Sunday, June 22, 2014

TFP Column: The Best Defense

(Contrary to logic and reason, I have decided to put new material up on this blog, but only in the form of the columns that I have done for the Toledo Free Press.  This is done for the benefit of those with time to waste, who likewise do not spend their time reading the website of this award winning weekly newspaper, and I will go back and add efforts that were published earlier this year.)

This particular effort was published on 6/20/2014.  
One cannot help but wonder if the Blade is adopting a new "best defense is a good offense" playbook in its continuing series on the subject of Glass City blight.  Wracked with well-documented revenue losses and stinging from attacks for outsourcing its production, the timely release of a series Toledo eyesore stories might be seen as the perfect (though rather suspicious) way to deflect attention from its own bad press. 
Taking the side of local YouTube videographer EconCat88, rather than that of the Administration (which it did last time) makes the Blade appear to be on the side of the little guy.  Allying with Councilman Jack Ford (vs supposed Independent Mayor D. Michael Collins) keeps them on the good side of the Democrats who've been in power while all of this blight occurred.  As for indicting a mayor that they've long supported as part of this effort; that's likely to cost them nothing. The mayor was sooner or later going to have to throw the Blade under the bus for their abandonment of downtown, if not for the elimination of union jobs, so the current series could be seen as little more than a preemptive strike. 

Of course the best part of the series is the gift likely to keep on giving for some time. The Blade has presented to City Council a subject not even on the radar screen a month earlier.  Distracting from dismal tax revenue, pot hole problems, and without talking about water and sewer line infrastructure issues that have long since faded from public view; this subject provides new opportunities for meaningless rhetoric, useless legislation, and the potential ability to create another taxpayer-funded study or two that must make it feel like Christmas in June for those is office.

Councilman Ford certainly seems to have discovered his new calling in life, attempting to establish his final legacy by creating another useless city bureaucracy in the form of a 'blight authority' to solve a problem that was just as prevalent when both he and his successor Mayor Finkbeiner were in the Mayor's position (before he attempts to move on to Columbus). After all, there's nothing that can resolve a crisis in short order like another government bureaucrat.

The current Mayor instead would like to deflect a problem that he largely inherited from his predecessors, and instead blame the Toledo Municipal Court and Judge Allen McConnell. Judge McConnell, according to the mayor's recent statement, is dealing with over 500 affidavits filed against blighted properties by the city in just the past year. One cannot help but ask, if the impediment is the Court, why there is no discussion of additional funding and staff for what appears to be an overworked judicial system rather than adding a city bureaucracy. Equally unclear is how the Mayor's proposal of a phone app is going to magically clear the existing judicial backlog.

Wait, this is Toledo (where you'll do better)! Remind me again about how long the 'temporary income tax' has been in place as a way to artificially balance the budget. Tell me again how much were borrowing from the Capital Improvement Budget (far better suited to deal with the issue of blight in the city) and how many years we've been borrowing it.

Better still, tell me why the Blade, already suffering from an image problem on a scale that it never knew existed, hasn't proposed a charity event to raise funds in order to deal with the issue of blight instead of merely reporting on it. Tell me why City Council, having only in the last week rediscovered the issue of blight in the city, hasn't put forth the idea of dealing with the issue on a district level and on a volunteer basis. How about one or more of these elected leaders simply revisiting some of their current budget discussions and making a hard choice as to which is more important to their constituents, swimming pools or blight.

While we're at it, perhaps someone in the editorial department at the Blade might want to do a bit more research on the ownership of 'blighted properties' to make sure that some of those on the list aren't properties owned by … the Blade. While certainly not qualified to preach, I seem to recall a Biblical phrase to the effect of, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.” (Just for the sake of editorial consistency, of course.)

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