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Published: 11/1/2013 - Updated: 5 months ago

COMMENTARY

2 ex-mayors take the high ground

BY KEITH C. BURRIS
COLUMNIST FOR THE BLADE

Last Sunday, former mayors Jack Ford and Carty Finkbeiner held a joint news conference with Toledo Superintendent of Schools Romules Durant.

Their immediate message was: Support the school levy.

Mr. Ford said: “We have heard what the public has said in turning down previous levies: Shape up.”

But now, Mr. Ford said, the school system has a dynamic leader who has the confidence of the community. “He’s the right leader for this moment in our history. We need to get behind him.”

Why not remove the word “acting” from Mr. Durant’s title and give him a long-term contract?

Well, as it happens, the school board candidates are uniformly in favor of doing that. That’s good politics as well as good policy. Mr. Durant is the most popular man in Toledo right now. Mr. Finkbeiner joked that Mr. Durant has an 85 percent approval rating and that he and Mr. Ford, at the peak of their careers, might have had as high a rating — together.

Mr. Finkbeiner went on to discuss the role of schools and school teachers in today’s world. They must be parents, he said, in this day of absentee fathers.

Both ex-mayors emphasized the importance of our school system as a social system, an extended family system, and as a part of the imperative of reviving Toledo’s neighborhoods.

The good news: Both candidates for mayor have also backed the levy 100 percent.

Mike Bell has been a strong advocate. He is, as well, a longtime supporter of the Boys and Girls Clubs. In two Toledo schools, they are making a difference. We need to repeat and multiply — extend the Boys and Girls Club model to all TPS neighborhood schools.

As. Mr Bell likes to say, this will take some money: “We need to be real.”

Mike Collins proposes a mentoring program for challenged, economically disadvantaged kids that would first be tried in a pilot program in five schools.

And, as Mr. Finkbeiner said Sunday, all the leading contenders for City Council also support the levy.

And yet, as we head into the final days of the mayoral campaign, the focus seems to be shifting to whispering campaigns, negative ads, and dirty tricks.

The two candidates for mayor took a clean campaign pledge at the urging of The Blade. They need to do more. They need to stick to issues, and to the high road in the final days.

The key issue? Take a page from the old, ex-mayors: What we can do for our kids? Especially our poorest kids in the central city.

This is not just a question of schools, but of anti-gang programs; youth programs that might be consolidated into fewer silos, and improving Toledo’s housing for the poor. It’s hard to study if there are rats in your apartment. Or you are homeless.

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

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



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