Blogs > Northern Ohio Local Politics

Politics is big in these parts, and we’ve got it covered. John Arthur Hutchison and other staff writers will offer their inside information on the events, big news and little moments of the local political scene in Lake, Geauga and eastern Cuyahoga counties.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

'Significant' development project in works in Mentor

Mentor administrators are actively engaged in a development project "of significance" with a local business and the Ohio Department of Development, according to a recent memo from City Manager Ken Filipiak to City Council members. Filipiak said details are being kept confidential at this point, but he said he may be able to share information soon "related to our commitment in crafting a joint incentive package."

-- Betsy Scott,

Is Ohio's tax burden as high as people think?

The Ohio Department of Taxation passed along a news release today that I found interesting because I often hear people say that taxes are too high in Ohio and are driving people away from the state.

The gist is that Ohio's tax burden isn't as high as our neighboring states and most of the country, according to the state agency.

Of course most people, including me, don't enjoy paying taxes, but here's the information that was passed along, so judge it for yourself and take from it what you will:

New statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show that the burden of state taxes is lower in Ohio than most other states, including all of Ohio’s neighbors.

That’s the conclusion of an analysis of census data by the Federation of Tax Administrators, the association of the nation’s state tax departments. According to the FTA analysis of data released last week, Ohio’s state tax burden during fiscal year 2009 was:

• 35th highest on a per capita basis. In other words, only 15 other states collected less in taxes per person than Ohio did last year.
• 33rd highest when measured as a percentage of Ohioans’ personal income. By this measure, only 17 other states collected a lower percentage of taxes than Ohio.

"These new figures bear out what we’ve been saying: Ohio is not a high tax state, certainly not where state taxes are concerned,” Ohio Tax Commissioner Richard A. Levin said. “That’s what these new census figures show."

In 2005, the state tax burden in Ohio was closer to the middle of the pack: 27th highest per capita and 28th highest when measured as a percentage of personal income, according to the FTA.

Ohio’s improved national ranking seems to reflect the impact of a package of tax reductions and reforms enacted in 2005 and gradually phased in during the past five years, Levin said.

The tax cuts include a 17 percent reduction in income tax rates and the elimination of two major business taxes on corporation profits and business property. The overall net savings to taxpayers: About $2.1 billion this fiscal year alone.
"By phasing out complex and antiquated business taxes, state leaders have eliminated barriers to investment and given businesses a new reason to consider creating jobs in Ohio," Levin said. "And these changes have certainly lowered the tax burden. This package of tax reductions was the largest in Ohio in at least 70 years."

-- John Arthur Hutchison

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Area's three county parks systems (Same thing only different)

Even though Lake Metroparks, the Geauga Park District and Cleveland Metroparks share a lot in common there are differences.

Among them for me is how they go about conducting their respective monthly board meetings and the issuance of pending agendas.

Lake Metroparks tries to keep them short and sweet, though the agency tends to hold two meetings a month - one a regular and the other a "special." Lake Metroparks also has park board members publicly vote on such things as individual park alcohol requests and rentals of the system's two cabins.

This agency also waits until the day of the park board meeting before sending over the meeting agenda - and this by fax. The other two agencies send via e-mail the up-coming agendas and always a few days before the meeting.

The Geauga Park District tends to to see its meetings last hours, not minutes. That is because its three park board members have set up a system whereby just about all details are ironed out during the administration's presentation.

For its part the Cleveland Metroparks also has a host of matters that it monthly presents. Among them is the recognition of all retiring employees and the introduction of an agency guest. Which is cool.

In the end, however, business gets done regardless of the individual parks system's meeting and agenda quirks.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Tempest in a tea pot?

Sarah Palin, the former candidate for vice president, is using the “Tea Party Express” for a cross-country trip to Washington, D.C., for an April 15, yes, Tax Day stop.

If it’s not already been announced, fans are counting on her to stop at 1:30 p.m. April 11 at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds in Berea.

The word is that some microphone time also will be given to state Sen. Tim Grendell, R-Chester Township.

--David W. Jones

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Was health care vote motivated by politics?

Associated Press White House reporter Philip Elliott posted on his Twitter page the other day that he was getting ready for midterm elections -- and he's not the only one.

U.S. Rep. Zack Space, D-Dover, was the only Ohio Democrat in the House to vote against the health care overhaul when it passed Sunday night. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law Tuesday. (View the full roll call vote here.)

From The Associated Press:
COLUMBUS — Two unions representing tens of thousands of Ohio workers said Monday they would no longer support the state's only Democratic congressman to oppose President Barack Obama’s health care bill.
U.S. Rep. Zack Space betrayed union members who campaigned for him in 2006 and 2008, said the Service Employees International Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers union.
"A no vote on health care is an anti-worker vote," said Allison Petonic, spokeswoman for Columbus-based UFCW Local 1059, which has 18,000 members working in food retailing and processing in Ohio. That includes 1,500 people living in Space’s district, she said.
Space was among 34 Democrats who voted against the landmark legislation Sunday. It passed 219-212 with no Republican support.
Space said over the weekend that he had serious reservations about the measure and that he feared it might financially burden the working class by "opening the door to taxing employee benefits as income."
The Democrat, who represents a conservative, Appalachian district, said a version of the bill he supported last year taxed wealthy Americans, not the middle class, to help pay some health care costs for the working poor.
The unions were unconvinced.
"Working class, middle income people who live in the congressman's district really need help to obtain their health care. While this bill isn't perfect, it's step in the right direction," said Anthony Caldwell, spokesman for SEIU District 1199, which represents about 25,000 hospital, nursing home, state and other workers in Ohio.
Space was elected in 2006 with 62 percent of the vote after six-term Republican Bob Ney pleaded guilty to federal charges in connection with the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.
In 2008, 60 percent of the district got behind Space, despite all but one county choosing Republican John McCain over Obama.

The year 2006 was a good one for Democrats across Ohio, when the GOP lost the governorship and the conservative 18th District seat. But 2010 will be a tougher year for Space (and Gov. Ted Strickland, who was first elected in 2006 and could easily lose re-election in November). Democrats across the country will have a harder time getting elected, with many residents angry at Obama and frustrated with Congress. The tea party movement is gaining a lot of steam and may very well unseat current representatives and senators.

So why did Space go against his party and vote for the health care bill?

On one hand, he is a Democrat, and Democrats tried to band together as a party to pass the bill. He may lose support from his party, or maybe even get less funding in the race to hold onto his seat -- likely to be as hot of a contest as when he was first elected to the House. Additionally, he will not have the support of the Service Employees International Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers union, whose members may have supported Space financially this year.

On the other hand, Space represents a conservative district in a bellwether state that could very well elect a Republican to replace Strickland, and that could keep a Republican in the Senate when U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, retires at the end of this session.

So was it politics that made Space do it? Did he vote against the bill because he wants to get re-elected? Or, did he vote against the bill because he is representing his constituents?

Maybe Space did what people would like to see more often out of their representatives. Maybe he made the decision based on what he thinks would be best for the people who elected him to serve in Congress, to put their priorities front and center instead of party politics.

--Cheryl Sadler

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