According to today's paper, Toledo is coping with all the vacant houses, but we're at a tipping point. To emphasize the fact, they've named their study, to be released later this week,"Toledo at the Tipping Point."
And what good would any study be without a dire prediction? This one says Toledo has moderate levels of abandonment and vacancy when compared with other cities, but warns "powerful market forces could bring on a vacant property crisis."
It also says, "without aggressive action and political commitment, the number of vacant properties could quickly increase beyond the reach of local programs."
So what is the solution to this horrible problem that is decimating our neighborhoods? Why, a task force, of course!
(We have no idea what to do, nothing we want to try will work, but let's for a group that will make it look like we're doing something. Task force is just easier to say.)
The paper says "the study's main recommendation is the creation of a task force of high-level city, county, community, and business leaders meeting regularly to deal specifically with the vacancy issue."
Unlike our daily newspaper, I didn't get an advance copy of the study, but as soon as it's released, I will see if it offers a solution to the symptoms or actually addresses the cause of the disease.
Foreclosures and abandoned homes are just the symptom of the bigger economic conditions in Toledo. They are not the problem. The problem is that the area is not business-friendly, has high taxes and regulations, has high government spending despite declining revenues, discourages economic growth, spends limited resources on amenities while letting the necessities go without, and has elected officials who'd rather have their name in the paper than actually do something that's in the best interest of the city as a whole.
Add in union contracts that have the public paying both the employer and employee portion of pensions, union contracts that routinely get higher wage increases than the public paying the wages, and no - or very little - payroll deductions for health insurance and you begin to understand why government costs are so high.
We cannot forget the reputation (deserved or not, perception or not) of being a strong union town that makes it difficult for business owners to make a profit - not to mention the reputation of the local daily paper for dictating the will of their publisher. When you take all these things together, it's no wonder that businesses and people are leaving the area, leading to fewer jobs for those left and vacant homes that can't be sold.
The solution to this problem is to change our ways - not create a task force to better deal with one of the symptoms. All the task force will be able to accomplish is a reaction to the symptom. The real solution is much more complicated - but that's probably why everyone will get so excited over a task force. It's much easier to sound like you're doing something - than to actually address the underlying causes.