Artists of Toledo

If “Golden Rule” Jones was mayor today

Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones is ranked the fifth best mayor in the history of the United States.

If Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones (mayor of Toledo 1897-1904) was mayor today….

He would answer my emails!

But that’s not all….

For good use of the pandemic federal “rescue grant,” he would help Toledoans with their gas and electric utility bills, since the pandemic made the costs go up so high.  He would already have given us municipally-owned broadband.

He would make parks safe for children again — the same parks (and more) that he started in his first mayoral tenure.

He would do all he could to stop the spiraling high murder rate that is killing our children.

He would pronounce “Home Rule!” to Lucas County Commissioners to stop their quest on taxing 117,000 city homeowners for ditch clean up that the people of Toledo already take care of quite well without the county’s interference…

He would eschew cronyism and make sure that all construction maintenance jobs for the city are triple-bid, not issued with the routine “emergency” status that most jobs are labeled today. Sam “Golden Rule” Jones would support free enterprise and competition between contractors, without the public’s top dollar doled out to government “friends.”

If Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones were mayor today, he would govern with a conscience.

In the old days, he kept saloons open on Sundays despite pressure from the churches because he felt the working class needed a place to relax on their day off, just as the upper-class enjoyed their smoking rooms.

That didn’t make him popular with the clergy, in spite of his great moral municipal experiment.

Excerpts from Toledo mayor (1907-1912) Brand Whitlock’s memoir, Forty Years of It.

Back then, Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones occasionally sat in for judges to hear cases. He’d find any excuse to keep people out of jail, because jails were dangerous. He put an end to the incarceration of the homeless.

Prisoners were hung up in the bull-rings for thirty days, lowered to the floor only to sleep at night; “such things have gone on and they are going on today, but nobody cares.”

“Golden Rule” Jones was a wealthy industrialist. He gave his mayoral salary away personally each and every month to people in need.

He wasn’t popular in politics, in fact, he was a man without a party. The politicians tried their best to get rid of him, but the public loved him. When he died his untimely death, the entire city came out to mourn his loss.

“Golden Rule” Jones’ house was situated on the very site of the Peristyle Theater at the Toledo Museum of Art, the concert hall that was built in 1933. The Toledo Museum of Art shares Sam Jones’ illuminating spirit — the old museum director, George Stevens, in his own way, was quite a bit like Jones, and his spirit carries on at the art museum. To give one small example, the museum opened its doors on a traditionally closed Monday on January 17, 2022 to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. It was a warm embrace in a cold city.

In the interest of history and synchronicity, 110 years ago on that day, on January 17, 1912, the newly built Toledo Museum of Art on Monroe Street was opened to the public. After Edward Drummond Libbey opened the doors, Jones’s successor, Mayor Brand Whitlock, presented the museum with the key to the city.

Former city councilman June Boyd with some of her great grandkids (above). June is on a mission to make Toledo safe for children. Good luck, June! Below, “Golden Rule” Jones’ house, situated where Peristyle now stands.

If Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones was mayor today, and if I sent him an email, he’d have the courage to answer it. The root word of courage is Love. What a strange concept for the government, courage is love.

But it worked before – it could work again. After all, there is a good reason why our beloved Sam Jones has gone down in history as the fifth best mayor of all time.*

*The American Mayor: The Best and the Worst Big-City Leaders, a scientifically compiled survey of mayors by a panel experts, published in 1999.

Artists of Toledo

Sunshine and the watershed

Sunshine and the watershed

Section 6130.04 of the Ohio Revised Code on ditch petitions states that if a petition for ditch improvement is brought by the county, that instead of the board of county commissioners deciding it, that hearings and decisions would be made through the Court of Common Pleas.

And here’s why: for fairness to everyone involved.

Lucas County cannot deny that the county engineer, Mike Pniewski wrote the Ten-mile Creek Watershed and Swan Creek Watershed ditch petitions, then shopped them around in person to find a puppet sponsor for each one of them. (Mike Pniewski pitched it to Sylvania Township, who turned him down, and he went to Spencer Township.)  Then the county commissioners themselves approved the petitions, being their own judge and jury. Not exactly fair to the hundreds of thousands of residents who will be forever affected by their action (increased tax assessments and blanket rights to go onto their private property.)

At the last minute, right before the hearings, addendums were added to each of the petitions, more than doubling the number of ditches of each petition, and adding road ditches, which are already paid for with county money! Ten-mile Creek Watershed petition originally had 21 waterways listed, but on Oct 27, 2021, added 22 more waterways. The Swan Creek petition originally had 34 waterways, but then added 46 to the list. 90 ditches! The petitions also removed the initial limits on certain ditches and rivers covered by the original petition, to cover the entire lengths, not just certain sections, as was in the original petition.

The Village of Ottawa Hills has a plan to care for their portion of 10-mile Creek / Ottawa River that runs through their village. It’s called, “Envisioning a Greener Future.” Yet with the Ten-mile Creek ditch petition, Lucas County is taking control of this river going through Ottawa Hills, becoming “Big Boss” Overlord of the Village, if you can imagine that, having the right to move machinery through this beautiful, natural landscape, that comes up naturally every few months and has for as long as I have lived, to do whatever they fancy to be an improvement to the Ottawa River / 10-mile Creek. Taking private property rights. Disturbing ecology. When Lucas County has never had such an authority before, nor any experience, nor is it associated with science and nature. And most of all, it is not necessary!

With 25 feet of land taken from the banks of the waterways and access to that waterway, that’s quite the land grab of private property taken by the county government.

Notably, the plans and budget for cleaning the ditches remains the same – doubling the number of ditches and taking ten years to perform. Whereas without the petition, landowners would continue to maintain their own parts of the river, as it is now and how it has worked, forever, without any problems at all.

The ditch petitions will cause a lot of disruption to landowners and to private property owners adjacent to landowners, and  they will cause damage to the natural habitat, and they’ll have to find a dump for the sediment if they dredge the river, but Mike Pniewski, Lucas County Engineer, said that if the commissioners don’t approve it, the waterways will fall into ruin! (He failed to state the obvious, that the landowners would of course continue to maintain their property, as they always have done since the beginning of time. Pictured here is the 10-mile creek running through Wildwood Preserve.)

The Metroparks

I wonder how our beautiful Metroparks will be looking in a few years, waiting in line for their turn for county ditch maintenance, if ever. But I suppose the park system will appreciate not having to do their own maintenance on their rivers anymore with tax dollars they already get. Since the eminent attorney Fritz Byers, who is on the board of the Metroparks, is litigating for Lucas County on the Lake Erie-EPA lawsuit, and also serves as legal counsel for the Toledo Blade, I’m sure the Metroparks knows what’s going on and they seem to have no objection to it. Hopefully the Metroparks have a contingency plan for keeping the Metropark rivers and streams maintained in the interim, until it’s their turn to get cleaned by the county, like maybe in 2066. Or maybe the Metroparks will get the first cleaning, in that they have so much clout, making the other 132 waterways listed in the petitions have to wait until 2066, at least some of them.

The Hearings

In spite of the numerous private property owners braving the Covid-19 Pandemic to be present at the hearings in order to make their voices be heard, as well as the many remonstrances and public comments filed with the county before the hearings, the petitions were discussed, voted on and approved, in only one hour flat.

The Engineer’s own Final Report dated November 4, 2021 for the Ten-mile, same date as the Ten-mile Creek watershed ditch petition hearing, acknowledged a few obvious drawbacks of the ditch petition —

potential disruption for adjacent property owners, potential tree removal in areas of larger log jams to obtain access, disruption of habitat…  and if they remove “excess sedimentation,” they will need to find a “location for spoil, depending on quantity and nature of property.”

Then the engineer slipped us a fast one, as if he can see what will happen in the future if the county does not get their way with the petition, as if the actual property owners (like the Metroparks, Boy Scouts of America, Franciscan Sisters, the Cities of Sylvania and Toledo, University of Toledo, the Village of Ottawa Hills, and those few lucky rich people who have the river on their property) will become totally irresponsible and will all of a sudden stop caring for their own property. If the county doesn’t clean the waterways, then it will all fall into ruin!

After the report, the commissioners quickly voted affirmative on the petition and adjourned the hearing, all within 63 minutes of the start of the hearing.

Similarly, with barely a quorum present of the three-county joint board of commissioners attending the Swan Creek Hearing on December 2, 2021 (not one commissioner came from Henry County and only two commissioners came from Fulton County), the five out of nine commissioners on the joint board who bothered to come to the hearing rushed through the hearing and voted yes, in all within 47 minutes from the start of the meeting to the adjournment.

In this unfair environment with no chance of a discerning, unbiased deliberation and unbiased decision from the judges, Lucas County thus took control of a large swath of private property of over 127,000 homeowners and their families, mostly Toledoans, and forced a tax on them. And Lucas County already got the city of Toledo to say that they would go along with them, so that the city of Toledo would not enforce their “home rule” in spite of their responsibility to the citizens of the Toledo to do so, where nearly every living soul is affected by the county ditch petitions.

Shedding light on the subject

We are masked and we are vulnerable, we are quarantined and we are isolated from each other by the Covid-19 Pandemic that is raging through its third year now in 2022. Those of us over 65 are particularly at risk for serious illness and death. And that is what it is like when I tried to get a public forum going to discuss the ditch petitions and share information.

Lucas County, rather than being a disinterested party in the ditch petition process, has been difficult to communicate with, as if they are an adversary. They will not have a dialog. They don’t answer questions. They are not listening. They are defending their position as the powerful, biased party that they are, forcing this tax and this perversion of law on their defenseless, masked, and isolated.

Ohio’s Sunshine Laws are in place to shine a public light on the workings of our democratic government. But here in Lucas County, the county’s bulb is burned out and needs to be changed.

Six days after the December 2, 2021 Swan Creek Hearing, I asked to see public records, including the minutes of the Hearing. On December 21 after I still did not get the records, I emailed the clerk, but my email was “bounced,” returned to me with a notice indicating that the recipient had blocked my email. Outrageous! I had to contact the county prosecutor’s office when I couldn’t get a response from my email sent from a different email address.

The county prosecutor’s office had already been in touch with me before that, though, having been contacted by the commissioners’ office to handle my earlier request. The email from the prosecutor’s office was quite a jolt, and no doubt a nasty way for the commissioners’ office to intimidate and silence me. I had requested to see historic ditch petitions because I wanted to find out about a similar ditch petition that failed in the past. I asked the clerk about that ditch petition. She referred me to the county engineer’s office, but all the county engineer’s office was willing to tell me was that it occurred in the 1980’s. There is no list of ditch petitions in the commissioner’s records that I can quickly peruse to find hints. So I asked to see the actual historic ditch petition records. I first asked to see indexes to the records but was told that indexes do not exist. Nothing is digitized before 1997, I was told. I’m still trying to find out, as it seems very relevant to the current petitions.

Driving a Jeep in the 10-mile Creek just to prove that they can. Location:  Inlands estate,  Ottawa Hills. Photocomposition by Penny Gentieu (The actual photo of the Jeep in the river was photographed downriver by the old Jeep Factory by Central Ave., photo courtesy Images in Time, TLCPL, river photo by PG is how it appears present-day.)

Inaccurate records and obfuscating historic ditch petition records

 Does the Clerk of the Lucas County Commissioners know what she is doing? Only she and the county commissioners know for sure. As for my request for the minutes to the Swan Creek meeting, I also asked to see the remonstrances and public comments on the petition. The clerk sent me comments submitted by seven people, but did not include my own comments that I submitted on December 1, 2021 through the Lucas County portal for Swan Creek ditch petition comments. How many other comments did she omit that were submitted to the public record on the Swan Creek ditch petition?

Then in regard to the hearing minutes, which took her 25 days to finish because she had to get them “approved,” she listed only two of those seven people, along with the Home Builders Association of Greater Toledo (who gave Lucas County their undying support and kudos for doing the petition! And no wonder – since the petitions are such a gravy train for construction workers.)

Perhaps to make it perfectly clear that she keeps inaccurate records for the commissioners, the clerk voluntarily sent me a completely different set of comments made to the Ten-mile Creek petition. The new set culled, not added to, the set of comments I had already received in November. The updated collection did not include several comments from people opposing the ditch petition. In fact, 107 pages had been cut out! I admit that 99 culled pages were my detailed remonstrance and comments that I had worked on for all of these months. But, I was cut out? I thoroughly expected my remonstrance that I hand-delivered to the Lucas County Board of Commissioners at One Government Center on November 3, the day before the Ten-mile Creek hearing, to be in the public record!

But such corruption of the public trust is just that easy do. You have to wonder, when public records are requested by the public, what “set of books” do they get?

Perhaps the clerk is incompetent, or perhaps she might say that she’s just doing her job. But as a disinterested keeper of public records for the public trust, she fails miserably. I requested the corrected minutes of the Ten-mile Creek Hearing. In the corrected minutes, citizen comments are still labeled as “public question” and “in favor” when they clearly are opposed to the ditch petition. She corrected only one such label. Also, at the top of pages 2 and 3 of these officially signed minutes is the text, Minutes of the Hearing for Schmitz Ditch instead of Ten-mile Creek, and it’s there quite obviously – you can’t miss it! – it’s printed in a bold 12-point font! Mistakes on purpose, perhaps. What a muddy mess that makes for these ditch petitions!

The county’s behavior all makes sense when you see that it’s in the county’s best interest to suppress the voice of the opposition. The county itself is the interested party bringing the petitions, and not Spencer Township who signed the petition. The Spencer Township trustees are simply puppets in Lucas County’s plan. Not one of them even showed up to a View or a Hearing of the sweeping ditch petition on which they signed their name.

Ditch petition of yore

I’m a very patient person. I’m as business-like as can be, having been in business all of my adult life, most of my years as a successful and well-known photographer in New York City. In New York City, there’s no time for bullshit. People are professional and considerate. But with Lucas County, trying to negotiate my rights to see public records is like being in a Kafka-esque nightmare!

I can’t even describe how painful and anxiety-ridden it was to have received an email from the actual Lucas County prosecutors’ office, which misrepresented my public records request; and then to have had my email address get literally blocked by the clerk of the county commissioners; and then to have been shown “two sets of books.” It seems like they are putting their thumbs up to their ears and wiggling their fingers at me!

But I soldiered on, knowing I have every right to see public records on ditch petitions. As for trying to find the historical ditch petition that Lucas County had tried but failed, I will find it. But the clerk is telling me that it will take considerable time for me to go through the records. Apparently because there are no finding aids for any of the pages of records they have on film and microfiche. Apparently, the Lucas County Commissioners Office didn’t digitize records until 1998, and apparently the previous clerks did not keep a database of Resolutions before that, either. At least nothing that’s handy that they are willing to share with me. Am I to believe that the clerks and commissioners that came before her left everything in a big mess, as if it’s all thrown in a giant shoe box with no way to navigate anything?

I trust that the clerks of yore were organized and professional, and that Sandy Isenberg, the President of the Board of Lucas County Commissioners in the 1990’s, was a diligent and forthright public official, and that those in the past who worked in the Engineer’s Office took their jobs seriously. I wonder what our public officials of the past would think of our present Lucas County commissioners and engineers playing fast and loose with their reputations? I wonder how the memory of today’s commissioners will fare, and what legacy they will be leaving.

Why don’t they just outright tell me what I’ve been asking — what about that similar ditch petition that failed?

I am starting to think that the county must have something to hide to go to this much trouble to hide it. I’m learning that the proper venue for these two ditch petitions should have been the court of common pleas, because the petitions were clearly invented by the county. The county commissioners should have recused itself from judging its own petition since it can’t be objective —  follow the intentions of the law. Respect the people! Maybe that old ditch petition that I am looking for was correctly heard by the court of common pleas….

…on account of fairness for everyone involved.

Ohio Revised Code Section 6131.04 Petition for construction of ditch improvement.  If the petitioner is a public corporation or the state, the petition shall be signed by its authorized representative. If the petitioner is the county, the petition shall be filed with the clerk of the court of common pleas, the matters in the petition shall be heard by the common pleas court as if the petition had come to the court on appeal, and the clerk and the court shall do all things that sections 6131.01 to 6131.64 of the Revised Code provide that the county commissioners shall do. The court of common pleas may appoint a board of arbitrators to assume the duties of the judge. The board shall be comprised of three disinterested persons chosen by the judge, who shall designate one of the persons to be chairman.

Artists of Toledo

Our government today

“Government of, by and for the people — not hidden from the people — must be more than mere words written in a history book. It doesn’t happen unless we make it so.” Dave Yost, Ohio Attorney General

Is transparency the basic covenant between a democratic government and the people?  Yes, because without it, corruption thrives.

I’m doing my best to get to the truth.

Here is my public records request of December 8 that has not yet been fulfilled. I’m waiting patiently, because that’s what I have to do. Merry Christmas everyone, and please don’t catch the Omicron variant Covid-19 virus that is raging across the country at this very moment.

December 8, 2021
Dear Ms. Balogh (Clerk of the Board of Lucas County Commissioners),
I am requesting the following records in digital format (which I understand from you is the way they are kept):
1. Historical Resolution Search Report using the text “Ditch Petition” from January 1, 1995 to February 11, 1998
2. Minutes to the Swan Creek Watershed ditch petition hearing that was held on December 2
3. Engineer’s final report for the Swan Creek Watershed ditch petition
4. All remonstrances and public comments to the Swan Creek Watershed ditch petition to date
5. In regard to the November 4, 2021 Resolution to the Ten Mile Creek Watershed ditch petition that is downloadable online, it is not signed. I request a copy of the signed resolution.
6. In regard to the November 4, 2021 resolution to the Ten Mile Creek Watershed ditch petition, a copy of the map of additional ditches added to the ditch petition, indicated in the Resolution as attached. It is not attached to the downloadable copy — I request a copy of the map.
7. In regard to the November 4, 2021 Resolution to the Ten Mile Creek Watershed ditch petition, I would like copies of the “petitions for amendments have been filed and have been requested to be added to the list of ditches (and as shown on the attached map) presented in Petition #1053 by benefiting owners”.
8. Corrected copy of the minutes of the November 4 hearing of the Ten Mile Creek Watershed ditch petition.
Do you make recordings of the hearings, perhaps to assist you in writing the minutes?
If you require for me to make each of these requests separately, please advise.
Artists of Toledo

Remonstrance II

Remonstrance II: Swan Creek watershed ditch petition 

Remonstrance is an old-fashioned word from the 16th century, widely used throughout the 19th century, meaning “forceful protest.” It’s used in the Ohio ditch laws as a right recognized for citizens who strongly oppose a ditch petition — they are allowed to file a “Remonstrance.” This is mine, filed on this link tonight —

Swan Creek River, downtown Toledo. Headquarters of Owens Corning Fiberglass in the background.

Toledo’s murder rate actually doubled since 2019, since around the time that the Lucas County Engineer dreamed up this massive, multi-county, multi-city ditch petition scheme to bring work to his construction buddies, reporting to the Blade in April 2020 (after several weeks of city lockdown due to the yet-to-come-two-year-plus world pandemic) that he wanted to “grow our economy and our competitiveness.” This is it! A blank check and land control.

The ditch petition has not even been proven necessary, but the city of Toledo is already in on it, pledging millions of taxpayer dollars to the county, giving up the city’s protective, sovereign “home rule” powers to the county’s ditch petition. How does the city get to answer for all the affected citizens, in one fell swoop?  Seems very oppressive, and back-room dealing-like.

A similar over-reaching ditch petition failed in the 1980’s.

No information is forthcoming from the county about the ditch petition that was similar to the current massive watershed ditch petitions, that failed in the 1980’s, other than it was in the 1980’s and it didn’t get enough votes. Shouldn’t the Lucas County Board of Commissioners office be working for the citizens of Lucas County, and not for the unproven interests of this conniving, stinking unnecessary ditch petition that has yet to have a hearing and has strong opposition?

As if the county can scheme with the city while keeping important public information from the citizens – censoring history – pulling the wool over on its citizens – not being fair!

We know at least this from history, that since the 1980’s overreaching ditch petition failed, in all this time, about 35 years, we have been doing fine without. Since then, there have been countless ditch and river projects paid for with grants from the likes of the EPA. The county engineer, echoed by a Lucas County commissioner, said that nothing has been done to the rivers and ditches in 50 years? Just a few minutes on Google will show that statement to be a lie.

No proof given.

No actual proof has been given at any of the Views for the need for these petitions, and the sole example pictured in the Ten-Mile Creek Watershed ditch petition “Final Report” dated Nov. 4, 2021 was of a log jam in a millionaire’s backyard. He was a man who died the same month that Lucas County got Spencer Township to submit the petition — he was a distinguished citizen who served in Washington, DC as the Commissioner of Medical Services Administration, responsible for Medicaid. Did the engineer bother to ever contact this person to discuss the log jam?  Are the citizens of Lucas County supposed to foot the bill to remove log jams on millionaires’ properties, or could the county engineer kindly phone the widow and discuss the log jam, if in fact this log jam is causing flooding or drainage problems with its millionaire neighbors, instead of using a photo of their property in the Final Report as an excuse to bring in an unlimited revenue stream to the county.

Cleaning and maintaining our rivers has always been the responsibility of landowners. Our rivers are already maintained by the well-to-do landowners, including such major owners as the Metroparks and University of Toledo, and much of it is funded by EPA grants.

Murder rate has doubled.

While Toledo’s murder rate is doubling and tripling, this petition siphons from our city funds (the deal has already been made!) money that the city of Toledo could use to hire 50 new police officers to curb the outrageous spike in crime. If Toledo could use the money promised to the county for ditches to increase the police force instead, lives could be saved.

And all this time, we remain in a serious world pandemic, and there’s no end in sight. Instead of helping, the county has become its citizens’ adversary by pushing these faulty ditch petitions, all while Covid-19, Delta, and now Omicron is killing us, killing our neighbors, killing our friends and relatives.  Add that to the doubled murder rate.

The county commissioners should stop these ditch petitions before more money is wasted and more citizens get killed.

Artists of Toledo

Letter to Toledo City Council

Rich or poor – few escape the power of the Lucas County Board of Commissioners, but the City of Toledo certainly can and should!

On November 4, Lucas County Board of Commissioners voted to pursue the controversial Ten-Mile Creek Watershed ditch petition affecting 73,236 homeowners and their families. Two of our three Lucas County commissioners, along with three Fulton County commissioners, voted for it, with the President of the Lucas County Board of Commissioners, Tina Skeldon Wozniak, notably absent from her duty to officiate the hearing of this important issue and vote on it.

On December 2, Lucas County will vote for the matching Swan Creek Watershed ditch petition, nailing a total of 117,554 Lucas County property owners and their families to suffer these two ditch petitions, with an extra 6,095 Fulton County property owners added into it, which earn them the three votes from the Fulton County Commissioners too.*

No proof has ever been shown at any of the “views” to justify the sweeping petition. In the final report submitted on November 4 by the Lucas County Engineer, Mike Pniewski, only a single exhibit is in the record as an example of cleanup and maintenance that needs to be done to justify this overreaching, outrageous petition — it is an image of an out-of-date Google Earth overhead image captioned “a significant log jam in Sylvania Township.”

The only example used in the November 4, 2021 final report. This location is behind million dollar mansions off of Corey Road.

I traced Google Earth up the 10-mile creek and found the exact location, behind the homes of rich and prominent people, off Corey Road in Sylvania Township, on Riverhills Lane. That’s all the county has to show us. It is the same example that the county engineer gave to the Channel 13 news team on August 19 for their news story on the ditch petition. They filmed a tree down on the floodplain and a few logs in the river, behind these million dollar mansions.

The property off of Corey Road, on Riverhills Lane, on which was found a log jam some time ago spotted on Google Earth, which was used as the sole example to justify the ditch petition by county engineer Mike Pniewski, in his November 4 Final Report. 

One of the residents within a few hundred feet of this example is the grandson of Norman Nitschke, the famous safety glass industrialist who donated millions to the University of Toledo for three new engineering buildings with his name on it. Strangely, Lucas County Engineer Mike Pniewski, in his near-full-time moonlighting job that was revealed to us in the September 10 edition of the Blade in regard to his teaching five freshman classes at the university, teaches a class in Nitschke Hall. Norman Nitschke died in January 2021 of Covid-19. It’s so peculiar that our Lucas County engineer would use an example from the neighborhood of this great man’s grandson with the same name – Nitschke. We should expect at least a modicum of respect and discretion from our elected officials when dealing with our citizens — renown or otherwise. It begs the question, did Mike Pniewski ever contact the property owners of the log jam example, or is he really so crass that he would drag them through the mud with no consideration, just to push this ditch petition through?

Nitschke Hall, one of the buildings where Mike Pniewski does his moonlighting, teaching freshman engineering classes.

The owners of the property used in Pniewski’s only example are also quite distinguished. In the 1970’s, Malcolm Keith Weikel served in Washington, DC as the Commissioner of Medical Services Administration responsible for Medicaid. He later became the COO of HCR ManorCare, then the largest nursing home company in the United States. However Mr. Weikel also died in 2021, in March, just as Mike Pniewski was shopping around for a sponsor for his opportunistic ditch petitions.

It is worth noting here that even though a log jam was spotted in Sylvania Township, that the Sylvania Township trustees refused to sponsor this ditch petition. Did Pniewski tell them about their log jam? Pniewski then went to Spencer Township trustees for their sponsorship (even though they are technically in the Swan Creek watershed.)  It is unknown if Pniewski ever contacted the Weikels about their log jam that he found on Google Earth, or whether he just used the image to justify this ditch petition. I venture to say that if he had contacted the owner about their log jam and explained to them that someday it might have an impact on flooding and drainage problems, the problem would have been solved right away, without Pniewski getting to use it as an opportunity to drag in the entire county, and Fulton County too. Furthermore, it is unproven that the log jam has ever caused any flooding or drainage issues. Mr. Nitschke told me emphatically that he had no such problems, when I reached out to ask him if he or his neighbors were experiencing flooding or drainage problems from the river.

Contrast that picture, of the wealth and advantage of these famous Sylvania Township homeowners and their splendid river views, to the image of Toledo’s disadvantaged city population being forced to pay for the clean-up of those rich people’s log jams through this overreaching ditch petition. They use the rich to steal from the poor.

Look at these arbitrary maps drawn for those who are going to have to pay. For example, look at the Junction neighborhood behind the art museum in the city of Toledo. Every homeowner in that neighborhood is either named in the Ten-mile Creek or Swan Creek ditch petition. They will all be taxed. For what?

Areas shaded blue show the parcels that will be taxed for the Ten-mile Creek Watershed ditch petition.
Areas shaded blue show the parcels that will be taxed for the Swan Creek Watershed ditch petition; it fits into the Ten-mile creek map like a cookie cutter.
You may wonder, as do I, why all of the parcels in the poor neighborhood behind the art museum are so tightly designated into one petition or the other. Whereas, the museum itself is only partially included, with the other half being off the hook from any ditch petition. The Peristyle is out, but the Canaday Gallery is in. The Glass Pavilion is out, but the Director’s office is in. The Frank Gehry CVA building is out, but the old art school is in.  We will never know why this is either, because the Lucas County Board of Commissioners doesn’t answer questions.

Is the City of Toledo really going to give Lucas County the right to force their disadvantaged population to pay for the clean-up of the river behind the homes of the richest people in Sylvania Township? Beyond that outrageous inequity, do we really want the county government to usurp our municipal powers and private property rights as well?

There is such a thing as Home Rule. Why is the City of Toledo letting Lucas County do this to us?

It is preposterous!  The City of Toledo should take care of their many problems, and let the wealthy people of Sylvania Township take care of their problems. The same goes for ditches out in the country. Ohio ditch petition laws were written for unincorporated, rural parts of the state, not cities! City folks should not be taxed for rural ditches.

As for the river in the metropolitan area of Toledo, it is already taken care by its major owners, because the rest of the river, beyond the neighborhood of those prestigious and wealthy citizens mentioned above, is owned by the City of Sylvania, the Sylvania Country Club, the Franciscan Sisters, the Boy Scouts of America, the Metroparks, the Village of Ottawa Hills, the University of Toledo, the City of Toledo, and then a few miles of industrial ownership until it flows out of Point Place. All of these areas have had clean-ups and restorations, mostly funded by grants in programs that were initiated by Tina Skeldon Wozniak’s own father, Ned Skeldon, as is shown on this web page, Ned Skeldon, Betty Mauk, and their river legacy.

*The three Fulton County commissioners are all white men, I might add — and purportedly, they go along with how the two Lucas County white men vote. Those three votes from Fulton County represent 5% of the affected population, but they increase the ditch petition voting percentage in Lucas County’s favor by more than double! Who knows how the one woman (also white) of Lucas County would have voted on the Ten-mile Creek petition, or might be voting, for or against the Swan Creek petition – because she evaded the issue altogether – she was absent during the Ten-mile Creek hearing and vote. As the president of the board, and as a woman, she’s the closest thing to “diversity” that we have to represent us – but her vote wouldn’t count anyway, with that majority of male commissioners sticking together as they do – all due respect given to our white commissioners for their “service” to our community – but I strongly feel that they are not representative of me, nor of our diverse city population whatsoever, nor do they listen to us, and they are certainly not looking after our best interests. I live in the City of Toledo. Toledo City Council, will you please look after us? After all, the concept of “Home Rule” is the major reason why the City of Toledo exists, and that’s how you got elected!

Artists of Toledo

Whitlock, Jones and June Boyd

June Boyd with her great granddaughter, Leilani, photographed at the Toledo Museum of Art on October 27, 2021. “I’m a fighter and I’m looking to provide a better future not only for my family, but for all these little children I spend time with.” June Boyd, Second Wind, Interview by Rev. Donald L. Perryman, PhD, Sojourner Truth, Sept. 18, 2019 (Note that baby Leilani came along after the publication of that interview two years ago. She now has a new great granddaughter, one month old, so when June Boyd says she wants a better future for the kids, she means business!)

June Boyd

June Boyd is one sharp octogenarian. Two years ago, she ran for city council at age 84. She’s a great grandmother raising two of her great grandchildren. She’s an activist for children and is fighting the blight and violence she has seen grown out of control in Toledo.

After 60 years in politics, June Boyd is very wise. She has experienced many firsts in her long Toledo history. When she was just two years old, she moved to Toledo with her mother from Georgia to the shiny new Brand Whitlock housing project on Junction Avenue behind the Toledo Museum of Art. It was a great place to live, with all the modern appliances. The first generation growing up at Brand Whitlock reads like a who’s who in the history of Black Toledo.

June Boyd was the first African-American to graduate from St. Ursula Academy high school, in 1953. To get her enrolled in the what was then an all-white girls Catholic school, in 1948, her mother called and asked if they would take black girls. The nun answered, “I don’t see why not!” When Ned Skeldon, president of the Lucas County Board of Commissioners, put out the word in 1959 that the county board would like to hire African-Americans, she was the first to be hired, and she worked for Skeldon himself. She paved the way for many black women working in politics. In 1993, she along with Edna Brown were the first two African-American city council members.

She did not win the election in 2019, but still works her agenda in the community to improve conditions for children in Toledo’s central city. She writes letters and gives interviews. Lucky for us, she keeps on keeping on, and she does it for the kids.

“I recall Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz stating it was his intention to hire 30, 40 and 50 year olds in his administration totally excluding senior citizens or anyone over 50 who just might have the wisdom and knowledge to address the foregoing,” Letter to the Editor from June Boyd, Sojourner’s Truth, Sept. 30, 2021

Toledo sadly lacks the wisdom and knowledge of what once made it great. The city eschews the hiring of senior citizens or anyone close to being a wise elder. Memory of the past is the first to go in times of corruption, and we are living in corrupt times.

The Toledo Museum of Art is built on the same ground on which Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones had once lived.
Golden Rule Jones

Who knows about Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones? He was the Mayor of Toledo from 1897 until he died in 1904.

Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones is ranked the 5th all-time best mayor in the United States. Jones built Toledo’s first city playgrounds and public swimming pools.

Jones was a millionaire who gave away his entire mayoral salary every month to needy people. He built the Golden Rule Park for his employees and gave them instruments for their newly-formed Golden Rule Band. He gave his workers 8-hour work days, paid vacations, health insurance and Christmas bonuses. He made his fortune in the oil business, a consequence of the oil monopoly that would not be broken up until five years after his death. Rich through monopoly ugliness at age 43, Jones had an existential moment where he saw clearly that he had to live by the golden rule. Thus, he was elected mayor.

Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones died of a sudden illness at age 57, but he had a protege – the young lawyer and novelist, Brand Whitlock.

Brand Whitlock

Whitlock was an artist and intellectual at heart, without much interest in money. He served as Mayor of Toledo from 1906 to 1914, when President Wilson appointed him minister/ambassador to Belgium. He then served overseas throughout the Great War until 1921, when he moved to the French Rivera to write his books. He died in Cannes at the age of 65. Two years later, in 1936, Franklin D. Roosevelt named Toledo’s magnificent new housing project, the “Brand Whitlock Homes.”

Whitlock and Jones served during 15 years of the Progressive era. Their spirit was similar to that of the Toledo Museum of Art, founded in 1901, the foundation of which embraced his time and literally, his space. It was right beneath the Peristyle.

Brand Whitlock by Israel Abramofsky – a gift to the mayor from the young artist, who befriended him, and as mayor, Whitlock wrote Abramofsky a recommendation for his study in Paris.  Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones
The real deal

Golden Rule Jones made the City of Toledo livable — he sought to turn love into municipal policy, feeling that “each person could reach a kind of perfection just as plants reach perfect beauty.” By building parks, playgrounds, public swimming pools and the zoo, he helped children and families thrive.

Jones advocated for municipal ownership of utilities, to do away with the corruption of “closed backroom deals” made by city council members and their buddies. A good utilization of municipal ownership today could be city-owned broadband that would cover the entire city. Imagine the savings as well as the access. Like healthcare for all! Ha ha!

Jones and Whitlock fought for “home rule” to protect the rights of the city against the state. It’s a right we need to have our city invoke today in regard to the county’s over-reaching ditch petition, which appears more like a closed backroom deal between the city and the county, and now we the citizens of Toledo need to be protected from them!

For a while, Toledo became a better place to live, all because of the innocent, pure vision of Sam Golden Rule Jones. He was the real deal. The entire city came to his funeral, he was so loved.

Brand Whitlock Homes over the decades, torn down in 2012 and replaced by Collingwood Green, mostly senior-living.
Broken playgrounds at Gunckel Park and Ashley Park, 1978. Kids protesting, 1978. Photos © Penny Gentieu
Losing connections

Today when we hear the name, Brand Whitlock, instead of it conjuring up this great progressive mayor and novelist, we tend to think of the failed Brand Whitlock housing project instead. The Brand Whitlock Homes were once was great, then pushed down the memory hole. June Boyd remembers.

A happy childhood at the Brand Whitlock Homes is the reason why June Boyd advocates so diligently for Toledo’s youth —

“We need a total overhaul: Swayne Field could have a bowling alley; Warren Sherman could have a skating rink; there are dozens of vacant land that could be putt putt golf and go karts for our kids. I personally have to drive my grandchildren a long way to get the go karts they love. Why do we not have them in the central city which would not only create employment, it would be a boost to our neighborhood, and something we could teach our young to appreciate.” Letter to the Editor from June Boyd, Sojourner’s Truth, Sept. 30, 2021

How about more police, to police the outrageous crime spiking in Toledo? How about cleaning up the central city blight? Can’t the city make parks and playgrounds safe? Why such a low percentage of police in our community compared to the 8.8 million population in New York City, a city with nearly twice as many police officers per capita than Toledo, and less per capita crime? Stop fleecing our city!

“There are many adults around here who graduated from school and they are illiterate, and then you wonder why they can’t get any jobs, and not to mention the drug problem, the homelessness, the abandonment and the fact that people have gotten so beat down until they don’t have any encouragement to do anything else.” June Boyd, Second Wind, Interview by Rev. Donald L. Perryman, PhD, Sojourner Truth, Sept. 18, 2019

Groundbreaking ceremony 43 years ago today, on October 31, 1978, for the Wayman Palmer YMCA.  Wayman Palmer, _?_, Sandy Isenberg, _?_, Bill Copeland, _?_. Photo © Penny Gentieu
The Wisdom of elders

It means a great deal to know someone as wise and experienced as June Boyd and to be able to benefit from her perspective. I asked Ms. Boyd if she could identify people in this photo I shot at this groundbreaking ceremony on October 31, 1978. She gave me three names. Who else could do that — she was there 43 year ago, and she is still here with us. Although two men, Wayman Palmer and Bill Copeland, are not. How great June Boyd is for her wisdom alone! If only she had won city council instead of her opponent who won, who actually got arrested a year later for fraud along with three other city council members — talk about corruption!

“It’s time to pay attention to the children. Teachers, ministers, grandparents, and responsible parents, notice what children are doing. If they have a gun, where did it come from? If they are neglected, they become pawns for adults who want to take advantage of them for their own profit… We must take an interest in our youth… Do something!” June Boyd, Let’s come together to save Toledo’s children, The Blade, Oct. 9, 2021

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