Toledo mayoral candidate Michael Konwinski has attended every one of the Ottawa Tavern’s Political Parties events since they began last month, even though he himself wasn’t scheduled to be the events’ featured candidate until late August.
But Konwinski’s chance to talk with bargoers about his vision for the city came early, after Mayor Mike Bell postponed his scheduled July 30 appearance. Konwinski said he was ready to fill in at the last minute.
“The only thing I didn’t have was my little handouts printed out,” he said.
Konwinski did end up getting those handouts printed in time, and passed them out to a bigger-than-normal crowd, most of whom were expecting to question Bell about his campaign.
According to Ottawa Tavern owner Tom Baird, Bell cancelled his appearance due to a trip to Oshkosh, Wisc., for official city business.
Konwinski, a former city employee who worked in the Department of Public Utilities and the Finance Department, talked with voters about his issues with departmental management.
“When I was in [One] Government Center, I saw all the stuff that goes on. … You have this thin layer of management employees that don’t know their jobs, and they need help all the time,” Konwinski said. “I have a commissioner who comes in, and he can’t do the job because he’s a political appointee, or a friend of a friend. The city doesn’t move that person out. They hire a manager to help that person out. Every one of these people costs you and me between $80,000 and $100,000, when you take their salary and their benefits. I want to get rid of that. I want to cut through the cronyism. I want to establish a professional class of people that are held accountable.”
“First and foremost, I want to run this city like a business,” Konwinski added.
He said he hopes to put the city back on track financially and eliminate wasteful spending. Konwinski said this is an area he has experience in, as he worked to create a new payroll system for the city’s finance department.
“We have all these little things that we could do. The city is not going broke because somebody’s stealing millions of dollars. We’re wasting $100,000 here, or $15,000 there. None of these people are watching,” Konwinski said. “[Councilman D. Michael] Collins and Bell and [Councilman Joe] McNamara, they promised they’re going to do better this time. But they’ve had four years to do this.”
Konwinski said he also hopes to make the city’s income tax a flat 2 percent, down from the 2.25 percent Toledoans currently pay. He said he planned to keep the city’s current 1.5 percent permanent tax, and leave it up to the voters if they would like to lower the temporary tax rate from .75 percent to .5 percent.
“I know that makes it tough for budgeting and tough for planning, but I think that having the voters have to vote on that, that shows accountability,” Konwinski said. “The voters have some say in running the city. … If we make the cuts and start paying attention to this stuff, we can do a lot.”
Konwinski also noted that he has his own concerns about the city’s safety, but that he isn’t the only mayoral hopeful with this issue on his or her mind.
“All of the candidates want safer neighborhoods. Everybody wants a policeman in front of everybody’s house and a policeman on every block. Well, you can’t afford that,” Konwinski said. “If I get rid of the waste, I have the money for police and fire. We should do an analysis of how many police we need.”
Konwinski also said he’d like to see more police officers out of administrative positions, and out on patrol.
Konwinski kept his presentation shorter than the allotted half-hour, using the extra time to answer questions on right to work laws, combating poverty and adding bike lanes. He said he prefers fielding questions from voters to making formal addresses.
“I am better at question and answers. I don’t make prepared speeches,” Konwinski said.
Perennial candidate and evangelist Opal Covey will share her vision for Toledo with voters at the next Political Parties event. Covey will be at the Ottawa Tavern on Aug. 5, rather than the regular Tuesday slot.
Baird said that Covey’s last appearance at the Ottawa Tavern “drew a huge crowd,” and he expects another big audience this year.
Still to come in the Political Parties series are McNamara on Aug. 13, Bell, who rescheduled for Aug. 20, and Auditor Anita Lopez, whose original July 9 event was rescheduled for Aug. 27.
Toledo Free Press and 1370 WSPD are media sponsors for the event. For more information, visit www.otavern.com.