Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson and Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz engaged in a spirited dialogue at The Blade on Wednesday, and each said some good and hopeful things.
But both failed to give a very satisfactory answer to the question of what should be done about gun violence and shooting deaths in Toledo.
Some 133 shootings have occurred in Toledo so far this year. Of these, 34 were homicides. Ten people were recently shot in the span of just four days. The latest were two kids, just 18 years old. One was a mother, who leaves a 1-year old child.
Police investigate a shooting Tuesday, where an 18-year-old man and 18-year-old woman had been pronounced dead. Thirty-four homicides have occurred in Toledo this year.
It’s a tough question, but a reasonable one: What can the mayor of Toledo do about the shootings?
Both candidates were genuinely agonized about the violence. This is a lot of violence for a city the size of ours — and a lot of blood and death.
But neither candidate had a very clear or compelling answer.
Mind you, there is no total “answer.” There is no single, absolute solution.
But after talking about the need for more police, and his plan to get the city up to a number the Department of Justice says would be a safe number — and it is a solid plan — Mr. Kapszukiewicz talked about his proposal to have Metroparks Toledo take over the city parks. That is also a sound idea. Finally, he talked about youth sports programs — also laudable.
But, hold on, very young people are getting executed, gang-style, in their cars in this city and we can save them with parks and Little League?
The mayor derided her opponent’s response but her own was even more pathetic. She said “We have to provide them with a reason to want to live.” And she repeated the phrase.
The mayor was passionate. But, is she serious?
We owe young people in the central city and East Toledo and South Toledo public safety, not theology.
Those two kids killed the other day were not planning on dying. They could not have been saved by upbeat talk, however well-meaning.
They might have been saved by a cop.
They might have been saved by a good drug treatment program. For many of the killings this year have been drug deals gone wrong.
They might have been saved by good jobs.
We need more cops. The next mayor needs to get the police force to full power — 660 officers, according to the DOJ.
We need for the police to be visible, especially in the neighborhood where these shootings have occurred.
Police Chief George Kral needs to be given every other tool he thinks may be an immediate preventive — like an expanded Gang Task Force.
The city needs more drug education, and more connection between those who need treatment and the treatment programs available. The greatest particular need in Toledo right now is for extended, long-term care and treatment for opioid addiction.
And we need a more coordinated and extensive jobs program. Right now, the Cherry Street Mission has the most creative jobs program in the city. Maybe it needs more support, or at least, publicity.
Again, there are no easy answers here. But two people running for mayor should have more cogent and realistic ones prepared. Hand-wringing and pious platitudes do not cut it.
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