Fight for the asylumWritten by Jim Harpen | | firstname.lastname@example.org
To most Toledoans, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority Board is like a black hole in Cloud Nebula. They don’t know where it is, what it does or what it has to do with their lives. So the brouhaha about the appointment of Jerry Chabler looks, to most, like a bad case of inside baseball.
Not true. The port board has been comprised of many of the brightest, most accomplished people in Toledo, people who have been personally successful and can transfer that talent to making the Toledo area successful.
The port board can make real things (like an intermodal hub that could transform our economy) happen. City council never has and probably never will, not as long as they continue to choose the wrong side in this battle-by-proxy between the publisher of The Blade, John Block, and the real leaders in Toledo who want to make the right things happen for the right reasons.
Over the years, I’ve had a number of business and political leaders tell me they think Toledo’s biggest problem is The Blade. I used to think their views were extreme — that maybe they had some bad experience with one of The Blade’s reporters. But since I moved back to Toledo a couple of years ago, I’ve come to agree with them. Block makes sport of wielding his newspaper as a tool of intimidation and manipulation of public opinion. It’s all about ego and control with little regard for the well-being of our city.
Everyone has a skeleton or two in their closet. Block knows that, and he holds exposing those skeletons over the heads of the officeholders and business leaders who dare to challenge his will. The ousting of former Port Authority President Jim Hartung is a prime example. And to send a message to the next person who might challenge Block, The Blade blasted the personal e-mails between Hartung and Kathy Teigland on the front page of its Sunday edition, making Block’s public humiliation of Hartung complete: “And you could be next!”
So where does the Chabler thing fit in? Chabler is a Block confidante. Chabler does Block’s bidding. And Block rewards Chabler. Last time I checked, The Blade has published more than 30 of Chabler’s letters to the editor, which are usually one-line missives of little substance. That’s gotta be some sort of record. And the last time Chabler sat on the Port Authority Board, his job description might have read:
“To be a continual irritant to Port President James Hartung, who in 1997 successfully coordinated a job-creating development at Toledo Express Airport, which was opposed by John Block, who wanted the project scuttled in favor of another company owned by a friend of John Block.”
It sounds ridiculous, but it’s really that simple. And now with Chabler on the port board, we move forward into the past.
I could cite dozens of other examples of intimidation and manipulation by The Blade, but I have to keep this under 750 words. So here’s a quick sampling: The Seneca County (who cares?) Courthouse. The Crazy Coup in the Lucas County GOP (did you see last Sunday’s sugary sweet Behind the News cover story on Jon Stainbrook?). The United Way Building. And one of the first things I noticed when I moved back to town in 2006, The Blade’s glorification of Joe McNamara as he was running for city council. (Remember “Joe McNamara looks like a young Omar Sharif”?)
Here’s a story that would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic. A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a top Lucas County elected official. Actually, I was admonishing him for what looked like his cozying up to The Blade. When he asked me why that was a bad thing, I rattled off a list like the one above. When I got to Block’s elevation of McNamara, he told me that Joe has fallen out of favor with John Block. Why? Because McNamara has put on a lot of weight since taking office.
“John,” he told me, “is really big on fitness.”
The lunatics have taken over the asylum. It’s time to take it back.
E-mail columnist Jim Harpen at email@example.com.