Toledo mayor candidate Tom Waniewski said Thursday he would create council district grants of $176,000 per year to help rebuild community assets if he is elected.
Mr. Waniewski, a Republican, announced his plan at the renovated Cullen Park marina in Point Place, which he said was a good example of a public/private partnership that would be encouraged by the annual $1 million program.
Councilman and Toledo mayoral candidate Tom Waniewski speaks during a news conference Thursday in Cullen Park.
“We are going to start concentrating on what the CIP [capital improvements program] money is supposed to do and that's rebuild our city,” he said.
Mr. Waniewski, the councilman for District 5, West Toledo, is one of four candidates on the city's Sept. 12 primary ballot.
Also running for the four-year term are incumbent Mayor and endorsed Democrat Paula Hicks-Hudson, unendorsed Democrat and Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz, and Republican Opal Covey. The Republican Party has not made endorsements.
Under Mr. Waniewski's plan, each of the six district councilmen could apply for a $176,000 grant from the capital improvements fund. He described the funds as “seed money” and said the grants would have to show community support and how the improvement would be sustainable.
Cullen Park was rededicated by Mayor Hicks-Hudson in 2015 following a $1.5 million renovation of the 36-acre park. It included upgraded boat ramp and recreational area off Summit Street.
The renovation came about after a determined effort by volunteers including the Point Place Business Association and nonprofit citizens group, Visions of Cullen Park. Renovations were funded by a $950,000 state grant for the new parking lot, redesigned boat ramps, and related structures in 2014, a $300,000 grant from the the Great Lakes Restoration fund, and $300,000 from the city of Toledo, much of it for ecological enhancements.
Mr. Waniewski had proposed the District Improvement Grant fund for capital projects such as LED lighting, curb replacements, or “business corridor enhancements” during council budget deliberations in March. It was voted down 4-8.
One objection was that those decisions are better made by engineers, other professionals who work for the city, and the mayor's administrations.
Mr. Waniewski’s opponents in the mayor’s race raised questions about the plan.
“How can we trust Tom to administer a $1 million grant program when he can’t even keep track of the city’s finances? As vice chair of city council finance committee he lost track of $8.2 million,” Mr. Kapszukiewicz said. He added Mr. Waniewiski never publicly disclosed his suspicions that there was unappropriated money in a debt service fund for five years until it was brought to light this year by The Blade.
Mr. Waniewski has said that he had a hand in digging out the unappropriated money and that he brought it to the administration’s attention.
Ms. Hicks-Hudson was not available to comment, according to her campaign manager, Sam Melendez. Mr. Melendez questioned whether it would take “another layer of bureaucracy” to oversee the annual million-dollar spending.
Mr. Waniewski said he, as the strong mayor, would oversee the program, and said each expenditure would have to be approved by legislation. He also said such a program would enhance the role of district councilmen. In the past, Mr. Waniewski supported a plan to abolish the six at-large council seats.
“I think it gives them a value in representing their districts,” Mr. Waniewski said. “It adds another level of value to their representation.”
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