Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Regulating low voltage in Toledo

The City of Toledo has proposed an ordinance to regulate low-voltage installations/modifications, impose requirements for permits and mandate licensing fees. Ordinance #83-09 was referred to the Community and Neighborhood Development Committee for a hearing at 1 p.m. today in city council chambers.

After discussing this on the talk shows on WSPD yesterday and this morning and receiving multiple emails on the issue, I have yet to find anyone who supports this money-grab.

Lisa Renee at Glass City Jungle has a copy of the ordinance, which is 16 pages long.

According to the ordinance, these new fees, permits and regulations are required to:

"... protect the public from such life safety issues as electric shock and fires, and will also diminish consequential property damage."

According to statements made during council's agenda meeting where this was discussed, the city could not document a single instance where shocks or fires or property damage had resulted from inappropriate low-voltage installations.

Additionally, I've been told that the Ohio Association of Broadcasters has done some research and cannot find any instance of another city in Ohio having such onerous regulations.

The OAB members include television and radio stations who traditionally have their own internal staffers do much of the low-voltage work necessary to their operations. Under this ordinance, they would not qualify for licenses to do the work and anything they did in the normal work day would require a permit and inspection before use.

Last night, a caller who previously worked at WSPD, mentioned a problem that typifies the type of issues government has failed to address. The WSPD studio has an Emergency Broadcast 'ticker' that beeps and then broadcasts alerts and warnings. If something in the device failed, it would qualify under the ordinance as a low-voltage repair and would require the station technicians to go to Government Center, apply for a permit, pay money for the permit, obtain a licensed contractor, journeyman or apprentice eligible to do the work, schedule the work to be done, schedule the inspection, wait an unknown number of days for the inspection and then, when inspection is passed, turn on the device.

All that time, the station would be without an Emergency Broadcast system. Since citizens rely upon radio and television for such broadcasts, and because most broadcast companies have similar types of devices, there would be greater threat of 'life safety issues' to implement such a law than would be prevented as a result.

Now, the city administration didn't just create this idea out of thin air. Nope - the city has 'boards of control' who get full authority to propose regulations and mandates upon building activities. TMC 1311.11 establishes such boards.

I sent an email to Jason Webber, the mayor's public information officer, requesting the names of the members of this board, the category they represent and their terms of office. I don't yet have confirmation, but I believe these are the members who've recommended this ordinance:

* Todd Michaelsen - Exec. V.P. Toledo Electrical Contractors Assoc., National Electrical Contractors Assoc. and chairman of the board of control
* Andrew Bryson - Bryson/Tucker Electric Contractor
* James Cisterino - Cisterino Electric Contractor
* Kenneth Roach - Business Manger IBEW Local 8
* Daniel Bollin - Transtar Electric Inc.
* Thomas Dubose - Thomas Dubose Electric Contractor
* Jimmie Cisco
* Eugene Dembowski - Chief Electrical Inspector City of Toledo
* Peg Wallace - Manager Civil Service City of Toledo
* Paul Syring - City of Toledo Law Department

Interestingly, the code says the terms of office are three years, but there have been no appointments/re-appointments to this board in all of 2006, 2007, 2008 or yet in 2009, according to a search of the index of theToledo City Journal.

So here are some questions that need to be asked:

* How much is this new source of revenue supposed to generate and how much will it cost to implement and then oversee?

* Since the city routinely takes several days for inspectors to be scheduled, how with the city deal with the increased work load being asked of this department and how will it ensure that citizens, who work, will be able to have an inspector available during evening and weekends when they will be home? (Or is the city suggesting that a person lose a day of work just to get a speaker wire inspected?) How are overtime costs estimated for such non-business hour services?

* If safety is the issue, what accident, injury or fire prompted the need? What other cities have done this (again - none in Ohio) and what were their reasons for implementation.

* The National Electrical Code does have 'standards' for installing low-voltage wiring/devices, but exempts such from regulatory control. Since you're using NEC as a basis for this law, how do you reconcile the NEC recommendations against regulation to this proposed regulation.

* What plans are being made and what are the cost projections for informing the do-it-yourselfer who just goes to Radio Shack, buys a cable and then runs it, of the fact that they are in violation of the law - or of their need to comply with a new permitting law and licensing mandate?

* Many citizens are just going to ignore this, much like your cat licensing law, because you have no way of knowing when do-it-yourselfers violate your new rules and then become subject to fines and penalties. As a result, what plans are being made to enforce the law in such circumstances?

* Single-family residential structures are not required to have firewalls. Since one of the things being said about this is the breaching of firewalls, why are you requiring regulations for structures that don't have this component?

* There are a lot of things that potentially can cause more 'life safety' issues than running a stereo wire - like space heaters and Christmas trees. These two items alone have been documented as the source of fires and loss of life. Why are you recommending regulations for something that hasn't resulted in damage when you ignore other items which clearly have. If 'life safety' is the overriding consideration, will we soon see regulations, permits and licensing for space heaters and Christmas Tree lights?

* What industries or training programs will or could benefit from this regulation? Did these entities have any part whatsoever in developing these mandates?

* What industries or businesses might suffer if this ordinance is passed? How did the administration document the potential negative impact and evaluate it prior to making the recommendation that this new law be implemented?

* How does this regulation contribute to a 'business friendly' environment in our city? Is it possible that some might see this as 'not business friendly'?

These are just the questions I've come up with. I'm sure that individuals within the affected industries will have more. But let's see how many of these questions get asked by council members today during the hearing.

More importantly, let's see how many of them get answered PRIOR to a vote on the measure.

If you have thoughts about this bill, contact your city council members - and encourage your friends, family, employees and customers to do the same thing.

Contact information:

City Council phone: 419-245-1050
City Council emails:
emails:
phillip.copeland@toledo.oh.gov
joe.mcnamara@toledo.oh.gov
george.sarantou@toledo.oh.gov
betty.shultz@toledo.oh.gov
mark.sobczak@toledo.oh.gov
frank.szollosi@toledo.oh.gov
wilma.brown@toledo.oh.gov
dmichael.collins@toledo.oh.gov
mike.craig@toledo.oh.gov
michael.ashford@toledo.oh.gov
tom.waniewski@toledo.oh.gov
lindsay.webb@toledo.oh.gov

2 comments:

2Bn11FA said...

Maggie,
if you keep up with this questioning of the Lords of the Mannor I would fear for your safety! ;-)

The one thing I would ask is how do the council members think this will be helpful to the citizens of Toledo? If it does not help the citizens then it is hurting them. is that the job of council? to hurt the citizens who pay the city's bills?

Just stupid...actually stupid isn't harsh enough.

Tim Higgins said...

Maggie,

Didn't you get the memo that has been going around. They won and we lost. That means more regulation, more bureaucracy, and greater tax burdens, especially upon evil businessmen. (The same evil businessmen, but the way, that the city is complaining are leaving.)

There is no hint I am sure in this bill, that the city could be more accommodating if the businesses in question (radio and TV stattions mostly) would likewise be more accommodating.

Welcome to the economy and the world of hope and change.

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