Editor’s Note

To celebrate 10 years of local journalism, Richland Source is revisiting some of its previous coverage and updating the community on the stories we’ve told. In this article, we look back at our Talk the Vote series, and the Citizens Agenda it prompted for local leaders.

p.s. Join us this Saturday for SourceFest, a free block party we’re throwing in celebration of a decade in local news. Click here to RSVP. 

The year was 2021. The world was finally emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. had recently withdrawn from Afghanistan. Fall was on its way or had already arrived.

This was the backdrop for Source Media Properties’ “Talk the Vote” events held from September to November in Ashland, Richland, and Knox counties in 2021. At these events, voters had the chance to tell local candidates what they think they should be doing for their communities. The candidates were asked to listen. 

We compiled the voters’ responses and ideas into a “Citizens Agenda” for Knox Pages, Richland Source, and Ashland Source. These agendas were then presented to local city councils and school boards to remind them of what voters expect from them.

Throughout 2022 and 2023, reporters on all three sites wrote stories on each of the issues in the Citizens Agenda.

As Richland Source’s 10-year anniversary approaches, we decided to look back on Talk the Vote and the stories that came from it. 

Knox Pages

How one Midwestern community has increased its affordable housing stock – and helped mitigate homelessness as a result

Report for America Corps Member Grant Ritchey looked into what lessons a homelessness program from Indianapolis could offer to Mount Vernon. 

Could a ‘master leasing’ strategy help Knox County mitigate homelessness?

Lead reporter Grant Pepper explored how a “master leasing” strategy could help Mount Vernon’s homeless populations access housing. 

How a 100-day solution to homelessness could help Knox County

Staying on the topic of homelessness, Ritchey explored how a “100-Day” solution could bring Knox County’s institutions together to address homelessness.

Would an innovative approach to child care work in Knox County?

Correspondent Cheryl Splain looked into how creative or unconventional approaches to child care, like a non-profit dedicated to the service, could work in Knox County.

‘The Mom Squad’: How one Ohio manufacturer solved its labor shortage by prioritizing parents

Pepper recounted how a manufacturer in Tuscarawas County upped its workforce by offering parents part-time shifts during school hours. 

Could Fredericktown’s latchkey program serve as a model for other Knox County school districts?

Still on the subject of child care, Pepper investigated how the Fredericktown Local School District’s latchkey program — which provides child care before and after school — could apply to other districts in the county.

‘Everybody has to be on-board’: District buy-in crucial to making Fredericktown latchkey program work

In his follow-up to the previous story on Fredericktown’s latchkey program, Pepper detailed how parents, students, and district staff all had to be on-board for a latchkey program to work.

Here’s how Fredericktown Local Schools increased communication with the community

In this story, Ritchey explored the methods — like multiple community liaison, for example — the Fredericktown Local Schools board of education uses to keep in touch with the community. 

What would it take for Fredericktown to begin live-streaming its public meetings?

In this first story of a three part series on live-streamed public meetings, Pepper recounted how voters want Fredericktown Local Schools to start streaming board meetings.

Gambier began live-streaming meetings during pandemic, and isn’t looking to stop

To figure out how Fredericktown Local Schools could start live-streaming, Pepper looked to the nearby community of Gambier and how it got its stream up and running during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mount Vernon continues live-streaming tradition with upgrade to YouTube

Pepper didn’t stop at Gambier; he also wrote about the city of Mount Vernon’s recent shift from an outdated livestreaming platform to YouTube.

Richland Source

Mansfield Homeless pilot project plans to ask, ‘What do you need?’

City Editor Carl Hunnell kicked off the site’s coverage with this story about a pilot project first used in Bloomington, Indiana to address homelessness.

Future of B&O Trail: How do other communities rate importance of bicycle/pedestrian connectivity?

In this story, Hunnell looked to communities in Ohio, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Missouri and New York to figure out how other communities are using grant funds for bike trails that Mansfield planned to use on its own bike trails.

Citizen’s Agenda: How can Mansfield’s city government and school system collaborate?

Reporter Katie Ellington Serrao studied ways the city of Mansfield and its school system could work together in this story. 

Mansfield looks elsewhere to find solutions to community development, codes enforcement issues

As the city of Mansfield prepared to combine its community development and code enforcement departments, Hunnell sat down with Adrian Ackerman, then the director of Housing and Community development in the city, to talk about what she learned from other cities like Kettering, Ohio.

Are young business owners outgrowing Richland County?

In the first of her two-part series on young business owners in Richland County, reporter Grace McCormick looked into voters’ concerns that young business owners are leaving Richland County.

What is Richland County doing now to support young business owners?

In the second part of her series, McCormick looked into what incentives, organizations and opportunities exist to help young business owners in Richland County.

Ashland Source

How Ashland County schools are preparing students for the ‘real world’ after graduation

In this story, Report for America Corps Member Nathan Hart (who also wrote the article you’re reading right now) looked into what local schools are doing to prepare students for the ‘real world.’

How can Ashland preserve its past as it forges into the future?

Lead reporter Dillon Carr looked into how Ashland can preserve its old buildings in a time when new developments are a common sight in the area. 

How can best practices in communication apply to Ashland’s Board of Education?

Hart wrote about what the Ashland City Schools board of education could do to become more engaged and communicative with the community.

How can Ashland County leaders more effectively connect with youth? And should they even bother?

In this story, Carr looked into the age-old question of how to get young people more involved in their local institutions. 

Part I: Can Ashland City Schools attract substitute teachers … and pay them enough?

After the pandemic and the ensuing disruptions to the education system, voters wanted to know if Ashland City Schools was attracting enough substitutes. Hart found out for them.

Part II: Has the national bus driver shortage spread to Ashland?

Voters also wanted to know if Ashland City Schools had enough drivers and substitute drivers to get children to and from school, sparking this second story on the district’s staffing.

To weight or not to weight: Grading scales have an impact in Ashland County

Hart investigated those pesky or beloved weighted grades, depending on your opinion. 

Why Ashland could spend ‘millions’ on its wastewater treatment plant in future years

Carr looked into whether Ashland’s 83-year-old wastewater plant was equipped to process the waste of a growing city.

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