Toledo's mayoral candidates rehashed familiar themes at a forum last night on the University of Toledo's Scott Park campus as they enter the final two weeks of the election campaign.
Independent Mike Bell told the approximately 30 listeners that he was not interested in a second term, just in putting out the
"three-alarm fire" engulfing the city of Toledo's economy.
Endorsed Democrat Keith Wilkowski said he's more convinced than ever, after knocking on thousands of doors, that Toledo has a bright future, "if we can see it, and understand it, and grasp for it."
The event was sponsored by United Neighborhoods Residential Association.
Mr. Bell said he gave up a job in Columbus as state fire marshal because he felt he had the qualities of leadership needed to turn the city around - "a person who has the ability to connect the dots and bring other people to the table that have never normally been at the table."
"I am not running for a political career. I am not running to be anything else but the mayor, and that for one term," Mr. Bell said. He said later that he wasn't ruling out a second term, just that he wasn't planning for it.
He suggested his opponent has been too free in making promises: "He hasn't seen a project yet that he can't say yes to," Mr. Bell said, clarifying later his meaning that Mr. Wilkowski "says yes to everything."
Mr. Wilkowski emphasized his detailed plans for setting Toledo on a targeted economic future consisting of advanced manufacturing, transportation, and "green" construction. He characterized Mr. Bell as "pessimistic."
"We're running for a term here that lasts four years - it's not just what's going to happen in January or February of 2010. I believe we've got a bright future and real opportunities. We've got opportunities to concentrate resources," Mr. Wilkowski said. "It's the mayor's job to come up with creative solutions and not just take the view 'we can't do this, we can't do that.'•"
The two fielded several questions on education, with Mr. Wilkowski highlighting his proposals to create a reading program for children too young to enter school and establishing a privately funded "Toledo Promise" to supplement scholarships offered by UT.
Mr. Bell said he would create partnerships, and cited the one between the Boys & Girls Clubs of Toledo and Sherman Elementary School.
Asked to name the four qualities of an ideal school, Mr. Bell said an education plan that is "benchmarked" with other school systems nationwide, people getting along inside the school, energy and activities that make children want to go there, and fun.
Mr. Wilkowski answered by listing high standards for teachers, high standards for students, parental involvement, and a safe surrounding neighborhood.
Asked how they would make up for a loss of lawyers in the city prosecutor's office and the law department, Mr. Bell suggested that rebuilding those offices would happen when the economy recovers and if efficiencies can be found within the existing budget.
Mr. Wilkowski said he would consolidate service delivery with outside organizations, such as offering the bar association "opportunities" for pro bono work and seeking agreements with communities such as Maumee, Sylvania, and Whitehouse.
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