Monday, November 22, 2010

Toledo's Convenient Truth

Later today,there will be a public meeting held at 4PM in the Toledo City Council chambers to discuss the proposed increases in the city's Water and Sewer rates. This meeting will be to discuss the department's request last week for increased rates of 9.9% for each of the next four years for water, and 13% per year for the same period for sewers. 

Evidently the state of the over 1,100 mile system is critical, and only a major influx of cash to shore up the emergency fund of the department (and the system) will solve the crisis. I will not comment on the long-standing court case between the city and the latest EPA agreement that these yearly increases will apparently help to resolve, nor will I comment on the management expertise of a Water and Sewer department that would leave itself in such a state of physical and fiscal disrepair before declaring the current emergency situation. 

I will however, comment on the convenient timing of the announcement of its woes and this recent request. For it is curious indeed that none of this information was apparently known in the days leading up to the November election. Evidently the city and water department's efforts at negotiation with the EPA, the state of the department's budget, and the concern over imminent catastrophic failures of infrastructure were all a mystery to those running things.  

And while it appears that such budgetary surprises are the norm for The Glass City (as can be seen by the examples of the the city's budget and that of TPS), one has to wonder about the convenience of the eventual discovery and announcement of this information ... after some members of the City Council whose responsibility includes the budget, had recently completed runs for higher office. I'm certainly not accusing anyone of purposefully hiding this information or attempting to mislead voters in the days leading up to an election in order to provide political cover for long-term elected officials (at least not so you would be able to legally accuse me of), but cannot help but at least consider the possibility of it when looking at the timing of these surprisingly dire circumstances. 

I likewise cannot help but now wonder how these candidates would have fared in that recent election if what can only be considered a dereliction of duty, ignorance of their obligations, or lack fiscal responsibility would have been discovered before the vote was taken. One cannot also help but wonder at the claims made by the current Administration that all of the fault for this crisis should be laid at the feet of previous Mayors and administrations. 

This is not to say that previous department Administrators, Mayors, and City Councils should have been more forthcoming, done something, or at least have known about the impending plight of the system. It is to say however that after this much time in office, that the current Administration might have discovered the impending crisis sooner if it had done the complete city audit that it promised voters during and after the Mayor's election to office. 

One cannot help but be left therefore, with the conclusion that either the situation remained unknown and the Administration was irresponsible in not carrying out its promise, or that it was known and those in power simply ignored the pledges made to voters. One must also believe in the possibility of a rather curious and fortunate set of coincidences, or that unlike Mr. Gore's this is a rather convenient (or conveniently timed) truth.


Roland Hansen said...

Well, Timothy, my man. there is not much I can add to your extremely well-written commentary about the water utility crisis situation of Toledo, Ohio and its politicians' role in this issue.

Therefore, I think I will just put in an embedded link taking folks over to one of my own commentaries while not applicable to the specific issue at hand is none-the-less about The City of Toledo and its Department of Public Utilities (water and sewer). So, if anyone is interested, head on over to read Toledo, Garbage, Water.

Tim, I certainly appreciate reading your take on the latest "Watergate of Toledo."

Tim Higgins said...


I had forgotten the posting that you did, though it's certainly illustrative of the abuses committed by a department that has long had a reputation as a city 'slush fund' and hideout for political pariahs.

Evidently its function has now been expanded from citizen thievery to political cover up. I am only disappointed that almost no one is asking why yet another city budgetary boondoggle is being buried like a turd in the Glass City cat box.

I am also rather disappointed at the lack of outrage on the part of members of City Council to yet another 'surprisingly' incompetent bit of fiscal management.