Deadline Now: Welcome to Toledo

Deadline Now: Welcome to Toledo

Friday, May 23, 2014 at 8:30 p.m.

Some claim that Toledo is a place to come from, not a place to go to. What is it really like to be a newcomer in town? How can the city attract and keep residents? This week, we meet two relative newcomers and get their first-hand impressions of our city.

Mary Bilyeu is the new Food Editor for the Blade. Dr. David J. Livingston was recently appointed President of Lourdes University. They are our guests this week on "Deadline Now."

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

To someone arriving from another part of the country, Toledo and Detroit might look fairly similar in everything except size.

Both are older industrial cities heavily invested in the automotive industry. Both have struggled to revive their downtowns; both have been coping with population loss and a changing economy.

But these cities are, in fact, very different in many ways. Toledo has changed largely through evolution; Detroit, through revolution.

Toledo grew more slowly and gradually – and the population has ebbed in a similar fashion. Toledo’s population doubled in the first thirty years of the 20th century. Detroit’s increased more than sixfold.

Toledo kept growing until 1970, and has lost only about a quarter of its peak population since then. Detroit’s population decline began in the early nineteen fifties.

Today, Detroit has only about a third of the number of people it once did. But even that doesn’t tell the whole story; the mainly white population the city had half a century ago is almost completely gone.

In human terms, Detroit is literally not at all the same city it was then. This is not just racial. Since the era of Henry Ford, Detroit has been a place where outsiders came to make money, stayed perhaps a generation, and left, for the suburbs or elsewhere.

Toledo is, in some ways, still recognizably the same city it was half a century, even a century ago, with many of the same industries and families. In many ways, that may make Toledo a better place to live, work, and raise families. But some people have told me that makes Toledo a harder place for outsiders to feel accepted.

Once, I tried a word association game in a classroom. When I said Detroit, words came up like “scary,” “exciting,” and “crime.”

For Toledo, I got “art museum” and “boring.”

Neither stereotype is fair, but virtually all stereotypes exist because they contain some element of truth, especially given that perception has a way of becoming reality.

Toledo does have some things in common with Detroit. Both need new jobs and industry. Both need to improve their public schools, halt their brain drain and population loss, and especially make their cities places well educated young people can find good jobs and want to come to and raise families in. 

Let’s hope we all find the magic formula.