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Published: Sunday, 9/15/2002

No mistaking Jim Rhodes

It took too long - the better part of 20 years - to get the fountain plaza in front of Government Center in downtown Toledo named in honor of James A. Rhodes. Now we find to our chagrin that the memorial plaque, installed last week by the Ohio Building Authority, carries the wrong dates of service for the late four-term governor of Ohio.

Mr. Rhodes, who died in 2001, was governor from 1963 to 1971 and from 1975 to 1983, not “1962-70 and 1974-1982,” as the cast bronze plaque says. Getting the inscription right should not have been a challenge for the building authority. It's not rocket science, or even political science. It's a simple matter of historical record.

This sorry mistake is only the latest in a series of missteps that have dogged placement of a major memorial to Mr. Rhodes in Toledo. Considering his long and generous record of service to this city, the region, and the state, it's a public embarrassment that must be remedied immediately.

Government Center was named for Mr. Rhodes in 1983, the year that it opened and the year the Republican governor left office. In a despicable display of partisan pique, Democrats removed his name when they gained control of the building authority in 1986 and replaced it with that of Democrat Michael V. DiSalle, the late Toledo mayor, who served as governor from 1959-63.

We opposed that maneuver with good reason. Mr. Rhodes, the state's longest-serving governor, saw to the founding of the Medical College of Ohio and the construction of Government Center, while Mr. DiSalle's achievements for his hometown were modest, to put it charitably. Nevertheless, Mr. DiSalle's name was retained on the 22-story structure.

Last Nov. 9, the building authority belatedly approved putting Mr. Rhodes' name on the plaza, with the understanding that Mayor Jack Ford would lead a $250,000 fund-raising campaign to add a statue of the late governor.

That campaign continues, but it's a mystery why the building authority jumped the gun by installing the $1,290 plaque, and it's an embarrassment that they couldn't even get the inscription right. It's time - past time, in fact - to set the record straight and give Mr. Rhodes the recognition he so richly deserves.



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