Category: Opinion

Springfield Township Residents Deserve Fresh Leadership

I submitted an opinion piece to the Community Press over 3 weeks ago, well within the deadline to get published, and for some reason they decided not to run my piece.  They didn’t even post it on  For this reason, I have decided to post it here, in its entirety, for you to read.  Unfortunately I don’t have the same reach as the Enquirer, but I feel like I still need to put the information out there.


Springfield Twp Residents Deserve Fresh Leadership

Career Trustee Joe Honerlaw has been a Springfield Township trustee for 21 years.  What do we have to show for it, other than having the second highest property tax and the worst roads in Hamilton County?  He has voted 14 times to raise taxes, yet we are mysteriously $40 million behind in road repairs.  Honerlaw claims to be a fiscal conservative, but even a tax-and-spend liberal would be more conservative.

Under Honerlaw’s leadership, some cuts were made in anticipation of $2.5 million in state reductions to local governments.  Now that the JEDZ tax has completely replaced those cuts, the township suddenly claims to be able to fix our roads, but something isn’t right.  Where was that $2.5 million being spent before the state cuts?  Certainly not on roads.

Joe Honerlaw has become a career politician, having been an elected official for most of his adult life.  He has failed at being a steward of our taxpayer dollars.  We need new leadership that can save, invest, and spend our limited tax dollars efficiently and wisely.

What about Mark Berning?  Mark wrote a letter that was published in the Community Press on November 2, 2011, asking residents to vote for him because the township “needs leaders with fresh ideas.”  He portrayed himself as the candidate of change and said that we had “little change in management in the township in the previous 15 years” and that he wanted to “help with the change that is needed.”

Ironically, after running uncontested and being elected in 2013, at his first board meeting the following January, Mark Berning voted to create a new income tax.  Mark Berning is not the candidate of change, he is the candidate of status quo and new taxes.  A vote for Mark is a vote for more of the same.

Another distressing issue is that elected office seems to be the Berning family business in Springfield Township.  Mark’s brother, Dan Berning, is the Fiscal Officer.  There are three Trustees and one Fiscal Officer.  That means the two Berning brothers hold half of the elected positions in the township.  These positions are separately elected so that we have officeholders keeping each other in check and holding them accountable.  However, with a wink and a smile our trustees have been allowing our township to crumble while raising taxes.

My opponents are now going around making up rumors and attacking me personally because I am threatening to upset their apple cart.  It’s clear that they are worried about losing their power.  As your next Trustee, I’m going to focus on making our community better, not just saying whatever I have to in order to win the next election.

It’s time for real change here in Springfield Township.  I will bring much needed transparency and accountability to the Springfield Township Board of Trustees.  I will make sure our taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and efficiently.  I will help to elevate every resident and your quality of life.  I respectfully request your vote on November 7.

THIS JUST IN – JEDZ Will Bring In Over $2 Million This Year!

I was at this morning’s JEDZ Board meeting, and it was announced that with 70% compliance from the businesses in the township, the JEDZ tax will bring in over $2 million this year.  That’s enough money to replace the lost revenue due to state cuts, and with our 35% reduction in expenditures that our trustees are always talking about (about $1.5 million) how is it that we don’t have money to fix our roads?  Something is wrong with this picture…  See for yourself in the video below…

My Op-Ed on

I recently submitted an opinion piece to the Enquirer and just realized it had been published online a few days ago.  This should also run in the print edition of the Community Press (Hilltop Press and Northwest Press I assume) sometime in the near future.  You can check it out here.

For the record – I don’t want the township to go bankrupt.

I don’t want the township to go bankrupt, I just want it to live within its means.  Is that too much to ask?  If you live in Springfield Township, you may remember getting a mailer like this one back in May, just days before the primary election…  It’s true, I said it, however my words were taken out of context.  First of all, I said it
cfst3sarcastically.  Maybe it was a stupid thing to say.  If nothing else this proves that I am not a polished politician.  I’m just a normal guy, so yeah, something dumb came out of my mouth.  Who hasn’t said something dumb before? Do I regret it?  Not really.  I said it to make a point.  That point was, we’re not as bad off as our elected officials are saying we are.  I knew then, just like I know now, bankruptcy is not necessary to fix our township’s problems.  Fiscal responsibility is the answer to what ails us.  We should always be striving to do more with less, to be as efficient as possible, to cut out any unnecessary spending before we ask the taxpayers for more money.

I live in the township, my business is here, my family is here.  My fiancee’s six year old daughter goes to Brent Elementary in Finneytown.  I care about the future of this community and I want to see it thrive.  In order for that to happen, we need to take a hard look at some of the expenditures we are making, and clean up wasteful spending when we find it.  When government gets too fat and bloated, it’s time to put it on a diet and lose some weight.  Now that some of our funding has been cut from the state, I think it’s time to make some tough decisions.

“What would you cut,” you ask?  Well, that’s a tricky question.  It’s also pretty hard to answer without seeing the real numbers.  We have copies of the township’s budgets for the last few years, but they are awfully vague.  It’s hard to see exactly where the money is being spent.  Everything is pretty general and there’s a lot of stuff that just says “other.”  I know there is wasteful spending going on, especially when it comes to personnel and benefits.

For example, three of the members of the “Arts and Enrichment Council” are paid township employees. They do arts council stuff during business hours, rather than working on township business.  The township pays for all of the promotional stuff for the non-profit group, printing, mailing, it’s all paid for by you, the taxpayer.  Let me be clear by saying, I have no problem with an arts council operating within the township.  Heck, you can even let them use the township facilities for their events for FREE.  But why are we paying three township employees to run it?  Surely we could get some volunteers to step up and do it, free of charge, if they really care about the arts…  They could do some actual fund-raising, and use that money for all their promotional stuff.  The arts council claims that their goal is to have arts in the community while using less tax payer dollars.  How about no taxpayer dollars?

What about landscaping (parks) and snow removal?  Why can’t this stuff be outsourced?  Why do we have to pay someone full-time, plus benefits and pension, to mow grass and water flowers?  I’ve had township officials claim that they can do it cheaper than a landscaping service.  Boy would I like to see the numbers on that one.  Just think of all the money we could save just in those two categories alone. Aside from the salaries and benefits, think about all the trucks and equipment. Those require maintenance (and an entire staff to maintain them, with more salaries, benefits and pensions).  Having to buy new equipment all the time, it adds up and it gets very expensive.  If we went with a contractor, we would pay a fixed fee, they would take care of all the maintenance, and since they are not employing government workers, they don’t have the pension liabilities that the township has. There is no union or collective bargaining to deal with. I don’t buy the argument about the township being able to do it cheaper.  If that was the case, these landscape and snow removal services would not exist…period.

What about the rest of the administration staff?  We have our administrator, who makes almost $140,000 per year to dream up more ways to tax you.  He has an assistant that makes over $90,000 per year.  They pay secretaries and personal assistants almost $50,000 per year.  That’s more than most professions make after graduating from college with a 4-year degree.  I guess I’m in the wrong business, maybe I should just go work for the government.  After all, they have plenty of YOUR money to spend on inflated wages.

Let’s talk about shared services.  Sure, the township does mutual aid within the fire/EMS departments, and we contract out an officer to work in Mt. Healthy from time to time for $45/hour.  We also contract out our first responder services to Colerain Twp for the Pleasant Run Farms area…  Why don’t we look at consolidation in other areas.  Why not work more with the county on stuff?  They have way more resources than we do.  I’m sure there are some ways that our police department could collaborate with Hamilton County.  Why do we need our own SWAT team, K-9 unit, etc?  Doesn’t Hamilton County have a drug task force also? That brings me to my next point…

We added a third double-dipping employee today, a lieutenant in the police department has retired and was re-hired to lead DART, the multi-department drug task force.  He will be receiving his pension, plus he will be paid $75,000 per year as a part-time contractor.  I wish I could find part-time work for $75,000 per year. Not only that, since he will be working more than 30 hours a week, due to the Affordable Care Act (and the fact that the township has more than 50 employees) they are required by law to supply him with healthcare benefits.  So, where they would normally argue that double-dipping is somehow “saving” taxpayer dollars, it’s not saving all that much.  His salary now comes from a grant for the drug task force. That grant money is also taxpayer money, even if it doesn’t come out of the same fund.

We pay our part-time law director $112,500/year.  She gets paid additionally for responding to public records requests.  That seems like an awful lot of money for a part-time position.  Our police chief and the director of the service department are both double-dipping, receiving their pension plus a salary.  We’re have been paying for two assistant police chiefs for well over a year in anticipation that one of them will be promoted to chief once our current one decides to really retire.  I am told that he will be leaving in the fall of 2015, so I’m not completely clear on why it was necessary to promote a second person to assistant police chief two years before that takes place.

It’s pretty astounding when you think about it.  I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg.


How our township officials lied to us – fully explained…

I am a business owner and a resident in Springfield Township.  Back in September of 2013, I received a letter notifying me that the board of trustees were considering creating a Joint Economic Development Zone (JEDZ) earnings tax in Springfield Township.  I was immediately outraged because we already pay the second highest property tax in Hamilton County behind Delhi Township, and a township is not allowed to levy an earnings tax under Ohio law.  The JEDZ is legal, however it is meant for economic development purposes, where the businesses paying the tax get a new service or at least have the money spent in the areas in which it is collected.  The township was proposing this new tax for funding day to day operations and the money collected would go into the general fund.

I immediately set out to campaign against this new tax.  With the help of some other business owners and residents in the township, we created a political action committee (PAC) called “Stop The JEDZ.”  We went around to all the business owners in the township, explained what was going on and solicited funds for our PAC so that we could campaign against this taxation without representation.  We raised almost $15,000, purchased a billboard next to Brentwood Plaza, purchased 500 yard signs, distributed flyers door to door and sent out a mailer to residents.  We also had many appearances in various forms of the news media including TV, radio and newspaper articles.

Before doing any fundraising or spending anything from the PAC, we fought the township in any way we could find with the legal system.  Originally the township officials had planned to place the issue on a February special election ballot.  This was perplexing because apparently the township was low on funds, yet was willing to spend upwards of $60,000 on holding a special election.  We felt this was very wrong.  Also, the township did not follow the proper procedure to put it on the ballot. The way the process works is they must put the documents (JEDZ contract, map of the JEDZ zone, economic development plan, etc) on display for 30 days available to the public to view prior to a public hearing.  They take comments at the public hearing and then they are able to make changes to the contract and vote to put it on the ballot.  They did all this, but one week prior to the public hearing, they changed the JEDZ contract from a 10 year term to a 40 year term with three 10 year renewals.

We called them out on this, filed a protest with the board of elections, paid an attorney $2600 and the board of elections determined that this did not fall under their jurisdiction since all the paperwork filed with them to put it on the ballot was correct. They said they could not determine whether the proper process was followed to get to that point. There were hearings in Columbus for HB 289, a bill that would eliminate this loophole in the Ohio Revised Code, and I went to Columbus to testify in favor of the bill.  The same day I was there, Joe Honerlaw and Mike Hinnenkamp from the township were there as well. One of the arguments they made during the hearing was that even if they laid off all 8 people that work at the township administration building, they would only save $800,000 per year.  I thought to myself, “Only?”  The committee echoed my comments when I went up to testify.

We decided that the timing was going to be very close with the passage of HB 289, and the bill had changed several times to remove the teeth from the legislation, so we would have to fight this thing.  We decided to file a motion in Hamilton County court to have the measure stripped from the ballot because they did not follow the proper procedure. We had gathered all of the evidence to show that this was the case.  The township, knowing that we were likely to win the case, and since it would look bad in the court of public opinion if they were to lose, or if they were to spend $60,000 on a special election, held a special meeting the day we were set to file the motion in court, and rescinded the contract with Mount Healthy.  They immediately scheduled another public hearing 30 days out so they could go through the entire process again and put it on the May primary ballot.

We campaigned very hard, had a lot of volunteers and really thought we had this thing beat.  We had yard signs all over the township and were really building some momentum.  About a month before the election, we caught wind of a pro-JEDZ PAC called “Citizens for the Future of Springfield Township.”  They claim not to have spent or raised enough money to put them over the threshold required in order for them to have to file a pre-election campaign finance report, so we had no idea who was behind this PAC.  After the primary election, we found out that major contributors to the PAC were none other than Gwen McFarlin (trustee), Joe Honerlaw (trustee), Mark Berning (trustee) and Dan Berning (fiscal officer).  They also received a large contribution from PRUS Construction, which is the contractor that does most of the road repairs in the township.  They started having meetings with the civic associations in the township, senior groups, etc and began raising money.  They put out about the same number of signs as we did and it was on. Their signs were very misleading and claimed that the JEDZ “won’t increase your tax burden,” but this was untrue.  The campaign ran down to the wire and we knew it would be close.  We heard stories about the township intimidating employees of the service department, police and fire departments to get them to go along with it and to not speak out publicly against it.  We ultimately lost by 290 votes out of more than 6,300 votes cast.

The township and the pro-JEDZ PAC, while claiming that we were spreading misinformation and half-truths, were actually doing that themselves.  They claimed that if the JEDZ did not pass, they would have to cut police and fire, we pointed out that those departments are funded under their own levies and would not be affected and eventually they dropped that argument.  They told the seniors that they would have to close the senior center and Grove Banquet Hall even though they admitted that both were self-sustaining and would probably even turn a profit in 2014.  They said that roads wouldn’t get plowed, they would have to close parks, dissolve the arts and enrichment council (which shouldn’t be paid for with taxpayer money anyway) and it would cut down on the amount of road repairs they would be able to do even though they have a 1 mil road district levy already.

They convinced the Finneytown Civic Association and also claimed on both an official mailer from the township and a mailer from the PAC that the money from the JEDZ would be used for road repairs. The civic association bought into this and themselves began to promote passage of the JEDZ, putting out online postings, flyers and also yard signs that said “Fix our roads, Vote FOR JEDZ.”  They also sold this thing by telling the public that they would rather pass a JEDZ than raise property tax.  They claimed that if the JEDZ didn’t pass, raising property tax would be their only option, they were unwilling to make cuts to wasteful and unnecessary spending of taxpayer dollars.  Only recently did these groups and the general public find out that they had been hoodwinked, even though this is what we had been telling people the whole time.

They made us out to be a bunch of crazy whack jobs that didn’t know what we were talking about, but finally, at a trustee work session meeting this week, the township officials admitted what we had been saying the whole time. The JEDZ money will not be used for repairing roads, and now they are going to propose a 4.5 mil tax levy for the road district, which would cost an average homeowner that owns a $100,000 home almost $500/year.  On top of that, they said another option if a levy doesn’t pass, or if they decide to get the funds through alternative means, they would simply re-pave the roads anyway and assess the homeowners on those streets for the cost. So basically, if they can’t get the money from the taxpayers voluntarily, they will simply assess their property and take it by force.

Enough is enough.  We are fed up, and we aren’t going to take it anymore.  Gwen McFarlin (trustee) and Dan Berning (fiscal officer) are up for re-election in 2015. Gwen already has a liberty-minded, fiscally responsible candidate running against her, and there are a few folks that might be interested in running against Dan.  Joe Honerlaw and Mark Berning (the other two trustees) are up for re-election in 2017 and we are working on getting someone to run against them as well.  We need to replace all of our elected officials, because in order to change the policy, you have to change the people.

Our township officials lied to us. All of our suspicions about the JEDZ tax are coming true.

Here is an excellent article over at STARTS Local, a community watchdog group in Springfield Township. Our township officials recently put a JEDZ (Joint Economic Development Zone) earnings tax on the ballot in May and I was one of the folks fighting it.  They made us all out to be a bunch of whack jobs that didn’t know what we were talking about.  As it turns out, we were right, and they admitted it in their work session meeting today.  Check out the video links at the bottom of the article for all the proof you need that it’s time for some new leadership in our township.

Proof that new leadership is needed in our township.

Check out this video on from last night’s township trustee meeting.  At least 10 residents from the Seven Hills neighborhood showed up to the meeting to complain about issues in their neighborhood and their concerns largely fell upon deaf ears.  I can’t believe the astounding non-answers they received from our elected officials.  They should be ashamed of themselves.  It’s pretty clear that new leadership is needed.

Per the Ohio Revised Code, townships are only statutorily required to maintain roads and cemeteries.  I fail to understand how they are unable to do this when we are paying the amount of taxes that we pay here in Springfield Township.  Please share this with your friends!