Friday, August 31, 2007

This is NOT business-friendly!

I awoke this morning to a discussion on WSPD 1370 AM about licensing and regulating convenience stores in Toledo. (click for Blade story or NBC 24 news story.)

There are 275 convenience and grocery stores in Toledo and, according to some people, many of these are nuisance businesses. "Nuisance" businesses? A job provider and someone who is offering needed products is now a nuisance?

In the paper, Beth Lewandowski, president of Lagrange Village Council, said, "...we have a glut of these predatory convenience stores."

Predatory convenience stores? Are they stalking neighborhoods, now?

And in the NBC24 story, she said, "They're not a grocery store. They're not serving what a grocery store should serve. They're just serving convenience. Chips and pop and things like that."

Um...duh...hence the name! And you're probably paying more for 'chips and pop and things like that' in such stores because you're paying for ...wait for it...the convenience.

The scary part of all this is that our City Council is actually considering making it more difficult for such business owners. And why, you might ask, would a city so desperate for business consider adding new restrictions and licensing fees? NBC24 has the answer:

"City council members say many of these stores are drawing thugs, gang members and drug dealers. They say controlling the number of these stores is a matter of public safety."

Ah, yes, the public safety factor. Because, you see, they sell small plastic bags and some - note some - people might use those bags to hold powered drugs. This public safety factor is invoked too many times as an excuse to expand government regulation and increase government coffers.

But in this case - as in many others (smoking or gun bans, anyone?) - they're focusing their efforts in the wrong place.

If convenience stores are not abiding by the rules, then remove their liquor licenses. Council has done this in the past and it works to penalize those who violate the law rather than everyone within a specific industry.

If people are loitering at such locations, arrest them or cite them for violating that law.

But understand this: if you've got crime in the neighborhoods, it's not because you have a store down the street. The solution to crime in the neighborhoods is increased police patrols to deter such activity and swift response when a crime does occur. It also means a commitment to the criminal justice system to fully prosecute and hold accountable those who commit crimes - and that may mean spending money for more jail space and prosecutors - and not flowers, lights on trees, nature education or secret shoppers.

But in Toledo, it's so much easier to regulate business than it is to address the true problems in the neighborhoods and city as a whole. And it gets better headlines, too.

Even Councilman Michael Ashford admits that these stores exist because there is a need for them:

"Ashford admits there's obviously a demand for these types of stores because otherwise they'd go out of business, but he's more concerned about the type of people they draw."

The "type of people they draw?" The people they draw are your residents and citizens. If people are doing illegal things, they're not going to stop because the local convenience store has been taxed and regulated out of business. And without another local employer, you'll have more unemployment...doesn't that lead to crime and deteriorating neighborhoods???? And I'm sure that a boarded up building in your neighborhood is a much more attractive spot for criminal activity than a successful business. Talk about a 'nuisance.'

If YOU don't want this type of store in your neighborhood, then open up the type of store you DO want. It's still a semi-free country.

However, this being Toledo, more regulation and taxes will probably be the outcome - along with less employers, fewer jobs, and a strongly negative message to other job providers who are already here or considering Toledo as a location.

And the issues of "crime, alcoholism, prostitution, drug use, and other unsavory elements" will still exist.


Luke said...

Great post. You are completely correct that the proper focus of the state should be on enforcing the law. If people are loitering, cite them. If they are dealing drugs, arrest them. You don't shut down the store, that's just absurd.

Smoke If You Got 'Em

Tim Higgins said...

Are we trying to address the issue here (crime) or just go through a "feel good" process by adding regulations to an already overburdened system? Perhaps the money that would need to be spent to pay for staff to enforce the new law(s) might be better spent in adding to the existing law enforcement agency (police department).

Maggie Thurber said...

Tim - absolutely! After all, politicians are all about 'feel-good' measures that get good press - not actually about solving the problem in the most efficient and effective way. (sarcasm now off)

Roland Hansen said...

I agree with your perspective, Maggie.
But, I guess the free enterprise system in Toledo is in the eye of the beholder.
What type of business is next for Big Brother to target?

Maggie Thurber said...

Roland...even if I had an idea of who they might target next, I don't think I'd list them here for fear of giving them ideas.

Roo said...

This is exactly the type of thing that makes businesses leave Toledo, or not even consider opening. It's not about convenience stores particularly, but all businesses.

If the current laws and ordinances were enforced routinely and evenly then about 80% of these 'issues' would not even exist.

But it's always easier to promote a new layer in the media so as to make the 'little guy' happy after he has complained to the neighborhood groups.

Ben said...

It is a great post. I had no idea about this. Exactly roo, that is why people leave one city and go elsewhere.

-Sepp said...

Typical Toledo logic...

Cut off the head to cure the headache.

save_the_rustbelt said...

To take the other side for a moment, a city full of gas-and-go or beer-cigarette-lottery shops is not exactly a sign of a healthy economy.

I know Toledo is desparate for jobs and any kind of economic activity, but a glut of these stores is not a sign of good health, more a sign of accelerating decay.

This is certainly inline with the Bush urban policy, or lack of policy perhaps, and gives the white dittoheads in P-berg something to snear about, but this is not healthy.

On the other hand, there is probably no way to regulate this blight our of existence. The best cure is a healthy economy and raise the value of real estate to the point these shops close down. should be so in another 30 years of so.

Hooda Thunkit said...


What it also boils down to is getting legislation (YOUR legislation) on the books for the next election cycle...

There is nothing to be gained (at the polls) by enforcing somebody else's laws, or your own for that matter; you are only judged by what laws you put on the books, never mind that it/they don't do squat to fix the alleged problems...

It's purely grandstanding and showmanship, and nothing more, and they fall for it every time. . .

The A-Hole Lawyer said...

Related because it is regulation of business based on the type of business and the patrons.

My letter to Senator Amstutz, co-sponsor of SB16 - closing "adult entertainment" businesses at midnight.

Also available for comment on my blog,

Strippers and Touching and Children------OH MY!

My letter on SB16 - The Community Defense Act - to Co-sponsor, Senator Amstutz.

Senator Amstutz:

I am a conservative republican father of two in the Toledo area. I have been reading recently about SB 16 and its proposed restrictions on adult businesses, specifically "strip clubs."

I also recently read that you support, and in fact co-sponsored the bill to "protect Ohio families."

My sincere question to you is, How does SB16 protect families?

Before answering please understand, I am neither a patron or other financial supporter of strip bars or "adult entertainment businesses." But, I am a small government minded, local rule leaning, largely libertarian belief based republican, who believes that unnecessary and unfettered Federal, State or Local control of private business is at its core counterproductive, and largely applied in an unconstitutional manner.

Secondly, I am a former police officer and current attorney. [read - AssholeLawyer] At present, adult entertainment establishments concentrate their patrons in zoning controlled areas, keep them OFF the streets and playgrounds (anticipating your arguments for the bill) and allow governments -including their police forces- to regulate this behavior at specific controlled locations.

Closing adult entertainment establishments at midnight, or alcohol based businesses at 2am, will simply force said patrons onto the streets. Unless strip clubs exist that operate at or near schools and playgrounds during daylight hours, how will late night and early morning closings "protect" any kids or families?

I recognize this proposed legislation as "feel good" on the surface, and very tough to vote against given the sexual nature of the subject matter. But, as a republican, it is your duty to uphold the tenants of our party and our constitution. This bill is the overreaching regulation of private business and individual liberty for no real, tangible effect.

As importantly, this regulation is yet another anti-business, anti-free market step taken by Ohio which will support the mass retreat from our state, and further indicates to businesses who may consider Ohio as a potential investment location, that their future is brighter elsewhere.

I await your response. Thank you for your service to our state.

The A-Hole

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