We The People

            Boy, talk about the end of the news cycle (see previous post)! To accompany the seasonal weather, a flurry of news came out of Etna Township just before the holiday. Timing is everything. All Newark Advocate, all the time. “Annexation prompts Etna trustees to file suit against commissioners” December 23rd. Cute headline, huh? We the people will be paying for both sides of that suit.  Some things to note from the article:

“The Etna Township Trustees have voted to sue the Licking County commissioners over a 1.2-acre annexation that the county panel approved on Taylor Road — one that placed the property in question in Reynoldsburg.”

“As for the road issue, the trustees note that the township will be responsible for maintaining a section of Taylor Road even though the bordering property is within city limits. The annexation also could upset the various costs the township and Reynoldsburg will pay for the multi-million dollar Taylor Road improvement project that is a little more than a year from going to construction.” And finally, the bottom line:

“The project has an overall price tag of about $3.6 million. Etna is paying the largest local chunk at $1.1 million, with the federal government covering roughly over $2 million.”

 

            The other story is “Etna trustees resist call for Burkholder removal” December 24. Of note:

“The Etna Township Trustees took no action Saturday on the request of the Etna Township Economic Development Committee that one of its members be removed from office for an alleged conflict of interest.”

“The alleged conflict is over Burkholder’s position as the Etna Township representative on the Southwest Licking County Community Water and Sewer Board and that group’s advocacy for inclusion in a new tax district being considered by the trustees.”

“The missive said that a majority of the economic panel requested that Burkholder “step down from the position…effective immediately.” The panel also passed a motion to recommend that the trustees remove Burkholder in the event he did not resign.”

“The trustees previously voted 3-0 to deny including the utility as a beneficiary of any new tax district. Schaff indicated he thought Burkholder was lobbying for the inclusion by his advocacy for the tax benefit. Burkholder refuted that viewpoint, saying: “I have not lobbied.””

Of particular interest is how the report ends: “Burkholder served one term as trustee but was defeated for re-election by current Trustee Jeff Johnson. The trustees not only named Burkholder to the two panels that created Saturday’s debate, but also named him as acting township administrator last spring when the post was created. Burkholder was one of two finalists for the permanent appointment before the trustees selected Rob Platte.”

 

            The interesting development, which will be lost in the post-holiday, weekend, New Year news cycle shuffle (much as trash collection gets moved about and forgotten) is the active and immediate opposition to this “new tax district” by the Licking County Chamber of Commerce (Chamber objects to Etna Township tax plan No action yet taken toward formalizing proposal Dec. 24, 2013 by Chad Klimack). The Advocate (and Chamber) were very generous in allowing the people a look see at the content of a letter posted December 24 addressed to the Etna Township trustees voicing the Chamber’s displeasure with this proposed course of action. Analysis recommends reading the entire article as well as online copy of the letter before it becomes a pay-per-view archive. Segments of Klimack’s report that Analysis found of interest:

“Evers [Dan Evers, economic development director of Grow Licking County] asked to speak at Tuesday’s special meeting, but since the meeting agenda included no space for public comment he was not allowed to speak. When asked about the letter and the chamber’s opposition to the proposed taxing districts, Evers said, “The principal concern is that it creates an unanticipated and potentially significant expense for existing businesses.” Evers, who said he did not have a list of opposing township businesses, added the chamber has reached out to various township officials to articulate their concerns regarding the proposal. Those discussions, Evers said, occurred in private.”

“The township’s economic panel has spent months debating the creation of a JEDD or JEDZ.”

“The difference between the two is a board or council can create a JEDD via a unanimous vote of its own, while a JEDZ must be created by a vote of the public. Etna Township currently is considering the creation of a taxing district that would cover 65 parcels and roughly 1,670 acres. Almost all the acreage would stand around the Interstate 70-Ohio 310 interchange or around Etna Corporate Park north of U.S. 40. The district near the interstate would encompass all four corners of the interchange and several existing businesses, including those on Columbus Expressway and Ohio 310, north and south of the interchange. The district encompassing the corporate park would include existing businesses inside the park, in addition to hundreds of undeveloped acres between U.S. 40, Mink Street and Refugee Road. [Etna Township Trustee John] Carlisle said the newest proposal, which would include a 1.5-percent income tax, if approved, could help the township generate money to pour into its roads. Township voters in recent years have defeated two road and bridge levies, leaving the fast-growing township without one.”

In light of the Taylor Road annexation, it gets even better: ““We’ve been tapping into our general fund to do road and bridge projects in the township because the road and bridge fund doesn’t have enough funds,” Carlisle said. “Everybody is stuck on the (Ohio) 310 bridge, but this is more than the (Ohio) 310 bridge. this is about doing some things in the township we would like to be able to do.” As Carlisle referenced, the Ohio Department of Transportation and Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission have pledged to fund the bulk of the $11-$12 million project to expand the Interstate 70/Ohio 310 interchange, but the township must come up with the remaining $2.6 million. It currently does not have that much money, Carlisle said. Hottinger references the multi-million interchange project in her letter. She said the chamber has talked to “a number” of [unnamed] businesses and property owners who view the project as “premature and perhaps unnecessary and/or ineffective.” Etna officials, in addition to officials from Pataskala, meanwhile, have championed the project, arguing it could reduce congestion and speed up commutes for residents from both communities.”

Who pays, you might ask? “A JEDD or JEDZ only taxes workers and businesses inside the district boundaries, and many of those workers, Carlisle said, come from outside the township. Roughly 10 percent of the people who work inside ProLogis Park live in the township, Carlisle said. The people who do not should help pay for the upkeep of the township’s roads since they use them, Carlisle added. “Every one of those people who work at the corporate park have to drive a township road to get there,” said Carlisle. The chamber would be more amenable to another taxing district, Evers said, if the township was again looking at placing one over undeveloped land.”

“In her letter, Hottinger argues the existing businesses in the township funneled significant investments into their facilities, and a proposed taxing district would generate no expanded services for them.” With the final line being:

“Still, Carlisle cautioned the township has not reached a decision on the matter.

“We’re open to discussions with (the county chamber),” Carlisle said.”

 

            In the 3-26-13 post entitled Ohio Tax Credit, Analysis gave an in depth look at JEDD’s, the Chamber, JobsOhio and Pro Logis, etc. Other posts have referenced these occurrences in Etna township, especially in terms of greenfield development (undeveloped farm land) for which Etna township was highly desirable. Analysis insists on historical context in evaluating these recent pressing developments (of how to pay for infrastructure development utilized by corporate entities as well as the people). One of the businesses included in the 310 interchange projected overlay hosted Governor Kasich and Mitt Romney in a large rally during the 2012 election. That business was touted as a model of how the business outlook is the answer to what we the people need. The Citizens United Supreme Court ruling should also not be overlooked for it enabled the National Chamber of Commerce to lobby unabashedly (and lavishly) for candidates and issues during that election. Lobbying discussed on the evening news out of Washington creates concern. Here we the people are witnessing it in our own backyard. Revolving door political administration occurring in Washington DC likewise finds itself reproduced with Mr. Burkholder’s résumé. Although the Supreme Court has extended 14th amendment rights of citizenship to corporate entities, unlike we the people, they assert their exception to funding infrastructure that they likewise use (“Every one of those people who work at the corporate park have to drive a township road to get there,”). These corporate “persons” could always claim they only access their buildings by helicopter or drones, but the freight, delivery trucks and airport shuttles beg to differ. The same folks who achieved Citizens United now have McCutcheon vs. FEC before the court, hoping to maintain the un-disclose-able privacy of their monetary stake, along with the privacy that the Chamber employs in establishing corporate exceptionalism from sharing in community infrastructure maintenance and development costs. They prefer to let we the people caught up in the rush hour traffic pay for it (as we go to and from our jobs at these very corporate facilities). Improvements “would generate no expanded services for them.” All this contributes to the income disparity within our country through the bifurcation of we the people into “Us and Them”. Corporate entities (considered persons by the Supreme Court) don’t need to address commonly shared problems through public means but are entitled to “Those discussions … [which have] occurred in private.” Who pays? The 90% of workers who “come from outside the township”. This all just multiplies and reinforces the us/them identity of we the people

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One Response to “We The People”

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