New Year aspirations


There's nothing special about the first day in January. It’s an arbitrary point on the Earth’s circuit around the sun.

But Jan. 1 has marked the beginning of the new year since at least Roman times. The date is still celebrated around the world with music, dancing, food, drink, and fireworks.

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New Year’s resolutions have a more ancient history. More than 3,500 years ago, Babylonians marked the beginning of each year with promises to their gods to pay their debts and to return things they had borrowed.

Reducing debt still is a favorite resolution among Americans. Other popular ones include losing weight, quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol, spending more time with family and friends, helping others, and enjoying life more.

Resolutions are promises we make to ourselves about what we would like to do better or change. Most people’s best intentions do not survive the winter, so we shrug as we say: Maybe next year.

Here are our hopes and aspirations — good all year — for what the people of Toledo, Ohio, and America could accomplish, if we can choose to work together.

The City of Toledo and its employee unions must forge a new relationship that balances protection of worker rights with the city’s need to allocate resources, human and otherwise, efficiently. Separately, Mayor Mike Bell’s administration has to work as hard on being transparent as it does on fixing Toledo’s many problems.

In neighboring Perrysburg, elected officials and voters should aspire to develop a better sense of community. That means not only pursuing our own dreams, but also making sure that the neediest among us are not kicked to the curb — or off the bus — in the process.

The local, state, and national Republican and Democratic parties should recommit to themselves to public service. In Toledo, that means City Council members will choose the best candidate — not just the union- or party-preferred choice — to fill the open seat on council.

In Lucas County, it means putting public interest ahead of partisan and personal power, and giving a fair hearing to the best way to make county government reflect the political, geographic, and demographic diversity of county residents.

State lawmakers and other elected officials should aspire to serve Ohio, not just an ideology or party. One way to do that is to create legislative and congressional districts that promote democracy and encourage voter participation. Another way is to restore state aid to local governments and school districts before providing more tax cuts that mostly benefit the wealthiest Ohioans.

Members of Congress must emulate the framers of the Constitution, who made compromise a central principle. Governing from the center is not the red meat demanded by demagogues on the parties’ fringes, but the Founding Fathers knew it was the way to get things done. What was true in 1787 is true today.

We should aspire to be a city — and a nation — where people don’t settle their arguments with guns. Where the promise of equal opportunity is realized, not rationalized. And where committed, loving same-sex relationships receive the same legal recognition and protections as heterosexual unions.

We should aspire to a world in which rape is not a political tool. Where “honor” killings and female mutilation are not tolerated. Where children go to school, not to war, to sweatshops, or into the sex trade. Where ethnic and religious differences are celebrated, not cleansed.

There’s always more. And unlike our personal resolutions, too much depends on meeting these goals for us to give up when we falter or fail.

Happy New Year. And may you meet all your aspirations in 2013.