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Joe McNamara challenging mayor, auditor, and councilman

By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent


Democrat Joe McNamara may have an Irish-sounding last name, but he’s hoping some recent work as a lawyer on behalf of Latino voters in Northwest Ohio will be remembered at the polls for Toledo mayor when the Sept. 10th primary rolls around.


McNamara represented the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in a voter’s rights case, taking on then-Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. The lawsuit alleged Blackwell had failed to implement the Help America Vote Act in Ohio, which threatened to disenfranchise Latino voters. McNamara and other attorneys took the case pro bono.

Joe McNamara


Sandusky Co. Democratic Party v. Blackwell was argued in a Toledo federal courtroom, right in the thick of a close 2004 presidential election, where every vote really did count.


“We won that case and ensured Latino voters were less likely to be disenfranchised because of the policies Ken Blackwell was enacting,” he said.


Beyond that, McNamara wants to institute a policy of inclusion in city government.


“I certainly care about the plight of everyone in the community and want to make sure that my administration is well-represented,” he said. “I want to make sure we hire Latino workers, that municipal workers are reflective of the population that they serve. The same thing applies to board representation. I want to make sure Latinos are represented on boards to which the mayor appoints.”


But McNamara has been vocal about ending political cronyism and hiring only qualified, experienced professionals to perform vital functions such as economic development director. But he doesn’t see a problem striking a careful balance.


“There are a lot of qualified Latinos in this community,” he said. “I don’t think that is an issue at all.”


McNamara was first elected to Toledo City Council in 2006 to an unfinished term. He was the top vote-getter for six at-large council seats in the 2009 election.


“Public service runs in my blood,” McNamara told an audience at a recent NAACP candidate forum, pointing out that his late father—Dan McNamara—served on Toledo City Council and as Lucas County Auditor, while his mother was an assistant county prosecutor and worked at the county board of elections.


McNamara cited his top four issues as: “jobs, crime, neighborhoods, and our schools.”



“I am deeply concerned about the state of poverty in the city of Toledo,” he said. “That has got to be the mayor’s number one focus is doing something to reverse the trend of growing poverty. If we don’t build up our middle class, the city’s not on the right path.”


The former city council president stated his belief that municipal government can use existing resources by “doing better, working smarter, being more efficient, and investing in ourselves.” He stated that raising the median income “helps everything.”


“That helps to raise the tax base. That helps the schools, increases access to healthcare, it is linked to higher educational attainment, and linked to home ownership,” he said. “We really need to focus on finding those economic opportunities for those who need it.”


McNamara called Toledo’s current unemployment rate of 9.4 percent “unacceptably high.” He has forwarded a five-point economic development plan, some of which would give preference to local companies who bid on city contracts, set up “co-op” businesses in neighborhoods surround large institutions such as ProMedica and the University of Toledo, and construct a recycling-sorting center to  create local jobs, instead of trucking the city’s paper, plastic, and other items elsewhere.


“Whether we call ourselves a little big city or a big little city, our problems are manageable,” McNamara said.


The former city council president bristled at the notion Toledo is becoming “Little Detroit,” as some wags have recently referred to the city.


‘I completely disagree with that. I think Toledo is an amazing city,” he said. “Our economy needs a big jump, but we’re nowhere near the financial straits of Detroit.”


McNamara believes “his deep concern for creating economic opportunity for the people who live in Toledo” is what sets him apart from the other candidates.


“This race isn’t just about jobs. It’s about creating jobs for people who live in the city,” he said. “That is what I’m most focused on—creating jobs for the people who most need the economic opportunity who live within the city limits. That is a much different message than what you’re hearing from the other candidates.”


McNamara gave himself a ‘9’ for his performance in the first debate.


“I talked about the issues voters care about—jobs and crime,” he said. “I think I gave very detailed responses, which has been a past criticism of candidates in these debates.”


McNamara also has challenged the other candidates to sign “an ethics pledge,” but has found few if any takers so far in the campaign.


“I think there are certain things that go on in Toledo regarding politicizing public office that is just wrong,” he said. ‘I pledged not to do those things.”


McNamara recently sent a mailer to voters accusing fellow Democrat Anita López of “political cronyism” for giving raises to employees during tough economic times, as well as accepting campaign donations from county employees she hired. McNamara defended the negative campaigning as a strategy to set him apart.


“Democrats are looking for the stronger Democrat who can beat Mike Bell,” he said. “Anita López has huge ethical problems surrounding her that have cost taxpayers money.”


The political tactic seems to indicate one Democrat will advance past the primary to take on the incumbent mayor. Despite heavy union support for Ms. López, McNamara pointed out others in organized labor have yet to endorse, because their focus will be “to defeat Mike Bell.”


“I think that’s a very plausible scenario,” he said.


Improving education has been a centerpiece of the mayoral campaign. Many of the candidates, including Mr. McNamara, stated they can use the mayor’s office to champion community collaboration for the benefit of the city’s children. McNamara cited the United Way’s “Schools as Community Hubs” initiative, where schools open their doors to neighborhood groups. He stated the city can take an active role in partnering with those agencies and expand the program to other schools.


“I think I can be an advocate for Toledo Public Schools,” he said. “For example, this last budgeting process was not good for urban schools. It just did not help. One thing a mayor can do is advocate for the schools in the (state) budgeting process, which I will do.”


McNamara, 36, got married in 2009 to Valerie Moffitt, who works for one of the city’s community development corporations in North Toledo. They have no children, but have three dogs.


Editor’s Note: Next week in La Prensa, mayoral candidate and incumbent mayor Mike Bell will be profiled for a primary scheduled for Sept. 10, 2013.



Copyright © 1989 to 2013 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08/21/13 20:38:56 -0700.




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