Friday, July 26, 2013

Collins balks at answering 'personal' question re: giving tax dollars to charities

Collins balks at being asked
'personal' question about
his vote to give tax dollars to
After Toledo City Council voted to give a total of $50,000 to two local charitable groups, I sent an email to the 11 members who voted yes. I wanted to know:

If these organizations are so worthy of support that you must give them our limited tax dollars, how much of your own money have you given to them?

At-Large Councilman Rob Ludeman was the first to respond and, after a couple of back-and-forths, admitted that no, he doesn't give his own funds to these groups, but he was happy to give 'other people's money' to them.

District 2 Councilman and mayoral candidate D. Michael Collins was the second to respond with this:

In response to your e-mail, I respectfully offer you the following. The University of Toledo’s, Urban Affairs Center, performs valuable research into best practices of municipal government, urban social options, challenges and pathways to successful governance. I have had the opportunity in my office to look at some of the 95 (since 2012) publications they have produced and found them to be of value. In terms of The African American Legacy Project, I strongly believe a robust community is one of diversity, cultural and leadership foundations. Toledo and Northwest Ohio must demonstrate that we are strengthened and enhanced because of these efforts.

To close, the quality of sound scholastic research can never be undervalued; in fact, this regions future will be to a major extent defined within the relationships between government and higher education.


D. Michael Collins

Respectfully, he didn't answer the question - and I told him so:

Thank you for your response extolling the virtue and value of the organizations. Their 'worth' was not questioned.

The question, to which I am still awaiting a response, was this: If these organizations are so worthy of support that you must give them our limited tax dollars, how much of your own money have you given to them?

Interestingly, I was copied on an email another citizen sent to Collins. He just forwarded this first answer he gave to me. He didn't even bother to cut to and paste the answer, just forwarded the entire email. Talk about poor constituent relations....

Collins did send another email after I told him he hadn't answered the question:

I hesitate to answer your personal question, however if you must know, my wife and I are members of the President’s Club at the University of Toledo. If you not familiar with this, it is a commitment of $1,000 a year for ten years. We opted to continue our support as 2013 was our final year.

As to the African American Legacy legislation, since that legislation was from the office of the Mayor, you may be better served in asking him as to his belief in its value.

Best wishes,

D. Michael Collins

Really? He 'hesitates' to answer the personal question? Perhaps if he weren't voting to give away our money for pet projects that he deems 'worthy' he wouldn't be asked such 'personal' questions in the first place.

And this is an elected city councilman who is also running for mayor who just recently released his credit report:

Mr. Collins opened the door into his personal finances during a morning news conference, when he said the candidates’ finances are relevant for voters. “The next mayor will become CEO for the city of Toledo and will be in charge of nearly a half-billion-dollar budget,” Mr. Collins said. “Transparency on how mayoral candidates handle their personal finances is key for the citizens of Toledo in making their decision on who is best qualified to lead the city.”

And now he's complaining about answering a question directly related to a vote he cast?

And then he said I should be talking to the mayor because it was his legislation. Did Collins somehow forget, in the span of the electronic conversation, that he voted yes on it? Sadly, this type of deflection, diversion and condescending attitude has been my experience with Collins over the years.

Collins is to be commended for financially supporting the University of Toledo. But that begs the question of why a department of UT, a taxpayer-funded public university, needs additional 'donations' for one of its departments. Doesn't it charge for studies it does on behalf of its clients? Why are they even asking for money in the first place? (I think I'll leave that to a separate post.)

The conversation continued with my follow-up:

Thank you for the response regarding the University of Toledo.

As for the other, it doesn't matter who presented the legislation, you voted for it. You voted to take limited tax dollars and "donate" it to a cause you deemed worthy. I believe taxpayers are entitled to know if you support the organization with your own dollars as well as theirs. Are you refusing to answer the question as it applies to the African American Legacy Project?

I don't know how much clearer I can make the question.

His response:

You have my answer to both questions, I might add when you held elected office I have no recollection of you being as transparent in your personal issues as I have been!

Seriously? A personal attack? This is how a mayoral candidate and sitting councilman responds to his constituents?

As an elected official, I was extremely transparent. But more importantly, I refused to vote to give tax dollars to charities.

During my term as County Commissioner, one of the local food banks was robbed. My fellow commissioner, Tina Skeldon-Wozniak, hastily drafted a resolution to give the food bank $1,000 from the county general fund to help them replenish their shelves. Commissioner Harry Barlos was ready to go along with the plan. I wasn't.

First, boards of county commissioners have limited authority. As the local arm of state government and an administrative body, not a legislative one, they can do only what the Ohio Revised Code permits. If the Ohio Revised Code is silent on an issue, commissioners cannot act.

So when the resolution was presented in our BCC meeting, I pointed this out to my fellow commissioners. I then challenged them: if they wanted to give $1,000 to the food bank, certainly a "worthy" and deserving entity, I'd be happy to split the amount with them and donate from my personal (not my campaign) funds and help the food bank restock their shelves.

There was silence from my fellow commissioners.

Then we moved on to the next item on the agenda.

I did give the food bank my share...but my fellow commissioners did not.

This told me an awful lot about the two individuals and about politicians in general. We all know they spend 'other people's money' very readily, but when it comes to spending their own on all these 'worthy' causes, most of them fall short - very short. Which is why I asked the question in the first place.

At-Large Councilman Tyrone Riley also replied, but I needed to clarify his response and will share his emails when I receive them. I've not heard from anyone else and I'm not optimistic that I will.

Just remember, Toledoans, these people work for you. If your boss sent you an email asking you to explain your actions, would you just ignore him? And if you did, would there be no consequences?

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