Are we not Taxed Enough Already? Why in the world would two city council members want to add to our costs in one of the worst economies in our lifetimes?
Are they stuck-on-stupid?
According to The Blade, District 6 Councilwoman Lindsay Webb and At-Large Councilman Steven Steel want to put a 1 mill recreation property tax levy on the ballot in November. The levy would raise about $3 million per year and they say it would be a dedicated fund to pay for recreation programs only.
We've heard that line before. Our Capital Improvement Program Fund (CIP) is supposed to pay for capital projects only - yet they divert funds from it regularly to pay for every day expenses that exceed the amount of the general fund revenue. They've diverted, at last count, $50 million from the CIP in the last several years and plan to raid an additional $12 million to cover 2012 expenses.
Toledoans have seen, all too often, how 'dedicated' such funds really are, especially when politicians decide we just have to have one of their pet projects.
But let's look at the idea of funding recreation for kids with a tax levy.
The local daily presents sob stories of how kids in the past used to be able to rely upon the city for everything from free arts and crafts to sailing lessons. Now, with the city in dire financial straights (we're raiding our CIP every year, don't forget), items of lesser priorities than roads, sewers, police and fire have been eliminated. There is only so much money to go around and, properly, the city has cut services which are not necessary.
This is not to say that certain groups didn't want those services to continue, but just like in our personal budgets, when we don't have enough money to pay for our rent/mortgage, food or gas, we cut out things like eating out and going to the movies.
But, but, but, they say - what about the children?!?
What makes these two Democrats think that parents who cannot afford to enroll their kids in a local, privately-run program can afford an additional tax on their property?
Well, you suggest, if everyone in the city is paying the tax, then it will end up being less for the parents to pay since all their neighbors and people they don't know will be paying as well, regardless of whether or not they participated in the programs when they were younger - or have kids to participate in them today (or yet in the future). Collectivism is what this becomes - everyone paying so a very small number can have a benefit.
And here I thought Democrats were all about 'fairness.' How is it fair to tax me because some parent wants recreation for their kids for free????
Over the weekend, I attended my cousin's graduation from college (summa cum laude and we are all so proud of her). The keynote speaker was a woman from a local philanthropic trust who said they are relying upon today's graduates to help them understand what they need in order to be successful entrepreneurs. One way is NOT to tax everyone to pay for things that people can do on their own.
From the story:
Point Place resident Celina Dusseau remembers the fun she had at city-run summer activities in nearby Friendship Park when she was younger. Now 16, Celina said she looked into volunteering for one of the park programs she used to attend, only to find out they no longer exist.
"It was disappointing," she said. "I wanted to be able to do that with the kids in the neighborhood. … It was such a big part of my childhood."
What a phenomenal opportunity for Ms. Dusseau! She wanted to volunteer - to offer her services for free. She can still do so. She can put together her own program. She can offer to supervise and come up with ideas and she could charge a minimal amount for materials and supplies. She can talk to her neighbors and those in the area with kids and could probably, with the support of council members, get a free room or place at the same local park where she could offer the program.
Here's what she'd learn: that parents would be willing to pay a small (or perhaps even a medium or large) amount for their kids to participate, thus leading to a successful business venture that might, over time and with the proper planning, turn into a national business (I dream big). Or she will find out that there is no interest in such things - at least, not with today's technology (video games, computers, etc...) that makes the traditional arts & crafts for kids seem lame. She may find that there is such a small and limited interest that it costs too much to offer for the amount of participation.
If she finds the first scenario, then there is no need for the government to tax us for this. In fact, the refusal of government to tax us for such a service may end up providing that same government with business income taxes, employment taxes (from the people she'll have to hire) and the multiplier effect of her purchasing items from local companies.
If she finds the latter scenario, it begs the question of why the city would tax everyone in the city for a venture that has limited or no appeal?
The article also says, but doesn't provide attribution for, this:
A tax proposal would allow residents a voice in determining the city's priorities.
Nothing could be further from the truth!
All this proposed levy would do is appeal to the emotions of voters (it's for the children, remember?) and to people who want others to pay for things they want but don't want to pay for themselves.
In order for this to "allow" residents a voice in determining the city's priorities, it would have to be placed against other funding - like for police, fire, roads, building inspection, water, sewers, sidewalks, bikepaths, public art, etc...
We don't get to go to the polls and select which items we want to pay for, we are only asked if we want to pay for individual items, usually one at a time.
And since when do cities "allow" their residents to have a voice? Obviously the author of the statement has forgotten that these elected officials are supposed to work for ALL the residents - they are not in office to cater to small groups at the expense of everyone else. Elected officials work for us. Their obligation is to listen to us, not 'allow' us to instruct them in what we want done.
The article then does the classical logical fallacy of appealing to authority. They trot out Woody Woodward, executive director at the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association, who was "taken aback" at the decline of our parks.
"I've seen municipal recreation departments all over the state, seen the conditions of facilities, and it is very clear that Toledo has not invested in their parks and recreation programs at a level that is probably commensurate with what other cities are expending throughout Ohio," he said. "It almost feels like, at some point, parks and recreation ceased to be a priority ...
Oh my! Everyone else is doing it and we're not! And here is where my mother would say, "if everyone is jumping off a bridge...."
But Woodward hits the nail on the head, "parks and recreation ceased to be a priority." Yes - when we have no money to pay for our roads, when we cannot travel without needing a dentist appointment immediately thereafter, when the city cuts back on essentials, non-mandatory expenses are cut - as they should be! So when we have all these other unmet NEEDS, it's no wonder that wants like parks and recreation are lower on the priority list.
Again, to think otherwise is 'stuck-on-stupid.'
But let's not just rely upon one expert, let's bring in a second one to claim that if we don't have recreation, kids will turn to crime. Well, he doesn't exactly say that, but it is certainly implied, complete with a central city teen to tug at the heartstrings:
Councilmen Webb and Steel voice concerns that people will leave Toledo if public parks and recreation are not improved. They and others also fear that lack of accessible recreation options for the city's youth could be a factor in increased gang activity and violent crime.
"Ever since I've been here, there's been fewer and fewer [recreation programs]," he said. "I think with the older adolescents, you'll see kids getting into activities that they shouldn't be getting into. And I think with the younger ones, it impacts what they do in school."
Major Smith, 17, who lives in the central city, said he's seen negative effects from lack of recreational opportunities among youths in his neighborhood and in his own family, although he's tried to avoid negative influences himself. Some youths get involved in gangs because they have nothing better to do, he said. "They're just kids that are looking for a way. They just have nowhere to be, nothing to do," he said. "They're just lost."
I thought this was why we were opening the pools!
Besides, what about all the private and non-profit groups who are already providing recreational services - like the Boys & Girls Club, YMCA and local community centers? The city would be in competition with these private groups and imposing a tax means that such entities are more at risk of losing their private funding.
(Oh - and the membership at the Boys & Girls Club? It's only $3 for kids age 7-15 and $5 for kids 16-18. If you can't afford $3 or $5 for your kid, how will you afford this tax levy?!?)
Mr. Smith - here's your opportunity. Begin your own program - you'll probably offer something more relevant and interesting than anything the city could ever come up with its 'one-size-fits-all' approach because it knows of no other. And you'll be a role model, as well, something so lacking in too many areas of our city. But don't get trapped into thinking that every want and need you have should be met by the government!
Some will join this effort to raise our taxes saying parks will help attract companies. They *always* say that, but I have yet to find a single company that has listed local parks as the primary reason for moving a business into an area.
And it won't help us keep residents either. In fact, another tax could be the straw that broke the camel's back when it comes to deciding on a house in Toledo or a suburban community.
As WSPD is reporting this morning, since the city requirement that employees live within the city limits was struck down by the Ohio Supreme Court, "public safety forces have moved out of the city in droves."
In fact, nearly 40 percent of the police and firefighting forces now live outside Toledo.
Out of 690 people on the police payroll, 427 live within Toledo's city limits. (38.1% live elsewhere)
There are 526 city employees with the Toledo fire department, including civilians. Of those, 320 live in Toledo. (39.2% outside Toledo)
Overall, 1,216 public safety employees work in Toledo, but fewer than 750 (747) reside in the city. (38.5 % live outside the city)
Councilman Tom Waniewski would like to find out why. I guarantee you that 'lack of parks and recreation' isn't going to be in the top five reasons!
The bottom line is that we are Taxed Enough Already. We have high unemployment, declining retirements, Social Security and Medicare are bankrupt and probably not going to be around when I'm ready to retire, my Toledo roads suck (there's just no better word), my trash tax that was supposed to be reduced to zero quite some time ago is still going up, we've cut back on our luxuries in order to cover our bills and plan for our future ... and now my councilwoman (I live in District 6) wants to raise my taxes so someone else's kids (a fraction of the population) can (maybe) do art projects in the parks in the summer.
Fortunately, they say they want to put this on the ballot so we are "allowed" a say.
Here's my 'say': don't wait for November. Call these two council members now and tell them to stop with their plans to raise taxes. It's the last thing we *need* in this city.
Their number, by the way, is 419-245-1050. Email is Lindsay.Webb@toledo.oh.us and Steven.Steel@toledo.oh.us
WSPD has a Speedy Poll on the issue if you'd like to weigh in on the issue.
Remember, it is the responsibility of PARENTS - not cities - to provide recreational activities for their kids.