January 18, 2012 - A tentative compromise was reached regarding the future voting composition of the Oxford Area Cable Communications Commission. The only question is will the local governments agree to it?
An informal meeting was held Jan. 12 between Oxford Township Supervisor Bill Dunn, Addison Township Supervisor Bruce Pearson, Oxford Village President Tom Benner and Leonard Village President Mike McDonald.
They all agreed to recommend to their respective boards that the cable commission's voting membership be changed to consist of two representatives from Oxford Township and one each from Addison, Leonard and Oxford Village.
"I think we reached a pretty good compromise," Dunn said. "This sounds like something everybody will be able to live with. I just don't want this to turn into another big fight."
"I think it's acceptable," Benner said. "I agree with that – I think it should be two from (Oxford) township and one from each (other) community. I think that's fair . . . I think it's time the cable commission moved forward . . . so they can get their act together and be responsible, too."
"I do not have a problem trying to take (this proposal) back to my council," McDonald said. "I think it will be received very favorably. I frankly think it reflects a genuine spirit of trying to address a lot of the concerns that have been raised recently about the operation of the commission."
It was actually Pearson who came up with the new proposed configuration for the commission.
"This way there's a safety measure," Pearson said. "If someone for some odd reason thought that Oxford Township was trying to muscle everything, under this (makeup), they couldn't . . . If there's an issue with control, the safety net is that the other three entities all have one vote a piece, so there is no one entity that has total control."
Pearson noted it would take votes from two or three entities to form the three-person majority that would be necessary for the commission to approve anything.
Pearson based his proposed voting formula on how much funding each government contributes to the cable commission, which oversees Oxford Community Television (OCTV), the local public access station.
"I said look, we (Addison) only put in 10 percent. The Village of Oxford puts in 11 percent and Leonard puts in 2 percent. The other 77 percent comes Oxford Township."
"I said let's just make it simple," Pearson continued. "Oxford Township puts in three quarters of the money and also has three quarters of the (cable) subscriptions. And it's not our fault, we just don't have the infrastructure. If we had the infrastructure, we'd probably have a bigger piece of it."
Pearson noted he's grateful for what Addison receives in return for its 10 percent.
"We get an awful lot of coverage from the cable (station) out here – probably more than our share," he said. "So, we're certainly not grumbling."
Right now, the cable commission consists of two representatives from Oxford Township, two from Oxford Village and one each from Addison and Leonard.
Oxford Schools and the Oxford Public Library have both withdrawn from the board. Since then, the cable commission has amended its bylaws to eliminate the school district's two seats and the library's one seat.
On Dec. 14, the Oxford Township Board voted 5-2 to recommend the cable commission change its composition to consist of three voting representatives from Oxford Township, two from Addison Township, and one each from the villages of Oxford and Leonard.
That proposal did not set well with some Oxford Village council members who voiced their displeasure at the Jan. 10 village meeting. (That story, entitled "Village has strong words for township cable proposal," is posted on-line at www.oxfordleader.com.)
"I think the concern from Bruce Pearson and myself was the fact that we didn't think (Oxford) township should have three votes," Benner explained. "Bill (Dunn) said it was just a proposal they put out there."
Dunn said he explained to Benner, Pearson and McDonald that the township "is not trying to take over" or "strong-arm anybody."
"The township board threw a proposal out there; it wasn't a demand or a threat," Dunn said. "We're flexible. We just wanted to get the ball rolling. We just want things to be fair."
Dunn indicated all four community leaders also agreed that it's fair that all four local governments contribute at least 25 percent of the franchise fees they receive from Charter Communications and AT&T.
The franchise fees each community receives and contributes to the cable commission are what funds OCTV's operations.
Oxford Township has a history of contributing 100 percent of these fees. However, in September 2011, the township board voted 6-1 to withhold their funding for 2012 until an interlocal agreement for the cable commission is completed and approved along with an update of the body's bylaws.
Addison and Oxford Village currently donate 50 percent, while Leonard Village gives 100 percent of its Charter fees, but keeps all of its AT&T fees. However, McDonald noted that since implementing this funding policy, Leonard has yet to receive any AT&T fees.
In their Dec. 14 proposal, Oxford Township had made its suggested voting composition contingent on each community contributing 100 percent of their franchise fees.
However, at the township's Jan. 11 meeting, officials voted 6-1 to lower the proposed minimum to 25 percent.
The 25 percent threshold was a compromise among township officials.
Some board members felt there should be no minimum percentage.
"Personally, I don't think we should demand other people pay a certain amount of money," Dunn said. "That is their call. I don't care if Addison or Oxford Village gives 50 percent. We've determined we want to give 100 percent – that's our call. I think it would be in the best interests of the cable commission to allow each community to donate what they want . . . We run a tight ship here in Oxford. We can control our own money. And I think we should extend that same courtesy to the participating municipalities."
Others felt 100 percent was fair.
"I understand that, but I don't think Oxford Township cable subscribers should be supplementing other communities," said Treasurer Joe Ferrari. "We should all be in it 100 percent, doing what we need to do to make cable better. Oxford Township should not be basically supplementing the other (communities) that choose not to give 100 percent . . . As a cable subscriber, I don't think that's fair."
Trustee Mike Spisz proposed having a minimum contribution be required from each community. Trustee Sue Bellairs agreed.
"I don't have a problem with us giving 100 percent," she said. "I think that we can do it. I think we should do it. If the other communities don't (give 100 percent now), maybe they'll follow (our example). But I do agree with Mike (Spisz), they have to be giving something; they can't just be giving nothing. I think that level needs to be set."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.