Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson Wednesday said she supports a new $1 million taxpayer-funded grant program similar to an initiative her one-time opponent — Councilman Tom Waniewski — promised during his failed mayoral bid and unsuccessfully tried to insert into the city's 2017 budget.
The Democratic mayor and the District 5 Republican councilman spoke during a news conference at Kathy’s Confections, 2746 West Sylvania Ave., to announce a “neighborhood development grant program.”
“With the renaissance of the city that we have seen in the last three years, we have to make sure that we are providing opportunities in our neighborhoods for small businesses to grow,” Mayor Hicks-Hudson said.
In July, Mr. Waniewski — who was then a mayoral candidate — said that, if elected, he would create council district grants of $176,000 per year to help rebuild community assets.
The mayor's campaign in July seemed to oppose the idea.
Sam Melendez, the Hicks-Hudson campaign manager, at the time questioned whether it would take "another layer of bureaucracy" to oversee the annual million-dollar spending.
“Just because I said in July that it did not seem very well flushed out, doesn't mean the mayor was opposed,” Mr. Melendez said Wednesday. “This was nothing that she opposed, but, just like a lot of his ideas during the campaign, they did not make sense.”
Mr. Waniewski in July announced his plan at the renovated Cullen Park marina in Point Place, which he said exemplified the sort of public-private partnership that would be encouraged by the annual $1 million program.
Mr. Waniewski was one of four candidates on the city's Sept. 12 primary ballot. The incumbent mayor faces Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz, an unendorsed Democrat, in the general election on Nov. 7.
Mr. Waniewski said his presence with the mayor Wednesday could be construed as an endorsement, but he stressed that was not his intent.
“I am out of the [mayoral] campaign. I am not endorsing one person or the other,” he said. “Wade asked me about this. I am flattered both candidates feel that this is an important project. The mayor was the first to spell it out, but it is important because she is setting the  budget.”
Mr. Kapszukiewicz told The Blade, after the mayor’s announcement, that he too supports the idea.
"The mayor opposed this plan in March, she opposed it in July, and now six days before an election, she is supporting it in a desperate ploy to fool the voters,” he said. “We need new ideas and strong leadership all the time, not just during the final days of an election campaign."
Under Mr. Waniewski's plan announced in July, 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.
Mr. Waniewski previously proposed a “District Improvement Grant” fund for capital projects such as LED lighting, curb replacements, or "business corridor enhancements" during council budget deliberations in March.
At that time, Mr. Waniewski proposed creating a $900,000 program that he called "an attempt to provide financial support to district [councilmen] who are constantly faced with individual capital challenges for our constituents."
Council voted four in favor and eight against the idea. The no votes came from fellow Republican Councilman Rob Ludeman and councilmen Matt Cherry, Theresa Gabriel, Yvonne Harper, Tyronne Riley, Sandy Spang, Larry Sykes, and Lindsay Webb.
Mr. Waniewski said the mayor’s support would be the “catalyst” for a majority of council to support the measure in 2018.
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