For Toledo City Council

These six candidates offer the greatest promise of helping to make Toledo a safe, prosperous, livable city

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    TOLEDO voters will elect members to City Council’s six at-large seats next month. After the August primary, 12 of the 17 candidates advanced to the general election, including all four council incumbents who are seeking new terms.


    The next council will help determine whether Toledo can reverse decades of population and industry loss and rebrand itself as a modern mid-sized metropolis, while remaining a safe, prosperous, livable community that adequately cares for its most vulnerable residents.


    However the votes count up, the council will get at least two new members to face these challenges. Incumbent Joe McNamara, a Democrat, did not seek re-election and instead ran unsuccessfully for mayor in the primary. Because of term limits, Republican George Sarantou was barred from running for another term.


    Two incumbents — Adam Martinez and Shaun Enright — trailed the top six vote-getters and will have to step up in the general election to hold onto their seats. Republican incumbent Rob Ludeman was the top primary vote-getter, followed by former mayor Jack Ford and political newcomer Sandy Spang.


    City Council members serve four-year terms and are paid $27,500 a year for the part-time positions. The council president gets an added $4,500 a year. These candidates are best equipped for the job:


    With more than 40 years of experience in state and local government and in running nonprofit agencies, JACK FORD has a firm grasp of policy issues and knows how to make government work for people. A progressive Democrat, Mr. Ford, 66, is nevertheless willing to work with Republicans and independents.

    Mr. Ford has degrees in law and public administration. He understands the role of City Council and the mayor.

    He has founded several nonprofits, including CareNet, that deal with substance abuse, mental health, and health care. As Toledo’s first African-American mayor from 2002 to 2006, he showed mettle in enacting a smoking ban.

    Mr. Ford has served on the Toledo school board and city council, including a stint as council president. In 1998, he became minority leader of the Ohio House of Representatives.

    Mr. Ford has suffered serious health problems, including kidney illness, in recent years. But he is now fit enough to serve and still mentally sharp.

    He backs a nine-point plan for smarter housing policy in Toledo’s central city. It would, among other things, focus on rehabilitating, instead of building, houses.

    He also seeks to improve coordination of services among various agencies for Toledo’s youth. Most important, he would be a singularly strong voice for poor central-city residents, whom most other candidates have ignored.

    Incumbent ROB LUDEMAN, a real estate agent, is a steady voice for reason and common sense. Down-to-earth, accessible, and pragmatic, he works well with others. He served as District 2 councilman from 1994 through 2007, and was council president in 2006 and 2007.

    A moderate Republican, Mr. Ludeman, 60, was elected to an at-large seat in 2009. He backed the city’s smoking ban. As chairman of the economic development committee, he helped secure millions of dollars in federal redevelopment grants.

    From 2007 to 2010, Mr. Ludeman served on the Lucas County Dog Warden advisory committee. As a council member, he helped rewrite Toledo’s dog code that eliminated breed-specific regulations. The local ordinance became a model for a new state law.

    An advocate of open government, Mr. Ludeman led the fight against an across-the-board $200 water security deposit, which Mayor Mike Bell rescinded.

    Incumbent ADAM MARTINEZ, 36, has advanced the interests of business and neighborhoods in his council term, especially in creating affordable housing. A commercial real estate broker and Democrat, Mr. Martinez has a master’s degree in organizational leadership and seeks an advanced degree in urban planning.

    He is helping to develop a community credit union, the first Latino-based credit union in Ohio. Effective and reasonable, Mr. Martinez merits another term.

    Green Party candidate and systems administrator SEAN NESTOR, 28, a political newcomer, believes in neighborhood organization and grass-roots politics. He refuses to accept campaign contributions from corporate or union political action committees.

    The Point Place resident maintains a downtown storefront for forums, cultural events, and community meetings. Well-informed, idealistic, and youthful, Mr. Nestor would bring fresh ideas and energy to a City Council that is out of touch with young people.

    Businesswoman SANDY SPANG might be, overall, the most impressive council candidate. With the moxie to get things done and an informed urban agenda, she would make an immediate difference on the council.

    A political independent, Ms. Spang, 53, owns the Plate 21 coffeehouse in South Toledo, as well as dozens of residential and commercial properties. As an entrepreneur, Ms. Spang has already done much to improve Toledo.

    An authority on urban design with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, she used a city-administered grant in 2009 to help redevelop a blighted strip mall in South Toledo’s Beverly neighborhood. Plate 21 won an award in 2011 from the American Institute of Architects.

    Ms. Spang says she would encourage commercial property owners with vacant buildings to market their properties, especially to young entrepreneurs. She understands the importance of attracting young people to the central city and maintaining the amenities it takes to keep them: good mass transit; safe, walkable, and attractive neighborhoods, and vibrant arts and entertainment venues.

    Energetic and engaging, she would push city government to expand technology, equipping police officers with body cameras. She would look at the best practices of other successful mid-sized cities, such as Chattanooga, Tenn., to determine whether they could benefit Toledo.

    Ms. Spang says the city should consider broader laws on open records and meetings if Toledoans have a systemic problem getting public information.

    Incumbent STEVEN STEEL, 51, a faculty member at the University of Toledo, has earned another term. A former president of the Toledo school board, Mr. Steel, a Democrat, was appointed to City Council in 2009.

    Since then, he has focused on budget issues, small business development, and public safety, especially combating domestic violence. He is also a strong advocate of the city park system.

    Other leading candidates include Mr. Enright, who was appointed to the council in January; Theresa Gabriel, with decades of service to the city; and Larry Sykes, a veteran member of the city school board.

    James Nowak and Joe Celusta, both Republicans, are moderate candidates with a sincere desire to serve. All these candidates, however, tend to represent business as usual, when Toledo needs fresh ideas and a new direction.