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Published: 9/18/2009

Candidates square off at UT

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

With hardly a break in the action, the two candidates for mayor of Toledo were at it again Thursday in a Constitution Day debate for students at the University of Toledo.

Democrat Keith Wilkowski and independent Mike Bell participated in the one-hour open-air forum outside the Student Union. It was sponsored by the university's student government.

Asked whether they would help restore the annual Art Tatum Heritage Jazz Festival, which was canceled because of a shortage of corporate sponsorships, Mr. Wilkowski said he would work as mayor to put a national "jazz hall of fame" in Toledo because none exists nationally, and he said Toledo's having been Tatum's birthplace would help make the case.

"I think we've got a great chance to become the Jazz Hall of Fame capital," he said, adding that he has talked to people about the topic.

That brought a mild rebuttal from Mr. Bell, who said that "it's just a matter of finding the funding to do something like that, and until then, I believe we have to cultivate the people that are here and allow them to do what they do."

Mr. Wilkowski offered his own rebuttal: "I didn't spend any money with that. We can do that and work on it without having to commit tax dollars."

Mr. Bell said the economy has made it difficult for people to donate to nonprofit activities, and he said the city should create partnerships to give musicians opportunities to perform.

Asked how they would develop the university, Mr. Wilkowski said the city must focus on its "key wealth-producing industries," such as solar, much of which is being developed in and around the university.

Mr. Bell focused his answer on promising assistance in developing Dorr Street behind the university.

He said the possibility of an I-475 exit at Dorr is under study.

Asked how they would advance lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights, Mr. Wilkowski said that he supported Toledo City Council's domestic partner registry, that he has reached out to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, that he has people from that community advising him, that his administration would be inclusive, and that cities known for a tolerant culture have better economies.

Mr. Bell said, "I don't think you'll find me too far from where he was at."

"If we're sensitive to all portions of the culture, if we can bring everybody into the system and make them feel a part, we can grow not only the city of Toledo but we can actually grow this region," Mr. Bell said.

Both said red-light cameras are constitutional and have value in reducing injuries from accidents.

Both also indicated they would support banning smoking on campus and carrying concealed weapons on campus.

Mr. Wilkowski emphasized he would defer to the university's decisions on both of those topics.

In their closing statements, Mr. Bell focused on attitude and called on students to help by cheering on the UT Rockets when they take on Ohio State University in football this weekend.

"What I bring is a positive attitude, a lot of energy. If you allow me to your mayor you will be part of that advisory group that makes sure our city is safe and a place that prospers in the future," he said.

Mr. Wilkowski said, "You have to have a plan, you need to have specific goals, you need to lay that out to people and see a vision of where this community can go," specifically calling for an emphasis on solar and alternative-energy-based manufacturing. "I have that background, experience, and I have that vision of the future," he said.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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