Toledo has been nominated as a finalist for the All America City Award. That's a good thing. Three projects - the Neighborhood Block Watch Program, Toledo GROWS and CAPA City (a youth program) - were highlighted in the application.
These are good programs and deserve the recognition and prior awards that have been given to them.
But many city residents are questioning how Toledo can be a finalist for such an award when we've got a $27.7 million budget deficit and the all the problems resulting therefrom.
The award program requires cities and presenters to travel to the National Civic League award ceremonies (in Tampa this year) and compete with the other finalists over a three-day period of time. The winners are announced at the end of the presentations.
At the press conference announcing our finalist status, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner was asked - or at least reporters tried to ask - if city money would be spent on this function and whether or not competing for such an award was the right priority for him considering the deficit and union problems.
His response was that he was going to stay on the positive side, that he was 'in charge' and wasn't going to answer such a question, and that reporters should 'get a life.'
While I understand the desire to focus on a positive thing for the city, it is ridiculous for the mayor to not anticipate such logical and reasonable questions at his press conference. He could have made such statements about no city monies being spent as part of his announcement, thus eliminating the need for reporters to ask, but he didn't. Instead, he got testy and indignant that they would even dare to suggest that the issue of funding an expensive trip during such economic struggles might have any relevance at all.
And when he gets like that, he says things he shouldn't - like telling reporters:
"Let me stay on the positive side and let me suggest that you guys get a life. We will, in all due respect, and I really do mean, get a life."
As callers and emailers to WSPD have said they are going to write the hosts of the competition and tell them what is really going on in Toledo, one can only wonder if our mayor and his comments will again become a national embarrassment. Sadly, because he wasn't exactly forthcoming on the application when detailing the 'challenges' the city faces (he identified declining participation in Block Watch programs and hunger as our challenges), the fact that the city is in dire financial straights may come as a surprise to the award sponsors.
Also, it would be a shame if the application's highlighted programs suffered as a result of our mayor's penchant for painting a rosy - and incomplete - picture of the city.
What he should have done was admit the financial struggles, point out the serious challenges, and highlight the deficit and the job losses and the foreclosures. And then point out that in spite of all those things, we have successful programs in the city that are flourishing despite the gloom of our economic conditions. This approach would have acknowledged the true state of our city and used that as a backdrop for showcasing the positive things that are going on and the can-do spirit of our citizens.
Instead, the award judges are going to get communications from Toledoans that will make it appear as if Carty was trying to hide the true condition of Toledo or that he was ignoring the elephant in the room.
If the truthfulness about our city and its condition is made known and negatively impacts Toledo's standing in the competition, Carty will blame others for pointing out the facts, accusing them of negativity, rather than blame himself for failing to be honest about those facts in the first place.
Have you had enough yet?