County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz scored a remarkable victory in being elected mayor of Toledo. He beat an incumbent presiding over the city’s renaissance. And he beat the Democratic machine.
He did so decisively — 11 percentage points and some change.
That makes Mr. Kapszukiewicz a free man. He should remember that he is free — free to do the right thing, to go his own way, to try to do new and bold things, and to challenge the accepted wisdom — as he settles into power. And as the machine and the old guard come bearing gifts.
Power militates against change from Day 1, in any change administration. And this is a change administration. It will not be enough for Mr. Kapszukiewicz to be the change. He will have to define it — with action.
Some of it must be swift.
RELATED: Complete local election results
The new mayor faces six major, immediate challenges. All six emerged very clearly in the election campaign.
City government and administration have not been very competent in the last two years, plus. The mayor must bring people into city government with specific backgrounds and abilities. The city needs accountants in the finance department. It needs building inspectors. Either the chief operating officer or the chief of staff should have a background as a professional city manager or administrator. And the city needs a pro in economic development. There should be a national search for these two posts — professional administrator and economic development director. Experienced persons should be hired from other cities.
Without competence, no progress can be made, in any realm.
The mayor needs to pursue three water needs — a regional water authority with the city’s neighbors; a second water intake as a hedge against another water quality emergency; and federal help for cleaning up and “saving” Lake Erie.
3.) Public Safety:
A pretty clear consensus emerged, during the campaign, that we need more police officers, but also visible officers — officers on bikes, and in patrol cars, and in neighborhoods. More police substations should also be seriously considered.
4.) Blight and beautification:
This should be “low-hanging fruit” for a mayor. Yet much of the city looks terrible and no attempt has been made to address the blight problem since Mayor Mike Collins. Mayors Carty Finkbeiner and Jack Ford personally involved themselves in this issue. A mayor of a city the size of Toledo can and must.
5.) Poverty; low scores for students in Toledo Public School, and infant mortality:
For its size, our city is one of the poorest, for children, in the nation. That should shame us. For we have the resources to change this. We simply need discipline and focus. A mayor can help keep us focused. We must decide, as a community, what to tackle first — should it be universal pre-K, mentoring and tutoring, or perhaps strengthening the family? But once we decide, we must stay on it. A mayor alone cannot accomplish this. But a mayor can be a facilitator and cheerleader.
6.) Keeping the economic ball rolling:
The city needs to hold manufacturing and entice new manufacturing; keep attracting white collar business to downtown; and keep developing new residential possibilities downtown, on both sides of the river, and uptown. Again, a mayor cannot do it alone. But a mayor can and must play a key role.
None of these challenges are matters of “vision.” They are simply what has been left on the table — what must be dealt with.
Whatever factors contributed to the results of the election (and the armchair quarterbacks will be debating for days and weeks), the election is over now. It is time for work, time to govern, and time to move ahead. These are the immediate challenges before the next mayor, and none will resolve themselves. Traction on all of them will give the city, and the new mayor, momentum.
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