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Published: Sunday, 2/23/2003

Two orders of mayhem on menu?

Some items while thinking it will be a cold day in you-know-where before I make my arm available for a smallpox vaccination:

FEAR FACTOR: The headline on the front page of the Feb 12 edition of the Toledo Journal -- which bills itself as “Northwest Ohio's Only African American-Owned Newspaper” -- commanded my attention.

White Castle vote will bring `mayhem' to central city, critics say.

As is the case with every headline that has “mayhem” in it, I was drawn to the story, even though I had followed the issue in The Blade a week earlier. In this case, the story lived up to the headline's hype. The issue at hand -- whether a yet-to-open White Castle restaurant should be allowed to operate 24 hours a day -- was compelling.

The genesis of the headline: A business owner predicted there will be “absolute mayhem” in the immediate area -- intersection of Bancroft and Cherry streets -- if the fast-food place known for its square, bite-size hamburgers stays open around the clock. (Opponents wanted it to be closed from 1 to 6 a.m.)

Ultimately, Toledo City Council voted 7-5 in favor of White Castle. It's expected to open in June or July.

About 15 miles away, at the corner of Reynolds Road and Heatherdowns Boulevard, another 24-hour restaurant -- Waffle House -- is expected sometime this year. Don't look for a White Castle-like debate, even though the situation has the potential to be just as combustible.

What happens when you build a 24-hour restaurant next to a motel that has been home to criminal activity? We'll find out soon enough.

Councilman Rob Ludeman believes Waffle House will open with little fanfare. The situation is different from White Castle, at least according to Mr. Ludeman, because the Waffle House is not in a residential area.

Mr. Ludeman said Waffle House's presence could actually decrease crime at the adjacent hotel. According to a memo from Police Chief Mike Navarre, the department's vice/narcotics division is monitoring the hotel for drug and prostitution activity. (And at a restaurant across the street, a sign in the window warns patrons about an increase in vehicle break-ins. Go ahead, connect the dots.)

I'm glad City Council gave White Castle the OK to operate 24 hours a day, and I hope Waffle House doesn't face any roadblocks. What I don't understand is: Why are the perceived threats of “mayhem” in each area radically different?

Do residents in the Bancroft/Cherry area really have that much to fear? Shouldn't those in the area of Reynolds/Heatherdowns be more wary?

Or is perception truly reality?

All I know is that Toledo police officers who work the graveyard shift will be under enormous pressure when these restaurants open. One homicide and the public will be screaming, “We told you so!”

Talk about a no-win situation.

TWIN PACK: Two slanted questions this week. As a tribute to the 557-member Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, which showed a lot of class when it agreed to a wage freeze, I'm offering 557 points for each correct answer. (Note: Click on the link below and check out reader response to last week's questions.)

1) Given that speeding is speeding, wouldn't you like to see Toledo expand the use of speed-enforcement cameras beyond school zones?

2) Didn't George W. Bush tell us during the 2000 presidential campaign that he's “a uniter, not a divider” and he's “not into nation-building” -- or am I just imagining things?



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