Taking it to the people right choice
As plans for a Toledo Area Water Authority progress, planners have begun a town-by-town series of public-information sessions to sell the deal. In most communities, a vote from city council will be enough to join the new regional authority. That might not be enough for Toledo.
Before Toledo can join the new regional system, city officials will need to answer some legal questions and make a more persuasive pitch to its residents.
The city’s lawyers have had an evolving interpretation of the city charter when it comes to the regional water issues.
For several years, Toledo attorneys said the charter would not allow the city to sell its water treatment plant and other infrastructure to a new authority. But lately, city attorneys working for Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, who supports the regional water authority, have said a re-reading of the applicable section of the charter pursuades them that the sale would be legally permissible.
Lawyers also must wrestle with a charter clause that says the city must seek voter approval before granting a “general public utility franchise.” The question remains whether joining the Toledo Area Water Authority amounts to granting a franchise and triggers a referendum.
Giving the city’s residents a vote on the regional water plan risks sinking the whole deal. That would be a potential disaster for Toledo and the suburbs.
But this is a decision of such importance that city voters surely have a right to pass judgement. And giving city voters the power to affirm or nix the deal gives them ownership. It also forces the mayor of Toledo and the leaders of the suburbs to make their case.
Regardless of whether the charter forces Toledo officials to put regional water before voters, they should commit to a persuasive campaign that will convince residents that regional water is the best option for Toledo.
Taking it to the people is never a mistake.