* Toledo tops in unemployment - This isn't really news, though everyone seems to think so. The myriad of news articles say that Lucas County has the highest unemployment of all the urban counties in Ohio. The news that everyone is missing is that Lucas County has had the highest unemployment of all the urban counties in Ohio for about the last 20 years! Even when the economy was terrific and the other areas of the state were doing well, we still had the worst numbers.
So rather than bemoan our numbers, what are our elected officials doing? Nothing constructive, that's for sure. They're talking about, or actually voting to, raise taxes and fees, make temporary taxes permanent, starting a government-funded education fund, training people for 'green jobs' even though they have no green jobs to fill, threatening to appeal their arbitration losses, etc... All things they've done, in one form or another, for the last 20 years - and we can expect the same results: Lucas County leading the states urban counties in unemployment. You know what they say about the definition of stupidity...
* In a 'stuck on stupid' move, Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner decided to 'furlough' for a couple of days before and after holidays, some of the city workers. The unions claimed this violated the terms of their contracts and they went to court. The court said to go to arbitration on the issue - so the city and unions requested an expedited arbitration. Turns out, the unions were right and Carty was wrong. The furloughs did violate the terms of the contracts and the city was ordered to compensate the covered employees for that day off.
Now Carty, with his penchant for never admitting he's wrong, is saying he's going to appeal the arbitration ruling - and he'll do more furloughs while waiting for the appeal. Some are saying he doesn't even have the right to appeal (though I couldn't find it in the Toledo Municipal Code which includes the contracts), but that little fact won't stop him from trying. Of course, if he loses the appeal (as many people predict) we'll again be paying city workers for time not worked, not to mention the costs of the arbitrator and the appeal itself.
* The city recently got a $3 million grant to go toward cleaning up the old Fiberglass Tower. A Michigan firm, the Eyde Company, has decided to purchase the building and convert it to condos, office space, a restaurant, etc. Their plan calls for a $35 million investment, once the grant helps pay for removal of asbestos.
At the press conference announcing the grant, WTOL News 11 reporter Rob Wiercinski tried to ask the mayor about the wisdom of state money being the first in with the hope that private money would follow. He used the Marina District as an example of the difficulties private developers are facing with such projects. He didn't mention, though I will, the stalled plans for the Steam Plant and the public statements by those developers that Toledo, with its current market, doesn't need additional housing.
The mayor, in his usual condescending way, didn't answer the question but did manage to insult the reporter saying that people with better pedigrees than him and the mayor couldn't get loans from the banks. Such an answer would appear to support Wiercinski's concern - but the mayor was oblivious.
As a side note, I received an email several days ago about this structure. It was from an individual who had been at a meeting with engineers, architects, developers and Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher. The overwhelming consensus was that the building's layout and design was not conducive to the needs of today's potential tenants and that it would be better to tear it down than to spend a fortune trying to 'make a square peg fit into a round hole.'
* Saying that 'desperate times calls for desperate measures,' The Blade editorial board is calling for a state-wide tax amnesty. Tax amnesty programs, they claim, help the state collect money owed to them - and that's true. But what about all of us who have paid our tax bills on time - or even those who paid late, but paid the late fees because they knew they were in the wrong?
If we continue to reward bad behavior, we will continue to get bad behavior. If money is owed to the state, it should be collected - without an amnesty. If the state wants to work out any payment plan or forgive part of the late fees/fines as part of an agreement with an individual debtor, taking into account the unique circumstances that led to the non-payment, that's okay with me. But to publicly announce that any and all violators will have a period of time where they can suffer no consequences as a result of their willful and flagrant violation of the state laws just doesn't sit right with the majority of taxpayers who've done the right thing all along. Besides, the editorial argues, people don't suddenly decide to not pay their taxes just because they see this happening, so the negative consequences of amnesty programs is minor.
If the state is so desperate for funds, it should step up its collection enforcement - not reward the non-payers - and the editors at The Blade should stop arguing on behalf of lawbreakers and do more to support the lawabiders.
* There's been a lot of talk lately about government re-training of laid-off workers. Now, I'm all for laid-off workers going out and getting training that will help them get a new job, but I must question when it became the role of government to make sure this happens? When was it that government became the job trainers? We know that most people in local government didn't have 'real' job before entering politics, so do we really expect that they have the skills and ability to help others get jobs? And why are my tax dollars going to train laid-off people instead of staying in my pocket to help me better my education or training so I can move up an employment ladder?
Why is government acting as a middleman for training citizens? All the middleman does is give you information you could have gotten on your own (if you were interested) and then take your money (and everyone else's) for doing so. Think of it - Lucas County gets millions in Workforce Investment Act (WIA) funds to do this - and they spend that money in a building, in equipment like computers and chairs and desks and, especially, in staff salaries - all to provide a location where you can get information you could have gotten in numerous locations. And despite all these tax dollars being used to 'help people get jobs,' we still have the highest unemployment rate of all the urban counties in Ohio.
Government's job is NOT retraining laid-off people or helping out-of-work citizens to find jobs. That's an individual responsibility - or, at least, it used to be.