Because the presidential race is nearly a dead heat in Ohio, and because winning Ohio will be essential to carrying the entire election, we can expect a steady stream of presidential and vice presidential candidates flowing through our area during the next 11 weeks.
Pretty exciting, eh?
Well, maybe. But not if you’re paying the bills.
Copley Township is still out $10,549 for a campaign stop Joe Biden made way back in November 2008.
With a little more than one day’s notice, the Obama-Biden campaign decided Copley High School would be the ideal place to hold a rally on the night before the election.
So Biden swooped in and told a capacity crowd of 1,500 why everyone should vote for his ticket. And when the confetti cleared, Copley had spent $12,375 it wouldn’t have spent had Biden gone elsewhere.
Copley’s fiscal officer, Janice Marshall, rightly believed that the Obama-Biden camp should pay for the extra expenses. So she sent a bill to the Obama for America campaign.
The township would have been stiffed completely, but a full 18 months later, U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, who spoke at the rally and lives in Copley, stepped up and donated $1,826 from her political action committee, JJJ PAC.
That covered meals for the Secret Service and Copley’s service department. But not one penny of overtime pay for the police and fire departments was ever recovered.
“For a local government, [a campaign rally] is not in your budget,” says Copley’s Marshall. “You have these extra expenses, and it’s not a matter of being asked if you want to or if you’re able to. It’s just, ‘You’re going to do it.’ That’s the frustrating part.”
Copley also had to help out when President Barack Obama spent the night in neighboring Fairlawn on July 5. That cost the township’s 17,304 residents another $4,338.
Most of the tab was for police overtime. But it also included $60 to Northern Ohio Towing to have a tow truck standing by in case any vehicles were in the way, plus another $240 for the use of 48 township vehicles.
Marshall has sent bills to both Obama for America and the Democratic National Committee. She’s far from optimistic, but figures it’s worth a shot.
Meanwhile, Fairlawn has just finished assessing the damage from Obama’s overnight stay in Room 464 at Hilton Akron/Fairlawn.
• Police, fire and service department overtime: $28,855.
• Fencing, rebar and other materials purchase by the service department at the insistence of the Secret Service: $5,291.
Fairlawn’s assistant finance director, Patricia Bertsch, is sending the Obama campaign a bill. But she’s certainly not holding her breath, either.
Could a municipality say no to the president of the United States? Well, yes.
The town of Durham, N.H., population 14,600, said it simply didn’t have the money to support a campaign visit from Obama.
The stalemate was broken when a local resident wrote a check for $20,000.
By contrast, the city of Akron has no problem opening its wallet for a president and will not seek reimbursement for the costs it incurred when Obama spoke at the John S. Knight Center on Aug. 2.
“It is the president of the United States,” says Stephanie York, spokeswoman for Mayor Don Plusquellic.
“We want him to visit our city, no matter what affiliation he is, and it is a privilege to have him here. And it brings people to the city.”
Well, Akron paid $14.20 per second for that privilege.
Obama appeared in public for a grand total of 25 minutes. Here’s what Akron donated to his cause:
• Police: $14,764.
• Highway salaries and equipment: $4,973.
• Fire: $1,567.
Add it up, and Akron residents were left with a bill for $21,304.
Having a sitting president visit your town is always a thrill, regardless of which party you favor. Only 44 people have held that job in our entire history.
But it’s not a cheap thrill, especially for a small town.
And it seems to me there’s a big difference between a presidential visit and a campaign stop.
If you agree, vote for me. I’m free.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or email@example.com.