Milk and cookies with council


In Wonderland, the Dodo gave the philosophy of Toledo politics: “everybody has won and all must have prizes.”

Or, to put it in modern parlance: “Everybody gets a cookie.”

If you are part of the small cadre of professional, local politicians in Toledo, win or lose, retired or semiretired, disgraced, distinguished, or, mostly, just there, you never have to go home. There will always be another act for you, a sinecure, at least a little something.

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And everyone goes along with awarding something for the next nebbish, the next retread in line because he knows his time will come. At some point he will be out of office and, without a sinecure he will have to get a real job and actually work for a living.

Hence an ex-city council president can be a mayoral chief of staff. An ex-council veteran is qualified to run the finance department, and, when that blows up, become a court administrator. A failed candidate for mayor can always become a judge. City hacks go to the county and the county hacks to the city, and some people get to double dip.

That’s not to say that some of these folks might not be quite able at one or more jobs along the trough. It’s just that, first, no one ever seems to leave the field for good and, second, there is more interest in finding the good old boy a safe and warm place than finding the best person for a particular post.

The latest is Steve Steel, who served on the school board and city council and even as president of council and chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party, all without leaving lasting footprints. He is an unobjectionable fellow who seems to mean well, but no one can think of anything really great that he did or said in years and years of public office.

An idea has lately been floated, by the current council president, Matt Cherry, that Mr. Steel become the city council chief of staff — a position that does not currently exist and would have to be created, to the tune of some $70,000 a year. Mr. Cherry has since backed off, and is giving the idea time to germinate (and gather the requisite number of votes, which may never be found).

A cooling off period is a good idea, because it is not clear that council needs a chief of staff or that, if it does, Mr. Steel is the right man for the job.

Yes, Mr. Steel has to make a living, like we all do, and like all old politicians do. But is it up to the taxpayers, in every case, to provide that living?

The function of the political class, at every level of politics in America, is, too often, not to serve the people but to care for itself.

That word sinecure is an interesting one. It means “an office or position that requires little or no work and that usually provides an income.”

There you have it. Toledo politics in a nutshell: It’s all about the sinecure. And the most important thing to “administer” is the spoils.

Welcome to the picnic. And where’s yours?