Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Random thoughts on a gray day

It's a gray day in Toledo and I'm not just referring to the weather as I write this post. Yesterday, filling in on WSPD, I covered a couple of items that were before Toledo City Council for a vote. Sadly, the items passed.

The first was an ordinance to give $60,000 of Sewer Infrastructure Development Funds to United North, a community development corporation (CDC), to build a sewer on Chase Street. Now, that might not seem like a controversial item - until you read the Summary and Background on the ordinance itself:

SUMMARY & BACKGROUND: Chase St., between Buckeye St. and I-280 has no sanitary sewer. Houses on the east side of the street are served by the sanitary sewer on Erie St. The sanitary sewer laterals from these houses must traverse neighboring private property on Erie St. to connect to the sanitary sewer. While excavating for a new housing development at 1863 Erie St., United North, a nonprofit Community Development Corporation, inadvertently cut through the sanitary sewer lateral serving 1864 Chase. To re-establish proper sewer service to this property and avoid a similar problem in the future, United North proposes to construct a new sewer in the Chase St. right of way, from the alley south of Buckeye St. approximately 130 feet south to 1864 Chase St. and install a new sewer lateral to serve 1864 Chase St. This sewer will be constructed at such a depth and alignment to allow it to be extended in the future to serve houses to the south if they should experience problems with their sewer taps in the future.

So, to 'summarize,' United North is doing some work. They screw up and break the sewer lateral of a neighboring property. They don't expect the contractor (if there was one) to just fix the mistake and pay for the repair. They don't expect themselves to address the error. They go to the city and, for some inconceivable reason, the members of city council vote in favor of paying not just for the lateral, but for a whole new line on Chase Street in case someone in the future makes the same mistake.

How, in any justification, is this the 'right' thing to do? Why would the city decide that this particular situation was worthy of expenditure when they've told us that we don't have enough money in our sewer funds to meet our current needs, much less our future repairs and they raised our rates????

I'm betting that Chase Street, prior to United North's screw-up, wasn't anywhere on any list of projects to be completed with those limited dollars.

According to reports I've received, there really wasn't any discussion of this matter. No one on council questioned why the city was paying for United North's mistake. No one asked if there was a contractor who had insurance that could cover the error. No one asked why it was the responsibility of the city to build a new sewer line because of a break with one house's lateral connection. No one asked where, in the priority of sewer projects, this recent item would fall. No one asked why United North was getting the money instead of actually bidding out the construction of the new line. No one asked anything. They just voted yes.

At-Large Councilman Joe McNamara abstained from the vote. I believe he has an affiliation of some kind with the organization that would present a conflict of interest.

The second item was the vote in favor of hiring a lobbyist for $60,000 to represent the city's interests in Columbus. Now, we don't really have any extra money to spend on a lobbyist and we're supposed to have several state representations who do such work on our behalf, but apparently, those two factors were irrelevant to the majority who voted in favor of this expenditure.

Council members Rob Ludeman (R, at-large), Tom Waniewski (R, District 5), D. Michael Collins (I, District 2) and Lindsay Webb (D, District 6) voted no.

At-Large Councilman George Sarantou (R) reasoned that the money was in the budget, and other entities all have lobbyists, so he was going to support the measure. He also expressed the opinion that, since we're going to be relying more on the state for funds, we needed to be sure to get our 'fair share.' How 'fair share' is defined was unexplained.

But I think the most disturbing 'logic' in support of hiring a lobbyist came from McNamara. His issue was the Ohio Estate Tax, which has been identified by Gov. John Kasich for elimination.

You see, according to McNamara, it makes perfect sense to spend tax dollars to go to Columbus to lobby to KEEP a tax on people because 'the city' needs that income.


Yep - McNamara is in favor of spending tax money to lobby to keep in place taxes on the people he represents. He wants to spend our money to fight for continuing to take our money.

Can you say 'stuck on stupid'????

The last item was a new government program called 'Bank on Toledo.' Apparently San Francisco did a similar program and the ordinance was to authorize the mayor to enter into a contract for the use of the promotional materials developed in San Francisco. Here is the information on the ordinance:

The City of Toledo, local financial institutions and local community organizations are partnering to create a “Bank On Toledo” program. The purpose of “Bank On Toledo” is to promote starter bank accounts designed for previously unbanked or underbanked individuals and lessen their dependence on high-priced check cashing and payday lending businesses. Many people are unaware of the available free or low-cost financial programs and the protection provided through local traditional financial institutions. Specifically, “Bank On Toledo” program targets Toledo area residents who currently utilize high rate check cashing programs to learn more about free and low cost financial services available through local traditional financial institutions.

The “Bank On” program was first started in San Francisco and has been successful in the in attracting and keeping unbanked and underbanked individuals to free or low-cost financial services of the local traditional financial institutions. A key component to the success of Bank On San Francisco” program was the creation, distribution and posting of marketing materials, including posters, brochures, advertisements, window cling, referral cards, and the “Bank on San Francisco” logo. The City and County of San Francisco has offered to share and allow the modification of the Marketing Materials with cities and jurisdictions that want to implement. The Toledo local partnership would like to available themselves of these materials. But to do so requires that the City of Toledo and the City and County of San Francisco enter into a contract that provides the partnership the use of the marketing materials under certain conditions.

I'm wondering why in the world this is even a function of government. Don't banks spend a fortune of their own money advertising their services? Why does the city even need to be involved in this? Can't the banks get together and create their own promotional materials if they want to do this?

And just who are these "unbanked" and "underbanked" people? Is this some sort of new demographic that will start being used in all kinds of government programs??? And just to emphasize, even spellchecker doesn't recognize the terms!

There is more to this issue than just the program and the promotional materials, though. This is all about elitists who don't like that some people use check cashing services and pay day lending services.

These elitists don't really care if a check cashing service is a good option and a preferred option for some people - they've decided that check cashing services are evil and people shouldn't use them. They even went so far as to pass a law in Ohio to put the payday lending companies out of business, they 'hate' them so much. (For background read this post, this one, and this one.)

But that's not enough, because people are *gasp!* still using such services. Oh, the humanity!

So, whether any actual tax dollars go to this program, public resources in the form of time and staff are going to have to be expended - and it's completely unnecessary. But that didn't stop city council from going forward. They voted in favor of this brand new government program with only Waniewski and Collins voting no. Adam Martinez (D, At-Large) abstained.

These are just three items that make today a gray day. But I'm sure, given enough time, Toledo City Council will give us more.

1 comment:

skeeter1107 said...

Good post Maggie!

For me the overriding theme for most of what you bring up is the question, "what does this have to do with government?"

It's of course rhetorical.

You busted up a sewer on a construction job. Fix it.

Banks and credit unions seem to be able to manage their affairs okay. Besides, many of the places that the city seems to want people to avoid, are the only businesses that exist in certain areas. Banks and credit unions don't have a location and aren't in a hurry to open one up.

Lobbyist? What do state reps and senators do? Need something specific? Call Andy Douglas in Columbus.

Last but not least, Joe, that Estate tax, any estate tax is wrong on so many levels. It doesn't belong to you.

Thanks Maggie, I feel better now.

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