Dennis Murray on the choices Sandusky faces

Tom Jackson
Jul 16, 2014

 

[Blogger's note: This is the short speech that ex officio mayor Dennis Murray Jr. gave at Monday's city commission meeting. I thought some of you might be interested in his presentation on Sandusky's fiscal woes. The "Mr. Wobser" he refers to is Eric Wobser, who attended his first meeting Monday as Sandusky's new city manager. After Murray's speech, the commission voted unanimously in favor of the motion he proposed. After he spoke, I asked Murray for a copy so I could post it on our website.  — Tom]

Sandusky finds itself at a crossroad. For forty years, we have watched our city decline. Our decline has many causes – urban sprawl, the national loss of manufacturing jobs, population loss, to name a just a few. But today we face the results of something new – namely neglect from our state legislature which has cut our funding without regard to our obligations to our citizens. Although Columbus has eliminated the estate tax and cut the local government fund in half, we must still protect our citizens and business. We must still care for streets and neighborhoods and parks and trees, but with increasingly inadequate resources. 

How does this end? This year’s budget will burn through a part of the reserves that we need to properly and responsibly run the city. Next year’s budget will be worse. Columbus is about to enact so-called reforms to municipal taxes that will take away yet more revenues. And 2016 looks even worse. 

We have cut far beyond the bone. We can no longer continuously operate three fire stations, and are currently browning out Number 7. What next? Do we close station 7? Do we brown out station 3 as well with its dramatically higher call volume? Do we cut the police force? Do we sell off the parks because we can no longer maintain them? How will we address the 800+ dead and dying trees in tree lawns?

Some mistakenly argue that Sandusky needs to trim down. But we have cut nearly a third of our workforce in the last 10 years. Spending is down 25% in constant dollars, even on a per person basis. 

On our current path, at some point in the future we will be unable to effectively patch potholes, let alone undertake the long-term task of rebuilding streets. Where does this end?

At some point, we will see our infrastructure crumble to the point that we are unable to repair it.

We have virtually eliminated code and zoning enforcement over many years in an attempt to maintain safety forces. We can plainly see what that neglect is doing to our city’s homes. They are crumbling before our eyes as a result of owner neglect, usually bad landlords who know that we don’t currently have the personnel necessary to attack this blight, usually absentee landlords who are only too happy to collect the rent and stick us with the blight when they eventually abandon the building. Where will this end?

I have been unable to completely address the revenue issue facing our city because I was representing Cedar Fair before I took office. No more. I have resigned that position because we as a commission must address this question before it is too late.

I had hoped that we might have a little more time, but a group of civic-minded citizens has been working to place an important issue on the ballot, to raise the admissions tax from 3% to 6%. But with all due respect, it is too much and places the entire burden of replacing lost revenue on our largest corporate citizen, at the risk of alienating them and even causing them to relocate their headquarters. They would not put it that way, but it is no secret either. Nor will Cedar Fair say this, but it is also reasonable to expect that they will actively oppose a 3% increase. There are no winners in that fight. And however it turns out, we will have soured the atmosphere necessary to attracted new investment in our community, without which we cannot grow our way out of the present situation.

I have learned from Mr. Wobser that Cedar Fair representatives approached him about a cooperative effort to raise city revenues. Cedar Fair understands our predicament, and wants to be a responsible partner. But it also wants a fair solution that spreads the burden to all beneficiaries of city services. I do not know what such a resolution looks like – one that replaces lost revenues and stabilizes the city’s finances so that we can invest in safety forces, firefighters in particular, in streets, in critical code enforcement, in parks and trees and in economic development – but I would like to see this commission authorize our city manager to continue those discussions with our support. And so I request a motion to do just this so that we can offer our citizens a solution in time for the August 6 deadline by which we must take action or risk one of two very bad outcomes – alienation of our largest corporation and largest city funder – or a proposed increase so large that it cannot pass, leaving our budget hole larger still with each passing year.

Comments

Babo

Dennis Murray Jr is a partner in Murray and Murray. So the question is has the firm dropped Cedar Fair as a client or is Dennis Jr. just no longer involved with that client? If it's the latter, he still has a financial stake in the discussion as his law firm is still benefitted.

Justme...

Of course he has a stake, or at the very least the inability to approach the issue in an unbiased way. How could he? I don't fault him for that (he's human after all), but I take his opinion with a grain of salt. In this same way, the Register will tread lightly on this because of THEIR relationship with the Murray law firm, who are big advertisers. We all have biases.

Babo

It's a matter of legal ethical rules that Murray is obliged to follow. If he can't separate out his private legal interests from doing what is in the best interests of the City he should resign.

Also, it's interesting that the new city manager who is also an attorney isn't speaking out on this issue and the dialogue appears controlled by big advertisers. (Cedar Fair and Murray and Murray) While in Cleveland, the City manager had to have known that Cleveland has an 8% admissions tax on recreational activities that are not subject to sales tax.

MrSandusky

Legal Ethics in Northern Ohio...don't be silly, why would they start now.

What does Admissions Tax have to do with the Corporate Headquarters would be my question for Mr. Murray.

wjs

He mentions that some want Sandusky to trim down. I will say this. It should be apparent to most that the problem here is revenue and not spending. How to increase the revenue is more than enough debate without adding in a discussion on some imaginary spending problem.

WhatTheHeck

Cedar Fair's new CEO is from California. He will at some time force his will on the company to move their headquarters to that state. Admission taxes will not be a factor. Cedar Point will remain in Sandusky with or without an increase in admission taxes.

MrsCowboy

Yes, let's not be accountable. Let's give everyone raises. Let's raise the income tax. Let's go almost ALL year and then realize we don't have enough money for our expenditures. What should we do? Let's up the taxes on our very generous corporate business. . What a joke

JT Adams St

Which generous corporate business?

SamAdams

Maybe the City should commission another study! After all, tens of thousands of dollars have been wasted on previous "necessary" studies -- the vast majority of which anybody with some familiarity and a little logic could have duplicated for a lot less -- so what's another few thousand, eh?

In simpler terms, don't tell me the City can't find anything anywhere to cut! There are things for which government is SUPPOSED to be responsible. The rest? That's gravy.

I don't oppose an admissions tax increase. I DO oppose an income tax increase. Neither of those positions are based solely on whether or not the City needs more money (to some extent, even without ANY waste, it does) or whether or not City leaders will be good stewards of those added dollars (I favor restrictions just to protect taxpayers). No, those positions are ALSO based on who gets hit and whether or not (and how much) such a hit will hurt! I urge the City to take that into consideration as well. They haven't always done so in the past, but now in the midst of doubt and apathy, it seems a good time to ensure that they do so this time around.

JT Adams St

Murray says that there are no winners in a fight over an admissions tax increase. I disagree. If a 3% increase in the admissions tax passes, the City will have at least $2 million in extra revenue per year. In return, they will give up Cedar Point's good will. What's that worth? When the City cut staffing to Station No. 7, did Cedar Point offer to stump up some money on a temporary basis to protect residents on the west side? No. Did Cedar Point express any concern about the safety and well being of west side residents? No. While Cedar Point might have shown the Murray law firm a lot of good will over the years, Sandusky taxpayers would clearly be the winners if an admissions tax increase generates $2 million in extra revenue. And, that is true regardless of Cedar Point throwing a hissy fit over an increase in taxes it does NOT pay.

JT Adams St

When is the mayor going to hold a town hall meeting on this issue? He held some meetings earlier this year, but refused to discuss the admissions tax. Now he's talking to Cedar Point to get its input on an admissions tax increase. What about speaking with residents? Does he care what they think?

DEATHnTAXES

Like

Nor'easter

$100,000,000.00 spent for Cedar Point corridor to expedite tourists through the city. Venice Heights - no repaving since inception in 1950's. Alpine Heights - no update since the 1950's. Buchanan St - No repair since built. Pirece St - No update since the before Providence Hospital Expanded in the 1960's. Camp St Underpass - No Repair since building in 1930's. Sewer and water expansions for Cedar Point demands paid by the residents since the 1960's to service Cedar Point tourists. Foreign workers not paying city income taxes. Cedar Point exempt from Sales Tax on tickets due to being under Department of Agriculture exemption. The last time the city looked at increasing taxes, Cedar Point offered to increase admissions tax from by 14% if the residents would increase the income tax on residents by 50%. Voted down big time.
The time to raise the admissions tax to 8% and rebuild city streets and remove dead trees is now. Do not be deceived by Cedar Point and their cronies. The time for the tourists taxes to replace the former Factory worker taxes is NOW. After the city residents putting off all demands for street repairs, waterline replacement, and sewer Separation since the 1960's in order to cater to Cedar Point, it time to reclaim the city and restore its grandeur. Even the Cedar Point Corridor needs rebuillding again. Drive down Butler St and then go to SAIL Inn and Sign the petitions to raise the Admissions tax.

margaritaville88

LIKE..LIKE..LIKE !!

Nor'easter

Stop by Sail Inn for breakfast and Sign Petition to Rebuild Sandusky!

Nor'easter

Please be aware that Cedar Point does not pay any taxes on their admissions. The user i.e. tourist pays the tax just likie you pay Sales tax on purchases. Difference is your pay 7.5 % sales tax and tourists currently pay 3%. Let's give them a break and only raise it to 6% to appease Cedar Point. BTW the resort on Cedar Point peninsula existed for years before G A Boechling was ever involved. It was owned by Benjamin Franklin Dwelle and run as a summer beach resort for many years.

sugar

40 year decline and Democrats have been running this city for all of them. Don't blame Gov Kasich. Protect Cedar Point all you want, but you're not doing it to protect a business Mr. Murray, you're doing it because you are a good crony capitalist. The hell with the little people.
Being the pay and benefits of " civil servants" in line with the private sector and that includes fire and police. Stop the waste fraud and abuse.
How about collecting the 200k that one convicted thief stole?
You don't pick up garbage, you don't pick up yard waste, you don't plow the side streets we are charged for every little fix done to our property. What do you do? Weed the parks? Feed the kids who's families already get SNAP? I'm done paying taxes for your agenda.
You planted the trees, figure out how to take them down.

Ralph J.

Money wasted.
Money spent on outsourced lawyers. Why pay for an incompetent city lawyer?
Wasted millions on The Community Housing Improvement Program.
Millions wasted on Yost.
Millions wasted to get rid of Nuesse.
Murman.
Studies on how to waste more money.
Do the math. Well over $10 million wasted, flushed down the toilet.
More to come. The Ard lawsuit. Who pays? Jack up the city income tax while others are laughing all the way to the bank.
Waste more money and beg for more money to flush down the toilet and make the rich richer.
Keep voting the bums into office.

Julie R.

LIKE.

WhatTheHeck

OMG! Just think what could of been done with that! Any ideas Mr. Wobser?

DEATHnTAXES

Is anyone checking to see if his law firm is still representin Cedar Fair and how much stock he owns?

Rather odd Murray waits until the petitions are being circulated to go on his soapbox. Does he realize the average resident has a hard time buying essentials let alone worry about paying more income tax?

Babo

The soapbox routine is a ruse. He's still acting as CF's mouthpiece despite his disclaimer and ought to back off and stop trying to micromanage the City manager.

Clearly, CF is concerned with the petition effort and losing control of city government to the people. Next the people should petition to change to a ward system and start asking serious questions about the law director position and the excessive legal budget.

Julie R.

LIKE.

DEATHnTAXES

Assuming some of the statement on the story are part of the admissions tax committee, here is a number for the Ohio Ethics Commission. OHIO ETHICS COMMISSION Phone: (614) 466-7090 Fax: (614) 466-8368 TTY/TDD: 1-800-750-0750 ...

Erie County Resident

CP will not leave Sandusky if the admissions tax is raised to 8% like it should be Murray as many other locations charge.
It's way past time for the tourist to pay their fair share of what they use while here.

DEATHnTAXES

Anybody remember this failure???????

RESOLUTION DECLARING THE NECESSITY OF AN ELECTION ON THE QUESTION OF APPROVING THE PASSAGE OF AN ORDINANCE TO AMEND SECTION 191.01 OF THE CODIFIED ORDINANCES OF THE CITY OF SANDUSKY, OHIO, IN ORDER TO PROVIDE FOR AN ADDITIONAL ONE-HALF PERCENT INCOME TAX, BY INCREASING THE INCOME TAX RATE FROM ONE PERCENT TO ONE AND ONE-HALF PERCENT BEGINNING JANUARY 1, 2010, TO PROVIDE FUNDS FOR THE PURPOSE OF GENERAL MUNICIPAL OPERATIONS, MAINTENANCE OF EQUIPMENT, PURCHASE OF NEW EQUIPMENT, EXTENSION, ENLARGEMENT AND IMPROVEMENT OF MUNICIPAL SERVICES AND FACILITIES, AND THE CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS OF THE CITY, AND DECLARING AN EMERGENCY.

The year was 2009 and CP agreed to add a measly 25% to the admissions tax. The issue failed and we ended up with a big fat zero in new revenue because CP new an income tax would not pass and it won't this time around either. Ya can't squeeze blood out of turnips making minimum wages.

Nor'easter

TOP PRIORITY:
SUPPER AT SAIL INN.
SIGN PETITION TO RAISE ADMISSIONS TAX
CALL FRIENDS AND ASK THEM TO DO THE SAME
REPEAT... REPEAT...REPEAT....
RESULT: STREETS REPAVED, DEAD TREES REMOVED, #7 FIRE STATION OPEN

WhatTheHeck

Like

Julie R.

Not to change the subject or anything when it comes to the city of Sandusky but in today's paper the Register gave a big thumbs up to Erie County Common Pleas Court judge Roger Binette for being a voice for the victims in his maximum sentencing of Joe Yost that requires Yost to serve 90 days in jail and perform community service.

Considering how the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor is 180 days, how is 90 days the maximum sentence? Also, I don't know of anybody around that wouldn't take that sweet deal. Steal $560 thousand dollars from tenants to pay their water bill and pocket it and don't even have to pay it back to the city of Sandusky --- instead get community service?

Hey SR, I don't think there's anybody around that didn't read that "Thumbs UP" in today's paper with disgust.

Julie R.

(sarcasm)

A big thumbs up to Common Pleas Court judge Roger Binette ~ not to mention Probate Court judge Beverly McGookey ~ for being such a good voice for the elderly, too.