Toledo's police and fire unions yesterday reiterated their support for mayoral candidate Ray Kest, who last week said he would spend $5 million of the $14 million in the city's so-called “rainy day” contingency fund to hire 40 to 50 more police officers and buy firefighting equipment.
“We want to reinstate and reinforce [Mr. Kest] is the candidate for safety,” said Terry Stewart, president of the Toledo Police Command Officers Association.
Mr. Kest is battling state Rep. Jack Ford for the mayoral post that will be vacated by Carty Finkbeiner. The three unions - the command officers, Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, and Toledo Firefighters Local 92 - have endorsed Mr. Kest.
The announcement was made at International Park with a backdrop of more than a dozen law enforcement and fire personnel, signs stating that police and firefighters support Mr. Kest, and an antique police car and fire truck.
Mr. Stewart said that in addition to spending money on safety forces, Mr. Kest has met with police Chief Mike Navarre to discuss the department's needs and desires.
Gregg Harris, president of the patrolman's group, said unlike Mr. Ford, Mr. Kest has talked with the unions - communications that started more than a year ago. Mr. Kest also has met with the unions' candidate screening committees.
“How can you come up with plans and proposals for the city of Toledo if you're not gonna talk to these people,” Mr. Harris asked.
Mr. Ford said last night that he had met with Mr. Harris' group. “I tried,” he said, “but they already had endorsed [Mr. Kest]. He went out and got the endorsement early.”
Tom Dugan, president of the firefighters' union, agreed. He said his union supports Mr. Kest's proposal for hiring a full-time safety director. “When we have problems, nobody listens to us,” Mr. Dugan said. Some of the problems that have been cited by the unions include the lack of manpower, equipment, and training.
Mr. Harris said if Mr. Kest is elected, the unions plan to hold him accountable for the ideas he has proposed. “We're gonna hold his feet to the fire,” he said.