At the first two Citizen’s Special Investigation (CSI) meetings, Jan. 25 and Jan. 27, Toledo Mayor Mike Bell encouraged members to “think outside the box” when it came to ideas on how reduce city expenditures.
“Everything is on the table. In pursuit of moving forward, options are wide open,” Bell said.
The CSI task force will make recommendations on how Bell’s administration can tackle a nearly $44 million general fund shortfall for 2010, which includes a $9 million carry-over deficit from 2009. The two meetings covered what Bell’s administration has been examining within the budget as well as discussions of what the CSI group’s role would be.
Steve Herwat, deputy mayor for internal operations, shared that the administration had been looking line by line through former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner’s proposed 2010 budget and that the CSI’s job would be to make “bigger picture” suggestions.
The city has been exploring ideas to increase resources in the taxation division to more aggressively go after the $21 million of outstanding income tax, is looking at benefits the city would gather from selling certain properties and is examining new tactics for collecting red light camera violations, including legislation to boot cars or keep drivers from getting their license renewed. The city is also examining concessions with union and non-union employees on health care and pension benefits.
Bell has not proposed any [lay-offs] to help balance the budget because taxpayers are paying for a service and they should get what they pay for, he said. If the city cut all nonessential employees it would gain $13.5 million toward balancing the budget. However, Bell noted that cuts may be necessary for the city to be operating as lean as possible.
When presenting the balanced budget to Toledo City Council, the cuts are going to start on the floor of the mayor’s office, Herwat said. The mayor’s office currently works at $256,000 less annually than former Mayor Finkbeiner’s office, even with promotions and raises for a few employees.
Bell acknowledged the city may have to increase taxes to help cover the budget shortfall. The city has an income tax at 2.25 percent, a number that hasn’t increased since 1983.
“We have to face a reality about our current tax; it hasn’t been raised since 1983. How many things do you know haven’t risen in cost since 1983? So that’s part of the issue. We haven’t raised anything, we’ve had people leave our city, we’ve had businesses leave our city. We have to be able to balance this budget,” he said.
If voters approve an increase in income tax from 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent, the city could generate $7.5 million by July 1.A proposed tax increase would have a sunset clause associated with it that starts once Toledo was out of economic difficulty it would cease, Bell said.
When it came to generating ideas to combat the budget, Bell told the CSI committee to speak openly and feel free to “rip” the city if need be.
“It is important that you challenge us. This is exactly what we’re trying to get done. The people out there are going to challenge us,” Bell said. “If you have those red flag questions, get them to us so we can start looking for ourselves. If something sounds like B.S. ask us to explain and justify it.”
At the Jan. 25 meeting, CSI members suggested the city consider examining the city’s 60 capital funds as sources of revenue for things that are coming out of the general fund.
At the Jan. 27 meeting, the city determined that Herwat’s salary, which is funded 100 percent by the general fund, could be funded by other areas, with only 20 percent coming out of the general fund.
Other suggestions made by CSI members included a possible entertainment tax, having citizens pay for their trash cans and selling back taxes to a third party to collect similar to what the county did previously. Additionally, the task force suggested the city examine the properties they lease and consider having the lessees cover utility costs instead of the city.
Bell asked CSI members to forward ideas on how to balance the budget. He said his office will meet Jan. 30 and Jan. 31 to compile a preliminary list.
“We need to start pulling the trigger. Put something on paper so we have a list of what we’re proposing and will be discussing,” Bell said.
The task force consists of 13 individuals. Members include union leaders, professors and business leaders.
The group will meet twice a week while developing recommendations for Mayor Bell’s administration on how to balance the budget.
The city must submit a balanced budget to city council and have it approved by March 31.
Archive for January, 2010
At the first two Citizen’s Special Investigation (CSI) meetings, Jan. 25 and Jan. 27, Toledo Mayor Mike Bell encouraged members to “think outside the box” when it came to ideas on how reduce city expenditures.
Toledo Brand Initiative hosted community forums on Jan. 25, Jan. 26, Jan. 27 and Jan. 28 to gather feedback from area residents to help “brand” the region.
The public and private partnership aimed at “branding” Toledo hosted the summits to engage local residents to share what is good and bad about the region. Through the summits the group hopes to define how the region sees itself and in turn develop a campaign to market Toledo.
“So far folks have really participated and have had great opinions. We’re not trying to do this in a vacuum. I think the feedback so far has been fabulous. Our big fear was no one would be willing to talk, and our second big fear was that comments would be negative but it’s been exactly the opposite of that,” said Keith Burwell, president of Toledo Community Foundation and committee member of the Toledo Brand Initiative.
Applied Storytelling, a brand development firm based in Berkeley, Calif., facilitated the public forums.
“The caliber of discussion and the insight people are bringing is really substantial,” said Eric La Brecque, a principal at Applied Storytelling. “It is enormously valuable. Even to the point of not only ideas, which people are discussing and taking different views on, but even specific phrases resonate.”
The forums allowed residents to give their feedback about the region through discussions and interactive surveys.
“Toledo is our town. This is our home. Toledo is it,” said Don Monroe, a Toledo resident who attended the community forum at the library. “I said everything about the city is great and it is. There are just so many people that piss and moan there is nothing to do, but I disagree.”
Fritz Hany, a judge, drove from Port Clinton to participate.
“I think this is so positive,” he said. “There’s so much we all have in common and we have to come together because we shouldn’t be competing against each other… We need to set aside our differences because we’re competing globally.”
Regionalism and uniting different areas was a common theme.
“This was a great opportunity for input into what’s going on in our region. I think regionalism is the answer to a lot of our problems here as far as what is happening with the economies in our own communities. I’m looking forward to seeing us all pulling together and making Northwest Ohio and the Toledo area be all it can be,” said Sue McHugh, a Sylvania resident who attended a forum at Olander Park.
Two more public forums will take place, Feb. 2 at Maumee City Hall Chamber, 400 Conant St., from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Feb. 3 at Perrysburg City Council, 201 W. Indiana Ave., from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The Toledo Brand Initiative has surveys at www.toledoregionstory.com.
“When you’re working at a lot of comedy clubs — not all of them, but when you’re working some certain comedy clubs — they put restrictions on you,” said comedian Ch!llian Thomas. “Some comedy clubs may not want you to cuss at the audience, some comedy clubs may even ask you to not even say anything to the audience. If it’s a liberal audience, they won’t let you do a Republican view, or vice versa.
“It puts a lot of restrictions on comedians sometimes, and a lot of comedians end up not really relaying who they really are on stage.”
Responding to these limits is one of the core ideas behind “Comedy Held Hostage,” a three-person tour that will be featured at Connxtions Comedy Club on Saturday, January 30 at 5:30 p.m. The show features comedians Thomas, Susan Colletti and Jarred Kruger, though the concept extends beyond the actual performances that the audience at Connxtions will see.
“The three of us got together and we thought it’d really be cool doing this tour,” Thomas said. “We document it everywhere we go, we have a camera crew following us around everywhere from hitting open mikes, to going out to promote the show, to us hanging out, to us actually doing the show.”
It occurred to me to ask if they were documenting this very interview, but I refrained. The filming is all for a documentary that will be released on DVD at the tour’s completion. Their Toledo show is one of the first on the schedule, with more to come, but the ultimate goal of the three is a full college tour.
On the phone with the three comedians as they prepared for their Toledo stop, the camaraderie between them was clear, and they obviously enjoy making others — and each other — laugh. The three have distinctly contrasting comedic styles and backgrounds, and vastly different experience.
“I’m new to the scene, really — like a year old,” said Jarred Kruger. “So, to be able to do something like this, to me, gives me a better chance to grow, instead of restricting myself, being afraid to go out there, and just to be me and go out there and do the jokes that I want to do, and what I think is funny.”
Krueger also said that the friendship between the three is key to that development. “It gives us kind of a freedom,” he said. “Like, we have each other, you know? Like, it’s not, you’re going to an open mike and it’s a bunch of people you don’t know. You’re going with your friends, it’s something you’re doing — and it’s more fun than anything else. There’s work, and there’s traveling and all that, but when it comes down to it, it’s like having fun with your friends, and that’s the best part of it.”
“I’ve been doing comedy for quite a while, (and) this show is completely unique to me,” said Susan Colletti, a veteran of the comedy scene of both Detroit (her hometown) and Los Angeles. “Even as a woman, being out there and being a part of something that is so spectacular gives me a sense of — I’m able to write, and I don’t have to worry about what I’m writing about, and I have the support of these two guys. They let me say what I want to say, and go out there. It’s such a show, that’s so unique, it motivates me more to go out there and do more comedy.”
She adds that the audience’s enthusiasm is also a major source of encouragement. “The response we’re getting back from people…it’s amazing. People are really liking what we’re doing, and they’re really enjoying the show,” she said.
Colletti noted that several fans from other cities have already said they would be coming to Connxtions to see the group perform again. And that kind of appeal, all three agree, comes from that sense of freedom the project has given them.
“Our show is edgier than most shows, but that’s because it’s no holds barred. But, at the same time, we don’t necessarily go for the edge, so it’s not — you’re not going to see a very dirty show, or ‘blue’ show. It’s just a very opinionated show,” said Thomas. “There’s no greater feeling in the world than to be doing something like that.”
E-mail Jeff at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com.
FOX Toledo Rant and Rave Jan 27
Two men claim to be in charge of the Lucas County Republican Party – Jon Stainbrook and Jeff Simpson. Toledo Free Press Editor in Chief Michael Miller says this situation has created a political mess and he explains in this edition of FOX Toledo’s Rant and Rave.
The big news this week comes, naturally, from US auto companies. Rather than missing earnings estimates, battling unions, or closing down plants, auto firms are now making news for their surprisingly optimistic employment outlook.
This week announcements have come from GM, Toyota, VW, and KIA, who plan to add 100, 850, 2000, and 1200 jobs, respectively. While GM is expanding operations in Detroit and Maryland, Toyota is adding a second shift in San Antonio, KIA is building on its operations in West Point, Georgia, and VW is opening a new plant in Chattanooga (Shhh! Don’t Look Now, But the Auto Industry is Hiring, CNBC.com).
The real star, though, of big auto has been Ford. The only big auto company NOT to accept government bailout funds, Ford has been roaring back in recent weeks, making moves to capture significant market share as its competitors struggle for sure footing.
On the issue of employment, Ford is also a star-performer. The auto giant is planning to hire 1000 workers by 2012 in order to operate a new Detroit plant that will engineer electric cars. An additional 1200 jobs will be coming to Chicago, where Ford will be manufacturing the new Explorer SUV (Ford to bring 1,200 jobs to Chicago area, CNBC.com).
Thankfully, job prospects aren’t limited to solely auto companies. Tech tycoon Larry Ellison announced Tuesday that his company, Oracle, in addition to acquiring Sun Microsystems, also intends to add 2000 sales and engineering employees (CEO Ellison Sets New Course as Oracle Gains Control of Sun, Wall Street Journal).
Generally speaking, the economy seems to be picking up, partially due to increased demand, but even more so because inventory is finally dwindling. One prime example can be found with Caterpillar, which reacted extremely quickly when demand for its heavy-machinery dried up months ago.
At that time, in a period of just a couple weeks, Caterpillar [over-]reacted by closing plants and laying off workers en masse. Now that circumstances are beginning to improve, Caterpillar has little or no inventory remaining, and is having to scramble to bring back workers and accumulate the resources it will need to satisfy coming demand.
This phenomenon, though exhibiting incredibly poor supply chain management on the part of Caterpillar, is good news for the American people, who will ultimately benefit from the company’s sudden demand for labor and resources (Caterpillar’s Profits Fall, But Demand Picks Up, Wall Street Journal).
We are also beginning to see this occur in the housing sector, especially in California. Like cars and heavy machinery, housing production also ground to a halt when demand for new homes took a dive and financing availability disappeared. Now, with housing prices having stabilized at unsustainable lows – many existing homes selling below their replacement costs – the rebound has begun.
Though demand for new homes remains low, the inventory of existing homes is vastly diminished. There remains a large “shadow” supply of existing homes, mostly foreclosures, being held on by banks and not yet listed on the market. This inventory, too, will ultimately diminish as banks slowly work through homes held on their books.
Before closing, one slightly sour note remains in the area of real estate. Unfortunately, uncertainty still remains about the possible coming wave of defaults in commercial real estate. Recall that much of the problems in residential real estate resulted from subprime Adjustable Rate Mortgages, or ARMs. The ARM equivalent in commercial real estate is the Alt-A mortgage, standing for Alternative A-paper.
Despite the issues that arose from the wave of defaults that came in ARMs when mortgage rates reset, many professionals continue to believe that they could pale in comparison to the troubles that may result when rates reset in Alt-A mortgages on commercial properties.
As circumstances continue to improve, it’s important that we remain cautious in our optimism. While a rebound seems underway for many manufacturing firms and, as a result, employment, the outlook can change remarkably quickly. This is, hopefully, one lesson we’ve all learned over the past two years.
Dock David Treece is a stockbroker licensed with FINRA. He works for Treece Financial Services Corp., www.TreeceInvestments.com. The above information is the express opinion of Dock David Treece and should not be used without outside verification.
Lynn B. Jacobs and Rev. Martin Otto Zimmann have been appointed to the Lucas County Children Services Board of Trustees by the Lucas County Commissioners.
“Its an honor and privilege to be appointed to serve on the Children Services Board,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs, now a retired prosecutor from the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office Civil and Juvenile Division, was always interested in the work of Lucas County Children’s Services, but couldn’t volunteer for them because they were a client, she said.
Through her work with the courts, Jacobs saw how children may be impacted when the basic stability of the family is lacking and hopes to be able to assist those children in this position, she said.
Jacobs is member of the Toledo, Ohio State and Women’s Bar Associations She currently serves on the Commission on Grievances and Disciple of the Ohio Supreme Court.
Otto Zimmann is an assisting pastor of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Temperance, Mich., and an instructor at BGSU. Otto Zimmann and his wife are foster parents for Lucas County Children Services.
“My wife and I have been foster parents for a year and my wife serves on the board for the Lucas County Educational Services. I really wanted to get involved at another level and help children who are at risk of falling through the cracks,” Otto Zimmann said.
Otto Zimmann said he has tremendous respect for what the Lucas County Children Service Board has been doing and is looking forward to being involved.
The board of trustees oversees procedures, policy and funding for the Lucas County Children Services. Lucas County Children Services works to protect children at risk for abuse and neglect.
Notre Dame Academy student council kicked off a series of Haitian relief projects with a candlelight prayer service on Jan. 22.
The students will host a variety of drives and fundraisers to help with the relief efforts.
- Jan. 25 to Jan. 29, the school will collect cases and gallon jugs of water
- Feb. 22 to March 5, the students will collect medical supplies such as aspirin, band-aids and Neosporin.
- March 8 to March 19, the school will accept rice and other canned goods as well as manual can openers.
- March 22 and 29, personal hygiene items such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, etc. will be collected.
All items will be collected in the main lobby from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. during their respective weeks. The general public is urged to drop off items during the appropriate weeks to help with the relief efforts.
Additionally, girls will be able to pay $3 to wear sweatpants/jeans on Feb. 16 with all proceeds going to Haiti.
All items will be dropped off to the American Red Cross.
Notre Dame is located at 3535 W. Sylvania Ave. For more information visit www.nda.org.
A suspect being chased by police after a shoplifting crashed her car into a utility pole, killing herself and injuring a passenger.
Police in the Toledo suburb of Oregon began chasing the two women early Jan. 26 after getting a call about a shoplifting.
They ended the chase when the car drove into Toledo, but the vehicle lost control and crashed into the pole.
Toledo police say the driver was thrown from the car and the passenger ran away. The passenger was later taken into custody and treated at a hospital.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Conrad Reynolds is making a series of Arkansas appearances with Joe the Plumber, an Ohio man who became a well-known figure in the 2008 presidential race.
Reynolds is seeking the GOP nomination to run against incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln. He asked supporters at a $100-a-plate luncheon Monday to volunteer and give money to help him in the race.
Joe the Plumber, whose name is Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, says he supports Reynolds but that voters should research Reynolds’ positions rather than rely on his endorsement.
The Toledo-area Wurzelbacher became known nationally after questioning then-presidential candidate Barack Obama about his economic policies and later being referred to by John McCain in a presidential debate.
Toledo Christian Schools, preschool through 12th grade, will host an open house Feb. 6 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. for interested students and families.
“I think it’s important for parents to see the changes at TCS this year. It behooves parents to see the physical changes, as well as the growth we continue to make academics and the Biblical based teachings,” said Mike Chivalette, superintendent of Toledo Christian Schools. “They’ll see we’re really excited about everything that is going on and they should get excited and want to be involved as well.”
The open house will allow students and parents to meet the schools’ faculty and staff, tour the facilities and learn about academics, athletic and extracurricular programs.
The schools have an aggressive three-year plan geared towards academics, spiritual growth and leadership, Chivalette said.
“At Toledo Christian we have a saying, ‘Strong minds. Strong faith.’ We believe in that,” he said. “We want our students to be well rounded in whatever realm they go into, not just spiritually, but academically as well. We want them to go out and be leaders in their community and society.”
The school recently constructed a new parking lot and drop-off area, changed the landscaping and revamped the elementary school library. The school will re-do the gymnasium in the next year and will offer courses in the high school for college credit, Chivalette said.
Toledo Christian is located at 2300 Brookford Dr. For more information, call (419) 389-8700 or visit www.toledochristian.com.