mayoral candidates spar in first of several debates
By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent
Oct. 11, 2013: Toledo Mayor Mike Bell and Toledo City Councilman
Mike Collins don’t like each other much—personally or
professionally. So the “dueling Mikes” made no secret of that
dislike in the first of several community forums as they try to
win votes in advance of the Nov. 5 election.
The two candidates sparred on the city’s previous budget
deficit, economic development strategies, crime statistics, and
the Toledo’s gang problem.
Collins accused Mayor Bell of puffery in stating that he
inherited a $48 million budget deficit, reading a letter from a
city auditor who reports to city council which stated the budget
shortfall was only $8 million.
“You’re the only one hallucinating on this, you and maybe the
auditor,” countered Bell, who accused Collins of being partially
responsible for the problem as a city councilman.
The mayor also defended his actions to balance the budget,
stating voters were clear in a mandate of not raising taxes.
Bell stated he had no choice but to seek union contract
concessions rather than lay off employees. He explained that
move saved 271 jobs. Bell was furloughed early in his
firefighting career during a budget crisis.
Collins accused the mayor of refusing to lead by example by
seeking concessions from employees, while sparing himself and
his staff any salary cuts.
Mayor Mike Bell
Toledo City Councilman Mike Collins
“What sacrifices did you take? Did you lose a penny’s pay?”
Bell countered that a city commission reduced his salary a year
before he took office.
“You could have said, ‘I will make a greater sacrifice than any
man or woman working in the city of Toledo,’” said Collins.
“That would have showed your character.”
“Oh, I don’t have no character?” Bell questioned.
Collins is receiving heavy financial support from labor unions
in his bid to unseat Mayor Bell, who drew their wrath for his
support of SB 5, legislation that would have limited the power
of public-sector unions in Ohio. The measure was defeated by
voters in a referendum. Bell also made some enemies for forcing
concessions on municipal labor unions during a financial crisis
the city was facing when he first took office.
Collins recently picked up the endorsement of the
Northwestern Ohio Building and
Construction Trades Council. The United Auto Workers and several other
skilled-trades unions have thrown their support behind Collins,
a retired police officer and former head of the Toledo Police
Patrolman’s Association. Mayor Bell, a former fire chief and
state fire marshal, is being backed by Firefighters Local #92.
Collins attacked Mayor Bell over his international trips seeking
investment from China, Japan, and other foreign countries,
stating he would not do so as mayor without specific knowledge
that those trips would lead to Toledo-based jobs.
“There has to be a magnet there and there has to be a reason,”
the city councilman said, while also criticizing the lack of
progress in the Marina District, which a Chinese investment
group purchased for $3.8 million. “We are engaged in a war. It’s
called the jobs war.”
Bell countered that city council approved that purchase and it
is saving the city tax dollars on maintenance and lighting,
while providing $100,000 each year in property taxes to the
“It’s impossible to be in competition internationally unless you
compete internationally,” said the mayor.
The two candidates also sparred over whether Toledo’s crime rate
is rising or falling and over the impact a gang map that went
public this year had on gun violence in the city.
Collins also took advantage of opportunities to remind voters of
various scandals that have plagued the Bell administration from
time-to-time, one that led to an overhaul of top administrators
in the Department of Neighborhoods; another where Bell’s niece
was awarded contracts with the city to renovate houses despite a
lack of construction experience, and the purchase of two luxury
The first forum between the two independent mayoral candidates
occurred in the WNWO “NBC-24” studios and featured moderators
from the TV station and co-sponsor WSPD-AM 1370. The one-hour forum
was broadcast live on both stations.
The two candidates will square off at public forums and debates
at least five more times before the Nov. 5 general election:
Tuesday, Oct. 15, 7 p.m., Burroughs Neighborhood
Organization at Burroughs School gymnasium, 2420 South Ave.;
Tuesday, Oct. 22, 6:30 p.m., ONE Village Council, Chester
Zablocki Senior Center, 3015 Lagrange St.;
Thursday, Oct. 24, 12:30 p.m., East Toledo Senior Center,
1020 Varland Ave;
Tuesday, Oct. 29, 7 p.m. a televised debate sponsored by The
Blade and WTVG-TV, Channel 13 ABC; and
Wednesday, Oct. 30, 7 p.m., a televised debate sponsored by
WTOL-TV, Channel 11 and Toledo Free Press.