George W. Davis

GREEN: Whether City Council should urge residents to vote on the proposed 0.25 percent Summit County sales tax increase took center stage at a committee meeting Tuesday, causing major disagreement among members.

After lengthy discussion that had Councilman-at-large Chris Humphrey saying the proposal is “full of holes,” the council voted 4-3 to support the increase.

The proposal, which is expected to generate over $220 million during its 10-year life, has been marketed as a safety enhancement designed to improve what several called “deplorable conditions” at the county jail as well as meet the federal mandate for a new countywide 800-megahertz radio system, upgrade the county’s 9-1-1 dispatch system and make other capital improvements in Summit County.

Council members Joel Reed, James Ahlstrom, Ken Knodel and John “Skip” Summerville voted for the resolution, while Humphrey, Council President Gerard Neugebauer and Bob Young voted no. All gave their reasons for their positions.

“I believe that sponsoring this kind of legislation by this council is a mistake,” said Humphrey, chairman of the Finance Committee. “I think it will prove to be a mistake long term for us to become involved in issues like this and making recommendations to our citizens as to whether or not they should support a tax or oppose a tax.

“We are here to do our [constitutes’] business and not the county’s business. I trust our citizens to be able to think for themselves and make decisions for themselves, and I think that they will do that.”

Humphrey said he opposes Issue 12 but favors the sheriff’s department and safety forces having what they need.

“It is a shame on our county government that our jail is in the condition that it is in right now. They will tell you that they have cut and cut and cut and they have made changes. But if we are not properly staffing our jail, we are making choices as a county government to fund things other than basic safety, which I believe is one of the primary functions of government in this country.

“It is a shame on our county government for them to present this issue and to make it about safety — so if you oppose Issue 12 ... then apparently you must oppose safety. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.”

Knodel said he is “not an advocate for additional taxes, but I believe this particular tax is a small tax and it is going to be used for safety issues within the county as well as capital improvements for our safety facilities. I would urge everyone to look at this issue and think of whether it is a good investment.”

Reed said the county makes a compelling argument for passage and noted that Green would be on the hook for $678,759 for the new radio system if the issue is defeated.

George W. Davis can be reached at mediaman@sssnet.com.