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Collins: Former police union chief among Toledo mayor hopefuls

By Kevin Milliken,
La Prensa Correspondent


D. Michael Collins is a candidate for Toledo mayor who feels a kinship with the Latino community over the hot-button immigration issue. His father was an Irish immigrant who settled in Northwest Ohio, much like many first, second, and third-generation Latino families have recently done.


“Immigration is not a foreign subject to me. I’m not Hispanic, but I am Irish, Collins said, pointing out that he and mayoral opponent, Lucas County Auditor Anita López, grew up in the same Old South End neighborhood near South and Broadway. “Neither one of us had silver spoons in our mouth. But I would lead the city with far more experience.”

Michael Collins


Collins also drew parallels between the family-centered traditions of Latino families and his own Irish upbringing as a youth. While he and his wife attend Gesu parish, they attended a weekend Mass delivered by Father Molina as part of the Ss. Peter and Paul Festival and noted “he was received very warmly” and admired the closeness of that parish community.


Collins first joined Toledo’s police force in 1973 after a stint in the Marines. He went from uniformed beat cop to assignments in vice, the metro drug unit, and crimes against persons. He later went on to head the police patrolman’s union, a position he held until his retirement in 1999.


He was first elected to Toledo City Council in 2007 to the second district seat he still holds. The political independent represents constituents in South Toledo. He relishes the role as a government watchdog.


His top three issues involve “jobs that are really meaningful and provide opportunity for social mobility,” safe neighborhoods, and government “that is transparent and responsible to citizens.”


The former Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association president wants to “compress” the city’s income tax. First, he would seek to make the temporary 0.75 percent tax for capital improvements permanent, then drop the overall city income tax rate from 2.25 to 2.2 percent. But the capital improvement tax would not be set aside for road repaving and other long-term projects. Instead, the monies collected would go into the general fund.


Collins estimates the tax break at $3.5 million annually—money “that would go back into the community.”


“It incentivizes employers to remain in Toledo, because we would be at a lower tax base than the competition,” he said. “It makes us a little more convenient to stay.”


But the District 2 city councilman would like to see city government convert to what is known as “performance-based budgeting,” where tax dollars are put directly toward specific outcomes. Collins believes such a budget directly would tell the public what the city’s priorities will be for the coming year; in other words, a communication vehicle.


“That’s a step we’ve never seen and one I think we need to go to,” he said. “We dedicate our monies based upon performance and not just putting it in a bucket and hoping the bucket works. To say we’re going to put x number of dollars here doesn’t provide outcomes. It provides dollars in the bucket—and I want to see outcomes.”


Collins stated that if elected mayor, he will work with city council, especially on budget matters, because he “knows what it’s like to be the leper of the group.” He pledged “that will never happen to a councilman” under his administration.


Under one unique proposal, Collins would work to bring in federal funding for the school system to create a mentoring program within Toledo’s K-8 neighborhood elementary schools. Educators would be asked to identify at-risk students in kindergarten through second grade and “reach out” to 6th through 8th graders “who are excelling academically.” The older “mentors” would be paid $75 per week to spend five hours of mentoring time.


“It rewards hard work and defines that social mobility can be achieved, but can only be achieved through hard work,” he said. “They look for foundations within their own peer groups, more than even among adults at times. The [younger ones] see this core group coming up—some might call it elitist, but its top performers. We do that with athletics. Why not do it with academics? The younger kids see that there is a ladder to upward mobility—and this gives these kids an opportunity to make choices.”


Collins takes issue with mayor


Collins to this day takes issue with the way current Mayor Mike Bell handled a $48 million deficit when he took office in 2010. The city councilman has always disputed that figure and maintained that “exigent circumstances” were unnecessary. Using the city’s fragile financial state, the mayor convinced city council to force contract concessions on municipal labor unions.

Collins stated he suggested to the mayor that he host a weekend-long negotiating session behind closed doors at Maumee Bay State Park. Developing personal relationships and mutual trust, he contends, would have gone a long way—by opening the city’s books and explaining the situation fully, so that concessions could be reached through bargaining, not force.


“In doing so, it would be difficult. This is not Mary Poppins. This is not a fantasy novel. It would be a challenge,” he admitted. “But if you’ve built a trust through communication and respect, exigent circumstances would have never been necessary. We wouldn’t be embroiled in the litigation that we are today.”


But Collins pointed to his past as TPPA president as what makes him most qualified to be mayor, because a group of people who save lives and keep citizens safe “trusted me with their livelihoods.” He explained that police officers, as a group, are not the most trusting of anyone.


“That trust transfers when I am mayor, because every citizen will be given the same level of energy, the same level and capacity of empathy that I gave there,” he said. “I’m really not changing positions. I’m just expanding whom I represent.”


Collins, 69, is among seven political hopefuls for Toledo mayor that will appear on the Sept. 10, 2013 primary ballot. He ran unsuccessfully for the same office in 2009, failing to get past the primary. The top two vote-getters will go on to face each other in the November general election.


Copyright © 1989 to 2013 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08/13/13 17:12:22 -0700.




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