That's the question ... and it's a good one to ask.
CareNet is a non-profit organization that connects individuals without insurance to health care providers. Their clients are primarily low-income who fall in the gap of earning too much money to qualify for public assistance, but not enough to afford the cost of health insurance. Their $300,000 (+/-) yearly funding pays for the administration and tracking of the clients, and the recruitment and monitoring of the volunteered provider services.
CareNet was started in 2003 by former Toledo mayor Jack Ford who put together the coalition of funders. The program is run through the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio. As one of the major founders, since 2003 the City of Toledo has contributed money out of the general fund for the operations.
Last year, current mayor Carty Finkbeiner did not include funding for CareNet in the 2007 budget. Toledo City Council did - and the organization got around $62,000. This year, Carty again eliminated funding from his proposed 2008 budget. And it looked like Council was going to again fund the organization. But Councilman Tom Waniewski (the new District 5 representative who took office the first of January) objected to using general fund dollars for a non-profit organization and asked for a two-week delay on the vote to see if he could find private funds to take the place of the city's 'obligation.'
And, to the surprise of many in city government, he was successful. Turns out, there are quite a number of organizations and individuals who are willing to put their own money into supporting this great organization. The contributors even included Carty and three city administrators, but, interestingly enough, not one member of city council was willing to put their own money into the effort.
Now that funding for the organization is set for 2008, the city should start working with them to arrange a permanent replacement for the general fund dollars. That there were donations this year is a good indication that such an alternative will be successful on a permanent basis.
But today's Blade editorial seems to think otherwise, with the headline of "CareNet a public duty." And I have to ask - why? Why must funding for this organization be the responsibility of the taxpayers if there are private funds which can provide for its operations?
According to the editorial, the private funding "...should not suggest, however, that the city be let off the hook from providing CareNet support in the future." They say it's a worthwhile and, for some, a necessary program.
They also say, "We believe the city has a reasonable obligation to help fund CareNet and should continue it." But they don't explain WHY the obligation is there.
They do say: "Private funding will help relieve pressure on the city budget, to be sure, but it could be withdrawn. CareNet is too important to live hand-to-mouth from year to year."
If this is, indeed, the case (and there is no evidence that it is), then why shouldn't the priority be to find a stable source of non-public funds? Why is it that the only solution the editorial offers is to continue to use our severely limited tax dollars?
Here's my question for city council and The Blade:
If this is such a great program and is so worthy of public dollars - to the point where the public should be taxed more or give up other services to make this a priority - how much did you contribute of your own funds before taking from the rest of us?