Source: Sherman Publications

Leader Editorial: Oxford Village voters: NO on Prop. 1, YES on Prop. 2

by CJ Carnacchio

October 31, 2012

Sometimes government has good ideas and sometimes it has bad ideas.

Oxford Village currently has one of each and voters will decide their fate in the Nov. 6 election.

We are strongly encouraging voters to APPROVE the village’s Proposal 2, the municipality’s request for permission to sell the 3.42-acre property it owns at 98 S. Glaspie St.

We are also strongly encouraging voters to REJECT village Proposal 1, the municipality’s request for permission to sell the municipal complex and the 2-acres it sits on at 18-22 W. Burdick St.

Selling the 98 S. Glaspie St. property is a no-brainer.

Frankly, the village never, ever should have purchased it in the first place. Officials bought it for $700,000 back in 2006 and since then, the village has really done nothing with it.

It was a bad investment, period.

To be fair, officials have made some efforts to seek public input regarding potential uses for the property, but they’ve resulted in nothing except more head-scratching and more kicking the issue down the road.

Village residents never expressed much interest in utilizing this property, but at the same time, officials didn’t pursue other avenues to garner citizen input besides the usual public hearings. The old, “If you hold it, they will come” philosophy doesn’t always work. People are extremely busy these days. Government has to be more aggressive and much more creative when it comes to soliciting public input.

But even if the village had come up with some grand plan for the property, the municipality doesn’t have enough money to do anything of substance with it. It doesn’t even have spare funds to provide adequate matching monies for a grant.

As it is, the village is struggling to maintain the necessary services it’s required to provide without raising taxes. The village doesn’t need to waste valuable tax dollars developing a property that was a losing proposition from the get-go.

Voters should give the village permission to sell 98 S. Glaspie St. and the municipality should do its very best to find a buyer so they can recoup as much of that $700,000 as possible and get this property back on the tax roll.

Because government-owned property is exempt from taxation, the village has already lost thousands of dollars in revenue it could have been receiving if a private entity had owned it over the last six years.

As for the municipal complex on W. Burdick St., voters should not under any circumstances allow the village to sell it.

One, we find it hard to believe that the village could receive enough money from the sale to build a new complex over on the 98 S. Glaspie St. property as was suggested by council President Tom Benner. Why? Because government almost never does anything simply or cheaply, especially when it comes to constructing new facilities for itself.

The more likely scenario is the village would have to supplement the sale proceeds with monies from its already slim reserves. Or incur debt. Or raise property taxes.

None of these scenarios is acceptable.

Two, we don’t like the idea of moving the village offices from the center of town – where they belong – to some off-the-beaten-path location on S. Glaspie St.

Government offices should be easy to find for everyone from citizens to business owners to developers. The village doesn’t need to hide itself away. If convenience, visibility and transparency are truly some of the government’s goals, then its offices need to be front and center.

Three, losing all that free public parking at the municipal complex would negatively impact businesses in downtown’s southwest quadrant. Right now, many employees and customers for these businesses, particularly the popular restaurants, rely heavily on this lot, especially on busy nights. Eliminating free parking is definitely not a good way to promote a prosperous downtown.

The only way we’d ever support selling the municipal complex is if village residents finally decide to dissolve this unnecessary, wasteful and antiquated layer of government that costs them an extra 10.62 mills each year.

Instead of building new monuments to elected officials and public employees, we need to dismantle governments that have outlived their usefulness and their ability to be efficient and relevant in a world that desperately needs less government at all levels, not more.

Oxford Village voters ultimately need to give their government permission to go away.

Until then, remember to vote NO on the village’s Proposal 1 and YES on Proposal 2.