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Published: Monday, 1/4/2010

Mike Bell sworn in as next mayor of Toledo, calls for unity


Mike Bell, the popular former Toledo fire chief, was sworn in as the city's mayor at 3 p.m. Monday and immediately began to do what he has said for months he would do as mayor -- bring people together.

"I'm not a politician. On the campaign trail a lot of things happened. I have not a vengeful bone in my body. I want all of us to come together. If we do it right your children will have a place to call home, and their children will have a place to call home," Mr. Bell told a packed audience at the Courtyard at the Navy Bistro at the Docks in East Toledo.

"If I tell you to pick up a thousand-pound weight you won't be able to do it," Toledo's new mayor said. "If I tell you you can use as many people as it takes I guarantee you'll pick it up off the ground and you'll survive."

Mr. Bell also urged the audience -- made up of city council members, other local politicians, and civic, union, and business leaders -- not to look to place blame for the city's problems. And he called for applause for Mayor Finkbeiner, thanking him for "everything you've done." He and outgoing Mayor Carty Finkbeiner hugged before the swearing-in.

Mr. Bell was sworn in by his father, Norm Bell, a notary public, and will officially take the reins from Mr. Finkbeiner at 5:30 p.m. Monday, the time set by Toledo's City Charter for the transfer of power to take place.

The new mayor takes over a city government rocked by an escalating general fund deficit, now pegged at $40 million -- the greatest financial crisis ever faced by the city of Toledo in modern times. Mr. Bell faces an unemployment rate in the city of 15 percent, entrenched city labor unions who will not easily agree to concessions, and city residents weary of higher taxes in the worst recession since the early 1980s.

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