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Monday, February 11, 2008

Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority: Toledo's Own "The Price Is Right" Show Hosted By James Hartung

I remind people of the October 26, 2007 entry of Roland Hansen Commentary Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority: Public Accountability or Not? in which I brought up the issue of accountability of and for the quasi-public, tax-payer supported agency. If you do not recall the entry or if you had not previously read it, I suggest you read that entry now before proceeding any further.
Apparently, the taxpayers don't much mind authorizing tax dollars to a nonprofit agency that pays a salary to its CEO that is much more than than the salary of many elected officials. I wonder how many taxpayers of the City of Toledo and of the other parts of Lucas County pay attention (let alone realize) to the salary that is paid to James Hartung, President of The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. For those who may not be aware of the tax support given to that private, nonprofit agency, I draw your attention to the fact that the taxpayers of Lucas County are contributing 2.5 million dollars a year to the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority in the form of a tax levy that the voters themselves have approved.
For those who may not be aware of the salary issue, I suggest you read this newspaper account about the issue (or is it really a non-issue) of the salary of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority President James Hartung. While the vast majority of the taxpayers may not have voiced opinions on the salary, you might wish to read the newspaper opinion Hartung's Gravy Train that was published by the daily newspaper in Toledo, Ohio. At least one taxpayer has expressed concerned as can be read in the "Letters to the Editor" column of the newspaper that you may read here.
This is not the first time the salary issue has been raised. For example, I found one article on the internet that goes back to August 17, 2000, and another article from 2005, and a some-what related side story (Update as of September 29, 2013: all three of the links to those cited references no longer work.)
So, dear readers, do you have an opinion on this issue? If so, I would appreciate reading your comments here.

As a side note: James Hartung telephoned me twice last fall right after I had made this comment
"How can I get Ben Konop or anyone else to put the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and its Toledo Express Airport operations under the same microscope as is the Lucas County Improvement Corporation? The Toledo Express Airport operation has been sadly lacking for many, many years. For the amount of public funds involved with the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and the airport, there ought to be far more accountability, efficiency, effectiveness, and results. Decades have passed with little or no noticeable improvement."
as a postscript to the October 24 Roland Hansen Commentary in which the main subject was Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop and the Lucas County Improvement Corporation. Because I was not at home at the time of the calls, Mr Hartung left messages on my answering machine. Mr. Hartung had asked that I call his office to make an appointment with him and his "airport director" to discuss my concerns, thoughts, and ideas.
Given the fact that he is the highly paid CEO and that he has a well-paid 'Director of Airports' and a whole slew of paid staff to do the professional work, I found it interesting that he wanted me to be a volunteer to aid the paid staff in doing their jobs! Sheesh, he didn't even offer a consultant fee. lol
Incidentally, I have retained copies of those voice messages for posterity.


Judy said...

Just in case Mr. Hartung doesn't know how to view your links, here is the one he needs to see; Organization Development Services Consultant and Trainer. We know he has the phone number!

Roland Hansen said...

Well, Judy, I would prefer any communications of such a nature from James Hartung be in writing.
One never knows when one may need to document transactions, verbal or otherwise.
A paper trail is always good to have and is easier to use for documentation purposes.
Telephone conversations are more complex to document. Although, as you know, I have successfully used documentation of telephone conversations in the litigation process as was needed in the past.
Having been a government bureaucrat in my career life, I learned the importance of documentation and collateral verification.

Lisa Renee said...

You are asking some very valid questions, let's hope we start getting some answers.

Brian Schwartz said...

Hartung's salary is comparable to other port authority directors on the Great Lakes. The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority is the only Great Lakes port authority with operational responsibility for a seaport, two airports, a train station, a shipyard, as well as operating four separate business finance programs.

Toledo Express Airport's problems are complex and not easily solved. There is Detroit Metro to the north that offers direct flights. There is also the problem of the type of aircraft that serve TOL. They are regional jets and turbo-props. The profitability of these aircraft is inversely proportional to the cost of av-fuel which has increased in cost much more than gasoline.

Also, Toledo Express does not have a low fare carrier with daily flights. They had Air Tran, but Delta served the same market and they have been in Toledo since 1948. They have a strong customer base. To assure that Air Tran was not successful in this market, Delta lowered its fares to keep its loyal customers with frequent flier miles. While leisure travelers took advantage of Air Tran, business travelers did not.

They had ATA/Chicago Express service that was very successful flying four daily flights to Chicago Midway. However, they went bankrupt, as did TransMeridian -- another low fare carrier.

The aviation industry is one screwed up mess and trying to apply common business solutions to such a screwed up industry is impossible.

The Port Authority is pumping more money into marketing the airport -- both to potential flyers and potential airlines. They are fortunate to be doing as well as they are in the current market.

Toledo is lucky to have a guy of Hartung's caliber working here. The seaport is diversifying its cargo base to assure its future. The investment in the shipyard saved the ship repair business in Toledo as well as securing the lucrative winter lay-by revenue.

Toledo Express has completely revamped its airline operations area, expanded its passenger terminal, modernized its security and baggage handling systems, and continues its makeover to improve its appearance.

The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority is an exceptionally complex public enterprise that one really needs to research to develop informed opinions.

Roland Hansen said...

Brian Schwartz brings up some very valid points. His career as a spinmaster makes him quite adept at responding in such a fashion.
Incidentally, I have researched the issue quite extensively and indeed much of what is stated by Brian Schwartz is true. But, why do we continue to financially reward less-than-stellar performance?
Better yet, another question comes to mind, if the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority is bringing in so much money, why are the taxpayers subsidizing it? If James Hartung and and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority are so good at what they do, why isn't the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority self-sufficient?
And, why in the world, is James Hartung paying out tens of thousands of dollars for work not performed? Look at this.

Micah said...

"Toledo Express Airport's problems are complex and not easily solved. There is Detroit Metro to the north that offers direct flights."

I don't buy this line at all. Flint and Akron-Canton are doing much better than Toledo Express. And get this part. They are closer to Detroit and Cleveland than we are.

Lack of routes, lack of aircraft, lack of planning, lack of incentives, etc.

And, of course, Delta's ATL flight is gone now apparently.