Shortly after the end of WWII, Dwight Eisenhower was asked why the Allies had been able to win the war. Without hesitation, Gen. Eisenhower listed the Toledo-made Jeep as the single most-important machine that helped defeat the Nazis and Fascists in Europe.
Right around that time, in 1950, the same year my mother was born in Toledo Hospital, the Haughton Elevator Company opened a factory on this site that built elevators for, among other clients, NASA and the US Space Program. On July 16, 1969, the elevator that took Neil Armstrong and his crew from the ground to the top of their Saturn V rocket was built here in Toledo.
The Toledo of that time was a strong place. A proud place. With healthy neighborhoods, a bustling economy, and a growing population.
The Toledo of my mother’s youth on Bennett Road in West Toledo was a city whose best days were ahead. Seven Fortune 500 companies were located inside the city limits. It was a town only limited by the creativity and imagination of its hard-working residents.
But something changed.
Factories began to close, including the Haughton Elevator factory that once employed the families of this neighborhood along Spencer. Today only one Fortune 500 company is headquartered in Toledo.
Families began to leave, seeking opportunities elsewhere. Toledo has lost roughly 100,000 citizens since the year I was born, 1972.
And as jobs and people left Toledo, our infrastructure began to crumble. Today, the city that helped win WWII and put a man on the moon … can’t seem to take care of its own city streets.
The Toledo of my mother’s childhood is gone, and when I think of my own children, who are 13 and 10, I worry about the Toledo they will inherit. Toledo needs to be better for them, and for all families who call this city home.
Toledo has faced some tough times over the years. That’s the bad news. The good news is that, working together, we can turn this city around. All we need is the courage to change, to chart a new course and to elect new leadership with proven results.
As we look at Toledo today we see so much hope, so many positive steps being taken by the private sector and in some of our neighborhoods. It is only our government that seems stuck in the past and unable to change to deal with the new challenges facing our community.
We know what the status quo looks like. We know what doing the same old thing and making the same old decisions will produce: more of the same.
I’m not a member of City Council. I’m not the Mayor. If you are happy with the status quo, I am not your candidate. If you think Toledo government is headed in the right direction, I am not your candidate. If you think the answers to Toledo’s problems reside within city government, I am not your candidate.
But if you think we need fresh ideas, new energy, and an outsider’s perspective, I will be your voice. If you think we need to shake up the status quo, move in a new direction, and maybe try some things we haven’t tried before, this is your campaign.
Why should voters think that I’ll be able to bring the new leadership and proven results they so desperately need? Because I’ve done it before. In my public life I’ve always looked for ways to move the community forward through innovation and reform.
I started a pharmacy card network that saved senior citizens and others hard-earned money on their prescription drug costs. I created a low-interest loan program for small businesses that has helped 42 local businesses keep or create nearly 400 jobs. My office purchased revenue bonds that put the initial $18 million of funding into what is now Huntington Arena.
During my time as County Treasurer we have accomplished so much, yet we have done it while reducing our staff by 30% and reducing our budget by 15%.
I led in the creation of the Lucas County Land Bank, which has tackled the problems of neighborhood blight by helping create good-paying commercial and industrial jobs, facilitating the rehab of over 400 homes, demolishing over 3,000 of the worst nuisance properties in our community, and in one case, helping convert a blighted brownfield site, where they once built elevators for NASA, into a 28,000-panel solar field that today provides 30% of the energy to the Toledo Zoo.
I chose the Anthony Wayne Solar Field to launch my campaign because it is a symbol of what is possible. A reminder of how public-private partnerships can be used to turn haunting reminders of what used to be … into exciting examples of what the future can look like if we dare to dream big.
For years, the property was an eyesore. Vacant. Left in ruins. Kind of like the property where the Southwyck Mall once stood. Toledoans would drive down the Anthony Wayne Trail and wonder if the site would ever be cleaned up. We did.
Toledo is at a crossroads. In many ways, we are seeing a rebirth of optimism that hasn’t been seen in 30 years, maybe longer. The private sector has stepped up. The metroparks have embraced the exciting potential of our river. The social service community is playing an important role. The philanthropic community is leading the way.
The one missing piece of the puzzle is our city government. Whatever our potential is as a city, we are never going to reach it if we can’t take care of our streets. If we can’t develop Southwyck. If we can’t ensure safe and affordable drinking water. If we can’t keep our neighborhoods safe and clean. If we can’t balance our budget. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Toledo needs more than just city government to lead the renaissance. But government must get its part right, government can’t be standing in the way. Too often that is what is happening right now.
For the first time since the invention of the automobile, cities in this country are growing faster than their suburbs. Cities have momentum, and it’s happening all over the country. The early signs can be seen here, too. But this moment won’t last forever, and at some point, the momentum might shift the other way.
I don’t want Toledo to miss this chance because it has a city government that means well but just can’t get out of its own way and can’t get the job done.
Toledo has to change the way it governs in order to better deal with the new realities that we face as a city. Toledo today is not meeting the service needs of our residents and businesses, and cities that can’t meet basic service needs are on a path to failure no matter how well the private sector is doing.
We must recognize that the $18 million dollars a year that Columbus has taken from Toledo taxpayers over the last 8 years is not likely to come back any time soon.
I don’t blame my opponents for the money that left for Columbus, that’s not the fault of the mayor or the City Council.
But I do blame them for failing to lead, failing to change, failing to innovate, failing to recognize that new challenges call for new solutions, not just shouting the same arguments over and over again.
We can keep trying the same things that haven’t worked over the last 25 years, or we can be like other successful cities that have faced similar challenges. There is no amount of pushing words around the room, or squeezing the budget of one department to fund another, that will solve this problem. City government needs to change.
Toledo government needs both stronger leadership and better management. But more than that it needs to be ready to innovate and change.
When I’m mayor, we’re going to bring fundamental change to the way our local government operates.
My administration will lead and effort to consolidate significant portions of city and county government. I will reach out to County officials who I believe are also ready for change. Today our city and county governments are suing each other. What we need to be doing is working together.
Such a step can both save money for the taxpayers, and improve the quality of our services for both the City and the County. The taxpayers are paying for too many things twice. The money saved through such a consolidation will free up resources to devote to our most pressing needs: safer neighborhoods and taking care of our streets and city infrastructure.
Everything should be on the table but our initial focus will be on the consolidation of Economic Development, Building Inspection, payroll and other finance functions, Human Resources, and IT departments.
Other smart cities have done this, Toledo and Lucas County taxpayers deserve better.
We’re also going to work with our neighbors to develop a regional water system that is fair, and that helps keep rates affordable. If we don’t, water rates will double — maybe even triple.
We’re going to implement priority based budgeting – not hide from it.
We’re going to declare Lake Erie impaired, because it is. We’re going to join the lawsuit against the US EPA to ensure we get our fair share to make sure our Great Lake is clean.
We’re going to be a cleaner city by continuing the work of the Land Bank to fight blight and strengthen neighborhoods. We’re going to be a safer city by giving our police and fire fighters the tools they need to succeed. We’re going to be a more beautiful city by embracing the arts and planting more trees. We’re going to be a healthier city by celebrating our park system and expanding our network of bicycle and walking paths.
As Mayor I will also be willing to take on aspirational challenges like working to best position Toledo to compete with the cities of the future by building the framework to ensure a universal pre-K education to every child living in the city of Toledo.
We’re going to try many different things to turn Toledo government around. Some will work. Some may not. But we’re going to try. I am not going to be satisfied to sit around and watch Toledo slowly decline.
It’s fitting that I mention the next generation as I conclude, because it allows me to come full circle. I talked about my mother’s Toledo of the 1950s. As parents, Sarah and I worry about Emma and Will’s Toledo. Will they have a future here? Or will they, like so many before them, be forced to leave to build their futures?
I believe in the future of Toledo, because I believe in Toledoans. We are the men and women who built the machines that helped win WWII and put men on the moon. There’s nothing we can’t do.
My mother was a teacher, and my father was a Toledo Police officer. I know what this city is capable of.
We’ve done it before, and we can do it again. All we need is the courage to try a new direction, and the optimism to dream big.
There is no doubt that there are big challenges ahead, but with new leadership and a renewed commitment to hard work, I believe that Toledo’s best days can once again be in front of us.