Well the whole union aspect does carry some weight. Toledo has been run by Union Democrats since World War II and Columbus is a mix of liberal Democrats and Republicans, the mix is evident and I would say that's how it's suppose to work. I don't have much respect for unions and the division of the Democratic Party enthralled and election with them.
I live in Columbus and attend Ohio State, studying City and Regional Planning. I lived in Toledo prior to that went to UT for two years before I did what everyone else seems to be doing: leaving Toledo. I went to Maumee Valley, and us students used to jokingly say "you show me someone successful in Toledo, and I'll show you someone leaving Toledo quickly." Sorta sad.
Columbus is doing well for a myriad of reasons. For starters, they annexed land and kept up with the sprawl. That meant that the population and tax dollars didn't escape (really an unfortunate term haha) as much as elsewhere. Huge malls like Easton and Polaris still pay their taxes to Columbus. That helps. They still have their rich suburbs, but they also annexed enough of a tax base to mitigate that problem pretty well.
Toledo is a bit different. Perrysburg/Sylvania/Oregon/Maumee/Rossford have taken a chunk of the action. Woodville Mall (back in the day), Levis Commons, Fallen Timbers, the casino, the refineries in Oregon, etc. Just a lot of stuff directing the taxes away and crippled the urban core.
Plus there is this attitude about Toledo that is almost inherently negative. We love our Mud Hens, but we like to agree that Toledo is a shithole. Again, it's sad. The attitude in Columbus: "GO BUCKEYES!!!" The attitude in Toledo: "I need to GTFO."
Toledo has been trying, and I'm ready to say they're actually succeeding slowly, in revitalizing the downtown. They made excellent choices with the stadiums downtown. The lofts are filling up. The artsy crowd exists in a small number. If the theories are true, and it goes "ghetto-->bohemian-->gay/yuppi-->revitalization," Toledo is certainly on its way. I would like to see Toledo come out with a masterplan (and if they have, please show me a link as I'd love to tear it apart haha) addressing how they're going to create a sustainable (economically speaking) downtown core that is walkable, bikeable, etc.
Toledo is a small city with great potential, and if we handled our situation correctly we could absolutely be a wonderful city to live in. And when I say city, I mean Toledo and not NW Ohio. As Toledo's core goes, NW Ohio goes. Columbus has done very well linking their downtown reinvestments with the Short North and German Village and they're wonderful places to live. Toledo needs to take it further, fill the downtown voids and link it with the Old West End neighborhoods to really get the snowball rolling. It takes 20+ years and I don't think the folks in charge in Toledo and the mindset or the patience.