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Mayoral candidate Mike Bell boasted of his political independence and promised to improve regional relationships yesterday in the first of what he said would be a series of "Fire House Chats."
The former city firefighter and fire chief made remarks and then took questions from a small crowd that gathered on the grassy berm next to Fire Station 23 on West Laskey Road.
As he talked, motorists going by honked and occasionally yelled something, most of them supportive of the recognizable Mr. Bell.
The event was staged on property belonging to the Toledo Fire Fighters Federal Credit Union at 2800 West Laskey. Credit union President Ronald Peeps, Jr., said the credit union is not making an endorsement.
Leaflets were distributed in the neighborhood on Saturday advertising the event, which drew at most a dozen people unaffiliated with the campaign.
A longtime Democrat, Mr. Bell said he is running as an independent "because as an independent you can run and do what the people ask you to do, not necessarily what the party asks you to do."
"I'm not too worried about another term. All I want to do is take the four years and do it right," he said.
Mr. Bell is being opposed by endorsed Democrat Keith Wilkowski in the Nov. 3 election. Current Democratic Mayor Carty Finkbeiner is not seeking another term.
Mr. Bell said Toledo has to have better relationships inside city government and with its neighbors.
"We can't do things solo like we've been doing before. We cannot create borders where people don't want to cross our border, or we don't want to cross their border. We gotta show goodwill," Mr. Bell said.
Mr. Bell said he's been wrongly accused of not having a plan.
"But we do have a plan, and it's pretty detailed," he said, as he handed out summaries to listeners.
Mr. Bell said the city needs to create more than 3,000 or 4,000 new jobs to be able to straighten out the city's financial crisis.
He did not explain how he arrived at that number of jobs. However, Toledo's major source of revenue is a 2.25 percent income tax that is levied on wages and business profits.
In response to a question from a homeowner that his flooding problem on nearby Boxwood Road has been ignored, Mr. Bell said he would ask city engineers what they would do if it were their own residence.
"We don't reach down to the rank and file to the people who actually do the work and ask them how to do it better," he said.
A woman said there has been "a surge in crime" on her street. Mr. Bell said, "My intent would be to bring the police back." He alluded to Mayor Finkbeiner's prediction that the next mayor could inherit a $25 million deficit, adding, "Nobody's going to move here if they don't feel Toledo's safe."
One person at the event, Cliff Warstler, 48, said Mr. Bell was doing the right thing.
"I'm all for the town hall meetings," he said. "If you don't want to talk to your constituents, then you're not doing the job you were hired to do."