Toledo mayoral candidate Ray Kest yesterday unveiled his 12-point agenda for improving the safety of the city - a list of proposals that does not include a plan for how to pay for the projects.
Mr. Kest held a news conference in front of the Northwest District Police Station on West Sylvania Avenue, at which he revealed the list to a crowd of his supporters, including city council members Betty Shultz and Robert McCloskey and Greg Harris, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association.
Mr. Kest, a Democrat, has declared his candidacy for mayor but has not yet filed his petitions with the Locas County board of elections.
If elected, Mr. Kest said chief among his efforts would be to open a district police station in East Toledo, graduate a police class every year, and institute a program to allow senior police officers to collect their pensions but keep working.
Mr. Kest, however, said he did not have an estimate for how much it would cost to build a police substation or convert and equip an existing building. He said he guessed it could cost about $500,000.
Mr. Kest said he would find the money to pay for his proposals. “We are not going to have problems facing these in the budget,” he said.
He had no specifics on where he would find the money in the city budget, but said he hoped to increase city revenues through tax-sharing agreements with neighboring communities.
“I'm going to squeeze every turnip,” he said.
Mr. McCloskey suggested the city could find the money by “buying a few less frogs,” a shot at the public arts program supported by Mayor Carty Finkbeiner. On Tuesday, city council approved a request by the mayor to spend $45,000 to buy six of the fiberglass frogs and equip them with drinking fountains in city parks.
Mr. Kest's other major plan calls for a “Drop Program” that would allow police officers who are eligible for retirement to collect their pensions, but continue working.
He said many officers opt to retire between the ages of 45 and 50, so they can collect their pensions and a salary from another job. By allowing them to have their pensions and stay on the force, he said the city would benefit from keeping experienced officers longer at no additional cost.
Working officers who are collecting pensions could then contribute to a 401(k) program instead of the pension, Mr. Kest said.
He said the plan could slow retirements, allow for a more veteran force, and result in smaller police classes because fewer officers would leave each year.
Mr. Kest's safety initiatives come at a time when crime in the city has been decreasing steadily for the last four years. Violent crime dropped by more than 25 percent between 1998 and 1999, according to police Chief Mike Navarre.
The city's homicide rate for 2000 - 12 murders - was the lowest in 36 years, although overall crime increased slightly last year, Chief Navarre said.
Mr. Kest, who is Lucas County treasurer, said despite low crime rates, he believes safety is always a concern of residents. “That's what's on people's minds,” he said.
He noted Wednesday's shooting of a 16-year-old boy in a city park on Highland Avenue as evidence of existing crime.
Mr. Kest said he believes safety concerns are one of two main reasons that people move out of Toledo and into the suburbs, with the other being the education level at the city schools. “We need to make people feel safe in their neighborhoods,” he said.
“Safety of the city needs to be the first priority,” Councilwoman Shultz added.
Mr. Kest's nine other safety initiatives are:
Mr. Kest said the city has $500,000 in grants to pay for computers in most of the police fleet, but he wants to see them in every car. He said he did not know what it would cost to computer-equip the portion of the fleet not covered by the grant, but said that he believes the amount should have been covered by money from the 911 implementation levy.
Mr. Kest said he believes the role needs to be filled by someone with prior experience on the safety forces, who can run the two departments.
The academy is at Owens College in Perrysburg Township, and Mr. Kest said he believes it could be relocated to the University of Toledo.
Mr. Kest said he wants to set up a system to routinely replace city police cruisers because he believes the current fleet replacement plan allows too many high-mileage vehicles on the street.
Mr. Kest said he would work with local judges in an effort to eliminate officers having to wait for hours to testify in court cases either while on the overtime clock, or when they could be on the streets working.
Mr. Kest said he believes more police need to be assigned to the schools, and said he would work with Toledo Public Schools to look for ways to pay for the officers.
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