The race to fill the South Toledo district council seat vacated by D. Michael Collins after his victory over Mayor Mike Bell has centered around the need to redevelop the Southwyck area, promote small businesses, improve road conditions, and help maintain neighborhoods.
Incumbent Matt Cherry, a Democrat and business agent for Sheet Metal Workers Local 33 — who was appointed to the seat by council when Mayor Collins took office — is attempting to retain the post in Tuesday’s special election against challengers Democrat Bob Vasquez, a member of the Toledo Board of Education since 2008; Republican Joe Celusta, and political independent Marcia Helman, a South Toledo business owner.
Mr. Cherry, 34, of 1649 Carmelle Court, said he is “hyper-focused” on the needs of the district.
“I am excited about the Southwyck area and this new home goods store opening there,” Mr. Cherry said. “We have to keep on it and do what we can to make people look at that area.”
A home decor retailer from suburban Dallas agreed to occupy the former Kmart store on Reynolds Road. Garden Ridge, a privately held chain in Plano, Texas, paid $1.6 million for the building at 2244 S. Reynolds Rd. The retailer, which plans to remodel and re-occupy the 111,716-square-foot building, wanted the former Clarion Hotel building demolished before closing the deal.
It will cost $842,000 to tear the building down. Toledo City Council unanimously voted in February to acquire and then raze the vacant hotel at no cost to the city.
Mr. Celusta, 50, of 4472 River Road said the old Clarion property should be rehabbed.
“I very much disagree with spending nearly $1 million to tear down a perfectly sound building, spending money to destroy instead of create, especially when the million dollars could go to fix up main streets like Detroit [Avenue] or side streets like Escott [Avenue],” he said in an email.
Mr. Celusta, a former business executive, is the grandson of the late Aloysius “Ollie” Czelusta, a Republican who was Toledo mayor from 1950-51 and 1954-57.
Mr. Celusta ran unsuccessfully for a city council at-large seat in 2013, earning a spot on the general election ballot in the primary, but finishing 12th in the contest for six seats. He said he has a small landscaping business and is working on getting a real-estate development license.
Ms. Helman, 63, of 2225 Townley Rd., owns Lickity Split ice cream parlor, is a Walbridge Park board member, and former city arts liaison.
“I want people to take back over control of their neighborhoods — plan small events that involve the citizens,” she said. “I will especially be encouraging that in the parks.”
Ms. Helman is opposed to taking money from the city’s capital improvements budget to fund general fund operations, which the city has done for years.
“I know where to make cuts and sometimes you have to make cuts overall,” she said.
Mr. Cherry also cited the use of capital improvements money as a problem, however he voted on March 30 with the majority to approve the 2014 city budget that transferred at least $14.1 million from that fund into the general fund.
Mr. Vasquez, 61, 2156 Plum Leaf Lane — the director of special projects for Twelve of Ohio Inc., a nonprofit child welfare and mental health agency — said he would concentrate on the city as a whole but promote neighborhoods and businesses in District 2.
“I don’t think you can separate all the issues,” he said. “The one thing on everyone’s mind is Southwyck but I want to expand that to have people think about the neighborhoods and small businesses that exist in District 2 and maintaining those fantastic neighborhoods that make the district.”