The Miami Student’s podcast “People and Policies” focuses on Oxford’s local election cycle, featuring conversations with candidates about various issues relevant to students, faculty and residents.
On this episode, Assistant Editor Olivia Patel sits down with Oxford Township Board of Trustees candidate and current city council member Glenn Ellerbe. The two discuss past COVID-19 debates, the DORA, data access and bike lanes here in Oxford.
Editor’s note: This conversation has been edited for concision. Listen to the podcast for the full conversation.
Patel: Tell me about yourself.
Ellerbe: I’ve been a resident in town for over 20 years. I am ending my second term on council and that's why I'm running for township trustee. I am an employee at Miami University, let’s just say I’m an IT guy. Typically people can find me around town, and I am happy to answer any questions about just Oxford in general.
Would you plan on sitting out the next term then coming back to city council?
It depends on what the city is doing and where it is going. That's why I want to do township trustee – I consider public service to be my philanthropy. A lot of people will do various volunteer works, some people just donate money or resources, and my resource donation is public service.
Why is the trustee position in particular so appealing to you?
Well, I am going to have to take you through a really quick history. I have always been a person who has wanted to do some public service, going back to fourth grade. When I am living in a particular area, I like to get involved. There are people that I have worked with through my career at Miami that have been in public office here, and I talked to them about it, and they were like, ‘You know what, you're a perfect person for that kind of thing because you're a civil-minded and municipal-focused individual, and you don’t really sit on either side of the political spectrum.’
Once I got into my position, I spent my first couple of years being quiet, and understanding how the town and city hall works and the different directions they get pulled in. It took me a solid year and a half to fully understand it. After 2017, which was halfway through my first tenure on council, that's when I started to say some things. Then I got re-elected, and that's basically when all hell broke loose in 2020. That's when I said, ‘I think it's my turn to provide a perspective that I believe that most people that are currently in this town believe in,’ and that's when I became slightly famous for a little while.
Can you explain why you were famous?
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Sure. 2021 was when Miami finally said the students could come back to town. Here in town, we had a special session to pass a particular ordinance. That ordinance was the mask ordinance. Now, I work in enrollment management, and one of the jobs in enrollment management, we knew what the vaccination rate was for students, faculty and staff at Miami. It was public knowledge for the vaccination rate in Oxford. I’ll just say this: the vaccination rate was 42% in Oxford and Miami’s was a little over 80%.
A lot of people who are residents of this town tend to vilify students. Yet, they rely on students for the economic health of this town, and I was pissed that one of the first things in this ordinance said, ‘Because the students are coming back …’ because you guys are a population group that essentially provides the health of this town.
While we're having the discussion on this ordinance I started suggesting some common sense amendments to this ordinance, and some of them got through. Students were at the meeting, and watching the meeting on the public channel, and they saw me advocating for them. I’m glad that all the students and business owners recognized it.
The mask mandate passed, but I had to vote against it. And at the end of it I just had to say, ‘hey guys, I tried.’ People cheered, and I literally went and had to go drink, and right around that time, Yik Yak came back, and it blew up that night. The bartender was looking at me funny, and he goes ‘you’re a legend… you should go to Brick.’ The students loved me so much because I spoke for them. Let’s just say this, I ended up on Barstool.
One of my pet projects was the DORA, which is the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area. We started that in 2020 because our businesses were dying and they largely run off of alcohol sales. So we passed it with a caveat, which was we can't have it while the students are here, because they will screw it up, and I’m triggered again.
Fast forward a few months, DORA is going, and everyone loves it. Well, I’m like, why don’t we have the DORA going while the students are here? People, including Miami, were up in arms in response. So I was like, how about we trial it for one semester. If [the students] screw it up, we can just rescind it. We ended up throwing an event called Oxtoberfest which relied on DORA, which ended up falling on a fall break because of planning, and it was a huge success.
Something I want to do is have more of those Red Brick Fridays while the students are here. These are the kinds of things I've tried to do during my tenure on council, and this is the reason I am running to be on the township, because the township is no different.
Is there anything else you would like to discuss?
Yes. Data is a human basic need. It is a utility. In the rural areas of Oxford, the data service is horrible. Here in Oxford we have a university that has good data service relative to other areas. I live in the southernmost part of Oxford, which used to be in the township which is served by Butler Rural Electric, and they worked with Altafiber to bring fiber up through where we were and start moving it out. I want to move those kinds of things forward to serve all of Oxford.
My opponent, Kate, and I have very differing viewpoints on various things. She pushed for having bike lanes in Oxford, which is a good thing. However, I don’t want to infringe on the life, liberty and happiness of other people.
On McGuffey Avenue, there are two bike lanes going down that street, all the way down. The southern side is residential neighborhoods. The proposal was to run those all the way down both sides, which is OK, but if you look at the houses in that residential district, they only have one car wide driveways. Most families have two cars or if they want people to visit they just park in front of the house. Bike lanes do not allow that. I suggested we put sharrows there at the end of the street.
During the work session, Kate was like absolutely not. This was a reasonable accommodation. Even our service director said this is probably the best practice. However, you can go on McGuffey Avenue, and see the bike lanes go all the way down on both sides. You can see that all those people had to incur expense to widen their driveways or park around the corner, and they had no say in the matter. This is just an example of one of the things I really don't like about the unintended consequences of special interest, which is why I want to stay in community service.