Deadline Now: Election 2013 Preview

Deadline Now: Election 2013 Preview

Friday, November 1, 2013

Keith Burris, columnist for The Blade, Sandy Isenberg, former Lucas County Commissioner, and Fletcher Word, editor and publisher of The Sojourner's Truth, offer a lively conversation about this year's mayoral and city council elections.

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

On the same day Toledo votes, there is also an election for mayor and city council in Detroit, sixty miles to the north. Except there’s a big difference. Detroit’s new mayor and council will take office in January, just as Toledo’s will. But they will have no power.

The city, which is also about to go through bankruptcy, is being run by a state-appointed emergency manager. The elected officials won’t get power back till at least October, if then.

There are a lot of reasons for Detroit’s decline and fall, but many of them stem from bad decisions made on the part of elected officials, who did not pay attention to lots of warning signs.

They promised pensions they could never deliver; borrowed money they could never hope to pay back, and refused to reduce a bloated work force. The economy, selfishness on the part of the suburbs, and failure of the state to keep its promises all played a role as well. But to a large extent Detroit’s leaders failed.

Things in Detroit are so desperate now that the city’s voters, almost all of whom as black, seem poised to elect as their next mayor a white political boss and hospital administrator who moved in from the suburbs just to run for mayor. People don’t even seem to like him very much. But they are voting for him because they have the desperate hope that maybe he can make things work again.

After watching government in general and cities in particular for more than thirty years, I have reached the conclusion that there is only a limited amount mayors and city councils can do to create prosperity on their own. But they really can screw things up if they aren’t careful.

Now, Toledo is not Detroit. Not even close. But it is an older industrial city with many of the same problems. Sixty years ago, nobody would have guessed Toledo might someday look better than Detroit.

Yet today it does. More than a half century ago, John F. Kennedy inspired Americans with his slogan, “I think we can do better.” That also could be the slogan of every candidate for every office everywhere.

Back in 1945, as World War II was ending, the designer Norman Bel Geddes captivated this city with his visionary exhibit “Toledo Tomorrow.”  Let’s hope whoever is elected Tuesday will give us tomorrows worth remembering.