The editorial page caught some static for an unsigned editorial I wrote lamenting Spencer Township's shortsighted TARTA vote on Tuesday. By a margin of 16 votes out of 520, the township booted TARTA after 42 years of service. Buses will stop running there on Jan. 1, stranding riders, employees, and employers.
Two callers criticized the editorial for suggesting that race, and racism, played a role in the vote. This was just about taxes and spending, they said.
On the same day, however, I heard that a TARTA advocate at a Spencer Township polling place on Tuesday was told by a voter that he didn't want to spend money transporting “fat black people around.”
I wasn't there, so I heard this second-hand. But I wouldn't repeat it if I didn't trust the source completely.
Nor does it surprise me. I saw the same stuff in Detroit, where dozens of suburban communities have opted out of the regional bus system – SMART. The mayor of one of Detroit's largest suburbs told me, straight-up, that her community had rejected the regional transit system because some residents didn't want African American Detroiters in their city.
When I heard the story from Spencer Township, my blood started to boil. I thought of the young woman I had talked to for a Sept. 22 column on the TARTA ballot issue. She spends two or three hours a day riding buses, including the Spencer Township express route from downtown Toledo, to get to her job as a cashier, so that she can work and support her family. Now this woman will, after Jan. 1, probably lose her job because of some knucklehead with an attitude.
I'm not saying most people who voted against TARTA on Tuesday felt that way. But in an election that lost by 16 votes, race, unfortunately, may have made the difference.