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RITA should come before a vote in the Nov. election

To the editor:

I’m writing this letter to the residents and voters of the city of Salem. While this letter is in response to a letter to the editor made by Councilwoman Dickey published Jan. 17, my letter is more of a plea to all of you — those against RITA, those for RITA and those undecided on RITA — in regards to RITA stepping in to take over our city tax business. Often minds cannot be changed by words alone. But my plea is for everyone to come to agreement that this matter should come before a vote in November. Something this important to all of us should be afforded the opportunity of fair, democratic competition.

I believe that if the council people who voted “yes” to get this matter passed, however rapid their initial approach, should consider that if there is this much controversy as Dickey confirms in her own letter perhaps the voters — both supporters and opponents — should be able to present their cases and let the community decide its fate. Dickey, and I’m sure the others feel that even if there is dissent amongst a large portion of the population, that because it doesn’t align with their own personal viewpoint, it is deemed invalid.

In any situation of life, not everyone can agree. But this is where our system is supposed to bridge the gap and allow the people to speak their desires. And this is supposed to be the cornerstone of what people fought and died for over and again throughout history.

If you are able, please go to YouTube and attempt to watch the council meeting that occurred on January 7, 2020. Just type in “Salem, OH City Council Meeting” and it should be right there. The audio is horrible throughout most of it, so you will have to stay steadfast to get to the part where you will see when council voted on the matter of RITA. You will see how, for some reason or another, almost all the people sitting at the table did not have a copy of the RITA contract with them that night. You will see them scramble and bumble around to find one and figure out the process for the procedures that needed to be in place for them to vote on it that night.

In a newspaper article in the Morning Journal (and Salem News), dated December 4, 2019, it indicates that all members of council agreed to table making a decision on giving the mayor the authority to sign the contract with RITA:  “… contingent on getting some answers to questions outlined by city Law Director Brooke Zellers. “

“I would like to have answers to these questions before we vote on it,” Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey said.”

If you watch that video, Brooke Zellers, our law director, stated he was still uncomfortable with the contract as-is, and RITA had yet to address many of the questions the council people had posed to them. And given that, he didn’t recommend they sign it till RITA did answer them. Makes sense, right? But then, the council read some ordinances and five of them voted to pass the issue — allowing the mayor to sign the contract and go into business with RITA. Just like that.

Yet, Dickey asserts in her letter to the editor that: “After months of intensive research into RITA, input from long-time users…RITA is definitely a good move for Salem. “ If questions aren’t answered now — before we are RITA’s customer — how will they treat us after we have signed the contract? Why are they avoiding questions? Why are we giving them a free pass on having to answer these questions? It doesn’t seem like good business sense to sign a contract that a lawyer recommends that you don’t sign.

Dickey claims she has heard so much good on RITA. On social media she tells folks to think of the good. While I’m always an optimist, I did my own research on RITA on Google and I’m failing to find the glowing reviews that Dickey talks about. Honestly, the things I see on the company are concerning at a minimum. I’ve seen a message board for CPAs complaining about how difficult RITA and their forms are. And if a CPA is confused, I can only imagine the common man trying to untangle it.

One of the biggest downfalls is that if you cannot rectify your tax issues over the phone, you will be directed to drive 40 minutes to their nearest office in Youngstown. I could tell you about all the stories I’ve seen, but go see them for yourself. News stories and articles, court hearings. It only confirmed my worst fears. Lord knows most of us deal with government entities all the time in our business and personal life. If you are on disability, Social Security, have student loans, a farm, etc. Everywhere we turn there is government breathing over our shoulder telling us how we are going to do things. And there’s no way around it, ever. Make no mistake, RITA is a government organization. The hard part is that if you have a problem with them, there is no one to turn to. Complaining to the attorney general or the BBB will accomplish nothing on your behalf. RITA is untouchable. You will have to deal with and comply with them. The city of Salem will have its hands tied to help you because there will be no one here, except your council people, to reign them in.

Plain City, OH just got rid of RITA last year after being with them since 1995. They went back to collecting their own taxes. They didn’t want to deal with it anymore. There’s other municipalities that drag them in with complaints and issues and RITA just shrugs and says “it happens.” Communities are dealing with folks getting subpoenas that do not owe taxes. Taxpayers are dealing with a company that loses paperwork and discs with personal tax information on it. It has been anything but smooth sailing with them for a lot of people and RITA has been in business for 49 years. And now, all of the sudden, we are being pressed to allow them into our community.

Yes, there are jobs about to be lost. It’s ridiculous to say that it isn’t personal. Putting someone in a tough spot in their lives is personal if it deals with someone’s well being. Anyone who has ever lost a job, especially to outsourcing, knows the feeling well. Dickey flippantly states, “More and more successful companies are saving on expenses by outsourcing jobs when they can achieve similar outcomes.” I know, Ms. Dickey. And that’s why Americans are struggling to find good paying, local jobs. Something that pays the bills and allows for some type of enjoyment. It’s not easy for everyone. We aren’t cookie cutter people with cookie cutter abilities and desires. We work and we pay and we do it again. Outsourcing has changed many lives and lifestyles. It has changed our abilities and dependencies. It has taken control from the many and given it to a few, all over money. I know that if we had more jobs in the city, we could worry less about cutting spending and enjoy having more revenue. I mentioned this to Dickey on social media and I didn’t get much of a response. What I know of business, is that finding ways of increasing revenue is the way to be successful, cutting spending just saves you till something else has to be cut. And which city office is next?

Dickey indicates in her letter to the editor that one woman in the tax office had an opportunity to transfer to the water department but didn’t. First, that’s her private business, and somehow I feel a privacy violation as her employer. Second, who are you to tell her where she should apply? That’s not for you to say and is very presumptuous of you to dictate. She’s allowed to have her reasons, she’s a free being. Dickey says there are plenty of part-time jobs in the area for the others. I don’t know what version of Indeed.com she’s using, but it must contain secret listings that I don’t see. I see a lot of stuff in Youngstown and Warren though.

Dickey and other supporters say our tax department is antiquated and isn’t with the times of the future. So, I ask, why aren’t they? Why were they not outfitted with the necessary items to be successful? Who decided that and prevented that? It can’t be the tax office people. No one in their right mind would want to work harder and not smarter. You can’t tell me that they didn’t want electronic filing and payments and updated software. Why would they want it to be difficult if they are the ones in the trenches? Why do some city offices get what they need and others don’t? Who is figuring this out on our behalf? Are we even trying to keep it local at all? Why do I feel like we are in emergency when we have a $1,500,000 sitting in the bank from last year?

It’s hard to debate on the savings the supporters tout as the main reason for passage. The amounts are all estimates. Which means no promise is made. The contract contains information that the public hasn’t been privy to. I was told by Dickey on social media that anyone could make a records request, and get a copy once it was finalized. I’m not sure why it’s not finalized, since it seemed to only need signed. The mayor indicated at the meeting that RITA reps told him that there is zero room for compromise, in any fashion, with the contract between the city and them. It’s the same contract for everyone. Government uniformity at its best, one frame fits all mentality. Which is why reading the contract is necessary for anyone to make a educated decision, just like we do before we sign a personal contract. I hope it becomes available to us soon so we can see the situation better. I know we are supposed to give over control to council but, right now, I’m lacking faith in their judgment.

Dickey asks, “So how do we keep the city safe and maintained without raising taxes?” I will answer that — if we create good jobs, decent neighborhoods, good schools, a place where people feel heard, secure, vital, otherwise alive, and in control of their destiny, you will get this. People will move here and stay here. Business will come and people will have the opportunity to thrive and survive. We can’t ignore the basic fundamentals of human life. And nor can we ignore letting the voters put the system to the test. And those that don’t want to let the people have a vote, you have to ask yourself, if you are so confident that you are right, why would it hurt for people to have the time to research and decide in an official capacity? No matter where you stand on this issue, let’s come together as equals, with all of our rights given to us, and see what the tally is. That way we have no regrets.

Stacey Jarrett,

Salem

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