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Thursday, July 24, 2014
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Published: Friday, 3/7/2014 - Updated: 4 months ago

COMMENTARY

Bell offers a lesson in civility

BY KEITH C. BURRIS
COLUMNIST FOR THE BLADE

Former Mayor Mike Bell is a competitive guy by nature and a proud man. So, losing the mayor’s race had to hurt and has to still hurt. All the more reason to give him all the credit in the world for how he has conducted himself since he left office.

Mr. Bell has set an example for politicians: This is how to act when things don’t go your way.

Since election day, Mr. Bell has been nothing but positive on Toledo and has refused to criticize his successor, Mayor Mike Collins. He even attended the “Collins cares” victory celebration.

Moreover, Mr. Bell went out of his way to praise Mr. Collins for his handling of the deaths of two Toledo firefighters and the pounding Level 3 winter storm.

He’s giving the new guy a chance. That’s more than can be said for many who supported Mr. Bell.

Some began criticizing the new mayor on Day 1. Politicians used to get “honeymoons.” After a president, governor, or mayor was elected, there was a grace period during which opponents and perennial cynics held their fire. That custom, along with most every other habit of civility, is lost in politics today. Ask President Obama. Ask Gov. John Kasich. There are no more honeymoons; no more grace periods. No more: “Game over, now let’s see what we can do together for the benefit of the people of the city.”

Forget it.

I heard people calling the new mayor a “disaster” and the new city council “a joke,” within days of the oath taking.

How could they possibly make that assessment after so little time? They can’t.

Truth is, it will be a year, or the better part of a year, until our new mayor and council get a handle on their jobs. That’s how long it takes. And only then are we really entitled to make broad judgments about their failures and successes.

People will talk and pass judgment anyway. Anyone in politics has to understand that and have rhino skin.

Mr. Bell understands it too. That makes his restraint classy.

He didn’t always have thick skin when in office, or running, an attribute that is a blessing for a politician.

And I think maybe Mr. Bell is better suited to appointive and administrative office than elective office. For, as personable as he is, he does not much like give and take with voters.

It is also clear that, as mayor, he delegated too much and left too much to his lieutenants. Some would say his successor must guard against the opposite flaw: micromanagement.

But Mr. Bell is an able man and a dedicated public servant, and he still has a great many friends and admirers in Toledo. I have no doubt that his future is bright, including a part in public life if he wants it. Mr. Bell served the city and the state with distinction. He was gracious in victory. And he has been thoroughly admirable in defeat. Guys like Mike Bell don’t just fade away. And they shouldn’t.

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

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



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