Archive for the ‘Ohio Ballot’ Category

Akron’s Recall Election

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Voters in Akron go to the polls today to decide whether to recall Mayor Don Plusquellic. They should reject the recall, and let Plusquellic serve the sixth term that he won in November 2007.

I’d urge anyone still on the fence to read two articles.

The first is this editorial, by the Akron Beacon Journal:

Akron has faced two challenges, in particular, the past two decades: improving the quality of education and navigating a harsh economic transition, from an industrial to a knowledge economy. The mayor has been relentless in addressing both. Consider his championing of the city schools, pressing for improvement and campaigning for new resources. Or his pursuit of business opportunities … Or the push for a biomedical corridor and the connection to the high-tech realm in Israel, the city seeing the future and seeking to build on its strengths.

The second is this article in the Journal by Stuart Warner, “A Walk Down Main Street, 24 Years Later”:

”As Main Streets go, Akron’s already went,” read the headline that accompanied Warner’s Corner on Oct. 16, 1985.

I counted at least 52 businesses gone bust that day — just between Cedar and Market …That was about 14 months before Don Plusquellic became Akron’s mayor.

In light of the recall, Warner decided to walk the same stretch again. He finds a much safer, more tolerant city, one that is relentlessly bucking the rust belt trend of decline:

On some summer weekend nights now, when the Aeros are at the stadium and concerts are rocking at Lock 3 and Musica, the streets are teeming with people

I’ve only lived here three years, but it seems clear to me that over 23 years in office, Plusquellic has been a driving force behind the city’s surge.

Vote to reject the recall today, and let our mayor get back to work.

Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to  7:30 p.m. Vote at your normal polling place, unless you’ve received notification otherwise. If you have any questions about where to vote, visit http://www.summitcountyboe.com or call 330-643-5200.

Here’s some further questions and answers about the recall, from the Akron Beacon Journal.

The Akron Ballot Initiatives: My Cheat Sheet

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

There are three local Akron initiatives. Again, I lean heavily on the Akron Beacon Journal here, which wrote a strong endorsement of Barack Obama, writing:

Where does Obama want to take the country? He wants to enhance the investment in education and research, essential to competitiveness in the knowledge economy. If his pledge to reduce the typical premium for health insurance by $2,500 a year is mostly guesswork, his overall plan reflects the pragmatism required to repair a costly and inefficient system of health care. He seeks to add fairness to the tax code, responding to trends in income, wealthier households doing far better, too many Americans experiencing flat paychecks in this decade.

So, here it goes…

7. Proposed charter amendment City of Akron … to authorize council to appoint the clerk of council position in the unclassified service.

Yes.

A snoozer. This seems to me to be mainly a technical amendment. Te city clerk is appointed by the council, and answers to its members. Currently, though, the clerk falls under civil service, meaning that she answers to the mayor.

The Beacon Journal Writes:

Under the amendment, the clerk would serve solely at the discretion of the council, making it clear whose interests are being served. The mayor has similar authority over the top administrative officials who make up the Cabinet. …

It is reasonable for the City Council to directly employ its own clerk, whose hiring and firing would require a majority vote.

That seems reasonable to me.

8. Proposed charter amendment City of Akron … establishing a scholarship fund for Akron resident students.

Yes.

At first blush, not much to get excited about. But this one has generated quite a bit of controversy locally, because, to pay for the scholarships — which local students would use to pay for college, technical, or trade school — the city would lease the Akron sewer system. The Beacon Journal called it the “sewers-to-scholarships plan.”

As near as I can gather, here’s how it would work. Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic hopes to collect upwards of $200 million by leasing the sewers to a private firm. With that cash, he would create an endowment to fund students’ tuitioin. All students would be able to apply for the scholarships — whether they attended public school, private school, a nonprofit school, or were home-schooled.

As the Beacon Journal wrote in a recent editorial:

The city scholarship program would operate on the principle of the ”last dollar.” In other words, a student first would seek to gain college grants and scholarships from other sources. If he or she proved successful, the city then would make up the difference between the amount awarded and the cost of tuition at the University of Akron or a city trade school.

Follow the logic, and more resources from the city scholarship program would be available to those households not eligible for need-based awards. That translates into scholarships for the middle class, for those families and students who face the burden of paying for a substantial share of a college education.

Read more here.

But is leasing the sewers such a good idea? In a separate editorial, the Beacon Journal notes:

The fundamental point of a lease arrangement is that the city would still own the sewer system, retaining under its terms the right to make sure the system operates safely and in compliance with environmental regulations. Retaining city ownership would keep the pipeline open for federal money to cover upgrades. Terms of the lease would require the operator to use properly trained and certified personnel.

Rate hikes would be capped. And the 100 sewer system workers would be retained by the city, so no jobs would be lost.

As the Beacon Journal notes, the big picture, it seems to me, is this:

The Akron Scholarship Plan is based on a simple, but bold, premise: A well-educated work force would help jump-start the city’s economic future. What voters should know is that the plan, to be financed by leasing the sewer system, would be surrounded by a complex web of safeguards to protect rate payers, sewer department workers, the system itself and students who would receive tuition to the University of Akron or a trade or technical school in the city if Issue 8 passes.

There’s plenty of precedent for the idea of private companies running public utilities. Nationwide, private entities run some 1,800 government-owned plants. It doesn’t always work out, but, as the Beacon Journal points out in yet another editorial on the subject, “many … have found the partnerships beneficial. A private company has operated the sewer system in Indianapolis for 14 years, the water system in Jersey City, N.J., for 12 years.”

Sure, there’s a risk. But if we are going to increase access to educational opportunity and keep Akron competitive, we need a creative approach to solving today’s challenges. Issue 8 is exactly that.

9. Proposed charter amendment City of Akron, requiring a majority vote of the citizens for the sale, lease, or transfer of city utilities.

No.

This would amend the city charter and require that voters approve any action to sell, lease or transfer a city public utility. It was put forth by opponents of Mayor Plusquellic’s plan to lease the sewer systems, as a way to challenge it.

The Beacon Journal writes:

The city already has a vehicle for citizens to express their will independent of elected officials. First, they must gather the required signatures to reach the ballot. Then, they must persuade a majority of voters to side with their view.

In other words, voters are already voting on whether to lease the public utility — that’s issue 8. We don’t need to set in stone, as the Beacon Journal puts it, an “all-encompassing requirement regarding city utilities.”

That’s my take. I’d welcome your input, if you agree, disagree, or have any thoughts.

The Ohio State-wide Ballot Initiatives: Cheat Sheet

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

I’m leaning heavily on the Akron Beacon Journal to help guide my decision making here. It’s a newspaper that I know, with an editorial page that endorsed Obama for president, writing:

What appeals about Obama is his tone and understanding about how to advance American interests. John McCain mocks Obama for appearing too eager to engage the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran. Listen carefully, and you won’t hear Obama pushing something careless. He has surveyed the past eight years and recognized that attempting simply to isolate and punish adversaries is counterproductive in today’s complex and interconnected world. You engage to force hard choices. You listen to gain respect and build influence.

So, without further ado, my choices for the state ballot initiatives. Feel free to cut along the dotted lines and take this with you into the voting booth.

1. Proposed Constitutional Amendment To provide for earlier filing deadlines for statewide ballot issues:

Yes.

The Akron Beacon Journal explains:

Issue 1 would standardize the deadline for submitting petitions at 125 days before Election Day instead of the current 90-day deadline, shortened to just 60 days for a referendum. The amendment would set deadlines for checking signatures and making legal challenges and give the Ohio Supreme Court jurisdiction to act quickly.

In recommending a yes vote, the Beacon Journal notes:

Voters have a chance to bring some clarity and predictability to the [election] process. Issue 1 on the statewide ballot, a constitutional amendment proposed by the legislature, would streamline and improve the process, ensuring that all issues appearing are ready for voters to decide.

Anything that brings more clarity and smoother elections in Ohio — while saving taxpayer dollars, as this would do — is a welcome enhancement.

2. Proposed Constitutional Amendment To authorize the state to issue bonds to continue the Clean Ohio program for environmental revitalization and conservation.

Yes

This amendment would authorize the state to issue $400 million worth of bonds to continue the highly successful Clean Ohio program, which has not only improved the environment, it’s attracted investment and created jobs. Endorsing the amendment, the Beacon Journal notes:

Half of the bonds would be targeted for cleaning up abandoned and polluted industrial sites, the urban brownfields. The $200 million spent so far has leveraged some $2.6 billion in public and private investment, creating 15,000 permanent jobs and 100,000 short-term construction jobs …

The other part of the Clean Ohio program provides grants for expanded greenspace. The preservation of farmland and natural areas and the expansion of parks and recreational facilities add in significant ways to the quality of life enjoyed in all parts of the state. Preservation of wild areas improves water quality and provides the habitat necessary to support fish and wildlife. In addition, the improvement of parks and trails adds to the state’s ability to attract and retain talented workers whose knowledge is needed to move the state economy forward.

Moreover, the bonds would be backed by general fund revenues, and so would not increase taxes.

3. Proposed Constitutional Amendment To amend the constitution to protect private property rights in ground water, lakes and other watercourses.

No.

The Beacon Journal says that, while this sounds good, it’s unnecessary, and was “part of a political deal struck quickly and late.” Here’s the nut:

The proposal surfaced as part of a compromise to win legislative approval of the Great Lakes Compact. The Republican majority in the Senate insisted that the ballot issue come with its support.

An argument for the measure holds the amendment merely would restate protections already established by the courts and contained in the compact. The truth is, that contention amounts to an even stronger argument against approval. The amendment is unnecessary.

4. Withdrawn.

5. Referendum on legislation making changes to check cashing lending, sometimes known as ‘payday lending,’ fees, interest rates, and practices.

Yes.

This one’s important — and not readily clear if you are reading it for the first time in the voting booth.

In a “stunning” defeat this summer, payday lenders lost their legislative fight to prevent caps on the interest rates they can charge on small loans. Now, they are tying to implement by referendum what they couldn’t do through legislation. The Beacon Journal writes:

The statewide referendum would be the lenders’ effort to reclaim what they lost: the opportunity to charge interest amounting to a 391 annual percentage rate on small, short-term loans.

Payday lenders would like nothing better than to drive a stake into the heart of the legislation, House Bill 545. They want voters to say ”no” on Issue 5, to reject the section of the law that imposes a 28 percent limit on payday loans.

The Beacon Journal goes on to note:

Republican leaders in the House and Senate, backed by Democrats and an array of civic groups, pushed House Bill 545 to passage. Gov. Ted Strickland swiftly signed the measure. The law slashed the annual percentage interest rate on payday loans from a loan-sharking 391 percent to 28 percent …

A ”no” would give payday lenders the go-ahead to continue business as usual. Business as usual means they can keep fleecing borrowers with astronomical interest rates, with no required minimum 30-day breathing room to repay loans. The fuzzy language on the ballot says a ”no” vote would result in a total loan charge that ”substantially exceeds an equivalent APR of 28 percent.” That means 391 percent.

A ”yes” would prohibit payday lenders from going above 28 percent. It will ensure that borrowers don’t fall victim to the slick business model that is payday lending — dependent on repeated borrowing, one loan leading to another to pay off the previous one.

6. Proposed Constitutional Amendment To amend the constitution by initiative petition for a casino near Wilmington in Southwest Ohio and distribute to all Ohio counties a tax on the casino.

No.

This one has been getting a ton of press here in Ohio. The question boils down to: Should voters allow casino gambling in Ohio? (Which might possibly open the door for Indian gaming in the future.) Proponents are running TV ads pledging that a casino would create 5,000 jobs and generate some $200 million in revenue for the counties. I’ve heard it said that this tax revenue is currently “leaving the state,” as people exit Ohio to gamble elsewhere.

But, as the Beacon Journal notes:

In terms of economic impact, the casino would produce a net loss. Even if 5,000 jobs were created in a casino complex with a hotel, restaurants, golf course and theater, most would be low-wage, dead-end service jobs. More, studies of gambling have shown that for every $1 in economic benefits, there are roughly $3 in costs, most notably in the form of families ruined at the gaming tables.

I’m not averse to gambling on principle. I try to hit Vegas once a year with my high school buddies. But there’s a broader point here, which the Beacon Journal captures in its conclusion:

Issue 6 is a dangerous distraction at a time of economic turmoil. Voters should reject this latest gambling scheme and shift their attention to making long-term investments in education and infrastructure that promise true improvement for Ohio.

Times are tough. The last thing Ohio needs to do is double down on a casino with a dubious economic impact.

That’s my take. I’d love to hear your thoughts.