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Published: Wednesday, 10/5/2011

City Council candidates debate local hiring rule

BLADE STAFF

Tyrone Riley, a candidate for Toledo City Council, yesterday said Mayor Mike Bell should reconvene a 1995 taskforce on tax incentives rather than push ahead with an amendment to abolish a requirement of local hiring in exchange for incentives.

Mr. Riley, a lawyer, said the mayor's proposal should get the same kind of scrutiny the proposed policy got when it was set up in 1995. But his opponent, Aji Green, said that committee already exists, with the job of enforcing tax-abatement agreements.

The mayor yesterday asked City Council to refer the proposed policy back for more work.

Both candidates are Democrats running for the District 1 Council seat held by Democrat Wilma Brown, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election. The election is Nov. 8.

Mr. Riley said the 1995 taskforce represented the administration, council, schools, business, county government, and community groups. "A lot of thought, effort, and community dialogue went into creating the original policy. It is only fair to request that a similar type of conversation take place before any action is taken to amend the ordinance," he said.

However, he said he's against doing away with the policy as drafted by the mayor. "It's only reasonable to expect employers who take tax incentives to hire locally," Mr. Riley said.

A former Jeep worker and now a law clerk, Mr. Green said he agrees with Mr. Riley but "my opponent is wrong because that committee is in place and they have made many recommendations."

He said he supports the local-hiring criteria.

"Shame on the Bell administration for trying to do away with it," Mr. Green said. He said the proposed policy implies Toledo doesn't have enough workers with the right kind of training and education to meet the needs of new employers.

District 5 Councilman Tom Waniewski said the city has a Tax Incentive Review Committee, and it was coordinated by the Lucas County Auditor's Office, which should be able to review the recommendations.

Cynthia Savage, a spokesman for Auditor Anita Lopez, said the tax incentive review committee for the city of Toledo last met in the fall of 2010 and is to meet again this month.

Deputy Mayor Tom Crothers said there will likely be a committee set up to rework the proposal. He said it was withdrawn to consider some amendments suggested by Councilman Joe McNamara. Mr. McNamara said he agrees with setting up a task force like the 1995 group.

Under Toledo's current law, firms that set up or expand operations inside the city must hire at least a quarter of their new employees from Lucas County to qualify for property tax breaks. The law specifies that new hires must have either lived in Toledo for a year or more, or be Lucas County residents who are unemployed, on government assistance, or disabled.

— Tom Troy



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