The two candidates for the Toledo City Council District 5 seat differed on the city smoking ban that took effect last month but otherwise found many areas of agreement during a forum last night sponsored by Westgate Neighbors, a local civic group.
Democrat Ellen Grachek, the incumbent, said she would not change the smoking ban, saying it is “way too early” to determine its economic impact.
Proprietors of some local bars, bowling alleys, and bingo halls have complained the ban has cut their revenue as customers head to competitors in the suburbs. Republican Mary Beth Moran, the challenger, called again last night for an amendment to the law.
“I am in favor of,” the ban, she said. “Restaurants need to be smoke-free. But I believe bars, bowling alleys, and bingo halls need to be exempt” to safeguard small businesses.
Asked what they would do to promote growth of the local economy, Ms. Grachek said she would try to foster a sense of cohesiveness and cooperation among economic development agencies, which are embroiled in “discord.”
“That disturbs me. That is our biggest concern, to get these people together,” she said.
Ms. Moran said she thinks the city must be more “business friendly,” especially to small business owners. In a veiled reference to the smoking ban, she said, “To promote small business, you can't interfere with small business.”
Ms. Grachek said she “would like to think” she's taking the lead in development of the Walk Westgate neighborhood plan to make the area more friendly for pedestrians, but acknowledged it has stalled lately.
Ms. Moran said it's time to be more aggressive in implementing the plan. “We need to move forward,” the challenger said.
Ms. Moran and Ms. Grachek, both lawyers, said they support renewal of the Toledo Public Schools' operating levy on the ballot in November. A similar levy request failed this summer.
Both candidates said they favor exemptions to the city living-wage law for employers who moved their businesses into the Westgate area.
District 5 comprises most of West Toledo. Its spine is Secor Road, from the Michigan line south past Bancroft Street.
Ms. Moran said she favors more police to help enforce traffic and snow-removal laws. “We need a bigger police class,” she said.
Ms. Grachek agreed but cited budgetary consequences and said she'd leave decisions about how to enforce local laws to police Chief Mike Navarre.
The forum was held at Covenant Presbyterian Church on Markway Road.
The election will be a replay of the May 6 special election, in which Ms. Grachek defeated Ms. Moran by winning nearly 56 percent of the vote.