Ex-Mayor Ford wants open seat on Toledo City Council

Former Toledo mayor Jack Ford is lobbying for the Toledo City Council seat vacated by Phil Copeland, who won the race for county recorder in Tuesday's election.
Former Toledo mayor Jack Ford is lobbying for the Toledo City Council seat vacated by Phil Copeland, who won the race for county recorder in Tuesday's election.

Longtime public official Jack Ford — a former state legislator, Toledo mayor, and school board member — confirmed on Friday he is lobbying for an appointment to Toledo City Council.

“There are some things in my background that would be a value to council, particularly the mess that the housing stock is in, especially in the central city,” Mr. Ford said.

Democratic Councilman Phil Copeland defeated Republican Councilman George Sarantou on Tuesday in the race for Lucas County recorder. Both are at-large Toledo city councilmen barred by term limits from running for council in 2013. Mr. Copeland, 67, of South Toledo will take the recorder’s office in January from Democrat Jeanine Perry, who did not seek re-election.

His departure from council also has caught the attention of Toledo Board of Education President Lisa Sobecki and Shaun Enright, 33, who ran unsuccessfully last year for Council’s District 3 seat.

Both said they also are interested in Mr. Copeland’s seat.

Ms. Sobecki’s current term on the school board expires in three years.

“I can bring some of the same initiatives to the city that I brought to the school board,” she said.

Ms. Sobecki, 45, said repairing the city’s aging infrastructure should be a priority.

Mr. Enright, 33, a Democrat, received 45 percent of the vote to 55 percent for incumbent Mike Craig, also a Democrat. The Democratic Party didn’t take sides in that race last year.

“We are considering it,” he said. “We ran before and we thought we did pretty good against an incumbent. We haven’t committed 100 percent.”

Council President Joe McNamara has declined several times to talk about who might be appointed to the vacant seat and if he has been lobbied by anyone.

Mr. McNamara has proposed a change to council’s rules regarding the appointment of new members. He’s suggested, where there are more than two applicants, and none receives majority support from sitting councilmen after the first vote, only the top two vote-getters would then proceed to a next round for another vote.

The mayor would break any ties, which is the case now.

Councilman Tyrone Riley is one of the six or seven councilmen Mr. Ford has spoken to about the seat.

“One concern I have heard is his health and there may be other candidates out there who might be interested,” Mr. Riley said.

Mr. Ford, 65, formerly a social worker, has for decades been an integral part of Toledo and Ohio politics. He is arguably best-known in Toledo for his single term as the city’s first black mayor, from 2002 to 2006.

After five years on the Toledo Board of Education, the former Toledo mayor and state legislator said health concerns, which included nearly dying from diabetic complications last year, persuaded him to take a break, and he didn’t seek another school board term.

Councilman Tom Waniewski, a Republican, said he would not support Mr. Ford’s appointment.

“I would like someone who can bring a little bit of a business or fiscal sense to things,” Mr. Waniewski said. “This is an opportunity to get a small businessman in there and I don’t care what party or no party. I’d like to get a fresh perspective... Why would we go back to something or someone who hasn’t worked, who got us to the edge of fiscal Armageddon, because of the tenure of past politicians.”

Councilman D. Michael Collins, council’s only independent member, said he also had spoken to Mr. Ford.

“I feel he brings in an instructional foundation that none of the other aspirants have, however I am highly suspicious that the motivation here could very well be to set the foundation for a fourth term for Carty Finkbeiner.”

Mr. Ford and Mr. Finkbeiner were allies earlier this year, both advocating that the Economic Opportunity Planning Association of Greater Toledo be allowed to continue running Head Start. Both also have been critical of Mayor Mike Bell on several fronts.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.