Keith C. Burris
During a recent editorial board meeting with The Blade, Lucas County Auditor and mayoral candidate Anita Lopez said that the most important thing a mayor can do is “create an environment that is business-friendly.”
“We cannot have businesses locate to the city of Toledo and find out that they purchased the property and they now are going to have to pay $50,000 in a past due water bill, like the Yoder company did on North Detroit,” she continued.
But Blade reporter Ignazio Messina did some fact checking and found out that story is 14 years old.
That means that it cannot be fairly laid at the door of Mayor Mike Bell.
In 1999 John Yoder, now dead, bought a 750,000-square foot property without a lawyer and without a title search or a lien search. He also did not check the water bill, which was $50,000, and which he later negotiated down.
Ms. Lopez said she mistakenly thought her example was more recent. But that’s kind of a big whoops, because she was using the story as an indictment of the Bell Administration.
Politicians don’t usually apologize, especially to each other, but Ms. Lopez may owe the mayor a “my bad” and “the next pizza’s on me.”
At the same time, Ms. Lopez takes credit for getting the Bell administration to re-evaluate the practice of making new owners responsible for the water bills of previous owners.
But that’s also debatable.
In June, 2010, Mr. Bell said that his administration would cut back on the practice.
“They were putting liens and still trying to collect two or three years ago. They just changed that two years ago,” Ms. Lopez told Mr. Messina.
Wait a minute: The city isn’t doing this any more?
In that case, what are we talking about?
Ms. Lopez added: “The practice was what I was referring to. That had a chilling effect on business. ... The only reason he stopped it was because I brought it to his attention ...”
Mr. Bell said he inherited the policy and changed it.
And then Mr. Bell engaged in his own spin to Mr. Messina: “If I am bad for business then why have we increased the amount of people working in Toledo by 6,300 people ... If I was that bad for business, why would we be $20 million ahead in tax revenue from where we were in 2010?”
Hyperbole, pseudo facts, and plain old misstatements make both these candidates look childish and, more important, their blather obscures the issues.
If the issue is attracting business, five things attract business: A prudent tax structure, good schools, high quality of life (low crime, arts, and entertainment), a skilled work force, and a coordinated economic development plan.
A mayor can do something fast about quality of life and economic development policy. But this mayor has shown little interest in quality of life and his economic development policy has been scattershot.
Still, it is hard to think Ms. Lopez would do better since she cannot get her own talking points straight.
Indeed, fact-checking Ms. Lopez is an aerobic activity.
Back to the question: Is this candidate of admirable energy, self-discipline, and ambition Margaret Thatcher or Sarah Palin? Just saying stuff, stuff to fill the air, stuff that doesn’t add up, is Palinesque.