Mayoral candidates meet in first forum

Spirited disputes emerge on economic development and public safety

9/16/2013
BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Mayoral candidates Mayor Mike Bell and D. Michael Collins debate during the annual Architects Institute of America dinner at the Toledo Club.
Mayoral candidates Mayor Mike Bell and D. Michael Collins debate during the annual Architects Institute of America dinner at the Toledo Club.

Toledo's mayoral candidates met in their first forum of the general election contest late today, disputing spiritedly over economic development and public safety.

The event was the American Institute of Architects Toledo's annual "legislative dinner" held in the Toledo Club.

Mayor Mike Bell and Councilman D. Michael Collins, both political independents, emerged last week in a low-turnout election as the top two vote-getters. Mr. Bell got 6,340 votes, or 26.7 percent, and Mr. Collins received 5,806 votes, or 24.4 percent. They eclipsed six other candidates, including the two Democrats in the race, Councilman Joe McNamara and Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez.

Mr. Collins came out aggressively, saying Mr. Bell didn't do enough to ensure local professionals, including architects, would be involved in the Marina District project. He said the developers, Chinese-based partnership Dashing Pacific Group, were talking to a design firm in Vancouver.

"In our government we cannot continue to pay lip service to the value that you bring and the quality you bring to the city of Toledo," Mr. Collins said to the assembled architects.

Mr. Bell replied that the city can prefer local contractors and professionals, but can't tell a private company who to hire.

"If Dashing Pacific had not purchased that land, it would still be sitting there, wind blowing through it, and we would not be collecting the taxes that are helping our county," he said.

The two clashed repeatedly, including on the question of whether Toledo police officers engage in racial profiling. Mr. Collins, who won the endorsement of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, said at a forum sponsored by the Toledo chapter of the NAACP earlier in the campaign that he did not believe there was racial profiling.

Toledo city council candidate Jim Nowak, right, is the first candidate to speak after the mayoral candidates during the annual Architects Institute of America dinner at the Toledo Club in Toledo, Ohio.
Toledo city council candidate Jim Nowak, right, is the first candidate to speak after the mayoral candidates during the annual Architects Institute of America dinner at the Toledo Club in Toledo, Ohio.

He said that was based on a report from the city police department, and quickly turned the question back at Mr. Bell, asking if the report was a lie.

"We do have people that racial profile," Mr. Bell said, adding it's not something they're trained to do, but, "they're human, they do things.

"Is it running rampant? Probably not, but it does occur," Mr. Bell said.

Mr. Bell and Mr. Collins disagreed on whether to reopen the northwest district police station. Mr. Collins said he would simply reassign police units, including the rape unit, the domestic violence unit, and traffic to that office.

The mayor said the building can't be reopened without a cost to taxpayers, and said that police Chief Derrick Diggs has not asked to reopen the building and has succeeded in reducing the crime rate.

There were about 50 people at the dinner, which is a traditional kick-off to the city's general election season. Also speaking to the group were several candidates for city council, Toledo school board, and Sylvania Township board of trustees.

Contact Tom Troy: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419--724-6058 or an Twitter @TomFTroy.