This election year we are faced with a stark and, frankly, obvious choice for the next president of the united states. But, you know all about that after two years of non-stop campaigning. What else is on the ballot?
Aside from the down-ticket contests, there are eight ballot issues to decide.
The first appears to be a straightforward measure to amend the process by which ballot issues not originating in the legislature are vetted and the timeline in which they may be proposed. Read arguments for (pdf) and against (pdf) the Ohio Initiatives Deadline Act.
The second would renew the Clean Ohio program. This is a vital environmental and jobs program. According to the Vindicator, the program "has funneled more than $9 million to Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties." In its existence, "173 polluted, abandoned industrial sites in Ohio have been cleaned up and redeveloped, 20,000 acres of family farms have been protected, 26,000 acres of wildlife habitat have been preserved and 216 miles of new trails developed."
It also facilitated the cleanup of the site on which the Taft Technology Center now stands, allowing the YBI to expand and foster new revenue production and job growth. "Democratic and Republican officeholders in Columbus and around the state are urging continuation of this program." Read arguments for (pdf) and against (pdf) the Clean Ohio measure.
I'm always leery of amendments that purport to extend additional rights that it would seem citizens already have. Amending the constitution is a serious issue and should not be undertaken lightly. According to Ballotpedia.org, the Ohio Water Compact Constitutional Amendment was pushed by Republican State Senator Tim Grendell (Cleveland) in response to the recently passed Great Lakes Water Compact.
It has been endorsed by Democratic Governor Ted Strickland, but opponents include the League of Women's Voters of Ohio, who state that "The amendment is unnecessary because current Ohio case law already recognizes property owners' interests in the reasonable use of surface and groundwater." Mike Eckhardt, Deputy Director of the Ohio League of Conservation Voters told me, "We believe it's entirely unnecessary and would provide no more rights to anyone that they don't have already today." Arguments for (pdf) and against (pdf).
Next up is an important referendum to regulate payday lending. This industry is out of control and needs to be reined in, for the good of the poor. Those who are in need of this kind of lending are currently subject to rates "equivalent to 391 percent in annual interest," according to the Vindicator, which vigorously recommends the issue's passage. For (pdf) and against (pdf).
The casino amendment is next. Aside from the stupid commercials on both sides of the issue, this is just a bad deal all around. The casino may have arguable benefit to the reservation where it would be sited, but casinos as a whole are detrimental to society in their lure to easy wealth. Especially in a troubled state like Ohio, providing encouragement for people to throw their money away seems like a cruel joke. The Vindicator further points out that the enormous money behind gambling frequently creates "an atmosphere in which public corruption can too easily take root." We know a little about public corruption around here, and we should be especially wary of supporting its catalysts. For (pdf) and against (pdf).
The final three issues are critical to the health of our valley and must be approved:
The Vindicator makes a compelling argument for passage of the Youngstown Schools levy: "As the school system goes, so goes the city of Youngstown." Those in surrounding suburbs should care about the fate of Youngstown, as it surely impacts all neighboring communities. It points out, "Last year alone, $5 million was slashed when the board of education eliminated 176 positions — 33 administrative and 143 teacher and other posts. Fringe benefit costs have been reduced by $1 million." These are part of the cost-cutting measures put in place that have been sought by taxpayers.
It's time to ensure that the district can continue to provide education and continue to be responsible in its deployment of funds. Finally, "The ability of City Hall to attract new companies, especially those that depend on an educated workforce, is inextricably tied to the reputation of the city schools." Graduation rates have risen from 51% in 2004 to over 70% in 2008. We need to keep the momentum going. Vote Yes!
The levy for Mental Health is merely a renewal. We're already supporting this service and should continue doing so by voting Yes for renewing it.
The WRTA levy is critical to city and suburban residents alike. There are residents who do not (and can not afford to) own cars and need public transportation to be productive members of society. The Vindicator points out that "there are companies in the suburbs that depend on Youngstown residents to fill low-wage jobs." The Mahoning Valley needs and deserves affordable public transportation. The buses travel throughout the region and are available to all parties. No one likes to pay taxes, but their purpose is to provide for the essential needs of society, and WRTA is part of that essential network of services. Vote Yes for the Valley.