Thursday, September 11, 2008

Another editorial telling the United Way what to do

I'm tired of the Blade editorial pages - and I hate continually pointing out their deficiencies in logic and consistency. But I think it's important for there to be a balancing perspective when it comes to their agendas.

So I find myself today taking exception to their portrayal of the United Way and the decision their board has made to tear down their old, dilapidated building and construct a newer, smaller one.

In today's editorial, "No haste for waste," they try to twist the facts to have readers think that the United Way has made a 'hasty' decision.

"UNITED Way of Greater Toledo should set aside a rash decision it may regret and heed Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's request for a moratorium on demolition of the charitable group's downtown headquarters."

Rash??? The United Way board spent three years evaluating the building and developing the plans for how to deal with it. They had one of the preeminent engineering/architectural firms spend several months examining the structure and workings of the building. They involved the Stranahan Foundation, the organization which represents the original donor who made the existing building possible, and the Foundation fully supports the decision.

Three years is hardly 'rash' ... but they don't mention the amount of time the United Way spent on making a good decision.

What is 'rash' is the immediate rejection of all the months of work in favor of the opinion of the publisher, John Robinson Block, that buildings - no matter what - should always be preserved. Of course, such opinion was conspicuously absent by many, including the publisher and The Blade, when it came to tearing down buildings for the new downtown arena.

What is 'rash' is the outcry by the lemmings in elective office who, without even viewing the building, joined the cry to stop the demolition. Mayor Carty Finkbeiner hasn't even toured the building yet, but he's making demands on the United Way and telling everyone he'll do everything within his power to keep the building standing.

What's also 'rash' is that the mayor, in his perpetual tendency to offend, made such an announcement at a meeting of historic committees - prior to communicating his idea to the United Way. Bill Kitson, the U.W. president, probably heard about the mayor's promise through the media when they called him for a response. Even two days later, he hadn't received the letter the mayor said he was sending.

According to the editorial, Finkbeiner said that tearing down this structure destroys the fabric of the central business district. Well, far be it from me to bring reason and logic into the discussion, but what really destroys the fabric of the central business district is the lack of jobs - not a brand new building!

The editorial says the plan to tear down and build new was hatched in secret. Not true. The U.W. board members told many individuals - including the mayor, though he claims to not remember - that they were examining their options, including tear down and rebuild. It was covered in the local media over a period of months. I can't help but think that 'hatched in secret' is Blade code for 'they didn't consult with us, first.'

"In this case, the greater good lies not in the wrecking ball but in preserving a downtown building that, despite its problems, has not outlived its usefulness."

Actually, the greater good for the community IS what the United Way is doing. They are spending around $400,000 out of their operating fund to maintain the building. That's money that could, without the challenges of this dilapidated building, be spent helping people in need. Isn't that the greater good?

"The decision to demolish, we believe, was not arrived at by the United Way board with the deliberation it deserved. While the board includes plenty of good people, it lacks the sort of municipal movers and shakers with the vision to look beyond the immediate desires of its executive leadership for a new building and see the risks inherent in a tear-down philosophy."

Here we go - because you disagree with our opinion, you obviously are the wrong people to make such a decision.

In case it isn't clear, The Blade is saying that all the board members are being swayed by Bill Kitson, the relatively new president of the organization. Here is a list of board members. The current chairman of the U.W. board is Robert LeClair, senior vice president of Fifth Third Bank. Yes, the same Fifth Third Bank that is the primary sponsor of Fifth Third Field, home of the Toledo Mud Hens. This certainly doesn't sound like someone swayed by a single individual. Many would say that LeClair is, indeed, one of the "municipal movers and shakers" with vision.

What about Robert Helmer, President of Lourdes College? Or Elaine Canning, President and COO of The Bostwick Braun Company? Or Sara Jane DeHoff, founder of Caphelon? The members of the United Way board are the who's who of Toledo and the surrounding area - individuals who've made their own way, been successful in their careers and, most assuredly, are the 'movers and shakers' in the community. But they've made a decision The Blade doesn't like so they are suddenly pliant individuals capable of being swayed by short-term desires. Yeah - right!

"Moreover, the costs cited by United Way for demolition and construction of a new building one-fourth the size don't, to our way of thinking, add up."

Well, there are a lot of things that obviously don't add up when it comes to Blade opinions. They complain about the loss of population and businesses, but continue to support increasing the taxes of the people and companies who are here. They complain that the area is going in the wrong direction, but continually support the exact same philosophies that put us into our current economic mess. They blame the bad economy on the current federal administration and say that they must go, but defend the local administration who is more directly responsible for our local economy and say we need more of the same.

The editorial concludes with this:

"United Way should listen to the mayor and act accordingly."

What they're really saying is that the United Way should listen to them, even though they haven't spent anywhere near the time studying the situation and are, themselves, guilty of haste.

I get no pleasure from reading and critiquing the warped perspective of such writings. But, for too many years, we've not had such a competing view when it comes to many important issues. It's a dirty job but someone's got to do it.


Timothy W Higgins said...


Isn't it intresting that both Toledo and Pittsburgh, the two cities where this family runs newspapers, are both experiencing long term adversity from liberal local governments? Isn't it interesting that in our case, this absentee landlord objects to what others choose to do with their property? Isn't it fascinating that the only business leader that feels he understands what is needed is one who owns a failing business?

These are the last loud roars of the dinosaur on its way to extinction. We need not be amused by it, but we should try to understand it as they make their way to oblivion. Having once had so much power, they refuse go quietly, even if what they roar about is effectively meaningless to them.

We need feel no anger, merely pity.

navyvet said...

When are we going to learn that the Blade knows what is best for the city and good for us.

With their wisdom and guidance in recent decades, the results for Toldo are so obvious. We should be grateful and if we follow their lead, the city's future is plain to see. Also, we should not forget our mayor's contribution due to his vision and hard work. Such a leader is hard to find.

The End.

billy said...

Ya know, Block telling ANYONE what to do with their buildings should be discounted from the get-go.

Has anyone been inside either of the buildings that house Buckeye Cable? You'll see customer service reps literally sitting on top of one another.

Also, you'll never see a wheelchairbound person in Buckeye managememt - not because of qualifications, but simply because Buckeye mgmt is housed on the upper floors of buildings that have no elevator...

Stop by and see for yourself.

gordon gekko said...

Dear Maggie

We're starting to worry that we may lose businesses to cities who make their communities attractive to move into.

OK... not really.

The suburbs

Frank said...

It is amazing how some people just don't get it. To some degee, I would agree with the editorials comment about listening to the mayor and respond accordingly. Just do the exact opposite what Carty and John want and things could change for the good in our area.
Of course, since Carty is going to tour the building today (9/12) with the original architech, he may tell UW that the city will chip in the extra 2 million or so to keep the building since it is so important to the downtown. Just kidding....
We have little over a year to elections here in Toledo to make a change on the 22nd floor...

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