City budget, police profiling, and Marina District hot topics at first Toledo mayoral debate

8/6/2013
BLADE STAFF

Tussles over Toledo's $48 million budget deficit, questions about racial profiling by police, and the sale of the waterfront Marina District to Chinese investors were among the highlights of the first forum Tuesday night for Toledo's mayoral candidates.

Incumbent Mayor Mike Bell played defense several times, including for his support of the union-opposed Senate Bill 5 in 2011, the Marina District sale, and the tactics he used to balance the city budget in 2010. At the same time, he was unapologetic and struck back at aggressive comments from Joe McNamara, Anita Lopez, and D. Michael Collins.

“I am the person who took on a $48 million deficit,” Mr. Bell said in his opening statement. “Three and a half years down the road here, we forgot where we started. In some ways our budget was worse than the city of Detroit."

The two-hour forum, sponsored by the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at the Stephenson-Roberts Hall, 640 Indiana Ave, included all eight candidates.

The crowd of 200 predominantly African-Americans turned slightly sour on Mr. Collins, a politically independent Toledo councilman, when he said Toledo police do not racially profile black people. At other times, some giggled at Opal Covey's declaration that God had chosen her to be mayor and put an amusement park on the waterfront downtown.

Ms. Covey and Don Gozdowski, who won't appear on the Sept. 5 primary ballot but is a write-in candidate, are both ordained ministers. Ms. Covey says she’s a Republican, but last voted as a Democrat. Also attending was Libertarian Michael Konwinski, a former city employee, and Alan Cox, president of AFSCME Local 2058 who said he would be Toledo's chief executive officer and has proposed restoring a city manager form of government.