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Published: Saturday, 10/3/2009

Ducking their duties

ONCE again, an important vote

was taken in Toledo City Council on a proposal to help balance this year's budget and prepare for fiscal 2010 and Councilman Frank Szollosi was not there. Councilman D. Michael Collins ducked the vote too.

At the beginning of 2009 we noted that Mr. Szollosi, along with some others, frequently couldn't manage to attend council meetings. In fact, Mr. Szollosi missed so many meetings in 2008 that he could have been docked almost half his pay if his fellow members had not always voted to forgive his absences.

Last month, Mr. Szollosi was nowhere to be found when council voted down a proposal that would have raised trash fees while offsetting the increase through a recycling incentive program. This past week, the ordinance came up again and Mr. Szollosi, who knew the vote was likely to end in a 6-6 tie that Mayor Carty Finkbeiner would break with a yes vote, left the council meeting with Mr. Collins rather than give the measure a chance to pass.

The measure would only have raised some $363,000 the rest of this year - small potatoes compared to the city's current $7.8 million deficit - but next year it would have increased revenue by more than $8 million, money that will be needed as one-time federal stimulus money disappears and delayed payments for things such as police overtime come due.

It seems Lazy Szollosi, who couldn't be bothered to show up for meetings, has morphed into Obstructionist Szollosi, who employs political weaselry to make sure City Council does nothing. It kind of makes us long for the days when he just stayed home.

Could it be that Mr. Szollosi's well-known dislike of Mayor Finkbeiner has become such an obsession that he'll deny the mayor, who's no fan of the recycling incentive component, even pyrrhic victories at the cost of worsening the city's financial problems? Sure looks like it.

Time is running out to balance Toledo's budget before the end of 2009. The world won't end if the mayor and City Council fail in their fiscal obligation to end the year in the black. But repeated end-of-year deficits - 2008 ended millions of dollars in the red as well - will eventually result in the city's bond rating being reduced, making it more expensive to borrow the money needed for large projects.

If Mr. Szollosi and Mr. Collins don't want to balance Toledo's budget, that's fine. But the least they could do is get out of the way and let the rest of City Council do what it was elected to do.



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