Toledo Monopoly money?Written by Kevin Milliken | | email@example.com
A couple of developments this past week may leave one wondering if our local leaders regard our precious and limited tax dollars as a license to print play money, like the seemingly never-ending source of colored cash in a Monopoly game.
A new Toledo sign ordinance went into effect over the weekend. While I’m all for cleaning up the clutter of 1-800 GOT-WHATEVER and other needless advertisements stapled to poles and political signs that had been littering the public right-of-way, the penalties seem a little steep. A $75 ticket, which can quickly double up to $300 for additional offenses, gives Carty and company a new source of revenue.
Right on the heels of that new law (and source of cash) comes the suggestion Toledo’s top officials need a pay raise. In some cases, the increase is significant: $30,000-$40,000 per year. Many of us don’t even make that in salary in one year!
Here come the justifications from city leaders: a) “We’re no longer competitive with other cities” is what Toledo’s chief of staff wrote in a memo to council and b) Some leaders haven’t seen a raise in five years.
Here are the answers from squeezed taxpayers: a) That’s the same argument you used to raise fire inspection fees to $40 per hour on us, because other cities were charging that amount and b) Boo-hoo, many of us haven’t seen increases, either. Get over it.
It’s all just very curious timing. As the sign police get ready to go out and ticket the heck out of the citizenry who stick signs (accidentally or otherwise) between the sidewalk and the street, city leaders want to line their own pockets — again. A new source of revenue and the money seems spent already.
The pay raise issue is especially hard to swallow, when you consider how many of the top officials in the Finkbeiner administration are so-called “double-dippers.” Countless commissioners, directors and managers came out of retirement to rejoin “Team Toledo.”
That means they’re collecting a public pension and a public salary. Now the mayor wants to add a public pay raise as a tasty topping to pour over that double dip.
The next development comes from a document few have probably ever heard about. I call it the “Christmas Catalog for Elected Officials.”
It’s the “Northwest Ohio Legislative Consortium 2006 Briefing Book for Congressional Officials,” a wish list of federal funding for projects the mayor, county commissioners and a handful of economic development leaders want from Marcy, Paul, George and Mike. The wish list totals $95.5 million.
When U.S. representatives and senators return to the home district with federal funding, it’s usually called “bringing home the bacon.” When the same thing happens elsewhere, it’s called “pork-barrel politics.” In either case, one word will suffice: “Oink.”
One of the projects on that wish list would require more than a quarter of those requested funds. Our mayor wants the feds to cough up $23 million for a Riverwalk in the Marina District. Much of that money would be spent dredging a canal along the Maumee River.
There are a couple more bike paths on that wish list, too.
Federal funding almost always requires local matching money. Much of the time it’s an 80-20 proposition. Where in the world are the city and county going to get
$20 million to cover that cost, when they’re also talking about funding a new arena, an amphitheater, and 20 miles of bike paths?
Thank goodness state law requires local governments to pass balanced budgets every year.
If we tried this same philosophy at home, we’d be in debt up to our eyeballs, bankrupt or both. Instead, we all seem to struggle to find any entertainment money left over after paying higher gas prices, sky-rocketing utility bills and rising taxes.
Joe Citizen may have trouble seeing the need for pay raises and a riverwalk when he can’t even afford to go see “Riverdance.”