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Published: 4/27/2006

Toward a 'cooler' community

LUCAS County citizens who are willing to look beyond the moment have an excellent opportunity to ensure a lively debate about this region's future.

They can seize it by making certain that Democrat Ben Konop and Republican George Sarantou emerge from Tuesday's primary as the two surviving candidates for a seat on the Lucas County Board of Commissioners.

Mr. Konop is a relative newcomer politically, but his energy and ideas are impressive. Northwest Ohioans certainly remember the spirited race he ran against veteran Congressman Michael Oxley in 2004. Though Mr. Konop lost, he provided the stiffest challenge ever faced by an incumbent who for too long had taken his district for granted.

He forced Mr. Oxley to campaign and spend a big chunk of his ample warchest on getting himself re-elected instead of shipping the money to Republican races elsewhere.

Even in defeat, Mr. Konop served his party and Ohio's 4th Congressional District well. His ideas for Lucas County deserve to be fully explored in a head-to-head campaign in the fall.

Mr. Sarantou is a veteran Toledo city councilman with business acumen and a feel for governance at the local level. While we still are not convinced he has lived up to his potential in that regard during his four-plus years on council, we believe he is clearly the superior Republican Party candidate in Tuesday's election.

It's obvious that these are the two best candidates to stir a debate in September and October on the issues that should matter most to Lucas County and northwest Ohio: a secure and prosperous economic future, the retention of our best and brightest young people, the elimination of a seemingly chronic inferiority complex, and an infusion of something we like to call the "cool" factor, a concept Mr. Konop has already embraced.

As we noted editorially a few weeks ago, great cities are able to lift themselves out of unfortunate circumstance. We cited a piece about Chicago in the British journal, The Economist. The Windy City, according to The Economist, has managed to emerge from decades of "deindustrialization" with a new sense of energy and renewed confidence in itself.

Seattle, a city with a climate that is often wet and overcast, has nevertheless made itself a destination for young people attracted to its vitality and beauty. San Francisco, once a bawdy Gold Rush town and later very much a blue-collar community, today is one of the world's most exciting places - Tony Bennett's "city by the bay."

In a literal sense, Toledo cannot be a clone of Chicago; perhaps it cannot duplicate Seattle or become the San Francisco of the Midwest. But the time has come for those in public office to engage in serious discussions about this metropolitan area's future, and look for ways to bring the "cool energy" of America's other great cities to our own.

That thoughtful and vital process can begin if Ben Konop and George Sarantou move past Tuesday's primary and make it a priority of their debates in the fall.



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