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Published: Monday, 12/3/2007

Toledo City Council preparing to adjust to newest additions


The three new Toledo City Council members who will be sworn in on Jan. 2 have bachelor s degrees from the University of Toledo, and all three have advanced degrees, as well.

But that may be where the similarities end.

The three joining City Council are Lindsay Webb, 32; Tom Waniewski, 50, and D. Michael Collins, 63.

After the first of the year we have three new council persons, each from a different generation, Mr. Collins said. You re going to see a new dimension to council.

Mr. Collins, an independent; Ms. Webb, a Democrat; and Mr. Waniewski, a Republican, won the Nov. 6 election to replace three outgoing council members.

Re-elected in the same election were Democratic incumbents Wilma Brown (District 1), Mike Craig (District 3), and Michael Ashford (District 4).

The new council will have eight Democrats, three Republicans, and one independent, compared with the current mix of eight Democrats and four Republicans.

But traditional political-party loyalties don t always apply on City Council.

Since the inauguration of

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner in January, 2006, council has tended to split along pro-Finkbeiner and anti-Finkbeiner lines, with a core group of five Democrats often opposing the mayor and four Republicans and one Democrat usually supporting the mayor. Two Democrats Ms. Brown and Phil Copeland straddle the division.

The change that will take place Jan. 2 will cost Mr. Finkbeiner two reliable supporters Republicans Rob Ludeman and Joe Birmingham. But also leaving is Ellen Grachek, who usually opposed the mayor on controversial spending questions.

How the new group will vote when it comes to the mayor s budget requests isn t completely clear yet.

The daughter of politically active parents and a resident of Point Place most of her life, Ms. Webb said she grew up in the tradition of civic participation.

She screened unsuccessfully for the District 6 seat in 1998 and served as the party s central committee chairman from 2000-2002 before giving up politics to get a law degree from the University of Toledo.

She ran again for District 6 this year, expecting to go head-to-head with Mr. Birmingham. But Mr. Birmingham s unexpected loss in the primary left her facing Green Party candidate David Ball, whom she defeated handily, 5,215-2,516.

She works in Ann Arbor for the National Employment Law Project as a trade adjustment assistance coordinator. In that position, she helps workers from closed factories apply for cash assistance and retraining.

Ms. Webb said she is setting up a kitchen cabinet of former city and business employees to advise her on city budget issues. She plans to establish a Web site that would allow District 6 residents to get information and to file complaints about potholes or burned-out street lights.

One of her projects will be to help the Library Village neighborhood west of Sylvania and Lewis avenues set up a nonprofit community development corporation.

I think it makes some sense. It s a great neighborhood. The homes are lovely, Ms. Webb said.

On the issue of renewing the $5.50 trash fee when it expires April 30, something Mayor Finkbeiner wants to do, Ms. Webb said she is opposed.

I am a woman of my word and I said I was against the garbage fee and that s not going to change, Ms. Webb said.

But she conceded that the mayor s proposed 2008 budget, which depends on $4.8 million to be collected from the trash fee in 2008, is a good-faith effort.

Mr. Waniewski defeated Democrat Marty Skeldon in West Toledo s District 5, 5,160-4,453. The seat is held by Ms. Grachek, who did not seek re-election.

Mr. Waniewski grew up in the Lagrange area, the son of a butcher shop owner.

After college, he went to work as a radio and TV journalist and while working for Channel 24, then known as WDHO-TV, participated in an investigation into dogfighting that netted the station an Emmy.

After 10 years with WTVG-TV, Channel 13, Mr. Waniewski worked in St. Louis and Detroit, before taking a job with the University of Toledo s public relations department. He also obtained a master s degree in American culture studies from Bowling Green State University.

In 1996, Mr. Waniewski bought into fledgling Internet service provider Access Toledo.

In 1999, he and majority owner Dave Bonitati sold the business to Block Communications Inc., parent company of The Blade.

Currently, Mr. Waniewski is development director for Boys & Girls Clubs of Toledo.

He said he moved back into Toledo about six years ago after living 15 years in Sylvania.

He said one of his goals is to increase the share of money Toledo receives from a permanent 10-mill property tax levy that is divided among the city, Toledo Public Schools, and Lucas County.

The city s share, unchanged for decades, is 4.4 mills. Mr. Waniewski said he thinks a bigger share of Toledoans real estate taxes should be available for municipal functions.

I wanted to get that up to 6 mills, he said. He said he did not know if that could be done without reducing the share that goes to the county and the school system.

One of his commitments as a candidate was to use part of his council salary of $27,500 a year to put up billboards promoting West Toledo.

The line I used is, The best of Toledo is found in West Toledo, Mr. Waniewski said.

Mr. Collins defeated endorsed Democrat Molly McHugh Branyan, 5,233-4,984, to replace Mr. Ludeman, who was barred by city term limits from running again.

Mr. Collins ran for office after 27 years as a city police officer 10 of those in the post of president of the Toledo Police Patrolman s Association, which often put him at odds with Mayor Finkbeiner in the mayor s first two terms.

A native of the old south end, he enlisted in the Marines and later received a bachelor s degree. Mr. Collins also has a master s degree in business administration from the University of Toledo.

After retiring in 1999 from the Toledo Police Department, Mr. Collins started a second career as an instructor in UT s Department of Criminal Justice.

He said he visited about 1,500 homes in the district to overcome the name recognition and financial resources of Mrs. Branyan, whose father, John McHugh, is a former Toledo mayor.

We were the little engine that could, Mr. Collins said.

He hammered on two major themes during his campaign getting a higher priority for redevelopment of Southwyck Shopping Center and increasing the size of the police force.

He was the only one of the eight people running in the four contested districts to say he would definitely vote to renew the trash fee.

We have to understand that citizens will accept the truth, Mr. Collins said.

Mr. Collins will be the first political independent on council since the creation of the 12-member district/at-large council in 1993. He believes that leaves him freer than his party-endorsed colleagues to vote his conscience.

It s easier for me to say it s citizens first, because there is no party, Mr. Collins said.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.

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