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 city council candidate and political newcomer Jon Ralinovsky. The two discuss climate action initiatives, including bike lanes, native grasses and the public bus service.
Editor’s note: This conversation has been edited for concision. Listen to the podcast for the full conversation.
Patel: Tell me about yourself.
Ralinovsky: I have lived in Oxford since 1998. I have a degree from Western… I’ve been in Oxford a fair amount of my life. I am employed by Miami [University] as a piano technician for the College of Creative Arts. I’m just working to make Oxford a better place to live.
Why are you so interested in Oxford policies?
I’ve been working on the environmental commission since about 2017, and also the parking and transportation advisory board since 2019. I like the way some things have been implemented in the city, and I want to see that continue.
Why Oxford city council specifically?
My thought was, I’m already going to one or two meetings a month, so I was like, let’s see what happens.
Have you been involved in any aspect of politics before?
Not really, I haven't run for elected office before now.
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You say you have a major interest in the climate action plan, why is it so important to you?
Well, I just think about not just human survival, but all other species who don’t have control over their climate, and as far as I can tell it’s the humans who are doing all of the work as far as changing the climate. So, my thought is how can we turn this around and what steps can we take to reduce our carbon footprint, so hopefully we can avert a mass extinction.
What is the biggest climate problem in Oxford?
One thing I think about from the climate action plan is transportation, which is about 26% of the carbon the city puts out. This is only including city residents as opposed to government run transportation. My thought is, let's take away all the barriers stopping people from walking, biking or rolling to their destinations. I want to be able to connect [the bike lanes and sidewalks] and have better connectivities for those pedestrians.
I discussed with another candidate before about a bike path in Oxford. Do you plan on continuing the bike trail?
Absolutely. The trail is a very popular project and I’d love to see it finished. It might be a bit, there have been some challenges as far as alignment.
What are some push backs against the trail?
The funding is from a levy in 2017, which was voted in at a rate closer to 70%, which is highly unusual. It is a long project and it's hard to find a good alignment that doesn’t offend property owners. People like the trail, but they don’t necessarily want it next to their property.
What are some other projects you would like to see through?
As far as pedestrian and bicycle safety, one of the things I find interesting is right turn on red, for cars. Other major cities have done this, where right turn on red is an outcome of the oil shortage in the 70s. However, I have been the subject of a right turn on red where the driver is looking the other way then, bam. I think about our perception of time… if we’re willing to wait 10 seconds for a light to change.
Another thing I’ve been involved with is promoting native lawns. I came to work with other citizens within the environmental commission to get a proposal to [city] council, which passed earlier this year. [The proposal] makes it explicit that it is OK to have native grasses and prairie plants that are all drought resistant, don't require mowing and can be part of your lawn… they aren’t turf grass.
In what ways can the climate action plan be improved?
I don’t know if it’s about improvement, but more about how quickly things can be implemented. I think solarizing all public buildings as well as water and sewage treatment buildings.
What are some other ways you can make Oxford more sustainable?
The composting team has been pretty successful, and we just need to encourage that as much as possible. When food waste gets sent to the landfill, then it breaks down anaerobically, which produces methane. Depending on who you ask, it is somewhere between 30-80 times worse than carbon dioxide.
I am trying to get more recycling going. I’d love to see multi-family units take on recycling at a higher rate. I know there are challenges to that, but I really don’t know if we have too much of a choice about it. Apartments contract privately, so it is up to them to make that choice.
Are there any ways the transportation system in Oxford can be improved?
Sure, I think it is not only encouraging biking, walking and rolling, but also… Butler county BCRTA could be more frequent and more diverse stops. So for people that live on the west side of town, they have to walk a fair way to catch a bus, and that doesn’t work for everybody. So, I would love to lobby BCRTA to try and expand their service.
How do you plan on addressing the three pillars of Oxford city council should you be elected?
I’m happy to support housing for all. City council has recently bought different properties… I don't think that any city has solved housing issues, but this is a good start.
I think the convention bureau has done a great job getting events during the summer months when students just aren’t here. I know there are events at the rec that people in the town attend. I don’t know if there is a great solution to the economic decline in the summer months, because I can’t change the students leaving every year, but I guess it has to be a part of the business plan.
What is another important initiative to you?
The city is looking to increase the tree canopy, which is the number of street trees which are in between the road and the sidewalk all over town. That is property that the city owns, and the city can put trees in those areas. There are also some native plantings going on public land. The goal is to get rid of areas of turf grass where it is not needed, because it is pretty energy intensive.
What is the most important issue facing Oxford today?
I would say climate change, it affects so much and I am pretty sure that southwest Ohio won't be affected as much as other parts of the US, but we still need to take this on and do our part.