By Fletcher Word
The Truth Editor
Toledo’s former mayors are mad as hell and they are not going to take it anymore!
Mad as hell about the wave of violence that has engulfed Toledo’s neighborhoods over the past few years – 71 homicides in 2021 and 65 last year – and mad as hell that the current administration is ignoring their pleas to work with city leaders in order to help the community in its time of crisis.
Carty Finkbeiner, Mike Bell and Donna Owens, co-founders of the Coalition for Peaceful Toledo Neighborhoods, held a press conference on Saturday February 4 to address the issue of gun violence in the city and they expressed their outrage not only at what they feel is the lack of interest in the issue of violence on the part of the city leaders but also at the city’s plan to hire an outside consulting firm to tell the City of Toledo what people with decades of leadership in this very community already know.
“I’m on the warpath,” said former Mayor Donna Owens, after acknowledging that her message would not be well received at One Government Center. “I’m throwing down the gauntlet to Mayor [Wade] Kapszukiewicz and city council to take action … kids are dying.”
The Coalition met at St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church to announce a new collaboration with an existing organization, the Northwest Ohio Parents of Murdered Children, and a future town hall meeting on February 16 at Glenwood Lutheran Church.
Above all, the three mayors, Owens, Carty Finkbeiner and Mike Bell, took the city administration to task for its inaction on the issue of gun violence.
“We have to start coming together,” said Bell. “We have to put some of these groups together. In the next 30 days, we will take what we have gathered and put it into a proposal before the mayor and city council.
The irony of the timing of the meeting this past weekend is that it took place in the wake of another senseless murder. The previous afternoon, Donald Hogan, age 15, was shot on Shasta Drive and died as a result. It was Toledo’s fifth homicide of the year. Four of the five were youth.
The administration has announced plans to hire Cities United, a 12-year old organization that works with cities around the nation to reduce gun violence. Cities United was founded by a group of mayors and works with cities to find solutions and build strategies to reduce the number of homicides. The irony for the three former mayors is that Cities United held a conference in Baltimore, Maryland that Toledo city leaders attended. Baltimore is also one of the Cities United’s clients, along with more than 130 other cities.
“Baltimore is one of the most crime-ridden cities in America and we’re going to hire a firm out of Baltimore to solve our problem?” said Finkbeiner while mocking the $150,000 price tag usually associated with Cities United’s contract.
The mayors announced plans to open an office soon – located at 1416 Nebraska, in the Padua Center, and said that they will be unveiling their own plan to reduce violence at the February 16 meeting.
However they did not express much faith in the willingness of the mayor’s office or those on City Council to listen to their recommendations
“It appears that when we are talking, trying to being everyone together, it’s fallen on deaf ears,” said Bell as he excoriated the administration for its willingness to spend $150,000 to an outside firm “to tell us what we already know.”
“None of the people n this coalition are asking the city for money,” said Rev. Steve Swisher, pastor of Epworth United Methodist Church, and one of the founding members of the Coalition. “we’re not asking the city for a dime but we are asking for awareness.”