I am hearing the word paradigm a lot lately. It is all the rage. Its meaning has evolved in a loose and informal way, the way words do bend and change in our language, so that now, to most people, it simply means a mold, a model, or an ideal.
When he was leaving the Oval Office, after a group photo op, our new mayor Mike Collins heard approximately these words from the president of the United States: You created a new paradigm in your race in Toledo. I look forward to working with you, Michael.
What was the new paradigm?
It was really an old one. Taking politics back to its roots: Person-to-person, door-to-door contact, neighborhood-by-neighborhood.
And a focus on four issues: Public safety, blight and clean up, homelessness, and the cost and friendliness (or lack thereof) of government.
What wasn’t new but seemed new is that retail politics and a few issues could win. Usually politics is about money and TV, which also mattered in this race. But the new, old-school paradigm is what was decisive here.
Mr. Collins was amazed at the national attention this “paradigm” was getting at Harvard and in Washington.
But he is also determined to break the old model and create a new way in governance as well. The two main examples: Pairing old pros in his Cabinet with new, younger people who will take over for them. And promoting a police chief from the ranks. Both are great ideas and somewhat difficult and risky in practice. But the new chief of staff, who had the job under a previous mayor, should make a good pairing with his deputy, who is young. And if Police Chief designate William Moton can mentor a successor half as good as he is, the city will be lucky.
Where else do we need a new paradigm in Toledo?
The obvious place to start is in duplication of services and good causes. The term of art here is “silos.” We need to combine efforts rather than keep duplicating them — especially in youth services and in economic development. We have too many cooks stirring the same broth.
We need one other new paradigm, which is also an old one: Think small and doable. Small is beautiful.
Local activist Pete Culp, who is a member of the Port Authority, has just about convinced the Port to put down some seed money to fund high school driver’s education courses for central city and poor kids.
We need more small-bore, achievable reforms like this one.
Like a workshop program for public school teachers on how to more wisely discipline kids who act out in school because of a lack of fathers, home stability, or nutrition.
Like recruiting young black male college graduates to be public school teachers. If we are going to increase high school graduation rates for black boys, we need more black men in our schools. Maybe that’s a new paradigm, or an old idea whose time has come. But it’s an idea small and specific enough that people can understand and act on it. Modest, achievable changes. Small is beautiful. That’s a paradigm we can get behind.
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