Deadline Now: Mayor Michael Bell
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Deadline Now: Mayor Michael Bell

Friday, January 18, 2013 at 8:30 p.m.

Toledo Mayor Mike Bell this week's guest, with a look back at the Mayor's first three years in office, a look ahead at 2013, and beyond.

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

I don’t know who ought to be the next mayor of Toledo. Nor do I have an opinion on whether Mike Bell ought to run or not.

But frankly, I’d be surprised if some part of him wasn’t tempted to hang it up, pass the aggravation on to somebody else, and go ride his motorcycle somewhere where it stays warm in the winter time.

Being a mayor these days has to be frustrating, especially in any older city that is fighting with an aging population, a shrinking revenue base, and citizens who expect more from government at the same time they say they want government to do and spend less.

Part of the problem, I think, is that we aren’t sure what we really want out of government at any level.  Many of us these days tend to think we pay too many taxes. But I have never once heard anyone say they want government to stop giving them some benefit.

We want government to cut other people’s benefits … but when it comes to our own, we like what we’ve got, thank you very much, and we want to hold on to our benefits and deductions.

My theory is that a big part of the problem today is that there is little or no consensus about what government is for. Back before the Great Depression of the nineteen thirties, none of us expected much out of the federal government. It delivered the mail, printed and coined money, and raised armies in wartime. And that was about it.

This model broke down badly then, and government -- federal, state and local --has never been the same since. In some ways, local officials like Mike Bell have it the hardest, I think.

They have very limited budgets and powers to get things done.

They can’t affect the national economy, change benefit structures or invade nearby cities. However, if local folks can’t find jobs or the parks are messed up, people tend to blame the mayor.

What mayors can do, I think, is set an overall tone and direction, and set an example. Then, govern out of confidence and integrity. Sometimes, governing is all about those things, plus basic competence.

If Mayor Bell runs, his customers will give him a report card, one way or another, with their votes.
And by the way, it’s a pass-fail kind of class.