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Webb is top money donor to 'Nine is Fine'

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Webb

The Blade/Lisa Dutton
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Councilman Lindsay Webb has been the main financial contributor behind the movement to reduce the size of Toledo City Council from a dozen members to nine.

The Democratic councilman, along with Republican Councilman Tom Waniewski, joined with a political action committee called Citizens Organized to Bring Reform and Accountability to get the "Nine is Fine" issue on the ballot next month.

Ms. Webb donated $4,150 from her own campaign fund to the PAC, which received $4,805 during the first six months of 2009.

"The bulk of it went toward paying unemployed Toledoans to collect signatures," Ms. Webb said yesterday. "We contacted people through The Source, we screened them, and placed them at festivals."

The other main contributor was Dave Schulz, treasurer of the group, who loaned $605 to the political action committee.

Toledo COBRA submitted 7,000 signatures to get the question on the Sept. 15 ballot. By amending the city charter, it seeks to reorganize council, which currently has six district and six at-large members.

Under current law, the top 12 vote-getters in the Sept. 15 primary will advance to the Nov. 3 ballot, and the top six vote-getters would win seats on council.

Under the "Nine Is Fine" amendment - which will appear as Issue 2 - only the top six vote-getters would be on the Nov. 3 ballot, and then only three of them would be elected.

They would serve two years rather than four-year terms. At the end of those two years, their at-large seats would be converted to "super district" seats and new elections would be held, resulting in a council of six district councilmen and three super-district councilmen.

In recent months, Mr. Schulz has promoted Nine is Fine as a grass-roots movement - not a two-person funded campaign.

"We had 7,000 people sign it, so that's grass roots," he said. "It's really immaterial to the issue on the ballot and the opposition is trying to shoot the messenger since they can't shoot the message."

Ms. Webb said contributors to her campaign fund would be amenable to her taking some of that money and using it for the Nine is Fine cause.

"The people who donated to me believe in me and therefore trust my judgment," Ms. Webb said.

She had $4,125 in her campaign fund at the beginning of the year and collected $5,370 during the first six months of 2009.

Point Place resident Patrice Bradley, who gave Ms. Webb's fund $50 at a fund-raiser in March, said she hasn't decided if she will support Nine is Fine.

She said Ms. Webb's use of her campaign funds for the ballot question was "mixing apples and oranges."

"I would like to hear how the districts are going to be split up and get a little more information," Ms. Bradley said. "We are all in bad shape and if there is an opportunity to save money it should be in proportion to the population."

Toledo mayoral candidate Keith Wilkowski, who gave Ms. Webb's fund $100 at a fund-raiser, declined to take a side.

"I am going to remain neutral on it and whatever system the voters give me to work [with], I am going to make sure to represent all of the residents of the city of Toledo," Mr. Wilkowski said. "I did not give money to the Nine is Fine. I gave money to district Councilwoman Lindsay Webb."

Political opposition to the change is increasing.

In a letter to local labor leaders, Ron Rothenbuhler, party chairman, said a PAC formed to defeat the proposed legislation is seeking $10,000 in donations to campaign against Nine is Fine.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.

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