Following the dramatic defeat of Issue 27, the Super-Sized Jail Tax, many of the very reforms promoted by the WeDemand Coalition as alternatives to bloated taxes and spending at the County are being implemented in rapid fire succession.
Of course, if the Commissioners, Sheriff and Judges had received their $777 million in new monies, none of these reforms would be implemented. Sheriff Leis' and Commissioners Portune's and Pepper's immediate reaction following the defeat of Issue 27 was to show us how much smarter than the rest of us, and to promise draconian cuts in jail spaces and Sheriff's Patrols, a plan they called the "doomsday scenario." Read about the promised "doomsday" scenario here:
'Doomsday' cuts coming:
Sales tax failure = 'doomsday' cuts:
The WeDemand Coalition, on the other hand, issued a 14-point plan for reforming the system, in a manner that saves costs, improves the fairness of the system and actually improves public safety. Read about the plan and press coverage here:
The WeDemand Coalition Press Release:
Wedemand Coalition 14 point plan
Can we make jail space? Foes of sales tax offer county ideas for jail space problem:
Under the pressure of the twin political realities that the taxpayers were not going to give them more money to squander, and the public demand for reform in the criminal justice system, only weeks after the announced resistance to reform, Commissioners are now implementing many of the WeDemand reform proposals:
1) The Commission intends to fully charge back to local communities the cost of incarceration where the local community has elected to implement harsher criminal sanctions than state law provides. This single change could result in up to $1.5 million in additional annual savings or revenue.
County Looks to Spread Costs
2) In dual proposals dealing with criminal driving issues, the Commission is implementing programs to move drunk drivers out of the Justice Center and into treatment programs and helping those without licenses obtain them, so that charges for driving without a license (for otherwise qualified drivers) will not clog the jail needlessly. The new housing for drunk drivers will both free needed beds in the Justice Center and generate new revenue, because the new program can charge the inmates for their bed-nights in the "gray bar motel." This measure was proposed to the County prior to November's defeat of Issue 27, but Sheriff Leis blocked its implementation and Commissioners Pepper and Portune did nothing to move the program until after the election. Read about these program changes:
Treatment center to help jails:
A new option for drunk drivers:
Freeing up jail beds is goal:
3) The Court of Common Pleas, Division of Domestic Relations has committed to replacing costly human court reporters with more effective and less expensive electronic recording devices for memorializing courtroom proceedings. If all of the Courts implemented this program, the savings would exceed $3 million per year.
4) All three County Commissioners have now embraced making demand upon Si Leis to use some of his $6 million in forfeited funds from drug seizures to fund County criminal justice priorities, although Pepper and Portune continue to provide political cover to the Sheriff's continued mis-spending of these monies. Read about this attempt to have Si Leis free up some of these funds:
Leis' Forfeit Fund Back on Table:
Afraid to Monitor Leis?:
Si Likes His Toys Big, Hard and Fast:
5) The County Commissioners are moving forward on Pat DeWine’s February proposal to use various alternative sanctions for non-violent offenders. These sanctions would include things like work release programs which are less costly than full incarceration, help reduce recidivism, and free up jail spaces for more serious offenders. If fully implemented, the initiative could free up as many as 245 jail beds per day.
Push to reinstate work release program:
In addition to these very substantial reforms, the County Commission also rejected the Administration's recommendation to increase property taxes by $20 million, by eliminating the tax rollback promised in the "stadium deal." Instead, they adopted Commissioner DeWine's proposal to move forward with a proposed securitization of the Drake Center sale and lease agreement. The Drake Center lease agreement has a net present value of over $27 million. By increasing County reserves, the Commissioners have actually helped protect the County's important bond rating. Read about these steps here:
Hamilton Co. tax rollback stands:
Moreover, contrary to repeated threats during the Issue 27 campaign, the Commissioners have now committed to fund the popular Sheriff patrols in townships and Over-the-Rhine within the current budget. During Issue 27, the Commission majority said defeat of the issue would mean end of OTR patrols. Now they have agreed to work to adopt creative ideas and prioritize public safety to maintain patrols.
Pepper – No way to pay for O.T.R. Patrols if tax fails:
Deputies, families Protest Cuts:
Still, even with this progress there is much more to be done to assure a fair, efficient and cost-effective criminal justice system. A supplemental report from the Vera Institute is due in December. This report is to delve more deeply into the "process" issues that are resulting in many wasted jail beds each night at the Justice Center, and will likely create additional impetus for some of the programs proposed by Commissioner DeWine to free up jail beds, such as a work release program. The Commission majority had blocked the release of this report, or even drafts of it, until after the Issue 27 vote.
The WeDemand coalition stresses that there is much to be done, including the setting of fair bonds by the Judges and removing of 35 federal inmates from the Justice Center, needlessly taking valuable space that could be used for local inmates.
Thanks to the voters who resoundingly rejected the mis-guided and bloated Issue 27 proposal, the Commission has been forced to work together, to adopt creative solutions and to do the hard work of setting priorities within the County budget rather than just foisting our problems on the taxpayers.
Paid for by WeDemandABetterPlan.Com, an Ohio political action committee,
3630 Zumstein Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45208,
Jason Gloyd, Chairman and Treasurer.