Toledo City Councilman Larry Sykes says there was nothing racist about comments made by city employee Joe Franckhauser during a city council meeting on Tuesday.
Mr. Franckhauser's answer to a question about why there would be no basketball courts at the proposed Joe E. Brown park was widely construed to be racist.
Franckhauser told council "draws a crowd not worthy of the park."
According to Councilman Sykes however, Mr. Franckhauser was merely honestly answering a question that had been decided years earlier by park planners.
Sykes says there are other factors that went into the decision to not include basketball courts that have nothing to do with race.
Sykes goes on to say that he and other council members would like to apologize to Franckhauser for the uproar that has been caused and that Franckhauser deserves thanks for speaking the truth about the rationale used by planners in park design.
Franckhauser was representing the Toledo Waterways Initiative, while Julie Cousino, is on vacation.
Here is the complete text of Councilman Sykes' statement:
During the Tuesday, March 6, 2018 Toledo City Council Agenda Review meeting, the Administration staff was making a presentation that included discussion of the site plan for the redesigned Joe E. Brown Park.
As has been widely reported by now, during that discussion the question was raised as to what amenities would be included in the park, and in answering the question it was revealed that basketball facilities are not in the plan developed as far back as 2014 or earlier.
Councilwoman Adams then inquired as to the reason why basketball had not been included in the plan, and the financial manager for the Toledo Waterways Initiative, Mr. Joe Franckhauser, gave a surprising and refreshingly honest answer by stating, with apparent great apprehension, that "because basketball is ugh, considered to be a sport that, ugh, draws the, the ugh, [stammering]—I don't know how to say it but ugh—draws a crowd that's not ugh, worthy of the park."
Councilwoman Adams; "Basketball is not worthy of this park?"
Mr. Franckhauser; "Yeah."
Councilwoman Adams; "Says who?"
Mr. Franckhauser; "Well, the, the, the designers of the park, basically."
Dr. Adams; "Pardon?"
Mr. Franckhauser; "The designers of the park."
The conversation evolved into a lively and lengthy discussion which later included a dialogue between Councilman Riley and Mr. Franckhauser that included Councilman Riley asking the question, "So when you describe basketball as being unworthy, is that something you heard or is that something from your own personal beliefs?"
Mr. Franckhauser response was, "I think that's pretty much what I have heard."
Upon hearing second hand reports of this exchange, many misconstrued the statement as racist, but in actuality, Mr. Franckhauser was merely bringing to our attention the mindset and thought process of other individuals who were overseeing the design of the park a few years ago.
Personally, I sincerely thank Mr. Franckhauser for his refreshing honesty which has enlightened the larger community in the heretofore unknown behind the scene reasoning that has ingrained itself into the decision making process for designing and planning public amenities, which have occurred without our knowledge.
I have spoken with several of my Council colleagues, and have come to the consensus that we hold no personal animosity or ill will toward him. In fact, once again, we sincerely appreciate Mr. Franckhauser's refreshing honesty in merely responding to a question that was put directly to him. It should be remember, that Mr. Franckhauser is the financial manager for all Toledo Waterways Initiative projects. He in no way oversees or has input in the project designs.
Much to our regret, the outrage that is being shown to Mr. Franckhauser is misdirected. Mr. Franckhauser is being persecuted as a villain for merely being put on the spot as the messenger who had the audacity to accidentally speak the truth as to the rationale that modern planners use in the design of our public amenities—a rationale, the basis for which, he had no part in forming.
A simple Google search on this topic reveals a number of articles and studies the subject of which involves, parks, basketball, public nuisance complaints related to litter, offensive language, noise, vandalism, physical violence, and crime.
In 1991, as Chairman of the Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority (LMHA) Board of Commissioners, I was able to secure a grant to fund a night basketball program. Later other similar programs were introduced including one offered by the City of Toledo.
My colleagues and I want it to be known that Mr. Franckhauser owes us no apology. Mr. Franckhauser responded to a question put directly to him with refreshing honesty. Quite to the contrary of reprimanding him, we owe Mr. Franckhauser a debt of gratitude for the service he has done for our community by unmasking previously unknown factors that go into the planning decisions of designers of our public spaces.
Thanks to Mr. Franckhauser enlightening us, our community can now engage in a larger conversation regarding parks, recreation, and land use in our community. For my part, over the next two months, I intend to plan a community wide dialogue to develop a better understanding of how great the diversity of our City is.