Nov 2, 2005

Jack Talks Back


I had the privilege of recently interviewing Toledo Mayor Jack Ford for the Toledo Free Press. This is a simultaneous publication of the highlights of that talk.

(Toledo, OH) Jack Ford believes that regional cooperation, rather than competition between communities, is the key to improving living conditions for all residents of the region.

“The more we look at a regional approach to how we do business in Northwest Ohio, the better off everyone in the area will be,” he said. “I believe that some day in the future Lucas County and the City of Toledo will one day merge completely.”

My interview with the mayor touched on a wide variety of topics that interest voters in the November 8 election.

On point-of-sale legislation: The mayor remains committed to the development of changes that would require property owners to bring housing up to code.

“I support point-of-sale legislation to help those folks who sign land contracts, and I’m hoping that the task force arrives at a compromise,” he said. “I’m working with a lady right now who found out that house she just bought has a water line problem, the garage is about ready to fall down, and repairs were made to the building by unlicensed contractors.”

On legalized gambling as a method to raise revenue and spark development: Ford is skeptical that casino gambling would provide much benefit to the city of Toledo.

“Gambling would raise revenue and it would spark some development, but there would be a tradeoff in the rise in social problems,” he said. “Most of the money would not remain here, but would be funneled off to the location of the owners; I read a report that estimated the number of addicted gamblers would increase by 50 percent if legalized gambling were allowed in Ohio.”

On the city's street gangs: The mayor acknowledged that street gangs are a problem in the city, but stressed that gang activity is only one component of crime in Toledo.

“The issue of gangs has a lot of focus right now because of the Wilson Park disturbance,” he said. “I want to hire civilians to free up officers who are currently working desk jobs, and I am looking at a funding mechanism that will raise the number of police officers to a much higher level. With these changes we can devote more officers to work on gang-related problems in the city.”

On future visits by NSM or other white supremacist groups: Ford expressed confidence that the city will be able to aggressively place limits on any future visits by NSM (National Socialist Movement), whose appearance in Toledo on October 15 sparked violence.

“I have heard that Mr. White may be coming back, and we have both legal and policing strategies to deal with this,” he said, adding that he has a team of lawyers working on “novel” ways to deal with a possible return of NSM. “We will challenge any group that intends to come here and provoke a violent response.”

On helping the North End recover from the rioting: The mayor said that the North End faces many “unique challenges” that defy simple solutions.

“We are taking a multi-faceted approach to this, beginning with the various neighborhood meetings,” he said. “We are setting up what I am calling the ‘Indigenous Leadership Group,’ which is composed of community individuals. Those who were responsible for the property damage are being arrested, and are being held liable for their criminal behavior as well as being held liable for restitution.”

Ford believes that there is much work remaining in the long term to help improve conditions in North Toledo.

“I think that we need to do more for the area in terms of job training and developing a leadership cadre,” he said. “We also need to take advantage of neighborhood leaders like Jean Overton and James Caldwell to work with the unemployed young men of the area, and this is where the problem needs to be tackled.”

On how Toledo might best position itself to attract employers: The mayor expressed excitement that recent changes

“The RGP (Regional Growth Partnership) has been carved out to be a private entity that will work to bring new employers to the area,” he said. “The city and county economic development departments have merged, and all of these changes bode well for Toledo in the coming years.”

Ford spoke about the need for cooperation and a well-defined set of boundaries between the various economic development agencies.

“The Port Authority should stay within its scope in terms of providing bond support,” he said. “However, the key will be for each group to do what they do and do it well; what we should not have are three entities competing with each other.”

On the split in the local Democratic Party: The mayor placed the rift among local Democrats in a historical context.

“This split is not going to be repaired, frankly, for quite some time,” he said. “People like Jack Ford, Carty Finkbeiner, and Dennis Duffy are just bit players in a drama that goes back many years.”

Ford held out hope that the 2006 races will act as a unifying factor for local Democrats.

“I hope that the gubernatorial election, at least temporarily, brings the local Democratic party back together,” he said. “You saw some of that during the John Kerry campaign. Most of us in the party are quite weary of trying to figure out ‘who’s on first.’”

On specific changes to city government in the next four years: Ford’s focus for the next four years will place public safety among his highest priorities.

“We are going to hire more police and start a new fire class, and we are going to purchase 75 new police cars by 2007,” he said. “If we can whittle down the cost of a new arena, we will get that built in the next four years.”

In terms of economic development, the mayor scoffed at his opponent’s campaign promises.

“My opponent says he will get Southwyck done in 365 days, but I have to point out that he already had eight years to do so,” he said. “On the marina project, he failed to mention at his press conference five years ago that the city did not even own the land yet, but he had great plans for other folks’ land.”

On stemming Toledo’s population losses: The mayor traced the problem of population losses to decisions in the middle of the 20th century by city leaders to provide water lines to suburban communities.

“The first part of the problem is a structural issue, and is found in the contracts to provide water to outlying areas,” he said. “What formerly was farmland became opened to commercial and residential development; once the spigot was opened, these communities experienced explosive growth at the expense of the city.”

Downtown Toledo, Ford believes, has the greatest potential to attract new residents from the suburbs and from outside the region.

“A lot of the owners of downtown warehouses are turning them into lofts, and these are selling like hotcakes,” he said. “I have been talking to people about the Spangler Building, and there are at least four developers who are interested in developing condos there.”


Lisa Renee said...

You did a good job on that article as well as the one on Carty. But then you always do a good job.


IsisDC said...

What a sap! I tend to vote Democrat, but this guy's panned answers are for the birds.

He has NO real plan that addreses any of the issues mentioned.

Property owners need either tax cuts for investments in improvements or city budget investments to improve what looks to me like a decaying city.

I have not seen the Carty article, nor do I know anything about him.

But, this guy Ford, does not impress me at all.

historymike said...

Gee, Isis, tell us how you really feel.


Lisa Renee said...

I thought he captured the "true essence" of Jack...


Hooda Thunkit said...

Great articles Mike, I enjoyed them both!

I was inspired that I comment heavily on this one, so here goes:

”“The more we look at a regional approach to how we do business in Northwest Ohio, the better off everyone in the area will be,” he said.”

On this, I agree with JFo

”I believe that some day in the future Lucas County and the City of Toledo will one day merge completely.”

On this, Jack and I differ.

I believe that the County will eventually absorb Toledo.

There is a special name for counties that are essentially a city or a city that is its’ own county, I wish I could remember it…

On point-of-sale legislation:

If Jack would restrict the point-of-sale legislation to only land contract sales, then he might have something.

The rest of home buyers don’t appear to want or need this “protection.”

On legalized gambling as a method to raise revenue and spark development:

Jack has this exactly right, in my opinion.

If only our other elected leaders had the cojones to speak clearly about this…

On the city's street gangs:

I agree with pulling police officers out from behind desks and putting them back on the streets doing police things.

Why do we have so many sworn officers flying desks for hazardous duty wages?

Paper cuts are in a different category of injury than say a bullet wound…

“To Protect and to Serve” does not mean “to fly a desk and to hide behind it” and it certainly doesn’t warrant the same pay scale, nor the 25 and out retirement benefit that a line officer earns

On future visits by NSM or other white supremacist groups:

I agree with most of what JFo is doing, however…

Statewide, we need a unified approach to requiring groups that need extraordinary public safety presences, to insure their safety and security, to obtain permits in advance and enter into talks with said officials to formulate an agreeable plan from which they must not deviate, for their own protection.

This way, all sides will be able to exercise their rights without undue risk of confrontation and bodily harm.

On helping the North End recover from the rioting:

The answer to this problem is indeed difficult.

The recovery should focus on family, parental involvement and child control, self respect, individual responsibility, and education with higher expectations and goals.

I said that it would be difficult, tackling the unraveling of our society…

On how Toledo might best position itself to attract employers:

I disagree with JFo’s spiel.

Make Toledo a more business friendly place (less frivolous regulation, an easier to deal with bureaucracy, and a fair tax burden) and they WILL come…

On the split in the local Democratic Party:

I agree that Jack Ford, Carty Finkbeiner, and Dennis Duffy can’t fix this problem.

The puppet masters residing in the smoke-filled “back rooms” of the various party factions can though.

All that it takes is a common vision…

On specific changes to city government in the next four years:

I don’t think that Jack understands his place in a changing government.

Jack’s job should be to paint a vision, enable the right people to execute the vision, and get the hell out of the way…

On stemming Toledo’s population losses:

Water isn’t the problem, and it never has been. Jack (and many other politicians like Jack), haven’t got a clue of what to do…

Make Toledo a place that people want to move to, not from.

As with encouraging businesses, lower the taxes, stop the frivolous regulations, and greatly simplify the bureaucracy, and people will WANT to live here…

While we’re at it, all of the laws on the books need to be reviewed, simplified, and cleaned up.

You know, if everyone working for the city would read their job description every day, and the City’s charter quarterly, we would begin to see a functioning, responsive City government that would be more people friendly.

What a concept…