Dan’s Thoughts on Sorta Issue #7 Levy

Five Things that Need to be Done to Issue 7 Before You Vote For It

The Ohio State Legislature has put Hamilton County voters at a disadvantage by allowing SORTA to put a levy request for $3.25 billion dollars directly on the ballot without any outside or Citizen review.   I’m supportive of an improved County bus service but not at the potential risk of another boondoggle levy.  Here is my input on changes that need to be made to the SORTA Issue #7 before you vote to approve it.

This is a Hamilton County Levy.  Currently the City of Cincinnati controls the SORTA Board and the County has been unwilling to commit in writing as to who will control SORTA in the future.  This is a County Levy—the County must control SORTA and it must be in writing.

This is another example of “Quasi Government” where a non-elected volunteer board would be responsible for spending your tax dollars.  The amount of dollars to be spent here—a .8% Sales Tax increase is the single highest levy amount in the history of Hamilton County—5 times the total cost of the two stadiums on the riverfront.   Citizens should be concerned about the raw amount of tax dollars involved in this HUGE levy.  Without our ability to hold elected officials accountable this levy will fail.   This levy must be part of Hamilton County’s Tax Levy Review Board process—as do all future non-school levies.

Cut out the Infrastructure—SORTA has written this levy with 25% of the proceeds going to pay for infrastructure.   County and City citizens have already just been forced to pay an extra dime for every gallon of gas they buy to pay for infrastructure needs as well as increased license plate fees.   This SORTA tax should not be a bail-out for years of unfunded maintenance on City of Cincinnati streets.  It is the City, County and State’s responsibility to maintain infrastructure as part of Government.  Cut out the infrastructure component.  This Levy should be about Bus service.

Lower the Levy Amount to .4%.  City and County Government are not performing right now for the Citizens.  (Tamaya Dennard, Millenium Hotel Lawsuit, MSD, The Banks)  The absolute largest amount of increase we should accept to improve SORTA is 50% more than they currently receive.   This would be a levy increase of about .4% which would increase SORTA’s budget to $75 million from $50 million.   SORTA, show us what you can do before we give you more money.

Make This a 10 Year Levy–Twenty Five Years is a long time for any levy to last with no ability to change, or adapt.   At a minimum, we should be voting on a 5 year levy with a 5 year renewal option to be approved by the Hamilton County Commissioners.   After 10 years, this levy has to go back on the ballot.  Will busses even exist in 10 years?

SORTA transparency is a concern here and there is way too much money on the table to just throw a plan forward and shove it down our throats without listening.   Without the five changes to SORTA’s Issue 7 above–Vote No.

Daniel P. Regenold

Managing Board Member EmpowerUOhio.org