Thursday, Aug 16, 2018
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Keith Burris

KEITH BURRIS

When the cookie crumbles

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    Lindsay Webb takes oath of office from Toledo Municipal Judge Michelle Wagner on Jan. 10, 2018, at One Government Center in Toledo, Ohio. At center is Lindsay Webb's husband Robert Carter and two kids Owen Carter, 6, and Frank Carter, 7.

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    Lindsay Webb, the newly appointed Lucas County Treasurer, speaks after taking the oath of office.

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    Keith Burris.

    THE BLADE
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Keith Burris.

THE BLADE
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The keystone cops of politics — Lucas County Democrats — strike again.

A funny thing happened to Toledo City Councilman Lindsay Webb on her way to take command as Lucas County treasurer.

She discovered her poor credit report would prevent her from getting the bond required to hold the job.

Ms. Webb was the Lucas County Democratic Party central committee’s choice to replace former treasurer and new Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz.

Nobody knew about the bond?

Nobody thought to ask what the legal and technical qualifications for the treasurer’s post were? 

Nope. Not Ms. Webb. Not the party chairman. No one involved in the decision thought to investigate even basic matters of qualification.

Everyone was busy finding safe landings for favored politicians.

RELATED: How did Webb's credit woes surprise Dems?What matters in Toledo politics

This is how politics has long worked in Toledo: The priority is not on getting a job done well, or serving the people. The priority is on finding sinecures for the insiders — for the hacks, hangers-on, and politicians who won’t take no for an answer from the voters, as well as a few legitimately public spirited  politicians. 

So, too often, it’s not about serving the citizens. It’s about full employment and good pensions for people in power, people who want to be back in power, prominent Democrats and prominent union leaders: Everybody — in the inner ring — gets a cookie.  

And then we wonder how the city can lose millions or why new blood is never infused into Toledo politics.

No disrespect intended to Ms. Webb, who might have turned out to be good at the job, but no one cared much about whether she would be a good treasurer. That was not part of the calculation.

Patronage and the spoils have always been a part of politics, and they always will be. But in Toledo, there is little balance. There is so much self-interest and self-dealing that public interest is usually an afterthought.

The question should not be: Can we find a spot for Michael Ashford, or Paula Hicks-Hudson, or Teresa Gabriel, or Mark Sobczak? Or: Who has earned the right, by loyalty, to move up? But, who can actually do a good job in the post that is open; in this case who can understand the county treasurer’s office and run it efficiently and effectively.

Ms. Webb and the party were embarrassed. This time the cookie crumbled. And that does not make her or the members of the party’s central committee bad people. But there is a lesson here: Find some balance between patronage and qualification; between political deal-making and public administration that will serve the public and make them proud.

Read more by Keith C. Burris

There are two things that would help: One is a competitive Republican Party in Lucas County, and especially in the city of Toledo. One party rule will always lead to bumbling and corruption.

The second is that the Democratic Party should step up, this time, and nominate someone really good — a quality public administrator. One suggestion: David Mann, who heads the Land Bank. Mr. Mann has been working closely with the treasurer’s office since the Land Bank began, basically as a child of the treasurer’s office. He’s politically astute, but he is not a politician, he’s a public administrator. There is no reason he could not keep running the Land Bank, as treasurer. Wouldn’t that be a smart appointment — one everyone could feel was responsible? 

Not every public job is a bauble.  

When every job is thought of as a bauble, the result is ineptitude, even at awarding the bauble.

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade. Contact him at kburris@theblade.com or 419-724-6266.

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