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Published: Monday, 11/5/2001

The Blade's endorsements

Here is a summary of The Blade's endorsements in key election contests:

Mayor

The mayoral campaign that ends tomorrow may have been uninspiring, but each vote on Tuesday remains as important as ever. After carefully reviewing the strong points and liabilities of both men seeking the office, we conclude that Ray Kest is better suited to become Toledo's next strong mayor.

Mr. Kest's familiarity with finance will be important, and he seems more comfortable with the mayor's public relations role as Toledo's most vocal advocate and cheerleader.

Council at large

The election is noteworthy because staggered terms for City Council members are being introduced and this will be the last time all 12 will be chosen at the same time. All new members will get a pay raise, from $18,500 to $27,500. And, with a new mayor coming on board, council's relationship with the administration will be more important than ever. In the post-Finkbeiner era, it will be vital that the people who serve on council have the experience and ability in municipal affairs to carry what likely will be a larger share of the burden of governance.

Fortunately, most of the candidates on the ballot, challengers as well as incumbents, present worthy credentials. Terms are for four years.

Our choices are Peter Ujvagi, Betty Shultz, George Sarantou, Perlean Griffin, Gene Zmuda, and Louis Escobar.

With 20 years of experience and thorough knowledge of what is required to run the city, Mr. Ujvagi, council president since 1998, deserves a third term. Ms. Shultz, who is experienced, reliable, outspoken, and frequently independent, also should be re-elected. Both are Democrats.

Mr. Sarantou is a Republican challenger who deserves a term on council by virtue of his public-service in the community. Ms. Griffin, also a challenger but a Democrat, makes the grade because of her experience as a city employee for 27 years, most recently as affirmative action director.

We were disappointed that Mr. Zmuda didn't run for mayor when the Republican Party could have used him in 1997, but he has shown that he can work with majority Democrats on council. We also have some misgivings about Mr. Escobar but he's a consensus builder who is able to manage the mechanics of complex issues.

District Council

Half of City Council has been elected from districts for the past eight years, and the system has served Toledo well.

Voters are fortunate to have qualified challengers as well as incumbents. Our choices for the four contested seats are Rob Ludeman, District 2; Edna Brown, District 4; Tina Skeldon Wozniak, District 5, and Wade Kapszukiewicz, District 6. Candidates in Districts 1 and 3 have no opponents.

Mr. Ludeman is a well-respected veteran Republican who not only has firmly established himself on council but admirably answered his party's call to run in the 2000 election for Lucas County commissioner. He lost but we are confident voters in southwest Toledo will return him to council.

Ms. Brown won her central-city seat twice without the Democratic endorsement. Now she finally has her party's nod, and she should have no trouble winning a third term.

Ms. Wozniak has been a tireless worker in her northwest Toledo district on such problems as chronic flooding in certain areas and for such projects as the “Walk Westgate” revival. She merits re-election.

We have some doubts about whether Mr. Kapszukiewicz has matured into the responsible public servant most people expected, but we support his re-election bid.

Toledo Public Schools

The relationship between the school board and its teachers has markedly improved from four years ago, when a strike was narrowly averted. But the school system remains in “academic emergency” status, proficiency test scores remain dismal, and the district faces a huge bond issue to replace and repair its legion of crumbling buildings.

Recognizing these challenges, our choices for four-year terms on the school board include the board's incumbent president, Peter Silverman, and two newcomers, Anita Lopez and Steven Steel.

Mr. Silverman presided over transformation of the school administration from chaos and confrontation to labor-management cooperation and relative financial stability with passage of a much-needed levy. While he acknowledges there is “no magic wand” to boost student test scores, he continues to push for improvement of the city schools.

Ms. Lopez is general counsel and director of enforcement at Toledo's Fair Housing Center, and she served on the superintendent search committee. Her knowledge, assertiveness, and enthusiasm for improving the schools are impressive.

Dr. Steel, who has a doctorate in American cultural studies from Bowling Green State University, is the only school board candidate with background as a teacher, which he was for 13 years at Waite High School. Now a stay-at-home father, he has a unique perspective on the schools, which he says too often have tried to make changes from the top down, leaving teachers out of the process.

Municipal Court clerk

Maggie Thurber deserves re-election on the basis of the substantial improvements she has overseen in the operation of the clerk's office over the past eight years, particularly in computerizing the court's complicated paper trail.

Municipal Court judge

Amy Berling merits another six-year term as judge of Toledo Municipal Court. She has grown on the job and she does seem to have developed an attribute that is important: a realistic and compassionate feel for dispensing justice at its most basic rough and tumble level.

Issue 1: 911 levy

Lucas County's 911 emergency telephone service must not only be maintained but it must also be improved, which is why we recommend a vote FOR Issue 1. Passage of this 0.7-mill levy will pay for upgrading the 911 system to allow police, fire, and emergency medical workers in various jurisdictions to talk directly to one another by radio. In a world made less secure by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, such cross-communication capability is especially important.

Issue 2: Children Services

It isn't often that voters encounter a millage reduction at the polls, but that is the case with the 1.4-mill levy to benefit the Lucas County Children Services Board. Because property valuations have generally increased, tax bills would be down only slightly if the levy is approved, but improving the care of abused and neglected children is vital. We urge a vote FOR Issue 2.

Issue 3: Mental Retardation

The Lucas County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities has managed its money well, not asking for a tax increase since 1992. Proper care for society's most vulnerable people is not optional, even though this replacement levy totaling 3.0 mills would raise taxes. We recommend a vote FOR Issue 3.

Issue 4: ADAS board

Demand for alcohol and drug treatment in Lucas County has always exceeded resources. Approval of this 0.5-mill levy will give the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board, the umbrella agency through which federal and state funds are funneled, an additional $3.8 million a year. It would be the first direct taxpayer support for the agency, which dates from 1990. We urge a vote FOR Issue 4.

Issue 6: Payroll tax renewal

Toledoans have renewed the 0.75 percent portion of the city payroll tax four times, indicating they are pleased with the city services it helps provide, including police and fire protection, capital improvements, and such programs as refuse collection, parks, tree removal and replacement, and programs for senior citizens. They should do so again and vote FOR Issue 6.



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