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Every vote counts in election

October 25, 2011
BY JAMES PIRKO - Community Columnist ( , Tribune Chronicle |

Nov. 8 is Election Day, when we choose our mayors, city councils, township trustees, school boards and other local elected officials. We also have three statewide issues, plus an assortment of county and local levies asking for our approval.

Traditionally most registered voters do not take the time to cast a ballot during ''odd year'' elections. In 2009, only 44 percent voted. In 2007, these decisions were made by 31.5 percent. The majority allow the rest of us to make these critical decisions that affect the communities where we live.

If you own a home, its value is affected by the quality of services offered by your local government and school district. Ask any Realtor about the significant variation in prices for comparable homes in different communities. A few hundred dollars in property taxes, if properly managed, can result in tens of thousands of dollars in added property values.

Families buy into neighborhoods, communities and school districts. They are willing to pay more for their homes in order to send their children to a school rated as ''excellent.'' Better police and fire departments result in safer neighborhoods and lower homeowner insurance premiums. Stronger zoning, health and property maintenance regulation enforcement protects home values by eliminating nuisances that scare away potential homebuyers and bring lower buying offers.

Home values were seriously impacted in most of our townships by Trumbull County's infamous septic tank problems, with homeowners being required to replace septic tanks, which can cost as much as a new car. Our Trumbull County Health Department suffered the disgrace of having the State of Ohio suing and getting a court order to correct decades of lax enforcement and the lack of sanitary sewers in old township neighborhoods.

Since then, our Trumbull County commissioners, working with the Planning Commission and Sanitary Engineer's office, have funded and built more sanitary sewers in the past few years than their predecessors built in the past few decades. However, there is so much more that needs to be done, and it will take years (and millions of dollars) to complete all of the needed work.

The current leadership of our Trumbull County Health Department is still ''under the thumb'' of the State of Ohio because of decisions made by the people who were elected decades ago. The county health board is elected by the township trustees and mayors from the communities included in the General Health District. This is another example of why it is so important to make informed decisions on electing the people who are responsible for providing public services.

The issues to be decided in this election are at least as important as the officials we will elect.

Issue 1 would raise the maximum age for judicial candidates from 70 to 75, allowing judges to serve into their 80s.

The much-publicized Issue 2 (Senate Bill 5) would affect public employees' rights to negotiate wages, benefits and working conditions. This issue raises a debate about whether these employees will continue as the ''working middle class,'' and how to cut government costs in a chronically declining economy.

Issue 3 is an attempt to remove Ohio from the recently enacted national health insurance reform. Each of these issues has been passed by the Ohio Legislature, but it is ''We the people'' who ultimately decide.

The Trumbull County Fair Board is asking for less than a quarter of a mill for one year to improve the fairgrounds. Knowing how carefully frugal they are in providing an enjoyable fair to support our local agricultural industry, this is not much to ask.

The Trumbull Transit levy would provide a half-mill to continue the successful transportation service for our disabled, senior citizens and other people needing reliable transportation to work or school.

With early voting and absentee ballots available to every registered voter, there is no excuse for failing to make your opinion count in this election.

Pirko is a Weathersfield resident.



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