Collins: Crime up on watch of unresponsive, opaque Bell AdministrationWritten by Dave Willinger | | email@example.com
Running on a platform that emphasizes public safety, Toledo City Councilman D. Michael Collins officially announced his candidacy for mayor of Toledo earlier this month on May 15.
Surrounded by a couple dozen supporters, Collins stood before the shuttered Northwest Toledo Police Department substation and promised that, if elected, he would reopen the Sylvania Avenue facility within 90 days of taking office. Such action, Collins said, would return “a critical component of public safety” to a West Toledo neighborhood that he said sorely wants it. Collins explained that petitions with 750 resident signatures in support of maintaining the substation have been delivered to Mayor Mike Bell, whose administration, said Collins, “arrogantly ignored [their] substance.”
In front of live TV news cameras, the city Councilman portrayed the Bell Administration as lacking transparency and ruling by fiat. The candidate pledged to take back the 22nd floor of One Government Center for the people of Toledo, earning applause from the small crowd of supporters.
Collins, who was a Toledo cop for 28 years before beginning his current career in public office, told the gathering he spent the majority of his adult life fighting crime. “A community can’t grow if citizens can’t feel safe,” he said.
Asked whether he believes the reopening of a police substation in an area known in local gang parlance as “the white west” would be viewed as relevant by residents citywide, Collins told a reporter it would be “symbolic of what needs to happen.” The candidate added, “We have to save every neighborhood.” As for the logic of beginning on Sylvania Avenue, Collins noted the vacant facility is “already here,” as is $100,000 in operating funds allocated by City Council earlier this year but not slated for disbursement by the Bell administration.
“Our city is far from safe,” Collins said, contradicting statistics showing a decrease in crime rates that have been cited by the Bell administration. Collins claims the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) shows crime is up in Toledo “all across the board,” in particular homicides, up by 70 percent, as well as rape and aggravated assault, up by 20 percent, he said. According to Collins, only burglaries were down – by 7.5 percent – and that, he said, could be attributed to underreporting by victims who are resigned to never recovering their stolen items while fearing an increase in insurance premiums. The UCR data could not be independently confirmed by press time.
Collins said he was first approached about running some two months ago, but would not divulge by whom. He is running as an independent. “I have never belonged to a party in my life,” Collins said.
Nor does he fear the nonpartisan primary system, according to which the top two vote-getters in what is now a field of six will face off in November’s mayoral election. Collins said the results of polling conducted prior to his decision encouraged him to get into the race. Those results made it clear, Collins said, that there is significant dissatisfaction with the incumbent and the announced main party challengers.
Collins also faults the mayor for a lack of transparency, which he described as unequivocal. When pressed to explain, Collins claimed Bell twice – in 2010 and in 2012 – purchased a vehicle for the mayor’s motor pool with money earmarked by City Council for street sweeping equipment. Collins said he only found out after he observed dignitaries being chauffeured around the city in an unfamiliar SUV. Collins investigated and discovered the vehicle had covert plates registered to the city but said it was not being used by the police department nor was it in use as a supervisor’s car for Streets, Bridges and Harbors, the department City Council had allocated the vehicle funds to.
The councilman said he “may have supported the purchase” of one SUV for the mayor’s motor pool, although not two, but was concerned with the way in which the cars were acquired. “Just be forthright and give Council the background – what it is to be used for,” he said of how the mayor’s office should approach the funding process. “Don’t tell me you’re buying a vehicle to sweep streets with and then buy one that will not be used in that capacity,” Collins said.
Calls to the mayor’s office for comment on the vehicle purchases were not returned by deadline. Collins told Toledo Free Press he wants the state auditor to look into the matter for any improprieties.
As for signing an “ethics pledge,” a reference to a notion from Councilman Joe McNamara, also a mayoral candidate, Collins told Toledo Free Press he would never ask any of his office workers to campaign for him. “Every morning I get out of bed, I have my ethics with me.” Collins said. “I don’t have to sign another man’s pledge.”
Without proper leadership, Collins fears Toledo could be “on the cusp of being Detroit south.” Still, Collins spoke with confidence about the future of Toledo. “You have a city that’s going to make it,” he said and cited the ongoing local upswings at Jeep and General Motors. But Collins does not see the automotive sector as Toledo’s lone savior. “The backbone of Toledo is small businesses,” he said.
Collins vowed to “turn the city around.” Under his leadership Toledo would realize its potential. “It will become what it should be, not what it could be,” Collins said.
Collins believes with proper leadership the city will maintain the current tax base and grow it further. Toledo, he said, is “seeing a bit of a rebound” economically but emphasized, “Are we there yet? Absolutely not.”
Besides being judged by “the integrity of municipal government,” a city, Collins said, is also judged by “the quality of public education.” Collins also said the city must become a part of the “intelligence revolution” and stressed the public education tie-in. As mayor, Collins would dust off a student-mentoring plan he espoused years ago. Collins said the city would fund the paying of top performing students in grades six through eight to tutor at-risk pupils in the lower grades. Collins, who during his announcement referred to the 10 years he served on the faculty of the University of Toledo, said he would also find an economic advisory role in his administration for UT president emeritus Dan Johnson and would bring back the Meta-Plan, a concept widely debated in 2007. Meta-Planning seeks to achieve economies of scale and eliminate redundant government costs throughout the region.
Johnson told Toledo Free Press in an email that he had not been contacted by Collins but “would be pleased to see Councilman Collins and other public officials give Meta-Planning careful consideration.” Johnson said he believes the concept “holds great promise” for the region.
Johnson said, “The long-term benefits would be significant. Think of all the duplication of programs and services throughout our region. Someday, we will want to address that very expensive proposition. Meta-Planning will provide a framework for addressing both cost and quality issues.”
While Collins claims allegiance to no political party, the candidate did praise the work of Rep. Macy Kaptur, a Democrat. He said Kaptur has done “an outstanding job” and lamented that Toledo has not had a person of that caliber in the mayor’s office since the advent of the strong mayor form of government.
As for his thoughts on a return to a city manager system of government, Collins noted the office of Toledo mayor was 20 years old. “I’m not giving up on a strong mayoral form of government. It still has the potential of redefining Toledo,” Collins said.
The politics of yesterday can’t help Toledo in the future, he said.