With the riot Saturday in North Toledo still fresh on many minds, Mayor Jack Ford and challenger Carty Finkbeiner both pledged last night to maintain, if not increase, police and firefighting manpower as dozens in both services become eligible for retirement next year.
Addressing an audience of about 50 people at the Old West End Association's annual Candidates' Night, Mr. Finkbeiner said he would meet with those eligible to retire to urge them to stay for at least another year.
Mayor Ford said police and fire training classes are planned for 2006.
The rivals agreed that the violence that broke out Saturday at Central Avenue and Mulberry Street is an indication of work that needs to be done in city neighborhoods.
Mayor Ford said the riot "was in a confined area," with people just a few blocks away going about their daily routines, while Mr. Finkbeiner said it is now time "to move forward."
Along with the two mayoral candidates, 10 people running for City Council, five Toledo Board of Education candidates, and seven people seeking election or re-election to Toledo Municipal Court judgeships gave brief presentations to the assembly in the carriage house at Manor View, 2305 Collingwood Blvd.
They then took turns answering written questions submitted by audience members, though the questions were limited to just two for the council candidates and one for the school board - and no questions were offered for the judicial candidates.
Mr. Ford's and Mr. Finkbeiner's remarks about police and fire manpower effectively echoed comments made earlier in the evening by several council candidates, who praised the police response to the riot. The council candidates also promised efforts to bring the department up to at least its current authorized manpower of 700.
The city now has several dozen fewer officers than that, Councilman Frank Szollosi noted.
Besides public safety and community relations, economic development and energy costs were leading issues raised during the forum.
Several council candidates, in particular, told the gathering that the two go hand in hand, with Toledo's high electricity and natural gas rates hindering the city's job-growth potential.
Along with threatening to bust many local homeowners' winter heating budgets, rising gas rates are "the single biggest reason" Toledo is struggling to attract business, candidate Mark Sobczak said.
"We need to rein in Columbia Gas, and demand an audit of their books to see where the money is going," he said.
Council incumbent George Sarantou agreed that the gas company's accounts deserve inspection, but he and other incumbents said it is a fight local officials need to take to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.
"The problem is in Columbus, and we'd better get the message [delivered] down there," Mr. Sarantou said.
Asked how they would handle cost overruns in the city's school construction program, the school board candidates said the keys will be asking relevant questions and adapting the program to live within the available budget.