Ed Koch, when he was mayor of New York City, used to ask, “How’m I doing?”
Being a mayor is not easy. There is nowhere to hide. A mayor makes an important decision, and at least one potential enemy, every single day. And there is never enough money.
There is not even a fraction of enough money, for example, for street repair.
We can’t afford the city’s pools, for a second example. Yet an alternative to the pools — a comprehensive youth program that would include the more viable city pools, some private pools, basketball, boxing, and summer jobs — isn’t yet in view.
Tough job. Yet new Mayor Mike Collins is taking it in stride, keeping the big picture in mind.
I spoke with him in his home a few days ago along with his wife, Sandy Drabik, a vivacious and keenly intelligent lawyer with experience in state government and higher education.
For Mr. Collins, the big picture is simple: jobs and attitude.
The mayor and his top man for economic development, Matt Sapara, are trying to build on ProMedica’s decision to come downtown. They are going after the big fish and the little.
Mr. Collins told me his other goal is to help change Toledo’s attitude about itself. It’s already happening, he says. And again, he’s not the initiator, but just one player. We have to get from, “Why would you move here?” to: “Congratulations. You can do better in Toledo.” He says the transformation is already happening, and he hopes it will be finished by the end of his term.
Any mayor of Toledo faces the inevitable Greek chorus of nay-sayers, who proclaim him (or her) a failure after one week or one month in office. I remember a veteran politico telling me even before he took office: “Collins will be a total disaster, a terrible mayor.” The prediction was that he would micromanage and be overwhelmed by the job. But so far, his attention to detail seems to have served him well. He has insisted, for example, that no firings take place without him signing off. That’s good management in a city this size, not micromanagement.
And he won plaudits from former Mayor Jack Ford, and many firefighters, for the way he handled his duties after the heartbreaking deaths of two firemen in January. He handled this and the harsh winter weather well.
The worst thing people have said is that the mayor sometimes needs an editor.
Sandy is still adjusting to her role as first lady. She doesn’t go to Government Center or sit in on meetings. She thinks that would be inappropriate. But her husband does seek her advice, for she is, he says, one of the smartest people he has ever met. Ms. Drabik was originally a botanist and wants to get involved in the city’s public gardens.
So how’s he doing? It’s early, but Mr. Collins seems as if he’s been doing this for years.
The mayor checks in with his neighbors when he does his marketing. “No one has come up to me at Kroger and told me I am doing a lousy job,” he says.
Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6266.