Saturday, October 26, 2013

2013 Election Endorsements - Just say Yes

This year’s ballot has been described as “levy-heavy”, but that’s small wonder considering many of the services funded by these levies have faced the dual challenge of reduced funding – brought about by the decline in property values during the Great Recession, along with federal sequestration and state cuts – and increased need for the services they provide.

Issue 1: This is a replacement of the Health and Human Services Levy (which renews periodically), which will increase property taxes by $3.83 per month based (as all calculations in this post are) on a $100,000 home value. Passage of the levy will allow various entities, including MetroHealth, to continue with their work providing services to children, seniors and families – including funding for our region’s only Level One Trauma and Burn Center at MetroHealth, Metro Life Flight and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I urge a YES vote.

Issues 2 – 5 are not revenue related.  All concern separation of powers and duties of the Cuyahoga County council and various boards. My main concern with any change to the county charter is that it not grant untoward power to the executive. I feel Ed Fitzgerald has done an excellent job as Executive over the last few years. (Frankly, I wish he was staying here rather than running for governor – but I will vote for him if he’s nominated.) However, and under the truism “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”, I am in favor of policies that promote a healthy tension and balance of power. Thus, I urge a YES vote on all four issues.

Issue 65: This 3.25 mill South Euclid safety forces levy would about $9.58/month, and would expire in 2017.

Our police and fire personnel have been subject to pay freezes and benefit cuts like many other private and public employees. Like any other municipality, South Euclid needs to compete for qualified safety personnel – and in the absence of that, our safety personnel may be enticed to leave for greener pastures.

Critics have said that the safety levy is merely an attempt by South Euclid’s elected leadership to cover their hides for financial decisions made prior to the Great Recession. As proof of their claim, they point to Cedar Center North, which was purchased and demolished by the city in 2007-2008. While there is legitimate criticism of the financing of Cedar Center North, very few right thinking persons would dispute that the new shopping center, even though it has yet to be filled to capacity, is a vast improvement over the dilapidated, embarrassing strip mall that was there before. (Further, the additional revenue the levy would raise is close to the amount that Governor John Kasich’s budget cut from South Euclid’s allocation of state assistance funds.) I think it also says something about the nature of the opposition that they have to go back to events that occurred before the Great Recession to bolster their criticism. The fact is, South Euclid’s leadership – not just elected officials, but employees across the board – made a good faith effort to tighten their belts during the recession. I don’t believe the way to reward them is to hose them on pay and benefits, particularly since many of them live and shop here. Given that the mayor was reelected in 2011 with a whopping 75% of the vote, I believe the people of South Euclid have already voiced their opinion of her leadership. The local and national economy is indisputably in recovery, the improving store occupancy and housing market are proof of that, and I believe the reports of South Euclid’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.  If anything, South Euclid is better off than it was two years ago. But that could change, and one of the key indicators of quality of life is public safety. Whatever the issue of South Euclid’s finances, the fact is that without effective and fully staffed safety forces, South Euclid could well fall back into decline. More than any of this year’s ballot issues, I strongly urge a YES vote on Issue 65.

Issue 80: This 10 year 2.7 mill levy will add a grand total of $5 per month to the tax bill of a $100,000 home. It’s surprising such a small levy would garner opposition, but I suspect it’s coming from people with higher valued homes and rental property owners. Critics have said that the Metroparks should operate within their budget and “do more with less”. But the truth is, our Metroparks have been “doing more with less” during the past half-decade – a lot more. Just in the past year, they’ve added the former Acacia Country Club, which was purchased by the Conservation Fund and then turned over to the Metroparks, to their list of reservations. (If the owners of Oakwood Country Club had made the same arrangement, South Euclid and surrounding communities might have been spared a divisive battle.) In addition, the Metroparks this year took control of Euclid Beach, Gordon, and Edgewater Parks from the state of Ohio. (Cleveland ceded control of the parks to the state in 1978, a time when the city was so broke it couldn’t afford proper upkeep.) The state’s long-term neglect of the parks is already in the process of being rectified, as evidenced by the improvements at Edgewater Beach. Whatever the detractors say, the Cleveland Metroparks is one of the few things in Cuyahoga County that has worked consistently well over the generations. The support of the community has been more than earned and that’s why I am recommending a YES vote on Issue 80.

Issue 82: This is a renewal of the .13 mill levy for the Port of Cleveland, which costs property owners about $3.50 per year. For that small amount, the Port Authority will be able to continue their work maintaining and improving our Port, which is one of the main economic drivers in our region. A major problem with the port is that the upper Cuyahoga River has become shallow over the years, forcing ships to run half-empty for fear of dragging their hulls on the riverbed. One project to be undertaken is the dredging of the riverbed which will allow ships to travel the river at capacity. There is also the continued economic development which will make our lakefront - and by extension our downtown - more attractive.

Generally I don’t comment on elections in other wards or communities. But since South Euclid’s ward 2 councilman, Moe Romeo, is running unopposed, I am going to make an exception and comment on the Ward 4 race: Jane Goodman is seeking reelection against a challenger nobody seems to have heard of: Lintashia Marshall-Wilson. I can think of no city councilor in South Euclid who has been as unfairly maligned as Jane Goodman. Ironically, most of the vitriol directed at her has come from people living outside our community. For all the talk of regionalism, we elect our officials locally and Goodman has acted in the interests of the people of South Euclid. Goodman has served as Executive Director of the Cuyahoga River Community Planning Organization and is a dedicated and knowledgeable environmental advocate. Have you noticed the improvements of the Cuyahoga River and our local watershed? Goodman has had a hand in that. But she also works within the bounds of reality, which means when it came to the development of the former Oakwood Country Club – which was a certainty – she advocated for commercial zoning with LEED construction standards as opposed to residential development. I have discussed the development at Oakwood extensively in my blog and will not delve into it again. But I challenge those who refer to Goodman as a “phony environmentalist” to tabulate their carbon footprints against hers. I’ve no doubt most of them drive less fuel efficient vehicles, maintain toxic lawns, and live in larger homes than she. It is they, who spout Green Party talking points while acting like Tea Party Republicans, who are the hypocrites, not Jane Goodman – and I urge Ward 4 voters to reelect her.

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