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Published: Thursday, 9/10/2009

Moody sees swift action as vital to city's revival

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

With next week's primary election paring the pack of mayoral candidates to two, The Blade this week will focus on issues each of the five top mayoral hopefuls has advocated during the campaign. Thursday's story is about Jim Moody.

Since declaring for mayor in January, Mr. Moody, the endorsed Republican in Tuesday's primary, has released a series of position statements covering such diverse proposals as selling the airport, attaching brightly colored license plates to sex offenders' cars, turning Toledo into a sport-fishing destination, and eliminating some of the license requirements for home remodelers.

He contends Toledo needs a rapid uptick in economic activity - a burst of home construction, intermodal shipping, and tourism.

Unlike the other four candidates who have all worked full time in career government jobs or held elective office, Mr. Moody's entire professional career has been in the private sector.

However, he has cashed government checks. As a college student, he worked for the Ohio Department of Transportation as a flagger on highway construction jobs, he said. And his business, Flex Realty, has a contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to list fore-closed HUD homes for sale.

Mr. Moody, 48, last year moved from his family home in Sylvania Township into a Toledo rental unit he owns in order to qualify for the mayoral ballot. His wife and daughter continue to live in his suburban home, something he says will change if he becomes Toledo's mayor.

Also running Tuesday for the opportunity to be one of the two people who will face off in the Nov. 3 general election are independent Mike Bell, independent D. Michael Collins, Democrat Ben Konop, and Democrat Keith Wilkowski.

Under Mr. Moody's "Neighborhood STAR" program, all new construction of residential homes would get a 7 to 10-year tax abatement. The tax incentive would apply citywide rather than only in economically challenged neighborhoods.

As for commercial development, he proposed that the city adopt national codes for electric, heating, cooling, ventilation, and plumbing, which he said would be 20 percent less costly than following the city's codes.

He said he would freeze property valuation for residential and commercial rehabilitation projects, so buildings are taxed at their values before they were fixed up.

And he has proposed eliminating some licensing and permit requirements for home remodeling, which he said would encourage people to buy and fix up homes, and employ plumbers, electricians, painters, and carpet installers.

A neighborhood activist in the Lagrange area of North Toledo said Mr. Moody is known for some of the properties his company manages, but he has not come to any neighborhood assemblies to pitch his housing rehab plans.

Beth Lewandowski, vice president of Lagrange Village Council, said proposals aimed at lowering license and permit requirements are red flags to her.

"If somebody's coming into a neighborhood and remodeling a home that somebody else is going to live in, you want it to be a quality job," Ms. Lewandowski said.

"It would be nice if he would sit down and talk with us about what could specifically happen in North Toledo," Ms. Lewandowski said. "Our neighborhood is so full of rental property that we would relish having good homeowners and being able to put them into homes that are top-quality, renovated homes."

Anna Mills, president of the Real Estate Investors of Toledo, a rental property owners' association, said Mr. Moody would bring business practices to the city. She said the city's process creates obstacles for people trying to fix up and sell houses.

"Streamline things so they can get done as opposed to making it a tougher job. That's how business is different from government," Ms. Mills said.

"He must have at least half a dozen businesses that I know of that work and that are very viable in a tough market like this," she said of Mr. Moody.

Mr. Moody also has said he would appoint within 100 days a task force to recommend revamping the city's tax structure to reduce the 2.25 percent wage tax. Mr. Moody did not specify how he would replace lost funding, but he noted that other area cities have lower payroll tax rates than Toledo's.

The proposal drew a strong response from Mr. Collins in a televised debate Tuesday night.

"How are you going to come up with the $90 million necessary for a police budget and $60 million for a fire budget, plus the rest of the city operations? I believe you're clueless," Mr. Collins said.

"It's extremely realistic," Mr. Moody said of his tax plan. "It [the tax burden] can be broader so it's less of a burden on everybody. But to automatically say we can't do that without looking at it, that's close-minded," Mr. Moody said.

A Canton-area native who also has lived in Columbus, Mr. Moody said he wants to recover a sense of energy and optimism he sensed when he said he moved to Toledo around 1985. He has proposed putting an amphitheater in the Marina District and sponsoring three sport-fishing mini-tournaments he would call "The Toledo Cup."

Mr. Moody also proposed requiring sex offenders to drive with chartreuse-colored license plates to warn neighborhood children of their presence. He has been a strong advocate for an intermodal yard, which he contends would have quick payback in jobs by making Toledo a center of railroad and truck shipping.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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