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Prominent Latino leader Baldemar Velasquez on Friday endorsed Toledo Councilman D. Michael Collins for mayor, countering City Councilman Adam Martinez’s endorsement last week of Mayor Mike Bell.
Mr. Velasquez, president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee labor union for migrant farmworkers, who lives in Sylvania Township but whose union’s international headquarters are on Broadway in South Toledo, alluded to the controversy that has swirled over whether Mr. Collins is racially insensitive, a notion fanned by his denial that Toledo Police officers engage in racial profiling.
“We should not judge anyone by rumors and behind-the-back accusations but instead by their actions and character,” said Mr. Velasquez, president of the Farm Laborers Organizing Committee. He said he came to admire Mr. Collins because of his success in 2010 at getting a resolution passed opposing state laws against illegal immigration.
The endorsement came four days before Toledo voters will finish voting for mayor of Toledo. Mr. Collins and Mr. Bell are both political independents.
Last week, Democratic at-large Councilman Martinez endorsed Mr. Bell and blasted Mr. Collins over his refusal to believe that Toledo Police are sometimes biased against minorities in making traffic stops and enforcing the law. He said that he believed Mr. Collins is “insensitive to racial issues.” The mayor has said that police officers do racially profile, but said the practice is not rampant and is typically not reported.
The whispering campaign that Mr. Collins, a retired police officer who is endorsed by the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association, is a racist has been one of the strongest undercurrents in the campaign. Mr. Collins has denied the charge vehemently.
TPPA President Dan Wagner last week retracted the union’s endorsement of Mr. Martinez’s re-election bid and said no officer has ever been accused of or disciplined for engaging in racial profiling.
In accepting the endorsement Friday inside FLOC’s headquarters, Mr. Collins told the group, “Gracias, amigos.”
He vowed to “bring Toledo to a new dimension, a dimension where there’s plurality, where we embrace our cultural differences and where we strengthen our community because of our cultural differences and not see them as barriers.”
He promised diversity in his transition team and pointed to his plans to rearrange the Department of Neighborhoods by assigning teams including a police community resource officer and code and nuisance abatement inspectors to each of eight sectors. The move will require hiring three additional inspectors.
Mr. Velasquez said he likes Mayor Bell but disagrees strongly with his neutral stance on a right-to-work law in Ohio, which would undermine union strength in workplaces, and his 2010 “exigent circumstances” ordinance that allowed him to impose concessions on union employees to address a $48 million deficit.
Mr. Velasquez said that in 2010 Mr. Collins helped him redraft a resolution to condemn Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law that was defeated in a 6-6 tie vote with Mayor Bell casting the tie-breaking no vote. The original resolution was drafted by Mr. Martinez. Mr. Velasquez said the new resolution was stronger and the measure passed two weeks later on a 10-2 vote.
“Mike Collins engineered that the way it should have been done in the first place,” Mr. Velasquez said. “I was highly appreciative of Collins in that regard.”
Arizona’s law required police officers who have stopped someone on suspicion of committing a crime to check immigration status if the officers suspect the person is in the country illegally. Portions of the law were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Mr. Velasquez said he made the endorsement by circulating his statement with other union board members in Toledo and in North Carolina and went ahead with it when he heard no objections.