Thursday, Apr 19, 2018
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Council president challenges Mayor Bell

McNamara ready to start race today

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Joe McNamara, president of Toledo City Council, is expected to declare his candidacy for mayor today.

Mr. McNamara, 35, a lawyer, of 4619 Cranbrook Dr. in West Toledo, has scheduled a 10 a.m. news conference in front of Fire Station 3 in North Toledo to jump into the race.

Already in the race is Mayor Mike Bell, a political independent, who two weeks ago announced his intent to seek a second four-year term.

In his prepared remarks for today’s announcement, Mr. McNamara blasted the level of safety in the city, the growth of poverty, and what he said is a failing economic development strategy by the current mayor.

“Toledo deserves better. Toledo deserves safe, clean neighborhoods. Toledo deserves a strong public-school system. Toledo deserves more jobs and economic opportunities where anyone who is willing to work hard can raise a family and provide a better future for their children. But to have that future, we have to invest in ourselves now. The American Dream is not yet dead in Toledo, but we have to get this next election right,” Mr. McNamara says in the remarks provided to The Blade.

“We have to change the direction of Toledo, and the best way to do that is to change the mayor of Toledo,” Mr. McNamara said.

He said more than 30 percent of Toledoans live below the poverty line today, compared with 17.9 percent in 1999, and that the decline in the city’s income level affects home-ownership rates, neighborhood stability, and the tax base that supports schools and essential city services.

On economic development, Mr. McNamara said Mayor Bell “has failed,” suggesting that he has been “shooting from the hip,” and that the mayor has blamed organized labor for Toledo’s economic woes.

Mayor Bell’s high-profile support of Issue 2 in 2011, a referendum that would have undermined collective-bargaining rights of public employees if it had passed, has cost him the support of unions and made defeating him a priority of the Ohio Democratic Party.

A report by The Blade on Feb. 1 found that poverty increased by 57.7 percent in Ohio between 1999 and 2011, compared with a slightly lower rate of 53.3 percent for Toledo alone.

In response to that report, Bell spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei said, “That’s indicative of the major recession that had a hold on the entire country.”

Mr. McNamara cites the record of public service in his family, including that of his late father, Dan McNamara, who was a city councilman and county auditor, and his mother, Jill Kelly, a former assistant county prosecutor and former director of the Lucas County Board of Elections.

Dan McNamara, who was a Republican, died in a traffic accident when Mr. McNamara was 6 years old.

“Giving back to the community is a way of life in my family, and we treat it as a calling,” Mr. McNamara said.

“For me to make the biggest difference in the lives of the people of this city that I love so deeply, I have to lay everything on the line and run for mayor. Unlike our current mayor four years ago, I enter this race well-prepared to take over and change the direction of our city from Day One. I have twice been elected by my peers on city council to serve as their president,” he said in his prepared statement.

Mr. McNamara will give up the opportunity to run for another four-year term as an at-large councilman if he files as a candidate for mayor.

He said that council passed two budgets unanimously under his leadership, in 2012 and this year, which he attributed to “the power of good leadership, clear vision, open communication, and honesty and transparency in government.”

Mr. McNamara could face a rival for Democratic support in Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez.

Ms. Lopez has been considering making a run for mayor, but she has not officially declared for the race.

She has financial backing from the Northwestern Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council.

Mr. McNamara last month clashed with that group of unions when he refused to support the appointment of electricians’ union organizer Shaun Enright to a vacant seat on council.

Mr. McNamara said he opposed closing Fire Station 3, which shut down for repairs because of cracks in the floor of the fire-engine bay, and he said he would fight to reopen the Northwest District Police Station on Sylvania Avenue and to hire more police officers.

The 2013 budget passed in January includes $100,000 for the Sylvania Avenue station, even though Mayor Bell has said he would not reopen the building and staff it with police officers.

The Bell administration has committed $1.7 million to renovate Fire Station 3.

Mr. McNamara received his bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Michigan and his law degree from New York University. He was first elected to Toledo council in a special election in 2006 and was re-elected in 2009. In 2010, he ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for the state Senate, losing to then-State Rep. Edna Brown (D., Toledo).

Contact Tom Troy at:,

or 419-724-6058.

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