Those of us in West Toledo who want the city to reopen the Northwest District police station aren’t giving up or going away. Mayor Mike Bell’s administration has tried to confuse and mislead citizens with scary rhetoric about a lack of police officers and money, but the facts are different.
The police department has enough employees at all levels to staff the station. The current complement of uniformed officers allows the department to cover every beat in the city, on every shift, every day. Officers who are assigned to beats in the Northwest District can just as easily work out of the station on Sylvania Avenue as out of the Safety Building downtown.
The department also has full complements of command and communications officers. Since this year’s municipal budget includes funded but vacant positions for the police department, the city could dedicate these positions to the Northwest station with no net increase in staffing costs.
Even after the Bell administration closed the Northwest station last year, it maintained the station’s operating budget. Reopening the station will incur costs for such things as utility services and maintenance and repairs. But the city can redirect funds for station operations with no overall increase in costs.
There will be one-time moving costs of about $40,000 to reopen the station. That’s because of the helter-skelter way in which the administration closed the station — a petulant response to Toledo City Council’s refusal to allow the city to sell the station building. Taxpayers now must pay for the administration’s determination to show the council who was boss.
Council members earmarked $100,000 in this year’s budget to reopen the station. So even accounting for the Bell administration’s waste of $40,000, the Northwest station can return to service with a contingency fund of $60,000.
The administration’s refusal to reopen the station is not based on a lack of money or personnel. Rather, it represents a willful disregard of the voices of West Toledoans who demand their station back.
Whatever its assurances to the contrary, this administration appears to oppose community policing. The citizens of West Toledo are paying the price, despite the disproportionately high contributions they make to the city in revenues, taxes, and fees.
Each year, Council District 5 in West Toledo contributes about one-third more than it gets back from the city in goods and services. Over the past four years, that disparity has amounted to $53 million.
West Toledoans who contribute so much to the city are asking for something that would have no net cost, yet the mayor’s office is showing them the door. Our request is not for special treatment, but merely for fairness.
We are committed to Toledo; our presence and contributions make that clear. We are willing, and even hope, to continue to carry our fiscal burden. But the Bell administration’s petty and mean-spirited attitude can only turn out badly for everyone, because this constituency can vote with its feet.
West Toledo is making a final appeal to the administration to revisit the issue of the Northwest station, and to act in a statesmanlike and proactive fashion. When problems arise, Mayor Bell is fond of admonishing Toledo officials and taxpayers not to kick the can down the road.
By following his own sound advice, the mayor can apply an ounce of prevention today and save the next administration a pound of cure.
John Bibish served as finance director and budget commissioner of the city of Toledo from 1999 to 2009.