At-large Councilman Joe McNamara held a press conference yesterday in front of a gas station to criticize local carry-outs that sell miscellaneous items that some people use as drug paraphernalia. He claimed the stores were selling crack pipes and that new regulations are needed to prevent sales to kids.
According to this news report, McNamara got emotional when the owner stated he wasn't breaking the law by selling such items.
"You better stop selling crack pipes … next to kids," Mr. McNamara said. "You make me sick!"
Note that McNamara does not want to outlaw the sale of the items he claims can be used for drugs, nor is he calling for increased enforcement of the existing laws relating to illegal drug usage. No, he wants to regulate the business.
It will come as no surprise to you, I'm sure, that McNamara has gone after other such items - like plastic storage bags - for the same reason. Or that Toledo's land contract regulations were also sponsored by McNamara.
What do these things have in common - besides the obvious, that is?
They're all part of the recommendations from Toledo's Housing Task Force.
This group is dominated by neighborhood groups, city of Toledo administrators and even the spouse of sitting County Commissioner (which explains her strong support of the recommendations). While the chairman of the group is a builder and there are two banks represented, the remaining members have their own agendas when it comes to what they think is best for a neighborhood, and none of those include free-market principles. The group also includes individuals known to affiliate with more government regulation, rather than more freedom.
Here are some of the recommendations they make:
1-A Promote use of available incentives for market-rate and affordable housing to local and regional housing developers.
1-B Provide a more effective enforcement tool to ensure that rental properties are brought up to code by strengthening TMC Section 1763 by adding substantial civil fines: $250 for 1st offense, $500 for 2nd offense & $1,000 for 3rd offense.
1-C Provide a more effective enforcement tool to ensure that properties being sold through land contract be brought up to
code, including substantial civil fines: $250 for 1st offense, $500 for 2nd offense & $1,000 for 3rd offense.
1-D Inventory and secure vacant properties by drafting and passing an ordinance that requires registering vacant properties and that they be secured to specific standards.
Sound familiar? They should - the city has either implemented or is considering implementing these ideas.
Sadly, their recommendations aren't just about improving the housing stock in Toledo, they also include social engineering:
1-I Work with the Toledo Housing Fund in their efforts to secure adequate funds that are non-federal, dedicated, and ongoing for market rate rehab and new construction within the City of Toledo and to disperse low and moderate-income households outside of Toledo.
The Toledo Housing Fund is just another bureaucracy used to funnel dollars - and now they are recommending that Toledo export it's failed policies. For a Toledo task force to meddle in the affairs of other jurisdictions by telling them what type of housing they should provide is unacceptable. But then, the idea that white people are fleeing Toledo to avoid being near African-American neighborhoods is routinely promoted by many within our community, including former mayor Jack Ford. And others have expounded that the only way to address such 'inequities' is to insist that low-income housing be imposed upon those other jurisdictions.
This group also wants to continue the failed policies that got us into our current housing mess:
2-A Assist low or moderate income households become first-time buyers by reducing the amount of cash needed at closing in down payment assistance or to assist CDC’s in selling their new or rehabilitated homes to homeowners.
2-B Create a City of Toledo Employer-Assisted Housing Program to which the City would match $1 of City funds for each $1 of an employer’s fund, up to $5,000, to enable an employee to purchase a home in the City of Toledo.
2-D Create a linked deposit program to fund incentives to retain and attract middle-income and professional households, empty nesters, young professionals, and urban pioneers to all Toledo neighborhoods, especially target neighborhoods.
2-E Help low-income seniors and/or handicapped home owners remain in their homes by providing grants for emergency home repairs.
2-F Help low-income homeowners (especially female heads of household) remain in their homes by providing grants for emergency repairs.
While I can understand these ideas and recognize the value such assistance might have to overall neighborhood successes, I object to the method: to use public tax dollars to benefit some at the expense of others. The only solution appears to be more government spending - not a reliance upon private or charitable entities to accomplish the objective.
They also want to resort to civil penalties for violations - even if said violations are already against the law. In addition to the ones listed above, they include:
3-A Improve the effectiveness of TMC Section 554 eliminate discriminatory/steering real estate practices by amending it to include civil fines and civil law suits.
And then there is the social engineering - with no mention of free-market ideals:
4-A Encourage developers of new subdivisions to set aside between 5% than 10% of the units for low and moderate-income families by providing additional incentives to the developers.
4-B Disperse low- and moderate-income housing throughout Lucas County and the City of Toledo. The Mayor should work with the Lucas County Commissioners, the Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commissions and other leaders within the region to expand the policy of inclusionary zoning.1
4-C Strategic dispersal of individual housing tax credit units throughout a neighborhood at densities not to exceed 15 percent of the housing units on a block.
***1 “The establishment of zoning regulations which create incentives or requirements for affordable housing development. This can include set-aside requirements or density bonuses for developers.”
Many of the goals of the task force are commendable. But the way they are implemented ignores several vital factors:
1. The citizens of Toledo have not approved this approach. This is a government task force, dominated by big-government thinkers who are pushing their agenda into law with the help of one of the task force members who is also a member of city council.
2. Despite their goal of 'diverse' neighborhoods, the task force is highly lacking in diversity with limited or no representation from business owners and 'average citizens' ... not to mention the absence of political or philosophical diversity.
3. The solutions favor government control over free-market principles. To subsidize a particular type of housing because politicians and special interest groups want it results in a housing stock that buyers and sellers may reject. Perhaps the group subconsciously recognizes this fallacy. Understanding that people have left Toledo for various reasons, they recommend instituting Toledo's failed policies in surrounding jurisdictions. Of course, that will just cause people to leave those jurisdictions as well.
4. The thinking behind these recommendations result in attacks (like McNamara made) against business owners. The effort to 'improve' neighborhoods in these manners breeds a contempt for the wrong entity - the business - and not for the true source of the problem - the city and its policies.
The reason people have drug use, loitering, trash, etc. in their neighborhoods is not because of a business but because of the people who live in the neighborhood. Repeated phone calls to police do not result in enforcement of the existing laws, but a growing frustration that existing laws are not enough because the city does not have enough police to follow through with the enforcement. To address the symptom, people try to close down the business, failing to recognize that the activities will continue - just in front of a closed-up building instead.
But this how government operates in opposition to free choice: establish a task force, pack it with people who share your goal, come up with recommendations to expand government, use the force of government (though laws, taxation and taxpayer-funded 'incentives') to mandate the ideas, claim you're doing things for the 'common good,' and then scratch your head and call for more of the same when the results are not as expected.
I wish the goal of this task force had been to increase freedom for Toledoans - maybe it would have saved McNamara from his temper tantrum.