Breaking tiesWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | firstname.lastname@example.org
In a June 6 publisher’s statement, “Protecting the borders,” we questioned the time and energy Toledo City Councilmen Joe McNamara and Adam Martinez were spending on a resolution that responded to Arizona State Bill 1070, which addresses immigration policy. That already weak and aimless resolution was pulled, watered down and resubmitted in committee July 6. Council’s 6-6 vote means that Mayor Mike Bell will have to vote to break the standstill, which he said he will do in two weeks.
For the record, those voting for this resolution were Martinez, McNamara, Phil Copeland, Mike Craig, Steve Steel and Lindsay Webb.
Those voting against the resolution’s advancement were Michael Ashford, Wilma Brown, D. Michael Collins, Rob Ludeman, George Sarantou and Tom Waniewski.
There will be a tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes pressure placed on Bell to vote for the resolution, particularly from Baldemar Velasquez, president and founder of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and the Farm Worker Network for Economic and Environmental Justice. Velasquez has been working the phones to push the resolution, contacting council members to make his case.
Toledo stands to gain nothing by criticizing the actions of Arizona as it struggles to protect itself. The revised resolution dropped a foolish line about refusing cooperation with federal law enforcement, but particularly offensive in the current resolution is the accusation of “racial profiling,” a claim so baseless that even the feds did not pursue it in its July 6 lawsuit against Arizona.
We are not suggesting that Toledo is unaffected by national events or that immigration is not an important issue in Lucas County; but this resolution, like the one recently passed by the Lucas County Commissioners, illustrates the growing disparity between what is important to Toledo’s future and what our elected leaders are spending time on.
It is a political mistake, one of tremendous arrogance, for Martinez and McNamara to assume a large enough majority of Toledoans side with them to warrant an official resolution on behalf of all of Toledo.
The process has particularly damaged Martinez’s nascent reputation. In a
on “Fred LeFebvre and the Morning News,” Martinez sounded confused about the first draft of the resolution and allowed the host to deconstruct his argument to the point where the councilman sounded less than confident and resolute. Martinez’s response to that public relations disaster has been to subsequently ignore the radio station’s request for a repeat performance. Given the first mess, we understand that impulse, but avoiding media scrutiny does not conquer it. Martinez could at least have provided a statement or at best tried again; no one will begrudge him a learning curve when it comes to dealing with Toledo media.
If we were in a time of economic prosperity, we might have time to debate big-picture issues like this. But more than 10 percent of Lucas County’s citizens are unemployed. Charitable organizations are closing their doors. There are enough development issues to keep our leaders busy for years. Now, because of a 6-6 tie in City Council, Bell has to spend time and energy worrying about this so he can vote on it in two weeks.
If Bell votes in favor of the resolution, there will be no practical harm done, but the message of government interference and arrogance is one more in line with his mayoral predecessor than anything Bell has done.
In response to “Protecting the borders,” Nick Torres, Ohio grassroots organizer for Reform Immigration For America, posted a June 9 blog entry for Ohio Action Circle, which “strives to empower immigrants to integrate, contribute and become a thriving part of Ohio’s communities.” Torres said he sent an e-mail to Toledo Free Press President and Publisher Tom Pounds’ address, but we have no record of it. His letter, posted under the headline “Toledo Free Press needs reality check”:
“I respect your views on the proposed nonbinding resolution by Toledo City Council. However, I think your argument that this is not a Toledo-relevant issue (or even Ohio-relevant) deserves a second look. You correctly point out that Representative [Courtney] Combs is pushing legislation in both the Ohio House and Senate. The reality is that he is not the primary force behind the bills. He is working closely with Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones to bring not only legislation, but a ballot-initiative for 2011.
“Sheriff Jones’s record on local immigration enforcement speaks for itself. He has worked with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which is designated as a “Hate Group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, as well as the Anti-Defamation League. Recently, he was sued and subsequently settled out of court for alleged misuse of his 287(g) program, which deputizes local law enforcement to enforce Federal immigration policy.
“He and Combs recently visited Arizona, and have publicly advocated for Arizona-style policies in Ohio. I invite you to check the Ohio Action Circle blog for more information about the proposed ballot initiative.
“Clearly this is something which will very soon be thrust onto the statewide scene (I would argue that it already has). Furthermore, this is inherently Toledo-relevant due to Toledo’s proximity to Ohio’s international border with Canada. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has jurisdiction to set up check points up to 100 miles from our international border. [Its] Ohio outpost in Marblehead (50 miles from Toledo) has recently been placed under scrutiny by Toledo organizations FLOC and ABLE in a lawsuit alleging racial profiling and harassment of legal residents and U.S. citizens.
“The argument that these laws encourage racial profiling is not hyperbole; it is reality. The policies are being challenged before our courts, and there is already data to back it up.
“Clearly this is not an issue unique to Arizona, and I think we’ll see more city councils in Ohio begin to take up similar resolutions.”
With great respect to Torres’ argument, and an appreciation for the civility in his response, we maintain that the issue is not the legitimacy of the debate; the issue is the time and energy being spent on an issue that should not be competing for priority among the immediate myriad financial challenges and economic crises we face.
Torres specifically misses the point when he further argues that our main reason for opposing this resolution is that Arizona’s problem is too far away to affect us. That is both inaccurate and a gross oversimplification.
Again, we do not discount the importance of this topic; we contest the relevance of spending time on it (yes, like we are guilty of doing here) when there are so many other important issues to address. This debate is emblematic of why local government is mired in a swamp of inertia and listlessness.
It may be too late to stop the train wreck Martinez and McNamara initiated, but the damage to the engine will be long remembered by those more concerned with protecting Toledo than Arizona.
Thomas F. Pounds is president and publisher of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. E-mail him at email@example.com.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.