Hints of positivityWritten by Lisa Renee Ward | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Toledo City Council Youth, Parks, Recreation & Community Relations Committee focused on the Board of Community Relations (BCR) on Oct. 5. The issues and concerns that the board members of the BCR have were discussed as well as questions from members of Council.
First, it should be pointed out that Mayor Bell met with two board members of the BCR. Board President Jewell Lightner said she and fellow BCR board member Warren Woodberry discussed some of their concerns with the mayor. “We talked a little bit about the vision for the BCR office, and he indicated he felt that the BCR, as well as Affirmative Action offices, were important and that they would remain separate and that there would be an office for BCR,” Lightner said.
A good portion of the committee hearing focused on the $55,000 salary for Bill Stewart, who was hired for a new position created in August, Manager of Administrative Services and was taken from the BCR budget.
Councilwoman Lindsay Webb, Councilman D. Michael Collins and Councilman Steve Steel expressed concern about how this would impact the BCR’s ability to hire a new executive director and continued to function. The budget for the BCR was $115,000 in total, which was to pay for the salary and benefits of the executive director and minimal office supplies.
Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat said “the BCR budget will be made whole.” The Bell administration is going to transfer funding from the Mayor’s office budget to the BCR and will work to find a new executive director.
An issue raised in past columns was appointees who were waiting to be confirmed as board members for the BCR, some names had been submitted four times to the mayor and the deputy mayor. Herwat told members of Council that they could expect to see the names and the request for confirmation in the Oct. 8. Friday packet.
The lack of office space was also discussed in detail. None of the board members of the BCR had seen the space that the administration was planning to move the BCR office to, though Bell, Herwat and Council President Wilma Brown had. The plan is to move the BCR offices into the space being used by Toledo Sister Cities International. The space will be “reconfigured” to allow both agencies to be there.
More than a decade ago the BCR took on the responsibility of planning and fundraising for the yearly Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Celebration (MLK). It had been stated previously on the record that one of Stewart’s job responsibilities was working on the MLK program. That raised the question: was the City taking over the planning?
The concern has some historical context since there have been struggles about who was responsible for the planning of the MLK program. In 2000, Mayor Finkbeiner hosted his own separate event due to differences of opinion with the BCR.
Herwat said that Stewart’s involvement with the MLK program was “an interim measure” and that when the BCR had an executive director it would be returned to its control.
Woodberry said, “If the MLK is supposed to move forward and our director is not involved and the board is not involved and we are in no communication with Mr. Stewart … that was a little puzzling.”
Herwat said, “I can understand that, I’ll certainly be the first one to admit we could have done a much better job of communicating with the Board of Community Relations during this time.”
It cannot be said that the outstanding issues were resolved, but there was a great deal of communication. That’s a start. To quote former executive director of the BCR, Juanita Greene, who was there as a citizen to speak, “What we have to do is pull together as a community during this transition.”
Lisa Renee Ward also operates the political blog, glasscityjungle.com