Sunday, September 23, 2012

EDITORIAL: Explore options to pay for city’s rising costs

A number of seemingly unrelated things happened this week that should illustrate a call to action for city leaders.

First, the county announced the beginning of a process to remove many of the abandoned homes around Mansfield. Secondly, firefighters responded to even more suspicious fires in
some of those same abandoned homes in the downtown area. Finally, Mayor Tim Theaker stressed the importance of voters passing a proposed income tax to offset the cost of running the city.

The city seems to be caught in a sort of catch-22 situation that should
have been handled years ago.

The failure to enforce city codes and allow homes to become so dilapidated that they are now dangerous is simply unacceptable.

These eyesores are far more than just a blight on our city, they are a serious threat to members of our safety services who have to chase out vandals and drug users. Firefighters put their own lives in jeopardy when they are forced to work in these crumbling homes.

“If there’s one good reason for the demolition of the vacant houses in Mansfield, it’s this right here,” Mansfield fire Capt. Guy Daly said last week. “This is going to get a fireman killed.”

The reality, though, is that code enforcement takes time and personnel, something the city is extremely short on these days.

In his plea to voters last week, Theaker said people should understand the city has cut expenses all it can.

“We have kept cutting and kept cutting,” Theaker said. “We’re trying to match our revenues.”

He compared the city to a wageearner who is not bringing in enough income.

“We either have to go back and get a second job or live within our means,” he said. “We (city employees) are trying to go out for another job.”

Here’s the thing, if the city had forced homeowners to keep up their properties when it had the resources to do so, it may have reduced the need for such drastic measures. Mansfield, like many municipalities, uses code enforcement as more than just a beautification tool. It can be used as a revenue stream when enforced properly.

However, these homes that are going up in flames now have nearly no value to any homeowner. The city is caught in a downward spiral that will stop only when every eyesore is gone, or when the city decides it will begin enforcing the property codes.

“We’ve got to keep the services that we’ve got at a level our citizens are expecting,” Theaker said last week.

Going to the taxpayers for more money is just one idea. We encourage the city to explore other options as well as it seeks to pay for rising costs.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

EDITORIAL: A few questions for the president

We have no doubt that when President Barack Obama visits Mansfield on Wednesday, it will be a highly scripted event.

Any president who has occupied the White House has been saddle with the heavy burden of protocol.

As it should be.

We hope, however, that when the president visits our community, he will take the time to get to know us a little.

We also hope to learn more about him and how another four years in office might benefit Mansfield and Richland County.

If we had the chance, we’d ask a few questions.

Our first question to the president would be: What about the C-27J program at Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport?

The Air National Guard base where Air Force One will land remains threatened by Obama’s proposed cuts to the military budget.

With no replacement mission for the 179th, the cargo planes that served so valiantly in Afghanistan could be scrapped next year.

The cost to operate these planes — and staff the Air National Guard unit — is far lower than any alternative aircraft operated by our full-time military. We have proven the cost effectiveness of the 179th, yet the president’s military budget has proposed eliminating the aircraft and ending the 179th’s mission in Mansfield.

Beyond the threat to national security, Mansfield stands to lose nearly 1,000 jobs if the president gets his way.

So, Mr. President, please explain to the people of Mansfield why the U.S. government wants to eliminate such a worthwhile part of our community and nation.

Next, Mr. President, we are looking for any insight you might have regarding the sale of the former General Motors plant in Ontario.

The once-vital part of our community provided several thousand jobs.

When the plant was idled, the jobs vanished, but the workers remained in our community, ready for whatever might take GM’s place. To date, nothing has. The federally managed trust overseeing the sale of the plant continues to say a sale is close.

We are assuming the president has some idea of what is going on about the pending sale, and we would like him to tell us what it might mean to the future of our community.

Finally, whatever happened to the war on drugs?

In a News Journal report last month, we learned there are almost 80,000 job openings across the state, but not enough drug-free applicants to fill them. As many as 10 percent of all applicants locally are not passing their pre-employment drug test.

Even more alarming, up to 20 percent of active employees involved in accidents fail post-accident drug tests. Across the county line, 84 percent of those incarcerated in Crawford County are there because of drug-related charges.

This is unacceptable. We need help.

Mr. President, how can you help us slow the growth of drug use that is devastating our local economy?

We are certain other communities across the United States have similar problems.

We look forward to the president’s visit and hope that we will receive more than boilerplate campaign answers to these and other questions that our residents might have.