In the early days of his campaign for mayor last year, Wade Kapszukiewicz promised to do “whatever is necessary” to create a regional water system for the Toledo area.
Now, three months into his tenure in the mayor’s office, Mr. Kapszukiewicz is being forced to make good on that pledge. Because the serpentine political entanglements he is navigating have gotten tricky and require that “whatever is necessary” resolve.
Planners in January released the rough draft agreement that would create a regional authority to include Toledo and the suburban communities to which it has sold its water for decades.
That agreement outlined plans that included Toledo selling or leasing its water treatment plant to TAWA, something suburban leaders pushed for so that all ratepayers would have an ownership stake in the system.
That aroused opposition from some in Toledo who cannot bear the thought of relinquishing the political power that comes with owning the water system outright.
The problem is that it was this political instinct to use the city’s water system to soak neighboring communities with higher water rates than Toledo residents paid that created the distrust and resentment that led the suburbs to begin planning their own regional system that would exclude Toledo.
Ending up with two parallel and competing water systems in the Toledo region would be a disaster. Not only would it end up costing both suburbanites and city residents much more money over the short and long haul, it would continue the political rift that harms northwest Ohio and hampers our ability to grow and redevelop.
But apparently, the Kapszukiewicz administration is concerned it cannot get the votes it needs from Toledo City Council or the electorate that must approve it via a ballot measure. Now the city is floating a compromise proposal that would let Toledo retain ownership of its water-treatment plant in exchange for seats at the table with a new governing body that would set fair, equalized water rates.
The fact that some Toledo leaders did not negotiate fairly in years past is a big part of why the city now faces this dilemma, so it is good the Kapszukiewicz administration is willing to bargain a deal that works for all the communities.
What is important to remember at that bargaining table, however, is that the deal everyone is negotiating is meant to ensure safe drinking water, the lowest water rates possible for all customers, and a water system that is a well run asset to a region that needs to attract more development and residents.
When the negotiating is focused on preserving political power instead of preserving a safe, affordable source of drinking water, everyone loses.
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