Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Begging for money - or trying to shame businesses into donating?

Yes, the mayor is at it again when it comes to the LivCom award. First he announced the application and selection to the finalist round. Then he announced he was seeking contributions to pay for the trip to London to make Toledo's presentation. Then he held a press conference and said they need $40,000!

Of course, they're not getting the funds they wanted, so he submitted an op-ed piece to the Toledo Free Press that, in my opinion, attempts to shame the business community into giving - even if it's done is a semi-subtle manner.

The problem I have is with Carty's thinking. He uses the example of Mayor Lloyd Roulet, 1952, trying to build an airport. Interestingly, Roulet had been working on this for 8 years ... perhaps there's something genetic or in our water that takes this city so long to accomplish a goal???

Anyway, Roulet was having difficulty getting the community to agree on a location, as several sites were rejected by neighbors. To overcome the public issue, he turned to the business community. Finkbeiner writes:

Roulet called the presidents and CEOs of Toledo's largest companies. His plan, he told them, was to have each company buy a small parcel of land on the border between Monclova Township and Swanton Township. He knew that any large land purchase by the city would tip off land speculators and send real estate prices soaring and cost the city more money. Small purchases by the private sector would go unnoticed. Each of these corporate titans agreed to invest their firm's money and time in helping Mayor Roulet and the City of Toledo.

Later, the City would purchase all of the lots to assemble the parcel where Toledo Express Airport is located today. Mayor Roulet's dream of having a major, international airport in Toledo would have been substantially delayed, if not destroyed, had the private sector not stepped in to help the city in its time of need.

To me, this seems intentionally deceptive on the part of the mayor. Deceptive in that the excuse is to save the city money, but, considering the public opposition, I wonder if the idea wasn't to keep the location a secret so there wouldn't be any opposition.

Today, there are non-profit organizations designed, under Ohio law (our local LCIC), to enter into such purchases for a public entity specifically so that the municipality can purchase for a fair market price rather than an inflated one if news of their purchase were to get out.

But I cannot help the concern I felt at reading this example and seeing that our current mayor thinks this is a good example to follow.

The mayor goes on to say:

We Toledoans of today need to reinvigorate that spirit of cooperation between the business sector and the government sector. We have an opportunity for our city's business leaders to step forward and help the city for our mutual benefit.

While I would not compare competing for this prestigious award to a project as immense as building an airport, strengthening the cooperative and symbiotic relationship between the city's government and the city's business community is of paramount importance.

There are some corporations who have decided to help out - Owens Corning, Fifth Third Bank and Larry Dillin - but the total is only $5,000, far short of Carty's goal of $40,000.

But the bigger problem is that Carty wrongly thinks putting money toward a trip in an effort to win an award represents a 'strengthening of the cooperative and symbiotic relationship' between businesses and government. Sadly, he's missed the point that giving money to a pet project of the mayor doesn't constitute a good relationship (unless he's following the pressure/extortion route so prevalent in Lucas County politics).

A good relationship between local businesses and local government exists when the government helps create an environment conducive to job growth and success. It doesn't exist when government continually raises taxes while reducing services (payroll and garbage), takes over functions being performed by private industry (towing and ambulance service), restricts new businesses because of a misplaced concept that they contribute to deteriorating neighborhoods (convenience stores - whose problems are more a result of a lack of police), or creates a business advisory council and then promptly refuses to let them examine an issue (article).

A good relationship is also dependent upon each entity doing what they're supposed to do - which means businesses provide good products for the cost, treat their employees appropriately, earn profit for their investors/owners and follow the law. It also means that government performs its mandated functions efficiently, placing priority upon those mandated functions (like roads, police, fire, etc...) and not spending money on the 'niceties' until the necessities are taken care of.

But sadly, our mayor is more about style than substance. He's a great cheerleader for Toledo, but cheering doesn't always cut it. While he chases after awards, we continue to lose population while having a high unemployment rate.

To win this LivCom award would be nice. But no award, no matter how it's marketed, will overcome the problems we have in this city which are clearly evident when you drive down a road that jars your teeth.


Jay Ott said...


One thing I'd like to add here is that Carty's example of Roulet and the airport is that it's an apples to oranges comparison.

At least in the '50's the people got an airport. It was a tangible thing that could be seen and measured physically and as a met goal.

It is not the case with this LivCom award, if there are any benefits from it at all, how can they be seen or measured in any meaningful way?

If the award fails to achieve its goals, won't Carty just redefine what the goals were? If the award does achieve its intended goals, how will anyone be able to determine beyond reasonable doubt that the award had anything to do with 'getting results'?

So, in that regard, I think seeking this award is a publicity stunt, propaganda, hype, a scam, and just about good feelings.

What does this say about how Carty views the voters and taxpayers?

One of the biggest problems I have is Carty's thinking of: "We'll get the money from all of you ill-informed, can't-do-nothing-about-it-anyway people one way or another".

How about just doing without for once?

Maggie Thurber said...

agreed...apples to oranges.

His methods and goals say a lot about how he sees the people who foot the bills...but then, his theme is to build pride - forgetting that pride comes from within, not from awards - and dubious ones at that, considering the 'criteria.'

Tim Higgins said...

Well Maggie, you have hit another home run here in defining the argument on this award. If the mayor were paying attention to what you have laid out here, he might even recognize an opportunity here.

He could announce (in another of the seemingly never-ending series of press conferences) that while he was proud of the city and proud of the nomination for the LivCom award, that the business of the city was more important than another award and that he would not be sending a team to London after all. The oft-used refrain that "the nomination was award enough" would fit perfectly here, and allow the mayor to back out of an effort that seems to have little public support.

I do not expect this to happen however. I expect that Mayor "Don Quixote Finkbeiner" will tilt at this windmill until knocked off of his horse. Ride boldly ride mayor.

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