City employee makes statement causing controversy

City employee makes statement causing controversy
(Source: WTOL)

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - It was just another item on the city council agenda Tuesday night, discussing creation of a park board for Joe E Brown Park. Until Councilwoman Cecelia Adams asked why there would be no basketball court at the park?

The response from a city employee, said it "draws a crowd not worthy of the park."

"So when you describe basketball as being unworthy, is that something that you heard or is that from your own personal beliefs?" asked Councilman Tyrone Riley.

"I think that is pretty much what I have heard," said Joe Franckhauser, the employee who made the statement.

Council members immediately reacted to this. Tyrone Riley called it offensive.Yvonne Harper said she doesn't want kids to have to go through what she did growing up and Nick Komvies said, he's dumbfounded.

"If the attitude is going to shut some people out, that's a concern for me," said Komives.

The city employee, Joe Franckhauser is representing Toledo Waterways Initiative, as Julie Cousino, is on vacation.

Joe E. Brown park was torn up in 2014 for creation of an underground sewage storage basin.

The park will have tennis courts, a baseball diamond, and an inline skating rink, a measure already approved by city council. The park did not have a basketball court before.

"Plans for the restored park, including the amenities featured today, have been presented for comment and circulated through Neighborhood Action Committee meetings and Citizen PAC meetings since at least December of 2012.

Minutes from the February 24, 2015 NAC meeting indicate discussion of the hockey rink for the park based on neighborhood use," said Ignazio Messina, the spokesperson for the City of Toledo.

It is set to open this spring. Toledo City Council members say it is not about a basketball court not going in at the park, it is about the way it was addressed.

"It doesn't fit in the plan or it costs too much money, sure that sounds like a reasonable reason to not include something. But if it's just we are afraid of the people that play basketball, I think it is pretty clear what is behind that," said Komives.

"To say we didn't put it there because we don't want the undesirables there or the crowd there is, disturbing," said Larry Sykes, Toledo City Councilman.

WTOL's Allie Hausfeld followed Franckhauser out, but he didn't have any additional comments. He said Cousino would need to address this.

Abby Arnold, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz who was sitting next to Franckhauser as he made these comments said she doesn't think he expected to comment about the amenities. Arnold added that she believes he was only prepared to discuss the legislation at hand.

"Anytime we look at our parks, we are striving to increase health and recreation. In this case, the features to restore Joe E. Brown Park were determined years ago. Citizen involvement has been an important component of the restoration of Joe E. Brown Park as it has been for all Toledo Waterways Initiative projects," added Messina.

Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz released a statement to WTOL:

A statement made today during Toledo City Council's agenda review meeting regarding basketball courts at Joe E. Brown Park does not reflect my views and beliefs or the views and beliefs of my administration. I believe a city employee made a comment he heard at some point years before I was mayor about this park project and basketball courts.

Councilman Komives echoed the Mayor's statement.

"When we have a public space like a park, it is important that park be welcoming to all people, because every single person in this city is contributing tax dollars, to build this things, so we shouldn't be excluding anyone from being able to participate," said Komives.

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