Cuyahoga County voters rejected Issue 108, a replacement and increase tax levy for the benefit of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, on Nov. 6. The margin was a significant 57 percent (285,301) against the tax levy and 43 percent (218,215) in favor of the levy.
The current levy runs through 2013. Issue 108 would have raised $90 million and cost a homeowner $20 per year for every $100,000 of home valuation.
The issue would have replaced the expiring levy with a 0.67 mills levy for capital projects. The money was not to be used for day-to-day operations. Ninety-six percent of the dollars would have been spent on initiatives that are new for the Port and considered critical infrastructure investments.
That is all for naught as Issue 108 was turned down by Cuyahoga County voters in an emphatic way.
“We put forth an ambitious plan and now the people have spoken,” said Bob Smith, chair of the Port’s Board of Directors. “I want to thank the people who supported the levy. It is time to reassess our projects and evaluate whether or not to return to the ballot next year. Our commitment today is the same as it was yesterday — to solve complex infrastructure problems, and create civic assets that will invigorate our waterfronts today and leave a legacy for tomorrow.”
The $90 million the levy would have raised included $43 million for ship channel restoration and slope stabilization, $12.5 million for sustainable sediment management, $6 million for Flats mobility and river cleanup actions, $25 million for the lakefront multimodal project and $3.5 million for maritime business capital expenditures.
There were a number of future improvements in and along the Cuyahoga River Ship Channel that the Port Authority would have undertaken, not the least of which was waterfront development.
Making land along the Cuyahoga River publicly accessible by stabilizing Franklin Hill to protect the ship channel, helping fund a pedestrian bridge over railroad tracks to Wendy Park and using levy dollars to create an all-weather pedestrian bridge from the Convention Center/Mall C to the lakefront as a multi-level parking deck were all on the drawing board should the levy have passed.
Voters may have cast a ballot on Issue 108 with their pocketbooks, but there were two other county issues that were basically housekeeping matters of Cuyahoga County Government. Each did not require a tax and each passed with flying colors.
This issue passed by a 66 to 34 percent margin. The vote totals were 287,570 in favor and 146,911 against.
Issue 117 establishes a two-year county budgeting process, enabling more long range planning and cost savings through longer contracts. The County Council had passed legislation for a two-year budget with a second year update, but the charter language makes this a more stable and permanent budgeting process.
The current charter as it is written allows for an annual budget. A budget review in off years will now take place with the actual budget being passed every two years.
Thanks to voters support of this issue county departments have a leg up in long range planning, according to Joe Nanni, chief of staff for Cuyahoga County Council.
Like Issue 117, Issue 118 passed by an overwhelming margin. Voters approved this measure by a 68 to 32 percent margin. Vote totals were 295,773 in favor and 137,106 against the issue.
Issue 118 ensures that the director of internal audit’s term of office does not end at the same time as the county executive’s term of office. It also staggers the terms of the two appointed public members of the County Audit Committee. This amendment provides for more independence and smoother transitions in the county internal audit process.
The county executive appoints the internal auditor. The auditing process is a continual one. If and when a new county executive succeeds the current county executive, Ed FitzGerald, when his term is concluded county council did not want the internal auditor to get caught up in the appointment process. It was felt that the internal auditor’s term of office should be in the middle of the county executive’s term, according to Nanni.