Saturday, August 2, 2008

Erie Street Market & Memories Of My Youth


Now that you've read the title and become completely confused (and especially for those of you reading this and not residing in Toledo), let me attempt to explain. An article in the Toledo Blade on 7/31 points out what many of us have recently suspected, that the improvements of the Erie Street Market have been made in a rather questionable manner. Now I have spoken on the ESM before, but the Mayor appears to want to take the situation to the next level by secretly funneling money into the facility in order to find new uses for it.

I say secretly because these improvements were not included in budget numbers released as recently as a week ago, showing that the ESM has made a profit for the 1st six months of the year. (This subject is probably covered and more fully by Maggie Thurber here.) These improvements were broken into 13 separate contracts of less than $10,000 in order to allow the mayor to proceed without city council notice and approval. Further, these improvements were performed on the ESM in order to allow the city to compete with private businesses as a concert venue, something the building was not designed for and which appears to be contrary to the "business friendly" environment that the city of Toledo advertises.

But what could all of this possibly have with the memories of my youth ...

This is where I finally have to admit that I am recovering from a serious childhood addiction to television. It is not something that I am proud of, but must cop to if you are to understand my thinking (yeah I know this is dangerous, but read on...). This was especially true when it came to cartoons. From "Rocky and Bullwinkle" to "Woody Woodpecker", from "Space Ghost" to "Yogi Bear", it was a constant battle for my parents to drag me away from the idiot box long enough to perform necessary functions like eating, bathing, or occasionally exposing my body to sunlight. (This may account in some part for how thin I was then as opposed to ... oh, never mind.) Two of the cartoons that I watched in those days were "Popeye" and "Spy vs Spy".

Setting aside the title character in this first example, with his mutant forearms and his anorexic girlfriend, one of my favorite characters was Wimpy. Now Wimpy was a mooch and a panhandler whose only seeming line was, "I will gladly pay you Tuesday, for a Hamburger today". This appears to be the philosophy of Mayor Carlton S. Finkbeiner (for those of you non-locals, yes that is his real name). Having worked his way around the charter limitations of $10K for non-reviewed contracts, he justified the use of over $80,000 in city money (during a $2.5 million budget shortfall) by saying that the money would be paid back by concerts yet to be held in the facility. Now businesses often make investments to gain future profits; but if this was the case, why hide it? If this is the key to making the ESM profitable, why not trumpet the investment as a step forward instead of a pattern of skullduggery and secrecy until it was finally exposed in the media too late to stop anyway?

In the second example of "Spy vs. Spy", this simply points to the relationship that the city has with business in Toledo. The only difference is that in this case, the city is the only one with access to explosives. Taxation, regulation, and competition are the weapons of choice in this battle, with a 2.25% total city income tax leading the charge, and a list of levies longer than my arm following closely behind to make this an unfriendly neighborhood for businesses to play in.

As for regulation, one merely needs to see the recent restrictions that the city has placed on locations, numbers, and method of operation of convenience stores and day care centers to begin to comprehend the city's attitude to the business community. It appears that the city only wants certain businesses in certain numbers, and wants to strictly regulate how they do their business. I don't know about you, but my experience with a government control of markets quickly leads to the term "socialism". 

This brings us to the final leg of the tripod, the competition of city owned business. Toledo has recently gotten into the ambulance and towing businesses, and most if not all of the private companies have either laid off staff or closed. Now the city wants to run a music venue, in competition with privately owned, non-taxpayer funded facilities. (Doesn't seem quite fair, does it?) Now governments are not normally known for their business acumen, but with taxpayers undoubtedly on the hook for utilities and security, my suspicion is that this venture can't help but succeed. The questions however, are what the costs are to privately owned, tax paying operations and at what costs to taxpayers? Additionally, we should ask what business would consider coming to Toledo know that this is the environment that they would have to look forward to?

I loved those cartoons in my youth, and with the relationship now established between the the present and the past now, they may well now be ruined for me. While it may help in the continued control of my former addiction, a little part of my treasured childhood has now been destroyed. Say, now that I think about it, the mayor kind of reminds me of the "Fearless Leader" character from "Rocky and Bullwinkle" with the never-ending series of misguided and failed plots against society. Damn, that ruins another one...


3 comments:

Hooda Thunkit said...

Tim,

Perhaps you didn't get the (brainwashing) memo, but you are supposed to be playing the part of one of the mindless masses, who regularly go along with the games/pranks/felonious antics of our "beloved" mayor.

Now, you vill go check your mailbox, you vill read the memo and you vill comply.

We don't need you barking up a tree that ve don't need you barking up.

(Exerpts taken from my copy of the memo from our "beloved" mayor, Carleton (no, not the drunken doorman from the Rhoda show, it's much worse than that, S**t for brains Finkwiener, beloved mayor of the biggest one-horse town in all of Ohio, perhaps the world even...)

Again, this from the masterful conjurer of mis-truths, half-truths, outright lies and carefully omitted pertinent facts of a dubious, perhaps felonious nature...

Tim Higgins said...

HT,

Concerned that you were right I went back to the mailbox and there they were. It appears that while able to read, my comprehension skills are somewhat low (must be the too much TV as a kid, huh).

My disappointment remains however. Not in the Mayor, where my expectations couldn't be any lower, but in myself for the destruction that I have allowed to be committed to one of the few things of my youth I remember (old age, you know).

While all of the sordid details are beginning to emerge, I wonder how many will notice, will care, and will act to see things changed as November approaches.

Roland Hansen said...

I wonder what Natasha will turn up. And if Bluto and Brutus get their own venues, we are in deep ka-ka.
Now, let me turn my attention to Lucas County, convention halls, ball parks, and arenas.
Discussion on appropriate governmental roles and ROIs anyone?