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Published: Wednesday, 10/24/2001

Big tribute for a big man

It now appears that the plaza in front of One Government Center will be graced by a statue of the late Gov. James A. Rhodes, and carry his name as well. It will be a proper tribute, since he's the man who made possible not only that building but also other significant public projects in Toledo.

Both mayoral candidates and outgoing Mayor Carty Finkbeiner have signed on to the idea of naming the plaza for Mr. Rhodes and adding a larger-than-life likeness of the legendary Ohioan similar to the one outside the Statehouse in Columbus. Surely a mix of private and public funding can be found to get it done.

It would be a fitting memorial to the dominant political figure of the 20th century in this state, especially because Jim Rhodes, unlike a long line of politicians from other parts of Ohio, never forgot Toledo and northwest Ohio. And he was never hesitant to put state money where his loyalty lay. In addition to the city-county-state office tower on Jackson Street, the Medical College of Ohio is among the public projects for which the region can be rightfully grateful to Mr. Rhodes, who died on March 4.

The statue erected at Government Center should, like the one in Columbus, capture the late governor striding purposefully into the future, a kind of metaphor for his unique public life. Although a staunch Republican, he said he often felt more like a Democrat. He was a different breed, managing at the right times to rise above partisanship for the greater good. You can't say that about many politicians these days.

Not only would the plaza name and statue provide recognition due Mr. Rhodes, but it will correct an old politically motivated injustice. Back in the 1980s, his name actually was placed on Government Center but the action was rescinded when Democrats took control of state government, and the building was named for Michael V. DiSalle, the former Toledo mayor who served as governor from 1959-63.

Political currents ebb and flow, but there is no denying that Jim Rhodes had an extraordinary and lasting impact on our city that is embodied in the 22-story structure and its welcoming plaza.

It's time for Toledo to move forward and honor a man who honored Toledo.

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