Thursday, January 20, 2011

Should Toledo go Unigov?

This has been all over the news, so I won't go into great detail about the formation of the committee formed by Ben Konop. Instead, I will get right to the point of this whole thing: whether Unigov would benefit Toledo and Lucas County?

From these two sources, (1) and (2), Unigov first emerged in Indianapolis as a response to white flight in 1970. So many people left Indianapolis for the surrounding suburbs that the city could not sustain itself. While some might call this "voting with your feet," most people recognize that this is a classic case of nothing more than "white flight."

Toledo is in the state it is today because of white flight. Instead of improving on the land already here, Toledoans simply moved out, abandoned buildings, and left very little opportunity for reinvestment. Of course, the majority of those who participated in white flight naturally oppose any form of Unigov. But those people forget the importance of a strong, centralized business center (also know as downtown). If the central business district fails, the entire region will begin to fail like a domino effect, including the suburbs.

Of course, suburbanites also have a right to fear Unigov. The city of Toledo clearly has one of the most incompetent and inefficient governments on the face of the earth. Since two-thirds of Lucas County's population lives within the city, suburbanites rightfully fear that their votes will lose to the idiocy that is the Toledo voting block. After all, we are talking about a city that elected Carty Finkbeiner for a third term, and a city that elected our current school board. On the other hand, the more informed suburban voters, along with the informed toledoans, might have enough votes to elect a more fiscally responsible government.

If Toledo-Lucas County were form a Unigov type government, it would not have to be fullscale Unigov like Lexington-Fayette County, KY. It could be more like Indianapolis, where many areas kept their own police force and each school district remained the same. Of course, each district would levy its own taxes for these separate services, keeping them somewhat separate from the city. But other services, such as water, sewage, roads, and fire, just to name a few, could fall under the County government. This would cause a more efficient government, with lower taxes for everybody. Additionally, the entire county would be working together to help the region grow and compete economically.

My official opinion is that the region could benefit from Unigov, although I understand the drawbacks as a former suburbanite. I'll let you judge for yourself. This 70 page manual on Indianapolis' Unigov is extraordinarily informative. I urge you not to judge Unigov on its face, but to read the manual.


I realized that I was not completely truthful in my support for Unigov. The beauty of Unigov is that the suburbs have all the bargaining power. The city is desperate. In all reality, the burbs could negotiate such a deal where pretty much everything remains the same, but suburbanites would have a vote for the Toledo City Government. This way, the entire region would be working together for the benefit of the region, and not so much for the city. I really don't see a bad side to Unigov if it's done right. Imagine, the mayor of Toledo could come from Sylvania, Ottawa Hills, or Maumee. It depends how they negotiate it. But the burbs have all the power in my opinion, and in this respect, they could really benefit from Unigov.

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