Pounds: Bell shakes things upWritten by Tom Pounds | President / Publisher | firstname.lastname@example.org
Politics is a tough business; that’s not a new lesson for Tom Crothers, but the speed at which things can develop must stun even a veteran like him.
On Aug. 16, Toledo Mayor Mike Bell stood with Crothers, then deputy mayor, Toledo City Councilman Rob Ludeman and other officials to announce a development at the site of the former Southwyck Mall.
It was announced that MJW, Inc. was looking to transform the area into “somewhat of a sports village,” with each venue employing its own management. As reported by Toledo Free Press Staff Writer Caitlin McGlade, “The 58 acres might host indoor basketball, volleyball and hockey courts as well as outdoor stadiums and fields. The development firm is looking to fill the space with hotels and restaurants as well, to attract traveling teams not only to play, but to stay in Toledo for a few days.”
The Bell administration was planning to ask Toledo City Council to approve a $50,000 loan for MJW, Inc. to conduct marketing, engineering and architectural research to develop the concept.
But as first brought to the public’s attention by WSPD morning host Fred LeFebvre, proposed lead developer Cliff Gaston apparently has a history of financial and legal issues that would have precluded him from partnering with the city had he been properly vetted.
By Aug. 19, Bell had scuttled the deal. By Aug. 20, Crothers was relieved of his duties as deputy mayor and reassigned to the Department of Public Utilities, to, according to Bell’s office, “spearhead special projects, including the work to study a regional water system, implementation of the SAP computer system upgrade and focusing on customer service.”
Paul Syring has been named acting deputy mayor of external relations.
It is unfortunate that such a positive announcement went sour, and it is doubly unfortunate that a lack of simple vetting led to such a radical shuffling. But a lack of communication — Councilman D. Michael Collins had met with the same developers a year ago but let the matter lie because of the financial issues; he was not involved in the Aug. 16 announcement — led to an embarrassing situation for all involved.
Bell’s administration started with a flurry of activity and development, with international travels and a deal, still unrealized in terms of construction, to sell the Marina District.
Bell has shown two clear trends during his time as mayor. One is a tendency to trust the people he put in place, in terms of cooperation and development. Another is a willingness to make personnel changes when they need to be made, for the betterment of the city. Bell, to use a casino analogy, knows when to hold ’em and knows when to fold ’em.
That’s called leadership, and while Bell would be the first to say his administration has not been perfect, it is fair to say he has demonstrated a fluidity and willingness to adapt that had been missing from the mayor’s office.
Chalk this one up as a lesson learned, and godspeed to Syring in his new role in moving our city forward.
Thomas F. Pounds is president and publisher of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Contact him at email@example.com.