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Published: Monday, 1/3/2005

Reprieve on trash pickup

Toledo has been spared a major cutback on trash collection, at least through 2005. That will come as good news to homeowners even as cynics point out that a municipal election will occur next November.

Mayor Jack Ford and City Council have, in a sense, dodged the bullet, but they are frank to acknowledge that, as Mr. Ford put it, "it's a one-year reprieve. We will worry about 2006 in 2006." However, the city will have to start worrying about 2006 earlier than that.

At least the Ford administration goes into an election season next fall without having made major cuts in trash service or extensive layoffs in public safety as well as other departments, even though they may still be necessary.

These issues could again be on the table next autumn, but it will be up to both the mayor and his challenger in 2005 to offer solutions that will enable the city to maintain services to which its residents are accustomed.

A one-time payment of nearly $272,000 from the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation enables the city to maintain unlimited trash pickup, except for large household appliances, which should not be part of the household garbage pickup anyway. Few municipalities have as generous a trash-collection policy as Toledo, certainly not the suburban communities that surround it.

Plainly, the city has given too many concessions to its work force in the past. Companies all over the country have developed new ways to control personnel costs, often by creating new tiers of workers with somewhat lower wages and benefits. This may be unpopular in some quarters, but if companies that provide employment for Toledo area residents find it necessary to do that, city employees and their labor union representatives can hardly object if a cash-strapped city does the same.

While Toledo has wrestled with the loss of high-paying manufacturing jobs for nearly a generation, current employment trends are such as to make this one of the bleakest periods in the city's recent history.

The Toledo metropolitan area job growth from April, 2003, to April, 2004, was 3 percent less than the national average, according to a report last month by the Milken Institute, a nonprofit think tank based in Santa Monica, Calif.

It is, of course, encouraging that Toledo, among other Ohio public employers, has chalked up a more favorable record in workers' compensation claims than anticipated. But windfalls in one year may not be repeated in the next.

Spurring job growth in this city will be a big challenge to the next mayoral administration, whoever heads it. And so will cutting budgets where necessary to make ends meet, even if that means layoffs in safety forces.

Dueling over less important issues, which happens in nearly every election at every level of government, will not cut it in 2005. The mayoral candidates had better have some answers for voters wondering about the state of their public services in 2006.



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