The Lebanon Express endorses Jason Bolen for city councilor.
Bolen was elected with a set of councilors and mayor who shared the goal of improving the tone of the city council meetings. In that regard the four (including one who no longer serves on council) have been successful at setting positive tones at those meetings.
Bolen has often disagreed with the majority opinion, and has been able to voice his opinion in a calm and collected manner. This sort of reasonable voice in opposition often results in better decisions from the council, and we think that's been the case here.
Now Bolen faces a re-election challenge from Hitt, a former city manager. But we don't think Hitt is a good choice at this time for the city.
While there are several things Hitt has done for economic development in the city of Lebanon, several issues from his tenure as city manager still concern us enough that we cannot endorse him for the council.
One particular: The end of Hitt's term as city manager was marked by a negative and unproductive tone during city council meetings. Hitt is not solely to blame for that tone, but in our view he did not demonstrate the strong leadership required to improve that.
If elected, Hitt also would become one of the supervisors for a position he once held. We find this inappropriate, and something that could hinder the performance of Gary Marks, the current city manager.
Hitt has defended his decision to run by stating that the city council is a policy-making body not involved in day-to-day operations. This is true, but he would still be involved in evaluations of the city manager.
Bolen has said one of his major accomplishments is being very accessible to his constituents. He is available by phone, email, Facebook and even to people who show up unannounced at his house. That sort of accessibility has been part of the reason why this council has been effective, and our sense from previous dealings with Hitt is that he will be much less accessible. That would be a step back for the council and for the city.
In fact, Bolen's accessibility (and his sometimes blunt and brutally honest answers to questions from citizens) might become an issue in this election. But it would be a shame if it became a hurdle to his re-election; Bolen deserves another term on the council.