Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lucas County Government

The city of Sylvania has successfully purchased a white elephant from Toledo, conclusively proving that Sylvania mayor Craig Stough doesn't know what to do with the copious tax surplus he's hidden in the city mattress.  The elephant in question, Christmas Wonderland, has been stored at the Lucas County Recreation Center since 1963.  The display consists of 1960s robotic elves, reindeer and life size commercial figures of the sort we used to find in the display windows of department stores downtown.  This was back in the days when we had elevator operators.  The Toledo Blade wrote about it here.

Meanwhile, Ben Konop, aided and abetted by the Toledo Blade, is trying to revolutionize Lucas county government.  The Blade continues to champion his efforts (click here) and strangely refuses to answer any pertinent questions, such as why Lucas county needs a new form of government headed up by a county czar.  Maggie Thurber has written about this a few times.  Click here for her latest effort, which is worth reading, here for an explanation of the charter form of government.  Under the charter form of government, Lucas county would be ruled by a County Czar, a descriptive title coined by Francine Lawrence.
Francine Lawrence, president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers union, termed the proposed new county executive a "county czar,"...
You see, the way the county government is set up now the county commissioners are restricted by Ohio law.  They have no real legislative power and this irks all three of them no end, hence the push to change to a form of government which would allow one person to control the county without much oversight - an idea of questionable merit.

Which brings me to the point of my rambling.  When Sylvania first bid on this nostalgic eyesore, they were in competition with a private individual who also wanted the display.  Faced with two bids, the Lucas county government was trying to decide who to sell the display to based on what the buyer was going to do with the display, rather than simply selling this junk to the highest bidder.  The problem the commissioners had to overcome is that Ohio law forbids this behavior.  From The Blade:
In reviewing the two proposals, county Administrator Peter Ujvagi wrote in an e-mail how the "administration" concluded that the Sylvania group's plan "was the best by a significant margin." However, the administration soon learned that it must award the contract strictly to the highest bidder.
The highest bidder in this case was Bob Farley out of Perrysburg.  Bob had a plan to show the display in various parts of the county on a sort of rotating schedule so that more people could enjoy it.
John Borell, assistant Lucas County prosecutor, said county officials wanted to look at factors in addition to cost in determining which offer was best.
"They were going to evaluate the bid based on what the person was going to do with the personal property, but Ohio law [emphasis added] only allows personal property to be sold to the highest bidder" in that situation, Mr. Borell told The Blade.

And there it is, that pesky Ohio law.  The State of Ohio prevents the Lucas county government from enforcing the whims of the commissioners on the subjects residents of the county, and with good reason.  The charter form of government would change all that and allow the County Czar to dictate law and operation of the county to the mere civilians unfortunate enough to live in Lucas county.

Mind you, this doesn't prevent reprehensible behavior on the part of the county commissioners; it just makes their underhanded behavior a little more difficult.  In this case Pete Gerken and Tina Skeldon Wozniak turned to their second best ambulance chaser, assistant Lucas County prosecutor John Borell, who found a loop hole big enough to drive an antique Christmas display through.  From The Blade:

However, there is a caveat allowing the transfer or sale of property in this situation to another "political subdivision," such as a county, township, or governmentlike body like the Sylvania recreation district, Mr. Borell said.

So the county administration rejected the two bids and solicited new bids from just governmental entities.

The Sylvania group had the only bid in the second round.
Imagine that! Miracle of Christmas, Sylvania had the only bid and so won easily. How much was the bid, anyway? (sarcastic rhetorical question)

One dollar.  That's right, $1 in U.S. currency.  One dead president, peanut, greenback or buck. Whatever you'd like to call it.

Bob Farley said that the whole thing sounded like a set up from the beginning.  He's right.

Now here's the real question: Just who the hell is dumb enough to want someone with these morals writing, passing and enforcing law?

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