Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Candidates for council, audience show divide

Ten candidates for Toledo City Council mixed it up during a candidates’ debate Thursday on issues including right-to-work, housing blight, and the best strategies for attracting and retaining businesses.

But it was some of the candidates’ points of view and audience members’ questions that prompted the testiest responses and heated exchanges.

Candidate Ron Johns, 21, received the first jeers of the night from some audience members and other candidates when he criticized council’s decision in July to “waste taxpayers’ money” by allocating $50,000 between two organizations that serve the African-American community: $20,000 to the African American Legacy Project and $30,000 to the University of Toledo’s Urban Affairs Center.

“The mayor and the 11 city council members obviously saw these charities as doing a large amount of good. However, they gave money that was not theirs to give,” Mr. Johns said as he tried to pass out a news release. Several candidates and audience members declined to accept the news release from him.

The document stated: “If a vote is not held to cancel the donations before the money is transferred, the Mayor and 11 City Council members who voted in favor of the donations shall be required to pay one-twelfth of the final total of donations granted in reparations to the city of Toledo, or $4,167 per individual.”

Incumbents Adam Martinez and Rob Ludeman noted the reason voters elect council members is to decide the best use of taxpayer money. The city provides funding for various organizations that provide valuable services to the community, Mr. Martinez said.

Seventeen candidates are running for six at-large seats. Also participating at the debate were Joe Celusta, Jack Ford, Jim Nowak, Bill Delaney, Larry Sykes, Sandy Spang, and Theresa Gabriel.

One audience member’s question: “Is Toledo becoming a little Detroit?” also prompted some testy exchanges among candidates.

Candidate Theresa Gabriel said she did not think Toledo is a “little Detroit,” although she said the city needs to improve its schools and housing stock.

Then she addressed Mr. Ludeman, who was seated next to her and works as a Realtor. “I’m sorry, Mr. Realtor, but when you start directing people to the suburbs instead of Toledo — that’s why we have so many vacant homes.”

Mr. Ludeman denied the accusation. “I know of no Realtor who would steer people out of the city.” “It’s illegal and unethical.”

All candidates — except Mr. Johns — agreed the city has challenges, but said it’s in much better shape economically than Detroit.

The candidates were divided about making Ohio a right-to-work state. Right-to-work laws restrict unions’ ability to collect fees from nonmembers.

Mr. Celesta, Mr. Delaney, and Mr. Johns all supported the measure for Ohio.

Mr. Ford, Mr. Martinez, Mr. Nowak, Ms. Gabriel, Mr. Ludeman, Ms. Sprang, and Mr. Sykes were opposed. “This country was built on unions,” Mr. Sykes said. “We were just reminded of that this week on the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s March on Washington. Need I say more?”

Candidates who did not participate were Joshua Fowler, Ernest McCarthy, James Martin, Sean Nestor, Alfonso Narvaez, and incumbents Steven Steel and Shaun Enright.

The debate was hosted by the Northwest Ohio Conservatives Coalition.

Contact Federico Martinez at: or 419-724-6154.

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