It’s too early to assess whether Mr. McNamara offers the right, or best, solutions for Toledo’s deep-seated economic and social ills. He offered few specifics as he formally kicked off his campaign, other than to blame Mayor Mike Bell, who is seeking a second four-year term.
Even so, Mr. McNamara has properly put the campaign’s focus on attracting economic development, curbing the growth of poverty, improving public safety, and strengthening city neighborhoods. These core, on-the-ground issues largely determine how the vast majority of Toledo residents live.
They also will determine whether the city will continue to draw on a strong middle-class tax base to pay for essential services, including good public schools. Mr. McNamara noted this week that nearly a third of Toledoans live below the poverty line, compared to about 18 percent in 1999.
Making streets safer and cleaner, encouraging broad economic development that benefits more than Toledo’s downtown, providing opportunities for disfranchised people to lift themselves out of poverty, creating good-paying jobs, reducing blight, and improving mass transit — all these goals pose complex challenges for any older city with declining population and decreasing revenue.
Still, other central cities have made significant progress in redeveloping and reinventing themselves, despite discouraging state and national economic trends. With the right leadership, Toledo can too.
In the coming months, Mr. McNamara must do more than point out the city’s problems and blame the mayor. He will need to come up with detailed, creative ways to fix them.
So will Mayor Bell. So will any other challenger to the incumbent.
Still, Mr. McNamara has defined issues that ought to become the centerpiece of every candidate’s campaign — and the benchmarks by which Toledo voters choose their next mayor.