Tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. in the Downtown Public Library is the first public hearing on changing Lucas County's form of government. I again urge you to attend and be sure to ask all the questions you can as to WHY we need to change our form of government.
And don't let the commissioners get away with saying "it increases effeciencies" without documenting exactly how it does so and why other methods of increasing efficiencies aren't being tried first.
If Commission Ben Konop is present to discuss his proposal, you certainly need to ask him HOW he's going to increase the efficiency of county government when he's creating three new departments and three new boards/commissions, not to mention the increased number of elected officials.
Remember when Konop wanted the Lucas County Improvement Corporation to cater to his latest whims and they rejected his ideas? He then led an effort to oust the executive director, and tried to get the agency removed as the county's economic development lead. While trying to destroy the agency, he was also in charge of finding a new executive director - an effort at which he, again, failed.
Why is this important to remember now? Because his new 'charter' for Lucas County ignores the LCIC in favor of creating a new 'economic development commission' as well as an economic development department within county government. It also creates a department of development. These are just three of the six new boards and departments created under his proposal.
The others are a human resources commission, a county audit commission and a department of internal auditing. His proposal also creates a 'law director,' which will probably require staff as well. Currently the county prosecutor performs that function on behalf of all county elected officials.
But that's not his only failed idea that becomes a permanent part of county government. Remember his illegal scholarship program? I say illegal because county commissioners have no authority to take tax dollars and distribute it to 'certain, chosen' residents of the county in the form of college scholarships.
From Page 8 of his proposed charter document:
(11) To establish and provide for the administration of a program to provide scholarships, loans, grants and other forms of financial assistance for residents of the County that will enable them to participate in post-secondary education, including vocational education and job training and retraining; for the funding of the program from money determined to be saved by the operation of the County government under this Charter and from other funds of the County, including gifts, grants and donations received for such purpose; and for the conditions for eligibility for participation in the program by individuals and educational institutions.
I suppose this change in government structure is Konop's last attempt at getting his way. He cited rejection of his ideas as his reason for not seeking re-election. I guess he'll show us by pushing another 'fresh, bold, new' idea from The Blade that, like his other failed ideas, lacks forethought, analysis, logic, details and substance - not to mention the fact that it will not do what he claims.
Konop's proposal also increases the costs of county government. I've previously documented how elimination of elective offices doesn't really reduce the costs of county government. Under Konop's proposal 10 of the new county council members will be paid $30,000 per year (to start) and the president of the council will be paid $35,000. They would be considered part-time. This is significantly less than what Cuyahoga is paying their council, but even at the lesser rate, the $335,000 total in Konop's proposal is still more than the $260,510 that the commissioners are currently being paid for their full-time jobs.
And this doesn't even get into the requirement that all county positions pay the 'prevailing wage' in the area. From Page 18:
Employees of the County and its offices, agencies and departments shall have the right to organize and to engage in collective bargaining as provided by general law. Wages paid under construction contracts entered into by the County and its offices,
agencies and departments shall be paid in accordance with general laws pertaining to payment of prevailing wages.
So even if the county wanted to negotiate something different, this charter provision says employees 'shall' be paid in accordance with prevailing wages. Oh - currently not all county employees are allowed to be in unions, but this seems to change that provision.
So Konop's proposal increases the size of county government, increases the costs of county government and incorporates many of his previously rejected ideas. How, exactly, is this a good thing for Lucas County?
I know - that's a great question.
But there are more questions you should ask - and I'll repeat them just in case you missed them in my prior post:
* What specific problems exist in county government?
* Why do we have these problems? Is it because of decisions by individuals or some structural problem?
* Where is the fiscal analysis showing the costs of the current government structure versus the cost of the proposed government structure?
* If there is no fiscal analysis of the cost comparisons, shouldn't that be done prior to any discussions on the matter so we're acting from an 'informed' point of view?
* If the problems with our county government have been identified, what are the other possible solutions to address them?
* Is there any type of documentation of the other potential solutions?
* Why are the commissioners rushing this? In the only two other Ohio counties to make this decision, it took them several years.
* Who are the other proponents of the idea - besides The Blade and certain politicians?
* Who are the opponents of the idea?
* What outreach have the commissioners done to the other municipalities in the county before proposing their new form of government? What was the reaction of the other municipalities?
* What new authority or powers would a charter form of government give the elected officials? What are the pros and cons of such new authority?
* What will be the taxing/fee authority of the charter form of government versus the limited taxing/fee authority of the current board?
* The Blade has done numerous articles promoting their perceived advantages of a charter form of county government. What are the disadvantages? Where are those documented and how will the commissioners share both sides of the issue with residents?