suggestions of the 10 applicants who lost out on a chance to serve when Flynn became its newest member. It says a lot about the council members that this was not the case.
It also says a lot about the city of Kent that 11 people, including many who recognized they were long shots for the job, applied to fill a local government vacancy and brought serious ideas on how to make the city a better place to live to the interview process.