Monday, November 4, 2013 at 8:52 AM
Tomorrow is election day across Ohio -- and even though voters won’t be deciding on a president or members of congress this year, there are many local candidates and tax issues to sort through. ideastream’s Nick Castele talks with Morning Edition host Rick Jackson about some of the decisions Northeast Ohio voters will have before them.
JACKSON: So what are the big races to be watching for tomorrow?
CASTELE: We’ve heard a lot on our air about the mayoral race in Cleveland. This is where Frank Jackson is seeking a third term, he’s saying the city is poised for greatness but it needs four more years of his leadership to get there, and to solidify changes in the public school system and economic development.
Now, in 2009 he faced off in November against Bill Patmon, a former city councilman and now a state rep who had little money to mount a viable campaign—and Jackson won by a very wide margin.
This year, the his challenger is a very different kind of candidate: businessman Ken Lanci. He’s got a considerable personal fortune that’s helped get his name out there. As for his platform, he points to the city’s high-profile crimes, high rate of poverty, last year’s police shooting, a scandal in the fire department, and he says it’s time to show Frank Jackson the door.
Now it’s not clear how serious a threat Lanci poses to Jackson’s re-election, but it’s been an interesting campaign and the race is certainly worth watching.
JACKSON: Yeah, it certainly is. And a lot of suburban mayoral races, too, though.
CASTELE: Yes, Beachwood voters will decide whether to reelect Mayor Merle Gorden or go with his challenger, Councilman Brian Linick. Gorden has taken some criticism on Cleveland.com for his high pay and spending habits, and that’s something Linick has seized on. And also in Cuyahoga County, there are also mayoral races in Bay Village, Richmond Heights, Woodmere and several other suburbs. And there are also local candidates up for a vote all across Northeast Ohio.
JACKSON: Now voters across this county, Cuyahoga, have a few tax levies to consider, too. Could you walk us through those?
CASTELE: Sure. First and foremost, there’s the health and human services levy. This is a replacement and and increase. It’s expected to cost property owners $136.50 for every $100,000 of their home value. And that money is going to fund services like the county mental health and addiction board and child services.
The Cleveland Metroparks are also looking for a levy renewal and increase. The parks just took over control of lakefront parks like Edgewater and Euclid Beach from the state of Ohio, so they’re looking for some more funds now. (link to park takeover story)
JACKSON: And maybe the one getting the most chatter is the one for the Port of Cleveland.
CASTELE: Yes. The Cleveland-Cuyahoga Port Authority is asking for a levy renewal. So it’s not a tax increase. And that money goes to keeping the Cuyahoga River open for ships and protecting parts the riverbank from erosion.
JACKSON: Other levies of note?
CASTELE: Well, more than we have time to talk about here. Summit County is renewing levies for its mental health board, its parks and its zoo. And the city of Painesville is proposing additional levies for roads, police and fire.
There’s also a proposal in Lorain County that would raise the sales tax from 6.5 percent up to 7 percent. Now, sales tax hikes can often be a tough sell, so the county commissioners are offering sort of an incentive. Here’s Commissioner Lori Kokoski.
KOKOSKI: “It’s a three-year temporary sales tax increase, it’s a half a percent. But during those three years, if it should pass, we will reduce the property taxes, the county’s portion, which is the inside millage.”
Inside millage is kind of complicated, but basically the pitch here is, raise the sales tax, and homeowners and businesses get a break on their property taxes.
JACKSON: Taxes aside, Nick, a trio of cities in Northern Ohio are hoping to add restrictions on shale gas drilling—and they’re doing it in a kind of interesting way. Explain that for us.
CASTELE: Well, Youngstown, Oberlin and Bowling Green voters are all going to decide on ballot issues to pass what’s being called a Community Bill of Rights. Basically these measures say that residents have a right to clean air and water, and so, to that end, they ban new oil and gas extraction, along with injection wells.
The issues are being promoted by an environmental group based in Pennsylvania called Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. And in Youngstown, interestingly, the local chamber of commerce is teaming up with organized labor to try to defeat it.
JACKSON: New, but not first. Has this kind of “bill of rights” measure to ban drilling succeeded anywhere?
CASTELE: Yes. Voters approved the community bill of rights last year in Broadview Heights and Mansfield. (Yellow Springs city council also passed a similar measure.) Now, how these new measures will play out if citizens start challenging drilling permits based on them, we’ll have to see. Ohio law essentially gives the state jurisdiction over drilling, not cities. But we’ll be keeping our eye out for any challenges that might arise.
JACKSON: You’ve got a busy Tuesday ahead, Nick, we’ll talk with you Wednesday morning. Thanks so much.
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