Toledo’s two mayoral candidates tangled in one of the most heated confrontations of the campaign so far today, with incumbent Mike Bell and challenger D. Micheal Collins accusing the other of trying to mislead voters.
The forum took place inside a church which serves as the South Toledo Community Center and was organized by the Broadway Corridor Coalition, with about 70 people in attendance.
Councilman Collins actually did apparently mislead his audience when he charged that Toledo had 4,100 fewer jobs today than when Mayor Bell took office.
A spokesman for Mayor Bell said later that Mr. Collins was quoting figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for the Toledo metropolitan statistical area, which consists of Lucas, Wood, Fulton, and Ottawa counties.
“I should have said metro Toledo,” Mr. Collins acknowledged later. The report from the BLS refers to the area as Toledo. That report showed Toledo-metro employment falling from 290,701 jobs for 2009 to 285,401 jobs in January, 2013.
A stock portion of Mr. Bell’s campaign speech is to say that Toledo gained some 6,000 jobs while he was mayor, or 114,800 in 2010 to more than 120,000 in 2013.
Mr. Collins, his voice taking on some emotion, told the South End crowd that Toledo is not a safer city and that Mr. Bell gave his own staff raises of 9.9 percent “on the backs of the working men and women.”
The District 2 city councilman, a retired police officer of 27 years, said the mayor took away the pension “pickups” of city rank-and-file workers while allowing his administration to keep theirs, referring to the practice of having the city pay for the employees’ share of their pension contributions, often negotiated in lieu of raises.
“I did not insult the working men and women by being the poster child for Senate Bill 5/Issue 2, and I did not say, ‘Let's make this state a right to work state,’ ” Mr. Collins said.
That got a rise out of Mr. Bell, who said that during Mr. Collins’s watch on council, 75 police officers were laid off and that if Mr. Collins’ policies had been followed when the city faced a $48 million deficit, 271 city workers would have been laid off.
“He twists it, he knows he's twisting, that's what he's been doing the whole time we've been doing this. He knows you don't know any better,” Mr. Bell said, citing The Blade’s report Sunday verifying that the city faced a potential deficit of $48 million in 2010. “He knows the numbers are good.”
Much of the mayoral match-up was spent focusing on whether Toledo’s Broadway area had declined under Mayor Bell and whether he had done enough to revitalize it. Mr. Bell pointed to the repaving of South Avenue and stepped up demolition of houses as among the improvements he said were made possible by bringing the city budget under control.
One resident, 52-year-old Danny Love, told the mayor he never saw him in the neighborhood.
“I never see anybody walking around in the 'hood like they use to. Jack Ford used to do that. Carty used to do that,” Mr. Love said.
Mr. Bell insisted he has been in the neighborhood and that Mr. Love and he had missed each other.
Mr. Collins, who lived in the neighborhood as a child, said, “I’m one of you, I can walk with you,” and vowed to never refer to that part of South Toledo as "the Lower South End."