On Sunday, with “Battle Lines; Gangs of Toledo,” The Blade began telling the story of gangs in our community. This story, which required an unprecedented outreach to the gangs themselves, includes information your city government should be giving you but is not giving you — where gangs are concentrated in this city.
When Mike Bell ran for mayor almost four years ago he promised to run an open government if elected; he promised to be transparent. But on the important issue of gangs in Toledo, and on many other issues, the mayor has practiced the opposite of what he preached.
The people of Toledo have a right to know about gang activity in this city. They have a right to know where it is. They are entitled to see the “gang map” that tells where gang activity is most dangerous and intense.
Many months ago, The Blade asked for that map, which is a public document under Ohio law. The mayor refused to release it. He has persisted in this refusal, even in the absence of legal authority. This refusal is illegal and unjustified.
The Blade, with great effort and with potential endangerment to courageous Blade staff members, has therefore assembled what the city already has — a gang map. It never should have come to this. But only a map can really show the magnitude and scope of this problem.
One consolation is that The Blade’s map is almost certainly more accurate than the city’s because gang members were naturally more willing to talk with our reporters than police officers.
Revealing this information will not tell gang members anything they don’t already know. And it will not make the work of the Toledo police force any harder. But it will inform and protect the public.
Many people will not like what they read about their city in this series. We don’t like it either.
Our motive is not to defame anyone or to depress readers but to show what is — to tell the truth.
In the final analysis, the gang map is not a matter of the newspaper’s right to know, but the people’s right to know. The Blade is merely the surrogate and servant of the people of Toledo. For only an informed public can govern itself.
Today The Blade fulfills its duty to inform the public, and we call upon the mayor to keep his promise of open government.
We will continue to pursue the legal case in the courts — the city’s map of gang activity belongs to the people of Toledo, and not just to its mayor.
—John Robinson Block