Who’s paying for Carty’s ambitions?Written by Bob Frantz | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The only thing missing from Carty Finkbeiner’s road map to success during Monday’s State of the City address was the pirate’s map to the buried treasure that will be used to pay for everything.
When Mayor Finkbeiner was Candidate Finkbeiner, he released a 34-point mission statement outlining the things he would get done if given a third term. It was an ambitious list to say the least, and it was no less so when he redistributed it to the crowd at UT on Monday. But try as I might, I couldn’t find the item on the list that gave Toledo a new city printing press, complete with the federal license to produce new stacks of cash whenever the mayor felt the need.
Make no mistake; for Finkbeiner to do everything he has pledged to do for Toledo in 2006 and beyond, he’ll need to either make significant cuts to the city budget or print his own money. Yet the glaring omission in Monday’s speech was a list of who (or what) will be slashed or shortchanged in order for him to turn his visions into reality.
The mayor pledged to start a City Hall mentoring program, for example, as well as a ”privately funded” summer youth program in the city parks. It’s a wonderful goal that could benefit many of Toledo’s kids, but what he did not address is where those private funds are coming from. Promising a program with a casual, ”We’ll find someone to give us the money later” is just not enough.
Similarly, Mayor Finkbeiner pledged his support for COSI, which is in financial straits. While acknowledging the need for COSI and its importance to Toledo’s youth, the mayor’s suggestion for saving it was simply, ”Let us seek the appropriate course to keep COSI alive in Toledo.”
It’s a nice cheer, but it’s not a plan of action. Taking a stance on a proposed levy or announcing sources of private funding, would have been a plan of action.
Speaking of private funding, an even bigger question mark emerged when Finkbeiner discussed the new Downtown sports arena.
”A state-of-the-art arena must be built,” the Mayor understated, adding that the city ”will work with the county” to get it done.
In other words, the mayor intends to build an arena that could cost upwards of
$80 million dollars solely with public city and county funds. An arena, mind you, that study after study has concluded cannot support its enormous debt.
The arena can support roughly $7 million in debt, and the state of Ohio has offered another $12 million. That’s $19 million that can be accounted for in a project that may cost four times that amount. Yet the mayor pledged that the city and county will get it built without even a hint of private funding.
As expected, the mayor also he repeated his somewhat obstructionist mantra in opposition to the plan put forward by the Westgate Village owners. In another slap at the Costco big box store, he said Westgate needs to be a pedestrian-friendly environment, where people can move from shop to shop on foot.
The problem, of course, is that the quaint ”mom-and-pop” shops that we all love do not make Westgate a destination point; that’s one of the reasons the center has been struggling for so long. The Costco store is a destination point, drawing people from miles around, and if the mayor continues to throw monkey wrenches into their plans, he may drive the store, and the 200 jobs it brings, to another city.
The mayor touched only briefly on his promise to increase the police force, and he mentioned the increase in capital improvement dollars for his neighborhood pride program, as well as his citywide walking path for the ”Get Fit Toledo” program. Those issues may not have much in common, except they’re all going to cost a lot more money than is currently in Toledo’s budget.
So what will it be? A tighter budget belt? Or a printing press?
Once again, the ol’ coach was able to deliver a top-notch motivational speech that should fire up even the most apathetic Toledoan. Then again, no one has ever really questioned Carty’s lofty ambitions — just whether we can afford them.
Bob Frantz hosts ”Eye on Toledo” on WSPD 1370 AM. E-mail him at email@example.com.