After The Blade’s remarkable series on gangs, I wrote a column titled, “Where do we go from here?”
The answer came from the African-American community and a group called the Community Coalition, which organized a series of forums on race and poverty in our city. There is still one forum to go.
The upshot of all this is dialogue and awareness — and 300 to 500 people who are mobilized and want to do something.
But what and how do we get there? Those are two tough questions, and maybe the second is harder than the first. For me they were underlined by two people at the last forum, at which Ruby Payne spoke.
Terry Glazer, head of United North, said to me: “It’s all great, but I’m an action guy.” And a gentleman named Harold Mosley, a retired Toledo police officer, rose from the audience like an Old Testament prophet and said none of it means anything if a black boy can’t walk through Ottawa Hills unmolested by the authorities.
I spoke to Mr. Mosley after his remarks. For him, the Trayvon Martin case is visceral and alive. His own teenage son has been hassled, and he wants equal justice in the criminal justice system. “I get the Kumbaya stuff,” he told me, “but that [alone] don’t cut it.”
His solution? Person-to-person relationships. “Fighting racism one person at a time.” And that is precisely what the Community Coalition is about.
His second solution? The ballot box. Elect people who will work to eliminate blight, hunger, and crime.
So where do we go from here? Talking to folks, I hear four goals. Maybe we can give them a two-year time frame:
1. The creation of 1,000 jobs for young central-city men and women. I am talking about in addition to the projected ProMedica jobs downtown.
We could start with work on Toledo roads, bridges, and parks with expert supervision. A sort of mini-WPA. I believe the governor would be receptive.
2. A unified drug policy for the city and county. And increased residential treatment — more beds. A firefighter told me that in rescue operations, his crew is seeing perhaps a tenfold increase in heroin abuse.
3. A rational housing policy for the city. The operative principle would be simple: What actually gets people housed? I’d like to see the Homelessness Board, for example, eventually operate on a mostly volunteer basis so that most of its budget could be redirected to actual housing for homeless people.
4. A vocational public high school for the city, with a post-high school program attached — a six-year program. This is the one most likely to happen because of TPS Superintendent Romules Durant.
But I think they all could and should happen. We have the will, as attendance at these forums shows. As Mr. Mosley said, we simply need to get real. As Mr. Glazer said, we need to put some points on the board.
Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6266.