Toledoan Iris Smith, left, talks with Toledo mayoral candidate Anita Lopez during a Block Watch event at Ottawa Park.
The Blade/Lori King
Toledo's mayoral candidates hit the political pavement today, starting with a Toledo Block Watch picnic at Ottawa Park and aiming to end the day campaigning at the Birmingham Ethnic Festival.
The city is now less than four weeks away from the Sept. 10 primary election in which voters will narrow down a field of eight candidates to two people who will face off on Nov. 5.
Independent City Councilman D. Michael Collins proposed a new mission for the Block Watch Program: cleaning up blighted neighborhoods. He pitched the idea to a group of Block Watch volunteers before they started passing out hot dogs and chips.
He said the new concept for Block Watch might be that "blight will not be tolerated." He said the initiative should be called Tidy Toledo.
Mayoral candidates Democratic Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez, Democratic City Councilman Joe McNamara, and Independent Mayor Mike Bell also addressed the crowd. All three planned further campaigning in the day, including knocking on doors, waving signs along busy city streets, or speaking at organized functions.
Ms. Lopez invited Block Watch volunteers forward to take a round of applause, but said the Block Watch picnic was not the high-turnout event it has been in the past.
She blamed the Bell administration and city council.
Ms. Lopez told the crowd she would appoint a permanent Block Watch coordinator between the city and Block Watch, in contrast to the temporary full-time liaison now employed by the Bell administration.
"The citizens feel the mayor and city council are out of touch and they're going to demonstrate with their votes," she said.
Mr. McNamara said he's starting to see an uptick in voter interest, and said, "I've talked to a lot of voters who want to see change in the mayor's office."
"Obviously blight is an issue in our city and that's why I'm supporting the blight authority," Mr. McNamara said. He referred to a campaign proposal aired last week by city council candidate Jack Ford.
Mayor Bell, who is seeking a second term, had six events on his campaign schedule for the day.
He responded to Ms. Lopez's commitment to appointing a permanent Block Watch liaison by saying there "are a lot of things that maybe we should be doing - more parks, more police, but you have to have the budget to pay for it."
Mr. Bell said voters are paying more attention to the issues in the mayor's race.
He said he couldn't predict what the turnout will be. "But I think people need to vote," Mr. Bell said.