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While Toledo, just south of Michigan’s border, is part of Ohio, it shouldn’t be. Geographically and economically, it is more part of the Michigan economy, right down to the Jeep plant.
 Its 300,000 people tend to share our state’s demographics and the same range of difficulties Michigan manufacturing cities face as they attempt to transition to a twenty-first century economy.

Last week I spent some time with the mayor of Toledo, Mike Bell, who for many years was the fire chief. Four years ago, he got elected by running strictly as an independent -- unbossed and unbowed. He takes stands on issues, but doesn’t endorse partisan candidates. Though he’s been a longtime state official, he’s never held elected office before.

I asked him what had been the biggest surprise for him in his first term as mayor. When I’ve asked other politicians that, they’ve often said that the job turned out to be far more complex than they’d imagined. But not Mayor Bell. The shocker for him is the lack of civility, courtesy and respect people show officials these days.

Kansas company has deal to buy Ann Arbor Railroad

Dec 30, 2012

A Kansas-based company says it has a deal to buy the short line Michigan rail company Ann Arbor Railroad Inc.

Pittsburg, Kan.-based Watco Companies LLC says the deal awaits approval from the Surface Transportation Board, which is expected in late January or early February.

The Ann Arbor Railroad serves southeastern Michigan and the Toledo, Ohio, areas, mainly shipping auto and other manufacturing goods. It operates 50 miles of track between Ann Arbor and Toledo and has Toledo-area terminals serving General Motors Co., Chrysler and Ford Motor Co.

If you ever took a course in Michigan history, you may remember that Toledo was originally supposed to be part of Michigan. We lost it after the infamous Toledo War.

Toledo Zoo

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — The elephants at one Ohio zoo have a new home to roam.

The Toledo Zoo is showing off its new $15 million elephant exhibit this weekend. Zoo officials say the new area will give its four elephants more places to move and stretch their trunks.

The area called the Tembo Trail also has spruced up the zoo's home for its lions, rhinos and hippos.

The zoo's director tells The Blade newspaper in Toledo that zookeepers will be able to raise and lower the food hanging from man-made trees to give the elephants a little extra physical and mental stimulation.

The exhibit also gives visitors a better view of the elephants, including the baby of the group, 800-pound Lucas who was born last June.

Dan Bobkoff / Changing Gears

Late last year, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a controversial law barring many live-in partners of state employees from receiving government health benefits. Snyder and some members of the state legislature cited cost as the primary reason behind the ban. But critics of the law, including the ACLU of Michigan, said the law unfairly targeted same-sex couples.

Now, just south of the border, things might be moving in the opposite direction.

According to a story in the Toledo Blade, the city's Mayor Mike Bell is planning to bring legislation concerning domestic partner benefits before the city council. The measure would give Toledo city employees the opportunity to extend their health care benefits to cover their live-in partners, provided couples sign up for the city's Domestic Partner Registry.

More from the Blade:

Both heterosexual and same-sex couples would be eligible for benefits under the proposed law...

"What we're trying to do is bring our city, form the standpoint of human resources and affirmative-action policies, in line with what's happening nationally," Mayor Bell said. "We're not the first train pulling out of the station here, we're actually in a way trying to catch up with the policies that make companies and cities competitive in the state of Ohio."

Other cities, including Cleveland and Columbus, along with Lucas County, the University of Toledo, Owens Corning, and the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, offer benefits to domestic partners of employees, according to information provided by the mayor's office.

But, the Blade reports, some council members are already voicing misgivings about the policy:

George Sarantou said he has many questions about the proposed law and is concerned it could be too costly for a city that has struggled financially in recent years.

"Cost is always a factor when you're dealing with a budget," Councilman Sarantou said...

Councilman Rob Ludeman, meanwhile, expressed both financial and moral concerns about the proposed law. During his last term, Mr. Ludeman was one of two councilmen who voted against the Domestic Partner Registry.

"A lot of it was my own religious beliefs, but I think I represented a conservative constituency who were opposed to it, gay and straight people," Mr. Ludeman said.

Mayor Bell told the Blade that he doesn't believe the benefits will present any financial strain and said it comes down to fairness:

"When you're the mayor, you represent everybody," the mayor said. "Inside the city we have a lot of different lifestyles. All I'm trying to do is be fair to everybody. ... I'm trying to adjust our polices to the obvious that's in front of us right now at this particular time in history."

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Toledo, Ohio is just across Michigan’s southern border, but as far as policy makers in our state are concerned, it might as well be another country. In fact, virtually nobody in Michigan pays much attention to anything going on in Toledo, which is unfortunate.

That’s because in many ways, Toledo, a city of about 300,000 people, is more like Michigan than like the rest of Ohio. It has a blue-collar economy that has long mirrored Detroit’s.The Motor City made cars;Toledo made Jeeps and auto parts.

Three big, new investments by automakers in one Ohio city are raising hopes for a revived economy. Chrysler and General Motors have promised to spend more than $800 million on retooling and expanding their factories in Toledo.

These moves announced in recent months will create at least 1,400 jobs and keep thousands more. Parts suppliers also are expected to add more jobs in and around Toledo.

Chrysler announced plans on Wednesday to build a new Jeep SUV at its Toledo assembly plant while adding 1,100 jobs. It also hinted that more work could be coming.

That's why Toledo Mayor Mike Bell calls the news "the equivalent of a blood transfusion for our city."

(photo by Bridget Bodnar/Michigan Radio)

President Obama congratulated a crowd of Chrysler auto workers today in Toledo for their hard work as he stood surrounded by an assembly line of Jeeps. He stressed the importance of the 2008 bailout of Chrysler and G-M to the rest of the auto industry, including Ford:

The U.S. Army / Flickr

President Barack Obama will visit a Chrysler plant in Toledo, Ohio, next week to discuss the car maker's repayment of a federal loan that saved the company from financial disaster two years ago.

The White House says Obama will visit the auto plant on June 3.

Chrysler announced Tuesday the repayment of $5.9 billion in U.S. loans and $1.7 billion in loans from the governments of Canada and Ontario. It covers most of the federal bailout money that saved the company after it nearly ran out of cash in 2009 and went through a government-led bankruptcy.

The company recently posted its first profit in five years and has bolstered its lineup of Jeeps and cars.

General Motors has announced it will invest a total of $2 billion in 17 of its U.S. plants. 

The investment also means the company will re-hire its 1,357 laid-off workers, and possibly hire hundreds of new workers, especially if demand for GM cars continues to improve.

At GM's Toledo Transmission plant, UAW members gather to hear about what it means for their plant:  a $200 million upgrade and the opportunity to build a new, fuel-efficient 8-speed transmission.

Brandon C / Flickr

A General Motors transmission factory will be adding 250 to 400 jobs, according to a union official quoted by the Associated Press.

The announcement will be made by CEO Dan Akerson and UAW Vice President Joe Ashton.

The AP reports:

A union official says General Motors plans to add 250 to 400 jobs at its transmission factory in Toledo, Ohio.

 

Three female artists have spent two years road-tripping around the small, often rural towns between Toledo and Detroit. They've talked to anyone they met.

Martine MacDonald is one of the artists. She says, “People have a deep connection to the area in which they live and work."  She also says the people they've met have been incredibly open and willing to share their stories with the artists.

The art exhibit is called “Toledo to Detroit: A Curious Journey on the Old Indian Trail." It’s at the Biddle Gallery in Wyandotte until November 13th. 

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