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Maple Heights November 4, 2014 Ballot Issues

Maple Heights electors face a ballot that is 5 pages long. It has 14 contested races, 3 proposed tax increases and 6 Charter Amendments.

NEO Media Group and League of Woman Voters of Greater Cleveland have created a voter guide to help voters create a “cheat sheet” or look up specific contests/issues. They  have compiled a “resume” for each candidate and  asked them a few questions pertaining to the office they are running for. For the county-wide issues they have a layman’s explanation of what the  ballot wording means and the “pros” and “cons”. The Maple Heights issues were not commented on, so we have taken time to do so.

Below, is a brief description of each of the issues. Following the descriptions, we will touch on some considerations and the facts behind them.

Issue 56: Proposed Tax Levy (additional 1.3 mills) for Maple Heights Senior Center current expenses and operations

An additional tax for the benefit of the City of Maple Heights for the purpose of current expenses and general operations of the Maple Heights Senior Center at a rate not exceeding 1.3 mills for each one dollar of valuation, which amounts to 13 cents for each one hundred dollars of valuation, for five years, commencing in 2015, first due in calendar year 2016.

Maple Heights Senior Center Levy Cost to Residents Annually

This fact sheet handed out at the tax levy forum shows the number of persons served by the Senior Center’s meal programs and transportation.

Issue 57: Proposed Tax Levy (additional 4.7 mills) for current expenses for the City of Maple Heights

An additional tax for the benefit of the City of Maple Heights for the purpose of current expenses at a rate not exceeding 4.7 mills for each one dollar of valuation, which amounts to 47 cents for each one hundred dollars of valuation, for five years, commencing in 2015, first due in calendar year 2016.

2014 Maple Heights Tax Levy Cost to Residents Annually

Are the proponents of Issues 56 & 57’s claims valid?

There have been “hints” that if these levies don’t pass the Senior Center and food pantry could close. They have also hinted that if they do pass the city could hire more police and fire fighters. Nonetheless, according to the Financial Recovery Plan, things should continue to operate at the current level even if the levies do not pass. Furthermore, the city will not start to receive money from these two levies until 2016 (as stated in the ballot language).

Here is an interesting consideration for Issue 56: the food pantry and the recreation department share a Director with the Senior Center, but does that qualify them to receive “Senior Center” funds? Who will decide what qualifies for this money? There has been no clear language of how this money will be restricted to the purposes of the “Senior Center”.

Concerning the claim that Issue 57 will permit the City to hire more firefighters: the firefighters just agreed to lower the minimum staffing level from 8 to 6 for the next 3 years. City Council approved the new 3 year contract, which was an addendum to the agenda, on first reading at the October 15, 2014 City Council meetingWhy would the City so readily, and strongly, approve these staffing reductions (that supposedly would save $1 million) if they intended to hire more firefighters if Issue 57 were to pass?

More information about Issues 56 & 57 can be found in this article: City Council asks for more money: What’s the Story this time?

Following the Money

Who is funding the Citizen’s Committee of Maple Heights that is advocating the tax increases? According to the pre-general campaign committee report, 6 City Council members are funding 2/3 of the campaign (as of October 15). The remaining third was split almost equally between 3 city employees (who don’t live in the city) and 5 residents.

Issue 58: Proposed Charter Amendment to eliminate the elected position of Council President.

Shall Article III, Section 1, and Article VII, Section 5 of the Charter of the City of Maple Heights be amended to eliminate the publically elected position of President of Council and vest authority to the Members of Council to elect their own President of Council, having the same duties and privileges as a Member of Council, from within their own membership, effective for the council term commencing on the first of January in the year 2016?

The charter amendment would eliminate the elected position of Council president and council would elect their own President from within. According the Charter the current Council Presidents duties are as follows:

The President of Council shall preside at all regular and special meetings of Council, but shall have no vote therefore, except in case of a tie and shall perform such duties as presiding officer as may be imposed upon him or her by the Council.

Estimated yearly savings of $18,000. Many neighboring suburbs councils elect their own president from within.

Issue 99: Proposed Charter Amendment (by petition) to eliminate traffic cameras (unless an Officer is present to issue the ticket).

Shall the Charter of the City of Maple Heights be amended to add new Article XXII, which provides that the City shall not use any traffic law photo-monitoring device for the enforcement of a qualified traffic law violation, unless a law enforcement officer is present at the location of the device and personally issues the ticket to the alleged violator at the time and location of the violation; and that the City shall not enter into, renew, amend, modify, or make any payment under a contract with a vendor for traffic law photo-monitoring devices or services if the contract involves payment to the vendor that is contingent upon the number of tickets issued or the amount of fines levied or; and that qualified traffic violations shall be tried only before a judge in either municipal or common pleas court, and the accused will be afforded all rights then generally afforded to defendants in criminal cases under the constitutions and laws of the United States and the State of Ohio?

The answer below was taken from the NEO Voters Guide Issue 35 (traffic camera amendment for Cleveland).

League of Women Voters explanation:  This City Charter amendment would prohibit traffic cameras and the fining of those caught speeding by them, unless a traffic police officer is present to pull over and ticket the offending driver on the spot. A yes vote means you want to get rid of traffic cameras. A not vote means that you do not want to get rid of traffic cameras.

Yes – For the Measure PRO: City residents also use these roads, and all drivers are inconvenienced by speed traps which indiscriminately penalize everyone who inadvertently may stray over the speed limit in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Cameras are about raising money, not safety. Officers in patrol cars are a more effective deterrent to speeding.

No – Against the Measure CON: These traffic cameras on major commuter arteries enhance safety by helping reduce speeding while at the same time provide a source of….  [revenue] to the City of [Maple Heights], paid for the most part by… commuters. These drivers use city roads, plowing, patching, etc. but do not contribute otherwise to their upkeep. Cameras also save the City the cost of expensive patrol cars along the same routes.

That traffic camera debate is an interesting one. On one side there are the supporters of the Charter Amendment to ban the cameras who are worried about the negative stigma of the cameras and/or they believe that the cameras violate their constitutional rights. The proponents of the cameras battle cry is safety and/or Police Department efficiency. And so, each side is trying to convince the other side of their view… when in fact the other side may very well recognize that the cameras do make the city “safer” because people are driving slower or the police department more efficient, but they are not willing to give up their rights for safety.

Meanwhile, some residents are offended by the fact that Council didn’t listen to 700+ petition signatures to place the amendment on the ballot. They resent the fact that now the city will have to pay the petitioners legal fees ($16,000) and potentially legal fees for the lawyers that helped the Law Director fight the residents. Ironically, the camera on 141st street was put in at the request of a few residents (not 700) with (un-voted) support from several members of Council. 

Another interesting consideration is where the money is coming from for this debate. The supporters of Issue 99 are mostly residents. The campaign against Issue 99 is backed with big money from outside the City. More information is available about the money behind the cameras in the article Maple Heights Issue 99: Supporters, Opponents and Big Money.

updated: November 1, 2014

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  1. Maple Heights Issue 99: Supporters, Opponents and Big Money | Maple Heights News - November 3, 2014

    […] Information on the other Maple Heights issues on the November 4th ballot can be found here. […]

  2. Maple Heights Issue 99: Supporters, Opponents and Big Money | Bill Brownlee - November 6, 2014

    […] Information on the other Maple Heights issues on the November 4th ballot can be found here. […]

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