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Wednesday, April 16, 2014
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Published: 10/24/2013 - Updated: 5 months ago

COMMENTARY

Can we agree?

BY KEITH BURRIS
BLADE COLUMNIST

On Tuesday, in two different mayoral debates, civility broke out.

Michael Collins and Mike Bell were being polite — even finding common ground.

The most interesting point of agreement? “Toledo’s biggest challenge.”

And what did the two candidates agree that challenge is?

Our self-image as a city.

Our confidence in ourselves as a community.

Mayor Bell often points out that Toledo sits in the middle of the nation. Going east, west, north, or south, it’s a natural intersection. There are two reasons, he says, that Toledo was an industrial giant and it could be again: Location and water.

Mike Collins sees a city of neighbors and possibilities. He talks about people who have moved here and can’t believe it: affordability; pluralism; the arts; baseball; hockey; an incredible park system; a fabulous museum, and one of the most beautiful public libraries in America.

And our problems are not Newark’s, or Detroit’s, or Chicago’s. Our problems are manageable. We have all the pieces in place, the mayor says. We need confidence, Mr. Collins says.

Mr. Bell and Mr. Collins agree. We need to market Toledo — first to Toledo. We don’t know what we have.

As someone who left this community 25 years ago and came back, I agree. All those years ago at The Blade, I worked for a man named Bernard Judy — he’s one of those legendary Toledo names. Bernie was once dubbed a “shameless booster” of the city and virtually all schemes to improve it. He wore that label like a badge of honor. I have to confess that, as a young man, I thought he sometimes overdid it. As a no-longer young man who has seen a good deal of the country, and other cities, I now think he had it about right. Toledo is a gem and needs to be held up as such.

May I suggest that we also undervalue our politicians?

Don’t laugh.

In my last job, I worked in a small state in the shadow of the state Capitol, so I saw governors and senators and congressmen, and a lot of state legislators, on a regular basis. Lowell Weicker, Chris Dodd, and Joe Lieberman were national figures. But none had the intellectual depth or humanity of Jack Ford. I know of no other congressman in America known to constituents simply by his or her first name. Some poor saps are represented in Congress by Michele Bachmann or Eric Cantor. We have Marcy. I think most cities would love to have a newcomer like Sandy Spang or a wise old vet like Rob Ludeman — someone in it just to be a good neighbor. Compare him with Marion Barry.

Compare Mike Bell with Kwame Kilpatrick.

Both Mr. Bell and Mr. Collins are several cuts above the candidates most American cities get for mayor. I have spent a fair amount of time with both in recent weeks and the more I see the more I admire both men. Both are more complicated and idealistic than most people think. Both love Toledo. Can we agree that Toledo is lucky to have this choice?

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact him at: kburris@theblade.com or 419-724-6266.



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