Down on the countWritten by Tom Pounds | President / Publisher | firstname.lastname@example.org
There is no contesting that Detroit and Toledo have some major problems in common. Challenged schools, aging infrastructure and most crucially, a declining population, are threatening the long-term viability of two of the Midwest’s greatest cities.
The most recent U.S. Census Bureau count places Detroit at 713,777 citizens, an ongoing drop during the past decade that equates to one person leaving the city every 22 minutes.
The census numbers dropped Toledo below 300,000, to 287,208 people. It’s not hard to see where many of those people are going; while not every Toledo suburb is growing, Monclova Township and Perrysburg saw gains.
The drop below the 300,000 mark is significant, in terms of federal and state funding, representation apportionment and the psychological letdown of seeing milestone numbers recede. It is also important in terms of how the nation (and businesses across the nation) view our city.
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said he plans to challenge the numbers, citing the U.S. Census Bureau history of undercounting urban centers.
Detroit contested the 2000 count, and was rewarded with a number revised to more than 950,000. Bing has said there could be as many as 40,000 uncounted Detroit citizens, each of whom would bring “approximately $10,000 to Detroit over the next decade for schools, roads, hospitals and social programs.”
After the last Toledo census also dropped Toledo to under 300,000 people, then-Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and the city hired a law firm that appealed and was rewarded with a revised count of 317,000.
It was initially reported that Mayor Mike Bell would not challenge the numbers, but during a March 23 conversation with his office, Toledo Free Press was told that may change. The Bell administration says it is considering a challenge, as it evaluates the numbers on a block-by-block basis.
There is a tremendous amount to gain by appealing the numbers and forcing an accurate census, and we urge Mayor Bell to seriously look at what investment it would take to get a revised count. There may be no question that Toledo has lost residents, but a nearly 30,000-person drop is doubtful and should be challenged.
One fellow who would not challenge the population drop is Toledo native P.J. O’Rourke. O’Rourke is a respected political analyst and writer who is often asked to return to Toledo to speak. But one of his recent efforts, a Newsweek column that refers to “failed Toledo” as a “junkyard of American capitalism,” was a harsh and mean-spirited essay about our city’s historical and social travails.
“Toledo is a failure,” he wrote. “Actually, Toledo always was a failure.”
O’Rourke has every right to his opinion, and as a man who operates in a ruthless arena, he undoubtedly understands there are consequences for expressing that opinion when it comes at the expense of others. So the next time a local group brings O’Rourke in to speak, as a few groups have done in past year or so, remember his thoughts about you and your city.
O’Rourke has long been absent from Toledo’s census count, so it shouldn’t be an issue if he is not paid to return for a while — say, until we can get that population count back up to 400,000 or so.
Thomas F. Pounds is president and publisher of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Email him at email@example.com.