Pictured on Election Day 2015 are Highland County Republican Party chair Paulette Donley (left) and Hillsboro City Council member Tracy Aranyos.
Pictured on Election Day 2015 are Highland County Republican Party chair Paulette Donley (left) and Hillsboro City Council member Tracy Aranyos.
"I totally agree with you all that the mayor needs to follow the same laws as everyone else AND set the example!!!" – Hillsboro City Council member Tracy Aranyos, April 14, 2017

And what an example that's been set over the last five-plus years.

The council member's recent comment followed the April 10 meeting of city council, during which there was discussion about property owned by Jack Hope.

At that meeting, Aranyos said that she is “tired of working with Hope and giving him passes. I just want him to do what everyone else is expected to do. I want him fined, if it’s considered vacant. He’s no different than anyone else.”

She added, "I’m just tired of working with people."

The irony of her comments and this city council as a public body was not lost on local residents and taxpayers.

In late 2014 the city did, in fact, go after Mr. Hope. He was charged by Hillsboro Police Officer Eric Daniels. The matter dragged on in Municipal Court – at some expense to the taxpayers – for more than a year, only to be dismissed in November 2015.

Why was the case against Mr. Hope dismissed? That is a good question for all members of city council. Each council member ought to know the answer and readily share it. If they are capable of comprehending the reason that the Hope case was dismissed – to say nothing of the obvious irony of the city's selective code enforcement – then and only then can they give credence to their own rules and regulations.

But don't hold your breath.

After all, the same council member who said "I totally agree that the mayor needs to follow the same laws as everyone else AND set the example" was parading in front of the Highland County Courthouse and waving a campaign sign for the mayor on Election Day 2015. So much for any governmental independence from that council seat.

And let's not forget, this past November former Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Todd Wilkin informed city council: “As the SSD, I will not selectively enforce laws within Hillsboro. All citizens must adhere to the laws and be accountable for them.” (See http://www.highlandcountypress.com/Content/In-The-News/In-The-News/Article/Wilkin-As-the-SSD-I-will-not-selectively-enforce-laws-within-Hillsboro-all-citizens-must-adhere-to-the-laws-/2/20/35857.)

One month later on Dec. 5, 2016, former Hillsboro Police Chief Todd Whited concluded his letter of resignation by asking: "Is city council going to step up and be the leaders that the citizens of this community elected them to be?" (See http://www.highlandcountypress.com/Content/In-The-News/In-The-News/Article/Hillsboro-police-chief-submits-letter-to-city-council/2/20/36158.)

The answer thus far is a resounding "no" from this GOP-led contingent.

* * *

City council also heard this month from a South High Street property owner who recently received an $11,648 bill for a new sidewalk project.

Here's another easy question for city council: How many of you have ever written a check to the city of Hillsboro for a new sidewalk? Moreover, how many city administrators and employees have written checks to the city for new sidewalks after receiving a mandate from the city to do so? (Maybe the city auditor can provide those records.)

Surely, no city official would have the unmitigated gall to send a bill for $11,648 to a property owner unless they, themselves, have first paid for their respective sidewalks. Surely, they are not akin to members of Congress who exempt themselves from the onerous laws passed on "the rest of us."

While other communities budget and appropriate accordingly for infrastructure through existing taxes and/or Community Development Block Grants, the city has a new approach: Bill the property owners. Selectively, of course.

* * *

• Meanwhile, from state politics, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has vowed that the state's director of public safety will personally review the findings of an WCPO News I-Team investigation that found many heroin dealers convicted in Hamilton County never went to prison for their crimes.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich promised the review, saying he was surprised to learn of the findings. Those put on probation in Hamilton County, rather than being sentenced to prison, include previously convicted dealers who had served prison time, WCPO said.

“I'm saying that we will look at it and get to the bottom of it,” Kasich told WCPO.

The WCPO investigation (see: http://www.wcpo.com/news/local-news/i-team/ohio-to-review-heroin-dealers-sentences-after-i-team-investigation-gov-john-kasich-says) found 164 heroin-involved cases in which dealers were charged, convicted and sentenced in Hamilton County in 2016.

• 56 percent of dealers convicted of selling fentanyl or carfentanil for the first time received probation.

• 43 percent of those who were repeat felony offenders and convicted of selling fentanyl or carfentanil received probation.

• At least nine heroin dealers with prior felony convictions violated their current probation.

“That kind of an issue and the judicial system breakdown is something I would take right to the chief justice, and we would take it to the Legislature,” Kasich told WCPO.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters called the report "nonsense," but also said his staff would look into the records.

Criminal sentencing "reforms" passed six years ago require Ohio judges to sentence nonviolent fourth- and fifth-degree felony offenders to local jails or probation.

Under a proposed change this year in House Bill 49, the Ohio Budget Bill, a sentence of incarceration for a felony five offense cannot be served in prison unless one of the following apply:

• Offense is a offense of violence;
• Offense is a sex offense;
• Offense has a mandatory sentence;
• Offender has a prior conviction for felony offense of violence; or
• Offender has a prior conviction for felony sex offense.

Sentences for all other fifth-degree felonies are to be served in one of following facilities:

• County jail;
• Multi-county jail;
• Municipal jail;
• Municipal-county jail;
• Multi-county-municipal jail or workhouse;
• Community alternative sentencing center;
• District community alternative sentencing center; or
• Community based-correctional facility.

"There appears to be no limit to the number of fifth-degree felonies that a person can commit and not be required to serve a prison term," Highland County Common Pleas Court Judge Rocky Coss wrote in a February editorial (see: http://www.highlandcountypress.com/Content/Opinions/Opinion/Article/Judge-Coss-addresses-proposed-amendment-in-Ohio-House-Bill-49-and-its-effect-on-the-local-level/4/22/37307).

"If a person on community control supervision for a fifth-degree felony commits a new fifth-degree felony, there can be no prison sentence because neither of the sentences can be served in a prison.

"Costs of incarceration in a local facility will be borne by the counties," Judge Coss said. "The ODRC (Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction) has reportedly stated that they will provide $20 million in grants in the first fiscal year and $40 million in the second year of the biennium to offset costs of housing prisoners in local facilities and for providing treatment or other programming to offenders. This will be totally inadequate to cover extra costs of personnel, medical costs, food, uniforms and the facilities themselves.

"The effect of this proposal effectively makes a fifth-degree felony a misdemeanor – which is the sole responsibility of the counties, since all jail time will be served locally. However, the collateral consequences for felonies remain, including legal disabilities for firearms, disqualification from licenses for certain occupations and the stigma of a felony record. Does this make sense?"

No, it doesn't.

But a lot of what passes for good government with the state and local one-party rule system defies logic. It's often best not to answer the rhetorical question.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.