Now that neighborhoods have become the focus of the mayor’s race, we have to figure something out: What does this mean?
It has to mean more than promises or mayoral attention and physical presence.
After the election it might be worth holding a summit to discuss just that question.
But the campaign has given us some clues:
■ School board candidate Aji Green reminds us that fairly recently the city declared that schools are the center of neighborhoods. If so, as he says, we need to clean up the blight around several of our central-city schools. We need to have police officers on foot and on bikes as well as in patrol cars when kids are going to and from school. We need to, as Mayor Bell says, to get the Boys and Girls Clubs into all the center city schools, not just two of them. We need aggressive after-school programs. We need neighborhood groups meeting in the schools after hours, and cops around then too.
All this will take some money from the city. Let’s free up some of that $5 million surplus.
■ Mike Collins’ promise to win back one street and neighborhood at a time seems sincere and compelling to me. He has begun to flesh this out with his proposal to have eight urban sectors with a team of three for each sector — a police officer, a code inspector, and a blight officer. Great. This can work. Even if Mr. Collins is defeated, this plan could be executed by council and Mayor Bell. I’d like to see the mayor endorse it and Mr. Collins suggest a way to pay for it. I also think the missing piece is a corps of masons, carpenters, and painters to fix things that are broken and help homeowners who have been cited. Talk about a youth employment initiative.
This will also take money and organization.
■ Council candidate (and likely council member) Sandy Spang has first-hand experience and keen interest in reviving neighborhoods with small-business anchors. Council should designate her as committee chair for small business and charge her with two things: Come up with ways to cut red tape and truly make the city what everyone says it should be and never is — small business friendly. Second, could she come up with three ways the city could actually help new business start-ups? Perhaps we could begin with a mentoring system?
■ Former Mayor Jack Ford put out a nine-point platform on housing reform that has gotten little attention. Three points are particularly salient: Involve LISC and the Toledo Board of Realtors more closely in community development planning; give homelessness advocates and shelter directors access to council and the mayor during the budget process; and do more rehab in the neighborhoods and less demolition. I know there are practical cost considerations to that last goal, but its a good goal because a hole in a neighborhood is just that and likely to remain that.
Finally, I’d like to see the two Mikes take a ride around with Terry Glazer — the only guy in Toledo who has actually succeeded at stabilizing a neighborhood — Polish Village — and at saving homes and streets and then keeping them going in the North End after the initial rehab work. In a sea of chatter, his organization, United North actually gets stuff done. Let’s have the Neighborhoods Summit at the Ohio Theater — an amazing living tribute to what is really possible in neighborhood revival.
Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6266.