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Published: Tuesday, 7/21/2009

Foes call Konop proposals anti-business

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Mayoral candidate Ben Konop's campaign speech Sunday in a central Toledo church drew criticism Monday from his opponents in the race, who said the proposals he offered are anti-business and recycled.

Independent D. Michael Collins, a Toledo councilman, countered Mr. Konop's ideas and questioned his use of a church pulpit.

"Mr. Konop's political statement from the pulpit of Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church is a concern for me as it is a questionable activity given the tax-exempt status for a religious entity, if that entity is registered for tax-exempt status," Mr. Collins said.

"I am in total disagreement with Mr. Konop's assumptions. Opening a downtown campus for Owens Community College is a recycled idea from the notion that the University of Toledo should move the college of law from the Bancroft Street campus to downtown, and for the record, that went nowhere," he said.

Mr. Collins said placing an initiative before voters that would compel employers with 25 or more workers to provide paid sick time is overstepping the role of municipal government.

Mr. Konop appeared before a large church congregation and said that as mayor, he'd acquire funds from the $12 billion President Obama set aside for community colleges and use that money to help Owens open a campus downtown.

He also suggested requiring contractors seeking business with the city to agree to pay the prevailing, or average union, wage.

Mr. Collins said as mayor he would "never support such an intrusion into private industry."

"Private businesses should not be required to pay prevailing wage when contracting with the city, and I believe the Ohio Supreme Court just sided with me on this," he said.

Mr. Konop said yesterday his proposals would create jobs.

"Right-wing talking points on these issues are essentially etched in stone, but the research refutes that giving workers paid sick days or paying them the living wage kills jobs at all," the Democratic candidate for mayor said.

"Not only does the work force stabilize, but the economy does too. So it's statistically and morally sound policy to conduct economic development from the ground up," Mr. Konop said.

He also questioned Mr. Collins' sincerity.

"It's unconscionable for Mr. Collins to accept two taxpayer-funded salaries as a double-dipper and then speak out against paying Toledo workers $11.49 an hour," Mr. Konop said. "He has not been on the Toledo political scene long, but this falls right in line with the good ol' boy thinking that has hurt taxpayers in the past."

Keith Wilkowski, another Democratic candidate, said the sick-time idea would hurt the city. "The issue of paid sick days is the kind of health-and-welfare legislation that is best addressed at the national level," Mr. Wilkowski said. "To address it at the local level puts Toledo at a disadvantage."

Two months before the Nov. 4, 2008, election, the union-led coalition backing mandatory sick days in Ohio abruptly dropped the issue.

Becky Williams, president of District 1199 of the Service Employees International Union, said at the time the sick-days proposal would be pulled "to avoid a negative and divisive campaign fight that could hurt Ohio."

Ms. Williams, Gov. Ted Strickland, and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown then said that they would push for a national sick-days law that would require businesses with at least 25 employees to give workers seven paid sick days a year.

Part-time workers would receive a pro-rated amount.

On Sunday, Republican candidate Jim Moody said Mr. Konop's proposals "endanger the very people" he's trying to help.

"They perpetuate the regional and national perception that Toledo is anti-business and encourage potential employers to look elsewhere," Mr. Moody said.

Mike Bell, who is running as an independent, said, "Businesses in Toledo will have a lot of push-back with most of these suggestions, which are one-sided. Before we start [telling] these businesses what they should do, we should sit down with them to make sure we listen to both sides, business and labor."

Mr. Konop said research shows that all of his proposals are pro-business.

"In the state of North Carolina, it did save business in the tens of millions of dollars through increased productivity, less turnover, and you get a more motivated work force," he said.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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