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Toledo mayoral candidates spar in first of several debates

By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent

Oct. 11, 2013: Toledo Mayor Mike Bell and Toledo City Councilman Mike Collins don’t like each other much—personally or professionally. So the “dueling Mikes” made no secret of that dislike in the first of several community forums as they try to win votes in advance of the Nov. 5 election.

The two candidates sparred on the city’s previous budget deficit, economic development strategies, crime statistics, and the Toledo’s gang problem.

Collins accused Mayor Bell of puffery in stating that he inherited a $48 million budget deficit, reading a letter from a city auditor who reports to city council which stated the budget shortfall was only $8 million.

“You’re the only one hallucinating on this, you and maybe the auditor,” countered Bell, who accused Collins of being partially responsible for the problem as a city councilman. 

The mayor also defended his actions to balance the budget, stating voters were clear in a mandate of not raising taxes. Bell stated he had no choice but to seek union contract concessions rather than lay off employees. He explained that move saved 271 jobs. Bell was furloughed early in his firefighting career during a budget crisis.

Collins accused the mayor of refusing to lead by example by seeking concessions from employees, while sparing himself and his staff any salary cuts.

Mayor Mike Bell

Toledo City Councilman Mike Collins

“What sacrifices did you take? Did you lose a penny’s pay?” asked Collins.

Bell countered that a city commission reduced his salary a year before he took office.

“You could have said, ‘I will make a greater sacrifice than any man or woman working in the city of Toledo,’” said Collins. “That would have showed your character.”

 “Oh, I don’t have no character?” Bell questioned.

Collins is receiving heavy financial support from labor unions in his bid to unseat Mayor Bell, who drew their wrath for his support of SB 5, legislation that would have limited the power of public-sector unions in Ohio. The measure was defeated by voters in a referendum. Bell also made some enemies for forcing concessions on municipal labor unions during a financial crisis the city was facing when he first took office.

Collins recently picked up the endorsement of the Northwestern Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council. The United Auto Workers and several other skilled-trades unions have thrown their support behind Collins, a retired police officer and former head of the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association. Mayor Bell, a former fire chief and state fire marshal, is being backed  by Firefighters Local #92.

Collins attacked Mayor Bell over his international trips seeking investment from China, Japan, and other foreign countries, stating he would not do so as mayor without specific knowledge that those trips would lead to Toledo-based jobs.

“There has to be a magnet there and there has to be a reason,” the city councilman said, while also criticizing the lack of progress in the Marina District, which a Chinese investment group purchased for $3.8 million. “We are engaged in a war. It’s called the jobs war.”

Bell countered that city council approved that purchase and it is saving the city tax dollars on maintenance and lighting, while providing $100,000 each year in property taxes to the county’s coffers.

“It’s impossible to be in competition internationally unless you compete internationally,” said the mayor.

The two candidates also sparred over whether Toledo’s crime rate is rising or falling and over the impact a gang map that went public this year had on gun violence in the city.

Collins also took advantage of opportunities to remind voters of various scandals that have plagued the Bell administration from time-to-time, one that led to an overhaul of top administrators in the Department of Neighborhoods; another where Bell’s niece was awarded contracts with the city to renovate houses despite a lack of construction experience, and the purchase of two luxury SUVs. 

The first forum between the two independent mayoral candidates occurred in the WNWO “NBC-24” studios and featured moderators from the TV station and co-sponsor WSPD-AM 1370. The one-hour forum was broadcast live on both stations.

The two candidates will square off at public forums and debates at least five more times before the Nov. 5 general election:

  • Tuesday, Oct. 15, 7 p.m., Burroughs Neighborhood Organization at Burroughs School gymnasium, 2420 South Ave.;
  • Tuesday, Oct. 22, 6:30 p.m., ONE Village Council, Chester Zablocki Senior Center, 3015 Lagrange St.;
  • Thursday, Oct. 24, 12:30 p.m., East Toledo Senior Center, 1020 Varland Ave;
  • Tuesday, Oct. 29, 7 p.m. a televised debate sponsored by The Blade and WTVG-TV, Channel 13 ABC; and
  • Wednesday, Oct. 30, 7 p.m., a televised debate sponsored by WTOL-TV, Channel 11 and Toledo Free Press.
Copyright © 1989 to 2013 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 10/15/13 22:54:52 -0700.




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