Toledo City Council President Joe McNamara smiles and his supporters applaud as he announces his decision to run for mayor of Toledo during a news conference in front of the Toledo fire department's closed Station 3.
The Blade/Andy Morrison
City Council President Joe McNamara said job creation is the main task of the next mayor, and he said the incumbent mayor has fallen down at it, as he formally kicked off his 2013 run for mayor of Toledo today.
Mr. McNamara, 35, a Democrat, stood in front of a historic firehouse in Toledo's North End to announce his candidacy.
"Our mayor is responsible for making the most of the economic development opportunities that present themselves, and in this respect Mayor Bell has failed. I want to shift the focus of the city of Toledo's economic development, [to] focusing on jobs," Mr. McNamara said.
He said if people are earning paychecks, revenue will flow back into the city.
"We've seen a lot of turnover in the Department of Economic Development, we've seen the ball dropped many times," Mr. McNamara said, promising to roll out examples as the campaign moves forward. "We need to hire a professional staff in economic development that has a background, that is focused on creating jobs."
Mayor Bell, a political independent, declared his candidacy two weeks ago. Also running for mayor are Alan Cox, a city neighborhood development specialist and president of one of the city unions, and Opal Covey, a church minister.
Mr. McNamara, who lives in West Toledo, chose the location to emphasize his commitment to Toledo's neighborhoods. He said he fought to retain Fire Station 3 on Bush Street, an example of the historic nature of the Vistula neighborhood.
The administration closed the building because of a buckle in the station floor in September and agreed in November to look into renovating the 86-year-old structure, in response to neighborhood pressure.
"Neighborhood police and fire stations like this not only promote public safety but serve as neighborhood stabilizing anchors," Mr. McNamara said.
Among those who cheered on the announcement speech was Sy Kreais, head of the neighborhood Block Watch. Mr. Kreais blasted the present administration as unresponsive.
"It's great to have someone that's concerned with the neighborhood and not sitting behind a desk and dictating," Mr. Kreais said.
Also on hand in the crowd of about a dozen family, political, and neighborhood supporters was Mr. McNamara's wife, Valerie Moffitt, who is assistant director of the United North community development corporation, which serves the Vistula neighborhood.
Mr. McNamara said "the jury is still out" on the Marina District, the East Toledo riverfront parcel that Mr. Bell sold, with council approval, in 2011 to Chinese investors for $3.8 million with plans for eventual construction of a commercial and residential project, though no work has begun. Mr. Bell has defended the move as raising money for the cash-strapped city, and returning a tax-exempt property to paying property taxes.
"Selling city assets to foreign investors is not the same thing as getting investment," Mr. McNamara said. "We hope they do something with it, but what jobs have been created?"
He said poverty is growing in Toledo and said economic development is the weapon to reverse that trend.
Mr. McNamara blasted the level of safety in the city and the growth of poverty.
Mr. McNamara will give up the opportunity to run for another four-year term as an at-large councilman to run for mayor. He said he is motivated by his family tradition of public service and by passion and concern for the city to run even though he has been advised by some of his political associates to run again for council, which he called, "a dream job," or wait and run for another office.
"To borrow from Dr. [Martin Luther] King, I am moved by the fierce urgency of now," Mr. McNamara said.
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." He said he has put meetings and documents online, co-sponsored and passed a balanced budget amendment, and reduced the cost of public records requests.
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.
Mr. McNamara received his bachelor’s degree 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.
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