People often say the strangest things when they think they're talking to a small audience of like-minded people -- including truths they wouldn't dare utter elsewhere. The latest example involves former Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich discussing whether the county really needs a new jail on his radio talk show.
Heimlich, you'll remember, made a proposed sales tax increase to build a new jail the centerpiece of his unsuccessful reelection campaign in 2006. At the time, Heimlich alleged a new lockup was absolutely essential and trotted out Sheriff Simon Leis, billionaire businessman Carl Lindner Jr. and others to stump for the plan.
Voters rejected both Phil and the tax at the polls.
Heimlich now hosts Hard Truths, a radio talk show with a conservative Christian slant. The show is carried in five cities, including Columbus and Cleveland, but only can be heard locally on the Internet.
Heimlich's guest earlier this month was Chris Finney, a fellow Republican who's his political mentor and a leader of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes.
During the interview, Finney talks about the effort he led to kill a subsequent jail tax in 2007 that was proposed by Commissioner Todd Portune, a Democrat.
Finney said, "It's proved as bad policy because since that jail tax failed, we haven't had a single early release ... so we have more than enough jail space in Hamilton County."
Heimlich didn't challenge Finney's claim. Instead, he mentioned the diverse coalition Finney helped assemble to defeat the 2007 tax. "Chris, that was one of the great stories, I think, in local politics," Phil said.
Apparently Heimlich has had an epiphany since leaving office. In 2006, Heimlich often sounded the alarm for a new jail -- in one instance he called it "desperately needed."
To be sure, there were differences between the 2006 and 2007 tax plans.
Under Portune's 2007 jail plan, Hamilton County's sales tax would've increased a half-cent for eight years, then it would've been scaled back to a quarter-cent increase for seven years. After 15 years the sales tax increase would've expired. It would have generated $736 million during that period.
About $529 million would've been used to build a new jail and fund its operations for 30 years, with $81.4 million used for communications and emergency dispatch services and $117.5 million for various treatment and inmate re-entry programs.
By comparison, Heimlich's 2006 jail proposal would've raised the sales tax by a quarter-cent for 10 years, with a property tax rollback in place for the first three years.
It would've raised $325 million over a decade, with $291 million used to build and finance the jail and the remainder to reduce property taxes.
Finney and his crew didn't like that so much money was allocated to unspecified programs. But much of the money generated by Heimlich's plan would've been used to pay for the property tax rollback that mostly would benefit wealthy landowners while hitting the poor the hardest.
An announcer at the start of Heimlich's radio show each week states, "In a world of spin, he's all about the truth."
Too bad Heimlich wasn't as devoted to the truth in 2006 -- he might have been reelected.
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