Saturday, October 17, 2009

No thanks, Toledo City Council - I can make up my own mind on Issue 3

As an elected official, I tried not to use my elected position in support of or against specific ballot measures.

As a commissioner, part of my job was to vote on placing levies on the ballot. While there were times I voted in favor of the public having their say on existing measures, many times I voted against attempts to tax the people further.

But when it came to state issues or non-county-wide levies or even votes on precinct liquor sales, I advocated against the Board of County Commissioners taking a position - as a body. I certainly had my personal opinions, as did my fellow commissioners, but I did not support passing resolutions urging people to vote one way or another.

Unfortunately, Toledo City Council does not share that view. Outside of ballot measures within their control (like the 3/4% payroll tax), they routinely weigh in on all sorts of issues whether Toledoans want them to or not.

This week, they held a Committee of the Whole meeting to hear from proponents and opponents of Issue 3 (starting at page 12 of the link) - the constitutional amendment to allow casino gambling in certain cities in Ohio. Lisa Renee at Glass City Jungle has a comprehensive post detailing the discussion at the meeting if you'd like more information on the measure.

But Issue 3 is not the point of this post. I don't mind that City Council held a committee hearing on the subject, but I do object to the elitism on display at council that makes these elected individuals believe they need to tell people how to vote.

From The Blade news story:

During the face-off yesterday, Councilmen Lindsay Webb and Betty Shultz both said they would support a resolution urging passage of Issue 3.

"I think this issue is of serious consequence for our community, and it is right for City Council to express itself on this issue," Ms. Webb said. "I think this is an issue we can't sidestep and be neutral on."

If Lindsay feels this way, she is certainly capable of holding a press conference to express her personal support for the issue. I'm certain the proponents would LOVE to show up for that and help publicize her personal opinion on the measure. And expressing a personal opinion would allow her to not 'sidestep and be neutral' on the matter.

But there is no need for Toledo City Council - as a body - to take any action whatsoever. The position of members of council on this issue is not indicative of the position of the city. That can only be determined by the actual vote in November.

Also from the paper:

Councilman George Sarantou - a strong Issue 3 supporter - raised the point of how elected officials would explain to their constituents why they would turn their backs on a potential windfall from casino gambling when several neighboring states have legalized casinos.

Actually, George, we're more interested in how you turned your back on the taxpayers by supporting an increased tax for garbage pickup.

We're also wondering why, as chairman of the finance committee, you've not done more to challenge the budget assumptions of the mayor - assumptions which continually prove wrong.

Or to use historical data to challenge the estimates.

Or to seriously question huge increases in certain line items without explanation - like for red-light cameras.

Or why the city increases revenue line items by a set percentage despite logic telling you that a $10 fee which nets $400 in income is not going to generate $12 more simply because the budget says so.

Or why city council continues to spend money it does not have on amenities while pushing necessities aside.

By the way - how much did this 'hearing' cost us when we have a budget deficit still unaddressed???

These are the things your constituents want explained.

Besides, we already know the penchant of Toledo City Council to grasp at any potential income, so the inevitable support of potential income from Issue 3 is a no-brainer to us.

The idea that city council members are somehow more knowledgeable about what is good or bad for the city is something only council members seem to accept. As members of council, these fellow citizens are supposed to representatives for us, though lately they're more like dictators than employees.

The assumption that the body of council needs to tell us how to vote on an issue is highly presumptuous. What council should remember is that the voters they believe need to be told how to vote on Issue 3 are the same ones who were capable of casting a vote for them.

(Side note: some would say that's proof, in and of itself, that said voters need to be told how to vote, considering that the voters continue to elect the same people over and over again despite the definition of stupidity.)

But if you 'trust' the voters to select you as their representative on council, you should also 'trust' them enough to make a decision about ballot issues without the council dictating what that decision should be.

Go ahead, if you want, and express your own opinion. But stop using the authority and stature of the Council to tell us what you think is good or bad for us. We already have enough of that coming from Washington - we don't need it from Government Center as well.

1 comment:

Tim Higgins said...

As you rightly point out Maggie, City Council has plenty of unresolved "issues" on its plate without wasting time delving into those on the state ballot.

As for their opinion on Issue 3, let me say that if revenue is the basis of their decision, then let us let us no longer hesitate on First Energy's millions to renew the utility contract. Let us likewise begin to accept special interest bribes to the city for other monopolies, tailored legislation, and new business opportunities.

This is worse than poor politics on the part of council, it is endorsement of bad law.

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