Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) April 25, 2003 Friday, Final / ALL


Bald-Faced Lies
The Service Employees International Union wants to beat a levy and cares not a whit for the lives it will crush in the process
THE PLAIN DEALER The truth is beginning to haunt the labor union that is running the despicable campaign to deny basic human services to Cuyahoga County's most fragile citizens. Three members of the Ohio Elections Commission yesterday unanimously found probable cause to conclude the Service Employees International Union has broken the law in its deceitful campaign against Issue 15 - the health and human services levy on the May 6 ballot. That means the commission found it more likely than not that the SEIU's scurrilous campaign has violated Ohio laws designed to ensure clean campaigns. The commission will make its final determination during a full hearing yet to be set. If found guilty, the union and those involved in this campaign could - and should face criminal charges. But in the court of public opinion, the verdict is already in, and it leaves no room for doubt: The SEIU is purposefully trying to rip an $80 million hole in Cuyahoga County's safety net by denying basic human services for needy children, the working poor and those in desperate need of mental health treatment. For that, those involved in this campaign to defeat Issue 15 have forever earned this community's enmity. The main issue before the state elections panel yesterday was the bald-faced lie, told by the SEIU in commercials and campaign literature, that suggests passage of Issue 15 would result in a 60 percent increase in property taxes. But Kenneth Fisher, the lawyer retained by Issue 15 supporters, gave the commission a detailed study, provided by the Cuyahoga County treasurer's office, that clearly shows passage of Issue 15 would result in a residential real estate tax increase averaging only 3.46 percent. SEIU spokesman Dale Butland has defended the union's use of the 60 percent figure, saying the people of Cuyahoga County know the claim "is not about total

property taxes but about the portion of the bill that goes to the health and human services tax." No, they don't know that. The voters are confused, and the SEIU is deliberately creating that confusion. As County Treasurer Jim Rokakis correctly said about the SEIU's sabotage, "In my two decades of public service, I have never seen a campaign so wantonly disregard the truth for its own objectives." In other advertising, the SEIU has reproduced the Ohio state seal to suggest that former State Auditor Jim Petro found that "county agencies have wasted a heck of a lot of our property tax dollars." Not only does Ohio law expressly prohibit reproduction of the state seal without permission of the governor, but the "waste" the SEIU refers to was cited by Petro in audits of agencies in other counties - not Cuyahoga. Petro, meanwhile, has enthusiastically endorsed Issue 15. A more recent campaign flier the SEIU mailed to county residents is devoted to a foster care agency that bought its executive director a $70,000 automobile for his exclusive use. What the literature does not state is that the foster care agency is located in Maumee, near Toledo. Many labor unions, notably the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, have proven responsible members of the community and have enthusiastically endorsed Issue 15. They recognize defeat of this levy would not only punish this county's most vulnerable citizens, but could result in hundreds of union workers losing their jobs. It is important that these unions not be tarred by the SEIU's reprehensible tactics. On May 6, Cuyahoga County voters have an opportunity to send a clear message to the SEIU and the out-of-towners campaigning to inflict further suffering upon the people of this community who can least bear it. They can seize that opportunity by approving Issue 15 and rejecting SEIU's attempts to trick voters with a campaign based on falsehoods and fabrications.