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Published: Thursday, 9/4/2003

3 candidates battle for District 4 seat

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

Michael Ashford, who represents Toledo City Council District 4, faces two challengers in the Sept. 9 primary election.

An endorsed Democrat running to defend the post to which he was appointed in January, 2002, Mr. Ashford is challenged by Terry Shankland and Perlean Griffin, both prior council candidates.

The top two finishers next week will advance to the November general election.

“Public safety is a top priority for residents in District 4. It's unfortunate that we've had gangs, but it goes with the level of the economy. There are fewer jobs and more [unemployed] people, but the police department has done a relatively good job in identifying those [trou- ble] spots,” Mr. Ashford said.

He said he is proud of his involvement with local Block Watch crime fighting groups. “I must get at least 100 calls a week” from citizens asking for help with crime, and he passes those messages on to police.

“I am honored that I have that public trust,” he said. A key to constituent service, he said he has found, is attending meetings of residents at local senior and community centers.

Mr. Ashford also pointed to basic city repairs as evidence he has been effective. “If you look throughout District 4, there have been major curb replacements, street improvements, and improvements at the parks,” he said.

Mr. Ashford, 47, is chairman of the community and neighborhood development committee; vice chairman of the human resources committee, and a member of the economic development, environment, utilities, and public service committees, and the finance and budget committees.

He was a leader on council in forming a program to distribute Community Development Block Grants to local agencies to make them more accountable, he said.

He is vice president of urban relations for the YMCA of Greater Toledo and director of the Wayman Palmer YMCA on 14th Street.

He was appointed last year to take over the seat vacated by Democrat Edna Brown, who became a member of the Ohio House of Representatives.

Mr. Ashford then won a May, 2002, special election for the council job, defeating four opponents.

As of Aug. 15, the district had 29,126 registered voters, according to figures posted on the Web site of the Lucas County Board of Elections.

Mr. Shankland, a caterer, said he is running to give small-business owners a voice and because he is concerned about crime and gangs in the central-city district.

“I live here, and I see the problems. I see the safety problems with our seniors. I see the problems with our juveniles and with our curfew that doesn't work. I'd like to do something about it,” he said.

He said he is concerned that the recently enacted smoking ban represents government intrusion into small Toledo businesses that will cause them hardship.

“It's going to hurt the little guy, and the little guy is Toledo,” Mr. Shankland. “We are trying to save the world from second-hand smoke, and it just won't work.”

Mr. Ashford voted for the smoking ban. Ms. Griffin said she believes City Council could have crafted a smoking ban that better reflected the concerns of owners of small bars and similar establishments where smokers had congregated before the ban.

Mr. Shankland, 58, has run before for Toledo mayor and council seats, but has never won. In the 2001 race for one of six at-large seats, he finished 11th out of 12 candidates in the general election.

“I am sort of a Republicrat,” he said. “I am for small business, but I am also for the unions.”

Mr. Shankland and Ms. Griffin had run for office before as Democrats. Mr. Shankland said he is now running as an unendorsed Democrat, while Ms. Griffin said she is an independent.

Ms. Griffin, 63, is making her third run for city council. The retired city employee worked 28 years for Toledo.

“I want this seat because I'm very knowledgeable in terms of city government,” Ms. Griffin said. “I feel I'd be a great asset to the city.”

“There are a number of issues that need to be addressed that haven't been addressed aggressively enough,” Ms. Griffin said. She cited a need for the city to work harder to preserve aging housing stock in the central city.

“There are many houses that could be saved,” she said.

She also said that, if elected, she would open an ongoing conversation with constituents.

“I think there is a real need to include residents in the decision-making process, to listen to their concerns, and act in a very responsive way,” she said.

Ms. Griffin spent her last 14 years of city employment as director of the affirmative action and contract compliance office before retiring in 2001. She said she stepped down to run for a seat on council.

She pledged to schedule “at least quarterly meetings” with each neighborhood group in the district.

“One of the other things I would like to concentrate on is identifying money for recreational programs for kids,” she said. “When they have no place to go, they're going to get into trouble.”

Ms. Griffin finished eighth out of 12 in the 2001 general election contest for six at-large seats on council, and finished second to Mr. Ashford in the May special election for the district seat last year.



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