Thursday, Apr 26, 2018
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Keith Burris


Collins doesn’t fear shaking things up



Mayor Mike Collins is really three different guys — three guys who have played three different roles. The three roles converge in him, but they sometimes create a walking contradiction. An interesting contradiction to be sure, but a contradiction.

He’s an feisty Irish cop who wants to cut to the chase.

He’s an academic who sees complexities and contradictions.

And he’s a politician who must count votes, build coalitions, and continually seek the voters’ approval.

In a wide ranging interview with The Blade editorial board and other Blade editors and writers Thursday, and in an appearance in East Toledo on Wednesday, the three sides of Mr. Collins were all on display.

I am going to set aside the issue of blight. I think the mayor is digging himself in to a wrong-headed and impractical position on blight. We’ll come back to that next week. But:

● On the issue of use of surveillance cameras, the mayor is of all three minds. The academic and responsible chief fiscal officer says we need to gather some data. How much legally admissible evidence, and how many convictions, have the cameras brought the city? The ex-cop, I think, suspects, very few. He really believes, I surmise, that only police officers can truly police. The politician warns: Careful, don’t let the cop speak too clearly here.

● On the Marina District and the Chinese developers from Dashing Pacific, the cop wants to say “enough already, let’s pull the plug.” (And in East Toledo that’s pretty much what he did say.) The academic is aware of limited legal remedies and cultural distances. The politician wants both to grandstand and to find a solution — a real developer of real commerce.

● But on the most interesting issue the mayor raised, and he raised it to the surprise of all, the cop, the academic, and the pol fused perfectly.

Mayor Collins wants to bring the University of Toledo law school downtown. His reasoning is as follows: UT wants to build a visitor’s center on Goddard field, just off Bancroft. It would require a bridge and provoke much neighborhood wrath. Mr. Collins says the current law school would make a perfect visitor’s center, and it would make total sense to have the law school downtown, where students would have access to the courts, and the presence of the law school would be a key part of the downtown renaissance.

Personally, I think this is brilliant and brave. It will also stir a hornet’s nest at UT where this idea was once hot and then got so hot, as in controversial, it had to be abandoned. Moreover, many will see the mayor as meddling.

Good mayors do that sometimes.

But, the same impulse that makes it possible for the mayor to lead will, I think, often land him in what a former president called “deep doo-doo” in the next three years.

I guess that means the cop rules.

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact him at: or 419-724-6266.

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