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Published: Monday, 11/2/2009

As hours dwindle, Toledo mayoral candidates sprint

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Both candidates for mayor of Toledo visited central-city churches Sunday morning, in search of votes, divine intervention, or both.

For Keith Wilkowski, the endorsed Democrat, and Mike Bell, an independent, the months of campaigning end Tuesday when voters will have the final word.

Mr. Wilkowski, 53, a lawyer, and Mr. Bell, 54, the former state fire marshal, are vying to replace sitting Mayor Carty Finkbeiner.

Voters throughout northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan have city and village council, township trustee, and board of education races, as well as local levies, to decide.

Voters also will decide whether to authorize casino gambling in Toledo, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus.

Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. in Ohio and open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. in Michigan.

At Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church at Hoag and Dorr streets, Mr. Wilkowski was introduced to the congregation by the pastor, the Rev. Raymond Bishop, as "the next mayor of Toledo."

Mr. Bishop told his African-American congregation that

"black folk have been lied to more than any other people on the face of the earth," and said Mr. Wilkowski is a "person of integrity."

Mr. Wilkowski had his wife, Barbara, with him, and said that they worship at another church a couple miles away on the same street, Corpus Christi, near the University of Toledo. He alluded to President Obama, for whom he campaigned last year.

"We have a chance now to give our President a partner on the local level," Mr. Wilkowski said. He promised to lead an effort to "chart a course for the future that puts people to work."

He said he would promote "green-collar jobs" making homes and businesses more energy-efficient. "Anyone who says that's a pipe dream or it can't happen, those people are wrong," he said.

Also presented to the Mount Pilgrim congregation were city council candidates Steven Steel, Phil Copeland, Adam Martinez, and Polly Taylor-Gerken; Toledo municipal judge candidate Ian English, and Toledo school board candidate Aji Green, all endorsed Democrats.

At Ebenezer Baptist Church on Ashland Avenue, Mr. Bell met his parents, Norman and Ora Bell, and they were all recognized by the pastor, the Rev. J.L. Jordan Jr., toward the end of a spirited service.

Mr. Bell said his campaign for mayor "has actually been about helping people."

"For us, as a city moving together, we've got to stop being divisive, we've got to start caring for people, we've got to start doing what we've been taught in this church," he said.

"I am a servant. I have said this from the beginning, I am a public servant and I will continue to serve," he said.

Mr. Bell also went to Friendship Baptist on Nebraska Avenue and Southern Baptist on Indiana Avenue.

Both candidates said it's traditional for political candidates to be invited to African-American churches.

They wound up the day at rival get-out-the-vote rallies. Mr. Bell's supporters gathered at Ebenezer Baptist near downtown and Mr. Wilkowski was the keynote speaker at the traditional pre-election Democratic Chicken Paprikas Dinner at St. Stephen's school hall in East Toledo.

In other races, Toledo City Council candidate Kevin Milliken held a news event to vow to budget two police classes in 2010 and a new fire class.

"While other candidates only pay lip service to public safety as our city's top priority, I'll ensure we're putting our money where our mouth is," Mr. Milliken said.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner has said he would leave the next mayor and council a budget that allows for up to 33 new police officers in midyear and possibly the hiring of a new class of police recruits late in the year.

However, he also has warned about a potential $25 million deficit.

Among the ballot issues are Issue 4 in Lucas County, a 0.45-mill senior services levy for five years to replace an existing levy.

If approved, the levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $13.78 a year. It would fund services for persons with dementia, meals for the elderly and the homebound, medical transportation and home modifications, support for senior centers, and home-care services.

Issue 3 would allow Penn National Gaming of Wyomissing, Pa., to build a $250 million casino on East Miami Street in East Toledo at the Rossford border, as well as in Ohio's three largest cities.

Supporters say the initiative would create 34,000 temporary and permanent jobs, and provide $651 million in tax revenues. Opponents say the jobs promises are exaggerated, and that the casinos will undercut existing businesses and contribute to social ills.

Ohio voters also will decide whether to allow the establishment of a statewide livestock board and to allocate a fund for returning military veterans.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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