Cleves' existence at stake in vote

Friday, August 21, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

CLEVES -- The village is an anachronism that has outlived its usefulness, say those who favor dissolving it. But its promoters say the village's troubling tax rate can easily be fixed.

Campaigns to try to accomplish those ends -- preserve or dissolve -- have begun in this village of 2,300 along the Ohio River on the southwestern edge of Hamilton County.

The village council voted unanimously last week to place the issue on the November ballot after a group favoring dissolution collected more than enough valid signatures to do so.

But organizers of Team EFFECT (Ensuring the Financial Future and Enhancing Cleves for Tomorrow) are still upset that it took the village as long as it did to send their petitions to the Hamilton County Board of Elections to them validated.

They say the delay hampered their campaign start.

"They held (petitions) for seven weeks," said Joe Whitton, a Team EFFECT organizer. "We had our hands full just trying to get it on the ballot. We were hoping to use this time to get an earlier start."

"But 95 percent of our message is going to be the same message we've been stating," said Larry Loebker, a Team EFFECT organizer. Ron Bowling, chairman of Save a Village Environment (SAVE), said they have begun their campaign to head off the dissolution drive in earnest.

This past weekend, during a fireman's festival in the village, SAVE collected signatures from residents pledging to vote against dissolution of the village.

Mr. Bowling said they collected three pages' worth, with about 50 signatures on each page. "That gives us (a total of) well over 600," Mr. Bowling said.

They also registered 46 new voters, Mr. Bowling said, and are in the hunt for more. Indeed, he said, that could be the key to the election. There are about 1,600 registered voters in the village.

"That's what our strategy is at this point," said Mr. Bowling. "We want to get those people who are not currently registered."

He is optimistic residents do not want to see the village disappear as a political entity, and the strategy will be to make sure those people get registered and vote in November. A low turnout could hurt their chances.

"After this weekend I'm feeling more and more confident," said Mr. Bowling.

Team EFFECT organizers planned to meet this week to talk about campaign strategy.

But Team EFFECT believes the cold, hard facts of taxation are on their side, and have hammered away at the difference between the tax rates in Cleves and neighboring Miami Township, which would assume jurisdiction in the village should it dissolve.

Team EFFECT points out that village residents pay 23.31 mills for services in the village, compared with 5.38 mills that would be paid in Miami Township.

For the owner of a $100,000 home, that means $815 in property taxes in Cleves; $188 in Miami Township, Team EFFECT says. They believe those same government services can be offered just as efficiently by the township, and there is no need for a village government.

Mr. Bowling said village officials realize that taxes need to be lowered, and that a "majority of people are looking for some indications our government wants to work to get taxes lowered."

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