Oh, those halcyon days of the twenty teens.
From the depths of the Great Recession, T-Town emerged out the other side on the upswing. Downtown development surged into Uptown. The long-awaited Marina District development finally became a reality. Southwyck was sold to heavy hitter Amazon.
City coffers were fat, and city leaders were sassy. Happy days as far as the eye could see. Wade used the moment to push the envelope, seeking to make the “temporary” three-quarter per cent income tax permanent, with another half percent to boot.
Finally, he crowed, deferred maintenance on residential streets could commence! Plus funding of Wade’s pet project, Universal Pre-K! And more police officers and fire fighters to boot! What could go wrong!
Welp, voters rejected Wade’s tax increase soundly at the polls. But that was okey-dokey, and not unexpected, because Wade understood from the giddyup that he could use the set back to determine how to bring the proposal back for victory in November.
Until the bottom fell out.
Y’all know the story of the twin disasters. First the COVID-19 pandemic hit, then the economy shut down. Illness, lockdown, business closures, and mass unemployment hit the swamp with a vengeance. Fear of failing health and a plummeting economy struck the land. If the tax increase was a tough sell in good times, it was D Oh Ay in the era of COVID.
Of course, twenty twenty wasn’t done yet. Disaster three struck when Toledo police fired chemical weapons and wooden and rubber bullets at mostly peaceful protectors marching for racial justice. The Toledo Police Department tried to calm the masses by spreading misinformation about their actions, and Wade’s statements failed to admit culpability or demand accountability. Fear of COVID and recession gave way to loathing of the mayoral administration’s stilted, stunted reactions to the crisis of racial equity.
Here we are. A year that started with wine and roses has devolved into a year of bile and protests. It’s easy to govern in fat times. Just ask He Who Shall Not Be Named. He has done it twice. And got the heck out before times went lean.
Because tough times are a lot more difficult to navigate. The city now faces a reckoning not known in Toledo in modern times. COVID remains a challenge. City finances are in the tank. The three quarter per cent tax must be renewed, or those finances will completely collapse. And now there is a crisis in faith in those same safety forces Wade thought would helps secure the passage of his proposed tax increase.
The next few months could determine whether Wade wins re-election next year, or becomes just another one-term Toledo mayor. He faces three important tests.
First, he must make the tough decisions to stabilize the City budget. That might mean eliminating cushy positions within his administration.
Second, he must work hard to assure the passage of the three quarter per cent tax, without frilly promises about pre-K or fixing the damn roads.
Third, he must have the difficult conversations about why Toledo residents were gassed, and how we can do better going forward. That includes assuring public safety that truly keeps all the public safe and secure, confronting systemic racism head on.
And he must do all these things simultaneously.
Now is the time for bold, tough leadership. We have faith that you’re up to it, Wade ol’ chap.
Don’t prove us wrong.