Wilkinsburg Future supports the government study commission question on the November 8, 2022 ballot. This referendum, if approved, would commission a group of newly elected commissioners to study the form and structure of the Wilkinsburg borough government and produce a report, which, if advisable, recommends a public referendum on a Home Rule Charter, to be drafted by the commission.
We learned about a flyering campaign spreading disinformation about the referendum.
This flyer, distributed on September 16, 2022, when photographs of it were first sent to WF, employs both misinformation about certain facts and deliberate disinformation°.
The flyer says:
VOTE NO TO HOME RULE ON NOV. 8
An anti-annexation ballot question this November will ask if you support a home rule study. The question will ask: Shall a government study commission of seven (7) member be elected to study the existing form of government of the municipality, to consider the advisability of of the adoption of a home rule charter, and if advisable, to draft and recommend a home rule charter?
Annexation will LOWER property taxes by 50%. Home Rule does nothing to lower your taxes, but it will RAISE income taxes up to 4x.
This flyer is problematic, and it warrants examination statement by statement:
Annexation will LOWER property taxes by 50%.
This is true almost, but is within acceptable mathematical precision. It’s actually ~50.5% for the 2022-2023 school year. It was 53% for the 2021-2022 school year. That’s right, Wilkinsburg property taxes are already trending lower over time while Pittsburgh is trending upward.
Home Rule does nothing to lower your taxes, but it will RAISE income taxes up to 4x.
This is neither true nor false. Rather, it’s irrelevant. The creation of the government study commission has no effect on tax rates. The claim of a 4x income tax hike is a fabrication; however annexation does relate to income tax. More on income taxes at the end of this post.
VOTE NO TO HOME RULE ON NOV. 8
The Wilkinsburg electorate is not voting for Home Rule on November 8. It is voting on establishing a government study commission to determine how Wilkinsburg’s government structure could be changed to serve residents better. There is a big difference. The results from a study will produce a recommendation, probably including a referendum on a Home Rule Charter.
A Yes vote for the referendum on November 8 says, “I want an accountable, elected body to investigate and report on ways that Wilkinsburg government can improve.”
A No vote against it says, “No, I don’t want to change Wilkinsburg government at all, not even to consider it.”
An anti-annexation ballot question this November will ask if you support a home rule study.
Neither the referendum nor the commission is inherently anti-annexation. The commission’s work is an exercise in thorough, public research with accountability. A study may be worth the time to provide information and insight for all. Indeed, some avowed annexation supporters signed the petitions for the government study commission and its candidates to get on the ballot.
In one commission petition circulator’s count, less than 15% of the residents they spoke to were in favor of annexation.
What the flyer omits: Annexation would triple Wilkinsburgers’ income taxes, a fact this and most pro-annexation material brushes aside. Wilkinsburg also only assesses earned income taxes, while Pittsburgh may consider taxing unearned income like dividends and capital gains.
The 2% higher income tax rate would cut into Wilkinsburgers’ already low incomes for the region. During a time of historic inflation and when more than 65% of Wilkinsburg’s population rents and would not benefit from lower property taxes, that makes annexation a hard sell. So they prefer to not mention it, and instead resort to a cheap attempt at one-upping, by talking about a 4x income tax increase that is a pure fabrication.
It should be noted the images of the flyer obtained by Wilkinsburg Future from at least two concerned Wilkinsburgers do not have a “Paid for by…” identification claim, which is unethical and may also violate county, state, or federal election law. Election expense reports are not something to disregard.
This statement-by-statement analysis shows the potential effectiveness of misinformation and disinformation to sway voter opinion. If one has to work this hard to understand what is being stated, there is something nefarious afoot.
Annexation proponents are clearly having a hard time selling the idea, so they resort to confusing campaigns that attack publicly-accountable parallel efforts to improve Wilkinsburg, simply because none of the alternatives fit the flawed narrative that annexation is the best and only way forward for Wilkinsburgers.
° Misinformation is false or inaccurate information. Examples include rumors, errors, and mistakes. Disinformation is deliberate and includes inaccurate statements, untruths, and propaganda intending to purposely mislead the reader.