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Published: Saturday, 8/22/2009

Toledo mayoral candidates hone their rhetoric

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Republican Jim Moody in a West Toledo stop promised to be more aggressive in collecting unpaid income taxes. 'There's absolutely zero doubt in my mind we can't get at least $10 million,' he said. Republican Jim Moody in a West Toledo stop promised to be more aggressive in collecting unpaid income taxes. 'There's absolutely zero doubt in my mind we can't get at least $10 million,' he said.
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Toledo's mayoral race featured more razor-sharp rhetoric and promises about budgetary items at stops in West Toledo Friday, with one candidate vowing to collect a greater percentage of unpaid city income taxes and another promising he would end the controversial - though legal - practice of simultaneously drawing government pensions and government salaries, known as double-dipping.

•Republican Jim Moody claimed to have a $10 million panacea for the city's shortfall: collecting unpaid income taxes.

From the parking lot of the city's northwest district police station, Mr. Moody said the city wouldn't be in such dire straits if it had been more aggressive about collecting some $25 million of outstanding tax revenue.

He promised to get at least $10 million of it collected if elected, a sum that he said would be more than enough to rehire laid-off police officers and provide the city with a greater sense of public safety.

"There's absolutely zero doubt in my mind we can't get at least $10 million," Mr. Moody said. "Yes, many of us have fallen on hard times. But I really don't have a problem going after cheats and liars."

D. Michael Collins, a Toledo city councilman running for mayor, said Mr. Moody's views echo those that he submitted to Mayor Carty

Finkbeiner's administration in a Feb. 19 letter.

"We haven't pursued it hard enough," agreed Mike Bell, referring to the outstanding tax revenue. Mr. Bell is a former Toledo fire chief and state fire marshal running as an independent.

Democrat Keith Wilkowski, who leads the field in fund-raising, could not be reached for comment.

•Democrat Ben Konop vowed that he would do away with all double-dipping.

From the patio of Handel's Homemade Ice Cream & Yogurt on Secor Road south of Alexis Road, he said it is "immoral" to double-dip taxpayers for anything. He jokingly encouraged people to get two scoops from their favorite ice cream parlor, though.

Double-dipping is such a hot-button issue to some people that it was believed to have cost Mr. Konop's aunt, former Lucas County Commissioner Sandy Isenberg, her shot at re-election in 2002.

Ms. Isenberg had publicly toyed with collecting her pension on top of her salary if she were re-elected. She ultimately vowed not to do that following a public outcry, but she was defeated by Republican challenger Maggie Thurber.

Mr. Konop said his aunt's ordeal did not factor into his decision to make double-dipping a campaign issue after it came up during a candidates' debate on Thursday night.

"Obviously, I'm related to her and love her as my aunt," he said. "I'm definitely my own person when it comes to making decisions. She's a great aunt. She's a great role model."

He said he has taken a harder line against double-dipping than the other candidates because he supports a new way of doing things.

Double-dipping "blocks the ability of young people who want to get into public service," Mr. Konop said.

Mr. Konop cited Mr. Collins and Mr. Bell as two mayoral candidates who "are already receiving city pensions and would be double-dipping if elected."

Mr. Collins, a former police officer, said he discourages double-dipping except in rare instances in which the city could benefit from the expertise of a retired employee.

"My general rule is the retired will stay retired and will not come back to the same job," he said.

Mr. Bell said it's all a matter of what job candidates bring to the table.

"The bottom line is you want the best person in the position," Mr. Bell said. "We just want to know they have the best skills to turn this city around."

Mr. Wilkowski said during Thursday night's debate that he has no public pension. He didn't directly say whether double-dipping would be a factor in his hiring, but promised to go after "new ideas and new blood."

Mr. Moody said during that same forum he would base hiring on a person's merits, not whether the person was already getting a pension.

The candidates are vying for spots in the Nov. 3 general election. The top two in the Sept. 15 primary will advance.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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