Archive for December, 2006
n The Strain family sues the City of Toledo, Chief of Police Mike Navarre and two Toledo police officers for $4 million after their brother, John Strain, was paralyzed during a fall in an altercation with police. The family seeks a full investigation of Strain’s death. Strain suffered with schizophrenia and other health issues. Navarre said Strain had a pre-existing medical condition and he resisted. He said it was unfortunate that Strain sustained an injury because of the fall.
n The Ohio Department of Health requires health care providers and long-term residential facilities to report cases of the fatal pathogen, Clostridium difficile. The bacterium was blamed for as many as 21 deaths in Cleveland and more than 100 deaths in Quebec, Canada.
n The Ohio Department of Transportation announced several major projects for Northwest Ohio including widening highways, reconstructing certain highway bridges and ramps on I-75, U.S. 23 and I-475, constructing new railroad grade separation on Oregon Road, rebuilding the Wood County U.S 20 and state Route 420 interchange and widening the state Route 2 Bay Bridge.
n Toledo Public Schools considers switching the company that helps it plan for standardized tests by using a trial basis of IDMS software while it continues to use a program called PRO-Ohio. Concerns about already improving test scores coupled with the impracticality of teachers creating their own tests are raised. However, the software’s parent company, ETS, received positive feedback about its abilities.
n The number of seniors taking advantage of using reverse mortgages to retain home ownership while enjoying some of its equity increased from 80,000 to 100,000 in two years with the figure likely to double in 2006.
n Chief of Police Mike Navarre said gang violence had decreased and remembered a “lot worse” activity in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
n BGSU gold medalist Dave Wottle recalls terrorist attacks that took place three days following his gold-medal performance at the 1972 Olympics. He described the incident as “surreal” while other life in the Olympic Village went on as “normal.” Wottle noted holes in security measures.
n Predictions for 2006 lead toward improvement in the job market with hundreds of new positions and the Regional Growth Partnership working to secure private-sector investment. Plans for stable electric rates, lower natural gas rates, new technology and other city improvements aid in the positive prediction.
n A proposed smoking ban, modeled after one in Columbus that prohibits smoking in all buildings frequented by the public, causes health organizations to lobby hard for the ban while bar and restaurant owners lobby strongly against it.
n UT and MUO prepare for their July 1 merger. Reducing costs, improving school rankings and improving faculty and student recruitment are projected results.
n As New Jersey prepares to begin random testing for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs for its high school student athletes, Toledo Public Schools continues to focus on education rather than random testing. TPS did not have any known problems with performance-enhancing drugs and had not adopted a special policy to address steroid use among student athletes.
n Columbia Gas of Ohio President Jack Partridge seeks dialogue with Toledoans to inform them about winterizing and minimizing gas costs, along with providing historical information that affects today’s prices. He also dispels common myths Columbia Gas faces, such as the price of natural gas affecting Columbia Gas’ profits and Toledo having the highest rate in Ohio when there really is one statewide rate.
n Thomas Szych, president of the Leverette Junior High School Parent Teacher Organization, faces up to eight felony charges and two misdemeanors involving items purchased with a PTO account. He denies any wrongdoing, and claims the charges constitute a “witch hunt” resulting partly from the Oct. 15, 2005, riot in North Toledo. Toledo police deny Szych’s arrest was due to a vendetta or the riot, but were following up with an investigation that originated with the school board.
n Retired Toledo police officer Dave Davison speaks out about the Father Gerald Robinson case and asserts delays are part of a strategy to “fix the case.” He said he believes high-ranking members of the TPD helped stall the case’s investigation in the 1980s and any backroom dealings involving the prosecutor’s office and defense attorneys will likely be managed with a well-orchestrated script.
n Toledoans share their thoughts and condolences after Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., died Feb. 1.
n The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks square off in Super Bowl XL Feb. 5 at Ford Field in Detroit. The character of the Detroit atmosphere adds to the experience. Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher goes against tradition and keeps his players in their white away uniforms although the Steelers are slated as the home team. Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren aims to win another Super Bowl title with two teams. The Steelers claim victory with a 21-10 win.
n The Toledo Fair Housing Center informs the public about “Restoring the Dream,” a program that educates consumers about predatory lending practices, due to a significant increase in Lucas County homeowner mortgages cancelled and properties reclaimed by lenders.
n Although Costco was not initially at the center of Westgate owner Liz Holland’s redevelopment plan, she said it would be at the top of her list of dream anchors to help re-spur the Westgate area. Some retailers have moved to other locations while others including Barry Bagels, SteinMart and Honey, I’m Home have agreed to stay at Westgate after development. Other retailers such as Papaya Island want to remain.
n Toledo City Councilman Robert McCloskey, who was indicted on two felony bribery charges Feb. 10, said his actions were not bribery. McCloskey said a broken verbal agreement between Pilkington, the owners of the Rossford plant from which he retired, and employees concerning retiree drug benefits prompted him to ask Pilkington for $100,000 to be administered by the East Toledo Family Center.
n Tom Noe pleads not guilty to racketeering charges, 53 counts, including 22 forgery, 10 money laundering, eight tampering and five grand theft. The case involves $50 million in investments Noe made into Capital Coin Funds with BWC money starting in 1998. The fund lost as much as $13 million and prosecutors said he stole more than $800,000. He faces a 10-year maximum sentence for the racketeering charge and up to 160 additional years for the other charges.
n As the Toledo Newspaper Guild Local 3404’s contract nears expiration, leaders of the union reject proposed changes The Blade/ Block Communications Inc. management made in the new contract. The Guild’s changes counteract BCI’s proposed ones by requesting a 6 percent wage increase, an extra unscheduled day off and an opportunity to purchase The Blade should BCI decide to sell the paper. Allan Block, chairman of the BCI board, contends he is not anti-union and does not want a strike. If a strike occurs, The Blade will publish, he said.
n The Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Regional Growth Partnership will use the $9.25 million they collected to spark economic growth in Northwest Ohio. The one-year fund-raiser was part of the Leadership for Economic Advancement and Development program aimed at supporting businesses and recruiting new companies to the area.
n A record 72 metropolitan areas had double-digit gains in sales prices for existing homes in the final quarter of 2005 compared to the same period in 2004.
n The indictments against Mohammad Zaki Amawi, Marwan Othman El-Hindi and Wassim Mazloum for conspiracy and other terror-related charges raise concerns about freedom, increased security measures since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and American-Islamic relations.
n Time magazine recognizes Jim Yark with the 2006 Time Magazine Quality Dealer Award on Feb. 11.
n Bob Nichols Jr. said he founded the Toledo Utility Refund Corp. because utility companies are not following tax laws. Certain organizations and businesses are eligible for tax exemptions, yet overpay millions of dollars, he said. Companies, he said, overtax due to no control or regulation of billing by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.
n Auto parts maker Dana Corp. filed for bankruptcy protection for its U.S. operations, joining other suppliers forced to make major restructuring changes because of the slumping U.S. auto industry.
n General Motors Corp. announces it will spend $504 million to add new equipment and expand the Toledo transmission plant to produce a new, six-speed automatic transmission.
n Ohio poises to become a principal battleground of a “political war” that could result from three abortion-related bills. House Bill 228 would prohibit abortions in the state, making no exception for cases of rape or incest and would make traveling to another state to obtain an abortion a felony. House Bill 239 would prohibit public funding for abortion and House Bill 469 would allow pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control or RU-486, the “morning after” pill.
n Cigarette sales hit a historic 55-year low, but public health advocates encourage the 20 percent of the population who still smokes to quit.
n With two levies on the May 2 primary ballot, Toledo Zoo officials continue to campaign and bid for the renewal of a .85 mil tax to cover operating costs (including an increase in energy costs and animal care and feeding expenses) and 1 mil for capital improvements. Without the passage of the levies, the outlook the zoo describes is “grim.”
n Applicants pursuing work as mailers for The Blade were able to do so peacefully amidst the presence of Toledo Council of Newspaper Unions members protesting the event. The protestors tried to convince those applying for jobs they were likely being used as negotiation tools by The Blade’s management.
n The Toledo IceDiggers represent the Mid-American region at the 2006 Tier II 16 and Under National Championships in Pittsburgh beginning March 29 through April 2.
n The Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association and Toledo Firefighters Association continue to work without a contract since the last one expired Dec. 31. The TPPA’s President, Jim Martin, informs the public that the “city is not concerned about settling the contract” and it seemed “the city was blowing [them] off.” Typically, their contracts are discussed and finalized at least a month before the terms end, but this year it did not happen partly because of the mayoral administration change and the lawyer who negotiated labor contracts for the city was replaced, Martin said.
n An alarm installation company owned by Blade owners Block Communications Inc., Corporate Protection Services, did not comply with state licensure requirements for 2004 to 2006 and could face multi-million dollar fines and criminal charges. General Manager of CPS, Barry Webne, insisted his firm is in full compliance with the licensing procedures of Ohio and Michigan. Records show the status of the license as “lapsed” and did not show the name of an employee given by Webne.
n Five candidates prepare for the May 2 primary and are vying to move on to the November election to fill a position on the Lucas County Board of Commissioners. The candidates include Republicans George Sarantou and Pam Haynam and Democrats Ben Konop, Tim Wagener and Phillip Copeland.
n Members of the Toledo Council of Newspaper Unions, which represents Blade union employees, hold a solidarity rally April 10.
n Joe Napoli, vice president and general manager of the Toledo Mud Hens, attributes the success of Minor League Baseball to its affordability and family-oriented nature.
n As the Mud Hens prepare to defend their Governors’ Cup title, they look to repeat a stellar year, especially with returning players Mike Hessman, Jack Hannahan, Alexis Gomez, Ryan Rayburn, Don Kelly and Kevin Hooper.
n The Toledo Public Schools Board of Education seeks to act as a cohesive unit to make decisions that will shape the system for years including job cuts, school closings and the district’s financial uncertainty.
n Students turn to distance learning via online courses so they may fit education into their busy schedules. UT is ranked as the largest provider of online courses among four-year institutions in Ohio, according to its Web site.
n Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, along with local businesses and community leaders, offered Eugene Sanders a compensation package to retain his position as Toledo Public Schools Superintendent and CEO. Sanders said he appreciated the support he received from Finkbeiner and other community leaders, but could not be persuaded financially due to his strained relationship with some members of the Toledo school board.
n Father Gerald Robinson went on trial on murder charges on April 17 in a case involving allegations of an official cover-up, rumors of sexual abuse rites among priests and suspicions that the killing was a type of ritual slaying.
n When Toledo City Council voted for a waiver of the city’s living wage ordinance for the proposed Costco store in the Westgate Village Shopping Center, Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner vetoed it because he felt incentives offered to the project were too generous and would cost the community $7.2 million during the 15 years of the tax abatement agreement. The ordinance requires companies to pay employees no less than $10.57 an hour with benefits starting after 60 days. Costco’s entry-level employees earn between $10 and $10.50 an hour with benefits beginning after 90 days.
n Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner has Don Monroe, executive director of River East Development Corp., lead the development of the proposed Marina District with expected completion to occur within a year.
n Ohio, along with Michigan and Indiana, see a decline in foreclosures throughout the first quarter of the year.
n Toledo Storm Owner and President Barry Soskin said he was concerned about his team’s future in the city due to local officials’ interest in building a new sports arena downtown rather than rebuilding on the current Toledo Sports Arena site.
n Toledo City Councilman Bob McCloskey’s resignation took effect May 2 after he submitted it to council April 26. McCloskey cited pending civil and criminal cases against him as reasons for his resignation.
n Democrat Ben Konop and Republican George Sarantou, a Toledo City councilman, won their parties’ respective primaries for a seat on the Lucas County Board of Commissioners. Konop defeated Maumee Mayor Tim Wagener and Toledo City Councilman Phillip Copeland, while Sarantou beat out Sylvania school board member Pam Haynam.
n Lucas County Commissioner Maggie Thurber voiced displeasure on being the lone Republican on the three-member commission. Thurber said she was concerned by the process in which the commission conducted business, often reaching decisions without research into what the law permits. Democrats Pete Gerken and Tina Skeldon Wozniak offered a different outlook on the commission, saying it served taxpayers in a productive way.
n Father Gerald Robinson was convicted in the 1980 murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl. Robinson was sentenced to a mandatory term of 15 years to life in prison for the murder in which Pahl was choked and stabbed 31 times in the chapel at Mercy Hospital on Holy Saturday.
n Owens Community College broke ground on a $4.2 million community health and wellness center at its Findlay campus.
n The Erie Street Market appointed Peter Kepler general manager. Kepler resigned in August after one of the market’s major tenants, Superior Antiques Mall, announced it would move to Holland.
n The Toledo Public Schools Board of Education voted to release Superintendent Eugene Sanders from his contract more than two years early, but hired him as a consultant through June. Sanders left Toledo to take the top job at the Cleveland Municipal School District.
n Jim Donnelly, president and CEO of SeaGate Centre, defended the facility after Barry Soskin, owner and president of the Toledo Storm minor league hockey franchise, called it a “loser.” Donnelly said the center would wind up with a $140,000 operating surplus for the year after several years of losing money.
n Attorneys for embattled coin dealer Tom Noe filed for a change of venue in his trials on charges he illegally funneled contributions to President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign and 53 state charges related to his handling of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation’s $50 million investment. The defense argued the quantity and nature of reporting by The Blade and other local media might taint a potential Lucas County jury.
n George Tanber, a former reporter for The Blade, responded to a May 28 article that explained his firing after he was found to have written an anonymous letter to the Pulitzer Prize Board accusing the newspaper of learning information that would lead to its Coingate series in January 2004, 15 months before the series began. Tanber claimed the newspaper failed to include key details of his relationship with Fritz Wenzel, another former Blade reporter whom Tanber accused of covering up the illegal deeds of Tom Noe because of his relationship with the coin dealer and his family.
n A Lucas County Court of Common Pleas judge denied a motion for a temporary restraining order against Toledo Free Press to prevent the newspaper from publishing a story that quotes a book proposal credited to two former local Republican operatives involved in the Tom Noe Coingate story. Judge James Jensen ruled the plaintiffs failed to meet the burden of proof needed to prevent the newspaper from publishing the June 7 article.
n Three members of the Toledo Public Schools Board of Education formed an alliance to move the district forward and end bickering that plagued the panel for several months. Deborah Barnett, Steven Steel and Larry Sykes said the alliance’s primary goal was to “re-establish community trust” and to “promote programs, ideas, perspectives and direction that emphasize success for every student in the district.”
n Brian Wilson, program director for WSPD-AM 1370, banned Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner from the station for comments Finkbeiner made during a town hall meeting. At the meeting, Finkbeiner said morning show host Fred LeFebvre “rips on Toledo” and tells “mistruths, half-truths and lies” for three hours each day.
n North Toledo residents Thomas Szych and Harry Works said they had mended fences over an ongoing dispute between their families. Szych removed a fence between his and Works’ yard that led to problems between the neighbors. Many blamed Szych’s actions in the original dispute for leading to the North Toledo riots of 2005.
n Severe weather pounded Northwest Ohio June 21 and 22, causing major flooding in an around Toledo. Ohio Gov. Bob Taft issued an emergency declaration for Lucas County in response to the storms. Meteorologist Norm Van Ness said Doppler radar showed up to 6 inches or more of rain in certain spots in the metro-Toledo area.
n Rather than building a new campus in the confines of Maumee’s Arrowhead Park, ProMedica Health System and hospital administrators opted to maintain a 132-year relationship with Toledo. Construction of the Toledo Hospital’s $156 million “Renaissance Project,” the largest endeavor in the system’s history, continues with completion scheduled for the end of 2007.
n As the Jeep Parkway factory closes, production of the 2007 Jeep Wrangler will soon begin in August at the new $900 million complex a few miles away.
n Zoos now allow visitors to see and do things that were formerly off limits. At the Toledo Zoo, visitors have an opportunity to connect with what the keepers and caretakers are doing.
n With 25,000 likely out-of-town visitors, Toledo is expected to bring in $10 million to $15 million during “do Greater Toledo Week” events.
n Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner dispels criticism and focuses on Toledo’s positive economic news with creation of new jobs, retention of jobs and a total capital investment of nearly $570 million including the Jeep Plant, merger between UT and MUO, potential sites for an amphitheater and improvements at Southwyck and Woodville Malls among others.
n The Shop Sylvania campaign kicks off to promote local retail shopping and coordinate events for the community to spread awareness of its retailers.
n Toledoan Rabha Eidi is one of an estimated 25,000 Americans caught in the middle of Israel’s military offensive against Lebanon that began after Hezbollah militants kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others. While the violence left Toledoans stranded at their vacation destinations until U.S. Embassy officials contacted them with evacuation instructions, others fled to Syria and Jordan trying to book flights back to America.
n Successful marketing and an increased number of players of the Ohio Lottery have pushed sales up to $55 million, a 4.6 percent increase, in 2006.
n Two new banks are preparing to invest in the area. Three former Fifth Third executives, Larry Boyer, Michael Miller and Michael White, have filed an application for a preliminary charter for a national bank called Waterford Bank. Lee Dunn, president and CEO of the future Bank of Maumee is waiting for government approval.
n Robert McCloskey, who served as a Toledo City councilman since 1994 before resigning earlier in 2006, pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in March and April from a businessman cooperating with the FBI.
n The Toledo Museum of Art prepares to unveil its Glass Pavilion containing a collection of the city’s glass heritage.
n While 90 percent of all businesses are owned and operated by families, about 80 percent of them do not make the transition from the first to the second generation. The Andersons Inc., DiSalle Real Estate Co., Ed Schmidt Automotive Group, Gross Electric, Shrader Tire & Oil and Toledo Wire Products are among some of the local family businesses that have remained successful.
n As Toledo Public Schools Interim Superintendent John Foley faces an uphill climb with an expected decline in enrollment, budgetary struggles and a divided Board of Education, he said the district is “continuing to work toward improvement of the district.”
n Toledo police reported investigating a dozen recent incidents and “uncountable” totals of club-drugging incidents involving the date rape drug GHB. Police said they suspected some bartenders were paid to dope their customers for predators.
n Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner’s office sent a letter to recent high school graduates asking what Toledo could do to retain them as residents. The move was designed to combat “Brain Drain.”
n Finkbeiner and the city’s Labor-Management-Citizens Committee facilitated meetings between The Blade and its unionized employees in an attempt to help resolve the newspaper’s ongoing labor disputes.
n Toledo Edison Steam Plant developers David Ball and Jimmy Jackson revealed plans for their project that will convert the vacant building on the Maumee River into upscale apartments and townhouses. The development, dubbed Water Street Station, will contain 75 units in the existing building and 34 townhouses in a new structure to be constructed on the plant’s south side.
n Toledo-area hotel operators said they might challenge a proposal to raise Lucas County’s hotel-motel tax 2 percent as a major source of funding for the $80 million sports arena project. Several operators said the tax increase would hurt the local economy.
n The Toledo Council of Newspaper Unions responded to a lockout The Blade issued Aug. 20 against one of its unions by declaring an “all-fronts” advertising and subscription boycott against the newspaper. The Blade issued the lockout against the engravers, employees who make plates needed to print the paper. The newspaper locked out a third of its union workers Aug. 27 in a contract dispute, including drivers and mailers. The move made for a total of five locked-out unions or about 200 of the daily newspaper’s employees.
n Residents of Toledo’s Dorr Street area recalled their memories of the community and of riots during the summer of 1967. Individuals were interviewed by WGTE-TV for future generations to learn about the area and the civil rights struggle of the late 1960s.
n Ohio Department of Transportation spokeswoman Andrea Voogd said the Veterans’ Glass City Skyway bridge should open to traffic in spring. Once completed, the structure will allow I-280 to overpass the Maumee River without having to stop cars for ship traffic.
n Los Angeles-based American Apparel threatened legal action against Clamor magazine, a Toledo-based publication, if it failed to retract information the company deemed factually incorrect. The magazine featured a three-part series of articles in its Sept. 1 issue critical of American Apparel’s business model and sexual harassment claims made against company founder and CEO Dov Charney.
n Toledo-area parents of murdered children re-established a local chapter of the Cincinnati-based Parents of Murdered Children organization. Founders of the Toledo POMC chapter said the hope of the groups re-incarnation is to become a source of support for local survivors.
n Toledo City Councilman Frank Szollosi said he would propose an ordinance that would mandate all city officials to fly from Toledo Express Airport when traveling by air on city business. The proposal stemmed from Szollosi learning Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner had flown from Detroit Metropolitan Airport on all of his city trips requiring air travel.
n Owens Corning was identified as a potential candidate for purchasing the $14 million naming rights for the proposed Downtown sports arena. Company representatives said no decision had been reached as to whether purchasing the naming rights would happen. They did confirm Owens Corning would be involved in the engineering of the arena project.
n The City of Toledo presented City Council with legislation that would raise the pay ranges for its management employees. According to Mayor Carty Finkbeiner’s office, pay ranges for those employees have not been raised since 1998. Finkbeiner said the proposal would not guarantee anyone an immediate raise.
n A federal bankruptcy judge rejected a compensation plan for six top executives of Dana Corp., in a test of a new bankruptcy law designed to prevent companies from paying big bonuses to keep senior managers on
Santa has made his list, checked it twice, and completed another round of deliveries to children both naughty and nice. Now is the time of year when we adults count our blessings in 2006 and make resolutions to ourselves and promises to each other to improve our situations in 2007.
To all those who vow to eat better, exercise more, or quit smoking — I wish you well. I will be among those seeking a healthier lifestyle next year. Aren’t we all?
Sure, it’s easy to write all that stuff down, then write it off, saying you made your resolutions just like last year … and the year before that … etc. You get the picture. Here, then, are a few resolutions I hope our leaders will make for 2007:
Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner: Please promise you will take our community’s limited resources and put them toward the creation of more jobs than projects that involve bike paths, twinkling lights, and executive showers. The city’s three-year commitment to Ironhead Marine is coming due in 2007, and we’d all like to see some progress on that.
City Council President Rob Ludeman: Rumors swirling around Government Center have you facing a fight for the leadership position on council. May you vow to stave off competitors by wielding the sword of solid leadership, so the City can move forward instead of spending valuable political capital and wasted time on who’s in charge of what committee and starting all over again.
Lucas County Commissioners: You now have it the way you want it: across-the-board Democratic leadership. Here’s hoping you will use that solid majority to accomplish great things in 2007, not grow into a three-headed political monster. A new arena sure is a huge feel-good project, but it’s not all our community needs.
Commissioner-elect Ben Konop and Councilman Joe McNamara: Voters have put you into office and now expect you both to be all you can be in 2007. We’ll give you a few weeks, maybe months, for on-the-job training. After that, you have vowed not to be rubber stamp votes, so only time will tell if those were empty words, or the promise of young leaders with solid backbones.
Toledo Public School Board: The one resolution people want to see from five adults is the will to get along with each other for the greater good. There’s too much to get accomplished and too much at stake in 2007 for the same-old, same-old approach to running — or ruining — this school district.
Governor-elect Ted Strickland and the new Ohio Democratic leadership: You wanted voters to sweep the state clean of corruption, and that was done. Now live up to your slogans and rhetoric to do something meaningful and turn Ohio toward a new sunrise.
The view of a Rustbelt junkyard is too much to bear, while a national economy hums around us and international competition picks at what’s left of us like a vulture hovering over roadkill. The only Hope we had in 2006 was the state’s First Lady.
The New Year is more than just a new beginning for our region and our state. It must represent a new beginning for our state-of-being.
To that end, we should all make one last New Year’s resolution: to reach out and do more for others. We can help our politicians and elected leaders by going just a little beyond holding their feet to the fire of our expectations and their campaign promises.
Checking on an elderly neighbor on a cold evening might just spark a lasting conversation. An extra buck or two dropped in a red kettle might just keep someone warm and full of food another night or two. A family outing to volunteer somewhere instead of a trip to the movies may be the most fun you’ve had in a long time — and the most meaningful lesson your kids learn that didn’t come from a textbook.
Here’s to a good year in 2007 — and a brighter tomorrow.
Kevin Milliken hosts of “Eye on Toledo” on WSPD 1370 AM.
I take on varying degrees of responsibility in my roles as a husband, father, friend, employee and above-average smartass, but I recently took on a job that required great dedication and focus: I was Santa Claus.
Not, for those of you who believe in St. Nick, the real Santa, of course, but a substitute helper at a friend’s party. There were more than a dozen children under age 5 there, and they were more buzzed about Santa’s arrival than Miss USA on a 3 a.m. bender with Miss Teen USA.
The parents at the party had filled two sacks with presents, pre-labeled for their children. Our hosts assembled a magnificent Christmas tree, 10 feet of pine topped by a gold star that offered all the promise of peace and joy the season can muster in these challenging times. There is war, there is poverty, there is pain, but not in that house, not on that night, not for those excited children.
After an hour or so of grazing and meeting new friends, I eased up a back staircase to a closed room filled with unwrapped presents, wrapping paper and bows, and a box with a Santa Claus costume.
The pants, belt and boot covers slipped on with ease. I have never worn bright red faux-velvet with white faux-fur trim; it’s not a look I would present on Monroe Street. As I zipped and buckled and tied, I felt with great clarity the gravity of wearing the suit. Yes, a troop of 3-to-5 year olds should be easy to persuade, but I know how powerful the Santa Claus mythos is, and I wanted to be as Clausy as I could be. I quickly ran through the names of the reindeer, a few easy-for-kids-to-sing carols (“Jingle Bells,” yes; “Good King Wenceslas,” no) and quietly practiced a deep, “ho, ho, ho,” which looks great on a Christmas card but is a forced and false-sounding laugh unless it is issued from the depths of the belly.
I put on the wig of white curls, fastened the Father Christmas beard and mustache over my face, inhaling a mouthful of synthetic white fibers that would haunt me during my performance, and reached for the jacket.
Now, I’m not as big around as I used to be, but I’m nothing resembling svelte, either, so I expected the big red jacket with its white trim to be loose, or maybe even require a pillow to take me from pleasingly plump to heart attack fat.
The jacket was tight across my shoulders, and as I pulled the front forward, I realized with dawning dread the jacket was going be a very tight fit. I checked the box, which said “medium,” and thought, “who makes a Santa Claus outfit in medium? Santa Claus suits should start at “hefty” and range to “Pavarotti.”
Our host popped her head in the door to see how it was going. I expressed concern about the jacket, and she told me if I left it open, it would be fine; the kids would not care about the details. As I learned later, she was as wrong as she could be.
Not wanting to look like Santa Claus via Billy Bob Thornton, I pulled the zipper together. The saving grace of the suit was a large flap that covered the zipper and buttoned up, giving me room to breathe through the mesh of white beard. I put on the red hat, nodded I was ready, and our host scurried downstairs to gather the kids and ring jingle bells heralding Santa’s arrival.
I bounded into the room with my two sacks of toys and saw a dozen faces light up as bright as the lights on the tree.
There really is magic to playing Santa, a feeling that miracles can be delivered on time if only you’d believe in them.
For the next 30 minutes, I had the kids name reindeer, sing songs and take their toys. Not one of them cried or was afraid. Although the beard kept getting in my mouth and making it hard to speak, rendering my voice an underwater mush like the tentacle-bearded Davy Jones in “Pirates of the Caribbean,” the kids responded well and every one of them said thank you. Eventually. With some parental prodding.
The kids brought me a plate of cookies for my journey, and I bellowed a “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!” and slipped back up the stairs, out of sight.
At the top of the stairs, I noticed about six feet of open railing through which the kids could see me if I crossed the hall. So, in the spirit of keeping the illusion, I dropped onto my belly and scooted across the floor so I would not be seen. I’m not a natural scooter, so I placed the plate of cookies on a lamp table before I performed what must have been a comic-grotesque crawl across the floor.
I emerged a safe time later and was feeling good about my performance, until one child came running downstairs yelling that Santa had left his plate of cookies in the hall.
Paul Revere would have beamed at how fast he spread the news, which dismayed the sweet kids, who worried about the ramifications of Santa snubbing snacks. The parents reassured them Santa was saving the treats for his return visit, and the kids went back to their toys. A few of them looked at me suspiciously as I pulled a few stray white fibers from around my mouth.
It should not take a department store Santa suit to illustrate how difficult it can be to resurrect the magic, or a plate of neglected cookies to show how fragile the magic is.
I learned kids are much smarter than I thought, and while they’ll believe in the magic, they’ll also look for the hidden wires and clues that will put Santa behind them until they have their own kids.
I wish I could tell them to not be in a hurry to leave Santa behind.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press. He may be contacted at (419) 241-1700 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beware: Stained Glass Torture will release “The Abomination” and unleash a musical assault Jan. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Club Bijou, 209 N. Superior St.
“Jan. 13 is the first evil day of the year,” said guitarist and singer Malice Dominious. “What better day for our CD release party?”
“We’ve been waiting a year to play a show. It’s killed us,” said bass player and singer R-Sin. “It’ll be a gigantic party.”
Tickets are $5 in advance and $7 at the door.
For the new disc, the metal band that formed in Monroe, Mich., heated up the music and hammered out “D.E.A.D.,” “Destruction Breeds Creation,” “Distorted Perception,” “Inner Awakening” and “Tribute to All Things Unwanted and Abandoned.” Malice, R-Sin and guitarist, keyboardist and singer Plague are fueled by anger.
“Anger is love. It’s passion. It’s every feeling that you have. It’s what you feel,” R-Sin said. “Honestly, we could write a song about being in love, but that’s not who we are.”
They are three guys who love the cinematic macabre.
“ ‘D.E.A.D.’ is the motion picture soundtrack behind our music,” Malice said. “You hear zombies and everything. It’s a tribute to the dead. We’re all big horror movie fans.”
“Malice and Plague took a bunch of samples from horror movies, and I sat down behind Pro Tools and stretched out a bunch of things to make them sound even creepier.”
The band invested in the Pro Tools studio to record “The Abomination.”
“We were learning as we went along,” Malice said. “The writing process took about three months, and the recording process took almost eight months.”
“The complete point was to have control of our music,” R-Sin added. “Music is supposed to be what you want and have no limits.”
“We hope people take whatever they wish to take from our music — it all depends on their perspective,” Malice said. “Music can be a way of life or just something to get you through life.”
“I want to inspire a person,” R-Sin said. “If someone has great, passionate sex or a fist fight, we just want to inspire.”
ON THE WEB: www.stainedglasstorture.com
“I work with ice, because as a medium it provides a new challenge every time I take on a project,” said ice sculptor Chad Hartson.
On Dec. 30, Hartson will give a demonstration of his skills to the patrons of COSI.
A native of Wauseon, Hartson got his start in culinary school, and is now the owner of his own company, Ice Creations Inc., which is based in Napoleon. The company specializes in creating sculptures for hotels and parties
Hartson has competed in numerous ice carving competitions, placing third in the U.S. National Collegiate Championships in 1999, Ranking 10th as a professional in the U.S. National Ice Carving Championships in 2003 and Placing first in the World Ice Art Championships in 2005.
Hartson also competed in the zoo’s annual Frozentoesen celebration in 2003 and 2004. Ice carving has been around for decades, but became a recognized sport only about 30 years ago. Ice sculpting is among the cultural events in the Winter Olympics. The zoo festival is one of 14 events which has served as an U.S. Olympic trial for ice sculpting. The event is open to the public. For more information visit www.cositoledo.org.
Local artist Frank Murphy, who recently opened an exhibit at the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral, 2535 Collingwood Blvd., is opening another exhibit at the coffee shop Downtown Latte. The show will begin its run on Jan. 3, and will be on dispay through the end of the month. A reception will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 11.
Featured will be 18 to 20 pieces of Murphy’s original work, 5 to 6 of which will be entirely new creations never before seen by area arts patrons.
“The exhibit will explore spirituality as it relates to basic human values in our society,” Murphy said.
Murphy, who has for many years been an artist in residence at the Collingwood Arts Center, 2413 Collingwood Blvd., received a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and a master’s in English, both from Arizona State University in Tempe.
It was while completing his graduate degree that Murphy began a teaching career that spanned 15 years at a number of institutions of higher learning, including the University of Arizona, the University of North Dakota, Owens Community College, and UT. Murphy, who began his career as a filmmaker, has taught a variety of courses, including introduction to literature, film for composition and science fiction.
In addition to creating his own work, Murphy has continued to foster the work of others, who have not only struggled in the arts, but with issues such as addiction and mental illness, by helping to found the Funhouse Writers Group. Funhouse, which has been touring the local area since 1998, will make an appearance at Downtown Latte from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Jan. 25.
The themes explored in the exhibit relate to the artist’s life experience, including homelessness, addiction, and faith, as well as the great loves of his life, one of which is the mythology of the American film western.
Murphy is noted for his award-winning series of original woodcuts, “All The World’s a Stage,” as well as for directing a number of stage productions, including one of Edward Albee’s “The Zoo Story.”
The exhibit is free and open to the public. Downtown Latte is located at 44 S. St.Clair St. For information, call (419) 243-6032, or visit www.downtownlatte.com.
Next week marks the end of another calendar year. Time flies and is irreplaceable, but it does leave us with many memories. In 2006, high school sports fans in Northwest Ohio have many memories to cherish.
Two basketball teams deserve special mention. The first is the St. John’s Jesuit Titans. Over the years, St John’s has had many outstanding teams and so, ordinarily, the fact that coach Ed Heintschel managed to take another team to a state semi-final would not be a surprise, but the 2005-06 team was different. This team was not seen as a state contender. Local success was likely, but to be one game away from playing for a state title was a pipedream — and yet, the Titans did just that. With all of Heintschel’s accomplishments, the 2005-06 team might be his finest.
On the girls’ side of the basketball ledger, we have the Southview Lady Cougars. Great things were expected of this group for some time and in 2005-06 they had a dream season. An outstanding group of seniors led the team to an undefeated regular season, an Associated Press No. 2 state ranking, and an NLL title. Only a heartbreaking loss in the district finals to a good Waite team blemished their record, but the excitement they created and the memories they left will last a long time.
The 2006 football season began with a flourish as a young man who had not played football since junior high set a City League single-game rushing record in his very first game. Aeric Clay ran for 377 yards on 20 carries in the Rebels’ season opener. Unfortunately, the excitement was short-lived as Clay was able to play only two more games as he suffered a season-ending hand injury. But for one shining moment, Clay was a high school football star.
Another inspiring memory is the success of the Whitmer Panthers football team. The Panthers, coming off one of their worst seasons in many years, found inspiration in the coaching style of new coach Joe Palka, and rode that inspiration all the way to the state football regionals.
The resurgent Panthers not only created excitement on the field, they stirred up old loyalties in the Washington Township/ West Toledo neighborhoods.
Similarly, the Perrysburg Yellow Jackets volleyball team pulled off some surprises. The Yellow Jackets provided only fleeting glimpses in the regular season of, what they were capable of but once the state play-offs started, they began playing at a new level. Pulling upset after upset, the Yellow Jackets found themselves on the campus of Wright State and in the state semi-finals. The dream ended abruptly, but what a dream to cherish.
Finally, there is a story that did not receive the coverage it deserved: the Libbey Cowboys football team finally won a game. The Cowboys have suffered through a long drought and their awaited win over the Scott Bulldogs deserves consideration as a major 2006 memory. The young men who played tirelessly throughout the winless period and the coaching staff who remained loyal and hard-working deserve recognition from the Toledo community. In strapping on the pads every day and continuing to participate, the members of the Libbey football team demonstrate what high school sports are truly about. Playing the game when you are winning is easy. Doing so when you know that losing is a strong likelihood is not. The 2006 Cowboys did just that and, as a result, they should hold their heads high.
For more high school sports news, see David Gatwood’s Web site, www.nwoprepsports.com.