There are just too many issues I'd like to blog about and not enough time in the day, so here's a round-up:
* George Sarantou, a sitting Toledo city councilman and candidate for Lucas County commissioner, is urging people to approve Issue 5 on the May ballot which would divert monies from our Capital Improvement Fund to the General Fund. Oh - and he's a registered Republican.
Sarantou has been chairman of council Finance Committee for quite a while now, during which time the city has had increasing yearly deficits. He says that allowing the money to be diverted from our long-term needs like roads and major improvements, will allow the city to reduce the new trash tax of $15 that he supported. Yes - he voted to increase our taxes.
However, approval of Issue 5 will only reduce the new tax to $8.50 per month for people who recycle. However, that's still an increase over the $1 per month we're currently paying. So he's supporting a tax increase. And, he supporting diverting money into the general fund because they (the city council) is still spending more money than they take in! It's just a shell game, moving money around because they will not do what is necessary to bring spending in line.
* Exigent Circumstances. It's a term Toledoans have learned over the last several months. Having the city declare 'exigent circumstances' allows it to impose cuts in wages/benefits/pension contributions outside of the collective bargaining process. City Council voted in favor of exigent circumstances and set some criteria for those cuts.
Since then, several of the city unions have agreed to voluntary concessions, though some of those concessions are only for the remainder of the year and some of them will be restored if Issue 5, discussed above, is passed by voters.
It appears that 'exigent circumstances' was a very clever bargaining tool to get the unions back to the table and agree to cuts. However, now that these unions have done so (only the police unions - patrolmen and command officers - have voted down the proposals), the exigent circumstances have been removed and the new agreements approved by council.
The problem is that the financial deficits of the city have not be fully addressed. We have unsustainable obligations and not enough money and many of those obligations will be back up to the high levels as of January 1, 2011. This is part of the reason Sarantou and other members of council want to take money out of the CIP budget...
If exigent circumstances was used only as a negotiating tool, it cannot be used again. The unions have now seen that card played and will not make the same mistake in 2011. If, however, Mayor Mike Bell uses the rest of the year to truly bring the contracts into line with available funding, it will have been a card well-played.
We'll see what happens between now and December 31.
* There's something wrong with the people supporting Ohio's state Issue 1. The proponent radio ads are promoting this as 'people' and not 'government.' However, this is a government program, so I guess perhaps I'm just too logical to 'get it.'
Issue 1 would allow the state to issue bonds - read: borrow money - to offer to businesses for certain types of 'economic development.' The borrowed money has to be repaid, including interest. This means that the state's general fund dollars - our tax dollars - must be used at some point in time to make those payments. While this may not be a 'new' tax, it is still a program that relies upon limited and declining tax dollars to fund it.
It also means that government - whether by an appointed board or by elected officials - will determine who gets the money from the account. Government will be picking winners and losers in terms of the funding. This is not the role of government.
Instead of taxing Ohioans to pay for borrowing and interest in order to give money to selected organizations or companies, why not just lower the overall tax rate so everyone benefits? That would certainly do more to promote economic growth and jobs than anything else. And it wouldn't put government in the position of deciding who gets to succeed thanks to help from the government - and who doesn't.
Even in you believe Issue 1 is a good idea that should be supported, you must agree that commercials saying it's people and not government doing this are wrong and intentionally contradictory to the truth.