Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop took his campaign for county reform to the Toledo Bar Association Wednesday, but said he was being stymied in his effort to meet with the county's biggest business group, the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce.
A group of about 10 lawyers, including Mr. Konop's father, defense lawyer Alan Konop, heard the commissioner's now well-rehearsed argument for how a more centralized county government could help power Lucas County out of an economic stall.
Mr. Konop wants to put on the Nov. 2 ballot a proposal for county government reform that centers on a county executive who would run for office based on his vision to revitalize the county's economy. The proposed county charter would abolish most of the 11 countywide elected offices and in their places establish an elected executive and 11-person county council, along with an elected prosecutor.
He said the current system of eight elected officials and three commissioners, sometimes called row offices, leaves none accountable for having a vision for the future or with the power to make significant change.
The council, because of its size and districts of about 40,000 people each, would be a more representative body than the three-member board of commissioners, he contended. "For the first time ever in Lucas County, you'll have Democrats, Republicans, independents, townships, smaller cities, and [the] city of Toledo coordinating their efforts at economic development," he said.
Attorney Jeremy Levy said afterward the plan would depend on electing the right people to attract new employers to the county, but called Mr. Konop's proposal a step in the right direction.
"I do like the idea of a more efficiently run county government," Mr. Levy said. "Obviously, something has to happen. We have to do something."
Mr. Konop has made at least four presentations emphasizing the county's high unemployment and poverty rates and declining population since announcing his campaign in May.
With the deadline to submit signatures to the county commissioners just more than a month away, the only way to raise those signatures is with paid gatherers. That will take financial backing from the business community, he said.
July 25 is the deadline to submit 14,289 valid signatures to the commissioners for the Nov. 2 ballot.
Mr. Konop said his administrative assistant has traded e-mails and phone calls with the Chamber of Commerce but has not been given an opportunity to make a presentation. "It's surprising to me because the business climate in Toledo is very poor," he said.
Chamber spokesman David Pett said both Chamber President Mark V'Soske and Carol Van Sickle, vice president for public affairs, were unavailable for comment yesterday.
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