If we thought we had less money in 2008, wait until 2009.
High gas prices, stagnant wages and a plunging stock market played havoc last year with personal finances, but if you can predict the future from the headlines of 2008 the ride to the bottom may not be over.
Local governments and schools struggled. In Toledo, some ice-covered residential streets could have been safely negotiated over the holidays only by Santa’s sleigh. A lack of salt is blamed. A new garbage pick-up schedule, which will save $400,000 annually, is more complicated than a Rubik's Cube. And, 1,000 city employees recently received layoff notices.
Despite this dire situation, one city union turned down a wage freeze and a request to share in health care costs.
What's a city to do?
Not likely in this economic climate.
Toledo raised red light camera fees and Oregon may bill citizens for rescue runs and increase fines for handicap parking violators. This is just the start. Home values fell in 2008 and will continue to do so. This means less revenue for the public sector and increased pressure to fine you more or tax you in creative ways. For example, Pemberville attempted a special levy to fund police service. It failed.
Be prepared to give time too. Frustrated residents on one Toledo street used pick-axes and shovels to do what they expected the city to do--clean their street. And, in Rocky Ridge, volunteers built the fire station.
We'll get through this, but it will be painful. While governments struggle to fund police and fire service and buy asphalt and salt, don't expect a remedy for our flooding woes. Pemberville was hit last year with its worst flood since 1950. Heavy flooding also occurred in Lake Township, Millbury, Northwood and Oregon. In Oregon, city officials will look at flow meters and lagoons to keep water out of basements.
Flooding was not our only concern with water. Lake Erie was on the front page numerous times as we tried to balance industry with recreation. The Bayshore Power plant wants to increase mercury emissions and the proposed coking plant will add more of this deadly discharge to a lake that gives us drinking water, thousands of jobs and millions of tourist dollars.
Mercury levels and invasive species are just two enemies we face in “The Second Battle of Lake Erie,” according to U.S. Senator George Voinovich.
Sen. Voinovich was in Oregon last year to lead a panel of environmental experts in an effort to land $150 million annually from the feds for Lake Erie restoration projects.
The new head of that government--President-Elect Barack Obama--spent a few days at Maumee Bay State Park preparing for a debate. Some waited hours for a glimpse.
On the education front, Owens Community College joined the University of Toledo in offering free tuition to needy students who maintain good grades. Who’ll pick up the tab? Middle class parents and their children?
Meanwhile, voters in Toledo and Genoa passed bond issues to secure millions in tobacco money. Genoa will build an elementary school, Toledo will renovate Waite. And, finally in education, the Lake School Board did what many of us have long wished someone would do--it banned a parent from athletic events for verbally abusing a coach.
In other good news, the thief who stole the identity of Mayor Marge Brown of Oregon and portrayed his uncouth words as hers no longer has a Web site.
Speaking of abuse, or alleged abuse, a female officer in Oregon sued the department for sex discrimination and retaliation for her deposition in a lawsuit filed by another female officer. The suit is just one of three that made the pages of The Press. In another, a man sued the department stating he was arrested without cause after three women struck him and shoved him down the stairs of an apartment complex. In the third case, former Police Chief Thomas Gulch sued the city for allegedly failing to pay him thousands of dollars in accrued sick leave.
Putting animosity aside during this time of peace on Earth, there were warm and fuzzy stories too. In one, Jodi Harrington completed her 4,834 hike across America to raise funds for a friend stricken with a neurological disease. In another, farmers allowed community groups to glean vegetables for local food pantries. One group, the Society of St. Andrew's, delivered nearly 10.1 million pounds of salvaged potatoes and other produce to Ohio's needy.
And, in an act of friendship, a group of Oregon men helped pass a bill to make hunting more accessible for their friend and other physically-impaired hunters.
Through this good and bad news, we also took time to marvel at the two-faced kitten that drew visitors to a car dealership on Woodville Road. The owner said the unique feline is a “blessing from God.”
There is hope.
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