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

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!

City folks should not be taxed for rural ditches.

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

Ned Skeldon, Betty Mauk, and their river legacy

Downtown Toledo waterfront, circa 1920’s. Betty Mauk Papers, Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections

Two proactive Toledoans in the 1970’s
made Toledo rivers and riverfront livable.

Betty Mauk (1918 – 2012)

Betty Mauk made the downtown Toledo riverfront livable.

Betty Mauk was born in 1918. Her mother died in childbirth. Her father died when she was six months old, a victim of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. Betty grew up in the Old West End, cared for by her society aunts and uncle. She married, raised a family, and lived in Ottawa Hills.

In 1964, the riverfront was a literal parking lot. But the commissioner of harbors and bridges put out park benches, then picnic tables, for the workers, who were going down to the river with their bag lunches.

Betty visited France, her great love, at least 50 times in her lifetime. When the downtown Toledo waterfront was lined with parking lots and old abandoned buildings, in the 1960’s during the time they were considering building the 475 – I-75 expressway along the river, Betty had a vision to turn the waterfront into a Parisian park, transforming the Maumee riverfront into the Seine.

Betty had the “savoir faire” and “je ne sais quoi” to turn the riverfront into a real park, giving it a French festival atmosphere, with monkeys, elephants, musicians, puppet shows and plays. Betty furnished it with an authentic French kiosk imported from Paris, and she herself operated a crepe stand. Betty and her husband bought a boat, the Arawanna II, and gave rides in their boat up and down the Maumee River.

A nativity play at Promenade Park in the 1970’s. Ned Skeldon is the third wise man on the left. 

Imagine how our downtown riverfront would look today if a big expressway had been built over it, which might have happened if it weren’t for Betty Mauk. And that’s not all she did…

Ned Skeldon (1924 – 1988)

“a malodorous cesspool”

Ned Skeldon, who is the father of Tina Skeldon Wozniak, the current President of the Board of Lucas County Commissioners, made the Maumee River livable.

Ned Skeldon, city politician, Lucas County commissioner, fresh from bringing baseball back to Toledo in 1965 after a nine-year absence, was disgusted by the filthy condition of the Maumee River and Lake Erie. He warned that in 50 years, if something wasn’t done, the river and the lake would become a marsh.

Ned Skeldon had an equal amount of Betty Mauk’s “savoir faire” and “je ne sais quoi,” Midwestern style. A charismatic politician possessing much chutzpah, Ned, for the show of it, independently formed a temporary non-profit corporation, Clear Water, Inc., with five Toledo industrial leaders, to raise awareness and money to clean up the river and lake.

With such luminary partners as Steve Stranahan, Thomas Anderson of the Andersons, Charles Ballard, director of the UAW Region 2-B in NW Ohio, Dr. William T. Jerome III, president of BGSU, and John Willey, the associate publisher of the Toledo Blade, Ned Skeldon described Clear Water, Inc. to be “primarily a public relations organization,” its purpose is to alert the general public to the dangers of water pollution and prod them into action.

In 1968, Clear Water, Inc. sent a cleanup barge up Swan Creek, a river running into the Maumee in downtown Toledo, which had become a dump.

Clear Water, Inc. became a funding agency for state and federal pollution control funds. Since 1966, it has provided more than $1.75 billion in 2021 dollars for municipal and industrial pollution control facilities in the Maumee basin.

Ned Skeldon swam in the Maumee River in 1973 to symbolize the improvements made. This is the Blade photo for the article, Hundreds see Skeldon Master Muddy Maumee. “Like a bug thrashing in coffee with cream,” Ned said. The Blade, July 16, 1973.

“Every municipality of more than 5,000 population in the Maumee basin has improved sewage treatment facilities,” said Ned Skeldon in 1978. And the river was much cleaner as a result of Ned Skeldon’s grassroots efforts…

Ned Skeldon is one of the originators of the water-clean-up grant system we have today. These are some of the long-lasting accomplishments of Clear Water, Inc.:

  • helped to initiate the federal Clean Water Act.
  • and the formation of the Ohio Water Development Authority (1966) a funding agency for state and federal pollution control funds.
  • city of Toledo approved a $17 million bond issue to combat pollution by 1969, did more than other cities
  • Ohio EPA
  • Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act
    Ohio Water Development Commission (or Authority) — offering industries treatment facilities on a rental basis (1968) Skeldon appointed to newly created board by Governor Rhodes
  • Federal Water Pollution Control Agency, 1968
  • Ohio Water Development Authority – a funding agency for state and federal funds

Through Ned Skeldon’s efforts, many commissions and agencies came into existence that were able to get municipalities and industries to stop dumping filth and poison into the water.

Clear Water, Inc. was a “coordinating agency for citizens, local, state and national governments and other agencies interested in cleaning up the waterways in the Maumee River basin.” Lancaster Eagle Gazette, Dec 7, 1978

Ned Skeldon, in 1978, declared that he did the job he set out to do, to clean up the river and the lake, and closed Clear Water, Inc. for business. He always intended to do just that. He died in 1988.

One year after Ned Skeldon died, a Clear Water, Inc. founder granted Betty Mauk permission to start it up again, so that she could continue the Swan Creek cleanup work that Skeldon began in 1968 . . Betty Mauk worked on it throughout the 1990’s.

Clear Water gets grant, The Blade, December 19, 1990. Betty Mauk, of Clear Water, Inc. is photographed with Tom Kovacik and Peter Fraleigh (who later had a dirty, filthy Ottawa River tributary that was cleaned up, named after him.) They led a program for students to test the water of the rivers in the 1990’s. Betty Mauk Papers, Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections

Then many years later…

The Ottawa River is healing because of collaborations among countless agencies, groups, volunteers, and experts, Patrick Lawrence, University of Toledo geography professor involved in many of the programs and projects, told The Blade. “Toledo’s Ottawa River takes another big step in its long healing process,” The Blade, June 18, 2018

Here’s a random list of agencies, groups and projects that with the help of volunteers and experts, take care of our rivers since Ned Skeldon’s Clear Water, Inc. started it all: