Tuesday, October 4, 2011
(VIDEOS: CIRELLI, SCHULMAN, McMASTERS, HEALY & REAM) IS ISSUE 29 HEADED TOWARDS APPROVAL? CO-CHAIR DAN McMASTERS SAYS STARK COUNTIANS SHOULD FEAR CONSQUENCES OF NOT PASSING THE ISSUE. A KEY QUESTION: IS PASSAGE OF ISSUE 29 AT A RATE LESS THAN IS NEEDED A WISE THING FOR THE LONG TERM?
It is hard to know about Issue 29 (the 0.5% sales tax increase) prospects on next month's ballot: are the stars lining up as a omen that the issue will pass?
Well, the "Yes for Stark Safety - Issue 29" (YFSS-29) campaigners are scattering to and fro across Stark County trying to get all 35 of Stark County's local government entities to endorse the effort.
Last night YSFSS-29 forces showed up at Canton City Council and got a 10 to 1 thumbs up (Councilwoman Cirelli voting no and Councilman West absent due to a death in his extended family) on a requested endorsement via an informal resolution.
Cirelli seemed to cause consternation among the pro-29 folks in questioning the courage of the Stark Commissioners in not voting to impose the proposed tax increase rather than leave it up to a vote of Stark Countians. Apparently, the councilwoman has forgotten that a former board of commissioners (Bosley, Harmon and Vignos) imposed a 1/2 cent sales tax (December, 2008) which Stark Countians overwhelming repealed in November, 2009.
Another point that Cirelli pushed hard on to make clear is that while county officials say that Issue 29 money will be used "primarily" to make the sheriff's department whole to 2010 levels, the fact of the matter is that the 1/2% increase will not be used exclusively for that purpose or even the expanded notion of the entire Stark County criminal justice apparatus. A significant part of the money will still be used to cover all other county operations that currently participate in county general fund allocations.
Here is a number of video excerpts indicating the frustration of Issue 29 supporters with Cirelli's argument and point.
If it were just local government types that were voting on the issue, there is no doubt that the issue would pass overwhelmingly. But there is a detectible nervousness emanating from the campaigners for 29.
Because it is believed that some 100,000 or so Stark Countians will be voting on the issue on November 8th and notwithstanding a strong campaign to reach all of them with convincing proof that Stark County government is on the brink of a massive financial collapse come 2012 should the issue fail, and uncertainty persists that given the stubbornly down economy and the influence of a general anti-tax attitude as overtly manifested by the the likes of the Tea Party movement whether or not YFSS-29 can get to 50,001 votes.
Most of the YFSS-29 campaigners have stayed away from out-and-out using fear of the consequences to voting no in terms of the devastation they say the failure of a tax increase failure will have on Stark County governmental services.
But Co-Chair Dan McMasters (a Massillon State Farm Insurance agent) is not one of them.
Here is a video of McMasters articulating on the "fear argument" last night.
All-in-all it was a very good night for YSFF-29, witness this video of endorsements by Mayor Healy and Safety Director Thomas Ream.
It is looking more and more to the SCPR that the stars may be taking on a favorable alignment for the passage of Issue 29.
But, at best, the commissioners are only treading water if the issue passes.
On this point, Council President Allen Schulman had the best question of the night in pointing out what the 1/2 cent tax does not do in terms of not providing money for economic development and job production.
A major concern for commissioners should be whether or not the passage of the 1/2% increase will make it impossible for an additional hike in a year or so.
For it is abundantly clear that even with a 1/2% increase that Stark County will be right back in a financial crisis very soon indeed.
In fact, word has just come out that the Veterans Service Commission (VSC) which is entitled as a matter of Ohio law to about $3.2 million in the county's share (about 4% of the total take) of property tax assessments is going to be taking about $2.5 million for 2012 as compared to $1.3 million this year. On October 14th, the VSC board is holding a meeting of Stark County veteran stakeholders to consider using much of its available money to facilitate a plan being pushed by Commissioner Pete Ferguson to develop a Veterans Home in Stark County.
So in one-fell-swoop it appears that beginning in 2012 commissioners are going to lose $1 million or so annually for its general fund operations in heretofore unused VSC fund set asides.
The SCPR believes that this action is at least - in part - a VSC board reaction to Commissioner Janet Creighton's question (paraphrased) earlier in this year when the board gave VSC pay raises over the objection of commissioners, to wit: "What does the VSC do for Stark County veterans, anyway?"
These are times that call for very wise political/governmental leadership in Stark County.
The ultimate question which Issue 29 raises is this: Are Stark Countians getting wise leadership from the current crop of county officials?