Archive for the ‘ Toledo Alive! ’ Category

Lament for the Lost Library

Teens make good use of the library. (From the TLCPL webpage)

Growing up, I spent a lot of time in my neighborhood branch of the Toledo Lucas-County Public Library. Sometimes I’d wander there alone and read for a few hours. Other times I’d go with friends, or meet them to do homework at one of the community tables.

The librarians–the Silence Police–would make their rounds, shushing anyone who talked above the allowed  decibel limit,  admonishing giggling kids, and bouncing those  who made the library their playground. I recall once seeing someone ousted for  throwing a paper airplane.

The library has changed quite a bit over the years, no thanks to technology and the desire for more funding. I’ve long lamented the draw of the computers at my local branch. Whenever I go in, the seats in front of the screens are filled with zombie children and adults  feeding on their Facebook pages, online games, and instant messaging.  While computers were added to libraries everywhere as a means of providing unlimited access to unlimited information, I don’t see much research and learning at those terminals…for a lot of the users, computers are for play.

When the Main branch added the televisions, I, too, mourned for the days when the library was a repository of learning material, not a repository of media, which isn’t always enriching nor educational. The counter arguments posit that libraries are community gathering places, and that the definition of text is so flexible that as technologies advance, so must our recognition and acceptance of alternative texts.

Yesterday, I learned that the TLCPL has added video gaming to its offerings. As part of their new hip teen areas, The Main Library and Reynolds Corner branch have installed the  Wii, X-Box360, and Playstation 3 in areas where, according to its press release, 13-18 year-old-teens can, “…test their skills, learn and play games solo or in groups of 3 individuals.” 

The press release also includes this notation, in bold, “According to the American Library Association, some 75 percent of public libraries support gaming, by offering computer or board gaming, circulating games, or offering gaming events, areas and programs.”

WHY? Because it brings patrons in? Because those patrons have to use their card to circulate the items, thus signifying  the “need” for even more public  funding? And why the use of bold text as a rhetorical tool? Was spokesperson Rhonda Sewell expecting to be questione about the necessity of video-gaming?

Libraries in the state of Ohio suffered significant blows in the governor’s last two budget adjustments. Our local library system was quick to respond with an advocacy plot,  petitioning library users to call or write the state reps and the governor to demand more money for the library. Along with this came the dire news that the libraries would not be able to offer the programming they always have. Hours would be limited. They would not be able to purchase the volume of  books, CDS, DVDS, that we had grown accustomed to…

But they have funding for video games and the systems that run them? It’s all good for the kids, they’ll tell you–fostering community, engaging them in problem-solving, improving their hand-eye corrodination, 

I argue that had the library stuck to its traditional mission–a public source of information–rather than an entertainment venue and/or computer lab, it would not be so strapped today. I admit that I have benefitted from borrowing vdeos/DVDs and CDs without charge for years and years, but is that really the library’s mission? To provide community access to feature-length films? Don’t get me wrong: Funds used for expanding the film section could have beeen relegated to media, educational  media that is more difficult for the average citizen to access, like independent documentaries, for example. These would be more in keeping with a library’s mission than circulating  The Star Wars Trilogy.

I was shushed plenty of times by those Draconian librarians at the Point Place branch. It directed me back to my task and reinforced the idea that we need quiet to read and to absorb ideas. The library doesn’t seem to be the place for that anymore. But if not there, where?

Congratulations, Mayor-Elect Bell!

After what amounted to be a pretty boring race, Mike Bell won an office, complete with shower, on One Government Center’s lofty 22nd floor.

January can’t come soon enough for Toledo, a city sorely in need of  real leadership, some new blood, and a fresh perspective.


And while we wait patiently for the changing of the guard, I’ll share a Mike Bell story.

I have a friend who is more than a bit smitten with the former Fire Chief. She would sigh at the mere mention of his name, and when we worked together ages ago, was literally giddy when he visited our office for a get-together.  She had at least one press photo of Bell as a pin-up on her bulletin board.

A few years later, she and her hubby were at Home Depot, looking for smoke detectors to install in their first home.  As they approached the  display, they noticed a man looking over the smoke detectors. They discussed the many options out loud, uncertain about which was best. The man in the aisle selected a smoke detector from a hook and turned to them–the man was my friend’s celebrity crush…none other than Chief Bell, who told the couple, ” This is the one you want…” and handed them the  model he recommended.

I do believe my friend was speechless…

Cops Toledo…

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner made the news recently for cutting the city budget, and again yesterday for cutting the grass in the city park behind his home. The park was in need of a trim, since Carty’s administration laid off the grounds-keeping maintainance staff.

This got me thinking….If Carty can fill in for the landscapers, why couldn’t he cover some other city shifts on his downtime?  Picturing Carty with the cops lit another lightbulb, one that could generate revenue and get those city workers back on their mowers.  

Put Carty on the job with the cops and we’ve got the next hit reality show. The mayor has famously enforced traffic laws–I seem to remember that he pulled someone over for speeding and also admonished a roller-blader for illegally using a city street. I might add that he singlehandedly took on the Marines and won.

I just picture him shouting on the top of his lungs and sticking his finger in some gang member’s face, or how about the face of that 14-year-old who is accusing Toledo police of brutality this weekend? A lot of former city employees can attest that a verbal attack from our red-faced mayor is more brutal than any choke-hold.

 Bad boys, bad boys, watcha gonna do…

On Potholes

At what point, I wonder, is a pothole no longer a pothole, but a canyon?

My research into the craters dotting Toledo’s roadways reveals that potholes could pose a problem for the powers that be when it comes to election time….unless they capitalize on the problem and turn the citizen’s frowns upside down.

Were Fidal Castro eligible to cast a ballot, potholes would have affected his decision in the New York City Mayoral race. During his October 1995 visit, the Cuban leader said he ”would not vote for [Mayor Rudy Giuliani]. ”It’s not just because he didn’t invite me to dinner, but because on my way into town from the airport there were such enormous potholes.”

If Castro gauges public sentiment, anyone who wants to keep their office in One Government Center should heed warning and  find some way to get those holes repaired. Nevermind that the First Secretary of the Communist Party wouldn’t vote for you if you aren’t a part of the pothole solution; Potholes are a daily reminder to just about everyone in your voting base that the government is not doing its job and that your city infrastructure is literally crumbling.

But, if you cannot beat the potholes–and apparently this city’s finances are so strapped that it cannot fix those on residential streets–perhaps thinking creatively might turn a pox positive.

  • Capitalize: I pass by a couple potholes my daily commute that are rather canyon-like–they may well become tourist attractions as their spanse increases. Think of the possibilities for small business–Vendors could sell “I visited the Toledo Canyons” T-shirts. In a couple of years, we could offer sunset burro rides.
  • SLOW! Children at Play: City Council reps who want to stay in office might tout  potholes as a cost-efficient solution to the speeding motorists who terrorize child-friendly residential  neighborhoods. One English town is doing just that, letting roads “revert to a natural state,” to deter speeding and save money.  One caveat–I suppose the potholes can’t be permitted to worsen, else the children they protect might fall in and need rescue a la “baby Jessica,” thereby cancelling out the cost savings. ..unless the fire department can “just” bill the insurance company for the call…
  • Vigilante Road Crew: Grab a bag of bitumen, and some DIY instructions, and kill those criminal crevaces, Charles Bronson style.
  • Capitalize, Part II: Some entreprenuers with a shovel, tamping pole, and access to the resources of the vigilante road crew (see above) could easily benefit by starting a small business financed by neighborhoods of citizens weary of the moon landscape.
  • Kill Three Birds with One Pothole: The City of Toledo just this week announced that it will not open any public swimming pools this summer, sparking fears that bored and sweaty kids will be crusing the streets for gateways into a life of crime, and opening up hydrants (which actually is a crime).  Save our children! Grab a hose and fill up your street’s largest pothole for instant summer refreshment. Hire a  lifeguard and you’ve done more to create jobs than the current city administration.

When Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner yesterday was criticized for witholding the run-down of Police Department layoffs, he explained, “The last thing that I think that anybody responsible should do in the city of Toledo is raise the fears of our citizens.”

So, why was fear the first thing that he, Toledo City Council, and the Toledo Blade turned to when the 3/4% income tax was up for renewal in 2008?

From a Feb 25, 2008 Toledo Blade newstory:

“Nearly a third of the uniformed people who patrol
the streets of Toledo, investigate murders, pick up trash, and put out
fires could be off the job if the 0.75 percent income tax on the ballot
next week is ultimately defeated, city leaders have warned.”

The Toledo Blade editorial team joined in, warning just a day before the election that Toledo voters would be making a “grave mistake that could irreparably damage this city, ” if the levy went down in defeat, said,

Defeat of the surcharge would require laying off 735 city employees, 40 percent of the total workforce, including 456 police officers and firefighters from safety forces that total 1,146. It is no exaggeration to point out that such cuts would severely delay police and fire response to crime, fires, and other emergencies. With 200 officers on layoff, the police department would have to close two district stations, two substations, and six neighborhood offices. Police no longer would be deployed in public school buildings, and they wouldn’t be able to respond to noninjury traffic accidents.

And then they go for the jugular:

“The threat of crime becomes all the more likely when carjackers, robbers, and burglars know fewer police are on the streets. A minor home or business fire can become major the longer it takes firefighters to respond to an alarm.

Then-councilwoman Edna Brown said that should the tax renewal fail, she would “fireproof her home,” and wouldn’t drive anywhere in Toledo, conjuring up a picture of a lawless city.

A year and a half later, with .75 percent of our income in hand, the city makes generous gashes to safety and fire resources anyway. And, they are looking for more ways that they can bleed us to support their irresponsible management and inability to prepare for an economic crisis. Fear is no longer a tactic, but a state of mind wrought by the actions of those who promised that all would be well if we continued to pay.

Think The Godfather II: Don Fanucci, the blackhander, forces the merchants of Little Italy to pay protection money. Even Fanucci, who we couldn’t wait to see offed, didn’t renege.

In that same Feb. 25, 2008 news conference mentioned above, the mayor said, “I hope and pray that thoughtful people will realize that there is no evidence the city of Toledo has in any way taken taxpayers’ dollars and irresponsibly spent [them].”

We have our evidence now that 150 police officers will likely be laid off, the gang task force will being eliminated, and the vice squad will face cuts.

Fear was used to keep the income stream flowing, and now that Carty can’t use fear as leverage–as a tool to get what he wants–he’ll claim it’s not “responsible” to release information to us directly related to the quality of life in the city.

It’s time the citizens of Toledo raised some fear–and a little hell–of their own.