The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

August 30, 2013

LEVINE: Be ready for upcoming elections

By Scott Levine
Herald Associate Editor

---- — The next few months will be a busy time for area voters.

School board elections will be Sept. 10, and for Clinton voters there are six candidates to choose from to fill four seats.

Then, in November, voters will return to the polls for an off-year election, but instead of electing a man or a woman who works in Washington, D.C., or Des Moines, representatives who affect almost every single aspect of your daily life will be on the Clinton City Council ballot.

If you’re a regular reader of my column, you already know my thoughts about local elections. The turnouts are usually awful, which is discouraging.

These people watch over our community, whether it be to improve schools, better our neighborhoods or reach into our pocketbooks.

If you want something done about your street, don’t bother President Barack Obama with your request. Sure, there’s federal money available for city projects, but our local representatives are the ones who make the decision of taking that money and then figuring out a way to match it.

The Herald covered Wednesday’s Clinton School Board candidate forum, and biographies of each candidate from Clinton, Camanche and Northeast will be featured Sept. 3. The information is and will continue to be available. Now, it’s up to you to use that and get out and vote.

Once the school board’s election closes, the City Council election will not only feature selecting representatives, but also will include a measure that will deal directly with every homeowners’ wallet.

The two ballot measures will deal with a common problem in this city — funding sewer work.

This time the work is for $23 million worth of repairs in fiscal years 2018 to 2025. The first measure asks voters to grant the city permission to reallocate the 50 percent portion of the Local Option Sales Tax that is used for property tax abatement to streets and sewer work.

The second measure will ask voters to increase their taxes by allowing the city to add a capital projects tax levy, resulting in another 0.675 mills added to their taxes from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2039.

Obviously, those measures don’t harken back to George H. W. Bush’s 1988 promise of “no new taxes.” We all know how that worked out.

Once again, the city has a conundrum of how to afford mandated sewer work. And it will once again be on the back of the taxpayer, which is already weighed down by the highest sewer rates in the state, high property taxes, high assessments on homes, escalating water and solid waste bills...I could go on, but I think you get my point.

If the first measure fails, the road reconstruction project that has done well and improved local streets, will likely cease to exist, pushing $1.5 million over to sewer work.

In a previous column I wrote months ago, I said that although the road work has been a success for the City Council, I could live without it as long as my rates don’t go up anymore. Streets are important, but becoming competitive on being an affordable place to live is more important. The more people we can attract, the more people we will have to pay taxes, thus funding more work to our sewers and streets (sounds much easier than it actually is).

Lastly, the second measure, which would be another tax hike, doesn’t appear likely to happen in my opinion, so I hope there’s a backup at City Hall if that doesn’t go through.

And that may be the most important factor of these measures — the city needs a backup. And if they’re willing to ask us (the citizens) to raise our taxes, forcing us to trim back on our expenses, there should be a detailed plan on how the city will curb expenses.

Now, all those items are in the voters’ hands. Don’t let the opportunity to make a change in the community slip through your fingers.

Football picks

Football is back. And that means readers can go to www.clintonherald.com and participate in the annual College Football Pick ‘em sweepstakes. I’ll make picks each week in my column and you can compare yours against mine.

This week’s picks include:

Purdue at Cincinnati; FIU at Maryland; Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State; Temple at Notre Dame; Syracuse at Penn State; BYU at Virginia; Northern Illinois at Iowa; Alabama vs. Virginia Tech; Washington State at Auburn; Kentucky at Western Kentucky; Texas State at Southern Miss; LSU at TCU; Georgia vs. Clemson; Rice at Texas A&M; Massachusetts at Wisconsin; Southern Illinois at Illinois; Miami of Ohio at Marshall; Wofford at Baylor; William and Mary at West Virginia; Louisiana-Monroe at Oklahoma; Toledo at Florida; Central Michigan at Michigan; Austin Peay at Tennessee; New Mexico State at Texas; Villanova at Boston College; UNI at Iowa State.

• Winners are in bold

Scott Levine is the Associate Editor of the Clinton Herald. He can be reached at scottlevine@clintonherald.com.