Saturday, Jun 23, 2018
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Another curve for TARTA

A legal opinion could derail an unnecessary ballot question that would risk Rossford’s TARTA membership

The Wood County Prosecutor’s Office is expected to decide this week whether the question of Rossford’s membership in the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority can appear on the Nov. 5 ballot. A group called Citizens for Choice collected enough signatures to put the issue up for a vote, but the processing of petitions failed to meet an Aug. 7 deadline imposed by state election law.

A legal opinion that derailed the ballot question would provide a fitting end to an unnecessary effort to risk the community’s membership in TARTA.

An outside public transit consultant has concluded that Rossford is getting TARTA service below cost. A city council committee recommended that Rossford remain a TARTA member, after finding that a contract with a private provider would cost twice as much. No local shuttle, however efficient, could provide the regional connections that Rossford’s residents, employers, and employees need and enjoy with TARTA.

The regional transit agency serves eight local communities; Perrysburg seceded last year. It provides more than 3.4 million rides a year, including roughly 60,000 in Rossford.

Taxpayers in Rossford pay TARTA $305,000 a year through a 2.25-mill property tax. But they recover $95,000 a year through a tax increment financing district, cutting the cost of TARTA’s Rossford service to little more than $200,000 a year.

Democracy is not the issue here. Rossford voters elected city council members to make sound local decisions for their community, which they did in opting to remain in TARTA.

For the prosecutor’s office, the decision appears straightforward: State law imposes a deadline that was not met. Nor does that failure appear to be the result of government negligence.

As required by state law, Rossford officials held the signatures for 10 days for public inspection, then forwarded them to the Wood County Board of Elections for certification. The elections board validated the necessary signatures and returned the petitions to the city to be examined before they were returned to the board.

State law imposed an Aug. 7 deadline for the petitions to be returned to the board — a deadline that appears to have been missed by nearly a week. “Rossford followed the legal process to the letter,’’Mayor Neil MacKinnon said.

Under state law, this is the last year that communities can leave TARTA without the unanimous consent of the authority’s other member communities.

Under the rules of a democratic government, Citizens for Choice had every legal right to move forward with their ill-advised ballot question. Playing by those same rules would also mean graciously accepting a legal opinion that kept the TARTA question off the November ballot in Rossford.

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