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Published: 12/11/2013 - Updated: 4 months ago

COMMENTARY

Negativity, new blood, a new model

Newcomers and natives have different neutral settings.

BY KEITH C. BURRIS
COLUMNIST FOR THE BLADE

A few days ago I spoke with a small group of rather negative native Toledoans who told me we have to find a way to turn around the negative attitudes of native Toledoans.

Newcomers are different. They look around and see a vital and eminently livable city.

The livable city. I want to come back to that idea. But, for now, let’s focus on how we get past negativity. Maybe one way is to look at certain objective realities like assets, not liabilities. Take our work force. A businessman told me the other day that people in Toledo “have an incredible work ethic.” He sees this as a asset we can leverage.

Contrast that to the man who recently told me: “It’s just a labor town and that’s why we can’t make progress.”

It seems to me that if we think in terms of a skilled and motivated work force, we have the basis for progress. If we think in terms of recalcitrant labor unions, we begin in neutral and then regress.

Another example: Coming from another region, I look at Toledo’s political elite — indeed its whole leadership cadre, including business leaders, heads of nonprofits, and civil rights leaders — and I see honesty, commitment, and stability. Yet many people in town lament that Toledo is always led by the “same old faces.” This is turning a positive into a negative.

I don’t think anyone would dispute that Toledo can profit from new blood — be it Sandy Spang (who won big in a race for City Council) or Sean Nestor (who lost big). One brought the perspective of a small businessman and one the approach of a neighborhood activist. We need the young bloods, no question. But we also need the old lions — Carty Finkbeiner Donna Owens, Don Monroe, Robert Culp, Pete Culp, and Sandy Isenberg, to name a few. They have seen and done so much. Their experience is invaluable. Only a very stupid society puts its elders on a shelf.

The other day I met Frank Szollosi, a former councilman who may seek the soon-to-be open 2nd District council seat. I don’t know if he will seek it or will succeed in being appointed. And I know other good people may pursue the seat. For instance, Spang-like newcomer Marcia Helman and current Councilman Adam Martinez. But I know Mr. Szollosi is well informed and knowledgeable and you want people like him in local politics. You don’t want to ban them because they are retreads or old news.

Mayor-elect D. Michael Collins hopes to come up with a way to pair the old guard and the new by implementing a series of city management mentorships. Not easy. But worth trying.

And that brings me to a last suggestion for accentuating the positive. Many people in that group I spoke to were already trashing the new mayor. He hasn’t served a day in office yet. A new model to replace the old, reflexive naysaying and self-flagellation might be: Give the new guy, the old guy, the other guy, a chance.

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

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



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