Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's only democracy if we get the vote results we want

This morning I heard Fred Lefebvre, morning show host on NewsTalk 1370 WSPD, read an email exchange between Ingrid and Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop.

Ingrid was opposed to putting the COSI levy on the ballot for a third time. Konop supports it, calling it 'democracy' to be able to vote on the issue. Ingrid pointed out that we've already voted on the issue twice, but Konop was undeterred.

I guess, according to Konop, that it's only 'democracy' when the vote outcome matches our personal desires.

My hope was that Comm. Pete Gerken would stand by his earlier comment that he wouldn't be able to support a third request unless there was significant change in the business plan presented by COSI. According to the information they submitted to the county's Citizen Levy Review Committee, the only 'change' was that this was a presidential election and more people are expected to go to the polls.

However, based upon a press conference yesterday, Gerken's criteria for 'change in the business plan' might be a bit different from my own. Several businesses have announced they will form a 'Businesses for COSI' committee to push for passage of the ballot issue.

"County Commissioner Pete Gerken said the new partnerships made him more likely to support the levy.

“It gives it a different flavor,” he said. “It doesn’t look like a retread of what didn’t work before.”"

Now, my question would be why the 'Businesses for COSI' weren't working on permanent funding for the facility rather than telling us that we should tax ourselves for it. And are we even remotely surprised that three of the four companies leading the effort are represented on the COSI Board?

Ronald Unnerstall, quoted in The Blade article today, is a COSI board member. Steve Krull from Owens Corning does not serve on the board, but fellow employees David Johns and Thomas Winston do. First Solar is also represented on the COSI board by former CEO Chip Hambro.

While I'm grateful for the corporate support these companies have and are offering, I take exception to them telling me I should tax myself for a facility I don't use and which has, over the last 10 years, had a negligible impact on math and science test scores, simply because they think I should. I'm tired of other people telling me what the best uses for my money are - or calling me 'uncaring, insensitive and mean' because I want to spend my money on my priorities rather than on theirs.

Then there was the last line in the newspaper article.

"So far, the levy campaign has raised $220,000, according to Lori Hauser, COSI’s director of operations."

If COSI can raise nearly a quarter of a million dollars to run a levy campaign, wouldn't their time be better spent raising that money for their continued operations? If they put as much effort into fundraising for their museum as they do for the levy, imagine where they'd be today - perhaps still open???


Tim Higgins said...


Once more we see government officials telling the voters that it is not the case that "no means no". In this politically correct society, I thought all such thinking had been banned.

Perhaps this is simply a special condition however. Perhaps no does not mean no when we are asked if we would like further taxes, fees, or levies. If not, why are so many lining up with hands outstretched for a bit of taxpayer largesse.

My opinions on COSI are well known, so I probably need not beat this dead horse for long. I am suspicious however, of politicians who change their mind in election years when the publisher of the newspaper has taken a contrary position. That is not the position that concerns me however. It is the one that these people are asking the taxpayer to assume as they line up to abuse us.

molsonator said...

Is Lori Hauser still drawing a paycheck from COSI?

If I worked for a company and it closed I would move on. What is the story here?

Maggie Thurber said...

The last I heard, there were a couple of staff who were still on the payroll...I don't know how she's being paid or whether she's volunteering her time.

Perhaps a question to ask as they start going to events and candidate forums promoting the levy...

Roland Hansen said...

What part of "no" do they not understand?

RockinRob said...


Why is an Owens Corning executive asking us to pay more in real estate taxes for COSI while his corporate headquarters is on a HUGH tax abated site?

Did I read ARIES online correctly with regards to OC's real estate tax and abatements? Should this company be pushing higher real estate taxes on us?

Maggie Thurber said...

Excellent point, RockinRob. This is the kind of inquiry and research I wish more people would do!

Yes, the OC headquarters had various tax abatements when they built their new headquarters, so it does make one seriously question the credibility when the person who doesn't pay taxes wants us to increase ours.

The A-Hole Lawyer said...

I e-mailed all three commissioners on this subject.

I commented that the constituents in Lucas County have already voted with their ballots twice, if the commissioners continue to ignore that DEMOCRATIC PROCESS they will vote with the feet, and if they have not yet moved out of the county, with their choice of commissioner next election cycle.

I have not received a response from any of the three yet.


MoveToTheBurbs said...

The Pro-COSI tax crowd tells us that it's "only pennies a day". I've lived in Toledo for 5 years. All those pennies have added up into real dollars. My property taxes have gone up nearly 30% in those 5 years, because you pro-levy voters love to pick my pockets for your cause. You need to stop it.

COSI was founded with an endowment. They burned through it because every person who ever visited COSI paid less than the cost of having them visit. COSI had a very good speaker at my Chamber meeting a few years back. He did a great job explaining how COSI was run. But the leadership of COSI doesn't know how to run it at a profit. They need to pick my pocket in order to do so. As a private entity, they should have no right to do so.

If these 4 companies think that COSI is such a value, then why only support the levy? These companies alone could replenish the COSI endowment. But they know that COSI leadership will not be responsible with the money, and find a way to operate at a profit. So rather than throw their good money after bad, they want you and I to do so. How is it that COSI can raise over $200000 for the levy campaign (year after year), but can't raise enough money to run the museum?

I did support COSI as a member, until I saw that the exhibits were the same old same old for the first few years we lived here. Now we hear that if the levy fails, the exhibits will be removed. Yet somehow, if we vote for COSI this time, its a "new" COSI. With the same old exhibits? I think not. I'd be more inclined to support it if the exhibits HAD been removed. At least we'd know there was something new coming.

It's an educational resource? Ok, I'll meet you halfway on that. But since it's been closed, is there any proof that COSI had made a difference? Are children suddenly failing math and science more? I haven't heard. All I've heard is TPS preaching about progress and saving Scott HS. I don't see that COSI really made that much of a difference.

Commissioner Konop loves to tell us why we should support these causes. But someone needs to call Ben out on the fact that he doesn't actually pay his fair share. Ben has not given up the tax abatement on his luxury downtown condo, though he certainly could afford to do so. When he starts paying his fair share, I'll give him a listen.

But with 10% unemployment in Toledo and a host of other tax levies on the ballot, I cannot see why supporting a private business with my taxes is a good idea. COSI should be voted down for a third and final time. Maybe then another group can come in and do what COSI can't, and run a science center at a profit.

Robin said...

I'm am not happy that COSI is going to be on the ballot, again. Really... I agree if they can come up with over $200,000 to be on the ballot, then they really don't need to be on the ballot.

One of the reasons why I voted against COSI, last time, was because it seemed like every other commercial on TV was for the COSI levy. If they can come up with money to put that many commercials on TV, they really aren't hurting that much. The main reason was that I didn't want to add yet another tax onto myself.

Aaron said...

Another view on this: its a vote that nearly half of the voters were in favor of in the other attempts. Maybe people thought they were bluffing and remain open. Well, they didn't. Its worth another try to get it going again. COSI was a great asset to the community and to downtown, it can be again. Getting more businesses involved for corporate sponsorships is a good direction in supplementing the funding between visitors and tax payers, but it will always be a balancing act. Some people criticized COSI for not doing this in the past, maybe now that its happening they'll be more in favor.

Please read my blog for finding out why I support levies in this area regarding parks, museums, and the like.

By the way Maggie, I like your radio show and Fred's too. Keep up the good work.


Maggie Thurber said...

Aaron - I need to challenge your logic.

If nearly half the people vote for anything, but it's not a majority, do the losers get to do a re-vote?

Nearly half the people voted for Al Gore for president. Should Gore get a re-vote?

Nearly half the people voted against the smoking ban. Should the smoking ban opponents get a re-vote?

COSI has had three opportunities to change their business plan. They could have done so any time prior to their first levy, especially as they saw they were losing attendance and revenue. They didn't. They thought it easier to go to the voters.

After the first levy, they could have approached sponsors so they could continue. They didn't. Instead, they made empty threats and tried again to go to the voters.

After their second levy, they actually had to face the music, but they STILL didn't change their business plan. Three of the four companies who've pledged support for the levy are already providing corporate sponsorship for the operations. This isn't a NEW plan, it's just an attempt at a better marketing plan.

I've reviewed their business plan - it's the same as it was before. The only difference is the reliance upon the people Obama will bring to the polls, as they say those people are more likely to vote in favor of taxation.

So, I don't think they deserve a third chance. If people were afraid they would close, they should have voted yes on the levy. Too late now to go back and change your mind.

But if you do regret not supporting the levy last year, go ahead and make a donation to COSI. In fact, if you make a donation, you can make a $10 donation and pick up MY share of the tax that they're asking. Maybe you could give $25 and that would save four people from having to pay the tax.

And, if they should get this levy passed, there's a non-profit agency that I like that does good things in the city. Let's put THEM on the ballot too...

You need to think this through Aaron. There are a lot of good things in the city - doing good works. Just because they're 'good' doesn't mean they need to be funded with tax dollars - or that they should be allowed to continually come back and beg for that public funding.

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