The words that come to mind are: blatant, sleazy, and shameless.
And shameless looms above them all.
You’d think that after brazenly caving to a combination of pressure groups — unions, Catholics loyal to the leadership of the Notre Dame sisters, and big business, plus the promise of campaign help from all of the above — to approve a development deal that violates the city’s master plan, Toledo City Council and the Hicks-Hudson administration would lay low for a while. But you’d be wrong.
Instead of waiting for neighbors to swallow their sense of betrayal and allowing the public the chance to recover from its disgust at a zoning change that will allow Kroger to move to a new West Toledo location — despite neighborhood opposition, violation of the Toledo 20/20 Comprehensive Plan, and a rejection by the Toledo Plan Commission — city authorities have set out to reward the only plan commission member who backed the Kroger request and punish two who did not.
Former plan commission member Singh Grewal, who supported Kroger’s request to rezone land at Monroe Street and Secor Road for a new, larger store, has been hired as an “economic development consultant” for the city. He’ll be paid $45 an hour.
His 221.6-hour contract with the city will pay him $9,972, which coincidentally is just shy of the $10,000 threshold at which Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson would have to get city council approval to hire him rather than just do it herself.
But it wasn’t enough to reward a plan commission member who voted in favor of Kroger’s request. No, city authorities have forced out two plan commission members who voted against the Kroger proposal.
Martin Jarret said he was compelled to resign from the plan commission after taking an interim job with United North. City Law Director Adam Loukx told Mr. Jarret that his new position with the neighborhood-development organization could be a conflict of interest.
And it’s not a conflict of interest to have created Mr. Grewal’s gig?
Olivia Holden, who also voted against the Kroger request, left the plan commission when the mayor declined to reappoint her to a new term.
This is amazingly petty, for city council doesn’t actually need the plan commission members to vote as council wants them to vote. City council gets the last word, voting on matters after the plan commission does. That means — in cynical political terms — that they only need plan commission votes for political cover.
In a better world — a conscientious, do-your-job-for-Toledo world — all of us need the plan commission to honestly evaluate proposals to see whether they comply with the city’s ordinances, codes, and planning documents. All of us need the commission to protect the public, or common, good. This is what the plan commission did. They did it twice in the case of the Kroger request. This is what the mayor and council have signaled they do not want to happen in the future.
The plan commission has been compromised and trivialized. And now it has been sleazed.
Instead of slinking away, abashed at their own dirty little game, those who now control the city are still handing out rewards to those who played ball with them. They are still enjoying, and deploying, the spoils.
This is shameless corruption. And the shamelessness is either because the shameless don’t know any better and self-dealing is the only politics they understand or because they just don’t care about what is right or what the people think.
One day, the people, and the right, will catch up with them.
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