Thursday, January 15, 2009

Twisted logic from Toledo politicians

Democratic mayoral candidate Keith Wilkowski has announced that, if elected, he will build a solar field on the old Dura Landfill. Today we learn that Toledo City Council doesn't want to wait for the election before getting started.

Councilman Joe McNamara will present legislation at next Tuesday's council meeting to allocate $200,000 from the city's 2009 Capital Improvements Fund for design and engineering services to make the site 'shovel ready.'

I've already talked about this plan from a 'role of government' perspective, and my position hasn't changed in that regard.

But today's paper has this quote from McNamara that just defies logic:

"He said the city has done nothing to invest in its solar-panel manufacturing companies, yet Toledo claims to be the solar capital of the world."

On September 21, 2008, Wilkowski said:

"I've said for years that we have to stop being just a cheerleader for solar energy and we have to start doing things to actually move that market forward."

So - just to understand. Toledo and Northwest Ohio are already being recognized as a solar hub. We're developing a reputation as a leader in this industry because of the work that the private sector is doing. Our local companies like First Solar and Xunlight are growing - and the city hasn't done anything????

How can this be? How can an industry grow without government? How can we get this far without the city being involved?

It's simple - the companies in this industry are doing what they need to do in order to grow themselves and they haven't needed the city to step in. I'm certain that if they needed a road for better access or if they requested some tax incentives for equipment or new hires, we'd support them - just as we do any other company that makes a similar request.

It is illogical to think that since we've gotten this far without involvement by city government we must now inject city government into the process. In fact, the proper conclusion would be that if we've gotten this far with Toledo doing 'something,' nothing needs to be done by the city.

And the proof of this is in other solar arrays being built on landfills. Most of those projects are being done by private companies which have purchased/leased/been given the landfills, built the structures and paid for the arrays and connection to the power grid.

If it's being done by the private sector in places like North Carolina and Florida, why does the taxpayer have to foot the bill in Toledo? And who do you think would do a better job of evaluating the return on investment of such a project: the city or a private company? Furthermore, if a private company isn't interested in expending the funds to build a solar field on our landfill, why would Toledo do so?

Here's an alternative idea. If you insist on using the Dura Landfill for a solar field, offer it free (or at a low enough price to make it attractive) to a private solar developer and see how many companies would agree to build a field and keep the profits. That is the way to create jobs - with a private company - not by spending limited public capital improvement dollars to 'enhance our reputation' or to be able to say 'me too!'


Hot Dog Man said...

this is exactly why every elected member in the City of Toledo must be replaced by a "normal citizen". That means a person with no previous connection to an elected office. No aunts, fathers, brothers, nothing...get people new to politics and things will change. The problem is that the process (ie the Blade)tries to destroy new people in favor of the old "reliable" type.

The city has the potential, but it has had that potential for 40 or more years. It is the myopic "old-boy" politicians that have held the city back and even reversed course.

The idea that politicians must learn and understand is DON'T HELP WHERE IT IS NOT NEEDED. Private enterprise ALWAYS does better than government. Even the economic problems we have now can be traced to governmental "help". when will this level of stupidity end?

Mad Jack said...

From the article:Democratic mayoral candidate Keith Wilkowski has announced that, if elected, he will build a solar field on the old Dura Landfill.

Excellent! Just what Toledo needs. So tell me, where does the money needed to build this work of art come from? Has Mr. Wilkowski got a list of venture capitalists who are all willing to invest in a solar field in Toledo?

From the article:Today we learn that Toledo City Council doesn't want to wait for the election before getting started.

Of course they don't want to wait. Here's a chance to break ground on the next Portside Market Place and keep Toledo's reputation intact.

The message to the Toledo city council is simple: Don't be as dumb as you look. If this solar field is really a good idea, private industry will move in and build one or two. Maybe even three with the right tax breaks. Until that starts to happen, stay out of the private sector.

In fact, if the members of the Toledo city council really want to help the economy they could start by hiring a consultant who has a history of successfully changing poor local economies into rick ones and demonstrates a complete understanding of what local government should do to accomplish this. Pay this person a percentage of the increased tax revenue that will be generated over the next twenty years, then do what the person tells you to do. And let me make it clear that I'm only suggesting this because none of the city council knows what to do or how to go about doing it.

Cynical Counsel said...

If the city funds this project to make it "shovel ready" who's shovels will it land on? Why union shovels of course! If not by mandate then simply by favor.

Why have a private company who may not be controlled by a union come in and invest in Toledo? That would risk the power base.

Besides, any such solar company (already operating in a thin margin with the significant risk factor that accompanies cutting edge technology) would be forced to pay its shovellers Toledo's "living wage." Even with a land grant or discounted lease, that may be the obstacle those companies know they can't hurdle.


Timothy W Higgins said...


I am equally concerned about Councilman Mcnamara's proposed CIP project, but my questions about the why have to do with things that you have brought up in the past:

1. Why are we trying to make a site shovel ready that experts are telling us is unsuitable for such use?
2. Why are we trying to fund a program that can only suit the needs of about 100 homes close by the site, since there is no power transmisssion technology available for it?
3. Why, at a time when the city is looking to be $21 milllion in the red for 2009, are we looking to build something that cannot begin to pay for itself for 30 years or more?

Finally a question for these two "green pioneers": Is profligate spending on useless projects what you would consider fresh, new thinking for the city of Toledo?

Hooda Thunkit (Dave Zawodny) said...


"Here's an alternative idea. If you insist on using the Dura Landfill for a solar field, offer it free (or at a low enough price to make it attractive) to a private solar developer and see how many companies would agree to build a field and keep the profits."

An excellent idea, let government get out of the way and let business do what it does best.

However, 2 questions:

1. Has the land settled?

Landfills tend to shift/settle due to the ongoing decomposition of the buried contents.

2. How about the history of landfill/dump fires?

Can we be assured that they will not return again?

Seems to me that the spontaneous combustion and the methane byproducts of decomposition will remain a looming threat for a long time to come.

Maggie said...

Hooda - I'm looking into those questions now. Settling could be an issue - depends upon what type of array they put in...the more expensive ones that can be rotated aren't as negatively impacted by settling...

don't know about those fires...

skeeter1107 said...

It is unnecessary to discuss any details regarding the building of a solar cell array. If we do, we fall into the trap of allowing the politicians to frame the discussion.

Instead, the politicians simply must stop playing entrepreneur wannabes with the public check book. Because when they do, the Citizens of Toledo find themselves involved in bad real estate deals (Southwyck, Comm. Perry, Hillcrest etc., the ESM, ambulance service, home inspection for land contracts....etc.etc. It will just go on and on depending on the whims of the politicians dujour.

We need to find those politicians who first and foremost will follow the Charter and concern themselves with Police, Fire and maintenance of infrastructure. The electorate has the responsibility to not vote for the same tired crowd with the same tired ideas. All leading to the same tired results.

Unfortunately and since we can't just click our heels and make these politicians with their bonehead ideas go away, then lets pose a challenge to them.

If the politician proposing the next idea truly believes in it, then write a personal check. Mortgage your house to the bank to get seed money. Sign on the loan....personally. That's what we business people do when we believe in an idea.

Little too frightening for the political class? Okay, how about this? Using Mr. McNamara as an example, you propose it, you push it through to get your Council job on the line. It heads south and doesn't work, then turn in your resignation...immediately.

Now I would suspect that the sword of a job loss hanging over their head would suddenly focus their thinking. To quote our new President elect..."they would have skin in the game." I'm sure we would all find out very quickly who the true believer is and who is just talking to hear themselves talk.

PS. I agreed with everyone's comments. Perhaps if you good people continue to state the profoundly obvious, someday we will elect a majority of politicians who really do get it.

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