Ward: Bulletproof lobbyingWritten by Lisa Renee Ward | | email@example.com
Two of the more lengthy discussions before Toledo City Council at its March 15 agenda review concerned the construction of a bulletproof enclosure at the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) office and the hiring of a lobbyist for the City of Toledo.
The extra security measure is being sought at the Ohio Building; the city of Toledo leases space there. The lease for this space ends in May of 2012. Deputy Mayor Tom Crothers said there have been several incidents that made him concerned. The $26,738 cost would be taken from the Water Replacement Fund. Bulletproof glass, a bulletproof door and the drywall would be reenforced so that it was also bulletproof. There would also be a new window system for payments with a microphone system.
“Over the course of the last year, 2010, it became abundantly clear to me that we were at serious risk for one of our people getting hurt,” Crothers said.
He added that people at times get upset over the amount of the utility bills they owe and it has led to confrontations. He felt the microphone system would allow more private communication. It was said that the police have had to be called and employees have registered written concerns about their safety because of encounters with customers.
“Sounds like you are in a BP station in the middle of Detroit or something,” Councilman Rob Ludeman said. He said he goes there to pay his bills and had never witnessed any confrontations, that the staff handles everyone in a professional manner. He asked for a referral on the cost to protect council staff at the same level of those at DPU.
Councilman D. Michael Collins has advocated in the past for Toledo to end its leasing of this space and move the services and employees to One Government Center. He’s asked for a space audit in the past, he asked for one again during agenda review and restated his opinion that it would be more price effective to move this department into One Government Center and would provide more security.
Crothers wanted this to be done even if they were going to move out of the Ohio Building.
Collins wanted this to go to committee and wanted information on how many arrests had been made there. Crothers said he would get that information to Collins.
Councilwoman Paula Hicks-Hudson did not want it in committee. It will be listed at first reading at the March 22 Council meeting, at which time Collins can attempt to have it voted into committee.
Governor John Kasich announced as a part of his budget proposal closing the taxpayer service centers in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Akron, Toledo, Youngstown, Dayton and Zanesville. If this proposal is adopted by the Ohio General Assembly, the space currently held by the Toledo service center in One Government Center would be vacant. This could supplement the space the City of Toledo already has under its control.
The ordinance authorizing the Mayor to enter into an agreement with a vendor to provide the City with government affairs services in Columbus, a lobbyist, appeared to have the support of a majority of Council.
The bulk of the more than half-an-hour discussion was related to which committee it should go into, should it be a joint meeting or should a hearing be held before or after it went before Council for a vote.
Councilman George Sarantou felt since the legislation was submitted from Finance Department it should be heard before Human Resources, Information Technology and Finance. He wanted the hearing scheduled for March 21.
Councilman Steve Steel and others felt it was more appropriate to be before Intergovernmental Relations and Environment, Councilman Tom Waniewski offered to chair a hearing March 28. Concern was expressed by Collins and others that finance committee had enough pressing issues.
“You sound like kids in a sandbox — should we raise our hands and take a vote?” Council President Wilma Brown said. “I agree we should wait until the 28th and have it under Intergovernmental Relations because it is something we are going to be discussing that’s not directly finance, it’s going to include finance, but we have a budget that we have to pass by the 31st.”
Sarantou deferred, and the verbal bullets ended.
Toledo Free Press Web editor Lisa Renee Ward operates the political blog GlassCityJungle.com.