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Published: Sunday, 4/20/2008

Clunker of an idea

THERE are good ideas, there are bad ideas, and then there are ideas that make you ask: What were they thinking? The Finkbeiner administration's suggestion to repave more Toledo streets by asking the people who live on those streets to pay a portion of the tab is most definitely in that head-scratching third group.

The city's problem is that it has more streets in need of repaving each year than it can afford to work on. Toledo will spend about $9.1 million this year from city coffers and more than $30 million in grants to resurface nearly 53 miles of streets, including almost 13 miles left over from last year. But Tom Moline, Toledo's commissioner of engineering services says the city actually needs to repave 90 miles per year just to keep pace.

How to make up the difference? That's where someone came up with the idea of letting the people who live on potholed streets decide whether they want to foot part of the bill. If 60 percent of homeowners agreed, then the street would get repaved and homeowners would be assessed a portion of the cost, thus stretching tax and grant dollars.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's spokesman, Robert Reinbolt, said they're just talking about "a few hundred dollars per year," although he acknowledged that for many people "a few hundred dollars is very important." City Council President Mark Sobczak said the idea has "some legs" and the assessments on homeowners would be "relatively small."

It was left to Councilman Mike Craig, whose district includes parts of East Toledo and South Toledo, to ask the only relevant question: "How many people in East Toledo will agree to assess themselves for new streets?"

The answer - in East, West, North, and South Toledo, as well as the Old West End, downtown, Uptown, and any other part of the city - is precious few.

Times are tough for local government. The city is facing a projected $10 million budget deficit. But Toledo's residents are hurting even more. The economy is stagnant, unemployment on the rise, property taxes are up, foreclosures last year across the metro area were double the 2006 total, and schools hurting for funds are seeking new or renewal levies at virtually every election.

Telling residents who are having enough trouble meeting mortgage payments and tired of driving on cratered streets to, in effect, do it themselves is foolish at best and, at worst, as insensitive as suggesting deaf people be moved to live near Toledo Express Airport.

City leaders need to put the brakes on this clunker of an idea before it blows up in their faces like a worn tire hitting a 6-inch-deep pothole.



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