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Published: Tuesday, 10/8/2013

Collins puts Bell on the defensive at mayoral debate

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Mayor Mike Bell and his challenger, Councilman D. Mike Collins, sparred in front of a crowd of about 90 people inside the Walbridge Park Shelter House late today.

Mr. Collins, the district councilman representing South Toledo, came out swinging at the mayor, calling his administration “dysfunctional” and uncaring, and kept up a barrage of attacks that left an unsmiling mayor on the defensive.

The event was at least the fourth face-to-face confrontation since the two were nominated in the city primary Sept. 10. Both are political independents. The election is Nov. 5.

Mr. Collins caught Mr. Bell in what he said was an untruth - the mayor’s apparent claim Monday night to have met in his office with Chrysler officials and officials of the United Auto Workers to work out the government incentives to allow Chrysler to expand its Toledo plant.

Mr. Collins said he checked with three high-ranking UAW officials and all told him they had not met with the mayor.

“You said you had meetings with them. If you had meetings with them then they are frail of memory or your statement of last night was less than honest,” Mr. Collins said.

Mr. Bell said only that he met with Chrysler management, and chastised Mr. Collins that, “I know Mike that you think the union runs the company.”

“What I said to you last night was that we worked with Chrysler to be able to do this,” Mr. Bell said.

In the exchange Monday night on WNWO-TV, Channel 24, Mr. Collins asked Mr. Bell, “when did you ever meet with the UAW and Chrysler?”

“We had meetings in my office right in 2010 when they were going through the transition of trying to recreate some things with their plant,” Mr. Bell responded in the Monday debate, adding that he would have to consult his appointment book for details.

The mayor said after the forum that Mr. Collins had accused him of having had no role in Chrysler’s expansion, which added 1,100 jobs.

“I met with the representatives of Chrysler,” said Mr. Bell, who said that resulted in $16 million in incentives.

Mr. Collins criticized the mayor’s handling of homeless shelters, saying they are being told to put people on cots and sleeping bags on the floors. He said the mayor misled council into thinking its input was taken into consideration, but then council stepped up and moved money into funding homeless shelters.

“This administration is totally dysfunctional,” Mr. Collins said, giving a lengthy explanation of how the homelessness issue was handled by council. “We are going to become what we used to be and that’s a caring community,” Mr. Collins said.

Mr. Bell said the administration is strictly following the federal government’s regulations on funding the homeless shelters, saying some of the functions the shelters want to do cannot be covered by federal funds.

“We are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing. I am concerned about the homeless. If there’s something else more we want to do, then the mayor and council can get together at any time and allocate extra money to this program,” Mr. Bell said.

The Q&A was moderated by two members of the Walbridge Park Board, John Irish, who is an activist in the Lucas County Democratic Party, and William Jennings, who is active in the Lucas County Republican Party.

In his opening question, Mr. Irish accused Mr. Bell of spending almost no money on Walbridge Park while expending $6 million on Promenade Park, which “is used by virtually no one.”

The mayor disagreed, pointing to the reconstruction of the park service road and the replacement of the roof on the park picnic pavilion, and said upgrading the downtown park is important to attract economic development.

“You can look out the window and see the tiles on the shelter as clear as day. The city is performing work in this park,” Mr. Bell said.

Mr. Collins lavished praise on the park board, saying the road had to be repaved or the city would have faced litigation. “This building that you complimented is cared for by the park board. They develop money under their own fund-raising,” he said.

The park audience also heard comments from candidates running for Toledo City Council.

Contact Tom Troy at tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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