The Blade's Oct. 22 article entitled "Mayor fights plan to cut deficit: Proposal similar to one Finkbeiner himself offered" was misleading and missed the point.
As you are aware, a plan to reallocate capital improvement program funds was soundly rejected by the voters in September. That vote represented a clear message from Toledo's citizens that capital improvements, such as street repairs and park improvements, remain a strong priority. It is unacceptable to simply ignore, as Joe McNamara proposes, the message delivered to us by the voters in the September primary.
In the current economic crisis faced by Toledo and other cities throughout the region, there is a temptation to ignore necessary maintenance and repair infrastructure, like roads, and, instead, spend money on city operational expenses, such as salaries. As I have cautioned over the past few months, this temptation simply amounts to "robbing Peter to pay Paul." In the end, such manipulation of taxpayer funds is irresponsible and is no more than a short-term fix to a long-term problem. If Mr. McNamara's proposal is accepted, the long-term budgetary problem would remain unaddressed and the city's infrastructure would be allowed to decay.
Troubling is the fact that Mr. McNamara's proposal seeks to ignore a prudent debt policy that has stood the city well for decades. Adherence to the debt policy is of great importance to the rating agencies that control the cost of the city's loan repayments. Any negative adjustment to the city's rating equates to millions of dollars of extra debt repayment cost.
As recently as May, I and other city leaders met with Standard and Poor's and Moody's Rating Service and discussed the very matters that Mr. McNamara now seeks to change. I believe, as does the city's bond counsel, that deviation from the plan we presented to the rating agencies may be viewed as an abandonment of our plan to address long-term financial problems by simply offering a short-term fix.
Finally, Councilman McNamara's plan does not reduce the 2009 deficit. Your story, unfortunately, neglected to mention this. Mr. McNamara's plan addressed debt repayments in 2010. To suggest otherwise is no more than smoke and mirrors.
The city needs financial leadership rather than more "borrowing from Peter to pay Paul." Long-term solutions, like ones I have offered council, are needed rather than misleading gimmicks that do nothing to solve our financial problems.
City of Toledo
Toledo City Council is working together to reduce the city's 2009 general fund deficit and to strengthen public safety without raising taxes. On Thursday, council's finance committee unanimously approved a plan to reduce the city's debt by $2.5 million by changing the financing source for the city's new refuse trucks.
This responsible course of action has been affirmed as legal by Toledo's bond counsel and is not opposed by AFSCME Local 7, which led the opposition to Issue 1 at the Sept. 15 election.
Contrary to what Mayor Finkbeiner would have you believe, any deviation from the budget plan he presented to the bond rating agencies occurred long before I introduced the debt-reduction ordinance.
When the mayor met with Standard and Poor's and Moody's Rating Service, he detailed his proposal to balance the budget - which included raising the refuse fee and reducing the tax credit.
This plan did not have the support of council then and it does not have the support of council now.
Council has taken bold, bipartisan action this year to reduce the deficit by over $5.6 million while holding the line on taxes and fees. Mayor Finkbeiner has consistently refused to work with council to reduce the deficit without raising taxes.
As his term comes to an end, the mayor should come to the table with council and work with us to close the deficit. It's not too late for him to choose to be a part of the solution.
Toledo City Council
In response to the Oct. 10 letter on utility billing: In December, a representative from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio was instrumental in helping change my monthly billing date with Columbia Gas of Ohio.
I, too, am a senior and filed a complaint online (also note that PUCO's phone number, 1-800-686-7826, is listed on the left side of the billing and payment summary page of the monthly bill).
PUCO contacted me by phone to review the complaint, and then contacted the customer-relations department of Columbia Gas. I was told that Columbia Gas does have the authority to change the date of billing, contrary to what I had repeatedly been told.
Further, she proceeded to facilitate an immediate change in my monthly payment date. Not only that but the customer-relations person tracked the change for two months, as did the PUCO representative with whom the complaint was initially discussed.
It was a very satisfying resolution after months of frustration.
I suggest that the writer consider pursuing the matter again with Columbia Gas, and the PUCO if necessary.
The provisions of House Bill 176 do not deny freedom of religious expression. As far as I can prayerfully tell, they guarantee it. I am an active Christian, and I believe that we are called to treat all persons - all of them - with equality and dignity. H.B. 176 does that in the context of the civil society we share. If a religious person finds that her sense of love and community does not extend to all of God's children, rest assured that H.B. 176 will not keep anyone from practicing a closed-door religion.
The Bible has been used to defend slavery and segregation, to deny rights and equal roles to women, to prevent interracial marriages, to stop the enactment of laws allowing divorce, to criminalize certain sexual practices between consenting adults, to condone the physical disciplining of wives and children, and more.
Fortunately, God has shed more light on God's word and allowed us to grow in understanding. When fear and hatred fuel religion, they lead to ungodly combustion.
Marcy St. John
Hooray for Dan Simpson! He tells it like is regarding the Afghan war.
Our government has already been responsible for the terrible loss of our soldiers, misspent untold amounts of our money, and wasted seven years of our time in a no-win struggle in Iraq. Yet here we are about to be pulled into another useless conflict by a know-it-all general (remember Petraeus and the great troop "surge?) that can only result in more loss of life and no clear benefit to either side.
Let's get out! Come home! We can still be the country that responds to world problems with diplomacy, common sense, compromise, and compassion rather than with guns, threats, and invasion.
Virginia M. Nichols
I am so tired of the liberal Democrats referring to the Republicans as "the party of no."
As I see it, if you have a teenager who wants a new car, designer clothes, an Ivy League education, a new BlackBerry, etc., ad infinitum, then there'd better be an adult in the household to say "No, we cannot afford the things you want without going broke and into debt for decades to come."
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