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

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 black women elected for Toledo City Council.

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?

“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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