Wilkowski: An open letter to ToledoWritten by Keith Willkowski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for giving me and my family the very special opportunity to engage in an extended dialogue with you about how to make Toledo better. The experience has been more rewarding and enriching than you can imagine. Along the campaign trail, my wife, Barb, and I have met countless people with compelling personal stories of struggles and triumphs, of setbacks and successes, of pain and of joy. What a privilege it has been.
In just a few days, you will have the opportunity to choose new leadership for Toledo. It’s a big decision that will have big consequences for our city and our region for years to come. I’m asking for your vote because I know Toledo can have a bright future in which people know our city as a place of opportunity and achievement. We’re on the edge of a new era, one in which we do not have to accept a second class economy and a diminished standard of living.
My opponent Mike Bell and I have known one another since we were freshmen at Woodward High School in North Toledo back in 1969. Our paths have crossed many times since then, including the years Mike served as Toledo’s fire chief, while I served as Toledo’s Law Director. I’m as proud of my public service as I’m sure he is of his. But because campaigns are about choices, I want to point out some very real differences I have with Mike over critically important issues.
First, Toledo’s next mayor must provide informed and thoughtful leadership in the area of economic development and job creation. With tens of thousands of Toledoans out of work, it’s shameful that the city doesn’t have a written economic development plan to chart our course forward. While only the private sector can create jobs, local government has always played a limited but strategic and important role in that process. It’s critical that local government play its part effectively.
My background and experience is in economic development and job creation. As a county commissioner, I worked with the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and other agencies to help bring Burlington (now BAX Global) to the airport and 1,000 good jobs. As Toledo’s law director, I led the creation of Joint Economic Development Zones between Toledo our suburban neighbors. Today, there are thousands of people working in those cooperative, regional zones and Toledo is receiving $1 million in tax revenue each year.
These projects are economic development success stories. We need more of them. That’s why I’ve laid out a detailed, specific jobs plan that focuses on our region’s core, wealth-producing industries: manufacturing, transportation and construction. As mayor, I’ll form cooperative partnerships with our suburban neighbors to foster development and job creation at the Marina District, Southwyck and other struggling areas in our city. Using creative ideas to share the costs and benefits of growth, Toledo and the region can succeed together.
Mike Bell may not believe that it is the mayor’s job to lead our economic development efforts. But if we want tax revenue for critical services like police and fire protection, we must have people working. Everything flows from jobs and the economy and the mayor must step up to the plate on that front. I’m prepared to do that.
Second, I differ vehemently with Mike over whether we should consider a tax increase to solve city government’s budget problems. I am completely opposed to a tax increase because: (1) it will burden middle-class Toledoans with increased taxes they can’t afford; (2) it will prevent us from reforming government to be more efficient and cost-effective; and (3) it will encourage people to leave Toledo, ultimately making our financial problems even worse.
While Mike has said repeatedly that if the people tell him they want a tax increase, he’ll accommodate them. I wonder who those people are that are telling Mike they want a tax increase. I sure haven’t met them in the months I’ve been campaigning. While Toledo has had budget problems in recent years, they have always been resolved without increasing taxes. With the right leadership, we can continue to find solutions without resorting to a tax increase.
I’m committed to delivering municipal services in creative ways through intergovernmental agreements with other jurisdictions, using technology to deliver services more efficiently and growing our local economy so that we have the resources for necessary services. We have to do things differently and that’s why I’m running for mayor.
Barb and I have been blessed to come to know so many of you during this campaign, and we look forward to living here, working here and serving Toledo in whatever ways the future holds for us.