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Voters? Who cares what they think?

Tom Jackson • Mar 23, 2010 at 6:27 PM

Say what you like about the Erie County Commissioners, but there’s one point in their favor. They’ve been careful to let voters choose whether to raise taxes.

By law, they could raise taxes themselves, but they’ve put such decisions on the ballot, including the proposed new property tax for the Erie County Care Facility, and the proposed sales tax hike for the county jail expansion. Voters shot down both ideas.

That’s not how they do things in Lorain and Cuyahoga counties.

Fourteen months after Lorain County voters axed a quarter-cent sales tax — by a ratio of about 4 to 1 — the commissioners have hiked the sales tax by a half-cent.

Meanwhile, over in Cuyahoga County, the county commissioners imposed a quarter-cent sales tax in summer 2007 to pay for a new convention center and “medical mart” for selling medical devices. Naturally, there was no reason to ask voters if the new tax was a good idea. A petition drive to force a vote failed after it didn’t gather enough signatures.

Commissioners have taken their time deciding how to spend the money. But last week, commissioner Tim Hagan, the husband of “Star Trek Voyager” actress Kate Mulgrew, moved at warp speed, behind closed doors, to pick the site for the medical mart.

“The decision, if it holds, would mean the county has decided to spend nearly a half-billion public dollars without holding a meeting in public to discuss the basis for its decision,” the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s article noted.

The article also said businessmen offering two competing locations weren’t allowed to make a pitch to the commissioners.

When the reporters asked about all this, Mr. Star Trek replied, “It never ceases to amaze me what lengths people will go to in my hometown to find the deepest, darkest, most diabolical explanations.”

Hey, at least the reporters weren’t kicked out for posing the questions.

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