You got mailWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
DEAR MAYOR BELL,
Sticking with the theme of this issue, I decided to write you a letter. But I won’t tell you what I want to see from your administration. The Woodward High School students featured in this issue do a better job with that. Instead, I want to make sure you know about the effort that went into getting these letters to you and why reading each and every one of them would be a good way to start your administration Jan. 4.
I typed each of the letters in this week’s issue because of the lack of computers and reliable Internet access at your alma mater, as well as the fact that many Woodward students don’t have that luxury at home, either.
When I first came up with this idea, it was between you and Keith Wilkowski for mayor. The beauty of the idea was that it didn’t matter who won because you both graduated from Woodward, the school I wanted to use for this project. Before the September primary, I had written a profile on each of the mayoral candidates, and while I was pleased to have quoted many adults familiar with the candidates, the stories lacked the voice of those who will end up living with the decisions of your administration.
Soon after you won, I contacted Woodward principal, Emilio Ramirez, who put me in touch with Richelle O’Mara, chairwoman of the English department. O’Mara was excited about the prospect of having English students write letters to you, although she was concerned about the school’s technology. In years past, when I did similar projects with students, they would e-mail me their responses, but this wouldn’t be possible for Woodward students.
When I received the pile of letters, I hunkered down for a marathon typing session. The letters ranged from fantastically worded to awkwardly phrased to amazingly articulate, but each student in his or her own way outlined hopes, dreams and frustrations with Toledo.
Unfortunately, we did not have room to run every single letter, which topped 80, but we selected a variety to give you an idea what the younger generation is expecting from your four years in office.
Many students thought you would be able to help their school, in particular, asking for reliable computers, scholarships, new textbooks, the repeal of the uniform policy, among other things that won’t fall into your purview.
Through a teen’s eye, you are a hero, someone who has the power and capacity to fix anything. Even if you cannot help them, many acknowledged they were just honored to write you — a Woodward graduate — a letter.
They look up to you; a few of them said they aspire to be like you when they grow up. Some wanted to know what Woodward was like when you were in school; were you on the honor roll; how do you plan to help North Toledo, where you also grew up?
Gang violence and lack of jobs were reoccurring themes throughout the letters. I was shocked with just how many of them talked about how they are tired of people getting killed or beaten up because of colors and where they live.
Many Woodward students want jobs for teens, noting that adults are working at jobs usually reserved for young people because of the bad economy. Others needed jobs because they help pay their family’s bills.
The other issue for teens is where they can hang out. Teen centers, malls, reopening the public pools and theaters that show movies for less than $10 per ticket were all suggested. One student wanted his library to be open on Saturdays.
This environmentally friendly generation also pitched the idea of a community-wide cleanup day. Students said they are tired of the abandoned houses that are full of garbage and graffiti. A few didn’t like the idea of automated trash pickup, noting that it was taking jobs away from Toledo. Who knew that students paid attention to the news?
One student wanted to know why so much money was being spent on fancy roads and gardens in Downtown when the city coffers were empty. Others suggested that the casino be built in Downtown, not near Rossford, which isn’t suffering as badly.
Many students want increased police patrol, one of them noting that cops should follow the rules, such as not drinking on the job.
One of the funnier letters that didn’t make it into print involved a student who thought you were once a running back for the New Orleans Saints and that you have since been signed to the Denver Broncos. That’s quite a feat for a man who is also about to become the mayor of Toledo. Even though I think the student got you mixed up with the Mike Bell, the football player, his game plan for the Toledo is worth mentioning.
- Saving and creating jobs
- Balancing the city budget and delivering quality services
- Protecting people’s safety
- Improving our schools
- Stabilizing neighborhoods
In closing, Howard Edwards’ letter, a sophomore at Woodward, made me realize just how much the younger generation is counting on you.
“Congratulations on being elected the next mayor of Toledo,” Edwards wrote. “It is a great honor to know that our mayor is a graduate of Calvin M. Woodward High School. Your achievements show that inner-city kids can be more than what is expected of them.”
Edwards went onto to say, “I think that you will make a good mayor.”
Let’s hope he is right.
P.S. – Some of the Woodward students thought it would be nice if you returned to your alma mater and visited with them.
Brandi Barhite is special sections editor of Toledo Free Press. Contact her at email@example.com.