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The gateway to any city is its physical appearance. Beautifying Toledo with flowers boosts both the city’s image and community pride.
A private contractor is getting paid $5,600 this year to plant flowers and maintain irrigation systems at flower beds owned by the city. Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins calls the flowers a municipal “want,” not a “need.” But this is money well spent.
City beautification has all but disappeared as a Toledo budget priority in recent years. Former mayor Mike Bell repeatedly decided to forgo funding for planting and for maintaining the city’s medians and planters.
Although Mayor Collins seems uneasy about his decision to spend from the city coffers on flowers, he is showing sound judgment. “I think urban beautification is a direct statement of the quality of life,” the mayor told The Blade.
But he added: “When you are charged with the challenges we are facing, being as austere as we are, I think things become wants and not needs. We do not have the financial ability to deal with wants, only needs.”
City elected officials should take a wider view. Urban regions must market themselves if they want to attract residents and employers. The city plantings offer more than a message of aesthetics; they are a powerful statement of civic pride and cooperation.
The city reached out to businesses to “adopt” some medians and flower pots. Beautification could become a community rallying point.
It could encourage neighborhood and community groups and churches to adopt their own areas. No one wants to plant or maintain flowers where trash is strewn, so Toledoans also would benefit from a city cleanup.
It’s not unusual for cities to ask for financial help to maintain flowers, or to recruit citizens for downtown and neighborhood beautification. Mayor Collins could designate an annual Flower Day, when residents could help plant in assigned areas. They would commit to weeding and watering the plants throughout the growing season.
Mayor Collins correctly laments that Toledo faces fiscal challenges. Yet a blooming city can help erase any sense of hopelessness and helplessness. This year’s flowers — and a public planting effort next year — can help build civic consciousness, cohesion, and pride.