Mike is an engineer. He's got a good technical job in a local manufacturing plant. He's married and the father of three terrific - but very energetic - boys. His wife, now that their kids are older, has gone back to school to become a nurse. Two of the boys attend a good TPS elementary school and they're happy with the education the boys are getting. The youngest can't wait to go to school with his brothers.
Mike and his wife are involved in the school and with Boy Scouts. In their free time, they race sailboats (which is how we know them). They're a good family - young professionals - the type of family Toledo needs.
Mike told us the other day that they're looking to move out of Toledo. Not because of the schools - at least, not yet. Not because of a lack of job opportunities or because of an out-of-town job opportunity. Not even because of the taxes, although they're not happy about those.
No - Mike and his family are looking at leaving because of something so simple, yet so offensive, that they just can't get past it.
You see, they had a garage sale last weekend. They put their stuff on their driveway and in their yard, put up their signs and began that summer ritual of getting rid of things they no longer need. And, for this sale, that included an old van. They put the van on their grass, as the driveway was filled, and put a 'for sale' sign on it.
At some point on Saturday, a police office was looking at the van. They didn't think anything of it - except to hope that maybe he'd be interested enough to make an offer. However, when they went to move it after the sale was over, they found a ticket on the windshield.
Yes, a ticket. For parking the vehicle on the lawn. Because, according to Toledo Municipal Code 351.07(a)33, you cannot:
(33) Stand or park a vehicle upon any unpaved portion of a front lot or side lot in any residence district, or upon any unpaved portion of a vacant lot in any residence district, except as otherwise permitted under the local Zoning Ordinance, Part Eleven of the Toledo Municipal Code.
Now, Mike didn't know this. But the officer did and, instead of mentioning this law to Mike during the garage sale, he just issued the ticket.
So, it isn't a major issue, but it's the final straw. It's the thought that the police/city is more interested in the fines they can collect than in helping citizens to follow the law. It's the thought that, instead of just mentioning the law to Mike and asking him to move his van, the mindset is to ticket/fine someone.
And then there is the whole purpose of the law, which was to prevent 'junk' vehicles from cluttering up a neighborhood. Clearly, this was not case in this instance, as the van was only on the 'unpaved portion' during the daytime hours of the garage sale - along with other items for sale.
Mike did consider contesting the ticket...he's still not sure. But knowing Mike, he'll probably just pay it - and then move. And I can't help but wonder how many other young, professional families make the same decision when they come across the straw that broke the camel's back.
Is it possible that Toledo will learn from this? Some will, but those who really need the lesson - those ensconced in the Ivory Tower known as 1 Government Center - won't. And, as a result, people will continue to leave while those in power will continue to scratch their heads...