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Lourdes Santiago sworn in as 2nd Latina on city council

La Prensa Staff Writer

On May 23, 2006, Toledo City Council voted to add Lourdes Santiago to their ranks, culminating weeks, said some on council and at least one who was excluded from the legislative body, of “backroom” politicking.

Lourdes Santiago sworn in as new councilperson

Democrat Bob Vásquez, who finished with four votes to Santiago’s seven, received votes from Councilmen Michael Ashford, Phil Copeland, Ellen Grachek, and Frank Szollosi—Democrats all. A coalition of Republicans and Democrats gave Santiago the votes she needed.

Santiago was sworn in and then assumed the at-large vacancy that resulted from former Councilman Bob McCloskey’s resignation after he pled guilty to federal charges of bribery.

At that magic moment, for the first time in the history of Toledo politics, the City of Toledo had two Latinas on city council—Balderas and Santiago—an historic moment indeed. But Santiago must run in November to complete the term. At least one of her opponents in the fall will be Vásquez.

“I’m looking forward to the campaign and being elected in the fall,” said Vásquez who finished just out of the money last fall behind the six successful at-large candidates with almost 29,000 votes.

But as usual in these divisive days of “A” and “B” team Democratic politics, the Santiago appointment was not without contentiousness. Vásquez was affiliated with the “A” team in last year’s election, while Santiago, who ran for Municipal Court judge, was endorsed by both wings.

Bob Vasquez

This appointment was filled with the typical multilayered drama that has been oft present in local Democratic politics.

Weeks ago, the Lucas County Hispanic/Latino Democratic Caucus, comprised of civic and political leaders of the community, had all but assured Vásquez of their support in his quest for the at-large seat. But, as Vásquez said after Tuesday’s vote, when Mayor Carty Finkbeiner injected himself into Latino Caucus affairs on May 13, the caucus “backed down on their guarantee.”

“Three weeks before this vote, I was told I could not get the party’s endorsement,” said Vásquez. “Because the mayor had had a meeting with Hispanic city employees and told them I had no chance of getting the Democratic endorsement and he needed someone else to step in.”

That someone else was Santiago, said Vásquez.

“The mayor stands up at the Caucus, something he has never done before, and told us we needed someone else.”

And after the mayor’s appearance, the caucus voted to add Santiago with Vásquez’s name in a letter submitted to the Democratic Party Screening Committee. Santiago ultimately received the Democratic Party’s endorsement.

Craig twist

There was a Mike Craig aspect of the drama. Craig has apparently prevailed in his bid to unseat Taylor Balderas for the District 3 vacancy, a vacancy also created by McCloskey when he moved to the at-large seat. An automatic recount completed on May 30 failed to change the outcome of the vote.

Craig had been certified as the winner in District 3 by five votes and Vásquez supporters on City Council wanted him to assume that seat before the Santiago/Vásquez vote was taken. Council took the advice of Interim Law Director John Madigan that they should wait for the mandated recount to seat Craig.

Paula Hicks-Hudson

“The results were certified and you lost,” said Szollosi to Balderas who had confirmed her intent not to cede her seat until she was “notified by anyone that I am not the councilman.”

Grachek, who also spoke in support of seating Craig, assailed the “backroom dealing and abrogation of the process” that had occurred in an effort to move Santiago onto council.

The charge of backroom dealing was immediately refuted by Finkbeiner loyalist Councilman Mark Sobczak, who nominated Santiago for the seat while incorrectly asserting in his nomination speech that she had garnered the most votes in November of any losing candidate. That honor is held by Paula Hicks-Hudson who also ran for Municipal Court judge and who also filed for the Democratic Party endorsement for the at-large post.

Santiago has been employed with the City of Toledo for 23 years, most recently as a senior attorney in the taxation department. She has resigned from the city and has indicated that she will take a job in the private sector with the law firm of Gallon & Takacs in order to supplement her $27,000 salary as a city councilman.

“I will work in unison with every member of City Council to move this city forward. I have dedicated all of my life and all of my skills to this great city,” said Santiago in her acceptance speech. “Let’s get going.”






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