Tag Archives: Toledo

Burned: A Photo Essay on Arson in Toledo

Above photo by Sam Ricker

Editor’s note: The following photo essay come from Lori King’s photojournalism students at Owens Community College. Click here to view their photo essay.


Above photo by Lynn Redding

Burned: The Rust Belt on fire

A photo story by the Intro to Photojournalism class at Owens Community College
By Lynn Redding and Miranda Molyet

Arson is the leading cause of fires in the United States, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Of these fires, 30 percent are in structures, including homes. Fire officials estimate that 50 percent of all fires may be intentionally set, yet it is difficult to determine the actual number of arson fires because many of them go unreported.

The FBI estimates that four out of the top 10 cities in the United States for arson crimes reported are in Ohio. The fourth spot on the list is right here, in Toledo. The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal reported that the six common motives for arson are: excitement, vandalism, crime concealment, revenge, extremist/terrorist and profit.

For our team community service photo story project, the Introduction to Photojournalism class at Owens Community College visited a few arson fire sites in the Central Toledo area.

Why should we, as a community, care about arson and its impact on the Rust Belt?

Arson is a felony crime. It is a crime against people, and every year firefighters are killed in responding to open-air fires. Then there is the cost of the fires, including the cost of supplies to fight the fires, the value of the property destroyed, the loss of tax revenue, and the fact that firefighters must be paid. In spite of the fact that arson is a crime, the real reason we should care about the growing arson problem in the Rust Belt is the fact that while firefighters are away battling an intentional and needless fire, they cannot respond in the event a real emergency should arise. The cost of arson is more than money; it is putting lives at risk.

To learn more about  Lori’s class and their work, check out the class blog here.

Above photo by Paula Taylor

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Filed under Crime, Economic Development, Featured, The Big Urban Photography Project, The Media, Urban Poverty

A Ballad for Toledo, Ohio

Ah, Toledo. My hometown, technically.

I was only two when my family moved away so my memories are vague. But one memory that is very clear is my mom singing me the song “We’re strong for Toledo.”

She told us her father, my grandfather, was so proud of his city that when the family was away on vacation, he would order her to perform this song for people they met.

It’s a catchy, but very old-fashioned tune “the girls are the fairest, the boys are the squarest.” But definitely more flattering than the John Denver song about Toledo, where he compared the women to dogs.

This video is especially tear-jerking for me because my distant cousin John Amato produced it, and he is an all-around awesome person.

Toledo pride! I think I just had a moment.


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Renn: “Buffalo, You Are Not Alone”

dsc_0175b-thumb-505xauto-11091From Buffalo Rising: Read Urbanophile Aaron Renn‘s pep talk to Buffalo.

(Though many people in Buffalo already know how cool it is!)


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Filed under Economic Development, Editorial, Good Ideas, Headline, Rust Belt Blogs, The Media

Richard Florida: Your City is Hopeless, That will be $35,000

It seems everyone who’s interested in cities has an opinion about Richard Florida.

I’ve always had it in for him, since he wrote, “Who’s Your City?,” a book which instructed readers which city they should live in based on personal characteristics, as if that was a rational way to choose a place to live.

When I was working at a newspaper in Toledo a coworker of mine began researching “Who’s Your City” for an article because Toledo was listed as the 12th (13th, 14th?) best mid-sized city to be a committed gay couple. The story had to be killed midway through, however, because the margin of error on the statistic was approximately 50 percent.

Florida, looking appropriately creative

Florida, looking appropriately creative

Well, Florida is gearing to go to the presses again in April with, “The Great Reset,” in which he argues that the recession has fundamentally reshaped the economic landscape. This tome may be more controversial because of its premise that the new economy will divide the country into geographic winners and losers.

It also happens that many of these “losers” paid Florida a hefty fee to explain how their cities could be made Meccas for the hip, highly-educated population that is so essential to prosperity, according to Florida’s teachings.

In an article in the American Prospect titled “The Ruse of the Creative Class,” Washington Post writer Alec Macgillis takes Florida to task for his assertion that “ultimately, we can’t stop the decline of some places, and that we would be foolish to try.”

Florida, who is arguably the country’s best known urban thinker, made a name for himself with his 2004 book “The Rise of the Creative Class,” in which he argued that highly mobile, “creative workers” in growth industries would determine the economic prosperity of cities by congregating and developing knowledge clusters.

The book was so popular, the cities of Cleveland, Toledo, Baltimore, Rochester, Green Bay, Des Moines, Elmira, New York, and others lined up to pay Florida a $35,000 speaking fee to share his insights on how to improve their attractiveness to young professionals.

His ideas inspired Elmira to install “Poetry Posts” around town in hopes of developing retail to serve the creative class. It also inspired the state of Michigan to launch its “Cool Cities” initiative, an ambarrassing failure.

In the AP article, Florida denies any wrongdoing.

“I’ve never tried to sugarcoat the message to any of them,” he says. “I’ve given them the facts … about what they were up against. I never tried to give them false hope. I encouraged them to work on their assets, but I tried to be honest and objective in helping them engage their problems. I hope they don’t feel let down.”

This is directly from the article: In February 2008 he told the residents of Sackville, New Brunswick, population 5,000, that they were in a “cosmopolitan country town” with obvious advantages over Toronto. In Louisville, Florida held up the Louisville Slugger museum as a potential creative-class magnet.

I’m not going to rewrite the article in it’s entirety, you should read it. Here’s the link again.

I just pulled this one little golden nugget out for you to chew on till then. It’s a quote from Eric Cedo, director of Create Detroit.

“I believe Richard has a real strong pulse on a certain segment of the population that can move freely around … but I’m staying. I’m not going. He keeps missing one of the most fundamental points, which is that there is a remnant of people who aren’t going to leave — and it’s because of the struggle that we’re going to stay.”



Filed under Brain Drain, Economic Development, Headline

Choose Local this Holiday Season


That’s Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and our friend Stacy Jurich reminding everyone to shop local this holiday season to help stimulate their local economy.

It’s a good message for any of our cities and a way everyone can contribute to economic recovery. Toledo is lucky to have a group like this!


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Filed under Economic Development, Featured, Good Ideas

Rolling the Dice on Casinos

Ohio voters recently passed a constitutional amendment that will allow for the construction of four casinos in the state for the first time.


One will be located in each Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati.

Ohio voters have turned down ballot initiatives like this one before. But it seems this time the need for jobs and the pervasiveness of casino gambling in neighbor states helped sway the electorate.

Anyway, there’s been a lot of debate over whether this will ultimately be good or bad. I thought it would be interesting to hear from other Rustifarians about their cities’ experiences with casino gambling.

What’s the word Pittsburgh? Detroit? St. Louis?



Filed under Economic Development, Featured

Bicycling in the Rust Belt

Angie and Kate have posted about the Great Lakes Urban Exchange’s “I Will Stay If …” campaign a few times here; and as I was leafing through some of their photos recently, I noticed a number of references to bicycle unfriendliness of some of the Rust Belt cities.

With the Census Bureau’s 2008 American Community Survey data now available, I took a look at what the numbers look like throughout the Rust Belt. I should note that I used only core-city geography data, so the comparisons are not completely fair, given the arbitrary nature of political boundaries, but I think they are reasonable enough for this sake of this comparison.


The purple bars show the proportion of commuters who cite a bicycle as their primary source of commuting. The green bars show the number of bicyclists divided by the squared area (excluding water) of the city. Although similar, they give a little different perspective.

The best place for a bicyclist in the Rust Belt is probably Philadelphia. Having biked in Philly over the summer, I can speak from experience that they have done a good job promoting cycling. Erie has a slightly higher proportion of cyclists than Philly, but a smaller total number. On the other end of the spectrum, Detroit, Toledo, Akron, Dayton and Cincinnati all have pretty dismal numbers. I haven’t biked in any of those places, so hopefully someone who has can comment on whether the numbers reflect the reality.

9-08-commuter-amy-greeneNevertheless, even the best cities in the Rust Belt have a long way to go to catch up to the best overall bicycling cities in America (which have a long way to go to catch up to the best bicycling cities in Europe, but I digress). Rust Belt bicyclists might feel a little more at home in a place like Portland (6.0% / 130), Seattle (2.9% /117), Minneapolis (4.3% /150), or Washington, DC (2.3%/113). Unless, of course, we can keep working to make our own cities better for cyclists.

-Rob Pitingolo


Filed under Featured, Public Transportation