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Published: Sunday, 12/1/2013

GUEST COLUMN

Mayor Collins: Keep your promises, lose the rancor

BY PETER SILVERMAN
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Toledo's mayor-elect, D. Michael Collins, based his campaign on bold, concrete promises and some divisive messages. He now needs to fulfill the former and do an about-face on the latter.

First the promises: Mr. Collins pledged to cut the city’s general-fund budget by $15 million, so that the “temporary” 0.25-percent municipal income tax will again be applied to capital improvements.

He promised to hire 160 police officers and 120 paramedics, which will cost $21 million. Give him credit for likely retirements during his four-year term, and call it a net $14 million cost.

He promised to reduce the temporary tax in exchange for making it permanent. That will cost $3.6 million, minus savings from possible improvements in city bond ratings. Call it $3 million.

He said he will improve neighborhood services, give more money to homeless shelters, add firefighters, and make the city’s economic development program more responsive. Let’s say all this will cost $1 million.

If he plans to raise employee compensation, each percentage-point increase adds about $1 million. So if city workers receive, on average, a raise of 2 percent a year, that will cost $8 million over his term.

Are the budget  plans proposed for Toledo by Mayor-elect D. Michael Collins misleading? Are the budget plans proposed for Toledo by Mayor-elect D. Michael Collins misleading?
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That’s $41 million. Where’s he going to find the money?

He did say he’ll lay off 30 percent of the mayor’s staff, which will produce about $250,000 in savings. Only $40.75 million left to go.

But Mr. Collins can’t cut spending for police, fire protection, neighborhoods, economic development, or public services, because he promised to increase their budgets. The parks and recreation budget is already so bone-thin it can’t take further cuts.

I hope that he has a plan for fulfilling his promises, and that his campaign wasn’t the equivalent of the student council platform: more recess, no homework. If he doesn’t have such a plan, he flat-out misled city voters.

Mr. Collins also needs to reverse two of his campaign’s divisive messages. The first was his denial that the Toledo Police Department ever profiles minorities. The city’s black community was incredulous about that statement.

Mayor Mike Bell struck the right note when he said that profiling isn’t policy, but that police officers are human. Yet Mr. Collins refused to make even that concession.

The mayor-elect lost to Mr. Bell in every central-city ward. He’ll increase minority distrust if he sacks Police Chief Derrick Diggs. He has major challenges to overcome if he wants to foster positive race relations.

The second divisive message came partly from the “independent” committee that supported Mr. Collins with an estimated $200,000 in postcard and TV advertising. The ads made the nativist claim that Mayor Bell favored Chinese investors and workers over Toledo’s.

Mr. Collins not only refused to disavow this message, he echoed it in his campaign. That generated widespread ill will in the local business community.

Does he have any idea how many Toledo-area businesses export goods and services? Or how many have foreign investors? Or how many immigrants came here and started businesses? Does he have any idea how offensive it is to these businesses and entrepreneurs that his campaign appealed to xenophobia?

Mr. Collins relentlessly bashed Dashing Pacific, the Chinese company that owns the Marina District. One of its principals moved to Toledo to oversee the project and make other investments. How will the new mayor deal with him?

Mr. Collins said that the city may buy back the Marina District, requiring $4 million of corresponding budget cuts. Then his budget gap would be up to $45 million.

The great cities of America, led by the best mayors, are becoming more global. They seek foreign investment and immigration, and help their businesses export goods and services. If the mayor-elect maintains his nativist message, he’ll turn Toledo into a backwater and an embarrassment.

The mayoral election was not, as Mr. Collins’ claimed, “David vs. Goliath.” He was backed by the Ohio Democratic Party, statewide labor unions, former mayor Carty Finkbeiner, The Blade, and a smear campaign by an “independent” committee.

His campaign promised budget cuts, tax cuts, more police officers, and more services. He has four budgets to get this done; the first one must be enacted next March.

I wish our new mayor Godspeed in fulfilling his promises, and hope he didn’t deliberately mislead Toledoans to get elected. Let’s all keep count.

Peter Silverman is an attorney and a former member of the Toledo City Council and Toledo Board of Education.



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