Sunday, May 20, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Keith Burris


Civility and ambivalence

Tuesdays' 2 serious debates belie TV ads' portrayal



Tuesday on the mayoral campaign trail we had not one but two debates between Mayor Mike Bell and Councilman Mike Collins.

Tuesday night it was the One Village Forum sponsored by a coalition of three North End neighborhoods. At noon Tuesday, the Toledo Board of Realtors held a debate. Both events were serious and civil.

The TV ads to come may be a different story. Mr. Bell has already aired a rather nasty ad and many people expect the independent spending on behalf of both candidates to be even more negative. For his part, Mr. Collins says he will air no negative ads, only a positive message.

Meanwhile a scurrilous blog attacking Mr. Collins as a racist continues. I would feel better if Bell supporters universally denounced this trash.

But my gut sense, and I have no empirical evidence, is that the structure, tone, and direction of the campaign are set, and nothing short of major drama will alter the current shape of things.

Mr. Bell is running on his skill and bravery in righting the city's financial ship and getting us into the black again. And on the promise that we are moving forward.

Mr. Collins is running as the man who will reclaim our neighborhoods, one house and street at a time.

Mr. Bell has a point. A lot of mayors who didn’t like business when they came to office change their minds after they have run a city for a while.

Jerry Brown, now serving his third term as governor of California, 30 years after finishing his second, was many things in between — a party chairman, a radio host, an author and world traveler, a volunteer for Mother Teresa, a candidate for senator and president. But one job he had was as mayor of Oakland. He said it was the hardest job he ever had. And when he had that job, Mr. Brown, an early Green and old-school liberal, became quite an advocate for business. And for rolling out the carpet for business.

Mayor Jack Ford went to Germany too. And Toledo got a factory out of it.

But Mayor Bell, I think, has an even deeper ambivalence about politics and government. He seems weary of these debates. But more than that, he seems skeptical about what this whole process can accomplish. I think Mr. Bell genuinely likes people. Many politicians do not. But I don’t think he much likes the political process. I think he likes command, but has little head for public administration. I think he has almost total confidence in the free market and in the captains of industry, but not much confidence in public policy — in the ability of policy executed by government to alleviate poverty, or blight, or homelessness.

But Mike Collins loves public administration and, while Mr. Bell sometimes seems to withdraw from his own campaign, Mr. Collins keeps putting more on the table.

On Tuesday, he added to his neighborhoods vision a plan to have eight teams of three — a cop and two inspectors, one for codes and one for refuge and blight — attack neighborhood disintegration. Would this work? Would Tidy Towns? Or Mr. Collins’ school mentoring program? Or his plan to hire more cops and open police stations?

Not all of it, surely. But Mr. Collins is putting meat on the bones. The mayor shrugs and says Hickory Farms came downtown and the Chinese will build when they are ready. Nobody marches to ambivalence. Forward or backward.

Contact him at: or 419-724-6266.

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