Lopez reveals economic development plan for city

Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez, a candidate for mayor of Toledo, announces her economic development plan during a news conference in the Marina District.
Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez, a candidate for mayor of Toledo, announces her economic development plan during a news conference in the Marina District.

Lucas County Auditor and mayoral candidate Anita Lopez today said, if elected, she will streamline city services for businesses by hiring up to 10 new employees to act as liaisons within different neighborhoods, create a business hotline, give local companies preference, and make sure investors are held accountable.

Ms. Lopez released her two-page economic development plan during a news conference today on Riverside Drive in the Marina District in East Toledo – which she said cost taxpayers $43 million for cleanup and infrastructure with “almost nothing in return.”

“The current economic development plan is not working for the city of Toledo and Toledoans,” she said.

“My plan is about creating an environment [in which] businesses are able to create jobs,” Ms. Lopez said. “Government does not create jobs.”

Ms. Lopez said she will concentrate on the city's existing businesses.

“Instead of chasing the big fish all over, we must stop ignoring the businesses that have built this city and continue to be loyal to this city,” she said.

Ms. Lopez was critical of Mayor Mike Bell's decision to sell 69 acres of land at the Marina District to Chinese investors without holding them to strict development “benchmarks.”

“Any time we spend a dollar and any time we plan to support any type of entity you will see a strict accountable, viable, transparent plan,” she said.

Dashing Pacific Group Ltd., a group of Chinese investors, in 2011 paid the city $3.8 million for the vacant Marina District property and $2.15 million for the Docks restaurant complex — both in East Toledo.

Mayor Bell negotiated the deals and Toledo City Council approved the sales.

More than 12 years of planning, promises, and $43 million of public money went into the east side property before Mr. Bell was even a candidate for mayor four years ago.

Several development plans were announced and crumbled during the previous Ford and Finkbeiner administrations.

The Dashing Pacific investors did not ask for any public support or tax abatements, where they had been included in all of the previous plans.

During Mayor Bell's tenure, the administration negotiated with the the Great Lakes Historical Society to move its museum and research library from Vermilion, Ohio, to the Skyway Marina and marine passenger terminal, and the Great Lakes freighter Col. James M. Schoonmaker was moved to the Marina District shoreline.

Also, the decommissioned Toledo Edison Acme power plant just to the north of the 69 acres that Dashing Pacific owns was razed under Mr. Bell's watch - with the exception of three smokestacks he wants to preserve.

Mr. Bell could not immediately be reached for comment.

Also in the race for mayor this year is Councilmen Joe McNamara and D. Michael Collins.

Mr. Collins said Ms. Lopez's plan would create more bureaucracy.

“Based upon what I have been told of her plan I can merely say this is the antithesis of stream lining,” Mr. Collins said. “It's creating new layers of bureaucracy. Repetition and duplication is unacceptable.”

Ms. Lopez said during her first 100 days in office she would: revise the procurement policy for the city; establish a business hotline, appoint a business advisory committee, activate a one-stop Internet portal for businesses; hire the business liaisons, and design a training program for “outward-facing staff focusing on improving business services.”

Mr. McNamara in May crafted legislation to change the city's local preference ordinance with regard to project bids. He said the city now gives a greater allowance to local companies during the bidding process.