A Tale of Two Stories

Does The Findlay Couriers’ reporting reflect a bias in favor of the Flood Partnership and Tony Iriti?

In an article that appeared in the Putnam County Sentinel which covered the meeting, last week, between local officials in Hancock and Putnam County (Monday, December 27, 2010) and the Maumee Conservancy District, the Putnam County Sentinel reported this clear statement by Lynn Army, one of the three board members of the Maumee Conservancy District; that the Maumee Conservancy District would not move forward with any effort to take up flood controls in Findlay and Ottawa until the General Investigation Study (GIS) was completed by the US Army Corps of Engineers:

“I think we need to clearly define how are all these people in all these counties going to receive these benefits. We are not going to know that until we have this GIS study done.”

Army continued, “The courts have been pretty fair in the past, if you can present a reasonable cause, a projected number of cause, everything in the conservancy law is based on benefits.”

Army then explained the process of getting a flood mitigation project approved by the Maumee Conservancy District with the first step being, the board of directors looking at the plan.

The board would then approve the alterations and file the plan and have EPA approval if necessary.

Then the board would gather appraisals and take the plan before the 15 judge conservancy court with dollar figures and a general description of the work.

The hearing would take place once the district has all their appraisals and assessments lined up.

This statement by Mr. Army, as reported by the Putnam County Sentinel, of the process under which Mr. Army is willing to move forward with flood controls, is in direct contradiction to the efforts led by the Northwest Ohio Flood Mitigation Partnership and Tony Iriti.  It is a clear repudiation of the Partnership’s effort to form a Blanchard River Conservancy District before they could present the court or the public with a plan.  It also dispels Mr. Iriti’s contention that failing to move forward the conservancy district before the completion of the GIS study would have a negative impact on the construction timeline for flood control.

An argument could be made that the failure of the Partnership to wait for the GIS report and present the conservancy court with a complete and comprehensive plan is the very reason the court voted down the Blanchard River Conservancy District.  Why did the Partnership choose to move forward before they had a plan? Before they could have “all their appraisals and assessments lined up”?  We may never know for sure.  I remember many moons ago, Tony Iriti mentioning that the Partnership was putting together a committee to work on the appraisal formula.  I often wonder what became of that committees efforts.  The fear held by many, including myself, was that the Partnership’s appraisal plan would have put too high of a burden on land owners, well outside the flood plain, in an effort to affect the lowest possible tax on the Partnership’s membership.  The best evidence of this mismatch of benefit and appraisals is that the Partnership wished to include the widest possible area of landowners in the Blanchard River Conservancy District.

What is critical for the reader of The Findlay Courier to know is that The Courier’s reporting of the same meeting did not include that same clear and unflattering distinction in approaches to flood controls between Mr. Army and the Maumee Conservancy District and Mr. Iriti and the Flood Partnership.   Whether this difference of emphasis is the result of simply different reporters “take” on a news event, or of editorial policy, I will leave that to The Findlay Courier to explain.  The end result is the same.  The Putnam County Sentinel paints a far less favorable portrait of the actions of the Partnership and Mr. Iriti in its effort to form a Blanchard River Conservancy District.

It is clear that The Findlay Courier editorial board has something akin to a schoolgirl crush on Tony Iriti.  In their eyes, Tony simply can do no wrong.  The Findlay Courier cannot bring themselves to recognize that our elected officials and the Partnership made key mistakes that could have a very real negative impact on flood control efforts in Findlay.

I include our elected officials because they signed off on giving the Partnership the power to act on behalf of the city of Findlay and Hancock County and therefore should be held accountable for the Partnerships failures.  Which leads to the first mistake, why did our local elected officials feel that they needed to turn over this key issue of the future of our community to a private organization?  This is a failure of leadership that I will never be able to understand.

The decision to restrict the Partnership to a few large companies in Findlay took the flood control efforts in Findlay off on the wrong path right from the start.  The flood control efforts should have been far more inclusive of all the stakeholders and far more transparent in it’s’ decision making process and funding.

When the Partnership first shopped around their Conservancy District concept without a real plan, they refused to listen to the stakeholders.  The Partnership refused to recognize the fear and distrust their actions were causing in our community.  They simply pressed forward with a Conservancy District concept that reflected their self interest.  Now that the Partnership has failed to reach its ultimate goal, they are simply folding up the tent and declaring victory on their own terms.

The Findlay Courier believes that if not for the efforts of the Northwest Ohio Flood Mitigation Partnership, the flood control program would not be as far along as it is today.  That is hard to prove. There is simply no way to know if leadership by our elected officials (or some other group) could not have done a better job building a consensus and moving forward with this key issue facing our community.  I believe that The Findlay Courier has been too quick to overlook the critical mistakes made by the Flood Partnership.  I hope that The Findlay Courier editorial board’s high opinion of Tony Iriti and the Partnership membership is not clouding its judgment as to what is in the best interest of our community.

If the goal of the Northwest Ohio Flood Mitigation Partnership was to keep the flood control issue on “the front burner” by creating unnecessary controversy, then the Flood Partnership was a smashing success.  However, if the goal was to move forward in a constructive and reasonable matter, the effort to find a workable solution to the flooding issues in Findlay and Ottawa, then the best we can hope from the Partnership experience is to learn from a our mistakes (our community development efforts come to mind).

See article in the Putnam County Sentinel: http://putnamsentinel.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&ArticleID=7869

See article in The Findlay Courier: http://www.thecourier.com/Issues/2010/Dec/28/ar_news_122810_story2.asp?d=122810_story2,2010,Dec,28&c=n

See editorial in The Findlay Courier: http://www.thecourier.com/opinion/editoral/2010/Dec/29/ar_ed_122910.asp?d=122910,2010,Dec,29&c=e_0

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