City, TPS face high bar getting public to pass levies


Most city voters were more inclined to support countywide levy requests in the Nov. 6 election than they were to support either of the levies proposed by the Toledo City Council and the Toledo Board of Education.

Only nine wards — those clustered around the predominantly African-American central city plus Ward 12 (Old Orchard) and Ward 6 (largely black middle-class neighborhoods south of Dorr Street between Reynolds Road and Westwood Avenue) — had majority votes for the two city levies.

Meanwhile, the mostly white — and higher-income — outer-ring wards opposed the two city levies. Both were defeated.

Eighteen city wards supported the new Lucas County Mental Health and Recovery Services levy; 21 wards supported the expanded Lucas County Children Services Board levy; 22 city wards supported a new levy for the Lucas County Metroparks, and all 24 wards supported the additional library levy. All those levies passed.

Even the Imagination Station levy that was defeated picked up more support than the two city levies, though it failed countywide.

The Blade’s analysis of the results shows that city and school district officials need to step up their game if they want to compete with other appeals for limited taxpayer dollars.

Democrat Jack Ford, a former mayor, former Toledo school board member, and possible new city councilman, said the two levies had the misfortune to go on the ballot at a time when just about every other entity in need of new money saw an opportunity. He said the organizations were eager to put their levy requests on the ballot because of the large turnout expected in the presidential election, and especially because African-American voters, who typically support levy requests, likely would turn out heavily to support President Obama.

“People would want to be the beneficiaries of a strong black vote,” Mr. Ford said.

The seven central-city wards, along with 12 and 6, supported all five countywide levy requests and the two city levy requests, and their support was decisive for the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.

The 10-year request for parks and recreation would have generated about $3 million annually, some of which would have been used to build two water recreation facilities. The school district was asking for a new 10-year, 4.9-mill levy that would have generated $13.3 million annually.

City Councilman Lindsay Webb, a Democrat and one of the main backers of the parks levy campaign, said there were unresolved doubts about whether the parks fund would be for parks and recreation alone.

“One of the things I consistently heard from people is how do we guarantee this is a dedicated fund? We consistently heard that politicians would find an end-run around that process,” Ms. Webb said.

City Councilman Rob Ludeman, a Republican, said he believes the city’s proposal turned off voters who expected the money would be spent on programming for kids rather than a “grandiose water park.”

Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat said Mayor Mike Bell hosted two news conferences to promote the parks levy and contributed $2,000 from his own campaign account. He said the recommendation for water facilities — a water park with slides and a recreational facility for seniors — came from the consultant hired by council.

The wards that voted for the Toledo Public Schools and parks and recreation levies were 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, and 17. Those nine wards were outvoted by the other 15 wards.

Imagination Station’s renewal 0.17-mill levy, to produce $1.5 million a year, performed a little better in Toledo than did either the school district or the city parks levy. It picked up support in all three East Toledo wards (18, 19, and 20) as well as Ward 9 (Five Points), Ward 24 (Southwyck), and Ward 15 (Burroughs and the old Heatherdowns neighborhoods). The levy fell short in the preliminary vote-counting, but backers are still hoping for victory once provisional ballots are counted on Tuesday.

The only levy request to garner support in all 24 city wards was the library issue to generate about $22 million a year from renewal of 2 mills and passage of an additional 0.9 mills for five years.

Aside from Toledo, the only jurisdiction in Lucas County to approve all five countywide levies was Ottawa Hills, in all four of its wards. Sylvania City approved the library, the Metroparks, CSB, and Imagination Station. Maumee, Springfield Township, and Sylvania Township approved the library, Metroparks, and CSB levies. Oregon and Waterville Township approved the library and the Metroparks. Spencer, Washington, Harding, and Monclova townships approved only the library levy. Jerusalem, Providence, Swanton, and Richfield townships did not approve any of the levies.

Contact Tom Troy at:tomtroy@theblade.comor 419-724-6058.