The forum, held at the
Chester Zablocki Senior Center,
took aim at anyone in local government—including Toledo Mayor
D. Michael Collins, members of city council, state
representatives, the county treasurer and Lucas County
Commissioners. The meeting was organized by One Village
Council (OVC), a group of residents affiliated with the
United North community development corporation.
“I’m really committed to getting this blight under control in
our neighborhood,” said Gary Rogolsky before the forum.
“It’s not something that just happened yesterday, but by the
same token it’s gotten to the point that it’s really gotten out
Rogolsky is motivated by two burned-up houses that have been
sitting like that, he stated, since July 2012. The city has
since boarded up the homes.
“That seems to be where it ends. I’d like to see those houses
just disappear,” he said. “Not only is it an eyesore, but it
lowers the property values of the houses around it.”
Rogolsky couldn’t say whether he was hopeful or a healthy
skeptic over whether the forum would result in a lot of talk or
whether there would be quick action.
“I’m hopeful that all the elected officials are here, but it’s
too soon to make a judgment for hope or despair at this point,”
sat next to Rogolsky and agreed she also needed to see action,
not just lip service from the mayor, city council, and county
commissioners in attendance.
“They have a short-term vision, but we want long-term
solutions,” she said. “We want them to let us know how soon
things are going to be done, how fast. Our children are around
tire dumps, burned-out buildings—so we need to stand up.”
Residents staged a march the previous Saturday to call public
attention to the blight in their neighborhoods and recommend the
need for a comprehensive plan that better allocates neighborhood
development resources and funds.
OVC officials contend that North Toledo has seen a reduction in
services and funding over the past several years to combat
nuisance properties and the problems that go with it.
While the group agrees with many of the ideas public officials
are touting to combat blight citywide, forum organizers called
them at best short-term solutions for neighborhoods identified
as significantly distressed.
One Village Council would rather see prevention measures put in
place. Toledo City Councilman Jack Ford, a former mayor,
has proposed the formation of a Blight Authority to tie together
several efforts to remediate graffiti, tear down abandoned homes
and buildings, and repurpose vacant properties to a more
There were moments of visible frustration among residents who
spoke. Perhaps the most poignant moment came when one resident
asked who had heard gunshots outside their home in the past
month—and most of the people in the room raised their hands.
“I’m afraid somebody’s going to get killed,” said another
City administrators sat in the back of the room and took copious
notes on problems related at the meeting, especially those with
specific addresses or streets involved.
One Village Council introduced a four-part plan, then asked
individual elected officials to endorse each point:
city-wide Blight Authority is established, commit to
targeting North Toledo and a second neighborhood in East
Toledo for the next two or three years to provide
comprehensive revitalization resources as pilot projects;
amendment to the proposed blight authority to include a
category for active neighborhood groups, such as One
Village Council to give residents a voice;
Hold a city
council committee hearing on a “non-owner occupied point of
sale ordinance” in order to ensure investors have adequate
financial resources to maintain said property before it is
Hold a city
council committee hearing on a “foreclosure bond” ordinance
in order to hold predatory lenders accountable to their
properties, which are often not maintained and allowed to
Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapsukiewicz told the crowd
that a partnership between the county land bank and city’s dept.
of neighborhoods had demolished 143 structures in the United
North service territory in recent months and had plans to tear
down 123 more unsafe homes and buildings in that same area over
the next two years. He stated the land bank’s mission is to “try
to turn blighted properties back into productive use.”
Councilwoman Lindsay Webb, whose district covers much of
the United North service territory, touted a plan
underway in Youngstown that requires the filing of foreclosure
bonds when buying a home or building. That fund currently has
$1.6 million in escrow. The money can be used for home
demolitions or even cutting high grass at an abandoned lot or
“I would like to see us be able to use that money to employ
people through the land bank,” said Ms. Webb, while
acknowledging it likely would take a change in state law to
accomplish. “If that could be run through the land bank and
employ people that would accomplish a lot dealing with blight. I
want to put that money to work in our community and figure out a
way to do that.”
While most of the elected officials present endorsed the One
Village Council plan in whole or in part, some did caution
the gathering, tempering their enthusiasm to act with some
reality, such as limited tax dollars or grant funding.
“I would love to have two to three years of concentrated effort
in District 3 (which he represents), but that’s not fair,” said
Councilman Mike Craig. “Resources have to be shared.”
Councilman Tyrone Riley called the proposed blight
authority “a first step in the right direction.”
Mayor D. Michael Collins
used the forum as an opportunity to announce city leaders would
focus a T-Town cleanup in a North Toledo neighborhood on
Thursday, Sept. 4.
“The cold, hard truth is a group of people meeting in a room
gets nothing done,” said the mayor.
Mayor Collins pledged to sign any legislation proposed by Toledo
City Council that would make a dent in the city’s blight
problem, which one resident at the meeting described as getting
a lot like Chicago.
Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken warned the
gathering that some of its proposals would be hard to implement,
especially those requiring banks or investors to post bonds. He
related an anecdote of a past political battle when he served on
Toledo City Council, which investors fought all the way to the
Ohio Supreme Court and won a repeal of new regulations.
“You’re going to have to fight to get this done,” said Gerken.
“Outside influencers will come to fight this. But you are
Despite the pledges to do more about blight, Ramón Pérez,
community organizer for One Village Council, maintained a
healthy skepticism on the meeting’s results.
“I still don’t think they understand the comprehensive plan
we’re trying to put in place,” he said. “I think they’re still
looking at it in terms of how they’ve always done business—just
scattered improvements. Clean up one block, one neighborhood,
just cleaning up tall grass, those kinds of things. It has to be
a comprehensive approach—reviewing our city codes, policies that
address blight in the neighborhood, how do we get the schools
and businesses involved. I think people are just used to doing
the same things they’ve done the past four or five decades.”