Squinting back at 2019
Will 2020 bring us crystal clear vision? After squinting through 2019, we’re hoping so. This year brought us highs, lows, and plenty in-between. And, while it ain’t over yet (at press time, we still have a few days left in December), we’re recapping those impactful moments that defined Toledo.
Taking a look back at 2019, year brought highs and lows and plenty of in-between. Here is a glimpse of the impactful moments that shaped the year in Toledo.
Here are five things we hated, four things we loved, and one thing we don’t really care about at all— presented in no particular order and with no specific designation. We’ll let you, dear reader, be the judge of what’s what.
Balance’s fresh grown produce
Balance Pan Asian Grille’s owners are committed to serving food made from the freshest ingredients at the eatery’s four area locations. Now, they achieve their mission by growing much of the greens and produce themselves, indoors. Balance Farms, an 8000+ square-foot urban farm, opened recently, utilizing an aquaponics system that allows crops to grow without soil. The operation at 215 Summit St. allows owners Prakash Karamchandani and HoChan Jang to serve items with the freshest ingredients with attractive menu prices. Balance Farms also supplies produce to other area restaurants and grocery stores.
No more free lunch (parking)
For over 30 years, downtown Toledo has offered free parking during lunchtime hours from 11am until 2pm. That standard will change in January 2020 as, after a lengthy public debate, Toledo City Council passed a resolution in June that transforms the city’s parking policy— including the elimination of free lunchtime parking. The proposal, ostensibly aimed at encouraging turnover at downtown meters and raising increased funds for other city projects, met with fierce resistance from both the public and owners of downtown businesses. Toledo City Paper readers also voiced their disapproval, with over 90% saying in a TCP poll that lunchtime parking should remain free-of-charge. City Council members voted 8-4 in favor of the resolution.
Labor flexes its muscle
Over the summer, Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center nurses and General Motors auto workers flexed their collective muscle through two significant union-led strikes.
On May 6, nearly 2,000 nurses, technical workers, and support staff walked out of St. Vincent Medical Center to confront staffing and overtime issues. The walkout led to picket lines and a nearly six-week strike. The eight-week labor dispute “ended” on June 12, when strikers went back to work despite not having a chance to vote on or review the agreement made between UAW Local 2213 and hospital management Autoworkers at the G.M. transmission plant spent 40 days striking over issues concerning wages, insurance and job security for temporary workers. The United Auto Workers strike came as the President’s trade war with China created troubling uncertainty for the U.S. auto industry. The demonstration was the most prolonged work stoppage for G.M. since 1973’s 100-day strike, ended with 49,000+ workers returning to work on Monday, October 28, under a newly ratified four-year contract.
Amazon in Rossford— how fulfilling?
On November 28, 2018, submitted plans revealed a project to construct a 2.8 million-square-foot, four-story building on a 100-acre site in Rossford. Almost immediately, rumors surfaced that the project, code-named “Project Freddie,” would create an Amazon fulfillment center. On July 22, 2019, Rossford Mayor Neil MacKinnon and his team confirmed the rumors. Amazon promises at least 1,000 jobs by August 2020, and Mayor MacKinnon says the number of positions could triple. While Amazon offers a minimum wage of $15 an hour and a full benefits package, there are reasons to believe that Amazon jobs aren’t all smiles. Several stories regarding employment with Amazon from across the country, including dozens of specific articles courtesy of Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, detail alarmingly high rates of severe injury and time-stressed workers emulating human robots. Hopefully, those fast deliveries won’t cost N.W. Ohio workers their wellbeing.
There will be water— but at what cost?
Ever since the algae bloom of 2014, there remains unease concerning the safety of Toledo’s drinking water. In August, the long-gestating Toledo Regional Water Commission finally came to fruition, with all nine municipalities to be overseen by the Commission officially signing on. But now that the implementation is nigh, it has become apparent that there are, well, some drawbacks. The prediction is that water prices will increase, with each community member paying different amounts, based upon water usage and additional fees determined by each municipality. When the first monthly bills arrive in January, Glass City area residents may be in for a bit of sticker shock.
The right to be free from pollution
Glass City voters approved the Lake Erie Bill of Rights initiative in the February 26 special election, granting “rights” to an ecosystem— a precedent-setting move in U.S. history. Toledo voters approved the initiative, supported by the grassroots organization Toledoans for Safe Water, which allows citizens to sue polluters on behalf of Lake Erie, to curb damage caused by factors like the dumping of runoff from factory farms. The measure passed despite a reported $300,000 opposition campaign. Toledoans for Safe Water has inspired others around the country, including activists in Southwest Florida who recently drew up plans for a “Caloosahatchee Bill of Rights” to protect a local river.
Get the lead out!
In 1978 the federal government banned any paint containing lead due to health concerns. Today, over 40 years later, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that roughly 35 percent of U.S. homes still contain lead-based paint. In 2016, to combat the effect of lead poisoning on children, Toledo passed an ordinance requiring rental property owners to fulfill a lead inspection or face a fine. The enforcement of the law was put on hold when, in June 2019, a Lucas County judge granted an injunction. Also this year, a $2.9 million HUD grant was made available to assist Toledo area homeowners and landlords in making their properties lead-free provided that children under age six or a pregnant woman lives on site. Much of the grant money remains unutilized.
Racism in plain sight at GM, UPS
Racism remains a critical problem in our community. The offensive conduct claimed at G.M.’s Toledo Powertrain plant in a lawsuit filed by eight workers in January alleges that black employees and supervisors were subject to abuse by fellow employees, from nooses displayed to “whites only” scrawled outside plant bathrooms. G.M. representatives denied that prejudice on the job was a widespread problem, leading to GM CEO Mary Barra visiting the plant personally in February to stress the company’s “zero tolerance” for such behavior. In March, the company announced that employees at the plant would undergo civil rights training. Sadly, these stories go beyond G.M.: 19 UPS workers filed a lawsuit in March claiming discrimination at the company’s Maumee distribution center..
ProMedica’s Paramount goes BOOM
In 2018 ProMedica’s Paramount insurance business boasted an operating profit of $26.8 million. In 2019, Paramount revealed it had lost roughly $103 million in operating income. Unlike the previous gains that the company proudly considered as an internal win, Paramount attributes its financial instability this year to external factors. Paramount, which currently serves about 231,000 Medicaid members statewide, blames the loss on three significant issues. 1) The impact of Ohio’s improving economy on Medicaid membership, which has led to higher costs. 2) A continuing Medicaid reimbursement lag creating higher healthcare costs, and 3) Medicaid enrollment methods, which Paramount contends resulted in instances of dual or incorrect enrollment.
YES, they are still open
Republicans in Ohio’s legislature continue to attempt to curtail reproductive rights— from proposed bills suggesting the death penalty for abortion providers while also requiring untested medical procedures to reimplant ectopic pregnancies. Toledo activists continue their tireless fight to keep abortion safe, legal, and accessible at Capital Care Network, the area’s last abortion clinic. In September, the clinic lost its ambulatory surgical facility license, which permits clinics to perform surgical abortions, leaving Ohioans with only six remaining clinics across the state offering surgical abortions. Despite consistent struggles, Capital Care and its supporters demonstrate undeterred resolution in the face of feverish “pro-life” protesters.
The things we saw go viral
- Jaden Jefferson, the 11-year-old Maumee Valley Country Day School 5th grader, who made national waves as a multimedia reporter with his coverage of the 2020 presidential campaign.
- Max Boyle, the talented Toledo resident, whose run on NBC’s The Voice came to a surprising end in November.
- Toledo mistaken for Dayton as the location of a mass shooting. While the President mistook the Glass City for the Gem City, we also cannot forget Kellyanne’s fictitious Bowling Green Massacre.
- Antwaun Brown, the nude driver who, after a traffic crash, ran from the scene wearing only flip-flops.
- Noor Abukaram, the 16-year-old Sylvania Northview High School team cross country runner, who was disqualified for wearing a hijab during a race.
- The Toledo Walleye, who played in the Kelly Cup Finals for the first time in the team’s history, losing in six games to the Newfoundland Growlers.
- The email scam that fooled an employee in the city’s finance department and almost cost the city $200,000.
- Deontae and Deontrae Wright, the identical twins named as Valedictorian and Salutatorian of Scott High School’s 2019 class.
- Robert Easter Jr., Albert Bell and Otha Jones III, making Toledoans proud of their success in the boxing ring.
The people we’re memorializing
- Doug DeGood, former Toledo Mayor who oversaw the building of One Seagate, the Portside Festival Marketplace and Government Center Derjuan Elston-Gambrell, former Rogers football star and OSU football standout, killed in a July 4 shooting.
- Jesus “Jesse” Gonzalez, owner and operator of La Fronteriza Tortillas, Northwest Ohio Entrepreneur of the Year in 1991.
- Emily Jackson, a nurse who battled cystic fibrosis her whole life. After her death, hundreds attended a benefit fundraiser in her honor in Napoleon.
- Charles “Chuck” W. Larkins III, President of the TARTA Board of Trustees, worked with the Board of Elections for over 30 years.
- Clifford Murphy, area music legend and owner of beloved jazz club Murphy’s Place.
- Mark A. Packo, award-winning photographer and oldest son of famous Toledo restaurateur Tony.
- Linda Mae Penn, celebrated environmentalist and author known affectionately as “The Butterfly Lady.”
- Mary “Jill” Peterson: co-owner of the former Kaleidoscope Needlepoint shop, past president of the Junior League of Toledo, and longtime community volunteer.
- Dan Robbins, artist who ignited a worldwide craze by creating the “Paint-by-Numbers” kit.
- Clyde Scoles, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library director since 1985, worked for the library for over 50 years.
- Melissa Shoop, mother of two daughters, killed in a murder-suicide by her ex-boyfriend in October.
- Stephen Stranahan, area business owner, philanthropist and benefactor of the Toledo Symphony.
- Salvatore “Sam” Francis Viviano, owner of Bartz Viviano Flowers and Gifts.
- The 33+ people in the metro Toledo area murdered this year.
The people we’d like to forget
- Kenneth Crosley: the TPS Start HS teacher who put a kid in a chokehold, but avoided being fired.
Patrick Hickey: the sexual assaulting Ex-Washington Local superintendent who has been released from jail.
- Nathanial Cook: the convicted serial killer who, despite being released from jail in 2018, is still allowed to live within 1000 feet of the Old West End Academy.
- Jennifer Moses: the former Zepf Center CEO, convicted of grand theft, a felony of the fourth-degree, and two counts of forgery, both fifth-degree felonies, for misusing the funds of the nonprofit mental health agency.
- Bob McCloskey: the former Toledo City Council member who served 20 months in prison after being convicted of accepting bribes and then tried to run for D3.
- Elizabeth Lecron and Vincent Armstrong: the wannabe mass murders who pled guilty to a foiled terrorist attack. Lecron is serving a 15-year prison sentence for her role, and Armstrong will serve six years.
- Anthony Haynes: the former Toledo pastor sentenced to life in prison for child sex trafficking for grooming a 14-year-old girl to be abused by him and then-pastors Cordell Jenkins and Kenneth Butler (who we’d also love to forget).
The businesses we’re missing
- Pieces of Toledo history (from as early as 1850) in Fort Industry Square, architectural accents and curiosities were sold in an online auction
- Neil’s Men’s Shop, after 45 years
- PJ’s Deli, after nearly 40 years
- The Paula Brown Shop, after 20 years
- Dolce Vita Italian Grille in Monroe, MI, after 19 years
- Biggby Coffee on N. Superior St., after 17 years
- La Scola Italian Grill, after 12 years
- Bleak House Coffee, after 9 years
- Our Brothers Place, after 8 years
- Black Cloister Brewing Company, after five years
- Potbelly Sandwich Shop in downtown Toledo, after four years
- Rasa Restaurant & Bar, after two years