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Published: 10/21/2012

Commentary

Parks levy is an investment in our future

BY LINDSAY WEBB
AND STEVEN STEEL

Issue 5 is an investment in Toledo’s children, our families, our seniors, and our future. It would reverse the decline in parks and recreational opportunities in our community.

The 1-mill, 10-year levy would raise more than $3 million a year for a fund that could be spent only on parks and recreation. It would cost the owner of the average $60,000 home in Toledo about $18 a year.

Quality of life is critical to maintaining neighborhoods of choice and the revitalization of our city. Toledo’s parks reached their heyday decades ago, when every neighborhood had well-maintained infrastructure and young people were hired for summer recreation programs.

Budget problems have caused successive city administrations to allow a slow deterioration of our parks. As elected officials, residents, and parents, we decided that decline is not inevitable, but instead the result of misplaced priorities.

Toledo devotes a much smaller percentage of our budget to parks and recreation than do other cities our size. Every adjacent suburb levies a property tax to ensure adequate investment in high-quality parks and recreation programs.

A citizens’ task force created by Toledo City Council this year at our request offered proposals to save and improve city parks.

A cross-section of Toledoans, working with a national consultant, saw the inevitable, noted the need for a dedicated funding stream, and recommended that we ask voters to approve a property tax dedicated to parks and recreation.

What can Toledo taxpayers expect for that investment? Money will be freed from the general fund, which we can spend to increase our public safety forces. For that reason, Toledo’s police officers and firefighters support Issue 5.

The 10-year levy will allow us to issue bonds to fund large-scale infrastructure projects, including swimming pools and community and senior centers. New summer programs will provide positive activities for idle hands, reducing youth crime and violence and employing young people. Other activities will improve community health and wellness.

Right-sizing our parks system will ensure that parks with comparable amenities are available in every neighborhood, while we divest ourselves of properties that do not meet our needs. A new master planning process will help match community needs and resources.

Our goal is a park system that contributes to the quality of life of all Toledoans, and enhances public safety and health and economic revitalization. But we can achieve none of this without adequate resources.

Such things as user fees would cause hardship for many residents. No other option would ensure the scale needed to rebuild and reinvigorate our parks as would the kind of levy proposed in Issue 5 — a fact that every surrounding community recognizes.

These are difficult economic times. But this investment in our future cannot be postponed.

Vote yes on Issue 5, for better parks for Toledo and a better future for us all.

Lindsay Webb represents District 6 on Toledo City Council. Steven Steel is an at-large council member.



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