Ward: A matter of trustWritten by Lisa Renee Ward | | firstname.lastname@example.org
By a majority vote on Jan. 11, Toledo City Council took a step toward regional delivery of services in voting to merge the fire departments of Ottawa Hills and Toledo, and gave the go-ahead to seeking proposals to create a countywide trash collection service.
The newly appointed council member for District 4, Paula Hicks-Hudson, who replaced now State Rep. Michael Ashford, cast her vote for the merger. Ashford was not leaning toward supporting the merger; had the other votes remained the same, his no vote would have created a tie. It’s safe to assume Mayor Mike Bell would have broken a hypothetical tie in favor of the merger.
Hicks-Hudson also joined the seven who voted in favor of the resolution allowing Toledo and Lucas County to explore a county trash system. Whether she will continue to take different stances than Ashford — and what the end result will be — remains to be seen.
The specter of unigov has been raised once again in these discussions. Unigov is not always the outcome of regionalism. There are three main different types of regionalism; regional cooperation on development, regional delivery of services and metropolitan government (unigov).
Those who voted against the trash resolution — D. Michael Collins, Lindsay Webb, and Adam Martinez — say they are not against the concept of regional cooperation; their concerns in this instance were related to the lack of information. Phil Copeland’s main concern was how this would impact the workers who are also city residents.
The Lucas County Improvement Corporation (LCIC) is one example of regional cooperation of economic development.
Not every township supported LCIC, and that is one of the dangers of any of the three regionalisms — does the benefit extend to all or does one benefit much more than the others?
Economic development is the easiest concept to promote. Most agree it is logical to reduce or stop competition within urban areas and to concentrate on bringing in more development to the entire region.
Delivery of water services has been done regionally with success in other communities. County fire departments or joint fire districts have also been done in many areas. Some, like the Los Angeles County Fire Department, serve the areas outside of the larger city; some cover larger areas than Toledo. The Central Ohio Joint Fire District (COJFD) was created in 2000. It covers a 180-square-mile area that’s home to approximately 8,000 residents.
Lucas County is 340.6 square miles and has 463,493 residents as of the 2009 census. While some inside sources have expressed the belief that Bell envisions a county fire department, a county trash collection system could be less complicated.
Jennifer Sorgenfrei, public information officer for Toledo, said there are no plans that she is aware of for a county fire department.
“Ottawa Hills came to us. The merger made sense with the cooperation of services already in place. With a countywide trash service, a mechanism is already in place with the Lucas County Solid Waste Management District,” she said.
Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken has expressed interest in cooperative efforts with Toledo and the outlying areas as a Toledo City Councilman and a Commissioner. In 2004 when campaigning for Commissioner, he told several media outlets he wanted to see political subdivisions move into areas of cooperation.
Examples of regional government that have been cited by others, including Gerken, have been Indianapolis and Minneapolis. Indianapolis is at one end of the spectrum with 25 district City-County council members and four at large members. Minneapolis is at the other end, with a commercial-industrial tax-base sharing plan, created in 1971 as the Charles R. Weaver Metropolitan Revenue Distribution Act.
While the experts and the politicians continue to debate the different visions they have for regionalism in our area, for residents of Lucas County as a whole, it comes down to two words — “trust” and “control.”
How much trust do voters have in those seeking control? How much local control do they trust to let go of? Can those outside of Toledo, trust Toledo won’t have too much control?
Those are just a few of the questions that the answers to will ultimately decide how far regionalism in Lucas County and the region goes.
We can’t go the distance with too much resistance.
Toledo Free Press contributor Lisa Renee Ward operates the political blog GlassCityJungle.com.