Council member responds to comments
To the editor:
Comments made by Salem Utility Commission member Primo Citino, a well known Salem Democrat, at the commission's Tuesday meeting have given me pause to wonder how motivated Mr. Citino is in getting Salem on the right fiscal track.
The commission gave Mr. Citino valuable meeting time to mention that he threw away a Republican flyer. Wow, a Democrat threw away a Republican flyer. Is this newsworthy?
To the point though, Mr. Citino justifiably considers himself a part of city government and was personally offended by general statements made in the flyer that cite fiscal mismanagement by city government.
Interestingly, during the meeting that followed his comments, he himself questioned city council's recent two year practice of keeping interest earned on the $17,000,000 cash reserve that the utility department has amassed.
My only regret is that the practice of keeping interest earned on excess utility funds by the city government did not start 10 years ago. The general fund of Salem would have had nearly $3,000,000 more to help bolster our safety forces, pave streets and replace sidewalks.
That would mean the utility reserve funds would only be $14,000,000 today... still a hefty reserve.
Mr. Citino takes exception to legitimate questions raised in the Salem GOP flyer relative to the mismanagement of the city government. And I stand by the assertions in the flyer.
First of all, the fact is that a current simple majority of Salem city council with Mayor Wolford's endorsement have voted, not just once, but on two different occasions to raise the city's income taxes by 50 percent. Now, Mayor Wolford brags in his campaign literature that he didn't need to raise taxes at all. This is reckless and irresponsible.
This same simple majority of Salem City Council, again endorsed by the mayor, voted to repeal the city's longstanding income tax credit which would have essentially doubled the taxes of Salem residents who work outside the city limits. That was even more reckless and irresponsible.
Most recently, this same simple majority of Salem City Council, yet again endorsed by the mayor, voted to reject a state of Ohio audit that would not have cost the city one dime more than the savings it generated, but which may well have exposed the full extent to which this city has been mismanaged. Again, this was reckless and irresponsible.
Is it any wonder that the highly respected credit rating firm, Moody's Investor Services, has downgraded the city's bond rating on the watch of the current Salem city government? This alone will cost the city untold thousands of dollars in interest on the city's bonded indebtedness. Even Moody's recognizes the recklessness of Salem's current city government.
Finally, the Salem News story points out that "three of the candidates featured in the Republican flyer are current members of the city government."
Yes, but it is important to note that these three current members of Salem city government opposed the multi-million dollar tax hikes referenced in the flyer and they favored the independent state of Ohio audit which Mayor Wolford and three council Democrats plus councilwoman Rita O'Leary have blocked.
Where does mayoral candidate Scott Cranmer and city auditor candidate Diane DeFazio stand on these issues? The public has the right to know.
John C. Berlin,
(Editor's note:?Mr. Berlin is a current Salem City Council member and Republican candidate for mayor)