Ottney: Casino tops list of year’s biggest newsmakersWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
The end of a year is a natural point of reflection.
The calm that descends, however briefly, after the mad rush of last-minute shopping and holiday gatherings subside invites us to pause and reflect on the past 12 months before diving into a new calendar year.
In compiling our annual list of the year’s biggest newsmakers, the Toledo Free Press editorial team focused on events with the potential to have far-reaching impacts on the region, events that highlighted the city’s hidden treasures and events that generated the most conversation.
Hollywood Casino Toledo quickly emerged as the biggest newsmaker of 2012.
For months, area residents watched the $320 million venue take shape along the riverfront, some with excitement, others with wariness.
Proponents argued Ohio’s casinos would generate hundreds of millions in tax revenue for the state, create local jobs at a time when the unemployment rate was nearly 11 percent and keep money in Ohio rather than sending it to casinos in neighboring states. Opponents argued the venues would increase crime and traffic, have negative effects on compulsive gamblers and their families and attract out-of-state owners.
As Toledo’s casino finishes its seventh month of operation, those concerns have largely subsided.
School officials and law enforcement personnel report low crime and traffic impacts. The Rossford Business Association and elected officials marvel at the company’s philanthropic generosity and the accessibility of top employees.
Accessibility has been our experience as well. General Manager Richard St. Jean has been consistantly gracious and forthcoming in responding to our coverage pursuits — even when the focus is not specifically casino-related. For our Dec. 23 issue highlighting the Christmas trees of local residents, he not only allowed us into his home, but cheerfully and unprompted proposed dressing up as Santa Claus for the photo.
Of course, graciousness does not necessarily equate virtuousness, but it certainly created the positive first impression the casino was striving for.
Regardless of personal opinions, the casino is here and poised to impact Northwest Ohio both economically and culturally. lt has, by all accounts so far, been a good neighbor, with the potential to be a deep-rooted part of this community.
Presidential election years are always big newsmakers. The race between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney as well as several dramatic matchups in Ohio and Toledo demanded attention for months as political ads flooded the market and all eyes focused on Ohio as a key swing state.
Candidates visited Ohio more than 80 times during the campaign. On Sept. 26, Obama and Romney were in Northwest Ohio on the same day. Vice presidential candidates Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan and former president Bill Clinton also visited Northwest Ohio.
Many incumbents, including long-serving Rep. Marcy Kaptur in the redrawn 9th District, kept their seats this cycle. Local voters were also charged with making decisions on seven levies, passing all but two.
The Lucas County Board of Elections (BOE) brought negative attention to Lucas County when Secretary of State Jon Husted placed it under administrative oversight after its failure to resolve political and personal differences. Although Husted’s office was satisfied with the board’s administration of the recent election, the office does not have a timeline for removing its representatives from the BOE.
As seen with the recent school shooting in Connecticut, violence against children is always galvanizing and the nine Lucas County children who died in 2012 were no exception. Grabbing the most headlines were 1-year-old Ke’Ondra Hooks, killed by gunfire in August while sleeping inside a Moody Manor home, and siblings Paige, Logan and Madalyn Hayes, who died from carbon monoxide poisoning as part of a November murder-suicide by the children’s grandmother and uncle.
Chick-fil-A, which opened two new restaurants in the Toledo area this year, found itself embroiled in the nation’s same-sex marriage debate this summer after company president Dan Cathy said he backs the traditional family unit.
Proponents of same-sex marriage immediately boycotted the restaurant chain while activists who agree with Cathy organized “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Days,” encouraging people to support the chain. Both sides made appearances in Toledo.
Also controversial was a May proposal to designate the Downtown intersection of Erie Street and Jefferson Avenue as Joe Wicks Way. Councilman Steve Steel proposed the idea to honor the late Wicks’ activism promoting AIDS awareness, prevention and treatment in the early 1990s. Opposition arose from Downtown business owners and others who pointed to Wicks’ unpaid property taxes, unkempt property and abrasive personality as reasons against bestowing the honor. The debate, tabled for now, could spark legislation that will dictate criteria for future street-naming.
Toledo hosted many events that drew visitors from far and wide.
The Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) brought a world-class collection of portraits by 19th-century French painter Édouard Manet, which drew visitors from 38 states to the only North American stop for the exhibition.
TMA also played a pivotal role in bringing the Glass Arts Society conference to Toledo in June, which drew thousands of glass artists to the Glass City. The conference was especially meaningful as it commemorated the 50th anniversary of the studio glass movement, which traces its roots to Toledo.
In August, Toledo Free Press publisher Tom Pounds and I had the chance to ride the USS De Wert from Detroit to Toledo with a delegation of Toledo leaders and media as part of Navy Week Toledo. It marked the first time U.S. Navy ships had been in the Great Lakes since 1999 and the first time Toledo has been chosen as a Navy Week city. Five ships docked in Toledo that week, offering free tours and drawing more than 20,000 visitors.
Also in August, the third annual Toledo Pride event took place Downtown, drawing nearly 10,000 people, doubling the 5,000 visitors the event drew in 2011. About 2,500 attended the inaugural Toledo Pride in 2010.
Since we love seeing new voices emerge to harmonize with successful established ones, Toledo artist Kimberly Adams topped our list of arts newsmakers this year.
Adams moved to the Glass City from Tampa, Fla., in June 2011, but is part of a group of recent Toledo transplants that has already had a huge impact on the local arts community. Adams founded Tart Projects, organized Toledo’s first PechaKucha Night, joined founder Timothy Gaewsky as an early member of Launch Pad Cooperative and more.
Another new arts initiative, You Are Here Toledo, took the form of a series of 100 colorful “dots” that popped up on Glass City sidewalks from May to November, marking points of interest around the city. Scanning QR codes with a smartphone provided information about the location as well as the local artist who designed the dot.
The innovative project, a collaboration between the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) Toledo and the Arts Commission, engaged visitors and longtime residents alike in learning more about the city’s hidden gems. The free smartphone application inspired a “collect-them-all” challenge.
The project was coordinated by AIGA Toledo president and Colorado native Jenn Stucker, a former “new voice” in the Toledo arts scene.
One of the year’s biggest sports stories was the University of Toledo cracking the Top 25 in national football polls for the first time since 2001. The Rockets drew national attention for pulling off an upset win over then-unbeaten No. 21 Cincinnati. Although the team ultimately lost to Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, first-year head coach Matt Campbell’s one-game-at-a-time philosophy seems to be working.
Another highlight was the number of local high school teams that played for state championships this year. Central Catholic football and Perrysburg girls soccer both claimed state titles, while Whitmer football and Sylvania Southview boys soccer fell just short.
For the fourth year in a row, Toledo Free Press was named best weekly newspaper in its 100,000-plus circulation class by the Ohio chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, an honor we aim to defend as best as we can moving forward.
The media landscape in Toledo looks much different today than it did 12 months ago. FOX Toledo and WTOL-11 merged newsrooms, FOX Toledo news anchor/executive producer Shaun Hegarty moved to former rival WTVG-TV, Channel 13, controversial talk radio host Brian Wilson and general manager Andy Stuart separated from 1370 WSPD and Cumulus boomeranged from awarding Star 105 morning host Andrew Z a multiyear contract in June to abruptly firing him six months later on Dec. 26.
We thank you for joining us in 2012, and look forward to seeing what 2013 has in store.
Sarah Ottney is managing editor of Toledo Free Press. Contact her at email@example.com.