MSNBC ridicules local fee

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sometimes it is good to be recognized nationally. Other times, not so much.

Ironton was recently featured on the MSNBC Web site, which is nice for national and worldwide attention.

The not-so-good part is that it was in its money section called “12 Most Outrageous Fees.”

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Included on the list are fees by airlines charging extra to find a hotel or getting on the plane quicker, hotel snack fees, and the phone company line inspection fee. Also on the list is Ironton’s public safety fee under the heading, “The we don’t need your stinkin’ taxes fee.”

The author wrote “Residents of Ironton, Ohio, will pay two more years of an $8 ‘public safety fee’ to help pay for police officers’ salaries and equipment, items typically covered by taxes through the city’s general fund. Bob Cleary, the only City Council member to oppose the charge, argued that ‘the people of Ironton are being ‘feed’ to death,’ The Ironton Tribune reported. He was overruled; the other six members liked the $529,000 it saved Ironton money in … taxes.”

The Ironton City Council renewed the public safety fee on Feb. 14 with an emergency three readings. The fee was originally passed in 2006 and was set to expire four days before the next scheduled council meeting.

As for Ironton’s spot on the MSNBC list, Cleary said he would have rather the city made a list for being in the top 12 most progressive cities in the country rather than one for outrageous fees.

“It’s nice to see Ironton get recognized, but to be made fun of like (rest of the organizations on the list) isn’t good for the city of Ironton or future development and bringing businesses here,” he said.

Cleary said he couldn’t support the fee two years ago and he couldn’t support it this time. He said when he left the mayor’s office five years ago, the budget had about $1 million in carryover because of careful management. He said two years later when he was on council again, he opposed the fee and thought it should have been only for one year and not two.

“I still maintain that it isn’t necessary to operate the city and it should have ended after the two years like it was promised,” he said. “Why keep taxing people when we have a $1 million dollar carryover?”

Leo Johnson said, “A two paragraph blurb in the MSNBC Money section doesn’t reflect what the money goes for.”

He said the money was necessary to improve the Ironton Police Department two years ago and it has been used effectively. He said Cleary should have shown how he would do the budget differently to fund the additions to the police department without a public safety fee.

“Two years ago, we were financially strapped and now things are better. The fee helps pay for four new police officers, additional training, and equipment, and purchasing appropriate and up-to-date equipment for city workers, Johnson said.

“It’s great Bob voted against this and made a stand by voting against this, but he hasn’t offered a viable plan to do anything better with reducing the fee than we have,” he said.

To see the full article on MSNBC’s Web site, go to