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Published: Wednesday, 7/1/2009

Collins touts safety in his run for Toledo mayor

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
D. Michael Collins says Toledo will not reach its potential until residents and visitors feel safe in their homes and on the streets. D. Michael Collins says Toledo will not reach its potential until residents and visitors feel safe in their homes and on the streets.
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D. Michael Collins, who successfully negotiated the most generous police pay package in Ohio when he was president of the Toledo police union, announced Tuesday that he would run for mayor.

Mr. Collins, 65, a political independent and a city councilman, emphasized public safety in his announcement. He said the police department has fewer officers than any comparably sized city in the United States and said the fire and rescue ranks are understaffed.

"Toledo must be a safe city. Absent the ability for residents and visitors to our city to feel safe in their homes and on our streets, we will never achieve our potential," Mr. Collins said.

He said the biggest danger facing the city is "our shrinking state of municipal security," and called

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's May 1 layoff of 75 police officers because of a $21 million budget deficit "absolutely irresponsible."

Mr. Collins said last week he was considering entering the race and over the weekend consulted with his wife, Sandra, daughters, and friends.

He was elected to council in 2007, defeating nine other candidates for District 2 in South Toledo.

Four other major candidates are already in the Sept. 15 primary election race, with the top two vote-getters to face off Nov. 3.

Mayor Finkbeiner has not said whether he'll seek a fourth term.

Mr. Collins cited two recent incidents in his decision to run - a trip he made in May to Poland where he toured two Nazi concentration camps, which he said filled him with a desire to serve, and the recent brouhaha over parking tickets that he said brought national embarrassment to the city.

He said he has been frustrated by the fiscal policy of the current mayor and the resistance of the administration to take his suggestions.

He said he didn't support either of the two budgets that passed during his 18 months on council.

"I felt both budgets as they were written were budgets that were not realistic and not at all transparent," Mr. Collins said. "These budgets were passed, however, and we now live with the product of their failure."

He said the city must "rebuild" relationships with neighboring communities for "responsible economic development."

He said the city has never, during its nearly 16-year experience under a strong-mayor form of government, "earned nor deserved any trust whatsoever as it relates to this community."

But he said the city can't decide whether to retain strong-mayor government until after the city has had one in place.

He refused to criticize his major rivals, saying they are "very intelligent and very dedicated. And while we may offer different paths, I don't question whatsoever their intent and purpose for wanting to take the mayor's position."

If elected, he vowed to immediately empanel a task force that would examine the city's operations for efficiency.

Mr. Collins grew up in the central city and the old south end. He graduated from Libbey High School, served in the Marine Corps after high school, and later earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Toledo.

Mr. Collins joined the city police department in 1973. He was elected president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association in 1989 and continued in that role until he retired in 1999 to become a visiting professor in criminal justice at the University of Toledo.

He said that under his leadership of the union, police officers' pay rose from lowest in the state to highest, based on his arguing successfully that Toledo had the fewest officers per 1,000 citizens but with equal levels of quality and professionalism as other Ohio cities.

He said that he would not necessarily follow that philosophy if elected because the pay package cannot exceed the ability of the employer to pay.

"I think I've demonstrated in my 18 months on council that I do not have a prejudice for unions," Mr. Collins said.

Asked what he would do if faced with the choice of seeking additional concessions from police and fire unions, or raising taxes, Mr. Collins opted not to choose.

"I don't think we're going to need to do those," Mr. Collins said.

"Decisions are made based on the circumstances as they are presented to you at the time, and I cannot predict what those situations will be. All I can tell you is by practical and sound business principles and dealing with the financial side of it we can resolve these issues."

He called for making the "temporary" 0.75-percent income tax permanent, but did not endorse increasing that tax.

"I do believe we can get by with the 2.25 percent," he said. He is opposed to raising the trash fee and to cutting the income tax credit to get more money from people who live in Toledo and work in other cities.

Mayor Finkbeiner yesterday rejected Mr. Collins's charge that trust and credibility have been lost under his tenure.

He cited joint economic development agreements he has negotiated between Toledo and suburban communities

"I know Mr. Collins considers himself the world's most outstanding expert on any and all subjects. On this one, I think he would get an F," Mr. Finkbeiner said.

Among the rivals already in the race, Democrat Keith Wilkowski said only he has the background in economic development for the job.

"We have over 20,000 people unemployed in the city of Toledo. The next mayor needs to have a background in economic development and job creation," he said.

Democrat Ben Konop said Mr. Collins is another candidate with a long history of involvement in Toledo politics and government.

"We need fresh eyes looking at these problems," he said, saying he himself is the only one who can offer a fresh start.

Republican Jim Moody criticized Mr. Collins' votes against city budgets, saying he offered no alternative.

"I'm just a little concerned how he's going to reconcile his voting record with vision for Toledo," Mr. Moody said.

Independent Michael Bell said he welcomed Mr. Collins to the race, but said he doubted Mr. Collins would take away from his voters. "Maybe he's taking from some of the other candidates," Mr. Bell said, as well as from undecided voters. Mr. Bell said he believes many people have made up their minds for whom they plan to vote.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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