Today, The Times-Gazette editorial board offers its endorsements in several contested races, as well as our recommendations on the two countywide additional levies which will be decided in the Nov. 8 General Election.
Local races & issues
Commissioner: Alex Butler
Voters in Highland County are fortunate to have three solid choices for Highland County Commissioner. Republican Terry Britton brings years of management experience from the private sector and public service experience as a member of the Hillsboro City Schools Board of Education, although if he wins the commissioner seat he would have to resign from the school board only one year into his second four-year term. Democrat Tara Campbell honorably served our nation in the armed forces and has a work experience that specifically relates to many of the issues facing the county, particularly in regard to foster care and the drug abuse problem.
But we believe that independent candidate Alex Butler would be the best choice to join the county commission. Although he is the youngest of the candidates at age 26, Alex has been an active and involved presence in the county for many years, including through his faith-based activities. In candidate forums and through his answers to a Times-Gazette questionnaire, Alex has consistently demonstrated that he has carefully examined the top issues facing the county and is prepared to tackle them with fresh eyes.
We are particularly impressed by his devotion to being a watchdog of tax dollars, which is especially important now with budget crunches brought on by the foster care issue and the impending loss of about $800,000 annually through a change in sale tax revenue as it relates to managed care organizations.
A comment in response to our questionnaire demonstrated his understanding of the scrutiny that is needed. He said, “When Children’s Services was merged with Job and Family Services in 2011, fewer eyes were on the budget followed by less accountability… I will not settle for more funding with the same service and no solutions.”
Alex would represent a younger generation on the commission, yet he is mature beyond his years. He will be an excellent communicator, both with the public and the media. He understands that a public servant does just that – serves the public, both through openness and by being receptive to feedback.
The county will be in good hands regardless of who wins on Nov. 8. Among three good candidates, we believe Alex Butler brings the best overall qualities necessary to serve most effectively as our next Highland County Commissioner.
Yes on Issue 8
Simply put, supporting Issue 8 is the best choice among nothing but bad options. The explosion in foster care costs must be paid for. The current revenue from the existing Children Services levy does not, nor was it intended, to cover the number of children now ending up in foster care. If more funds are not provided through an additional levy, the money will come instead out of the county’s General Fund, severely hurting other county services, including law enforcement.
It appears that the county has responsibly asked voters to approve a levy that is no more than what is actually needed. If passed, the 1.9-mill levy would be for five years and would cost the owner of a $100,000 property $59.85 a year. Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley has said the levy would bring in about $1.48 million annually. Last year, the General Fund took a hit of about $1 million to cover growing foster care costs.
It is unfortunate that voters are being asked to approve two additional levies this election. The other, Issue 7, is a 1-mill, 10-year additional levy for the Paint Valley Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services program costing $35 for every $100,000 of evaluation. While a strong argument can be made for Issue 7, we cannot ask Highland County residents to support both levies in the same year.
No one wants to pay higher taxes. But we, as a society, have a responsibility to care for the most vulnerable among us, our children. To look at it more cynically but realistically, the money will be spent either way. If it is not provided through the new county levy, it will be provided by making drastic cuts to other county services which are already operating with minimal funding. That is the choice we face. We support passage of Issue 8.
National, state races
President: Donald Trump
Despite his obvious flaws as a candidate, Donald Trump best represents the drastic shakeup that Washington needs, and best reflects the conservative fiscal and social issue values that are important to the people of southern Ohio. His focus on securing America’s borders and defeating radical Islamic terrorism is the kind of decisive attitude needed in the White House.
U.S. Senate: Rob Portman
While former Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, is a southern Ohio native who is well-regarded here even by many Republicans, he offers local voters no compelling reason why he should replace Republican Rob Portman in the U.S. Senate. Portman’s career-long focus on fighting illegal drugs and his devotion to rehabilitation and reentry for those who overcome drug addiction is extremely pertinent in southern Ohio. Portman has also been very attentive to Highland County, working closely with local leaders on several initiatives, including the expansion of PAS Technologies.
U.S. Congress: Brad Wenstrup
Congressman Brad Wenstrup has been an effective member of Congress and a dependable friend in Washington for Highland County. A property owner in the county, Wenstrup, a Republican, has been a good partner on local initiatives and a presence in Congress that is the definition of a common sense conservative.
4th District Court: Matthew McFarland
Judge Matt McFarland is a Scioto County native who has served on the 4th District Court of Appeals – which includes Highland among its 14 counties – since 2004. He is a former prosecutor who has written nearly 1,000 opinions and heard thousands of civil and criminal cases. Judge McFarland’s conservative judicial philosophy is an asset on the 4th District Court of Appeals.