Sunday, January 6, 2008
Erie St and The Blade
Well here we are folks, two weekend papers, two misguided efforts ... The Sunday Toledo Blade carried the following editorial: http://www.toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080106/OPINION02/801060307
And rather, it appears, than cogently arguing the logic of keeping the Erie St Market as a city owned property, the Blade chooses to use paper to make this a personal issue for the mayor and to defend his position on the market. Since the Blade seems to be unable to properly define the argument, let me try to.
Is this issue about the Mayor? - Yes, but only because he has made it so. The Mayor was the biggest supporter of buying the Market, signed the contract with Citifest to run it, and has defended its ability to make a profit relentlessly. It has not however.
Is the Market currently making a profit? - Well I guess it's how you look at the numbers. The Blade claims that since the Market was taken over by the city on Nov 12th, that it has made $40,000 (the fact that this is the busiest part of the shopping year probably has nothing to do with this); and that the Market "projects" to make a profit of $300,000 by the end of 2008. It then lists separately that the city is paying $300,000 in utility bills each and every year. Now forgive my simple math, but $300k minus $300k equals $0. The last time that I looked, a profit of $0 dollars is not a profit.
It should also be noted that the opportunity to break even here is only a projection, not a certainty. In addition, these numbers do not take into account the lost tax revenues, as I am sure that the city is not paying itself property taxes on this so-called lucrative downtown property.
Is City Council stalling on this? - Of course they are! This was the first meeting of the new council, with three new members being sworn in, and the expectation that they would want to take on this political hot potato within the first hours of gathering would be unrealistic. If this was such a pressing issue for the city, why has it taken 7 weeks to bring it up? Why was it not handled by the previous council? Could it be that the Mayor found that bringing up the situation less favorable with the previous council? (I'm just asking)
Should Council hold a public hearing? - Why not? It's not like the city seems to listen to the voice of the people when they think that they can get away with it (COSI), but listening to the voice of the voters is never a bad thing. With a little luck, the Council can hold the meeting at 4 PM on a weekday to assure proper attendance.
Does Council need to fund the Market? - It undoubtedly does on a temporary basis. There is no reason to throw the baby out with the bath water and close the market rather than fund something to keep it open, but only until it can sell the Market. Council should predicate any funding on a demand that the city put the Market up for sale immediately. (Democrats seem to know how to place "pull out" provisions into funding measures, so this shouldn't be a problem.) This process should then be reviewed on a 90 - 180 day basis to assess the city's efforts to make this sale.
Does Toledo need to sell the Erie Street Market? - Yes!!!! The proper marketing and operation of such a business requires an entrepreneurial spirit that no government entity can exhibit. The flexibility, creativity, and free thinking that have made such markets successful are anathema to governments, whose bureaucracy thrives on rigid adherence to the status quo. Kudos gentlemen, for at least trying to bring up the issues that matter to the city. (Maybe you read my post yesterday and are trying to change your ways. ... Nah) Shame on you for taking such a misguided and illogical position on the subject.