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Published: Wednesday, 10/29/2003

Political neophyte to face high-profile councilman

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Voters in District 6 on Tuesday will choose between one of Toledo City Council's most high-profile members and a political unknown as their representative.

Democrat Wade Kapszukiewicz is a veteran at getting elected to council, having done so three times since his appointment to fill a vacancy in 1999.

Republican challenger Joe Birmingham has never been on the ballot but thinks his opponent's involvement in citywide issues comes at the expense of district concerns.

“The main issue people are telling me is that they cannot get hold of their councilman,” Mr. Birmingham said. “I'm going to be a full-time councilman.”

Mr. Kapszukiewicz said his number is in the phone book and he's as accessible as any councilman.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz said his attention to his district has paid off in the form of $1 million worth of streetscape improvements along Summit and Lagrange streets, a commitment from the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the Ottawa River, and park improvements.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz attended Regina Coeli School and graduated from St. Francis de Sales High in 1990, before college and graduate school. He has been a policy analyst for the New Ohio Institute think-tank, the Lucas County Mental Health Board, and COMPASS addiction treatment agency. Mr. Kapszukiewicz and his wife, Sarah, are expecting their first child. They live on Sabra Road.

In the September primary, Mr. Kapszukiewicz got a commanding 61.5 percent of the vote, with 26.5 percent for Mr. Birmingham. A third candidate was knocked out of contention.

In 1999, Mr. Kapszukiewicz introduced an ordinance to force removal of doors from X-rated video booths to reduce illegal sexual activity. The city is still fighting in court to enforce that ordinance.

In the last two years, Mr. Kapszukiewicz has lent his name to a couple of proposed ordinances that quickly vanished, requiring bike riders to wear helmets and extending city health benefits to domestic partners of city employees.

He originated a bulk prescription drug-buying plan in which members save an average of $15 a prescription. He said thousands of people have benefited from the plan, and he said the need is growing.

Mr. Birmingham attended Whittier Elementary School and DeVeaux Junior High and graduated from Start High in 1987. He has taken business classes at the University of Toledo. He and his wife, Danielle, and 2-year-old son live on Lewis Avenue. He said he has volunteered for other candidates, and was president of the Lucas County Young Republicans from 1998 to 2000.

Before joining Lucas County Treasurer Ray Kest's staff in 2001, Mr. Birmingham worked at the Navy Bistro restaurant for five years.

On public safety, Mr. Kapszukiewicz said his dispute with former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner in 1999 established the practice of annual police and fire classes to replace retiring officers.

“We have a police and a fire class every year without fail - it doesn't come down to a political fight,” he said.

Mr. Birmingham wants to see more police patrols but said the best solution to crime is to create jobs.

On the Marina District, Mr. Kapszukiewicz said the city should stick with the East Toledo location for a new arena because Toledo got a $3 million state grant to clean up the land for an arena there.

Mr. Birmingham said he prefers a central business district site for the arena to create a “365-day area where people can congregate.”

Mr. Kapszukiewicz said he's proud of his vote ban smoking in bars, restaurants, bingo halls, and bowling alleys except in designated smoking lounges. He said any other stand would not be good for public health.

Mr. Birmingham said bars, bingo halls, and bowling alleys should be excluded from the new law because they could be driven out of business. Acknowledging that smoking is a “vile, disgusting habit,” he said it can't be eradicated with the snap of a finger.

On economic development, Mr. Birmingham said he'd like to see more attention to Northcross Industrial Park in District 6. “That development should be on the same level as Arrowhead [Park in Maumee],” Mr. Birmingham said.

Mr. Kapszukiewicz said as chairman of council's economic development committee, he co-authored the ordinance that offers cash awards to businesses that locate downtown - the same practice Arrowhead uses to lure businesses.



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