When then-editor Ray Sullivan brought me to Lima 23 years ago to talk about a job, we met on the east end of the city. He never took me to the downtown newspaper office; instead we drove out to the land where The Lima News was going to build a new facility. In fact, he never drove through the downtown at all.
I ended up doing that tour myself.
What I saw that October afternoon in 1993 was similar to the downtown in Mansfield, the city where I was currently living. For that matter, it was similar to other cities of its size such as Springfield, Warren and Lorain.
There were a few shops, law offices and a civic center, but basically, a whole lot of nothing.
That’s changed for Lima and continues to evolve.
The last two decades have watched the downtown welcome a new hotel, parking garage, YMCA, high school complex and a media company. Five restaurants and a coffee shop also have opened in recent years. An old bank building is going to be turned into a high-rise apartment complex and construction soon may begin on a downtown college campus.
Mayor David Berger has played a role in all of that. It’s part of his 28-year legacy, right there with helping save the Lima Refinery in the late 1990s. It’s part of the reason he filed petitions last week for another four-year term. He says the job is not done.
But he’ll enter this race with a solid opponent in Republican Party chairman Keith Cheney, who has done everything but officially announce he’s going to seek the top job in the city. And Berger also will have an Achilles’s heal — Lima’s currently rising juvenile crime problem. It’s as bad now as it’s ever been, certainly without improvement when Berger was last challenged in 2009 by then Sheriff Dan Beck.
Of course blaming a mayor for a city’s crime rate isn’t entirely fair. He’s not the parent that failed to raise the young criminals properly. He doesn’t run the court system. A mayor is, however, ultimately responsible for a city’s police department and the resources it has.
Lima’s employment picture also will be a hot topic, as it is every election.
A Berger-Cheney race will be an interesting one. Officially, it is a non-partisan race, but everyone knows Berger is a Democrat and Cheney a Republican. Will party lines matter? If so, will the city’s Democrats turn out to vote? History says its Republicans will. Those Republicans have been in Berger’s corner in the past, but now that he’ll have a GOP challenger, will that still hold true?
And how about the city’s African-American population? Can they mobilize to swing this election? They’ve always supported Berger in the past, yet it didn’t sit well last year with many of its leaders when the mayor refused to address a national study that labeled Lima as one of the 10 worst cities for African-Americans to live. We’re told Berger felt the study’s methodology was bogus, and that he didn’t want to give it any credibility by discussing it. Despite the fractured relationship, it may not be enough to get the majority of African-American voters to march to the drum of a Republican.
ROSES AND THORNS: Make room in the rose garden for a boy with a heart if gold.
Rose: To Logan Buehler, 7, of Lima. To recognize the one-year anniversary of the death of his mother, Allison Buehler, he asked his dad, Brandon, if they could release purple balloons, his mom’s favorite color. The 500 purple balloons were launched from a trailer in the front yard of Logan’s home on Lakewood Avenue at 10:35 a.m. Thursday, the time of Allison’s death in 2016.
Rose: To Mary Lou Howe. Sixty years ago, she gave birth to the year’s first set of twins in the United States. Mom, brothers Garry and Jerry Howe, all of Bluffton, got together to celebrate this year. A New Year’s day in the early 1940s was also when she had her first date with her husband, John Howe.
Rose: Three wild turkeys stopped in the driveway of Paul and Laura Good on Diller Road.
Rose: So much for diets. Girl Scout cookie sales officially begin.
Thorn:Allen County had 14 traffic fatalities in 2016, six more than the year before.
PARTING SHOT: It’s better to be a smart man than a wise guy.
Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.