Let Bell sellWritten by Tom Pounds | President / Publisher | firstname.lastname@example.org
Toledo Mayor Mike Bell is carving a legacy directly between his two most recent predecessors, but City Council is throwing obstacles in his way like a bunch of mindless videogame zombies.
Former mayor Jack Ford was known for his laid-back approach while former mayor Carty Finkbeiner was known for his hands-on approach. Those descriptions may fall short of the extremes each man displayed, but no matter how wide the range of styles, the moderate Bell is inarguably operating in a more palatable zone.
Two recent Bell actions go a long way toward defining his administration. Bell’s continued courting of Chinese investors to bring life to the waterfront is a savvy business move that may one day be looked upon as his greatest legacy. If there is indeed a time when The Docks and the Marina District finally cash in on the potential and promise of the Toledo waterfront, Bell’s trip to China and his subsequent cultivation of investment dollars will be cast as an historic moment.
If nothing comes of the investment? Then Bell will be remembered as a mayor who gave the waterfront an opportunity, a man who facilitated an opportunity and provided an atmosphere for investment. The foot-dragging and stalling from City Council, in the face of a group that is not asking for any city breaks or favors, illustrates why Toledo fades and slips while other areas invest and grow. Due diligence is one thing; obstructionist behavior is reckless.
Some on Council say they are troubled by the details of the deal, especially the city’s asking price in relation to the costs of a generation of maintenance. But as any businessperson (or Realtor) will tell you, a good, service or piece of land is only worth what the market will bear.
It’s well past time for some Downtown development “Hail Mary” plays, and Bell and his team seem to understand that.
The other notable action is Bell’s push for a lobbyist to represent Toledo in Columbus. Toledo Finance Director Patrick McLean advocated for the idea, based on his observations and experience in Columbus. It is a controversial move in a time of budget cuts and fiscal pain, but again, the move shows the Bell administration’s efforts to try new approaches to old problems. We now have to trust that once in Columbus, the lobbyist will be accessible to hear Toledo’s business and social concerns as he or she works on making sure Toledo receives its fair share of attention from state government.
Turning around the city’s fortunes is a massive effort. It will take years to see the payoff. We can see what a wise investment Fifth Third Field and the Huntington Center were; Council needs to consider the long-term benefits of letting Bell make some brave moves.
Thomas F. Pounds is president and publisher of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Contact him at email@example.com.