We are saddened by several levy failures, particularly two school levies in Cuyahoga County. In North Olmsted, 72% of voters said no to the district’s proposed levy to cover operating costs. And a levy for expenses and permanent improvements failed in Rocky River with about 54% of voters opposed.
Both should have passed. Both are needed. And both failed for different reasons.
Let’s talk about the madness in Rocky River first. Issue 11 was a 4.9-mill levy that, according to school officials, was critically important as 82% of the district's revenues are generated from local sources. The last levy was passed in 2017. The levy was 4.65 mills for operating expenses and 0.25 mills for permanent improvements. This levy was timed to coincide with a 1-mill reduction of a previous bond issue to minimize the cost. The levy would have cost $11.74 per month for $100,000 of property valuation beginning in January 2022.
It most likely failed because of two factors: fallout from a teacher scandal in which five teachers ended up resigning and one retired. While there was culpability in most of the teachers for not immediately reporting concerns about one teacher, the scandal had nothing to do with the financial needs of a district that handled the crisis with fairness and transparency.
The other issue was an absolutely unhinged robocall from regional Tea Party agitator Tom Zawistowski and his Freedom For All PAC. Zawistowski, executive director of the Portage County Tea Party, has quite a history: He made headlines most recently for buying an ad in the Washington Times that called for "limited martial law" so that the military could oversee a redo of the 2020 presidential election. That’s called sedition, by the way.
This is what he said about the Rocky River schools: “The Rocky River local school district has been infiltrated by radical Marxist teachers, staff and administrators who want to implement the racist, anti-American, nonsensical Critical Race Theory, which indoctrinates your children and grandchildren with race-based hatred of white people, of American history, and of capitalism, with the goal of the communist takeover of our nation.”
Not to digress, but isn’t a “communist takeover” exactly what he advocated in his Washington Times ad?
It was, to put it simply, Rocky River voters, who also objected to the levy being permanent, basically punished the children for the actions of adults and because of nutty theory by someone with no connection to their community.
And then there’s North Olmsted. Voters defeated Issue 9, which if approved would have raised $7.2 million annually while costing the owner of a home valued at $100,000 an additional $24.79 a month, with 72% of the vote. The district, in dire need that will only get significantly worse, did almost zero to communicate the need for the levy’s passage. No Facebook groups noticed it. Residents noticed it from a mailer that answered no real questions. Newspaper readers (online and in print) noticed it.
There was no apparent committee in charge of disseminating information. If there was, it was pretty mum.
So again, who suffers from the lack of information, which is as destructive as inaccurate rumor-mongering? The children.
Voters will have another chance to make it right, if the two districts use the time between now and the November ballot to conduct focus groups, create committees, listen to the people and clearly share their needs.
We will wait and see. Meanwhile, if you get a crazy robocall? Hang up.