Thursday, Apr 19, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Keith Burris


Elephants in the room



We all know about elephants in the room.

Uncle Ned drove the car through the garage door last night. But let's not talk about the Scotch bottle behind Uncle Ned's easy chair.

Junior is now 33, still living at home, and has yet to hold a full-time job. Maybe he's not going to write the great American novel after all.

Sometimes the hardest thing to face is the obvious issue; the elephant in the room.

Toledo has multiple elephants in the room.

A mayor's race should be an opportunity to face these issues as a community and talk about what we want to do about them.

Here are some of the baby elephants in the room that Toledo residents have written, called, or spoken to me about in recent days:

● The traffic cameras: Are they making Toledo safer or just raising revenue? And do they unfairly target the working class and the working poor?

● Has anyone got an “economic development plan” for East Toledo?

● Aren't there an awful lot of people in city and county government who don't do much at all in a day? (This from a city employee.) Can we do nothing at all about this?

● Why do we have Lucas County government, a city of Toledo government, and all the various town and township governments? Why not do some mergers and create some economies of scale? We can't afford the waste we could afford in 1950 or 1980.

● If the city really has a surplus, why not spend some of the money on parks and youth employment programs? Get some of our young men off the street corners and let them earn paychecks by mowing grass and pulling weeds.

And now for the giant elephants in the room:

Gangs: Toledoans have a right not only to know where they are but what strategy the city has for dealing with them. The mayor and the police chief have at least one anti-gang strategy in place, based on Prof. David Kennedy's “ceasefire” concept and program. But it has been low profile at best. The mayor and the chief ought to talk about this program and perhaps expand it. Other candidates could come forward with their own anti-gang ideas.

Empty buildings and abandoned homes: Do any of the candidates have a plan?

● Race: Former Mayor Jack Ford says we still need a city-wide dialogue on how well or how little we understand each other. The President of the United States says that, when he was a civilian, he would hear car doors locking as he crossed the street. Many of us have been on the other side of that door locking.

Poverty: Anita Lopez says we are not going to be attracting outside businesses to Toledo so long as 50 percent of the city's children live in poverty. She's right. So what do we do about that?

There are many other elephants in the room. Thus far, all the candidates for mayor, major and minor, have failed utterly to identify a single elephant, large or small. That won't cut it. For this is a vitally important election for Toledo.

We have until November to acknowledge these political pachyderms, and maybe even try to remove a few of them. E-mail or call with your favorite elephants – especially the ones you do not see on these lists.

Keith C. Burris is associate editor of The Blade.

Contact him at: or 419-724-6266.

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