Thank you and good evening, President Ludeman, Reverend Clergy, University Presidents, Distinguished Guests, and citizens…
We are gathered here tonight on the campus of the University of Toledo to celebrate leadership. The UT-MUO merger I spoke of earlier is an example of this, and is important to the progress of our city. I again salute Presidents Johnson and Jacobs, and their respective boards, on this cooperative venture.
This past week I met with the UT student body leaders, and we will continue to meet monthly as we work to integrate the student body into the problem solving of this community. The skills, talents, and abilities that our young students possess will pay dividends for Toledo’s future.
The University of Toledo is home to 19,000 undergraduate students. A community of this size would make UT the 2 nd largest city in Northwest Ohio. In this university community each student has college course curriculum as part of their education. That cannot be said of any city in the region. This 19,000 student body, even prior to the merger is, indeed, made-up of Northwest Ohio’s best and brightest.
What if every person in this 19,000 member community chose to stay in Toledo? Think of how our population would grow annually if the vast majority of graduating UT students stayed in Toledo.
My point? We, as a City, need to nurture this academic community of 19,000 students, faculty, and staff, plus the medical students that will join them, and the students of all our colleges and universities. They may well be our single greatest resource as we quest for greatness. Through nurturing and retention of these young men and women “brain-drain” will end.
That having been said, we will work with The University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, Medical University of Ohio, and Owens Community College to develop a “technology corridor,” creating jobs that fit tomorrow’s economy. By working closely with universities, corporations, labor unions, and community colleges we will create an environment where new businesses and industries can flourish, knowing that the highly skilled employees they seek can be found in Toledo.
As we witness the end of “brain-drain” let us look at the beginning of the road to knowledge, grades K-12. Here is where there is yet important work to be done.
If this city and region are to move down the path of success we must raise the expectations we have of our children and their schools. Currently, Toledo Public Schools rank number one among Ohio urban school districts. This is a noble distinction, but we must call on our schools to raise the bar so that when our children meet those new expectations we will have a school system that ranks number one in the State. Period! At the same time, I salute the efforts of Washington Local, and area private schools, who strive to raise the bar.
As a former teacher and coach, I intend to work as an advocate for our children and all of our schools. Most importantly, I want to encourage the parents of our school children—to know how important their support of their children’s education is. Parents must attend Parent-Teacher Association meetings. Parents, not only should attend sporting events, which draw good crowds, but every academic program that your child is involved in deserves your encouragement and support.
City Hall will, as we did during my previous eight years, lend a helping hand. We will establish a City Hall mentoring program that will pair city officials with young people seeking guidance. We will also work to establish a privately funded, summer youth program in city parks, and a summer-job program for high school students.
Parents, teachers, lovers of kids—we’re going to embrace our children…all our children.
Speaking of children and learning, we must make available to our kids opportunities to explore the sciences and math outside of the classroom. COSI offers an excellent format to make science and math fun, exciting, and understandable. COSI is presently struggling financially. Toledo cannot afford to lose COSI because we risk losing the ability to help teach our children math and science. Let us seek the appropriate course to keep COSI alive in Toledo!
Next, I want to talk with you about Toledo’s quality of life. There are major projects that, when completed, can add dramatically to this City improving its quality of life.
The Marina District must be completed. The Marina District will create a synergy in East Toledo that will serve to attract hundreds of thousands of people to the east bank of the Maumee River on an annual basis. A first-class entertainment venue at the Marina District will serve as a perfect compliment to the Maumee River Crossing Bridge, the largest public project ever undertaken in the state, that is due to be complete next year.
A state of the art Sports Arena must be built to compliment the success of Fifth Third Field, the home of the International League Champion Toledo Mud Hens. We will work with the County to build this Arena. By adding a sports arena Toledo can ensure for itself year-round, high-profile entertainment.
Projects like Westgate and Southwyck are cornerstones of their respective neighborhoods and their completion will sustain and improve the quality of life in West and South Toledo.
We must work to create and promote the idea that within Toledo there are not just separate neighborhoods but rich and diverse urban villages. The communities like those surrounding Westgate, Deveaux, Lagrange, Southwyck, Birmingham, and Broadway, all have a distinct, and respectful ethnic tradition that deserve to be showcased and preserved.
Over the last several weeks, the Old Orchard community has discussed the redevelopment of the Westgate Village Shopping Center. We want to get that development done, but we must get this project done right. Very few years ago, Toledo City Council, led by the Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commission, adopted a 20/20 plan to guide City revitalization efforts. I believe this plan can enhance our quality of life. Westgate can once again be a jewel for our community, but that won’t be achieved if our planning officials settle for minimum development standards.
The urban neighborhoods that have increased in value in this country have done so because their planning and elected officials set high standards. Quality development is characterized by high design standards. Today such standards mean pedestrian-friendly environments; places where people enjoy getting out of their cars and spending time moving from shop to shop. I point to Levis Commons as a prime example.
Toledo recognized this truth about high quality development when our 20/20 Master Plan formally designated the Westgate area to be developed as an urban village with walkable streets and a proper balance between the automobile and the pedestrian. Liz Holland, the owner of Westgate property, lives in Chicago where high design standards have been very successful. She needs to work with the City to support the neighborhood principles at Westgate that have so enhanced property values in her hometown.
Today, at Westgate, Southwyck, and Birmingham we can and must implement our City’s 20/20 Master Plan principles that set quality standards, and create a Toledo that generations to come will be proud of.
In addition, we will develop a “neighborhood pride” program to encourage home ownership, civic pride, and urban beautification, and we will do this in conjunction with a citywide Gateway Project that will utilize the resources of the City as well as the private sector to improve the main entrances to the City, and its neighborhoods. That said, we will direct more capital improvement dollars to areas surrounding new schools to improve the physical appearance of our neighborhoods. And we will increase the number of police in the City to keep our neighborhoods safe, as well as clean and green.
Further, I will institute a “Walk the Neighborhood Program” that will include religious leaders, community leaders, youth leaders, councilmen, and myself. Together we will walk a different neighborhood each week. The goal of these walks will be to meet with the citizens of that neighborhood, and listen to their needs and concerns. These walks will begin in the spring, and will focus on positive solutions for the problems Toledoans face in their respective neighborhoods.
In the spirit of that overall goal, I will be holding the first Town Hall meeting of this administration at the new Ottawa River school, one week from today, from 6-8pm. We will listen, we will work together, and we will celebrate the neighborhood village program in Toledo.
Along with caring for our community, and nurturing the growth of our neighborhoods, we must learn to take care of our health and ourselves.
I will aggressively support the “Get Fit Toledo” program I initiated during my campaign. Led by the doctors that chair this program, and the private citizens that are on the committee, this administration will look to make Toledo a healthier city. We will establish recommendations on diet, we will create a series of exercise programs and guidelines that Toledoans can follow in order to pursue healthier living, and we will restore the Minority Health Commission.
In the coming year we will work hard to create a walking path that stretches from suburban Toledo all the way to downtown Toledo. And Get Fit Toledo will support in every way, shape and form, the journey to fitness of our spokesperson, Toledo’s favorite coach, Tom Amstutz.
Now, the bread and butter issue—JOBS!
Recently, we submitted to Governor Taft, and State officials, a package request that will solidify General Motor’s presence in Toledo for the next generation if we are successful. Also, the fast-developing Daimler-Chrysler campus is rapidly filling-up with Jeep supplier companies. A new GM plant, combined with the Daimler-Chrysler campus, preserves our manufacturing history at a time when other automobile based economies are rapidly shrinking.
We have a workforce at our automobile plants that is second to no other in the world for worker productivity, cooperation with management, and award winning final products coming off the assembly line. We are proud of this heritage and will work to continue it well into the future.
However, we are also going to work very hard to diversify our economy by attracting white-collar regional companies, wellness institutions, and our universities will be major players in the new-age economy. There are four major happenings that will assure the pro-jobs, pro-growth, pro-business environment Toledo must have to be successful.
First, any and all success that we enjoy begins with the leadership provided by our business and civic leaders. Names like Libbey, Owens, Willys, Stranahan, Knight, Jones, and countless others, that stood as examples of outstanding civic leadership, have faded into the past leaving Toledo with a proud history. We now need new leaders to step forward to ensure for Toledo and this region, a thriving present, and a vibrant future.
We will form a committee of 35-40 business and civic leaders that will be charged with the task of deciding what major projects the City should proceed with in a given year. This committee will meet quarterly and will closely track the status of these projects to ensure that they are completed in a timely manner.
We will also work closely with small businesses. We will communicate to our small business and entrepreneurial leaders that they are one of the most important resources Toledo has. We will lend them a hand—one that will help owners navigate through government bureaucracy. And we will be a vocal advocate in the ears of the banks on behalf of small businesses.
I will also form a 25-person Business Advisory Council, consisting of our best and brightest small business leaders, to advise my administration on how it can help business develop in our region and eliminate cumbersome government obstacles. This advisory council will review council legislation passed during the last 25 years, and we will work to rescind any laws that have hampered job creation.
Third, A Utility Rate Committee of six, tough-minded, fiscally knowledgeable professionals will be formed to examine why Toledo and Northwest Ohio pay more than any other city or region in Ohio and Michigan for utilities. This is a major obstacle to the creation of new business in our region. I will demand of this committee answers to questions we face about utility costs, and the burden we have of being consistently overcharged for heat and electricity.
Finally, regional cooperation will have an ever-expanding role to play as our Northwest Ohio and Southeastern Michigan communities strive for economic prosperity. The City will work with County officials, local civic leaders, and regional organizations to seek ways to share resources, reduce costs and improve economic conditions in Northwest Ohio to the benefit of all. The success we will enjoy can only be brought about through regional cooperation.
The tasks before us are daunting. The issues we need to address to begin the renaissance - critical. I have not been able to speak to all of them this evening, but each of them begins with leadership. This community has too much going in our favor. This community has too many strengths. This community has had too much success in the past—for anything other than success to be the foundation of our future. All it takes is leadership, teamwork, and vision.
Together we can! Together we will! Together we must!
-- Carty Finkbeiner
Source of text: WTOL
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