If you go to YouTube and type in Toledo, Ohio, you will see a series of videos by EconCat88.
These numerous videos go back two years or more and vary in length. Their topics range from the Marina District, to the lack of activity downtown, to housing blight.
The tone of the videos is sardonic, even cynical. The filmmaker is smart, well informed about Toledo, and he seems to have given up hope for a city he may have once loved.
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He certainly has no respect for our leaders. And, while I hope I never become as cynical and bitter as this gentleman, I have some sympathy for his righteous anger.
Why have we let our housing stock deteriorate so much?
Why do we take such poor care of our parks?
Why do we let ourselves be snookered and conned?
Most of all, why is EconCat88 the first voice and image you hear of Toledo? Why is this guy introducing our city to the world and analyzing our problems on YouTube?
He’s entitled, of course. He’s exercising his right to free speech.
But why aren’t our business and political and academic leaders showing the electronic world the positive side of our city?
And talking about the good things that are happening — the many cultural events; the growing arts community; the election of a mayor who wants to revive and rebuild our neighborhoods and a new City Council star who wants to champion small business; the economic strength of Jeep, GM, UT, and the hospitals; our dynamic new superintendent of schools?
What happened to our branding effort?
Where is the Chamber of Commerce?
Where is the man who should be the city’s leading salesman — the mayor?
This problem goes beyond branding or marketing. It’s more fundamental than that.
The question is: Who will define Toledo?
Will it be the critics, the cynics, and the nihilists?
Or will it be the builders?
We have to make sure it is the builders.
There is a major economic development project on the boards. And we need to get behind it.
A few months ago, Joe Napoli, president of the Mud Hens, announced an ambitious expansion plan — $10 million to $15 million in renovation of old buildings and replacement of one building, adjacent to Fifth Third Field. The goal is more retail space, more housing, more mixed use. In short, more enterprise and vitality in an area that has been doing well and has not peaked.
I don’t know what has disappointed and embittered EconCat88. I’d like to see him be part of the solution and not the problem.
But I know we can’t let him be the face of Toledo on YouTube.
This city has so much more going for it than most cities this size — all the economic ingredients, including a skilled work force, plus location, and a citizenry that cares.
Toledo just needs a little push, a break or two, and a public face we can be proud of — a branding effort, a PR campaign, that says “yes” instead of “no.”
Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6266.