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The Promise Keeper: Mayor Jack Ford’s advocacy makes his re-election vital for Latinos

Part One in a Two-Part Series

By Alan Abrams
La Prensa Senior Correspondent

Politicians run on their records. Mayor Jack Ford’s record of concern, compassion, and advocacy for Toledo ’s Latino community has been consistently surpassing the goals he set forth during his campaign in 2000. 

Arguably, Toledo Latinos have never had a better friend in high places than Ford. And to paraphrase a long-ago advertising slogan, Toledo needs to keep a Ford in its future.

Mayor Ford, a Democrat, sat down with La Prensa two weeks ago to review his record. His accomplishments on behalf of Latinos are nothing short of staggering.

Relaxed, confident, and displaying his wit and sharply honed sense of humor, Ford talked about what he has done during his first term. He points to his epoch-making appointment of Anita López as the city’s director of affirmative action and purchasing. 

“This was a first in the state of Ohio ,” says Ford of López’s appointment. Now Lucas County Recorder, López was a student of Ford’s when he taught political science at the University of Toledo . He has championed her cause since and she has justified his respect at every step of her career. “I can easily envision her as a judge one day,” says Ford.

Ford was also a major contributor to the López campaign for recorder, contributing $2,000 at a fundraiser last year.

Mayor Ford is a major supporter of Toledo City Council President Louis Escobar. When Escobar won for the first time in 2000, Ford—then the Ohio House Minority Leader and mayor-elect—has been quoted as saying, “This is one of the greatest nights in Toledo politics.”

Another beneficiary of Ford’s ability to recognize and reward outstanding community leadership has been Margarita DeLeón. The community activist and publisher of Bravo magazine last year became the first Latina ever appointed to the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.

A few weeks ago, Darlene Vásquez Langenderfer was appointed Manager of Customer Service in the city’s Public Utilities department.  Ford is proud of her work as well. “She supervises 45 people and handles all of the complaints that come into the department. She finds out what the problems are, and it is her job to take care of those issues,” explained Ford.

The mayor also took pride in two other recent promotions. “Phil Cervantes, the former Waite High School principal’s son, is the first Latino battalion chief in the history of the Toledo Fire and Rescue Department, and Jesse Torrence, who has been very supportive of Latino causes, is the new director of Toledo Sister Cities, Inc.,” said Ford. As such, he is leading the campaign to link Toledo with a sister city in México.

The mayor has also made outstanding appointments to the Hispanic Affairs Commission (HAC). Ford appointed David Ibarra, Robert Vásquez, and Theresa Regalado to the commission in 2002. And the following year, he reappointed Hernan Vásquez and DeLeón.

“I am also particularly proud of Robert Torres, who I appointed to the Department of Economic and Community Development to manage the Youth Entrepreneur Program and to introduce Latino businesses to the city and support their cause. Once the commission [HAC] was in place, Torres was appointed to its half-time position of Executive Director,” said Ford.

The next generation of Latino leaders is exemplified by community activist Lisa Canales-Flores, the president of the Washington Local School Board. What does she think about Mayor Ford’s commitment to the goals and aspirations of the Latino community?

“Jack Ford has been a strong advocate for the Hispanic community many years before the City of Toledo elected him as mayor,” Canales-Flores told La Prensa.

“Since that time, he has encouraged and presented opportunities to many Latinos. Mayor Ford ran on the slogan, A Strong Mayor for Tough Times. And the Ford Administration and the City of Toledo have endured some tough times together. Anyone can lead in good times, it takes strong leadership to lead and prevail in the bad times,” she explained.


Ford is bullish on education

Turning to his accomplishments for the Latino community in the field of education, Ford said he assisted Adelante, Inc. in becoming a Title 1 Supplemental Service provider with the state of Ohio , becoming the first Latino-based agency to be approved.

Adelante, Inc. has always been close to the mayor’s heart. During the early 1990s, Ford founded Adelante as an adjunct of SASI, the drug rehab/counseling organization he directed, and after Adelante was spun off several years later as an independent agency, then-state representative Ford helped it obtain funding from the state to serve the Latino community.

Education has always been an important issue for Ford, who was recruited by legendary Buckeyes football coach Woody Hayes to play for Ohio State University . Ford is typically modest about his record as a guard on the team, but a close colleague recalls, “He was a great and powerful team player,” abilities and characteristics Ford has successfully brought to public service.

Ford also secured $54,900 from the federal No Child Left Behind program to fund bilingual/bicultural after-school programs at Viva South Toledo-CDC, Adelante, Inc., and the Gathering Place in East Toledo .  These programs serve students of Chase , Navarre , E.S. Central, Oakdale, Westfield , Marshall , Nathan Hale, King, and Spring schools.

In addition, Ford helped establish after-school proficiency tutoring at Oakdale, Westfield , and Marshall elementary schools, and established a Latino freshman mentoring program at Waite, Woodward, and Libbey high schools.

His other accomplishments in the all important arena of education include providing financial assistance to purchase two translation devices for home consultants, and supporting the recruitment efforts of Toledo Head Start by referring Latino families to liaison Celeste Taylor. The mayor also showed his compassion and concern by helping secure donations for the annual Sofia Quintero Art & Cultural Center holiday program for children of migrant families.

The mayor’s concern for the rights of migrant workers was exemplified by his working closely with Baldemar Velásquez, the president, visionary, and founder of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), in helping resolve the long running labor dispute with the Mt. Olive Pickle Company in North Carolina , which resulted in a historic agreement last September.  Ford did more than merely write letters, he marched with Velásquez and FLOC.

The mayor also helped organize FLOC’s annual March of Justice and Freedom for Immigrant and Migrant Workers.

See Part 2 of Ford's Story






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