Year in Review: Mike Bell: 2011 Toledo Newsmaker of the YearWritten by Tom Pounds | President / Publisher | firstname.lastname@example.org
He pledged to run the mayor’s office without concern for his own re-election, and at the halfway point of his first term, Mike Bell has kept his word.
The mayor of Toledo rode a roller coaster in 2011, with the highs of luring unprecedented foreign investment to Toledo and the tumult of being a strong and often solo voice urging the passage of Issue 2, which supported Senate Bill 5’s stark reforms to the state’s collective bargaining laws.
“I’m left with few tools to correct the budget situation and keep city employees working to provide vital services,” Bell wrote in a late October Toledo Free Press guest column. “The state of the economy locally, in Ohio, and across the nation has put Toledo in the situation we, and other cities, are in. If Toledoans aren’t working and paying income taxes, then the city is going to have less revenue. This is the state of the economy and the current system in which we operate. Issue 2 will save jobs and allow us to continue operating the city without raising taxes. For those reasons, I support the reforms to collective bargaining.”
Issue 2 was resoundingly defeated, but it is expected that local unions will have a long memory when it comes to Bell’s stance.
I believe he is fine with that.
Unlike previous “strong mayors,” Bell is defiantly his own man, running his office consistently, even if his policies run contrary to public opinion. As progressive as many of his ideas are, Bell himself is a throwback to the quiet men of honor who refuse to lie to themselves, much less other people.
One of his greatest development triumphs has been the success of his trips to China.
Dashing Pacific Group Ltd., a group of Chinese investors, invested more than $5 million in the Toledo waterfront in 2011 with the purchase of The Docks restaurant development and property in the Marina District.
The Chinese investment in Toledo was the result of two visits to China by Bell and contingents from local government and business. Bell said foreign investment in China had spurred development there so the city was trying to spur development here with foreign investment.
It began early in 2011 when the Chinese investors purchased The Docks dining and entertainment complex and five adjacent acres of parking lots from the City of Toledo for $2.15 million. City officials reported the sale netted Toledo about $300,000.
Real estate developers were recruited to the area by Bell and his staff during and following his trips to China. That relationship eventually led to a much bigger investment in Toledo by those investors.
Dashing Pacific entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Toledo in February to purchase 69 acres of the Marina District for $3.8 million.
As he heads through 2012 and into the elections of 2013, Bell will ride high with the impact of the investments from Hollywood Casino Toledo and the Chrysler expansion.
Between now and then, there will undoubtedly be other opportunities for Bell to stand up — and if need be, stand alone — for what he believes is right. But Bell is a discerning collaborator, and that means that as he continues to make news, it should be largely positive and progressive. Regardless, Bell can be counted on to make news for reasons that make us proud — even when we don’t agree with him.
Thomas F. Pounds is president and publisher of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Contact him at email@example.com.