Wednesday, Jul 26, 2017
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Politics

STATE OF THE CITY 2017

Toledo mayor addresses safety, partnerships, other issues

Toledo will not give up ownership of water plant

Business developments, water quality, safety, and regional partnerships dominated Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson’s second state of the city address Thursday — a speech she used to set the pace for 2017, when she is likely to face fierce competition for re-election.

The mayor touted economic growth and continued to laud Toledo as a “21st century city” during her second state of city address, which was before about 250 people at One SeaGate and those watching via a live Internet stream.

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Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson delivers the Toledo State of the City Address before about 250 people at One SeaGate and those watching via a live Internet stream.

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“I am happy to report our city is improving steadily,” she said. “Progress is being made in the hustle and bustle downtown, commercial and industrial activities, and the participation of citizens throughout our neighborhoods. ... With the help of the business community, our brothers and sisters in the labor, the faith-based, and nonprofits communities, Toledo is moving forward to become a 21st century city.”

The mayor made one definitive declaration she had not yet publicly announced — the city will not give up ownership of the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant, which is at the center of the regional water debate.

“Toledo has repeatedly used our water to help create jobs in Northwest Ohio and come to the aid of our neighbors by providing water in emergencies; we literally helped grow the entire region; we will continue to work with TMACOG, but let me be clear, the city of Toledo will continue to own our water system,” she said.

Mayor Hicks-Hudson said any new arrangement concerning a regional water district would acknowledge “Toledo’s past and present contribution to creating this incredible asset.”

Toledo and its nine water customers have been mulling a plan for regional water but have not answered the question of how such a system would be governed. Representatives from Toledo, Maumee, Perrysburg, Sylvania, Fulton County, Lucas County, Monroe County, Whitehouse, Waterville, and the Northwestern Water and Sewer District voted Wednesday at the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments regional water planning committee to look into forming a regional water district under state law that would be governed by an appointed board.

Observers Thursday praised the mayor’s remarks and said her comment about Collins Park would not scuttle plans for a regional water district.

Lucas County Commissioner Carol Contrada after the speech said there are “many possibilities that meet the need of all contract communities.”

“There are lots of ways for the suburbs to be stakeholders,” added Councilman Peter Ujvagi.

Councilman Tom Waniewski, a Republican, said the city has to work closely with the suburban communities.

“That thorn in the side of many has to be addressed,” Mr. Waniewski said.

Mayor Hicks-Hudson also addressed the city’s efforts on Toledo’s water source.

“The Clean Water Act needs to be strengthened to allow for the direct regulation of nonpoint sources of nutrient pollution,” she said. “These are the major contributors of nutrients into Lake Erie. I have called on President Trump to issue an executive order for coordinated federal oversight of Lake Erie and I renew that call today.”

Also Thursday, the mayor said she will focus on rebuilding neighborhoods.

There were 465 “blighted, abandoned structures demolished in conjunction with the Lucas County Land Bank” last year, she said.

“In 2017, I have directed our neighborhood and economic departments to also focus on rebuilding, through rehabilitation, our housing stock and our neighborhoods,” she said. “We just announced funding available for eligible homeowners to have their roofs repaired so they can stay in their homes.”

The city plans to use $100,000 of federal Community Development Block Grant money to replace about 10 roofs for income-eligible homeowners.

Mayor Hicks-Hudson promised to be vigilant about controlling costs this year and touted her proposed 2017 budget, which she said was nearly flat in spending over last year, and the fact that she found money to repave 14.6 lane miles or residential roads plus add new police officers and firefighters who will be hired later this year.

“We hired police and fire classes in 2016,” she said. “These new recruits kept our numbers stable for our highly-trained police and fire and rescue personnel; new police and fire classes are also budgeted in 2017.”

She acknowledged there has been violence in the city and “senseless” shootings, but stressed that crime is down.

“Although we have experienced too many tragedies in our city, preliminary numbers for 2016 show a 9 percent decrease in crime statistics from 2015,” she said.

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

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