Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spring Ballot Issues

I’ve been seeing a lot of the usual bombardment of political ads for the two issues on the Ohio ballot this Spring. As usual, they all add up to disinformation campaigns aimed at voters. I thought I should dig into both issues even though I’ve voted, because I honestly can’t remember which is which.

Absentee ballots are very handy for this reason, because you can look up candidates and issues on the web while you fill out the ballot. For a reliable source of even handed information on political issues I usually rely of the League of Women Voters. Their guide for this Spring’s primaries can be accessed here. Their opinion on the ballot issues is available here.

Issue 1 will help the states Third Frontier program, an effort to increase Ohio’s competitiveness in advanced industries such as research and development, IT, biomedical, and other cutting edge areas. Of course, isn’t every state trying to attract the next Silicon Valley?

Unfortunately, I don’t think there is enough information out there for voters to determine exactly what they are voting for. Regardless of how much information you access before voting, it’s still important to actually read the wording of the issue on the ballot, much like signing a contract. The full text of both issues can be accessed via the Ohio Secretary of State’s website here.

The meat of Issue 1 this year seems to be raising money via 700 million dollars worth of bonds to fund the Third Frontier program. Those bonds are debt that the state takes on itself. I think its a good idea to invest in the industrial future of Ohio in this way, but we should be wary of accumulating too much debt, which essentially is what bonds are. According to the State of Ohio website that reports on debt and bonds, last year’s principal debt was 8,486,621,212. Of course, not being an accountant I really have no understanding of what a lot of the figures on the official website mean. However, increasing employment and revenue through the Third Frontier should help Ohio’s debt in the long run.

Issue 2 is a lot simpler. It just moves the planned casino from one area in downtown Columbus to the outskirts of the city. I’m not sure whether the casino investors want this or not (I assume they did want to go through with the original plan to build the casino in the heart of the city’ s Arena District). The new site is on a brown field: a former auto parts plant that was torn down recently, in a bad part of Columbus. This reflects the attitude of Columbus towards the Casino, since most people voted against last years’ measure to allow them in the state. Like the city’s horse racing, and its swingers club, casino gambling has been pushed to the unfrequented margins of the city, where the upstanding suburbanites can forget about it.