The Communitarian Soul: When Benefits Cross BoundariesWritten by Eric McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
First, a few disclaimers: I live in Wood County; I have a job where my housing is provided so I am not directly affected by increases in property taxes; and my wife works for the Toledo Metroparks system. With that out on the table, I would like to share a few thoughts about the decision made by the commissioners of my county to deny the Toledo Zoo’s request for a tax levy in Wood County.
I suspect they are right, a significant number of our county’s population, especially those in the southern end of our county would not support paying additional taxes for something that is so far, far, far away in Toledo. But I am not so sure one could make the argument that the zoo, or any other community amenity such as the Port of Toledo, the Airport, The Toledo Symphony, The Imagination Station, The Toledo Museum of Art and dare I say it … conflict of interest aside, the Toledo Metropark System does not benefit, in many ways, the broader region we might call Northwest Ohio.
I am curious how many times a mayor or a trustee or a commissioner in my fair county has included in their sales pitch to get a factory or a business to settle in my fair county, the fact that we are a ten to thirty to forty-five minute drive to all the treasures found in Toledo … such as the Zoo, the Port of Toledo, the Airport, The Toledo Symphony, The Imagination Station, The Toledo Museum of Art, and dare I say it … conflict of interest aside, the Toledo Metropark System. I am equally curious what would be the economic impact on my fair county if none of these things existed a short drive up I 75.
My point is very simple here, even if we do not make use of these amenities in our personal lives, their existence enriches us in many ways. They make our communities more attractive to others, they enrich the common good, and they elevate the culture around us. For those who can’t see anything but their pocket book or bank account, their existence makes our property more valuable.
I know we live in a difficult economic time. I know that we have been told that everyone from public education to public parks must do more with less. But that can only go so far. There is a tipping point where the cutting of personnel and services becomes too great that productivity and quality gets lost. The very integrity of the work suffers. I have lived in the Toledo area now for six years.
These things you have in your midst … the Zoo, the Port of Toledo, the Airport, The Toledo Symphony, The Imagination Station, The Toledo Museum of Art, and dare I say it … conflict of interest aside, the Toledo Metropark System are incredible gifts that benefit the lives of those who live on both sides of the Maumee. To suggest that people who live outside of Lucas County and yet derive benefit from these amenities do not have any obligation to the maintenance of their health and well-being because of the placement of a geographical boundary seems unfair and arbitrary.
Maybe the Wood County Commissioners are right, a tax levy for the Zoo is not the way to go. But we need to be clear here, what the Zoo is seeking from us in Wood County is not unreasonable. For years we have been reaping many benefits from being a neighbor to a metropolitan area that has given us great art and music, clean parks with fascinating historical and natural programing, a port to the world, and one of the finest Zoos in the region. Those of us who live on the other side of the river need to be thinking about claiming our fair share of the responsibility.
Eric McGlade is a United Methodist Pastor living in Bowling Green, Ohio