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Election Full of Contradictions

November 12, 2011
By MIKE MYER , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Apparently East Ohio voters want to be certain that when they dial 911, the firefighters or police officers they need will be sent out quickly.

Or do they?

On Tuesday, voters in this area said "no" to Ohio Issue 2 in a landslide. But in Belmont County, voters soundly defeated a tax initiative intended to fund needed improvements to the county's 911 emergency communications system.

That makes no sense at all. Here's why:

Issue 2 was a referendum on Senate Bill 5, the state law limiting collective bargaining by public employees. The "no" verdict by voters means the law has been rescinded.

Opponents of SB 5 ran a very expensive - and very misleading - advertising campaign urging "no" votes. The key contention in much of the advertising was that SB 5, if upheld, would mean first responders no longer could bargain over staffing levels in police, fire and other emergency departments. In other words, the ads implied strongly, SB 5 could mean fire and police departments would not staffed adequately to respond properly to emergency calls.

That was baloney, but voters apparently fell for it in deciding to rescind SB 5.

So, emergency assistance is a critical concern in Ohio, right?

Then how do you explain the defeat of Belmont County's proposed 1-mill levy to fund improvements to the 911 communications system?

Don't say "money." Yes, the levy would mean higher taxes for Belmont County property owners. But leaving SB 5 in place probably would have saved them money. So, on the one hand, voters rejected higher taxes - but on the other, they approved them.

On one hand, voters said they want to be certain there are plenty of law enforcement and firefighting personnel (never mind that most of Belmont County is served by volunteer firefighters). On the other, voters said they don't care whether an antiquated 911 system delays emergency responders.

There's more: Unionized school teachers were among the fiercest opponents of SB 5. By helping vote the law down, East Ohioans said, in effect, that they bought the illogical argument SB 5 would hurt schools.

But voters also rejected levies in the Bellaire, Edison Local, Jefferson County Joint Vocational and Switzerland of Ohio school districts.

Apparently officials in those districts, as well as Belmont County commissioners, need to get a more pro-union advertising campaign going.

What thousands of local voters said, in effect, was they're willing to spend more money on emergency responders and schools by rescinding SB 5 - but aren't willing to spend more money on emergency responders and schools by approving local tax levies.

Figure that one out.

A neck-and-neck political race probably will be resolved in the next few days in Charleston, when Democrats in the West Virginia state Senate choose a permanent president.

Sen. Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, has been acting president of the Senate. But next week, Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, will challenge him for the post.

Last week I suggested Kessler could win handily if every Republican state senator voted for him. That isn't going to happen, I've been told by one of them.

The six Republicans in the state Senate (last week, in error, I said five) are enough to make a big difference if Kessler and McCabe split the votes of the Democrat senators. In fact, given the closeness of the race, the GOP lawmakers would be decisive.

But Republican senators traditionally have let the Democrats settle the presidency and probably will again this time, I was told. Why? Because of longstanding acrimony and mistrust over partisanship.

That's a shame. Kessler, as I noted last week, should appeal to GOP senators more than McCabe. Helping the Marshall Countian retain the Senate presidency would be an excellent step toward bipartisanship.

Myer can be reached via e-mail at

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