Saving Toledo’s ship of stateWritten by Tim Higgins | | email@example.com
Even in the midst of winter, we continue to sail the waves here in Toledo; and like any ship plying its trade in such weather, we search the horizon for ice.
There is little doubt as to why we do so, having suffered so long under the captaincy of Mayor Carleton S. Finkbeiner. For while he was praised in some quarters as the city’s No. 1 cheerleader, there is little doubt that his true legacy will be that of a misogynist misanthrope and maniacal ego-maniac who terrorized co-workers, antagonized business owners and neighboring governments and abused perhaps his best and only friend (a dog). He was truly a danger to the ship he sailed.
This image first came to mind as I listened to Brian Wilson on WSPD discussing the inaugural speech by Mike Bell, as he talked about taking charge of a sinking Titanic. There is much to recommend this comparison. I believe his point that this ship of state must first have the hole in its side plugged if any of the passengers aboard are to be saved is a valid one. I would take it even one step further perhaps, and say that it must first be recognized that there is a hole in the ship before we can begin to plug it.
Many of our local politicians have paid lip service to this impending doom, talking about finding a way to deal with the ever mounting debt of the city, but few have made concrete proposals to deal with it. Pouring city money into the Erie Street Market, the Imagination Station (COSI for those of you who don’t recognize the new name yet), Southwyck and the Marina District hardly seems the way. Yet such behavior seemed to pass with little notice or objection by City Council members during our recent past as they continued to pile good money upon bad for one nonsensical project after another.
Those doing with less alas were the taxpayers, paying increased trash fees to get a system of rotating trash days and finance trash cans and trucks that none seemed to want, while calls to privatize the system went unheeded. Unheeded as well, went calls to go back to private ambulance service and eliminate the need for the overtime budgets of city firefighters to fill the gaps in service.
New contracts were negotiated with city workers, even in the midst of this impending crisis, which called for apparent sacrifices by some of Toledo’s unions, but their offerings were illusory and temporary, with future budgets to bear the burden of shortsightedness on the part of both unions and city negotiators alike. But how could unions take the piteous cries of the city seriously when there was always money for swimming pools or flowers? How could anyone be asked to take the city’s mounting debt seriously when those minding the purse strings of the city so recklessly ignored it?
Our new mayor cannot be content with paying lip service to the issues, playing the same tired old tune (like the band on that ill-fated vessel) in yet another attempt to distract us while the ship of state slowly sinks beneath the waves. For much like those traveling on that great liner, there are not enough lifeboats for all of us, and any help that comes is still beyond view in the distance. He cannot be a hidebound captain in dealing with the situation. Levying higher taxes and decreasing city services will serve no better than pumping the water out of the bilges and into the cabins of the ship.
He cannot expect to keep the vessel afloat with the temporary patches of selling some of the city’s real estate holdings. While they will perhaps buy him a year’s time, doing so in a depressed real estate market will do nothing to affect the long term sinking of the ship.
I have to say that I am happy with the state of the lifeboat drill going on in the City of Toledo. Before we know what departments might be thrown overboard to lighten the burden of the ship, we are warned that there might be new sacrifices to be made. Before the mayor can truly know how great are the resources the city might yet possess, he begins to float proposals to take more from its citizens.
Yes, Bell and Wilson are right that the ship of state must have the wound in its side plugged, but I fear that much of what we are seeing may prove of little use in the process. This time, Captain Bell, “more of the same” will not fill the gaping hole visible to all and save this ship of state.
Tim Higgins blogs at http://justblowingsmoke.blogspot.com/.