A few random thoughts …Written by Maggie Thurber | Toledo Free Press Writer | firstname.lastname@example.org
n This past week, the Buckeye Institute announced its new Center for Transparent and Accountable Government. The center, led by former Statehouse reporter Mike Maurer, will collect and post online state and local government budgets, employee contracts, public records policies and other information. The Web site, OhioSunshine.org, is a wiki, a publicly open online source of information that can be edited by everyone.
Sadly, too many local governments see transparency in government as a bother and something that detracts from “governance.” Fortunately, citizens and organizations like the Buckeye Institute are educating them to the fact that an informed citizenry is an engaged citizenry — and that’s good for everyone.
n The United Way has decided to tear down its existing building and construct a new office for its organization. In the hoopla over whether this is a good idea (it is!), many have missed the extremely pertinent point: they are staying in Downtown Toledo. Considering the track record for the city, you’d think they’d be jumping for joy over new office building construction in the Downtown area — not putting up barriers at every opportunity over some misguided perception that this old, inefficient mass of brick and mortar is somehow more important than the United Way’s mission to help those in need.
n Considering Mayor Carty Finkbeiner’s impatient expectation that four days was plenty of time for the Lucas-County Port Authority to deliver thousands of pages of records, including some going back 10 years, is anyone surprised that a citizen had to file a mandamus action to get some simple red light/speed camera information — after waiting over two months? And how much will this lawsuit cost the taxpayers?
n Financial information on the revenue and expenses for the Erie Street Market is extremely hard to come by. The city administration provided a document with limited data that showed a “profit” of $26,268 through June. Last weekend’s events resulted in another $6,185.84 in the plus column. However, costs of utilities, paid for by the city, were not part of the picture. Now they are.
So far this year, the city has paid $141,578.90 in water, electric and gas costs. At this rate, they’ll be higher than in 2007. When you add in the $80,000 cost of renovations, which everyone has said will be paid back to the facilities account, the ESM is $185,004.06 in the hole.
n July is the first month in the state’s 2009 budget — and revenues are not as expected. Total tax revenue for the state was nearly $140 million, or 9.8 percent, below budget projections. Even the tobacco tax was down 25 percent. Expect additional cuts in the state budget or, lacking the political will to scale back state government like many families have done with their own spending, look for discussion about tapping into the state’s $1.1 billion rainy day fund.
n It was good to see the Swanton School Board actually take the time to evaluate the terms of a grant from the Department of Education. In rejecting the funds, it pointed out that the majority of the money was for excessive administrative costs, including salaries, equipment and travel — not for actual programmatic or direct service costs.
Some (mainly the people who were getting the money) are upset because the purpose of the grant was anti-alcohol programs and, judging from the comments, Swanton youths apparently have a serious problem with alcohol. However, while the money would have resulted in three new hires and a few more after-school, non-alcohol events, there was no mention of the measurable outcomes the half million dollars would have “purchased.”
Maybe it’s just me, but when I was that age, we didn’t need a government grant to provide non-alcoholic programs and events — we had parents who did that for us and police officers for when the laws were ignored.
n Scott Parsons, Sylvania native and St. John’s Jesuit graduate, did not make it to the finals in the Olympic men’s kayaking. But all of us are very proud of him for qualifying for his second Olympic appearance — and for representing us well. Thanks, Scott!
n By the time of publication, we’ll know if Anna Tunnicliffe, a former Perrysburg resident, has made the Olympic Sailing Medal Race in the Laser Radial one-person dinghy class. Only the top 10 finishers compete in the last race, and Anna is favored to win a medal. I knew Anna when she was a junior sailor at North Cape Yacht Club and was always impressed by her concentration on the race course, which is certainly serving her well in this international competition. Go Anna!
Former Lucas County Commissioner Maggie Thurber is the host of WSPD’s “Eye on Toledo.”