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Vote fails to let Lucas County plan panel pick its leaders

The Lucas County Plan Commission will remain without its own county-appointed chairman - at least for the time being.

The commission members voted 7-3 yesterday in favor of allowing them to pick their own chairman and vice chairman, positions that are held by the same members who head the Toledo Plan Commission. But the proposal failed because it needed one more vote to gain a sufficient majority to pass the motion.

Harry Barlos, a Lucas County commissioner and member of the plan commission, said he voted against it because he favors a regional plan commission and having a separate chairman could create more divisiveness than cooperation.

“That obviously takes us further from that idea,” Mr. Barlos said. “We're so parochial. We have to start thinking what's in the best interest for Toledo-Lucas County.”

Bob Savage, vice chairman of both commissions and a city appointee, said he favors allowing the county to pick its own leaders but voted against the motion because so much of yesterday's discussion revolved around the idea of creating a regional commission. He said the issues that were raised deserved more attention and he thought voting for separate chairmen would stifle the debate.

“I don't think it makes any sense that the people who chair this commission be the people who were appointed by the city,” Mr. Savage said.

Eight of the 11 members of the county plan commission are appointed by the county commissioners, including the three county commissioners.

Under an agreement struck in 1932, the city and the county share a planning staff and commission leadership. Because the chairman must be a member of both bodies, he or she must always be a city resident and an appointee of Toledo's mayor. The city commission has five members.

Jerry Sawicki III, a Springfield Township resident and a county appointee, said he has no problem with the leadership of Mr. Savage or Chairman Steve Serchuk.

But Mr. Sawicki said there is a lingering impression by some that jurisdictions outside the city don't have as much power because county appointees don't chair the commission.

“It's as simple as this: I believe the county should have the right to represent its constituency without overwhelming influence by the city,” Mr. Sawicki said. “There is a perception by certain county officials and constituents that there isn't adequate representation.” Even if the county plan commission eventually gets a county chairman, the city will still have three members. State law requires that representation when a city has more than 50 percent of a county's population.

Sandy Isenberg, president of the county commissioners, said she thinks the arrangement can create a conflict between city appointees who may be inclined to try to limit growth outside Toledo and county appointees who live outside the city.

“We do not have a choice of all the members of the county plan commission, and those members may or may not share the same philosophies as the board of county commissioners,” she said.

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