The Truth Staff
Led by former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, a number of community and religious leaders gathered at Epworth United Methodist Church on Monday, October 24 to express their dismay at the current level of violent crime here in Toledo and to lay out a gameplan to help the city curb that violence.
“Every life is important and every life that is lost to gun violence diminishes every single one of us,” said Steve Swisher, senior pastor of Epworth United as he opened Monday’s press conference and announced a community town hall meeting this Thursday at Epworth United that will try to define the next steps in the movement.
“Everywhere I travel, people say ‘you’re from Holy Toledo,’” Swisher continued. “That’s a great cute phrase but I wonder how effective that is if we are not using that platform to raise the community … Holy Toledo isn’t working.”
“Let’s make that ‘Holy Toledo’ count for something,” added Finkbeiner as he recognized some of the others present who will be part of the Coalition’s efforts to stem violence including Baldemar Velasquez, Bishop Marjorie Holt, Toni Moore, Alphonso Narvaez, Jose Montalvo, June Boyd, Harvey Savage, Erika White, Bob Reinbolt, Luis Santiago, among others.
Finkbeiner emphasized the importance of holding the judicial system accountable for meting out appropriate sanctions and punishment to fit the crime while noting that too often unjustly harsh sentences are handed out for minor offenses such as marijuana possession while violent offenders are released too soon into the communities they have just terrorized.
“One thing that helps stem violence is to take away the frustrations of those on the bottom of the heap,” said Velasquez during his time at the microphone. “Give them choices by creating jobs and opportunities – we have to do the hard work to create those options.”
Such sentiments were echoed by the speakers who followed.
“Are we ready? Are we committed to making Toledo holy again?” asked Bishop Holt. “We have got to get back to the hub. Let’s do it again.”
The Coalition announced a number of steps that they feel will be necessary to “saving lives and stopping violence:”
- Creating a citywide plan for engaging citizens in safe meaningful ways – reintroduce neighborhood watch programs;
- Getting police officers to engage in community-based policing, working side-by-side with neighborhood residents;
- Working with law enforcement, the Coalition will identify places and people driving the violence, surround and arrest them;
- Encouraging anti-violence education and workshops to be offered in schools, churches and civic organizations;
- Assisting the city in finding 1,000 youth jobs during the summer months
- Noting that churches are a centerpiece for the above programs;
- Asking the judicial system to review current sentencing systems.
Thursday community town hall meeting is the first scheduled in what will be a series held throughout the city. The Truth will post such meeting in the paper and online as soon as we receive that information