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Organizers to defeat part of proposed tax grateful for public support

8/14/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Letter to the Editor

To the editor:

The founders of DefeatarenaTax.com, a registered PAC, are elated the county executive, the City of Akron mayor and County Council have decided to withdraw the arena portion of the increased county sales tax initiative. To their credit, their move to offer just the safety component portion to the electorate is an admission of a potentially embarrassing defeat: a defeat that would have compromised needed improvements to the county safety forces, infrastructure and communications capabilities.

The safety legislation is without doubt worthy of consideration by the voters. The question now to all citizens is how did this happen, why did it happen and how does this affect the credibility of this Council?

We are not county political historians, but we can’t remember the last time that an issue was voted on for ballot placement and then withdrawn prior to the General Election. One cannot help wondering how our executive and Council got to this position. What happened to due diligence in the form of polls to the electorate to assess feasibility? Why did Council members acquiesce entirely by party lines? Did all the Council members who voted to place it on the ballot firmly believe in the measure? What was the back story involving The University [of Akron], the mayor and their involvement? How much clout did local business leaders have in the initial decision and where was their counsel for market research as to feasibility? We do not expect to get these answers, since it would require digging into the abyss of county/city politics. The end result is good.

We, as a committee, expect the county will provide full disclosure on the expenses related to the safety component of this issue prior to the election. If they do, our promise to [Summit County Executive] Mr. [Russell] Pry to support the initiative will be maintained.

A note to the electorate — this action occurred as a result of a private citizen’s initiative (in collaboration with a Summit County Council member) in the 1990s to place a charter amendment on the ballot requiring that all tax increases in Summit County must be approved by the voters. The amendment passed. If we, as voters, had not had the foresight to approve this, the County Council could have voted alone to construct a new arena downtown using tax money from all of us. We need to continue keeping the Council focused on what we, as citizens, need and are willing to pay for. If we are not satisfied that our elected officials are performing to our expectations, there is an option to handle this at the voting booth. The system can work. In this case, it did. Our thanks go out to all of the people who listened, heard and responded. Concerned citizens can make a difference.

Ken Burkins and David Culp, Deafeatareantax.com, West Akron

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