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Demagall joins city council race

Ex-board of elections official sets sights on Collins' District 2

demagall-08-23-2011

Jeremy Demagall points to the deserted site of the former Southwyck Mall during a news conference. He says his opponent, incumbent D. Michael Collins, has failed to find a buyer for the site in his district.

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The former deputy director of the Lucas County Board of Elections launched his campaign for Toledo City Council Monday by accusing incumbent D. Michael Collins of showboating over an anti-panhandling ordinance while the site of a demolished shopping center in his district remains undeveloped.

District 2 candidate Jeremy Demagall, 38, who was fired in March at the orders of the Ohio secretary of state, staged a news conference at the site of the former Southwyck Shopping Center that was razed in 2008.

"There are already laws on the books that can be used to deal with people who loiter, harass, or assault Toledoans. There is no need for pointless laws to be written just to gain a few headlines," he said.

"It is well known that Mr. Collins has sat on the sidelines and done nothing of note to bring a major developer to Toledo for this project, a rebirth of Southwyck," which is in Mr. Collins' district, Mr. Demagall said. He said if he is elected, he would not seek re-election in four years if he has failed to find a developer.

The anti-panhandling ordinance, up for a possible vote Tuesday by council, would allow police to issue citations or even jail people who antagonize passers-by for cash or who misrepresent themselves to get money.

The city has had a three-year suspension of its panhandling law since early 2008 out of concern it was too vague and could be construed as infringing on people's constitutional rights.

Mr. Collins, a political independent seeking his second term representing the South Toledo district, said the proposed ordinance was drafted by the Bell administration based on a court ruling to make sure it is constitutional. He said similar ordinances are in effect in Akron, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Dayton.

He said he handled the legislation as chairman of council's public safety, law, and criminal justice committee. "This law is part of my responsibilities in terms of ordinances that reflect the city as a whole," Mr. Collins said.

He said he is in frequent contact with a representative of the out-of-state owners of Southwyck, but the city has no power to sell the property or develop it.

"I appreciate my opponent's concerns about that issue, but if he reflects upon my record he will see I have consistently maintained that there is no issue facing the city of Toledo today that is more important than Southwyck," Mr. Collins said. He said he is in discussions with a potential investor.

Mr. Demagall is a Republican but said he is not seeking the party's backing. His campaign committee chairman is Republican at-large City Councilman Rob Ludeman, who objected at the time to Mr. Demagall's firing by the elections board. Also running for the seat is Republican Steven Jasinski. The three will face off in a primary election Sept. 13, and the top two vote-getters will move on to the general election in November.

Mr. Jasinski Monday issued a statement regarding his candidacy as well as Mr. Demagall's entry into the race.

"We are in an unprecedented recession. Although we have made great progress with Jeep, the top priority of the citizens is better response time for the police answering calls, enough firemen, and to fix the atrocious condition of the streets. I am walking door to door listening to voters concerns, and obviously Mr. Demagall doesn't understand their basic needs," the statement read. "We shouldn't be focusing on economic development when we have other basic problems like streets that haven't been fixed."

Mr. Demagall and former Director Linda Howe, a Democrat, were removed at the order of Secretary of State Jon Husted in March for counting 114 provisional votes that had been cast in the wrong precincts in the November, 2010, election. In ordering their firings, Mr. Husted, a Republican, said the two counted the disputed provisional ballots contrary to the "explicit guidance" of the secretary of state's office.

Mr. Demagall said he and Ms. Howe oversaw a period in which the elections board saved money while running "timely" elections. He said he is still unemployed.

Contract Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.

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