Each time Sylvania Township resident Penny Levine has campaigned for the township trustee position, she said she's noticed an unawareness among voters. Many City of Sylvania residents did not know they could vote for a township trustee.
“Most city residents do not realize they are part of the township,” she said. Ms. Levine said in her 2009, 2011, and this year’s campaign she places information on her pamphlets to inform city residents about their voting rights in the township.
City residents, part of the township, can run for township offices, but the same does not work in reverse. That legality has allowed lifetime Sylvania resident, Sylvania School Board Member John Crandall, to place his name on the November ballot for trustee.
Kevin Haddad's and John Jennewine's seats are up for re-election. In addition to Ms. Levine and Mr. Crandall, Donald Miller is also in the five-way race for two spots.
Mr. Crandall said that since he and his wife Sue married 50 years ago, he has spent an even amount of time in both entities.
The township collects a 1.5 percent income tax on wages and business profits earned by city residents, and 40 percent of the Sylvania Township Fire Department budget is paid by Sylvania city taxpayers, Ms. Levine said, so there is a reason why a city resident would be interested in township affairs. However, she believes the candidates should know about the economic issues the township faces, as well as concerns of the residents,
“It's a good thing to be informed, and to know some of what is going on, before you throw your hat in the office,” she said, adding candidates should attend township meetings, which she frequents on a regular basis.
Mr. Haddad said he doesn’t believe a city resident would be well versed on township issues. He said township residents want to separate from the city because township residents “overwhelmingly voted against a merger” between the two localities. In 2008, a vote was taken on whether a commission should be established to study the possibility of the two localities joining. The commission to study a merger was not established because the township voted against it, according to city Law Director Jim Moan. It never got to the merger stage for people to accept or reject, Mr. Moan said.
John Borell, an assistant prosecutor with the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office, which acts as the law director for the township, said that according to Ohio law, city residents can vote for every issue township residents vote on unless there is a law indicating otherwise. Issues concerning TARTA and the township police are exclusive to the township residents to vote on, he said.
“We used to hear that [city residents voting for township issues] was because of the fire department” which serves the city and the township. “But it has nothing to do with the fire department,” Mr. Borell said, referring to when he served on parent organizations for the Sylvania School District in the 1980s.
He explained that the two have been tied together for more than 150 years.
“Originally you had townships and then cities. The cities were formed out of the townships. When the city was formed, the law stated that steps could be taken to separate, but it never happened here,” he said. The Village of Sylvania, which became a city in 1961, was formed within township boundaries in 1866.
Townships have two portions, unincorporated and incorporated. The City of Sylvania is the incorporated part of Sylvania Township, while anything outside the city is the unincorporated portion, he said.
With five contenders vying for a spot on the three-person township trustee board, two have questioned why Mr. Crandall did not run for a city position. Mr. Jennewine and candidate Mr. Miller raised an eyebrow when Mr. Crandall announced his candidacy in July.
“I think highly of Mr. Crandall, but it surprises me that three city council seats are up for re-election and none of them have opposition. Why would he not run for one of those positions? He would be truly beneficial wherever he went, but for some reason the township seats have always been strongly challenged,” Mr. Jennewine said.
Mr. Miller also noted the unopposed city council positions as it relates to Mr. Crandall. He said he hopes whoever seeks a township position appreciates its style of government.
While campaigning, he said he came across many city residents unaware that they can vote for township positions. “It is a bit of an education issue,” he said. He could not recall when a city residents held a trustee position.
According to the addresses obtained from township Assistant Administrator Susan Wood, all trustees as far back as 1978 have been township residents when they held the position.
Mr. Crandall said he considered running for city council but felt he could do the most in the township. He said since the city residents pay taxes to the township, they should have representation on the board.
“I don’t think there is a line between city and township in regards to economic development, and trying to collaborate in getting the taxpayer the most of their money," he said. "In the Sylvania region, there are five taxing districts: City, township, school, Sylvania Area Joint Recreation District, and Olander Park. They all more or less serve the same area, and should be working together as one community."
He noted his service as the first president for the recreation district in 1988 and as director of the Sylvania Area Community Improvement Corporation, an economic development organization, where he worked on projects to develop land in the township and city.
Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356 or firstname.lastname@example.org.