Each year, the Lucas County Auditor’s Office is required by law to publish a list of delinquent land tax notices in a local publication.
Last year, the notices were published by Toledo Free Press, the first time a free weekly newspaper has published Lucas County’s list.
Between January and March, delinquent land taxes owed in Lucas County were reduced by $10.7 million, according to county records. That’s $3.9 million more than the average amount recouped the previous four years and it was done at almost half the cost to taxpayers.
This year’s bids were opened Nov. 5. After reviewing bids from The Blade and Toledo Free Press, Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez recommended Toledo Free Press publish the list. However, the final decision is up to the Lucas County Commissioners, who plan to vote on the recommendation Nov. 18.
The numbers would seem to make the choice easy.
Toledo Free Press bid $163,455 to publish the list in our Sunday paper. The Blade bid $377,137 for a weekday publication, or $397,223 to run the first of two lists on a Sunday.
Toledo Free Press has a Sunday circulation of 80,766, with a Lucas County circulation of 66,514. The Blade has a daily circulation of 59,035 (50,035 in Lucas County) and a Sunday circulation of 76,780 (63,498 in Lucas County), according to 2013 audit reports.
Our bid would save Lucas County taxpayers at least $213,000 and deliver to more homes.
It’s also worth noting that taxpayers who wish to see the information they have paid to publish would get that information at no cost with Toledo Free Press while they would have to pay for it (again) to read it in the daily newspaper.
Plus, while a daily newspaper comes and goes in one day, Toledo Free Press is available on racks throughout the county all week in addition to our home-delivered copies. With the list running once per week for two consecutive weeks, that’s 14 consecutive days of availability in Toledo Free Press compared to two days for The Blade. The list would also be published free online at toledofreepress.com and in our digital edition.
Toledo Free Press became eligible to publish legal notices with the signing into law of Ohio House Bill 153 by Gov. John Kasich in October 2011. The legislation eliminated the link between charging for newspapers and being permitted to publish legal notices. It opened the legal publication business to any “newspaper of general circulation” that publishes at least once a week and meets other criteria, all of which Toledo Free Press satisfies. The bill also requires the newspaper to offer its best classified rate.
Since then, The Village of Ottawa Hills, City of Toledo, City of Sylvania, Monclova Township, Lucas County Metropolitan Housing Authority, Toledo Public Schools, Metroparks of Toledo Area and Washtenaw County have published legal notices in Toledo Free Press.
Two years ago, Lopez recommended this contract be awarded to The Blade, even though Toledo Free Press’ bid was much lower ($86,100 compared to The Blade’s $330,617), citing Toledo Free Press’ lower circulation in areas such as Neapolis and Curtice.
“[In 2012] I thought it was important to go with the broader circulation because of what we were doing,” Lopez told Toledo Free Press earlier this year. “The most important reason why this ad has to occur is to protect property rights. That goes beyond the bottom-line dollar. You have to balance that, but when we’re saying, ‘You’re delinquent to the point where we can take your property,’ this becomes the last call to the public to get in here and pay your taxes. That, to me, is lost in the process. Those were my concerns.”
To address those concerns, Toledo Free Press adjusted circulation and agreed to expand home delivery during the two weeks the notices would run.
Last year, Toledo Free Press was the only publication to submit a bid and published the notices at a cost of $168,025. The results demonstrate Toledo Free Press can more than handle the job.
Between 2009-12, the notices were published by The Blade at an average cost of $321,000. In those years, an average of $6.8 million in taxes was recouped each year between January and March following the publication of the notices, according to county records.
The county paid The Blade $339,935 to run the notices in 2009, $287,135 in 2010, $347,272 in 2011 and $309,870 in 2012. Between January and March of the following years, delinquent taxes owed dropped $6.8 million in 2010, $6.4 million in 2011, $6.9 million in 2012 and $7.1 million in 2013.
Last year, Lopez was pressured — she declined to say by whom — to reopen bidding after the bidding period had ended and Toledo Free Press’ bid had been revealed. To her credit, she said no.
“I was definitely asked to reconsider, asked would I object to re-advertizing the bid or allowing this bidding to be reopened last year and I said, ‘No, I think we move forward,’” Lopez told Toledo Free Press earlier this year.
“We had an eligible paper that met the qualifications, that had met the concerns from 2012. And the numbers had already been made public, so whoever would compete against that bid would know how to lowball them. You just can’t do that. That undermines the entire process of a public bid.”
Lopez also noted last year’s numbers showed “good results.”
“The numbers speak for themselves. We are saving money,” Lopez said. “It’s very hard to argue with that.”
Lopez is right — the numbers do speak for themselves.
Awarding this year’s bid to Toledo Free Press would save county taxpayers almost a quarter million dollars while delivering the same, if not better, results.
All local governments are experiencing a financial squeeze and taxpayers expect government entities to spend their money wisely. Lucas County faces overcrowding at an outdated jail that will need to be replaced in the near future and has unplanned expenses from the region’s water advisory this summer. There’s also the city’s recent decision to start charging most offenders under state laws rather than municipal ordinances — a move expected to save the city $4 million to $5 million a year, while costing the county the same amount. It seems fiscally irresponsible for the county to needlessly add to that burden by paying $213,000 more than necessary to publish these legal ads.
We’re pleased Lopez has confidence in our ability to do the job and we believe we’ve earned the chance to run the list again. We trust the county commissioners will accept her recommendation.
Thomas F. Pounds is president and publisher of Toledo Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com.
Gov. John Kasich’s Employment First Initiative helps people with developmental disabilities in Lucas County land jobs with local companies.
The initiative, created by an executive order signed in March 2012, changed how services are provided to people with developmental disabilities by making it a priority to expand employment opportunities for about 80,000 such individuals in Ohio.
The goal of the initiative is to enhance the individual’s self-determination and offer opportunities for greater wealth, quality of life and a sense of self-worth, said John Martin, director of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD).
Lucas County was one of the counties selected by the state to suggest how the initiative will be implemented in the community. The emphasis is focused on job development with area businesses, said Sharon Helle, senior director of board services and supports for the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities (LCDD).
“The initiative said we should look at employment first and help prepare them for that. It’s shifting the way we think about things. We are working together, collaborating with businesses and communities on the program,” Helle said.
The Employment First Initiative is a rehabilitation program that provides funds to help people in a sheltered workshop or day program to get jobs. The LCDD received a $25,000 grant from the Ohio DODD to support the program in fiscal year 2015.
“There are lots of benefits and positive results from this program,” Helle said.
Many employers who were having trouble filling entry-level jobs are finding LCDD’s pool of candidates a solution, she said. Research has shown that attendance is better and turnover is lower among people with developmental disabilities in the workforce, Helle reported.
“They can be a valuable addition to your workforce,” she said.
Kevin Tyree works as a merchandise associate at the Best Buy store on Monroe Street. He stocks product, cleans displays, and changes the signs for merchandise in the store. His experiences there have helped him gain confidence to keep branching out.
“I’m ready for another job,” Tyree said. “I have put in an application for maintenance work at the Toledo Zoo.”
“Diversity and inclusion are part of Best Buy’s culture to provide an open environment for everyone,” said Aaron Haury, general manager of the Monroe Street Best Buy store.
“You have to keep an open mind. They must be qualified like any other candidate for hire. It’s about finding the right fit for them. Sales isn’t usually right but stocking product works,” said Haury, who has worked for Best Buy for nine years.
More than 200 people in Lucas County have been helped through the efforts of the LCDD working with the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, Ohio Department of Education, Department of Job and Family Services, Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services and Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission.
The LCDD is providing support for 89 people working jobs with local businesses and organizations and 111 people working in small groups at business locations while preparing 14 additional people searching for jobs in the community, Helle said.
Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities is a partner agency in the Employment First Initiative with the Ohio DODD.
For more information, visit www.ohioemploymentfirst.org.
Tags: Best Buy, developmental disabilities, DODD, Employment First Initiative, John Kasich, John Martin, Kevin Tyree, LCDD, Lucas County, Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities, Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities
Each year, the Lucas County Auditor’s Office is required by law to publish a list of delinquent land tax notices in a local publication.
In December, the notices were published in Toledo Free Press, the first time a free weekly newspaper has published the Lucas County list.
Toledo Free Press was the only publication to submit a bid and published the notices at a cost of $168,025.
Between January and March, $10.7 million in late and delinquent land taxes was collected, according to county records. That’s $3.9 million more than the average amount collected for the past four years at almost half the cost to taxpayers.
Between 2009-12, the notices were published by The Blade at an average cost of $321,000. An average of $6.8 million in taxes was collected each year between January and March following the publication of the notices.
The county paid The Blade $339,935 to run the notices in 2009, $287,135 in 2010, $347,272 in 2011 and $309,870 in 2012. Taxes reported collected between January and March of the following years were $6.8 million in 2010, $6.4 million in 2011, $6.9 million in 2012 and $7.1 million in 2013.
Toledo Free Press became eligible to publish legal notices with the signing into law of Ohio House Bill 153 by Gov. John Kasich in October 2011.
The legislation eliminated the link between charging for newspapers and being permitted to publish legal notices and opened the legal publication business to any “newspaper of general circulation” that publishes at least once a week and meets other criteria, including at least 25 percent editorial content, being published continuously for at least three years and the ability to add subscribers to its distribution list. The bill also requires the newspaper to offer its best classified rate.
“Before 2011, it really was tied strictly to whether you had a valid U.S. Postal Service mailing permit and generally those mailing permits are whether you’re a paid circulation newspaper,” said Dennis Hetzel, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association (ONA). “In 2011, the qualifications, you could argue, were relaxed. The postal permit requirement is still there, but there are other paths by which a newspaper can qualify.”
In October 2012, Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez sought an opinion from the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office, which ruled, “[Toledo] Free Press would now qualify as a paper of general circulation.”
That year, The Blade’s bid to publish the delinquent land tax notices was $330,617 and Toledo Free Press’ bid was $86,100.
Lopez recommended the 2012 contract be awarded to The Blade, citing Toledo Free Press’ lower circulation in areas such as Neopolis and Curtice. The Lucas County Commissioners, who have the final say, agreed.
“For me, this comes down to covering areas,” Lopez said. “I thought it was important to go with the broader circulation because of what we were doing. Our Constitution in our country protects property rights. Property is something sacred in our country. The most important reason why this ad has to occur is to protect property rights. That goes beyond the bottom line dollar. You have to balance that, but when we’re saying, ‘You’re delinquent to the point where we can take your property,’ this becomes the last call to the public to get in here and pay your taxes. That, to me, is lost in the process. Those were my concerns. That’s important to me as a lawyer. At the end of the day, I have to make my decision based on what I think is best for citizens and stick to my guns.”
Hetzel said statewide there are both dailies and weeklies that publish legal notices and awarding such contracts is “a local government decision.”
“The first thing they have to establish is if the newspaper that gets it is qualified in the law,” Hetzel said. “Then they have to compare and contrast competing bids and decide what’s going to serve the public best. The theoretical basis of a published notice is that it should be in a publication that is invited into people’s homes, that is wanted and not ignored. Like anything else in life, there are many factors involved that government officials need to consider. It’s not always based on price.”
Toledo Free Press Publisher Tom Pounds said that the “perceived shortcoming” in circulation has been addressed and said he still believes, as he has discussed in numerous columns, that TFP offers advantages beyond cost savings to those publishing legal notices.
“While a daily newspaper comes and goes in one day, our paper is on racks in 432 locations for seven days in addition to our 70,000 home-delivered copies,” Pounds wrote in December 2012. “It is worth noting that taxpayers who wish to see the information they have paid to publish would get that information at no cost in Toledo Free Press; they would have to pay for it (again) to read it in a daily newspaper.”
Lopez said she agreed TFP had addressed the circulation concern and that last year’s numbers showed “good results.”
“The numbers speak for themselves. We are saving money,” Lopez said. “It’s very hard to argue with that.”
The Village of Ottawa Hills, City of Toledo, City of Sylvania, Monclova Township, Lucas County Metropolitan Housing Authority, Toledo Public Schools, Washtenaw County and Metroparks of Toledo Area have also published legal notices in Toledo Free Press.
Lopez said she was approached last year — she declined to say by whom — after the bidding period on the delinquent land tax notices had closed and asked to re-open bidding since only one bid had been submitted, but she said no.
“I would like to make it very clear that I was definitely asked to reconsider, asked would I object to re-advertising the bid or allowing this bidding to be reopened last year and I said, ‘No, I think we move forward,’” Lopez said. “We had an eligible paper that met the qualifications, that had met the concerns from 2012. And the numbers had already been made public, so whoever would compete against that bid would know how to lowball them. You just can’t do that. That undermines the entire process of a public bid.”
Recent legislation will bring another change to the publication of legal notices. Starting in March, all notices printed in Ohio newspapers will also be required to be posted on www.PublicNoticesOhio.com, a free website operated by the ONA.
The change comes after Kasich signed House Bill 483 in June, which included the ONA-backed measure. ONA has operated PublicNoticesOhio.com for more than 10 years, but posting there hasn’t been mandatory until now, Hetzel said. PublicNoticesOhio.com will replace a state-run site created in 2011.
Notices will still be required to be printed in newspapers first, but uploading to the site will be required in order to continue to qualify to publish Ohio public notices.
In a June blog post announcing the new online requirement, Hetzel said it may save money for agencies as notices that are required to be published twice may publish a shortened version in print for their second run if the full list will be going online. The shortened notice option does not apply to all types of notices, including the delinquent tax list, he said.
“It’s good for everyone to have them all aggregated on one website, in the private sector and not a government website,” Hetzel told Toledo Free Press. “We worked hard on that and think it’s for the long-term good of our industry and the public.”
Tags: Anita Lopez, Delinquent Land Tax Notices, Dennis Hetzel, Lucas County, Lucas County Auditor's Office, Notices, Ohio House Bill 153, Ohio House Bill 483, Ohio Newspaper Association, Public Notices, The Blade, Toledo Free Press, Tom Pounds
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted traveled to Toledo on July 22 to personally welcome and deliver his vote of confidence to the members of the newly reorganized Lucas County Board of Elections (BOE).
It was the first official meeting of the board since Husted removed three of the four members last month, citing a culture of “dysfunction.”
Calling it a “new era” for the Lucas County BOE, Husted said he was confident in the board’s ability to restore voter trust.
“I thought it was important for me to be here today on the occasion as you begin the process of restoring public trust to the Board of Elections,” Husted told the board. “And I thank you very much for your willingness to serve.”
“This is in my view a new and better day,” he said, encouraging the members to create “a climate and a culture of cooperation and competency.”
The new board is comprised of Democrats John Irish and Brenda Hill and Republicans Mark Wagoner Sr. and Peter Handwork. Hill was quickly and unanimously elected chairperson during the meeting, which lasted about half an hour.
Husted acknowledged it’s unusual for a secretary of state to make a personal appearance at a county BOE meeting, but said he felt it was warranted in this case.
“This is no ordinary occasion,” Husted said outside the meeting. “This is a board that’s been troubled for a number of years. It’s been our biggest problem spot in the entire state. And today is a new day for it. I wanted to make sure they knew they had my confidence and support and that we would provide the resources they needed to make sure they got off to a good start.”
Husted also announced July 22 that training for the November general election would be mandatory for all poll workers statewide. In the past, new workers have been required to go through training but returning workers only had to be trained every three years.
To help offset costs, Husted announced $760,000 in extra grants to be distributed amongst Ohio’s 88 counties based on the number of registered voters. Lucas County will get $30,720 and Wood County will get $9,442.
Interim Director Gina Kaczala, a Republican, expressed confidence in the new board.
“I think we have the possibility of a real dream team,” she said. “They really seem to want to be a team. They are here to solve problems, not create problems. … Everyone is here just to serve the voter.”
All four members said they felt confident they could work together and pull off a smooth election.
“That’s what I think the board of elections’ goal is, not to fight and feud with each other. I just don’t think we’re going to do that,” Wagoner said.
“In previous boards, we had some hidden agendas,” Irish said. “These are team players.”
“I am very encouraged and very excited about where this board is headed,” Handwork said. “I honestly feel we are going to work very well together to do what needs to be done to restore in the voters of Lucas County confidence in our process.”
Hill, a retired teacher, said she was chosen as chairperson because of her past experience as president of the Toledo Public Schools Board of Education and because traditionally the board chairperson is from the opposite party of the director.
“We have all said we are working together and our goal is to have this run smoothly and correctly,” Hill said.
“In my opinion [problems in the past] was mostly just differences in personality and I think sometimes there might have been bad feelings about what might have happened years back. But with [Husted's] mandate that the new members have nothing to do with the board of elections all of that is gone. We don’t have anything to do with it. We’re all new except Mr. Irish.”
Removed from the board in June were Republicans Jon Stainbrook and Anthony DeGidio and Democrat Ron Rothenbuhler. Only Irish was left in place. Husted has said he allowed Irish to stay because he was newest to the board and because he made attempts to implement suggestions made by the transparency committees.
Kaczala’s job was in danger as well, but Husted kept her as interim director. He said July 22 it would be up to the board whether she would remain in the position. No timeline was established for making that decision, but Kaczala said she believes the board will focus on the upcoming Aug. 5 special election first. Elections Services Manager LaVera Scott is serving as interim deputy director in place of Dan DeAngelis, who resigned.
Earlier this month, Husted approved the appointment of Hill, but rejected two Republican nominees, saying Kelly Bensman and Benjamin Roberts were too closely tied to the former board culture. Instead he appointed Wagoner, a lawyer, and Handwork, a retired judge, to fill the vacant positions.
A lawsuit is pending before the Ohio Supreme Court to reverse the rejected appointments, which were chosen during a meeting of the Lucas County Republican Party, chaired by removed BOE member Stainbrook.
If the court sides with the county GOP challenge, Husted said he will comply.
“We’ll certainly follow the court order, but as far as I’m concerned, this is the new board, this is the new day, this is the new start and this is the direction we’re going,” Husted said.
Husted said he looks forward to a smooth election season — and spending less time in Lucas County.
“This is not hard. It happens every day in 87 other counties with very little problem,” Husted said outside the meeting. “I’m sure that this new board will get things back on track.
“This is a new day in Lucas County and we’re excited to get it started.”
Many veterans return from war still carrying the burden of combat. Some deal with the struggles through therapy, some with the help of family. Others turn to substance abuse and end up in legal binds.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Ann Arbor Healthcare System hopes to change that. With the support of the VA Toledo Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), the VA Ann Arbor intends to establish of a Veteran Treatment Court in Lucas County.
Melody Powers, veterans justice outreach coordinator for the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, works with veterans to provide legal aid and medical attention during the trial process.
“Studies show if people have treatment available to them, they are able to avoid jail, get into treatment and don’t reoffend in the future,” Powers said.
Powers said she is also a part of the Veterans Justice Outreach Initiative, which is why she is campaigning for these courts.
The VA website states that the goal of the initiative is to “avoid the unnecessary criminalization of mental illness and extended incarceration among veterans by ensuring that eligible justice-involved veterans have timely access to VHA services as clinically indicated.”
The idea for this veterans court was born three years ago, when Powers said Judge William M. Connelly Jr. of the Toledo Municipal Courts contacted her.
“He felt the whole county needed education regarding veterans coming back,” Powers said. “These were not the honorable men and women who needed to be in our jails.”
Powers said Connelly summoned her to do county training, to ensure veterans received proper treatment while incarcerated and in the court systems.
“At the end of the training [Connelly] really decided he was passionate about having a Veterans Treatment Court and bringing all of these players together to serve all veterans, especially knowing there were a lot of veterans returning from combat,” Powers said.
Powers said under the intended court system, a veteran who is experiencing legal difficulties can elect to be a part of the court for an 18- to 24-month trial period. Their sentencing will be pushed back until they complete the program, which includes reporting back to local VA for monitoring, community service and legal council.
If treatment is successfully completed with good behavior, “there is a chance the charges can be decreased or dismissed,” Powers said.
Powers said her supporters include the Toledo VA Clinic, county sheriff, the prosecutor’s office, the probation office and the Lucas County Veterans Service Commission.
“The Toledo Outpatient Clinic, which is very close to the court in Toledo, will probably be the primary resource for that court,” Powers said.
The first “graduation” ceremony for the Michigan court system took place June 18 and Powers said the stories are “inspirational.”
“[Veterans of the program] are giving back through community service; they just thrive,” Powers said. “And that is the goal of the program, to really give people the opportunity and resources to survive.”
Tags: Lucas County, Lucas County Veterans Service Commission, Melody Powers, The Toledo Outpatient Clinic, Toledo, Toledo Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), VA Ann Arbor Health System, VA Toledo, VA websites, veterans, Veterans Justice Outreach Initiative, William M. Connelly Jr.
The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) or Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program began in 1976 when a judge in Seattle, concerned about making decisions about a child’s well-being without all the facts, set up a program of specially trained community volunteers to serve as independent investigators for the court and advocates for children. Other counties and municipalities quickly began incorporating the CASA program into their own judicial systems, with Lucas County being the third county in the country to do so in 1980.
After nearly 35 years, there were over 950 CASA programs across the country being served by 70,000 volunteers, and the National CASA Association established standards for CASA programs in 2009 to be renewed every four years.
Lucas County CASA successfully complied with accreditation standards in 2009 and then again this year.
“Accreditation is huge,” said Judy Leb, recruiting/rraining coordinator for Lucas County CASA. “It means we’re a stellar CASA program [and] we’re being the best advocates for these child victims. It signifies that we are excellent partners between citizens and government.”
CASA volunteers, which the program is always in need of, is “unlike any other volunteer position,” Leb said.
Volunteers undergo 40 hours of training in juvenile law, social work, the welfare system, how to interview children, child development and how to spot red flags in a child’s development. Once CASA volunteers complete their training, they become sworn officers of the court and become advocates for children in homes affected by such issues as domestic violence, substance abuse or mental illness.
“What is unique about CASA is that it’s a partnership between concerned citizens and government,” Leb said. “CASA volunteers are very passionate about children and their well-being. They’re trained by the court to be their eyes and ears. They can review the reports of Lucas County Children Services, but they do more than that: they interview the children independently, interview mom, dad and teachers, they look at school records and medical records for signs of problems or abuse. They then give their recommendation to the court, and their recommendation is highly valued.”
For more information about CASA, visit www.casakids.net.
A national nonprofit focused on providing community-based alternatives for juvenile offenders recently highlighted Lucas County as one of its national “bright spots” for positive outcomes in a newly published report.
“Safely Home,” a report from Youth Advocate Program (YAP), highlights a number of cities, counties, states and agencies in which YAP has a major impact. Among those spotlighted are Lucas County, which was lauded for creating a “continuum of community-based services for all kids,” and Wayne County (Detroit), Michigan, which was praised for “black family development.”
The image of young adults in handcuffs before a judge is one that youth advocacy groups across the nation, including YAP, hope to omit from city landscapes.
The Safely Home Campaign, which was initiated by Youth Advocate Program (YAP) and launched June 25, is a program that will work alongside advocacy groups toward this goal.
Jeff Fleischer, CEO of YAP, said in a news release that he hopes to change the lives of troubled youth.
“We can redirect the precious dollars we are currently spending on youth prisons and create real opportunity for all young people – and help these youth steer clear of crime, and successfully transition to adulthood,” Fleischer said in a news release.
The number of minors committed to a juvenile facility in Lucas County has dropped from 300 in 1988 to just 17 so far this year since the end of May, according to the report.
Sherri Munn, director of Lucas County’s advocacy center, said the fact that the area is featured in the campaign is amazing because of the long hours YAP has spent on community outreach since 1975.
“Our goal is, first and foremost, to make sure our kids are not being placed in institutions and being served safely and appropriately in our communities,” Munn said.
Munn said Lucas County became a model because of the success of their community programs.
“There has been a lot of work that has been noticed nationally,” Munn said. “Over time, there has been a lot of talk about this kind of work and how it can be put into a campaign format.”
According to the report, this is expected to decrease even further as a direct result of Safely Home.
“I would say that we’re always thinking about community safety as we take responds to working with our kids,” Munn said. “We’re focusing on meeting kids and families where they are.”
The report goes on to state that eight of 10 youths were not arrested again and nine of 10 were at home after completing their YAP program. All these benefits come at a much lower cost to the state than trial and incarceration, Munn said.
“We look at the family as a whole unit and we’re also working on ways to transition them out of community based programs what the will be doing after,” she said.
The criteria for community-based programs under the Safely Home campaign includes no reject or eject policies, cultural competence and civic engagement, among others. Safely Home “promotes effective community-based alternatives rather than prison and out-of-home placements for youth,” according to the release.
“Some programs have a certain time frame in which kids receive services,” Munn said. “We want to maintain or retain them home we have to look at the community to be an active part in taking care of our kids.”
A Toledo Free Press intern is struggling with an unpleasant revelation. In researching a story about a possible misstatement made by an elected state official, the intern has encountered a number of political types who have employed delay tactics, subterfuge, mock outrage and deception to throw her off track and keep the story from surfacing. Witnessing firsthand how rotten and self-serving politicians can be has rattled her a bit and shaken her belief in the motives of public servants.
A journalist with as many barnacles on his hull as I have expects politicians to be more interested in power than in serving constituents, but it is still lugubrious to see a young person’s sense of trust and idealism take its first slashes.
Two streams of local news have illustrated just how rare courage is in public life. On the positive side is Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s overdue but welcome decision to rebuild the Lucas County Board of Elections (BOE) and dismantle the lamentable circus into which it has devolved. On the shameful side is Toledo City Council’s resolute refusal to condemn one of its members, Larry Sykes, for an outrageous act of dangerous race-baiting and disparagement of two Toledo police officers.
Plodding but proper
Since the ascension of Jon Stainbrook, aided by The Blade and Toledo City Paper, the Lucas County Republican Party and BOE have been crackpot, untrustworthy, loathsome nests of foolishness, incompetence and suspected malfeasance. From signature forgery to questions about spending to accusations of system manipulation, it has been an era of implosion and sewer-level hustling.
The more cronies Stainbrook worked into the BOE — his close pal Meghan Gallagher and former legal representative Tony DeGidio being the most visible examples — the further into chaos the elections process has deteriorated. As far back as 2011, Toledo Free Press urged Husted to step in and rescue the sanctity of the voting process from the hostage situation in which it was entangled. It has taken years of embarrassment, election debacles and hundreds (thousands?) of hours of attention and untold financial resources from the secretary of state, but the process has finally played itself out: Husted has cleaned house at the BOE.
Like dominoes, the Stainbrook links of influence have toppled; there is now an opportunity to literally start from scratch and build an institution that voters — in the county, state and nation — can have faith in, or at least take for granted as almost every other county in the system does with their BOEs.
Husted followed the plodding but proper procedures and finally asserted the needed authority to make sweeping changes in Lucas County. That takes courage, even if that courage was applied with the pace and patience of a snail crossing a highway of salt. A sordid and tragicomic era in local politics will come to end thanks to Husted.
A few floors down in One Government Center, courage is as scarce as a shovel in the dirt at the Marina District. In the aftermath of a shameful scandal perpetrated solely by Sykes, not one Toledo City Councilperson has had the courage, sense, decency or pride to step up and condemn his reckless, divisive behavior.
To recap, Sykes was driving home April 24 when a Toledo police officer pulled him over because he could not read Sykes’ rear license plate. The officer had an even tougher time reading Sykes’ front plate, as he did not have one. That’s illegal in Ohio, and while it’s a minor and probably common offense, we have a right to expect our elected leaders to understand and obey basic laws.
Sykes subsequently wrote a letter to Chief of Police William Moton, saying his April 24 experience was attributable to “profiling.” On official City of Toledo letterhead.
An investigation definitively showed that no such profiling occurred. But the damage was done, as Sykes besmirched the reputations of two Toledo police officers in his quest to shirk responsibility and play the “I’ll show you who I am” card.
Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association (TPPA), has called for Sykes to resign. The International Union of Police Associations, AFL-CIO (IUPA), issued a statement May 28 in support of the TPPA, calling for Sykes to resign after an internal police investigation found his claims of police profiling at a recent traffic stop to be unfounded.
IUPA called on its entire membership, especially police units in Ohio, to stand with the TPPA on this issue.
So at some point, other members of Council could have — should have — made it clear they do not condone Sykes’ behavior. They could make a statement supporting the police, censure Sykes’ behavior or, if they collectively could gather one spine among them, join the call for his resignation. They could at least condemn his irresponsible invocation, right?
Toledo City Council members Mike Craig, Paula Hicks-Hudson and Jack Ford declined to comment on the call for Sykes’ resignation.
Sykes and Council members Tyrone Riley, Matt Cherry, Tom Waniewski, Lindsay Webb, Theresa Gabriel, Rob Ludeman, Sandy Spang and Steven Steel did not return requests for comment.
Cowards, every one of them.
Silence is consent. By hiding and avoiding even the slightest condemnation of Sykes’ actions, they are condoning his behavior and adding their piss to the disrespectful stream Sykes aimed at the badges of our Toledo police. Mayor D. Michael Collins — a retired cop, for Chrissake — hasn’t distinguished his leadership in this incident, either. Mumbling about an investigation is not leadership; it’s avoiding the issue.
I know race is a complicated and scary topic, but what about simple right and wrong? Doesn’t the value of doing what is right transcend the politics of race? Of politics itself?
Good luck expressing your outrage at the next faux cause that comes along, Council members. If you can’t work up the courage to stand beside police who are unfairly tarred with such an alarming false accusation, what will motivate you? Any topic you call a news conference to grandstand on is laughable if you can’t take a stand on such an egregious abuse of authority as Sykes tried to perpetrate on our cops.
The failure to condemn Sykes calls into question the ability of Council as a body and its individual members to function with any moral credibility. Perhaps another BOE-like clean sweep and fresh start is in order.
I am no summer intern; this behavior does not shock me. It simply reinforces my conviction that Toledo politics is the lowest form of public service.
It took years for Stainbrook to ruin the credibility of the BOE and for Husted to start the repairs. It only took one incident for Sykes to reveal Toledo City Council’s true colors: not black or white, but a blazing streak of yellow.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and news director of Newsradio 1370 WSPD. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: AFL-CIO (IUPA), BOE, hief of Police William Moton, Jack Ford, Jon Stainbrook, Lindsay Webb, Lucas County, Lucas County Board of Elections, Marina District, Matt Cherry, Mayor D. Michael Collins, Meghan Gallagher, Mike Craig, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, Paula Hicks-Hudson, politicians, Republican Party, Rob Ludeman, Sandy Spang, Steven Steel, The Blade, The International Union of Police Associations, Theresa Gabriel, Toledo City Council, Toledo City Paper, Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, Tom Waniewski, Tony DeGidio, TPPA, Tyrone Riley
BOWLING GREEN— The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has promised to invest $120 million in approximately 200 county and 20 city bridges across Ohio over the next three years.
Of the $120 million, Lucas County and Wood County will collectively receive an $11.2 million investment toward repairing 20 bridges, according to ODOT.
“Our first priority is the preservation and maintenance of a local area — to keep you safe while you’re out and about in Toledo,” ODOT press secretary Steve Faulkner said. “Never before through the governor’s leadership have we made a serious investment in local community bridges to fix them and make them safer.”
ODOT has partnered with Gov. John Kasich’s office to promote the new Ohio Bridge Partnership Program. Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor spoke at an ODOT community discussion in Bowling Green on May 20 to explain why she endorses the initiative.
Taylor began her speech with a story about an unsafe bridge that forces school buses to make kids exit the bus and wait for it to cross the bridge before they walk to the other side.
“Ultimately what’s important is the safety of those who travel our roads,” Taylor said. “I think this program speaks well of the types of partnerships that can exist in Ohio. It means more jobs, great transportation and infrastructure development. It’s moving our state forward.”
Taylor went on to speak about the importance of infrastructure investment for the state’s economy and how the bridge program will create hundreds of new private sector jobs.
“We know the value of public investment in infrastructure. We’re fortunate people to be only one day’s drive from 60 percent of the U.S. population,” said Jim Carter, president of the Wood County Commissioners. “This county is in bad shape with infrastructure and our government is doing something about it.”
In order to qualify for program funding, bridges have to be more than 20 feet long, open and carrying traffic, and labeled “structurally deficient” by engineers.
According to Faulkner, “structurally deficient may sound worse than it actually is.” These bridges have diverse maintenance needs ranging from new paint to additional concrete work.
“Being structurally deficient doesn’t mean they aren’t safe for travel. It means they have repair needs and maybe can’t carry legal loads,” Lucas County Engineer Keith Early said. “ODOT is trying to get the lower-hanging fruit, the worst of the ones that can be done fairly easily and cheaply.”
ODOT will implement its bridge program by working in conjunction with the Ohio County Engineers Association. County engineers will have the opportunity to make some suggestions on the size and materials of the new bridges.
“I feel like a kid at Christmastime that just discovered 18 Christmas presents under the tree that I didn’t expect to be there,” said Wood County Engineer Ray Huber. “The orange barrels are up and it’s going to be a tremendous summer. Please bear with us. When it’s all said and done this is going to be a much better county to live in.”
According to Huber, many of the county’s bridges are “old, tired, rusted and falling apart” because they were built in the 1930s. The new bridges will not need load limits and should be safe for 40-ton trucks, the heaviest vehicles in the state.
During the next three years, ODOT will repair 18 Wood County bridges. In addition, ODOT will repair two Lucas County bridges: Taylor Road over Otter Creek (2015, $300,000) and Crabb Road over Shantee Creek (2016, $550,000).
“Ohio has 44,000 bridges — second only to Texas,” said Thomas Kovacik, executive director at the Transportation Advocacy Group of Northern Ohio (TAGNO). “Our bridge conditions are better than the national average but many are still waiting for repairs. At the end of the day, it’s Gov. Kasich’s plan that’s brought us forward to addressing these needs.”
When Kasich took office in 2011, ODOT operated with a $1.6 billion budget deficit. Today, its revenue from the State Motor Fuel Tax, federal funds and the turnpike totals about $2.8 billion a year.
“ODOT is able to put money toward this bridge program because it was a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars,” said Rob Nichols, press secretary for Kasich. “It wasn’t required to step forward and say ‘We can help,’ but it has.”
According to Faulkner, Kasich has encouraged ODOT to get its “financial house in order” and shown leadership by looking at ODOT as a government agency that needs to tighten its operation budget and put more money in its construction budget.
“We know there are big issues when it comes to transportation,” Faulkner said. “We can’t wait for a federal bailout. We need to fix our own problems here in Ohio and that’s exactly what we are doing with the new bridge program.”
Wood County bridges to be repaired are:
Tags: bridge project, Jim Carter, John Kasich, Lucas County, Mary Taylor, ODOT, Ohio County Engineers Association, Ohio Department of Transportation, Ray Huber, Steve Faulkner, Thomas Kovacik, Transportation Advocacy Group of Northern Ohio, Wood County, Wood County Commissioners