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Safety more vital than signs, Santiago says

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The 'Toledo Pride' lettering on entrances to the city was manufactured by Griswold Machine & Engineering Inc. of Ravenna, Ohio, which made similar signs along I-75 in Findlay. The letters, which cost $6,390 and were installed by city workers, are quarter-inch steel that has been 'powder coated' in red so they won't need to be repainted.

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Taking issue with the mayor who helped her get appointed, interim at-large Toledo Councilman Lourdes Santiago called on the administration yesterday to turn its attention from "Toledo Pride" to neighborhood safety.

Ms. Santiago, who is seeking to retain the seat in the Nov. 7 election, took aim at the tall, red letters on the Nebraska Avenue bridge over I-75 spelling out the two-word slogan the mayor has chosen for his administration. "I say no more signs. No more rah-rah until our citizens feel safe," she said. "Police presence in our neighborhoods must be increased."

Ms. Santiago and other council members and council candidates have called on Mayor Carty Finkbeiner to hire more police officers in 2007 because of a recent spate of murders.

Mr. Finkbeiner issued a state-ment saying Toledo is the safest major city in Ohio, and more police officers are on the street now than in many years. "While I appreciate the desire of councilmen and council candidates to impress the voters with their concern for public safety, I would suggest they walk the streets and encourage more citizens to participate in Block Watch," the mayor's statement said.

Ms. Santiago posed in front of a demolished house at 362 Chapin St. that was destroyed in a fire believed to have been set by an arsonist early yesterday.

Several neighbors said there is speeding, drug activity, prostitution, and theft in the neighborhood. The two-story house, owned by Peter Borzo, was demolished after the fire. The effects of the heat were visible in the melted vinyl siding on an adjacent house.

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Santiago

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Ms. Santiago said it was the third time in recent days that firefighters had to put out fires in the vacant dwelling.

Considered a Finkbeiner loyalist on council, Ms. Santiago was appointed to the vacancy May 23 with the mayor's support. The mayor supported her endorsement by the Lucas County Democratic Committee to be elected to complete the three years remaining in the term of former Democratic Councilman Bob McCloskey, who resigned May 2 in a bribery scandal.

Also running are unendorsed Democrats Joe McNamara and Bob Vasquez and endorsed Republican Dave Schulz.

Mr. Vasquez cheered her stance, and said, "The mayor needs to quit spending money on those kinds of things and needs to make sure we have enough money for basic city services, especially police."

Mr. McNamara said only, "I agree that he should be spending more .•.•. on police and fire."

Mr. Schulz said Ms. Santiago is a latecomer to opposing the mayor's spending habits. "I wish she would join me and stop voting for bike paths and decorative lighting around Government Center," Mr. Schulz said.

He said the Toledo Pride sign on the interstate was not a wise expenditure, but he agrees with the mayor's desire to boost civic pride.

The letters, installed this week, were bought from a Ravenna, Ohio, manufacturer.

David Welch, commissioner of streets, bridges, and harbor, said he got the idea from similar signs over the interstate in Findlay. He said he did not discuss the order with the mayor beforehand.

He said he ordered the signage from Griswold Machine & Engineering Inc. because it was the vendor who made the specialty signs for Findlay.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.

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