12 compete for 6 Toledo council seats

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  • Voters on Tuesday will choose among four Toledo City Council incumbents and eight challengers seeking six at-large seats.

    In September, voters winnowed a field of 17 on the nonpartisan ballot down to 12 candidates.

    Incumbents are Rob Ludeman, 60, an endorsed Republican from South Toledo who served 14 years as the District 2 councilman and is seeking a second term as councilman at-large; endorsed Democrat Steven Steel, 51, of the Old West End who was on the Toledo school board before being appointed and then elected to council in 2009; Shaun Enright, 34, an endorsed Democrat and executive secretary of the Northwest Ohio Building Trades Council; and Adam Martinez, 34, an endorsed Democrat and commercial Realtor.

    Prominent challengers include Jack Ford, 66, and Larry Sykes, 64, both of whom are Democrats running without party endorsements. Councilmen are paid an annual salary of $27,500.

    Mr. Martinez is technically endorsed by the Lucas County Democratic Party but was denounced by Chris Redfern, the state’s Democratic Party chairman, for negative comments made Oct. 24 about mayoral candidate D. Michael Collins and Mr. Martinez’s endorsement of Mayor Mike Bell.

    Mr. Enright and Mr. Martinez were not among the top six vote-getters in the September primary — which set an uphill battle for the two men to get re-elected. The two men finished seventh and eighth, respectively.

    Mr. Ludeman, chairman of council’s economic development committee, said job retention and creation should be Toledo’s priority the next four years.

    “The other areas I would like to focus on is the fact that the majority of our houses are tenant-occupied and I’d like to work on some ideas to turn around our housing stock for owner-occupancy,” Mr. Ludeman said. “Also public safety: I will make sure police and fire are continued to be strong that we bring on new folks on the safety forces.”

    Mr. Enright, a union-backed candidate said he wants to continue concentrating on neighborhoods. “I want to continue what we are doing now — sticking up for the neighborhoods and trying to make Toledo a better place to live,” he said.

    He was among some protecting the Bell administration’s attempt to buy occupied East Toledo homes near the city’s drinking water treatment plant for a planned expansion.

    Mr. Martinez, chairman of council’s neighborhoods committee, said he plans to concentrate on the use of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development loans for eliminating blight and economic development.

    “I also want to continue to work with the administration to make the city more business-friendly and trying to help make redevelopment more efficient and less bureaucratic,” Mr. Martinez said.

    Mr. Ford, a former state lawmaker, Toledo mayor, and school board member, wants a new organization to clean up Toledo’s blighted neighborhoods, which he said the city “fathers” have forsaken for years. Mr. Ford said Toledo needs a “Blight Authority,” a term he borrowed from an organization operating in Detroit. Such an authority could be added to the Lucas County Land Bank without a new bureaucracy, he said.

    Mr. Sykes, a retired banking executive and a sitting Toledo school board member who finished among the top six in the primary, also wants to address economic development and blight in the city.

    “I think we need to do a better job using the programs we have now,” Mr. Sykes said. “When you look at [United North’s] program and the Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority — they do a terrific job.”

    Other challengers include Theresa Gabriel of West Toledo, a retired assistant chief of staff to former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and longtime city employee and union leader, and political rookie Sandy Spang, 53, who owns a South Toledo coffeehouse and numerous other commercial properties.

    Mr. Ludeman polled the highest in September, with Mr. Ford placing second and Ms. Spang in third, well ahead of a pack including Mr. Sykes, Mr. Steel, and Ms. Gabriel.

    Both Ms. Gabriel and Ms. Spang are running as independents.

    Ms. Gabriel, 76, said her years of experience with the city make her qualified.

    “My age should not be a factor,” she said. “I believe someone my age should be representing senior citizens as well as all residents of the city of Toledo.”

    Mr. Gabriel is the oldest candidate on the council ballot.

    Independent Bill Delaney, a former bar owner and opponent of Ohio’s smoking ban, is 72.

    Ms. Spang plans to encourage small business development and wants to resurrect the city’s facade grant program.

    “I think small businesses bring jobs, safety, and a greater sense of community to every neighborhood,” she said, “I will focus on programs to help entrepreneurs get into retail spaces.

    Endorsed Republicans James Nowak, 61, a lawyer from Point Place; Joseph Celusta, 49, who is unemployed; and Green Party candidate Sean Nestor, 28, round out the field of council candidates.

    Mr. Celusta is a grandson of the late Ollie Czelusta, who was mayor in the 1950s. Joe Celusta’s father, the late John Celusta, dropped the “z” from his name.

    “We are lacking several structures in the city and one is we have not seen a structured organization chart,” Mr. Celusta said. “The housing situation is a mess. We have a lot of homes that are repairable and we need to start building houses.”

    He also wants to resurrect the Toledo Labor-Management-Citizens Committee.

    Mr. Nestor, a systems administrator for MassMutual Northwest Ohio and an adjunct professor at Owens Community College, said he wants council to be a better watchdog. “I want us to tighten the budget and really cut down on abusive spending,” he said.

    Two at-large incumbents did not seek re-election. Democrat Joe McNamara ran for mayor in the primary, and Republican George Sarantou, who was barred from running for council because of term limits, ran unsuccessfully last year for Lucas County recorder.

    Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.