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Mayor mandates cultural sensitivity training for employees after 'racially insensitive' comment

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    A crowd of about 50 Toledoans gathered at the Locke Branch Library in East Toledo on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 to ask questions of Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz and his staff.

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    The Blade
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Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz has mandated cultural sensitivity and bias training for the city’s senior staff after an employee made a statement the mayor characterized as “at the very least, racially insensitive.”

Joe Franckhauser, an administrative analyst in the public utilities department, said Tuesday during a city council discussion about Joe E. Brown Park that basketball won’t be offered there because it “draws a crowd not worthy of the park.” Many city council members took issue with his comment, calling it “inappropriate” and “troublesome,” and pushed for inclusion at all public spaces in the city.


A crowd of about 50 Toledoans gathered at the Locke Branch Library in East Toledo on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 to ask questions of Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz and his staff.

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At the second “Wednesdays with Wade” event at the Locke Branch Library the next day — which drew about 50 citizens — Toledoan Ivory Howard asked for the mayor’s response to Mr. Franckhauser’s words.

“Any sport can attract any type of crowd,” she said. “I don’t feel like the one sport should be discriminated because of what they’re saying is an undesirable crowd, but in that neighborhood, who do you think they were talking about? It was racist. And I feel misrepresented by it.”

Mr. Kapszukiewicz said Mr. Franckhauser, who works on the Toledo Waterways Initiative, was given a verbal reprimand and will receive the same cultural sensitivity training that now will be mandatory for the city’s directors and commissioners. Mr. Franckhauser also wants to write an apology letter to city council, Mr. Kapszukiewicz said, though he had not as of Wednesday evening.

He said it was unclear if the employee made a statement that he personally believes or if he was relaying language used at a community meeting about the park two or three years back.

“In any case, it was an inappropriate, awful comment. It made me sick to my stomach for the whole rest of the night,” Mr. Kapszukiewicz said.

He said his administration decided to use the incident as “an opportunity to have a larger conversation,” which is where the mandatory training comes in. The mayor also praised citizens and his staff for showing up at the public forum to have what he said was a needed, though at times heated, discussion about Toledo issues.

Other topics covered at “Wednesdays with Wade” were potholes, sinkholes, and city street resurfacing.

Old West End resident Cheryl Williams moved to the city four years ago from Columbus. She asked the mayor why the city’s streets are in such disrepair and asked for details on the administration’s plan to resurface problem streets, not just patch potholes.

“I’m just stuck on the streets in Toledo. I was struck when I came here how in disrepair all the streets are,” she said.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz said the city would have to resurface every road in Toledo once every 30 years if it were to meet industry standards, which is about 52.5 miles every year.

“This year, we are doing cartwheels because we think we are going to be able to put in the budget enough money to resurface about 20 miles,” he said. “Why are we ecstatic to be doing 20 miles this year, even when that’s not enough to keep up? Because three years ago we did zero, the year before that we did zero.”

He blamed a loss in state funding for the city’s inability to resurface more streets each year, but he said he intends to save money elsewhere in the city budget to funnel to street repairs.

“That is my plan, to merge and consolidate and an opportunity to free up money for roads and public safety,” he said.

“Wednesdays with Wade” is a monthly series. The next is set for 4:30 to 6 p.m. April 4 at the Sanger Branch Library, 3030 Central Ave.

Contact Sarah Elms at selms@theblade.com419-724-6103, or on Twitter @BySarahElms.

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