Toledo’s new mayoral contenders battled today over transparency, crime statistics, economic development and other subjects in a televised debate.
The forum that aired live on WNWO-NBC-24 and WSPD-AM-1370 was the first televised debate of the general election between incumbent Mayor Mike Bell and Councilman D. Michael Collins.
Both are political independents who will compete against each other in the Nov. 5 election. At times, the debate got personal, with Mr. Collins accusing Mr. Bell of not being truthful and Mr. Bell telling Mr. Collins he was “hallucinating."
Mr. Collins said he would not go on international travels without specific expectations of having it converted into jobs in Toledo, and repeatedly attacked Mayor Bell over the lack of progress in the Marina District.
“We are engaged in a war. It’s called the jobs war,” Mr. Collins said. He said population has dropped, the city is not safer, and the community is less attractive than it was four years ago.
Mr. Collins accused the mayor of exaggerating the deficit he encountered and read a letter from the city auditor, a position that reports only to city council, stating that the deficit was less than the mayor claimed.
“When I started we had major budget issues and we worked our way out of that,” Mr. Bell said, after telling Mr. Collins he was hallucinating. “We’ve had to make some tough decision, but those decisions were designed to meet the goals that you gave me.”
He said his decisions to seek concessions rather than lay employees off saved 271 jobs.
The mayor accused Mr. Collins of refusing to believe his $48 million figure because it developed during his term as councilman, and called Mr. Collins’ claim that he will introduce new ideas “a lot of horse malarkey.”
“One of his biggest consultants is former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner,” Mr. Bell said. “We were in a $48 million deficit and the people who are following him helped put us there.”
Mr. Collins said Mr. Bell “threw a piece of paper in my face” at a previous mayoral forum, purporting to explain the city’s $48 million deficit.
“You’re making things up,” Mr. Bell said, who also told Mr. Collins he thought he knew more than the chief of police about crime.
Mr. Collins accused Mr. Bell of not being transparent, bringing up the scandal that came to light early in Mr. Bell’s administration that led to a house-cleaning in the Department of Neighborhoods. He also alluded to the fact that Mr. Bell’s niece won contracts with the city to renovate houses even though she had no such experience, and the administration’s acquisition of two luxury-style SUVs - one of them under the heading of a street sweeper.
“What I really find unacceptable is your failure to be transparent,” Mr. Collins said.
Mr. Collins accused the mayor of seeking concessions from other employees, but sparing himself and his staff.
“What sacrifices did you take? Did you lose a penny’s pay,” Mr. Collins asked.
Mr. Bell countered that the mayor’s salary was reduced the year before he took office, from $136,000 to $122,000, and accused council of being afraid to take on the tough issue of the approaching deficit.
“You guys refused to act on anyone except the mayor. You knew the problem, you refused to act,” Mr. Bell said.
WNWO was planning to post video of the debate on its site later tonight or early Tuesday. Chris Topf, president and CEO of WNWO, said the debate will be aired on Channel 24 at 10 a.m., Sunday.
Contact Tom Troy at email@example.com or 419-724-6058.