Thursday, Jun 21, 2018
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Keith Burris


Doing better with agents of change

  • Keith-C-Burris-3

  • Casey-Pomeroy-House

    Casey-Pomeroy House

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    Original sign.

Here is what change looks like in our city:

Wade Kapszukiewicz, Bryan Ellis, Sam Melden, the Casey-Pomeroy House, Smash Toledo, Sandy Spang, and an old slogan brought back by young people.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz has used an old row office, previously thought mostly irrelevant, to leverage help for small businesses, homeowners, and historic preservationists. The Land Bank, which does all these things, is his baby.

Mr. Ellis is the founding father and guiding spirit of the community-garden movement in this city. He educates the community about organic gardening, and he feeds the hungry.

So does Sam Melden, who runs Food for Thought. What began as a small coalition of food banks is now a large syndicate of food banks, but he imagines as a web of hospitality working at the street and neighborhood level. He imagines this network as not just a distributor of canned goods but of good and healthful food. Some might be grown by Mr. Ellis.

These two men are both original thinkers and doers. The two of them alone will change this city. They know each other and work together. And they belong to Toledo.

The Casey-Pomeroy House may be the most beautiful home in Toledo. It is the architectural centerpiece of the Vistula district, which has been written off many times by many people. But guess what: This bed-and-breakfast is booked with foreign guests and weddings the year round. Its renovation may yet be the jump start for a neighborhood revival.

Smash Toledo is the self-described “online discovery hub” for food and beverage in Toledo. This city always has loved to eat and drink. Smash Toledo has made a hip youth movement out of an old habit.

Sandy Spang is a part of that movement, albeit in a June Cleaver role. Its elements? Food, beverage, the arts, and empowering the apolitical folks in town to take their city back. She brings to city government a breath of fresh air, neither left nor right, neither A team nor B team. But, especially, with no ax to grind. Her energy and optimism are contagious.

Ms. Spang has fed — and been fed by — this new Toledo youth movement, which is epitomized by a very old slogan. The old slogan is the new mantra: “You will do better in Toledo.”

John Amato has been the driving force behind reviving “you will do better in Toledo” — a slogan that actually is true: cost of living is low here; quality of life is high; our assets are many, from parks to culture. The people of Toledo are the greatest asset of all. They put a premium on kindness and decency. Look at the community reaction to the death of two firefighters.

The mayor wants to make “you will do better in Toledo” our official motto again, put it on all the signs.

I say, right on.

What unites all these people and action?

Fresh thinking, imagination, and a positive, upbeat attitude about the city and its future. In a word: energy. In another: hope.

Is all change good?


But no change at all means stagnation. You have to have creativity, movement, and growth to have hope.

I have met and talked with all these people in recent weeks and months. They inspire. And they are just a few of the change makers.

Let’s get out of the way. Let’s fuel the change.

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact him at: or 419-724-6266.

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