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Published: Monday, 10/14/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

COMMENTARY

Time for a reboot

Debt inherited by Bell result of national crisis

BY KEITH C. BURRIS
COLUMNIST FOR THE BLADE

First, a kind word for Carty.

When Carty Finkbeiner left office the national economy had collapsed. The auto industry had collapsed. That’s the context of the deficit he left behind. That’s why we were in the mess we were in.

It’s not that the mayor was irresponsible. It’s that the entire national economy had fallen into an abyss. And this region of the nation was at the very bottom of a deep pit.

The actual debt, as well as the projected shortfall he left behind, was mostly caused by a national crisis. It does not negate the rest of Mr. Finkbeiner’s 12 years in office. I spoke with a long-time Toledo watcher last week, not a partisan, who said: “I think Carty was a very good mayor.”

Second, what Mayor Bell did to dig us out of that pit cannot be denied. His actions were important, courageous, and necessary. They were not superhuman. He did what he was supposed to do. He led.

Third, we were not on the verge of being another Detroit. When the crash came, in 2008 and 2009, Toledo had not been committing governmental and fiscal suicide for two decades. It faced one crisis, brought on by a larger, world financial crisis. We are not Detroit and never have been. Thank God.

And now the mayoral campaign needs a re-boot. It is time to change it up — to turn away from arguments about the past and focus, in the mayor’s case, on what he wants to do next. And in Mike Collins’ case, on an alternative vision. He can find it in his original platform, and the positive thrust of his primary campaign.

Mr. Collins has ideas for the homeless, parks, and schools. He’s got a tax reform plan. He’s an ex-beat cop. He can speak with authority about crime and policing. Mr. Collins is a neighborhoods guy and a best practices guy. There’s an advantage there: policy depth.

Councilman Joe McNamara recently wrote the mayor a letter saying that he was “incredibly frustrated” with the under-utilization and underfunding of TCIRV — the city’s main anti-gang initiative.

By most measures, crime has been increasing in the city for years. Mr. Collins needs to detail his plans to make us safer and what needs to be fixed in the police department.

Ex-Mayor Jack Ford has put out a nine-point plan on housing. He wants to attack blight and do more rehabilitation and less demolition. Mr. Collins could tee off from Mr. Ford's plan, embracing parts and amending other parts.

Mr. Collins has substance. He should run on substance. He should stitch a vision together and talk about it. Maybe the umbrella theme is something he has already talked about: Toledo as “a city of compassion.”

As for the mayor, he needs to put more on the table than: I fixed the debt and I will court big business. Facilitating economic development is a big part of the job, no doubt. But there has to be more. Would the mayor bring new people, vital and expert, to his administration? Would he continue reach out to the neighborhoods and the shelters as he has begun to do? Would he be accessible in a second term? Or would he mostly be on airplanes?

A mayor is not like a Fortune 500 CEO. He’s more like a small business owner. Or a dad.

Now we need to talk about how the next mayor can face unresolved problems, begin new projects, and bring us together. Both men need to tell us: How would you lead us forward?

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact him at: kburris@theblade.com or 419-724-6266.



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