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

Part Two in a Two-Part Series

By Alan Abrams
La Prensa Senior Correspondent

Introduction: 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 several weeks ago to review his record. [The first part of this interview appeared last week in La Prensa.] 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.

Economic Development
Focusing upon economic development, Mayor Jack Ford said he has consistently “tried to open city departments to Latino entrepreneurs who have been cut off in the past. I assisted the Economic & Community Development Department in recruiting prospective Latino businesses to the ‘Cutting the Red Tape’ Business Seminar last July. At that time, a Toledo SBA loan for $21,500 was awarded to participant Jorge Zapata of Northside Customs.

“I’ve helped to secure contracts for Andy Vargas of Andy’s Excavating; Joseph Garza of Joe’s Roofing, and Victor López of C & L Inc.,” said Ford, who conducted business site visits with 36 Latino businesses. 

Ford scheduled a Latino community roundtable with Jim Hartung, the chairman of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, and campaigned for Issue 37 last year. The mayor also participated in the Port Authority’s study on Economic Development’s impact in Toledo neighborhoods.

The mayor also co-sponsored the successful Latino’s Candidate’s Night for last October 6 at the East Toledo Family Center, moderated by his appointment, Robert Torres, director of Toledo’ Office of Latino Affairs.

Earlier that day of our interview, Ford said he had attended a Viva South Toledo-CDC groundbreaking.  “They need a little more support,” he said of the community development group. “I want to make sure they succeed.”

Chávez and Judge Flores
He wants to honor two outstanding, departed Latinos: César Estrada Chávez, cofounder of United Farm Workers, and Joseph A. Flores, longtime Lucas Common Pleas Court Juvenile Division judge. How does he intend to make this a reality?

“I have been looking into the possibility of making the former South Branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library into the Flores Center for Social Justice,” said Ford.

As to the late César Chávez, Ford is still as committed as ever. He encouraged the creation of a committee several years ago to look at the options. But the city’s Latino leaders split on the issue of finding a proper venue. Baldemar Velásquez and others advocated renaming the South Toledo street , Broadway, but Virginia Ortega, former director of the Aurora González Community and Family Resource Center , held out for renaming the Greenbelt Parkway . As a result, no action was taken.

Ford is cognizant that Chávez’s birthday falls on March 31. “I’d like to see the leadership come together by then,” he said.  His creation, Adelante, Inc., directed by Sonia Troche, will host another annual banquet in honor of Chávez on March 31.

Ford said he would also look at renaming the popular soccer fields at Schneider Soccer Complex in South Toledo in honor of Chávez. All of the area’s Latino soccer teams—eleven strong—play at this venue every Sunday, from April to October. The twelfth team, Toledo Sports Club, is comprised primarily of players from Africa.

Ford is active in business development
The mayor’s role in the recent renaming of the Frogtown Park area at the Erie Street Market in the Produce/Warehouse District is evidence that he believes in change as an effective tool of civic government.

Last week, he attended the grand opening of The Market, 30 South St. Clair Street, in the Warehouse District. Directed by Paul Clark, under the guidance of Joe McCaffery III , its president, Socrates Café, LTD , has created a Cold Fusion Creamery and market place, several blocks from Fifth Third Field. The mayor chopped a vegetable vine in place of the traditional ribbon.

In addition to the mayor, Marisol Ibarra, director of Workforce Development at the Alliance for Construction Professionals ( ACP ), attended.   

Health and education
Looking at the field of health education, Ford said he can take great pride in the success of the CARENet program. He helped establish registration for the innovative program at FLOC, the Neighborhood Health Association, EOPA, Toledo Head Start, and ProMedica. “The result was a very strong enrollment with more than 250 Latinos registered for health insurance,” said Ford.

The mayor launched the CARENet health care program in January, 2001 at the start of his term. CARENet is a health care access corporation for non-insured poor and working citizens that currently provides health coverage to 2,500 Lucas County residents, who otherwise were ineligible for any healthcare.

The mayor also assisted United Way with facilitating their translation network and securing a grant for coordinated services. He also assisted the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill/Adelante Inc. in reaching out to the Latino community through the Ayuda Project.

However, those are far from being all of Ford’s accomplishments.  Highlighting only a few more, he organized the Mayor’s Latino Leadership Breakfast during Hispanic Heritage Month last October in partnership with the University of Toledo.  

Ford brought Hector Barreto, Small Business Administration Director, to Toledo Initiative for a meeting. The mayor aided Adelante, Inc. in planning its César Chávez Humanitarian Award Dinner, which is scheduled again for this March.

He sponsored the Latino-in-Philanthropy seminar and supported such important community events as the Latino Student Union (LSU) scholarship dance (scheduled for March 5), LatinoFest (scheduled for June 11-12), the Puerto Rican flag raising ceremony (last July), and events commemorating the celebrations of Día de Los Reyes (last January) and Día de Los Muertos (November).  

In addition, Ford also started the Young Latino Leaders Network, LULAC chapter, in Toledo.

Turning to advocacy, Ford supported a $25,000.00 grant from the Toledo Community Foundation for the Latino/Hispanic Alliance of Greater Toledo for a strategic study of Latino agencies and services.  The founding partners include: Adelante, Inc., the Aurora González Community and Family Resource Center, FLOC, Northwest Ohio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Sofia Quintero Art & Cultural Center, Viva South Toledo-CDC, and HAC.

He also supported the public interest in convening meetings to advocate for continued social and health-related services at: Aurora González Community and Family Resource Center, Toledo Head Start, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, and Toledo Public Schools.

Ford hosted the federal Under Secretary of Education, Dr. María Hernández-Ferrier, who came to Toledo last October, advocating for parents’ rights under the No Child Left Behind Act.

What about Ford’s goals for his second term? “I want to bring an amphitheatre to downtown,” he says. He envisions it as seating 3,000 to 5,000 with covers and grids available to be used by downtown workers on their lunch breaks. He also wants to see a maze constructed for children.

“In terms of the Marina District, we expect to start moving some dirt around June. And the former steam plant should see some action developing in April,” promised Ford.

He has sent an investor’s group to present a purchase offer to the out-of-state owners of the Southwyck Mall. 

Housing, equality, and the economy
“On the housing front, we plan to build 200 new homes where people would own their homes and not rent them,” said Ford. He also plans to shortly address the city’s problems in the all important field of predatory lending.

During his first campaign, Ford won admiration for refusing to accept donations from alleged predatory lenders, such as the Westhaven Group, despite the fact that other elected 

officials have continued to accept financial support from the company and its executives. The company has been sued by public advocacy groups, such as ABLE , for its policies.

Ford acknowledged that his biggest hurdle during his first term has been overcoming the economy. “The loss of manufacturing jobs has brought on difficulties for us,” he said. Another negative factor has been the debt load the city has been saddled with on the Commodore Perry Hotel project.

But those negatives will be easily offset by some imminent, positive developments such as ensuring the acceptance of the CARENet card for TARTA transportation.

Ford—who, along with retired municipal court judge Robert Penn, was honored last week at the U.S. District Court’s African-American Heritage Celebration—had also been able to keep up with street maintenance and snow removal despite tremendous economic hurdles, resonating from Washington, D.C.

Last Friday, Ford announced the largest street resurfacing program in the city’s history. “This winter has been brutal to the streets of Toledo. We had the second snowiest January in Toledo’s history and dozens of freeze/thaw cycles. I drive our roads every day through all parts of the city and I am not happy,” said Ford.

“We have a very aggressive pothole patching program, more productive than in years past, but that is not enough to stay ahead of it.  We are in need of serious repairs beyond the 30 miles we have planned. To that end I have directed my finance and engineering staffs to put their heads together to come up with additional dollars and a plan of action. We have identified funds in the amount of $8 million dollars to get the job done,” concluded Ford. 

A champion of diversity, Ford sponsored the Center for Capacity Building, a program at the University of Toledo geared toward training minority entrepreneurs to be ready to take part in the construction industry in Toledo.

The accompanying increase in the city’s awarding of minority contracts will always remain a shining example of Jack Ford’s legacy for Toledo and all of its citizens.  

See Part 1 of Ford's Story





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