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Published: Wednesday, 8/3/2005

Wilkowski disputes Ford's new-jobs math

BY TAD VEZNER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

In a clash over job creation numbers, Toledo mayoral candidate Keith Wilkowski yesterday challenged Mayor Jack Ford's billboard claims of job creation.

By Mr. Wilkowski's calculations, Toledo has lost 12,600 jobs between the time he took office and February, 2005.

Contrasting that with the mayor's highly touted March claim that Toledo had created 2,842 new jobs since 2002 through the efforts of the city's economic development department, Mr. Wilkowski said at a press conference that Mr. Ford needed a math lesson. He then brought in an elementary school teacher, one of his campaign volunteers, who gave Mr. Ford an "F" in math.

"How can you expect people to have faith in city government when you're getting this kind of information," Mr. Wilkowski said while standing in front of the "Toledo Works" billboard at the Washington Street gateway to downtown from I-75 south. "It's either fuzzy math or higher math, because he's using imaginary numbers."

Mr. Wilkowski cited the city's own Annual Information Statement, which in turn sourced the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, showing a dip in those employed in Toledo from 146,800 in 2002 to 134,200 in February, 2005.

But officials from Job and Family Services, which gets its data from the U.S. Department of Labor, said the reason for Toledo's sudden dip in employment numbers is primarily due to different Census data being used for the years in question rather than any dramatic job loss.

For instance, the department's statistics show between December, 2003, and January, 2004, the estimated potential workforce in the city of Toledo suddenly dropped from 158,600 to 146,300. The number of people employed dropped by a similarly staggering amount, from 144,800 to 133,300.

The reason for that, said Keith Ewald, chief of Job and Family Services' bureau of labor market information, is because the city's employment data for 2003 and before is based on 1990 Census statistics, while the numbers for 2004 and beyond are based on the 2000 Census statistics.

Consequently, Toledo's job numbers for the years of 2002 and 2005 are based on Census data that are a full decade apart.

Mayor Ford's spokesman, Mary Chris Skeldon, said that the mayor admitted during the 2004 presidential election that there has been a loss of jobs in Toledo, but emphasized that "the city has done its best to create jobs in tough economic times."

She said since the original figure of "2,842 new jobs created" was released in March, the city has lured hundreds of additional jobs to the area through employer incentives.

However, she admitted that the mayor's billboard claims of job creation only include job gains, and did not take into account any job losses the city has sustained.

Mr. Wilkowski also attacked the billboard he was standing under, saying that tax dollars spent to promote Mr. Ford's job creation statistics would be better spent on job creation.

The Ford administration announced in March that the city would spend $24,600 on the "Toledo Works" ad campaign, which links Mr. Ford to the job numbers. Toledo Works also received a private donation of $14,814 from the regional United Auto Workers union to be used for billboards.

Mayor Ford did not respond directly to Mr. Wilkowski's charges, but instead released a statement standing by his record and accused the attorney-challenger of "resorting to gimmicks."

"How many jobs has he created since he's been in private business? And why should we believe that he can?" Mr. Ford said.

Contact Tad Vezner at:

tvezner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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