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The contest for Toledo City Council District 4 heated up Tuesday with statements by Republican Alfonso Narvaez blasting the level of crime and the recent vote of incumbent Councilman Paula Hicks-Hudson for a water rate increase.
Mr. Narvaez accused Ms. Hicks-Hudson, who holds the seat by council appointment, of voting in favor of four years of increases in the city's water and sewer rates without holding meetings to gauge reaction in her district.
Ms. Hicks-Hudson, Mr. Narvaez, and unendorsed Democrat Terry Shankland are vying in the May 3 election to serve as the District 4 councilman for the rest of 2011.
Early voting is already taking place at the Lucas County Board of Elections' Early Vote Center at 13th and Washington streets.
Ms. Hicks-Hudson, a lawyer, was elected by city council Jan. 11 to replace former Councilman Michael Ashford, a Democrat elected in November to the state House of Representatives. The seat will come up again in the fall primary and general elections along with Toledo's other five council district seats.
"Raising taxes up to 9 percent is not right, especially in areas where people can barely pay the bills," Mr. Narvaez said in his news conference at Jamie Farr Park in North Toledo.
Mr. Narvaez, a student at Loudes College, said he did not support the tax increase. Asked how he would have handled the need to maintain and repair the aging water system, he said he would have applied for federal grants.
Ms. Hicks-Hudson rejected Mr. Narvaez's claim that she hadn't sought reaction in the district. She said the increase council approved was a reduction from the amount originally sought by Mayor Mike Bell and was needed to make necessary repairs. Council voted in February to raise water rates 9 percent annually for four years.
"I didn't have a formal meeting, but I did talk to citizens and seniors in particular about the whole water issue," Ms. Hicks said. "It's more than just talking to the citizens, but also looking to the potential problems if we did not have the water system fixed, so it was not a vote taken in isolation about what citizens did or did not want."
She noted that District 4 has some of the oldest water lines and sewer pipes in Toledo. "I'm concerned that if we did not do something now there was the potential of health hazards with water being contaminated and having to shut off different parts of the system to repair it," Ms. Hicks-Hudson said.
Mr. Shankland, a caterer, said the water rate increase is not his main concern. As issues, he cited the Bell administration's crackdown on unlicensed parking lots and the withdrawal of a purchase offer on the Marina District by some Chinese investors in reaction to an effort by construction trades unions to require union contractors.
"We're driving any business out of town just as far and fast as we can," Mr. Shankland said.
Mr. Narvaez also blasted what he said is an unacceptable level of crime, especially gang activity.
"In the past year, there have been many acts of violence in this district. And as of now, not enough has been done to bring the perpetrators of these acts to justice. More has to be done in this district to stop the violence," Mr. Narvaez said. He said his neighborhood, surrounding Riverside School, has become more violent. He called for community-oriented policing -- even if that means seeking private funding -- and an anti-gang initiative in the schools.
Ms. Hicks-Hudson called the level of crime in the district "intolerable." She said she is sponsoring a community meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center to discuss crime and other neighborhood issues. She also said she met with Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre about getting more police protection for her district.
Mr. Shankland said Toledo police should enforce the curfews more aggressively. "We've got kids out at 2 a.m., walking down the middle of the street screaming and yelling and we're not doing anything about it," Mr. Shankland said.
District 4, one of six in the city, encompasses North Toledo, the Old West End, the Lagrange Village area, part of the central city, and downtown.
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