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News: City Schools, County Services Head for Win

Levy campaigns were hard fought

By Saleha N. Ghani · November 3rd, 2004 · News

The morning after Election Day left tax-levy advocates with confidence and opponents with a shadow of doubt. At 2 a.m., final results for the Drake Center, Cincinnati Public School (CPS) and Mental Retardation/Developmentally Disabled (MRDD) tax levies were still being finalized.

Issue 32, the CPS levy, and Issue 43, the Drake Center levy, faced determined opponents who said the taxes would support mismanagement. But by early morning after the voices of opponents were buried in the cheers and celebration of an early victory call by levy supporters.

An early dance
Issue 32 supporters gave voters the message that voting yes wouldn't raise taxes. But two CPS board members opposed the renewal, citing problems within the school district, including budget overruns and unnecessary bureaucracy.

By midnight, CPS board member Melanie Bates, who opposed the tax renewal, understood that the levy was heading "towards passage." The credit, she said, goes to Superintendent Alton Frailey.

"Despite our problems, the voters have given the issue support," Bates said. "It's due to the leadership that he has shown the community that led voters to support the levy."

Before midnight State Rep. Tom Brinkman (R-Mount Lookout), founder of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, continued to harbor hopes it would fail.

"The results are a long way away from being called," he said.

"There is still a pretty good chance it will not pass."

Frailey said he was optimistic about the results.

"If (the results) continue as they are, we will win, celebrate and then get back to work," he said.

Ten minutes later, school board President Florence Newell announced that 55 percent of the votes counted were for tax renewal.

"It's time to dance," she said, then took the floor to her own rhythm. Newell thanked the volunteers and supporters who "kept in mind the children and the importance of providing them with the resources they need."

To campaigners, volunteers and the supporting CPS board members, the decision had been made by 1 a.m.

"I am comfortable because the margin is so great we should have a majority of the votes," Newell said.

"The campaign has been so dynamic, so grassroots and so under-funded," said Sue Taylor, president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers.

Bates and board member Rick Williams, who joined her in opposing the levy, have a personal axe to grind, according to Taylor.

"I am very ashamed of board members and Cincinnati Business Committee (CBC) who would not support the students," she said. "It points to a degree of racism on the part of the CBC. This levy does not affect their kids in Sycamore and Indian Hill."

'Nasty campaign' against Drake Center
The Drake Center levy was also strongly opposed, but late in the evening Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune said results had a positive tilt.

"It's not final, but it's looking good so far," he said. "The opposition led a nasty campaign that bore little resemblance to the truth and failed to see the people's connection with the Drake Center."

Brinkman, who also opposed the Drake Center levy, sized it up differently.

"The other side used fear tactics to garner votes," he said. "That's typical."

The renewal of the levy will bring a lot of reform, Portune said.

"We will be able to preserve a quality institution that does miracles everyday," he said. "Believe me, I know."

Portune was a patient at Drake Center after undergoing surgery to remove tumors on his spinal chord.

Critics of the levy renewal said taxpayers' money is going to non-residents because only 74 percent of the patients are from Hamilton County.

By 2 a.m., Jenny Dexter, director of community relations for Mental Retardation Services, was "fairly confident" that the unopposed MRDD levy renewal was on its way to victory.

"But even with the passage of the levy, we are required to make cuts," she said. "We are very grateful that taxpayers supported us." ©



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