Media: Oxford City Council Debate

* candidates for City Council sit on stage

Article from the Oxford Patch

Oxford City Council Debate: Economy, Housing, Town-Gown Relations Top List Of Topics

Miami Student hosts rare Oxford City Council debate on Miami University’s campus.

By Bonnie Meibers (Patch Poster) – Updated 

Miami University journalism student

The Miami Student hosted what may be the first-ever Oxford City Council election debate on Oct. 18 on the Miami University campus.

The event featured eight of the nine candidates running for four open seats on City Council. Present were Edna Southard, Austin Worrell, David Prytherch, Jace Prows, Corey Watt, Chantel Raghu, Drew Davis and Michael Smith. Samantha Vogel could not make the debate due to an illness.

The candidates

Southard, an art historian and museum curator, and Smith, who serves as vice mayor and works for Miami’s Department of Planning, Architecture & Engineering, are the two incumbents on the Nov. 7 ballot.

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“I’ve had a ball on City Council,” Smith said.

The other candidates, profiled in an earlier Patch story, include:

  • Worrell, a Miami senior involved in student government.
  • Prytherch, an associate professor of geography at Miami.
  • Prows, a wealth advisor for a Texas-based investment firm.
  • Watt, assistant director for employer relations at Miami.
  • Ragh, a veterinarian.
  • Davis, assistant director of business operations in Miami’s Student Affairs office.
  • Vogel, office manager for an insurance agency.

The debate

The debate — organized by Miami Student Assistant News Editor Jake Gold — ran for about 90 minutes in the Armstrong Student Center’s Wilks Theatre. Miami Student Editor-in-Chief Emily Williams handled introductions, with Co-Managing Editor Jack Evans and Gold serving as moderators.

Each of the eight participating candidates got one minute to answer a series of questions. Questions came from student government, student organizations and members of the audience.

Questions revolved around economic and housing issues along with the relationship between Miami and the town of Oxford. To begin, each candidate was asked to identify Oxford’s most pressing issue and what community members can do about it.

“I believe one of the most pressing issues in town is the divide between our student and resident communities,” Worrell said.

Many other candidates brought up the issue of preserving the historical aspects of town while promoting growth.

Watt said that he believes the biggest issue facing Oxford is a lack of affordable housing. Smith echoed that thought. “If you’re making minimum wage, where do you live?” he said.

Miami-Oxford relationship

Miami’s student government leaders wanted to know: “What does a positive Oxford-Miami relationship look like? How can Council work with student leaders?”

Smith looked into the audience and talked about the diverse group of people gathered for the debate: students, faculty and community members.

“I’d like to have a meeting like this once a month,” he said.

Prytherch said he has one foot on campus because of his teaching position and one foot off as an active community member.

“Oxford’s too small a town to not collaborate with each other,” Prytherch said.

Davis talked about providing more opportunities for student and residents of Oxford to gather together.

“Without Miami, Oxford wouldn’t exist. Without Oxford, Miami wouldn’t exist,” Southard said. “Students are very engaged in our community.”

Candidates were also asked about student alcohol abuse.

Prows emphasized that binge drinking is a national issue, not just a Miami issue. “I do not believe a heavy hand needs to be dealt on the students for this issue,” he said.

On the opiate epidemic, candidates noted that Oxford has not been as badly affected as the rest of Butler County, but agreed prevention and education are needed to combat addiction.

“This is a powerful issue everyone has a stake in,” Davis said. “It comes down to a big intervention and education effort.”

The moderator also asked how, if elected, each candidate would attract new businesses to Oxford.

“I would provide incentives. I also think that we really need to capitalize on the university’s resources and the people in town,” Watt said.

Worrell received a round of applause when he mentioned bringing back the Princess Theatre, not only to increase revenue but also to give students an alternative to drinking.

Engaging the non-voting population

Asked how to represent and engage non-voters in Oxford — such as international students and teens — Prows said: “It’s less about combating hatred and more about love. If we recognize that, Oxford will be a more inclusive place.”

Worrell, who works at a law firm Uptown, said he deals with many international students as clients.

“Often international students don’t understand our laws here in Oxford. We can do a better job catering to them,” he said.

In closing remarks, most candidates reviewed their primary message and asked audience members to vote for them.

Williams said she hoped future Miami Student staffs would stage election debates in the years ahead. “Thank you so much for being here,” she said. “And of course, remember to vote.”

If you missed the debate and would like to watch, click here.

Top photo: The Miami Student staged a debate among Oxford City Council candidates Oct. 18 on campus. — Photo by Bonnie Meibers