Lucas Co. state rep. trying to force change in Toledo's lead ordinance; Mayor reacts

Lucas Co. state rep. trying to force change in Toledo's lead ordinance; Mayor reacts

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Is there a battle brewing between Toledo and Columbus over Toledo's recently adopted lead ordinance?

Republican Derek Merrin of Lucas County has submitted an amendment to the state operating budget that he hopes will counter the changes in the lead ordinance.

Rep. Merrin says the law is unconstitutional and amounts to targeted discrimination.

"Toledo's law is unenforceable and so poorly written that it will hurt the people they are trying to protect, especially minorities," said Rep. Merrin in a statement..

Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson says Rep. Merrin misunderstands the problem and his amendment does nothing to protect children from lead poisoning.

"Like a canary in a coal mine, Ohio turns its children into human lead detectors," said Mayor Hicks-Hudson in a statement. "State law only requires property owners to address certain lead-paint hazards after a child is discovered poisoned. Toledo has adopted a Constitutional, evidence-based, proactive approach to stop this poisoning from happening in the first place."

City Councilwoman Lindsay Webb said the ordinance is in the best interest of the city.

"We are best able to decide what is in the best interest of the city of Toledo," Councilwoman Webb said. "And so while he accuses us of overreaching, I submit that a freshman state representative from Waterville is overreaching by telling the city of Toledo what's in our best interest," said Webb.

Representative Merrin's complete statement:

"Last week, I offered an amendment to the state budget that will strengthen state government's oversight of lead exposure.  I was proud and enthusiastic to sponsor it. 

"The language reaffirms the Ohio Department of Health's statutory authority and historical governance of lead issues.  Lead safety is a statewide issue that requires uniform and comprehensive regulation. The clarifying language protects the Department of Health's authority from being undermined and hindered. 

"The City of Toledo's unconstitutional lead ordinance is targeted discrimination against a small minority of property owners. The City plans to generate millions of dollars in revenue from fines on property owners who are unable to comply. 

"Toledo's discriminatory law will decrease affordable housing options, increase tenants' rental rates, depress property values, and illegally undermine state efforts to protect children from lead poisoning.  Toledo's law is unenforceable and so poorly written that it will hurt the people they are trying to protect, especially minorities. My budget amendment ensures that lead issues will be subject to sensible, enforceable and uniform oversight at the state level. 

"As a former mayor, I support local control, but I will not tolerate blatant discrimination by a City Council. The language will strengthen the Health Department's successful efforts to protect and safeguard Ohioans from lead poisoning."

Mayor Hicks-Hudson's response:

"Representative Merrin, a landlord himself, profoundly misunderstands the problem, the inadequacy of existing state law, and what Toledo's law actually says.  If you read Toledo's law, it is clear that the City will not receive any funds from this effort. 

Like a canary in a coal mine, Ohio turns its children into human lead detectors.  State law only requires property owners to address certain lead-paint hazards after a child is discovered poisoned.  Toledo has adopted a Constitutional, evidence-based, proactive approach to stop this poisoning from happening in the first place.

Toledo would fully support a proactive state-law approach to prevent lead poisoning in children.  Unfortunately, Representative Merrin's amendment does nothing to prevent lead poisoning or address worsening health threats.  In fact, the amendment guarantees that thousands of Toledo's children will become lead-poisoned in the future.  Representative Merrin is trying to give himself, and other landlords, safe harbor to keep unsafe and unregulated rental properties in the market. 

Representative Merrin's attempt to put profits ahead of the health of children is shameful.  I hope that the collective wisdom of the General Assembly will recognize and reject this self-serving amendment for what it is –a threat to Toledo's children."

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