Friday, August 16, 2013

Frustrated with the Toledo Water Department? Give money to Anita Lopez, flyer urgers

In a clever fundraising event, Lucas County Auditor and mayoral candidate Anita Lopez is hoping to raise money by piggybacking on the area's frustration with the Toledo Water Department.

The flyer, pictured below, starts with "OVERHAUL THE WATER DEPARTMENT" and asks "Fed up with the water department? Please join us for a shindig featuring Anita Lopez." It's Aug. 29th and light snacks are provided, but it's a cash bar.

The contribution levels are:

  • $25 Fed Up
  • $100 No Deposits
  • $250 No Back Billing
  • $500 No waiting for phone calls to be answered
  • $1000 Accurate Meter Readings
  • $5000 Put the Bill in the Consumers' Names

A lot of people are upset with the Water Department, so this seems like a perfect theme for a fundraiser and it's also one of the more clever ones I've seen since I started in politics 20 years ago.

The department requires the property owner to be the name on the water account for an address. This has a lot of landlords and renters upset because it makes them responsible for billing and collecting for water service in a rental unit.

Earlier this year, they started requiring a $200 deposit for any new service, but quickly backed off on on the terms, allowing prior customers with good service to have the deposit waived.

Responding to complaints about waiting hours to get a phone call answered, the city expanded the department's customer service call center hours, beginning at 7 a.m. (an hour earlier) and closing at 6 p.m. (a half-hour later). They also said they'd answer all the calls for anyone still on hold in the queue at 6 p.m. They also hired 8 more people and changed the grace period from 15 calendar days to 15 business day.

But Toledoans are still upset with the increased fees for water and sewer service and the increases that are scheduled over the next couple of years.

Interestingly, it is City Council that actually approved the fee increases, though the current mayor, Mike Bell, did sign the legislation.

And it was City Council who decided, along with the previous mayor, to put the trash tax on the water bill and threaten people with the cut off of their water service if they didn't pay the trash tax and recycling fee (which was supposed to be reduced to zero but is now a permanent part of the city's revenue).

Of course, this doesn't even get to the minimum charge structure. If you're traveling or frugal with your water consumption, it doesn't matter. If you don't use a certain amount of water each month, they'll bill you a minimum. And your sewer service charge is tied to your water usage.

Granted, the city council and Democrat mayors (since 1990) ignored maintenance and replacement needs of the water/sewer infrastructure over the years, choosing instead to spend limited tax dollars on their own pet projects, so we do have some serious needs in the area, as the recent sink holes and water main breaks demonstrate. And we're still dealing with EPA regulations that are impacting the costs.

But connecting the problems which have been decades in the making with the current mayor, who is rather good at public relations, might be a bit hard.

In fact, Bell, as an independent, would have a great response by saying it was the Democrats who ignored the problem for so long and he's actually dealing with instead of 'kicking the can down the road' (one of his oft-used phrases).

He inherited a mess and he's cleaning it up.

While it might not be as valid an issue for the actual campaign, it's definitely a fun one for a fundraiser.

Here is the flyer:

*** Aside: I have not decided which mayoral candidate to support in the upcoming election. ***

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