Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cheers and Jeers - Zoo's levy request for Wood County

Cheers - in fact, BIG cheers to the Wood County Commissioners who said no to placing a levy for the Toledo Zoo on the ballot. They listened to their constituents, performed their duty to make a decision, looked at the bigger picture (the impact of additional taxes on their county) and said no. Oh, to have such vision and responsibility in Lucas County.

Jeers - to the Toledo Zoo for thinking that simply because people from an area visit their location that they should tax themselves to pay for the entity. Zoo officials could have done multiple things before seeking a levy, but they didn't bother. They didn't:

* start a membership drive: A single membership is only $42, a family membership is $71. At least then they'd have people who WANTED to support the zoo, rather than taxing people who have no interest in supporting them.

* raise prices: The current admission is $11 for adults, $8 for children & seniors. They could have raised the rates for non-Lucas County residents (who already support the Zoo via a tax levy) and generated more income to help address their financial issues. The last time they raised prices was in 2009 and most people would find a three-year time frame to the next increase quite reasonable, even in this economy. But Zoo Director Anne Baker has said in the past that it was 'too much work' to try and determine Lucas residents from other residents at the admission gate. That's easily solved. All they need to do is put a notice on all admission notices that Lucas County residents should present their ID for their discounted price. Obviously, any person presenting an ID is a Lucas County resident who should be charged the lower rate. No additional work required.

Additionally, there is a serious contradiction in Baker's logic/position on the issue. If it's too hard to determine the residency of the visitors, how in the world can she state that a significant number of Wood County residents visit the Zoo each year? Both cannot be true.

* do a host of other drives (sponsorships, estate planning bequests, etc...) before deciding to come to voters.

Instead of taking such steps, the Zoo is choosing to force people (through taxation) to fund an organization they don't want to support with membership dollars.

Jeers - to the woman who, at the hearing yesterday (as heard on WSPD this morning), said not putting the levy on the ballot was acting like Hitler. As one Wood County resident said:

"If there's so many supporters of the zoo out there that want to vote, here's the way you vote. Pick up the phone and donate more money to the zoo," suggested David McClough, a father of two and a zoo member.

Cheers - to David McClough for such clarity of position!

Cheers - to the commissioners for taking the position that 'letting the people decide' would have been the abdication of their responsibilities. Under state law, boards of commissioners have the obligation to decide whether or not to put levies on the ballot. They should certainly heed the input from their constituents, but the decision is still theirs to make. In Lucas County, the commissioners set up a 'citizen levy review committee' to do such work for them - abdicating their responsibility to an unelected committee and pushing the accountability off to them.

Jeers - to the distortion of the concept of a 'regional attraction.' Yes, the Zoo is a regional attraction. People come from all over the region to attend it and some will come for the sole purpose of visiting the Zoo and its special events/exhibits. But being a regional attraction does not mean you get to mandate money from the entire region. Just because people are willing to come and pay admission to the Zoo doesn't mean that everyone in a specific county (or multiple counties) should be taxed to maintain/operate it. If this logic were to hold, there would be no limits whatsoever on taxation for any entity that could claim such a description.

Cheers and Jeers - to The Blade for a similar distortion of 'regionalism.' I say 'jeers' because they continue to advance the distortion as described in the above point, and because they believe, as explained in this editorial, that the Commissioners should have punted the issue to the voters. There's a reason we're not a democracy, but a representative government. It prevents the tyranny of the majority, which is what all levy requests end up being: a majority of people deciding that others should pay for what they don't support simply because the majority wants it.

But I say 'cheers' because they have revealed, for all to see, that The Blade's concept of 'regionalism' means that others need to pay for the failures (fiscal and otherwise) of Toledo and Lucas County governments and entities.

Their editorial uses the Zoo's excuse that "dwindling revenue from a deteriorating Lucas County tax base" is cause enough to seek funding from non-Lucas County tax bases - as if it is somehow the fault and/or responsibility of surrounding communities to solve the problems of Toledo, which is quickly gaining the reputation of 'little Detroit.'

This issue alone is a perfect example of the paper's concept that successful communities should bear the brunt of the bad decisions made by the paper's hand-picked politicians in Toledo and Lucas County government. Fortunately, the other communities have been immune to this redistributionist perspective and have soundly rejected it.

Finally, cheers - to Wood County residents who took the time to attend the hearing, write or call their commissioners to express their opinions. It is their involvement which made the decision for the commissioners so clear - and defensible.


SpeedRacer said...

The editorial board at The Blade sarcastically states "So much for regional cooperation to support a regional asset." Where was Lucas County's, Toledo's and The Blade's support of a "regional asset" when the City of Rossford was attempting to develop the arena and amphitheater complex in the Crossroads area?

I guess that anything regional must be Toledo-centric.

Maggie Thurber said...

Excellent point SpeedRacer - thanks for adding it!

skeeter1107 said...

All excellent points! You too Speed Racer.

My hope is that if there is a silver lining to the financial difficulties we are all going through, it's that we will have serious people making serious decisions when it comes to spending public monies.

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