If Columbus voters turn down an income tax increase on Aug. 4, Hugh J. Dorrian is worried major changes would be in store for the city he has served for so long.

If Columbus voters turn down an income tax increase on Aug. 4, Hugh J. Dorrian is worried major changes would be in store for the city he has served for so long.

Bill Todd thinks that might be an excellent idea.

Dorrian, city auditor since 1969, speaks of a possible deterioration in the quality of life for Columbus residents.

Todd, an attorney and the Republican candidate for mayor in 2007, sees rejection of Issue 1, which would raise the income tax from 2 percent to 2.5 percent, as a chance for a complete "re-engineering" of city government.

The two men took turns passing a microphone back and forth Monday evening at Broad Street Presbyterian Church as the featured speakers for "Issue 1: A Vote on Columbus' Future." The moderated discussion, which focused primarily on questions submitted by the 60 or so people in attendance, was sponsored by the Franklin County Consortium for Good Government, the Columbus Community Coalition and the Society of Professional Journalists, Central Ohio Pro Chapter.

Todd and Dorrian disagreed about not only the wisdom of an income tax hike, but also whether a special election was a good idea, if it represents an attempt to hide facts from the public, if a levy specifically for police and fire protection might not have been a better approach and how the "rainy day fund" came to be depleted.

Todd repeatedly used the term "blank check" to refer to the $90-million to $100-million in additional revenue the income tax increase would bring. He said that it "can be used for anything that the cronies at City Hall want."

Dorrian warned that failing to act in the face of dwindling resources to pay for city services might mean that Columbus is "on the threshold of changing the very character of this community in which we live.

"It's a very, very critical matter," Dorrian said in his opening remarks. "It's never a good time to force anybody to do anything."

It is, however, the longtime auditor insisted, appropriate to ask people who work in Columbus to make a greater contribution to community life.

Nonsense, Todd countered.

"We can't afford new taxes," he said. "We can't afford the legacy of high government costs that we've been stuck with. This is the wrong medicine for this disease."

On the special election question, Dorrian said that voter approval on Aug. 4 would permit collection of the income tax increase to begin Oct. 1, bringing $15-million to $20-million in added revenue before the end of the year. He later said that might stave off potential layoffs of public safety personnel.

"I think that the special election's a mistake," Todd said.

Scheduling it for the summer, he believes, represents an "effort to conceal facts from the voters." Todd went on to say that spending cuts already made by city officials have been "window dressing" designed to have the most negative effect on residents, such as closing recreation centers.

"If we're trying to hide something, we're doing a terrible job," Dorrian said, pointing out that Monday's appearance was his 25th on behalf of Issue 1, with Mayor Michael B. Coleman and council members also speaking out.

In his closing remarks, Todd charged that the Coleman administration had engaged in "chronic deficit spending" for the last eight or nine years, almost completely drawing down the reserve fund.

"It's been concealed," he said. "It's been concealed very well from the people.

"I think that this is the wrong proposal at the wrong time."

In his conclusion, Dorrian said that people in public office have to recognize the needs of their constituency and act appropriately. He pointed out that former Republican Franklin County Commissioner Dewey R. Stokes, former Republican Mayor Dana G. "Buck" Rinehart and current Republican county engineer Dean C. Ringle have all endorsed Issue 1.