Marketing A Tax

Generally, once a month the Newark Advocate business section highlights local marketing guru’s by offering them their own full length columns. This is not to be confused with the regular “ace of trades” or local flavors reporting. No, the marketing pros “sell” Licking County and Newark with glowing reports on Grow Licking County’s success, or the Port Authority’s recent acquisitions (and projected plans) or how marvelous the redevelopment of downtown business is going. No problem. Analysis wonders whether these same marketing whiz bangs will devote their freely given column space to marketing Newark’s income tax increase. Not only that, but how will they market it? Johnstown has announced an anticipated income tax increase on the upcoming ballot which will double their current rate. Their tax increase marketing centers on growth. The town is projected to be a city after the 2020 census. All that growth requires a lot of municipal expense with increased demands on infrastructure, security services, etc. Driving through town the rapid change is evidenced primarily by the mushrooming of new residential housing, not downtown business expansion or industry. Unlike Newark, which is connected to Ohio’s major freeways through immediate access 4 lane highways (79 and 16), Johnstown has none. It is located at the intersection of two lane 37 and 62. Yet it has a very vibrant industrial park and manufacturing sector. Their tax increase marketing appears to target the all too obvious residential housing boom, not the commuting workers. Upper Arlington, surrounded by Columbus, is embroiled in a nasty recall over its recently passed income tax increase. Four council members who marketed the increase face removal over how the money was ultimately spent. Like Newark, the tax revenue was to go for infrastructure maintenance and improvement. The money was spent on redeveloping an old (and much loved) park so part of the park property could be commercially developed. The council members involved claim that was part of the marketing. Those who initiated the recall claim it was not included with the income tax sales pitch. How will Newark’s council and mayor market the upcoming tax increase on the ballot? With half of Newark’s council totally not on board and half facing the scrutiny that befell Upper Arlington’s public representatives, this is not an idle concern. Past expenditure of Newark’s ostensibly earmarked revenues for other projects benefiting the business interests which populate the business section of the Advocate are easily referenced, whether they be tearing down a deadbeat landlord’s building to provide additional municipal parking, prioritizing business street paving, or a back door purchase of a basket building. Analysis finds that overcoming the skepticism generated by the precedent of such past performance needs to be central for any Newark “vote yes” campaign. After all, what if the revenues generated by the tax were used to “save” the basket building? If it was, would anyone mount a recall? Marketing a tax, it’s best left to the pros.

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