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Published: Wednesday, 10/2/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

COMMENTARY

Mayor’s race begins to jell

Candidates have begun to 'enhance the contradictions' — to define themselves

BY KEITH C. BURRIS
COLUMNIST FOR THE BLADE

Mayor Mike Bell and challenger Mike Collins have begun to “enhance the contradictions” — to define themselves. The race for mayor has begun to jell.

Mayor Bell is the candidate of the Chamber of Commerce and the Republican governor.

Mr. Collins is the candidate the Ohio Democratic Party and the unions.

Mayor Bell is the candidate of charisma — the rock star who deals with the big picture.

Mr. Collins is the ward politician, the guy who wins votes one by one.

Mayor Bell's management style is to delegate and trust his staff. They bring him options and he chooses.

Mr. Collins' style is hands-on. He wants to develop the options himself.

Critics of the Bell style say that he trusts too much to staffers. They say he is not really running the city and he does not admit or address error.

Critics of the Collins style say that he is by nature a gadfly, not a manager or leader. They say he would ask so many questions that it would be hard to get final decisions from him.

Two issues that might be minor in other campaigns have emerged as revelatory in this campaign.

One is the issue of racial profiling by Toledo police officers. The mayor says it happens and that anyone who thinks otherwise is living in a cave. Mr. Collins, a former police officer and police union president, says he does not believe Toledo's finest engage in this practice. He says the mayor's hand-picked chief of police also takes this position.

Collins adds this: Racial profiling is not the policy of the Toledo police force. It is the opposite of the policy. So if there is evidence that it occurs, this needs to be brought to light; we need to talk about it; and we need to fix it. Point to Mr. Collins on logic. Point to Mr. Bell on politics

The other surprising issue to emerge is the city's policy on the homeless. The mayor, through his press spokesperson, and his neighborhoods director, insists that to embrace the model of “rapid rehousing” the city must de-emphasize and gradually de-fund homeless shelters.

But this is nonsense, easily debunked by reason, experience, and readily available practitioners and experts. It's not either/​or.

The ultimate goal for all the homeless is certainly a permanent home. But we still need shelters and we always will. We need to fund both. We also need to adopt a “no wrong door” policy, as Mr. Collins says. That allows a homeless person, or family, to be processed into the system wherever they land, not through a central entry point, like United Way.

On this issue, Mr. Collins has done his homework and steeped himself in the policy and real-life details. The mayor has simply defended the status quo, which is an abject failure.

This is politics at its best: we argue about something real.

The new head of the Homelessness Board seems to suggest that this debate has distorted the homeless issue. In fact it has clarified it.

Some Democratic and Republican operatives, fearing perhaps their own irrelevance, have suggested that these two candidates for mayor are rather dull ideological twins. The truth is that these are two good and interesting men, and they have begun to present very different approaches to running the city.

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact him at: kburris@theblade.com or 419-724-6266.



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