10 September 2007

Leis: OTR Patrols May End

In a recent meeting with the newly formed, Washington Park Homeowners Association, Simon Leis stated that if the jail levy doesn't pass, the extra patrols in Over-the-Rhine will most likely end. He said that the County just doesn't have the money. He said that he visits OTR everyday, and he knows the problems here well.

He also said that the litter in OTR bothers him a lot, and that is why he has inmates cleaning the sidewalks.

Second in command, Chief Donovan, also was very knowledgeable about the neighborhood, even knowing many of the Park regulars by name. Donovan owns a small business downtown and I believe lives downtown.

When I went to the meeting, I was surprised by a couple of things. First, is it typical that the Sheriff has his office in the jail building (Justice Center) and not the courthouse? The offices were very modest, and unassuming. There were lots of articles on the wall demonstrating the long history of the Hamilton County Sheriff's office, including the Courthouse Riot of 1884. Leis is 73 years old, and shows it. He served in Beirut in the Marines, and is a St. X high school grad. I think it is worth noting, that when Leis attended St. X, it was downtown, near the courthouse, and the tuition was under $100 per year. My impression is that he grew up in a very different Cincinnati.

I just googled the jail tax, and only found the site opposed to the tax. Is there a site that supports the tax?


Mark Miller said...

The only site I've seen in favor of the tax is the Republicans for Higher Taxes blog. Here's a link: http://republicans4highertaxes.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?alt=rss

I'm a 1983 StX grad and have 2 sons there now. I have tremendous admiration for Sheriff Leis and all he has done for our City & County, but must respectfully disagree with him on this issue. We don't need the jail and we can't afford the tax.

Commissioners have hired outside experts to study jail usage and the real problem is not lack of space. Operations have gotten out of hand. As of 2004, 81% of inmates were simply awaiting trial or arraignment and weren't there for punishment at all. In 1999 that figure was 37%. Most arrestees bond out anyway. Something as simple as adding a night court would allow them to do so quickly without clogging up the jail.

As for the tax, only 2 are applied at the county level, property and sales. Out of 88 counties in Ohio, only one has higher property taxes than we do, and only one has a higher sales tax (now that the Portune/Pepper tax was enacted). That means 86 other counties are getting the job done without a "crisis", and doing it on far less money than we are.

Our County Commission is bleeding every last drop of tax revenue out of the system before trying to solve the problem another way. School, mental health, and other levies will be the near-term casualties of their short-sightedness. The public at large will bear the long term burden as higher income residents continue to move out, and Hamilton County businesses become less competitive.

Think about it. Our county is losing population, and our crime rate is shrinking. Why do we need more jail space?

Even if we do decide to build a jail, Sheriff Leis has only asked for $198 million. The current tax is at least $777 million, or more, depending on whose projections you believe. It's sheer madness to spend nearly $800 million to solve a $200 million problem. And many experts are still not convinced there's really a problem.

We demand a better plan.

CityKin said...

I know you through business, and you may or may not know who I am, but I think you make some excellent points.

I am wondering where the other side is on this debate. My sense is that this tax will go down just as surely as the earlier, less costly one did. It ceertainly will go down, unless Portune and Leis seriously engages the debate.