Editor’s note: This column is written by a resident of Piqua and it does not reflect the views of the Piqua Daily Call and its staff. This is a contributed column provided by the writer to the newspaper for printing on the Opinion page.
We have a family business in Chicago. So, I pay attention to Chicago politics because it is very informative and interesting. Just recently, the mayor of Chicago took on the city union leadership in a hard fought election. He won. He ran on a platform to streamline the city’s payroll and pension cost.
His point was that there was no money left in a city that is already highly taxed. This was a typical hard fought Chicago political event. But what made it interesting was the fact that this was a Democratic mayor being challenged by a Democratically controlled union.
We saw the same thing happen in Wisconsin and New Jersey. There, the governors had no choice but to go after payroll and pensions. These were classic fights where republican governors took on traditional Democratic constituencies. The fact that these are traditionally Democratic leaning states where Republican governors prevailed is what made these events noteworthy.
Politics is the means by which we allocate our public resources and taxes. You just don’t not participate. This is a fact of life here on earth. In Piqua, our method of participation is through a charter type of government. Charter type of government lends itself to a very weak type of electorate. It really limits political participation because of its over reliance on strong leadership from its city manager. Piqua is a typical example of how this transpires.
A couple of decades ago, there were a handful of industrialist who ran this city. They were providing most of the good paying jobs. Our city managers were hired to facilitate this process. Essentially, city managers Hance and Patrizio did a fantastic job of keeping our power plant competitive, our streets maintained and our parks clean.
This is a little simplistic but true. As time wore on and the national economy changed, Piqua became less reliant on the industrial base here in Piqua. At one point, there was a public proclamation that our future economic development would hinge on retail, banking and insurance. Our role was to become the regional power house for these industries.
It never happened. Matter of fact, if it had not been for the taxpayer bailouts and tarp intervention by the fed, some of these local institutions wouldn’t be here today. Piqua didn’t become a regional powerhouse and we fell even farther behind our counterparts in Troy and Sidney.
This is where we find ourselves today. A leadership void was created by the passing and retirement of prominent business leaders here in Piqua. Our attempt to become a regional banking, retail and insurance powerhouse failed. And, as a city, we turned to professional city manger types to solve our economic problems. It started with Mark Rohr — we had a temporary city manager for a few years. And now, Gary Huff has inherited the whole mess.
This has been about a decade and several years in the making. This is why I say the void is being filled by a Piqua government bureaucracy. Our charter type of government leaves us no other choice. These professional managers are a new breed.
Their tools are government and more government. We will never address economic development in a sufficient way and we will continue to sink into this quagmire of hotel renovation, river bank development projects and bike paths to nowhere.
Politics allocate resources. Chicago knows it, as do New Jersey and Wisconsin. You are now seeing how this works in Piqua. We are the highest taxed. We have the most expensive city labor force. We are the lowest paid.
We do not have the political framework to change it. Gary Huff is a top-notch city manager. You have to get this! He is a manager and not a politician. Politicians accomplish things differently. They see a problem. They go to the voter. They promise a solution. We then judge them on the results.