By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor
Without the ability to end things, people [and organizations] stay stuck, never becoming who they are meant to be, never accomplishing all that their talents and abilities should afford them. – Henry Cloud
The courtroom witnessed a profound catharsis when former Toledo city councilman Gary Johnson was recently sentenced to four months in federal prison for his bribery conviction last year.
As the sentencing proceedings unfolded, Johnson, overwhelmed by a surge of emotions, could no longer contain his feelings. In that solemn courtroom, he broke down, offering a poignant glimpse into the toll that the bad decisions of four senior African American councilmembers had taken on the community.
“It just kind of all came up at one time because when they started talking about my life’s work and how it all got swept away over one bad decision, that just kind of hit me hard,” he confided.
As the last of the four councilmembers to be sentenced, Johnson’s sad moment also serves as a collective purging of the community’s emotions and a sobering reminder of the profound impact of a tragic end resulting from even “uncharacteristic” ethical lapses in the world of politics.
For many years, these former city council members have been unwavering advocates for our community, dedicating themselves to the betterment of our city, tirelessly working on behalf of their constituents, and earning the respect and trust of many on the way.
For example, it was these same four council members who stood up to Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz on the regional water deal (TAWA). The current council makeup has yet to come close to doing that and is not likely to.
If you remember, the transactional cost of the mayor’s original TAWA deal was extremely burdensome and cost-prohibitive. It would have required Toledoans to pay a disproportionate majority of the cost. Essentially, it stipulated paying the suburbs to take control of Toledo’s water assets. Gary Johnson, Larry Sykes, Yvonne Harper, and Tyrone Riley said, “No, wait! This is a bad deal for Toledoans, and we don’t support it!” The administration then went back to the drawing board and redid the water commission, which, although it gave the suburbs a say, enabled the city council to override the water commission. The agreement also provided economic protections for low-income residents, a much better deal for Toledoans.
But herein lies the power of endings: the opportunity for fresh starts and new beginnings.
Although sometimes met with resistance, change is the driving force behind progress and development. Just as nature transitions from winter to spring, Toledo must navigate its own transition to adapt to changing circumstances. In the realm of governance, this means rethinking the makeup of the city council.
The Pew Research Center’s analysis of Census Bureau data from 2018 revealed substantial demographic shifts in the United States.
- There were more 27-year-olds than people of any other age in 2018. But for white Americans, the common age was 58.
- Bi-racial and multiracial were the youngest racial or ethnic groups and the only group where a majority belonged to a single generational group – Gen Z and younger.
- The median age of black Americans is 34. More than half of blacks were Millennials (24 percent) and Gen Z and younger (31 percent), while 20 percent were Gen Xers and another 20 percent were Boomers.
- Most Americans under the age of five were racial and ethnic minorities, and this higher growth rate will likely continue and ultimately surpass whites. A growing number of individuals identify as having both white and black heritage.
- As more individuals embrace their multiracial heritage and challenge the rigid categories and boundaries that have defined American race relations for centuries, the confines become blurred. Thus, the emerging trends depart from the rigid black-and-white dichotomy and reflect a more fluid understanding of race.
Like the nation as a whole, Toledo is experiencing a transformation in its demographic landscape. As these younger minorities become a more significant portion of the population, it becomes imperative for Toledo’s city council to reflect this diversity as well as the perspective and thinking of this new generation.
Representation in government is not merely a matter of political correctness but a fundamental element of effective governance. A city council that is racially and generationally in tune with its constituents is better equipped to understand and address different communities’ unique needs, perspectives, and concerns. Younger voices can infuse fresh insights and innovative solutions into governance, ensuring Toledo’s policies resonate with its evolving demographics.
Embracing transitions in city council demographics is a proactive approach to staying ahead of the curve. It ensures that the city’s leadership can respond effectively to changing trends and challenges. Policies and decisions that account for the realities of the city’s diverse population are more likely to foster inclusive growth and social harmony.
More importantly, by including younger voices such as Millennials and Generation Z in its leadership, Toledo can ensure its governance remains relevant, responsive, and forward-thinking. This transition is not only about inclusivity; it is about securing a brighter future for all Toledo residents. As we bid farewell to the old and welcome the new, let us remember that embracing transitions is the key to our collective success.
Reflecting on the former council members’ journey, I positively envision their future as mentors and guides. If Johnson and the others embrace change, the valuable experience and lessons learned from their time in office will serve as a beacon for others.
A powerful reset might include serving on boards or forming or participating in nonprofit advocacy. Former city councilperson Karyn McConnell’s example proves that a mistake does not have to be fatal to a career and is a powerful model of a successful personal reset or reinventing oneself.
While the seasoned council members’ departures mark the end of an era, it also creates an opening. This void can be filled by a new generation of leaders with fresh ideas and innovative solutions.
The former council members are yet a vital part of the community and have the ability to help other people.
Indeed, by embracing necessary endings, we can pave the way for a future that is even more fulfilling, productive, and prosperous and ensure that our journey toward growth is continuous and hopeful.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at email@example.com