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Published: Friday, 4/30/2004

A self-destructive notion

CLEVELAND Mayor Jane Campbell's bizarre notion of taxing suburban folks to help bail out her public school district is one more reason people vote Republican.

The mayor came up with an idea that's been nothing but trouble since the days of the Boston Tea Party: taxation without representation.

She's floating a trial balloon to tax Cleveland suburbanites who work in the city to help defray the city school district's considerable operational costs. To make matters worse, suburban commuters would be at the mercy of city residents. The city alone would be allowed to vote on a possible income tax increase for Cleveland schools; the suburbs would not.

Talk about infuriating voters during a critical election year. What was the northeast Ohio Democrat thinking? Ohio could very well tip the presidential election one way or the other, and Mayor Campbell seems determined to make sure it goes the Republicans' way.

Next time Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry comes back to Ohio he should reconsider posing for pictures, as he did on Wednesday, with Democratic leaders who only perpetuate the perception that theirs is the hopeless party of taxation.

If all that those undecided voters in the suburbs see is red when Democratic mayors join their party's candidate in a photo-op, Mr. Kerry doesn't do himself any favors in courting their support.

Will Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman be next to suggest an income tax hike to ease the budget crunch on Columbus schools?

Mr. Kerry, whose campaign is nowhere near as established in this key battlegound state as the organization to re-elect President Bush, depends out of necessity on the political strength of Democrats ruling the roost in urban Ohio. But with friends like the Democratic mayors who joined him on his midweek visit to Cleveland, who needs enemies?

The whole scheme might be moot anyway if there is no statutory authority for it. Cleveland City Council President Frank Jackson told the Plain Dealer "I don't even know if this is legal."

While that's sorted out, it's ironic that instead of appealing to suburban voters in a presidential election that could be closer in Ohio than four years ago, urban Democratic mayors are alienating them.

Residents of the suburbs that surround the city of Cleveland on three sides are already paying high taxes to support their own schools. If they commute to jobs in Cleveland they already contribute to the city's 2 percent payroll tax. Mayor Campbell, like most good Democrats, says that's not enough. Taxes? Bring 'em on!

So suburbanites, without a vote, could be asked to pay more to boost the fortunes of public employees in the city and shore up the operating budget of a school district that is an Ohio embarrassment and beyond a bad investment.

Robbing suburban commuters to pay cash-strapped city schools is an abhorrent scheme that reflects why the Republican Party is faring better than the Democratic Party these days. The mayor's plan could backfire in a big way, sending plenty of Ohio voters running to the Republican camp.

Who would blame them?



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