To the editor:
I was relieved when I read Oberlin College was finally going to sue the city of Oberlin. Regardless of the judge’s ruiling, any action that sheds light on the city’s dysfunctional attitudes toward economic development is a welcome event.
You could fill an auditorium with architects, urban planners, engineers, and business owners who could share stories about how Oberlin is the most difficult place to work in all of Ohio. This is not a new phenomenon. It has been this way for at least the last 15 years. City council has also heard about this from nearly every local business who has attended meetings organized by the Oberlin Business Partnership.
I am often left to wonder why the status quo stays the status quo. What I’ve come up with so far: As long as Oberlin residents continue passing levy after levy, city hall never needs to account for all the lost tax revenue it could have received had it been a more functional place to do business. There’s no way to calculate lost opportunities, so the public never really knows what it is missing out on (jobs, lower taxes, greater services, etc.). All the citizenry hears from the city, like clockwork, is it needs to pay more to keep city services and, “Vote yes!” And so, as long as Oberlin remains a generous community with its purse strings, there’s no reason for the city to change any of its ways. The levy system has become an adequate replacement for economic growth.
I hope we start to break this cycle but I’m not optimistic the people in charge understand the depth of the problem and/or are willing to do anything about it.