Deadline Now: Toledo Mayor Mike Bell
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Deadline Now: Toledo Mayor Mike Bell

Friday, January 13, 2012

Toledo Mayor Michael P. Bell looks back at his first two years in office, and looks ahead to challenges and opportunities for the city. Claudia Boyd-Barrett, staff writer for The Blade, joins host Jack Lessenberry for the conversation.

Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of Deadline Now:

Mayor Mike Bell had one perfect moment this year in which everyone agreed he was a hero who had done exactly the right thing.

Driving home one evening in November, he saw a frightened and lost little boy aimlessly walking the streets near Monroe and Talmadge. Turns out the child had been left behind after a party at Chuck E Cheese’s. The mayor rescued the boy and helped reunite him with his family.

Most everything else that happened in 2011 was much more complicated. Some of the city’s problems are clearly not the Bell administration’s fault. They didn’t cause the economic downtown.

Nor can the city’s budget problems all be pinned on this administration, regardless of who is to blame for most of the deficit. But it is clear that the neighborhood department scandal is a black eye for this administration, however it turns out. When the mayor rescued the little boy, one major problem was that the parents had failed to teach the six-year-old his address and phone number.

What seems painfully clear is that whoever is ultimately most at fault, there was not sufficient oversight in the neighborhoods department. Any system where a vast amount of contracting work seems to have been improperly steered to a partnership between a shadowy felon and a disbarred lawyer has failed. President Harry Truman used to have a sign on his desk that said, “The buck stops here.“ In the case of Toledo, that sign belongs on the mayor’s desk. 

But regardless of how all this turns out, the major problem the city faces continues to be the economy -- and how to adapt to a world where the automotive industry can no longer be counted on to produce vast numbers of good-paying jobs for unskilled labor, Nobody can deny the mayor has done his best to court new jobs and investors from overseas -- and has already scored some successes.

Whatever your politics, you have to hope this bears much more fruit in the coming year.