PHARES: This was the month hope died in Sandusky

Register publisher It started Nov. 4, as my heart sank while reading Erie County election results.
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

Register publisher

It started Nov. 4, as my heart sank while reading Erie County election results.

Despite years of neglect, against the call for change sweeping our county and country, and in the face of solid candidates with solid ideas, we returned the same, tired old leadership to Erie County government.

My disbelief came to a climax Dec. 4 as I read Dennis Murray Jr.’s statement that he was immediately resigning his Sandusky city commission seat. And there were many blows in between.

“Why can’t we move forward?” I asked myself and anyone who happened to get too close to me that afternoon.

Murray’s choice to resign now came as the biggest blow, just as his leadership and strong voice were most needed for a final battle. When he started his term on commission, I took the time to listen to him and his ideas. I didn’t agree with all of them, but felt he had the drive and intellect to make a difference, to take us forward. This just heightened my disappointment as he bailed on us. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. During the last year it had become apparent, at least to me, that his goal was getting to the Statehouse and that he’d work party angles as needed to secure that position. My suspicion was confirmed with his statement that he was putting his time and energy into state issues now, that he didn’t have time for those pesky city problems any more — not even to win the battle he chose as his hallmark. Dennis, you had such potential. Why did you let us down?

In the middle of this morass the YMCA project collapsed. It isn’t so much the building as the loss of a new center for the whole community. You can’t help but notice the neighborhood being reclaimed around the hospital. Every parcel they convert is another part of our city that we are taking back from endemic erosion. The YMCA promised to anchor another corner of rebirth and give us something better — something we should want for ourselves. In the end, though, the YMCA’s leadership let us down. They worked the project hard but gave up at the end. As explained to us, they needed contributions from a small percentage of their members to secure the millions in pledged funds from everywhere else. It wasn’t so much the money they needed from members as the commitment. You know, I’m a member. I would have given! But no one asked. Why not?

During this same month, Dave Waddington declined to stand for the mayor’s position on the city commission. He’s indicated he didn’t want the fight. During his time on the commission, Waddington has repeatedly shown true leadership by his actions. He’s not much for grand words or confrontation, but he rolls up his sleeves and works. That’s something we should want from our officials. We could have used his true, committed voice out in front right now. Dave, wasn’t it worth the fight?

And now, within all this, it is possible the only beacon of hope we have, the Marina District, may die. The developer stated he is done if we can’t get our act together, quickly. The opposition, which is maybe a dozen very strongly-motivated people, is waging a great battle. Just when we need some leaders, ours are bowing out. If we run off this developer, I can’t imagine anyone else in their right mind investing in Sandusky. Would you?

Right now our actions are speaking for us and it’s not a good message. We’re saying, “We don’t want anything new here. Just the same old stuff that’s not working.” We’ll complain about the lack of jobs, the lack of opportunity for our children and the lack of things to do — but then strike down anything that’s new. Why can’t we embrace a brighter, but different future?

Perhaps next month will be better, but I doubt it unless someone can answer the questions I’ve asked.

Read more perspectives — ours and yours — on the Marina District situation in our VIEWPOINTS section.