A firefighters union that pushed unsuccessfully to get incumbent Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson to terminate the fire chief endorsed one of her opponents, Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz, in the Sept. 12 mayoral primary.
Toledo Firefighters Local 92 said on Monday it decided to back Mr. in the contest because it sees him as a man of “integrity, vision, and action.”
The 521-member union in 2015 passed a motion of no-confidence in Chief Luis Santiago and pressed for the chief’s firing. Mayor Hicks-Hudson stood by him.
The union claimed Chief Santiago’s policies and decisions put firefighters safety at risk.
In 2015, he responded to the vote of no confidence by saying he runs the department efficiently with the funding available to him.
Chief Santiago on Monday told The Blade that he didn't want to get involved in “political rhetoric” in the mayoral campaign.
In the 2015 special election for mayor, Local 92 endorsed former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner. Ms. Hicks-Hudson won that election against six other opponents.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz is the four-term Lucas County treasurer and a Democrat. He is challenging incumbent Ms. Hicks-Hudson, who is the endorsed Democrat, and Republican Tom Waniewski, a Toledo councilman. Also on the ballot, but with a history of attracting few votes, is self-described “Prophetess” Opal Covey.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz on Monday praised the union’s willingness to make an endorsement before the Sept. 12 nonpartisan primary. The two top vote-getters in that contest will go on to the Nov. 7 general election.
In response to whether firing the chief was requested by Local 92, Mr. Kapszukiewicz said there was no specific talk about replacing the chief.
“There were conversations about the administration of the fire department, the sorts of qualities and experiences that upper management of the fire department should have, and I touched on those, but there was only conversation in that he happens to be the fire chief, nothing beyond that, just general conversation about the fire department,” Mr. Kapszukiewicz said.
He focused his remarks on what he said was the changing nature of the department’s role, which increasingly involves medical response. He said only about 1,000 of the fire department’s roughly 50,000 annual runs are for structure fires, while the rest are for emergency medical service.
He said his discussion with union representatives included manpower levels, the number of fire stations, and health issues.
Local 92’s headquarters at 714 Washington St. now sports a large marquee, announcing “Wade for Mayor!”, which will be seen by thousands of people entering downtown daily.
Ian Downing, co-chairman of Local 92’s political action committee, said all three major candidates were interviewed the same day, about three weeks ago.
Capt. Daniel Brown-Martinez, the union member who introduced Mr. Kapszukiewicz, cited Mr. Kapszukiewicz’s leadership in creating the Lucas County Land Bank as something that appeals to firefighters because vacant houses are hazardous to firefighters and the community.
He also lauded Mr. Kapszukiewicz’s record of balancing the county’s books as treasurer.
“We’ve discussed with Wade some of the internal operations and how we can make it more efficient, but so far the discussions we’ve had with Wade primarily speak about our budget and how we’re going to handle that,” Mr. Brown-Martinez said.
Mayor Hicks-Hudson said it was the union’s choice to endorse her opponent.
"I believe that my leadership has been strong and steady and that the city continues to move forward,” she said.
Mr. Waniewski said, "I respect Local 92's decision. I enjoyed answering their questions at my screening. They're a great group, and I look forward to working with them in the future," according to spokesman Tedd Long.
In 2013, the firefighter union contributed $2,500 to independent D. Michael Collins’s campaign for mayor, according to its campaign finance reports on file with the Lucas County Board of Elections.
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