Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tax dollars went to 'worthy' charities, Ludeman says

Councilman Rob Ludeman first to
respond to request.
Toledo City Council voted to make a 'donation' (their word, not mine) to two local organizations: $20,000 to the African American Legacy Project and $30,000 to the University of Toledo Urban Affairs Center.

I blogged about how wrong it is for council to spend our money in this manner and wondered if these 'worthy' organizations had been 'worthy' enough to get any of the council members' personal funds. So I asked them.

Here is the email I sent to the 11 members who voted in favor of both ordinances:

Yesterday 11 of you voted to make donations with our tax dollars to the African American Legacy Project and the Toledo Urban Affairs Center.

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?

I must say, though, that I'm not optimistic that even half of you will bother to respond even though it's an extremely valid question that deserves an answer.

Yes, I admit that I'm cynical when it comes to responses from my elected representatives, but apparently justified.

At-Large Councilman Rob Ludeman was the first to respond:

Hello Maggie. I got your e-mail and as I do am sending a reply. We vote on a lot of legislation in each meeting and it is interesting when members of Council are criticized over individual votes. The two that have come up this week are the $30,000 for the Urban Affairs Center and $20,000 for the African American Legacy Project. President Paula Hicks Hudson introduced the Urban Affairs legislation. During my tenure on Council the city has partnered in many ways with UT and the Urban Affairs Center. They have done numerous studies for and with us to help with different aspects of our city. The Mayor introduced the other piece. There was a question last week if it could be funded from a different fund source but it could not. In difficult times of potential racial divide this project may help make a difference in our community. Looking at the overall picture both seemed worthy of my support. Many cutbacks have occurred in our city government in the past ten years. I am proud to be a part of avoiding a $48 million dollar deficit in my first year back on Council in 2010. Every department has made severe cuts with not a single person laid off. We are back on track and assisting viable components in our community on a much smaller scale than in the past is a prudent investment in our future. Having been a district councilman and now at large, I know that every district council member has lobbied hard for projects in their neighborhoods. Each request is scrutinized and questioned before a Council vote, as were these two ordinances, and a decision is reached. I know not every vote I make will be appreciated by every citizen. But I have never voted without knowledge of the issue.

As far as my record on donating to worthy groups and organizations, Elaine and I give a substantial amount of our hard earned dollars to a multitude of charities as well as our church. We believe in giving back to our community in both time and money.

I did want to respond and let you know my thoughts.

Take care, Rob

While I appreciate that Ludeman replied, he didn't answer the question, though he did extol the virtues of the recipients.

My reply back:

Thanks for your reply, but you did not answer the question: How much of your own money did you give to either of these organizations? I ask it again, especially in light of your comment: "Looking at the overall picture both seemed worthy of my support."

As for the UT Urban Affairs Center, when they have conducted studies on behalf of the City, did you not pay them for the work at the time it was done?

No one has said the two organizations are not good entities nor that the work they do is not important. That is not the question.

When the City (not specifically you, but as an entity) is constantly telling us they don't have enough money for essential services, insists on raising rates on water/sewer, imposes a trash tax which was supposed to be reduced to zero but now seems to be a forever charge, and cannot seem to fix numerous potholes, why do 'we' have money for charitable organizations? And if these are 'worthy,' are you going to give to every charity that puts its hand out?

I'd really appreciate an answer to the original question.

And Ludeman did respond with an answer:

No, but have never been asked by either entity.

So he hasn't given of his own funds because he hasn't been asked, but he gave of our funds because that's what they asked for?

Perhaps that's a cynical conclusion that Ludeman doesn't deserve, but I cannot help but be incredulous over the 'logic.'

Ludeman did not answer the second question that arose: If these organizations are 'worthy,' are you going to give to every charity that puts its hand out for taxpayer dollars?

My guess is that the answer would be 'no,' but if so, how does council decide where to draw the line?

Will all charities who get a council member to support them get funds? Where is the 'fairness' in giving to one but not to all?

Will council support charities of fellow Democrat members and reject charities of Republican ones? Who doesn't believe politics plays no role in this?

What about the charities I support versus the ones I don't? Why should my tax dollars be used to support charities I might not favor? And can the charities I like get $20,000 too?

Does the city really have enough money to accommodate all the requests for charitable donations? And if not, should any get taxpayer dollars?

Here's the thing that really gets me. If the African American Legacy Project really needed $20,000 so badly, couldn't the 11 council members and mayor (who appears to support the 'donation') have given or raised it personally?

It's only $1667 per person.

Don't council members have the gravitas to raise that much for a 'worthy' cause? They certainly seem able to do it for themselves when it comes to their campaigns.

Mayor Mike Bell should veto this.

As then-Representative James Madison said in a speech on the House floor during the debate "On the Memorial of the Relief Committee of Baltimore, for the Relief of St. Domingo Refugees":

"Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government."

No comments:

Google Analytics Alternative