Toledo's District 6 may belong to the city, but it has unique issues that require a personal touch, the candidates vying for the City Council seat say.
The issues specific to the district, which includes Point Place and North Toledo, include environmental concerns and business interests based on its proximity to the Ottawa and Maumee rivers, candidates say.
Beyond those, the problems facing the rest of the city, such as public safety, high utility rates, and economic development, all involve District 6 as well.
The folks running for the job are David Ball, 27, an independent/Green candidate; Donald A. Bensman, 76, a Democrat; Joe Birmingham, 36, a Republican; and Kate Ryan Schwartz, 30, an independent.
None of the four council hopefuls has held elective office.
And while they agree on most of the issues, they have different visions for achieving solutions.
Mr. Ball stresses the role of the environment in most problems. High utility rates in Toledo relate, in part, to the city's lack of alternative energy. Bowling Green, which has a wind turbine project, has lower rates, he notes.
He'd like Toledo to capitalize on the University of Toledo's solar panel project.
Among his other major points: The Ottawa River must be dredged, he says, but in an environmentally safe way, and the companies that polluted it should be held accountable for their share of the cost. Corporate tax abatements put an unfair burden on individual taxpayers and take money away from the school district.
And small businesses need more incentives - "We concentrate on corporations and forget about the little guys," he says.
For Donald Bensman, the focus is on business and economic development, which brings him back to the Ottawa River and the need to dredge it.
"The big yachts and cruisers can't get in and out - when the water's low, boaters can't come in," he says of the situation. "You have all those yacht clubs, but people don't participate, and they dock their boats elsewhere."
A viable Ottawa River "would bring more business and development to the Point," he says.
He also wants to see some competition among the utilities. His home in Point Place stands less than a mile from Michigan, and it irks him that his neighbors pay about 60 percent of what he does.
Those costs are "why businesses cross the state line," he says.
For Joe Birmingham, crime in the district is his top concern. "What I've been campaigning is a customer service approach to our district as opposed to any specific issues, but I look at public safety as being our top priority. ... I've actually received letters from anonymous neighbors, complaining about prostitution two blocks from my house. That in itself is what has driven me to decide to run again."
Public school performance and jobs are other issues, along with improving the rivers. Waterfront development would bring more people to the area, which means more money.
Kate Ryan Schwartz has a different view of economic development. She'd like to bring more shoppers to the district.
"We need to figure out what's going on with Northtowne mall," she says. "My idea is an outlet mall, like Great Lakes Crossings [in Auburn Hills, Mich.] If we created a destination outlet center that was enclosed for our northern winters, it would create jobs, tax base, and tourism, and would help District 6 and the city as a whole."
She'd also hold quarterly town meetings for residents to bring their concerns to her. "That's something that's missing: bringing people together and listening to constituents," she says.
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