County Auditor Lopez launches mayoral campaignWritten by Dave Willinger | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez, calling herself a “proud daughter of this great city,” kicked off her campaign for Toledo mayor on April 16 before a crowd of about 400 supporters at the Aurora Gonzalez Community Center off South Avenue.
Following an invocation and introductions, Lopez, a Democrat, stepped to the microphone at a lectern in the center’s gymnasium and requested a moment of silence for the victims of the bombings at the Boston Marathon. She then launched into a speech touching on a wide range of issues, from potholes, trash removal, crime and neighborhood blight to the overarching economic situation in the region and the Toledo water plant, which the candidate labeled “our greatest liability.”
Lopez, who if elected would become the first Hispanic and the second woman to serve as mayor, grounded her platform with autobiographical references. She told her audience she comes from a family of seven children of migrant worker parents who, “taught me the value of hard work.” The candidate spoke of how “all workers deserve dignity” and reminded her supporters of her earlier position with Lucas County Children Services Board. “I started my career protecting the most vulnerable in our city,” she said.
Lopez told supporters Toledo is going down the wrong path. She said she would support local businesses, make the neighborhoods “strong and safe” and get the mayoral administration out of One Government Center and into the neighborhoods. Lopez would change the culture, she said, making government “accessible and accountable to the citizens.”
Lopez described her vision for Toledo as a “great economic engine throughout the region.” She would “work equally to attract new businesses and make it possible for existing businesses to prosper,” she said, emphasizing the need to remain loyal to local businesses that have remained loyal to Toledo.
“It doesn’t do us any good to hand over ownership of Toledo’s assets if we don’t get jobs and … spur economic development,” Lopez said, referencing in particular the 2011 sale of the Marina District by the Mike Bell administration to a Chinese firm. Proponents of the deal, which envisions the creation of a commercial, entertainment and residential district along the eastern bank of the Maumee River, claim it will eventually bring jobs and development to Toledo. Lopez got applause Tuesday when she told her supporters, “I’m still waiting.”
Calling Toledo workers “resilient,” Lopez said she would “fight against attacks on working families” and against attacks that “damage the middle class.”
“You won’t find me supporting [Senate] Bill 5,” she vowed, referring to the 2011 law restricting collective bargaining rights for public employees. That law, which Bell supported, was struck down by public referendum in the November 2011 elections by a wide margin.
Lopez also pledged to “reduce neighborhood blight,” saying she would address the twin issues of abandoned houses and graffiti. Lopez, who has two sons, said her goal is to “make neighborhoods safe for our children.”
The candidate said she would “fight to tear down abandoned buildings” and alluded to a “comprehensive plan to restore and grow our communities.”
Lopez called crime a priority, claiming the city’s safety forces are “spread too thin.” The University of Toledo Law School grad also pledged to “prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law.” Specifically, a Lopez administration would “not tolerate crimes against women, seniors and children,” she said, and promised to “train and equip our everyday heroes in the safety forces.”
Lopez faulted “recent leadership” for having “ignored problems” at the water treatment facility, which must undergo an estimated $264 million emergency repair job as mandated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. According to city officials, another $50 million is needed to preserve the integrity of the water lines, which are 75 years old on average.
Declaring that “water is a human right,” Lopez said, “A full audit and review of the department of public services is in order and I am just the right person for that job.”
Lopez chose to make her announcement at the Aurora Gonzalez Community Center because it was there nearly 30 years ago — when the facility housed the Girls and Boys Clubs of Toledo — where the candidate, as a 14-year-old student at Central Catholic High School, got her first job “helping people,” she said.
During her speech, Lopez was forced to pause often for applause from supporters, including many union members and several high-ranking labor officials. Felicia Monday, a retired county employee, also came to the rally. “It takes a woman to get things done,” Monday said when she saw Lopez arrive. “I’m glad she’s running.”
Lopez concluded her speech by vowing to “bring my track record of accountability, transparency and customer service to the mayor’s office.”
Bell said he respected Lopez’s choice to get into the race but was “not really” aware of what topics she addressed in her speech. When told Lopez spoke about changing the culture of the administration, by making it more accessible, Bell responded by saying his administration is more accessible than ever. The mayor mentioned the city’s website and noted he was answering a reporter’s questions while en route to a town hall meeting that would be his third speaking engagement that day.
Bell dismissed Lopez’s statements, saying, “Unless they substantiate what they’re saying, it’s just political rhetoric.” Bell said he would “absolutely” take part in the candidates’ debates. “I’m actually excited about it,” he said.
Councilman Joe McNamara, another Democrat in the race for mayor, responded to the Lopez candidacy with the following statement: “The people of Toledo deserve a mayor without serious ethical questions. I was disappointed that Anita Lopez did not take the opportunity presented by her announcement to sign the ethics pledge I signed yesterday. I urge her to sign it immediately. I will bring an accountable, honest and open administration to City Hall.”
‘Not messing around’
Latino youth advocate and Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame member Margarita De Leon introduced Lopez at Tuesday’s rally, noting that the candidate, a “lady from the Old South End who worked her way through law school,” had garnered more votes last November in her run for auditor than any other name on the ballot in Lucas County. “So we’re not messing around.”
Independent Alan Cox, Libertarian retired city employee Michael Konwinski and self-described “prophetess” Opal Covey are also running for mayor.