Friday, November 9, 2007

COSI - Titannic of Toledo

Before the ink is even dry on the tally sheets for the November 6th levy votes, we see that our local elected representatives are choosing to ignore the will of the electorate. A letter was delivered yesterday to the board of COSI, signed by Mayor Finkbeiner, and Commissioners Gerken, Konop, and Skeldon-Wozniak. It urged the board of COSI to keep the doors open while alternate means of financing were being looked at, and with the promised support of those who signed to help achieve that alternate financing for COSI. 

It therefore appears that our elected officials feel the voice of the people, as expressed through the levy vote, is wrong. (People by the way whose current positions are owed to the dubious wisdom of those very same voters.) It is apparent now that to these particular government officials, voters are only to be trusted when they vote to give the government more power and money, and that they should otherwise be ignored. 

It also appears that COSI is the issue that will not die. The voters have spoken twice now to deny COSI access to taxpayer dollars that they never really had a right to in the first place. COSI is a private, non-profit organization whose only access to request levy money was granted by a change in the laws by the state legislature. COSI is an operation who by its own admission, was begun with a failed business plan. That plan included a promise that no further tax dollars would ever be requested or required. We now hear that this promise was either an error (see failed business plan) or a lie. In its current incarnation, COSI functions on $1.00 per year rent and what appears to be utility bills that are being deferred ad-infinitum (forever, for those of you who were never forced to sit through Latin classes). Even with these generous (taxpayer funded) operating costs, additional revenues from private donor contribution, memberships, daily ticket sales, food, and trinkets sold on premises; this science museum is unable to be self-supporting. 

There is not enough money to replace or refresh exhibits on a regular basis or to keep the existing ones in good repair. There appears to be a law of diminishing returns to even meet the salary demands of the limited staff required to operate the facility. To the mayor and county commissioners I therefore say this: The ship is going down, and has been for some time. You may put a brave face on this and gamely play on with the orchestra, but please allow the rest of us to enter the lifeboats. 

Do not pour good money over the bad you have already wasted in an effort to keep this Titanic afloat. She may have been a lovely ship at one time, but will sail no longer. Allow her to slip beneath the waves with dignity. While you are at it, please respect the wishes of the people whose confidence you asked for when you ran for election. 

If we were considered smart enough to have our votes count in electing you, we are smart enough to decide what we will support now. Worry about the rest of the fleet (the Erie Market, the Docks, the Arena), which will also sink without your continued attention. In some cases they already are - aka the Erie St Market. We will be watching, and we will remember.


Chad Quigley said...

As long as the support they look for and offer is that of private investment, I'm not against this. It's more of his dis-honor running his over waxed lips, but heck, what's new? Here's the problem, they are only now looking at "Alternitaves", when they were suppose to be so all along. Perhaps Cosi wouldn't be in this perdiciment if they had sought with all their might private investment in the beginning.

If the muni gov wants to help locate financing via private means, ok, just don't spend tax money and I won't come beating at the door. It's a bit late, but then, that's par for the course of this group of elected.

Tim Higgins said...


I heartily agree with you. If they are looking for private funding, they have my support. This is the mayor and county commisioners however, who have not earned our trust in matters of finance.

When the voters turned down an arena, the county commisioners decided to build it anyway (Good, bad, or indifferent; it doesn't matter. They ignored the will of the people and put up the money.) With things like The Docks and the Erie St Market, our mayor continues to show that spending city money on projects that the city doesn't belong in means little or nothing to him.

These people have shown over and over again their disdain for the voters and their desire to use taxpayer dollars as they see fit, "for the good of the people". I would find it difficult to believe that they have changed their that methods to save COSI

Chad Quigley said...

this is all very true...but we're watching...and that's gotta make em sweat. I know shell game when I see it, so between what you and I, along with several others are doing in terms of paying attention, we stand a good chance of stoping them by taking it to the people.

Tim, I'm on the verge of doing just that ....Taking it to the people.

Tim Higgins said...

Good for you sir!

As good people begin to take a stand in this den of iniquity, I know that others will stand with them. I among them.

kck_kat said...

Gee, Toledo is starting to sound more like Kansas City all the time! Are they indicting all of your politicians too? How about the schools....have they lost their accreditation? We have our own money pit. It's called Union Station and they have been pouring good money after bad for years, and still they come back begging for more, while expounding on the successes they've created there. In the meantime, our services are non-existant, there are few sidewalks or streetlights, the police are overworked, understaffed, underpaid and markedly outgunned.
Toledo, WAKE UP! Take back your city and remind your elected officials that they work for you. Hand them a pink slip!

Tim Higgins said...


It' always good to know that we are not alone sailing on a ship of state that seems to be circling the bowl. Unfortunately commiseration never seems to advance any of us towards a solution.

Perhaps a cure for political "cranial -rectal inversion" will be discovered soon. If not, perhaps it's time for a national telethon in a taxpayer "race for the cure".

Maggie Thurber said...

question - one I debate on an on-going basis:

Is it right for any elected official to use the power and authority of their office to solicit on behalf of a non-profit organization?

Is there some implied or perceived pressure brought to bear on companies/individuals who do business with said elected officials to join in any such fund-raising drive when so asked by the person(s) who sign their contracts?

Would love your thoughts on this...and may work this into my radio show...

Chad Quigley said...


I do think it's a part of the job of the elected to assist where they can, without adding undue burden to the taxpayer. Not that they should assign a salary or hourly employee, but making a few calls and sending a letter or two isn't too much.

I feel it's all about connections when it comes to promoting business. An elected person comes with certian gifts of office, like access. It's not a bad thing to use that influence where applicable if it serves the greatest good.

However, the line must be drawn at doing it for the business, using tax monies and spending too much time. To assist in terms of contacts and lists of donors, that's fine.

For Cosi, it's got to be a strong effort on the part of the Cosi board. They are made up of bankers and civic/business leaders. bankers no less that will not loan their own any money becasue of the bad/lack of business plan. That says a lot for who is running the show. Sad, you'd think the bankers and so forth would be able to come up with a plan...

Tim Higgins said...


I started in on this immediately with the thought that political figures, like other people of celebrity or notoriety, should be able to act as spokespeople for good and worthy causes. Then the impact of your question truly hit me, and I realized that this was not quite so simple a question. (Obviously the point that you wanted me to reach, Oh Clever One.)

Any elected official has a "bully pulpit" from which to preach to the business community, and the higher the elected office, the higher the pulpit. As you correctly point out, the potential for real or implied pressure (substitute threat if you want to) for every company that does business with that government or within its sphere of influence would be apparent to any business leader. I believe that the old saying is, “you have to go along, to get along”.

There is already a certain amount of “strong-arming” going on between politicians and business. They call it soliciting for campaign contributions. It is a necessary part of the process, but even with all of the regulations controlling them, it likewise carries the potential for abuse.

My gut feeling therefore is that the answer that we are both looking for is that this answer that is not a cut and dry one. Participation can only be judged on the basis of the cause and the individual. The justness of a cause will be readily apparent to anyone of good will, as will the history of responsible use or power by the given elected leader. The concept of the right or wrong in a democratic republic has to ultimately be judged based on the altruism of both the cause and the individual.

Tim Higgins said...


I believe that you have touched on a part of this that I missed. I would heartily agree that we need to find a way to convince elected officials that they need to seek alternatives to government sponsorship. I also agree that the access of elected officials provides them with a unique opportunity. This opportunity should be used to broker solutions, not impose them.

Instead we get Jack Ford's latest proposal to turn COSI into a school, thus adding it permanently to the taxpayer support category. Instead of getting a COSI levy, we could get an increase in the school levy.

How sad is it that the answer to burdening the taxpayer with a failed enterprise is ... to burden the taxpayer with a failed enterprise?

Chad Quigley said...

Imposing City will is not the idea I have. More like offering suggestions that have some teeth, let the Board choose. But the limits come in at that point, the City must not act or solicit on their behalf. Only suggest.

Tim Higgins said...

I have to believe that you are on the right track Chad, but the potential for abuse will raise its head at every turn.

Unfortunately, that brings us back to the responsible use of power and something that used to be called wisdom. I am afraid that we see little of either in the city of Toledo.