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Published: Friday, 10/24/2003

Council candidates in District 5 split over smoking ban

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

Republican Mary Beth Moran and Democrat Ellen Grachek are competing to win West Toledo's District 5 city council seat in the Nov. 4 general election.

Ms. Grachek was appointed to the district seat in January, and defeated Ms. Moran in a special election in May to win the right to hold it until the end of the year.

The upcoming election will determine who controls the seat and receives an annual salary of $27,500 for the next four years.

The candidates have agreed on the need to improve basic city services, pledging to make sure leaves and garbage are picked up, and that potholes are filled and snow is plowed swiftly.

They differ on the recently enacted smoking ban.

Ms. Grachek, who voted in favor of the smoking ban this summer, said she wants the ordinance to remain intact at least for now, until it is clear what impact the ban has on small businesses.

Some proprietors have complained about declines in their incomes since the ban went into effect.

“At this time, I am not in favor of any amendment or compromise. My vote was a vote for public health,” Ms. Grachek said.

Ms. Moran said she favors an immediate exemption for some businesses.

“I believe that the bowling alleys, bars, and bingo halls should be exempted,” she said.

Both candidates said their top priority is public safety.

Ms. Moran said that “safety can never be compromised. With the current budget crisis, I think we need to prioritize the city budget and cut the fat. I would not cut basic city services, but would look at administrative costs, even city council staff. We all have to cut, and city council has to do its part.”

Ms. Grachek said council has done its part to add police officers.

“We are getting additional officers in the police classes, which will mean more officers on the street,” she said, adding that this summer, she played a role in starting a local crime-fighting Block Watch program in the district.

“We need citizen involvement to make our streets safe,” Ms. Grachek said.

Both candidates said they were concerned about economic development. Ms. Moran said she would encourage city representatives to use “everything and anything,” including tax breaks for businesses, to lure companies to Toledo.

She said she believes the city now has a negative image among those who would locate a business in Toledo.

“That is why we are in the budget trouble we are in,” she said. “We have to make the environment here business-friendly. We need to stay competitive with those areas around us.”

She pointed to the successful Arrowhead Park business complex in Maumee as a major drain on Toledo's business community.

Ms. Grachek said things could be worse.

“We are not in as bad shape as other municipalities. We are losing our tax revenue. In light of all these budget constraints upon us, we can't afford to not have a plan. We are coming up with a framework for our decision-making.”

The city expects to face a budget deficit approaching $9 million for its next fiscal year.

With plans for construction of an arena on the east side or west side of the Maumee River stuck in neutral, Ms. Moran and Ms. Grachek agreed that the project should receive more attention from city hall.

“Every season that goes by in which we haven't done anything is a lost economic opportunity,” Ms. Moran said. “We have got to do the best economic things that we can for the city of Toledo. However, the west side needs to be considered. You have to remain open-minded on something like this.”

Voters approved a development project on the east bank of the Maumee, but some community leaders have since suggested that the arena should be built on the west side, probably near Fifth Third Field.

“There was a vote wherein the citizenry voiced its opinion on the matter, and I think we should be moving forward as the citizens have mandated,” Ms. Grachek said. “We under utilize our waterway. The people are drawn to the water, and if you combine that resource with a venue, I think that is a good thing.”

Both women are lawyers. Ms. Moran lives with her husband and small boy in Old Orchard. Ms. Grachek lives in the DeVeaux area. Before this year, neither woman had run for public office.



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