TOLEDO CITY HALL | MARCH 23, 2023
Today we are gathered to proclaim that a for-profit Corporation is not the same as a person and that money is not the same as free speech.
I speak for all the members of the two cosponsoring groups: Our Revolution in Northwest Ohio and Toledo Move to Amend. Thank you City Council for the recent passage of Move to Amend resolution and Medicare for all Resolution coming partly as a result of Democracy Days 2021 and Democracy Day 2022. You now join 22 states, and 800 cities and towns, who have also passed Move To Amend resolutions.
These communities understand what President Jimmy Carter declared. Let us take a moment to honor President Carter as he has just entered hospice care in Georgia. These are some of his words about the Citizens United 2010 Supreme court decision:
- Citizens United has turned America into an “oligarchy with unlimited political bribery.”
- Citizens United “violates the essence” of our democracy and represents “the biggest change in America” since he was elected in 1976.
- Citizens United has left everyday Americans “cheated out of” the chance to make their lives better.
- Citizens United has led to “a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors.”
To further the cause of correcting this Supreme Court error, we are asking that each individual elected council member now take the Pledge to Amend that I have a printed here. As you listen to testimony tonight that shows how for-profit corporate Greed has undermined the quality of life for our citizens and the common good, you are likely to be inspired to sign this Pledge. I will collect these at the end of today’s Hearing. (Give copies to Gerald.)
(And to the listening audience), And you as participates in Democracy Day 2023, hear the testimony today, feel free to sign this Petition to Amend. Signing this form places you in communication with events around the state declaring that a corporation is not a person and money is not free speech. (Distribute clipboards to all). Please trust these forms are to be used only for the purposes of information to Move to Amend organization.
You will hear today a small sliver of the massive problems that are caused when floods of corporate money flows into the policy making arena. Each presenter will show us the negative impact on neighborhood, community, City and Statewide impact that unrestrained corporate power has had on us. And impact the common good and will and welfare of the citizens.
As case in point is climate disruption. It is now beyond climate change, it is disruptive. Today I speak on behalf of the members of Climate Reality Project in Northwest Ohio. We are a group of climate concerned citizens that authored a letter to Council and the Mayor, congratulating them on passing the 1% sustainability funding and having a goal of 30% reduction of Greenhouse gasses by 2030. Although we have not heard directly from you in response, we trust there is significant progress being made in carbon reduction. Climate Reality stands in strong support and encouragement of this goal.
Past House leader, Larry Householder has now made a household name for himself thanks to cooperating with our monopoly Utility company here in Northwest Ohio, First Energy. It is the view of Climate Reality that council members and Mayor, we must work with First Energy Corporation to service the greater good and immediately and substantially reduce our carbon footprint. Beware, for-profit corporations have a long history of ignoring climate threat and lobby heavily for laws that serve better selfish profits over the public and planetary good.
Please sign on to Move To Amend.
You have sworn an oath as elected representatives to uphold the Constitution of the United States. As a member of the Board of Health, so have I.
Our Constitution’s first sentence calls upon us to “form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity”.
I believe there are three existential issues that we must immediately address: Securing our democracy, our environment, and our health. Any of us who obstruct these efforts are not worthy of the the trust or the votes of our fellow citizens.
Voting rights must be protected, otherwise, we have little hope of securing our democracy, which is clearly under threat. We are at risk of becoming an oligarchic plutocracy (minority rule by the few who are rich). Ohioans can see these efforts to attack our democracy in the gerrymandered districts that we overwhelmingly voted to abolish and the Ohio Supreme Court found unconstitutional. We cannot allow this to go on without risking our democracy. Voters must choose their representatives, not the reverse. We should be enabling the vote, not suppressing it. Clearly, greed and money combined with political power is poisoning our democracy. Corporations are not people and money is not speech. We must support these principles, even if we must amend the our constitution.
Second, the climate crisis is a clear and present danger not just to us but the entire planet. We must end our dependence on fossil fuels both for the planet and for our national security. The dangers of energy dependence are clear. The Iraq and Ukraine conflicts have shown us the necessity of energy independence. It is key to our security and our democracy both here and abroad. At the same time we must also control the toxins that are the by products of our society. We must reduce, re-use and recycle before we are living neck-deep in our own waste.
I could cite the tragedy in East Palestine, Ohio. But that train went right through our own city on its way to disaster. Toxins from that crash will eventually drain into the Ohio River and the Mississippi. We could just as easily name Toledo as the poster child. Only a decade ago we could not drink our water because of toxic algae blooms In Lake Erie. Do we think that we can just ignore our failure to control the fertilizer applications and concentrated animal feeding operations that are still threatening the largest fresh water reserves in the world? How do we forget so quickly and ignore this clear and present danger to all who depend on water from Lake Erie?
Let me thank you for your wisdom in acting to relieve medical debt in Toledo. But medical debt is just a symptom of our inhumane sickness care non-system. We have spent 100 years debating healthcare for all. We need “USA healthcare”- Universal, Simple and Affordable. We have our own homegrown American national health insurance program, Medicare, which can be improved and expanded to cover everyone. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released two reports showing that by improving and expanding Medicare to everyone, we can have “USA healthcare”. The CBO confirms the simplicity of an improved expanded Medicare for all will save over $400 billion annually. These savings can be used to expand and improve Medicare into universal coverage while allowing complete choice of doctors and hospitals without copays or deductibles, and it will be affordable with no additional costs for those making less than $400,000 a year. CBO estimates Medicare for All would save at least $40 billion annually while still holding providers whole using all payer rates. The second CBO report finds that improved Medicare for all would also benefit the economy over time. Workers would be able to work fewer hours while becoming more productive. The wealth of working families and the Gross Domestic Product would both likely increase. What stands in our way? Corporate greed and the money the money used to influence politicians. Our Congress could amend the Medicare laws tomorrow to make healthcare a human right in this country. We must demand action.
We ask that every decision you make as city leaders should be measured against these needs: will it protect and preserve our democracy, will it protect and preserve the environment, will it protect and preserve our health?
Johnathon Ross MD MPH
3468 Brookside Road
Ottawa Hills, Ohio 43606
Ph 419 270 3621 | ([email protected])
Hello and thank you for being here to listen to the concerns of Toledoans for Democracy Day. My name is Ellen Federman and I live in the Old Orchard neighborhood (right down the street from Mayor Kapszukiewicz) in Sam Melden’s district. I’m a member of Climate Reality Project and also addressed you last year.
The sixth report card on climate was released this week from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the news was not good. The world is likely to miss its climate target, limiting warming to 2.7 degrees F above preindustrial temperatures, within a decade. “The choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years.” Sustainability must be at the forefront of every community’s planning process, including Toledo’s.
I’m very pleased that you have allocated 1% for sustainability. I was recently informed that the proposal for a qualified consultant is in the works. We encourage you to expedite this right away. It’s been talked about for too long and now it’s time to go from talk to action. What is the status of your hiring a sustainability director? Has the sustainability commission been put together yet?
What are your plans for carbon reduction? If you want to meet your stated goal of 30% reduction by 2030 that only allows you 7 years to achieve it. I’m concerned that without carbon reduction your fine goal of planning, planting, maintaining and replacing trees could be for naught. It’s likely that our climate could become like that of Atlanta, GA and threaten our trees with water scarcity and heat stress. Carbon reduction is the backbone of every sustainability goal. If we don’t develop robust plans for energy investment that potential money will leave Toledo and go elsewhere.
You have enumerated many worthwhile goals, but when are you going to put these goals into action? Looking around Ohio, Dayton’s strategy includes buying or leasing more electric vehicles, amending the city building code to streamline the permitting and approval process for the installation of solar panels, and ensuring city employees can recycle at all city owned buildings and facilities. In addition, Columbus is working towards a 40% greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2030, increasing commercial rooftop, parking canopy and ground mount solar systems by 2030, and most innovatively, Columbus Green Spot where Columbus residents can learn about living and working greener and commit to doing it. It inspires, educates, and recognizes households, businesses, and community groups that adopt green practices. It seems like this would be a very worthwhile program for Toledo to emulate. And Cincinnati plans to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050, transition the city’s fleet to be 100% electric by 2035, and make all city facilities, fleets, and operations carbon neutral by 2035. Cincinnati will soon be home to the largest city-established solar array in the country!
Let’s not lag behind other Ohio cities. You are onboard in theory, but we need to get onboard with action.
Our local chapter of the Climate Reality Project will be happy to assist in any way we can. It’s time to move from talk to action. Climate change won’t wait until a convenient time!
Democracy Day 2023 – Accountable to the Citizens
by C. A. Matthews
“Accountable to the citizens, not Wall Street.”
This is a bullet point I read on an Ohio Single-Payer Action Network (SPAN) leaflet. It begins by stating “Realizing the right to health care,” and follows with the idea that health care should be, “Universal,” and “Have high quality standards of care for all.” Health care should also be “Publicly financed” and emphasizes that it “Is not tied to employment.” All of these are excellent points to make, but the one I want to focus on today, Democracy Day 2023, is this: “Accountable to the citizens, not Wall Street.”
To put it bluntly, our health, our safety, and our lives should never be made subservient to the whims and the profits of corporations. Even simpler yet—no one should be making money off of anyone’s illness or need for medical treatment. But time and time again we read headlines such as: “Big Pharmaceutical makes billions off of new vaccine whose research was publicly funded.” We read headlines about how the US is the only so-called developed nation where families go bankrupt trying to pay for their health care—health care that is provided freely, as a public service, in most other developed countries.
“Accountable to the citizens, not Wall Street.” So, why aren’t we holding Wall Street accountable for the thousands of preventable deaths each year in the US, deaths caused by the lack of access to health care? What are we afraid of really by not holding Wall Street accountable? Not being bullied to death by billionaires?
Wall Street not only rules our access to health care, it also rules our ability to remain safe in our homes and communities. One recent example drives this point home more than ever: The toxic chemical burn instigated after the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. This prescribed burn of derailed tanker cars full of vinyl chloride released phosgene gas into the air and extremely poisonous dioxins into the environment.
If you’re old enough to remember the EPA Super Fund site of the village of Times Beach, Missouri, you’ll remember just how teratogenic and carcinogenic dioxins are to human life. If you’re old enough to remember learning about the First World War, you’ll recall that phosgene gas was a colorless gas that killed thousands of soldiers in the trenches.
Let’s not mince words here—Norfolk Southern very openly pursues stock buybacks and profits over the public’s safety. As time goes by and health issues such as lymphoma, emphysema, and other cancers arise, we’ll see that how this corporation put their profits over the very lives of our fellow Ohioans. This is immoral. How can any decent human being put the pursuit of wealth accumulation over the health and safety of others? But I forget—Norfolk Southern may be considered a “person” by the law of corporate personhood, although it has none of the responsibility or accountability a human being would have if he or she “chemically nuked” their neighbors just to get a railroad line open faster after a derailment in order to continue making profits.
Scarier still, this type of event probably won’t be the last time a train-full of toxic chemicals derails in the Buckeye State. That same Norfolk Southern train that derailed in East Palestine passed through Toledo earlier. What if that train had derailed in Toledo? Would we be standing here sharing our thoughts today at Democracy Day, or would we have been evacuated to a safer locale instead? Would we be discussing the rights of corporations to have the same rights as persons or the fact that we all had just been poisoned by a for-profit venture that couldn’t care less about our health and safety?
Our state attorney general has recently started a lawsuit against Norfolk Southern, to sue for damages from the derailment, but can money alone repay the harm caused to our neighbors in East Palestine? Can money alone bring the thousands of heads of livestock, fish, birds, deer, and other wildlife back from the dead? Can money alone relieve fears, rejuvenate the town’s ruined reputation, or realize a perfectly reborn environment in Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania?
Money can’t buy love, and it certainly can’t bring back the dead. Not even corporate persons with deep pockets like Norfolk Southern have that kind of godlike power. The best option in this case is to never let something like the derailment and toxin burn that happened in East Palestine ever happen again.
Money can’t buy everything. We the People shouldn’t accept it alone as redress for these incalculable losses. I think we as citizens of Toledo, subject to to three days without drinkable water in 2014, can empathize with the plight of the people of East Palestine, as we also suffered—and still suffer—from corporations’ rights taking precedence over human beings’ rights when it comes to our water.
The Lake Erie Bill of Rights, better known as LEBOR, demonstrates that concerned citizens have caught on to the specious argument that “corporations are people.” Our rights to clean water were abridged by factory farm corporations who continually dump untreated animal wastes into our drinking water supply. Drewes Farms claimed in their lawsuit against LEBOR that they had the right of “free speech,” and that their “rights” would be abridged if they had to clean up their animals’ effluence before it entered into the Maumee River watershed. If I hadn’t been sitting in the courtroom that day the verdict was read, I would have never believed such a specious argument could have convinced a judge, but heck—they won, didn’t they?
I suppose Norfolk Southern will argue their rights to “free speech” could be abridged, just like Drewes Farms, if they were forbidden to burn toxic chemicals from their derailed train cars in East Palestine and elsewhere. I’m not that optimistic the state of Ohio will ever see any meaningful recompense for the victims of the burn from the dream team of lawyers that Norfolk Southern is lining up even as I speak. As I sat in that courtroom, I experienced up close what corporate money and lobbying does in the state of Ohio and in this country. It doesn’t protect the right of the people, that’s for sure.
Without possessing massive amounts of money like corporations, we mere human beings are defenseless. This means that We the People must take direct action to protect ourselves from these corporate-caused harms to our health, safety and environment.
On this Democracy Day, I propose that the city of Toledo resurrect its bravery that it displayed defending LEBOR and pass resolutions to protect its citizens from potential harms caused by toxic chemicals transported through our city. Trains, trucks, barges, boats, and planes can all carry toxic substances that, if leaked into our environment, can kill, injure, and maim our people, pets, livestock and wildlife. We can’t afford to let that happen. If what happened in East Palestine happened here in Toledo, a city with at least 60 times the population, it would have made the national news in less than three days and possibly even enticed Mayor Pete or President Biden to visit us in less then a week rather than a month later (or not at all).
Toledoans must put human rights above corporate profits and institute rules, regulations and safety procedures to prevent derailments or spills of toxins into our city’s environment. To ignore this potential threat or to think that only higher levels of government can or will handle this kind of emergency is to ignore the reality of the corporate owned and operated political system Americans are currently trapped in. Our neighbors in East Palestine discovered that ordinary Americans can’t depend on the federal or the state EPA to test for toxins or even to give us the truth about our health and safety in a timely manner. We the People must fend for ourselves as a community. We can do it.
Last year, Toledo instituted a program to pay off the outstanding medical debts of its citizens. This compassionate act has been duplicated in numerous cities across the US since then. Clearly, we have the smarts and the empathy to take care of our own. Toledo doesn’t have to bow down and kiss corporations’ backsides and put up with so-called “corporate persons” polluting our water, land, and air. We can fight back, and we should fight back.
It’s time for Toledo to become known as a city where human rights reign supreme and corporate profits take a back seat to our community’s health and safety. Toledo can make a difference and should make a difference in the world—a positive, human-centric difference. Our children and grandchildren will thank us for our insight and bravery. Thank you for listening.
How Corporate Greed Destroyed East Palestine (Documentary film by Second Thought) https://youtu.be/TcSLlveDu6k
Another Norfolk Southern Train Derailed as Its CEO Testified Before the Senate https://truthout.org/articles/another-norfolk-southern-train-derailed-as-its-ceo-testified-before-the-senate/
Railroad Executives Got Cash, In Part For ‘Record’ Train Length
Norfolk Southern Conductor Killed in Crash as Train Safety Bill Faces Pushback https://truthout.org/articles/norfolk-southern-engineer-killed-in-crash-as-train-safety-bill-faces-pushback/
Norfolk Southern’s “six point plan” for rail safety: More PR damage control after East Palestine, Ohio derailment
Norfolk Southern Cargo Train Derailed Near Springfield (Ohio) https://www.dispatch.com/story/news/2023/03/04/cargo-train-derails-springfield-clark-county-ohio/69972311007/
East Palestine, Ohio And The Oligarchy https://popularresistance.org/east-palestine-ohio-and-the-oligarchy/
Angry residents confront EPA and railroad officials at East Palestine, Ohio town hall https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2023/03/04/rail-m04.html
Norfolk Southern Used Sick Leave as a Bargaining Chip to Erode Safety, Union Says https://truthout.org/articles/norfolk-southern-used-sick-leave-as-bargaining-chip-to-erode-safety-union-says/
"Too Many Holes": Rail Workers Say Buttigieg Plan of Action is Not Enough https://popularresistance.org/too-many-holes-rail-workers-say-buttigieg-plan-of-action-is-not-enough/
East Palestine Residents Confront Norfolk Southern at Town Hall Meeting https://truthout.org/articles/east-palestine-residents-confront-norfolk-southern-at-town-hall-meeting/
Rail Workers Demand Immediate Action from Lawmakers to Rein in Rail Industry https://truthout.org/articles/rail-workers-demand-immediate-action-from-lawmakers-to-rein-in-rail-industry/
Exposure to Chevron's Climate Friendly Fuel May Pose Severe Risk of Cancer https://truthout.org/articles/exposure-to-chevrons-climate-friendly-fuel-may-pose-severe-risk-of-cancer/
Poison and Private Police: Norfolk Southern Destroys East Palestine https://odysee.com/@TheGrayzone:c/poison-and-private-police-norfolk:a
A Norfolk Southern Policy Lets Officials Order Crews To Ignore Safety Alerts https://scheerpost.com/2023/02/23/a-norfolk-southern-policy-lets-officials-order-crews-to-ignore-safety-alerts/
Cincinnati-area Water Districts Shut Off Intake from the Ohio River Due to Contamination from East Palestine Derailment https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2023/02/20/eubz-f20.html
Organizations Across Ohio Mobilize to Provide Mutual Aid to Residents of East Palestine, Ohio https://popularresistance.org/organizations-across-ohio-mobilize-to-provide-mutual-aid-to-residents-of-east-palestine-ohio/
IN FULL DETAIL: They Won’t Tell You This About Ohio Train Derailment (Video) Caution: contains images of dead chickens. Richard Medhurst as a Brit gives us good insights into how American capitalism so readily puts corporate profits before people’s safety. https://youtu.be/HDFXHYGF7T0
The Toxic Rail Disaster in Ohio: The Homicidal Indifference of the Ruling Class Laid Bare https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2023/02/15/zbrv-f15.html
Biden DOJ Backing Norfolk Southern’s Bid To Block Lawsuits https://www.levernews.com/bidens-doj-backing-norfolk-southern-case-to-block-lawsuits/
Rail Company Claims East Palestine Water Is Safe After Funding Sloppy Testing https://truthout.org/articles/rail-company-claims-east-palestine-water-is-safe-after-funding-sloppy-testing
Worried About Toxins in East Palestine Water?
East Palestine: The Place You Don't Want to Be! https://www.thebrockovichreport.com/p/east-palestine-the-place-you-dont
The Ohio Train Disaster Is on Biden’s Hands https://www.leftvoice.org/the-ohio-train-derailment-is-on-bidens-hands/
The East Palestine rail disaster and the case for workers’ power https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2023/02/18/pers-f18.html
The Chemical Disaster in East Palestine, Ohio (Video from the indie journos of Unicorn Riot) https://youtu.be/nCqu5oMxTZg
Capitalism's Solution to the Toxic Ohio Train Derailment is, "Figure it out Yourselves MF'ers" (video) https://youtu.be/uMn9n521ono
Ohio Train Disaster: How Corruption and Greed Created Catastrophe, w/ David Sirota | SYSTEM UPDATE (video) https://youtu.be/WjUmg5Gn6Bk
East Palestine Now Being Blamed on Russia! No Kidding (video) https://youtu.be/X4K7mDTAJAs
An excerpt from The East Palestine Rail Disaster and the Case for Workers’ Power https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2023/02/18/pers-f18.html
Every year, there are more than 1,000 derailments in the United States, an average of around three per day. In only the short time since the disaster in East Palestine, a derailment occurred in Houston, Texas, which led to one death, and another in Van Buren Township, Michigan, which involved the derailment of another chemical car.
The reasons for this high rate of accidents are well-known to 120,000 railroaders in the US. The locomotives, railroads and workforce have been driven into the ground by years of cost-cutting by management. Trains have been lengthened to up to three miles long, controlled by only two people. Because of Precision Scheduled Railroading and similar attendance policies, workers are often forced to operate these massive machines with only a couple of hours of sleep.
The train involved in the derailment in East Palestine, known as 32N or “32 Nasty” among train crews, was long known to be particularly dangerous.
This has not only endangered railroad workers, but the public as a whole. But the more the railroads have been driven to the brink of collapse and the more communities along the railroads are endangered, the higher the railroads’ profits go up.
The railroad industry is the most profitable industry in America. Last year, Norfolk Southern reported profits of $3.2 billion, a record for the company. Rather than investing in infrastructure, let alone improving the conditions for workers, the company has spent $18 billion over the past five years in stock buybacks and dividends, that is, handouts to investors. The same pattern is present in all the major rail companies.
Op-ed proposal for the Columbus Dispatch (published)
Would the February 3 train derailment in East Palestine occurred had ordinary people had a say on the factors that contributed to it? For instance, who among us would exempt companies from fully disclosing the contents of their toxic cargo? Who would permit a train of 150 cars to operate with a crew of just two—and then deny railroad workers paid sick days. Would any of you even consider reversing a safety mandate to install new brake systems?
My guess is that nary a soul would agree to these or any conditions that put others at risk. That is not what people do.
It is, however, what soulless businesses focused on profits do. Empowered by the US Supreme Court’s stance that they are “people,” wealthy corporations are able to legally push through policies that reflect goals very different than ours. Real people care about family, communities, the environment, and a sustainable future. As the recent railroad catastrophe demonstrates, powerful corporations instead prioritize profits and policies that will boost those margins, regardless how they may endanger all that real people hold dear.
While grassroots groups, unions, and concerned citizens have fought each egregious policy that led to the Ohio train disaster, their shoestring budgets are no match for corporate lobbyists and influence peddling. In 2010, the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling further flung open the floodgates of campaign spending, rendering ordinary citizens’ voices nearly mute in legislatures. Had state and federal officials listened to the people instead of big corporations, the residents of East Palestine would not today be in such grave danger.
Ohioans must demand that our representatives support responsible policies, not reprehensible ones that routinely sail through legislatures. Though a daunting duty, it is possible once we understand that decades of Supreme Court decisions have transformed corporations into Super Persons. By declaring these powerful non-humans entities “constitutional persons,” the Court entitles them to our constitutional rights. Real people have them, too, but not the unlimited wealth that Super Persons have to exert their influence over us. This must change.
Holding our legislators accountable as public servants means expecting them to serve the public, not powerful corporations. In elections, therefore, voters should look for candidates with proven records of working for the People rather than for Big Money donors. Following the funding behind expensive media spots and mailers will help reveal who is who. Likewise, seek out those candidates with good ideas but not the finances to widely publicize them. (If that is you, consider running.) Also, consult Move to Amend at https://www.movetoamend.org/pledge-amend-respondents#ohio to learn who supports the “We the People” amendment. This amendment will abolish the corrupt notions that corporations are people and that the money they spend a legitimate expression of free speech. Ending both will put “We the People” in the charge of our democracy.
In general, be wary of narratives claiming that Americans are too divided to work together. In fact, we are profoundly united. Americans champion democracy, decry corporatocracy, celebrate just policies, and oppose those that may harm communities and the environment now and in the future. Undoubtedly, if asked directly, we would have voted overwhelmingly in favor of full disclosures of hazardous materials in-transit, adequate numbers of crew members for every job, and modern braking systems on trains.
Ohioans, take this avoidable tragedy in our state as a wake-up call. If lawmakers were representing our values, there would not have been a New Palestine disaster of this explosive magnitude, if at all. The lesson is clear. To protect ourselves, others, and our democracy, we must ensure that We the People, not powerful corporations, are directing public policies.
Move to Amend
To members of council,
I hope my remarks open a broad, continuing discussion within the entire community on how corporate welfare in the form of tax abatements is bleeding our citizens dry. In my view, this is the majority reason we constantly see ballot levies for schools, roads and libraries, etc. Or why As of this week, residents’ now will be assessed for public sidewalks damaged by city trees in front of our homes, while corporations often pay nothing and reap the benefits the rest of us pay for.
First, I want to publicly congratulate City Council for a wise decision from February of 2020. You were considering an ordinance to give a California developer a tax abatement to remove asbestos at Secor Road’s Elder Beerman. They purchased the building with known asbestos. No other developer with similar 1960s-era properties on Secor asked us to pay their cost of doing business.
After you considered citizen-researched data on the real losses to 6 taxing authorities, including majority share of costs placed on the backs of school children, by a vote of 11 to 1, Council said no to the California developer.
The Economic Development Director was pitching for the developer, playing a skilled game of hide the ball for a while. But once the numbers from the developer’s actual application were revealed, simple calculations showed that they were asking for corporate welfare in $4.5 million over 15 years while the applicant’s stated expense was only $1.2 million.
Asbestos removal is currently underway at the old store. A recent Blade report revealed actual costs could be as low as $600,000. Three years and post-pandemic, expenses are being paid from the developer’s pocket and not ours. They wanted seven and half times the actual cost. Depending on which generational reference works for you, neither Scrooge McDuck nor Dr. Evil could hold a candle to these guys!
Despite that great decision, corporate tax abatements already on the books are killing us. My info is directly from the County Auditor.
In just three of 32 possible tax exemption categories, there are over 2,000 Toledo parcels receiving property tax exemption. I call attention to those three categories: Tax Increment Financing or TIF, Community Reinvestment Area or CRA, and Enterprise Zone or EZ.
To be clear, I’m not even talking tax forgiveness for churches, schools or libraries. No, what I’m talking about, among others, are profit-making corporations which manufacture products, charge residential rents, collect your cash for a parking spot, or make you pay for the hamburger you eat at their restaurant.
The total assessed value of those 2,000 properties is just under $600 million. So I don’t give everyone a math migraine, I’ll try to simplify my discussion.
My residential property has an auditor’s assessed value of about $122,000. My property tax this year is $2,525 to be divided amongst 6 necessary taxing functions such as schools, the city and the library.
All the next examples I next give have one or more corporate property tax exemptions. They pay NO property taxes.
- FCA-US, better known as Fiat Chrysler, has 6 municipal TIFs for parcels with a total assessed value of $119 million. FCA’s TIF properties are over 97,000 times the assessed value of mine. But their property tax burden is nothing, while I’ll pay over $2,500.
- General Motors Alexis Road plant is valued at $59.5 million, due to a CRA and an EZ.
- Amazon owns property Toledo gave them for $1. Assessed value today is $7.6 million.
- At times, government entities, such as city or county, own tax-exempted parcels but then lease the properties to profit-making corporations, such as Owens Corning. Toledo owns Owens Corning’s downtown $28 million site with two TIFs.
Many of those have received tax exemptions for years.
Westgate Village and Costco both received 15-year partial abatements in 2007 which expired this year. Finally, we see the impact of that lost tax base. Westgate Village’s tax bill this year is $436,000. Costco, with 2022 global revenues of $196 billion, will finally pay us $503,000. For 15-years, each had been paying partial tax bills of under $65,000 and $100,000 respectively.
An entire industry category which Council should scrutinize for tax abatements is real estate development. There’s not enough time today to describe the depth of loss to our community real estate tax abatements. I’ll let the photographs give you a small sample.
Developers, often from out of state, arrive and are being granted abatements for single family or condo sub-divisions and for thousands of rent-generating apartments. Then, many of the single-family and condo parcels, with assessed values up to $200,000, are sold off to private homeowners along with the remains of a sweet 15-year property tax abatement.
Except for cookie-cutter styling, these properties are comparable to single-family homes in Point Place, Trilby, Old Orchard or Heatherdowns, But we who live in those neighborhoods will each receive a property tax bill twice this year. But thanks to a savvy developer, no property taxes will be paid by this select group of individual owners.
All told, the value of residential real estate receiving property tax forgiveness in Toledo is at least $137 million dollars of assessed value.
Finally, a corporation’s hook is always “jobs, jobs, jobs.” At the very least, you should be passing an ordinance for audited verification of the actual jobs realized for EVERY year a corporation receives an abatement. When the jobs promise evaporates, so should the tax abatement.
Individual citizens can no longer suffer under the burden of corporate welfare in Toledo. Frankly, we should never have had to in the first place. Thank you and I welcome your questions.