Thursday, October 18, 2007

This is how the mayor makes decisions???

According to today's Blade, a city council candidate made a suggestion during a public directors' meeting that Toledo water meter readers should look for housing code violations when they're out reading meters.

Now, I'm sure many can question why we're turning all our public employees into enforcement officers - after all, the city is facing a huge deficit next year because they don't know how to reduce spending...

And I'm sure that others will question how close we're getting to George Orwell's "1984" as we monitor all activities of our citizens.

But I'm more interested in focusing on the decision-making process that led the mayor to decree 'make it so.' Turns out, there wasn't one. This is yet another example of Carty Finkbeiner exercising his ready-shoot-aim philosophy.

"Public Utilities Director Bob Williams initially objected, saying meter readers' work could be made more difficult if they are viewed as "intruders." He said meter readers already are expected to report unsafe situations involving children or senior citizens.

He was quickly overruled by the mayor, who said, "that is a great suggestion. Do it. All they have to do is write an address down. I don't even want any debate about it. Just do it.""

Notice that potential issues or concerns were not even permitted to be discussed, with the mayor stating "I don't even want any debate about it."

So, here are the questions the mayor should have asked:

* are there any legal provisions that would enhance or detract from our ability to implement such a policy?

* are the meter readers knowledgeable about housing violations that they can accurately report potential problems?

* would there need to be any sort of training to bring meter readers up to speed on the housing code?

* is there any cost the city would incur to proceed with such a policy?

* are there union contract terms that would have to be consulted or negotiated if we do this?

* is it likely that the union may ask for more money as a result of the increased duties?

* since all the meter readers would be doing is forwarding addresses, do we have the staff to perform the necessary follow-up?

* as housing violations are citeable into court, do we need to be concerned about any inaccuracies in the meter readers referrals?

* what obstacles or challenges would we face in implementing such a policy?

* who would oppose such a policy and what valid arguments might any opponents make?

* would the public embrace it or see it as further intrusion of government into their lives?

* if it turns out that we CAN implement such a policy, SHOULD we?

And these are just the questions I've come up with off the top of my head. There could easily be many more based upon the answers these questions generate.

But, sadly, the Mayor has spoken and now, despite any legitimate issue or concern, he's already started down the path to turning water meter readers into 'enforcement' agents. And, as we've seen in so many other instances, there is likely to be unintended consequences that usually result in additional cost to taxpayers, one way or the other.

"A man who does not think and plan long ahead will find trouble right at his door." ~ Confucius


Right Wing Toledo said...

If said meter reader is working in an "enforcement" role as an investigator, is he or she required to have a warrent before stepping foot on my property?

Maggie Thurber said...

yet another good question that will probably go unanswered...

Neighborhood Concerns said...

Just another example of act first and think it through later.

Tim Higgins said...


Last night's performance brought to mind a quotation that I am fond of:

"Don't you wish there were a knob on the TV to turn up the intelligence? There's one marked 'Brightness,' but it doesn't work." - Gallagher

... and one might add, in government as well.

Jay Ott said...


I'm wondering if it's not so much about not knowing how to reduce spending as much as it is about their unwillingness to prioritize their spending and reduce it in the right places and looking for money in the wrong places.

Turning citizens against one another is not a new idea in order to extract money in the way of fines and costs.

So I think the present is looking more and more like 1933 Europe rather than 1984.

Regardless, the questions that have to be answered are: "Does their end justify the means?" and "Will the cost and bureaucracy this incurs outweigh the income it generates?"

This kind of witch hunt, making people into scapegoats and turning city workers into tattle-tales might have consequences that the city is incapable of anticipating. What about the potential for confrontations?

Maggie Thurber said...

'potential for confrontations' ... another good question that won't get answered.

I agree with the lack of spending priorities: "unwillingness to prioritize their spending and reduce it in the right places and looking for money in the wrong places" ... but not sure about the 'ends justifying the means.' Guess I'll go back to my earlier comment - even if we CAN, does that mean we SHOULD?

Jay Ott said...


To clarify my rhetorical question, my answer is no. Raising money (their end) does not justify their means (a shakedown).

Hooda Thunkit said...


There ya go again, bringing common sense, rational thought and forethought to a mental gunfight with a man suffering from severe premature thoughtless decisions, further reinforcing his ready-fire-aim reputation.

Pity the poor "leader" who can't bring in enough revenue to support his lavish spend style.

"What a Maroon..."

--Buggs Bunny, (Cartoon character, much like "his dishonor" and philosopher; unlike "his dishonor")

Jay Ott said...


I'm beginning to wonder just how close this gets to testing the 4th amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Reading the meter is necessary, but reading the meter and using that as an excuse to snoop around for violations (whether obvious or not)I wonder if people will no longer feel secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects.

Under the law, people are presumed to be innocent of violations of the law until proven guilty, but giving meter readers carte blanche access to private property presumes that everyone has something to hide and it's just a matter of how, when, and by whom violations will be found. If that doesn't look like a "fishing expedition", then I don't know what one is.

Shouldn't probable cause exist prior to even gaining access to private property?

Maggie Thurber said...

Jay - yet another good question that probably won't be answered.

But I can see them twisting now... "uh - they're just 'observing' and making notes...they can't help but see something when they're in your house...yeah - that's it!"

Peahippo said...

Economic and administrative desperation leads to draconian and Fascist decisions. Add in stupidity, and we have a good explanation for what Carty decides.

In reply to Mr. Ott: Unfortunately, the right of your privacy in search-and-seizure is remarkably compromised when you give explicit or implicit permission to a visitor.

There was a landmark case where some detective pretended to be a delivery person, and gained entry to a home, where he obtained evidence thereby. The court judging the matter decided that such evidence was legal since the resident invited the investigator in, albeit under mistaken identity. Courts have also decided that cops can lie to you essentially all they want. So, those kinds of court decisions guide the matter for this meter-reader BS.

Just don't let the meter reader into your home ... EVER. Eventually they'll leave a checksheet so you can mark the meter reading yourself. You can also get an external indicator, but that will probably cost you, and some installer must be invited into your home to put it in.

Frank said...

Here is another thought to ponder with this decision...with all the scams that are going on in this day and age, what would stop some con from entering in a home as a "meter reader" to check out the home for some future crime, thus putting citizen's lives into jeopardy? Some would say the readers would have an ID with them, but those can be faked pretty easily and then you would have to employ more police officers (which takes more money) to answer the calls about these con artist.
Yup, if we take this road, it will take us closer to Big Brother.

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