Rebuttal to Mayor Mike Barhorst’s column


I need to rebut some things Mayor Mike Barhorst said in his column entitled “Let’s keep Sidney moving forward” in last Wednesday’s paper. That column was at least the sixth major article totaling nearly 7,000 words in the last six weeks advocating for a tax increase. This rebuttal provides factual corrections to Mike’s column.

Unfortunately, Mike also turned negative in his column, attacking Tara Adams and me for the two brief letters to the editor we submitted. These were the only two letters encouraging votes against the levy, so his attacks were clearly targeted at us. This rebuttal addresses some of those attacks.

The first paragraph of Mike’s column states that the tax in question goes from 0.15% to 0.5% which is a 333% increase. It also states that the revenue from the tax goes from $1.6 million to $6.7 million which is a 370% increase in revenue. Mike later writes the following paragraph about our inability to do math:

“ ‘Lies, damned lies, and statistics’ is a phrase made popular by Mark Twain in describing the persuasive power of statistics to bolster weak arguments. I’m old enough not to have learned new math, but increasing the city income tax from 1.65% to 2.0% is not a 333% increase.”

What Mike warns against in the first sentence; he does himself in the second sentence. Our letters to the editor were about the tax levy that is on the ballot. That levy’s proposed 0.5% tax is 333% of the existing 0.15% tax it would replace. Check it on any calculator! But Mike subtly and deceptively changes the “subject” in his second sentence so he can claim we got our math wrong. He shifts the subject “from” the tax levy “to” the city’s entire income tax structure. Of course, the numbers won’t be the same! Mike evoked Mark Twain to warn that some people will do this to you, then he did it to you himself.

Mike’s next attack is especially egregious. I’m a 30-year Air Force veteran and Tara’s husband is a former Navy Seal. Our families are as God, Family, and Country as they come, and we are huge supporters of all our men and women in uniform, including our first responders. But here’s what Mike wrote:

“I’ve been a bit perplexed by a couple of those who have [publicly] opposed the tax increase. I thought the move to defund public safety was confined to places like Portland, San Francisco, New York and Chicago but much to my surprise, we have people thinking the same thing here.”

His underlying claim is that a vote against this levy is a vote to “defund” public safety. The only funds that “might eventually” be cut if this levy is defeated are “roads and bridges” funds. But even that won’t happen if the city puts a “more reasonable and targeted” levy on the ballot in November, which is what we suggested in our letters.

Defeating this levy in March will have “zero impact” on existing funding for police, or fire, or EMS, or any other public safety organization. Mike employs more linguistic smoke and mirrors to make it appear that a vote against this levy will result in a reduction in funding for public safety. It will not! If Mike really believes that defeating this levy will “defund” public safety then we all have legitimate reason to question his command of the facts. If he “doesn’t” believe that defeating this levy will “defund” public safety, then it is fair for us to be asking why he said that it would!

This attack was offensive, deceitful and unprofessional. A willingness to vilify the people you serve to get your tax levy passed is not a good characteristic for an elected official. Mike also chose to further chastise the voting public in the following statement:

“With respect to the charge that councilmembers have not done a good job explaining what we are going to do with the extra revenue, I would suggest that the critics need to do their homework. The city’s budget is online and readily accessible twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.”

First, I don’t know who levied this charge. The only two articles opposing the tax levy were Tara’s and mine, and we didn’t say anything about this. But regardless of who made the charge, Mike’s answer to the charge is what is important. What was his answer? His answer is that it’s our fault! He says we should have done more research using the city’s online financials. Nearly 7,000 words were published in the paper to pass this levy, and he couldn’t point to where he told us “what [they] are going to do with the extra revenue.”

Further chastising the citizens he serves, he says that if we had done our homework, we would have known that “surrounding communities (Centerville, Dayton, Fairborn, Huber Heights, Kettering, Miamisburg, Piqua, Springfield and Vandalia) increased their municipal income tax to 2% some time ago.” Who cares what those surrounding communities did? We don’t increase taxes just because bigger, more liberal, cities in the region did. Simply floating that argument demonstrates why we need to thoroughly vet every tax increase put before us.

Our letters to the editor were specific about why we opposed the levy as it is currently written and offered suggestions to help get a “better” levy passed in November. We were respectful in the way we presented our opposition. There were no personal attacks on city officials or committee members, just reasons we opposed the levy as it is written, and recommendations for how to overcome that opposition in November.

Mike Barhorst’s response was unwarranted, unprofessional, and unwise. I’m assuming these same city officials will want to pass future levies. Why would they want to demonize, and make enemies of, tax-paying citizens expressing their opinions and offering suggestions for improvement? Will that make us more likely, or less likely, to support future tax levies?

I’m more convinced than ever that voting against this levy, in its current form, is the right thing to do! This levy, if passed, will replace a levy that produced $1.8 million annually for “roads and bridges.” That levy will end, and this levy will produce $6.7 million annually for the “General Fund” that Mike and his council can use for “anything” they want to use it for. And it is a “permanent” levy, so taxpayers can’t vote it down in a few years if they don’t like how the city is using it.

This puts “tremendous” power in the hands of a few elected officials and cuts the taxpayers out of having a say in how the money is spent and how long they will have to pay it. If Mike’s column is indicative of how he intends to treat taxpayers, that should give you pause in giving him that kind of control over that much of your money. I encourage you to vote “Against” this levy and tell them to go back to the drawing board before November.

Respectfully submitted…

Dan Cecil


No posts to display