Mayoral Debate: Bell, Collins open in agreement, end trading jabsWritten by Bailey G. Dick | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In the final televised debate of this election, mayoral candidates Mike Bell and D. Michael Collins opened in agreement and ended trading jabs Oct. 30 over everything from the area’s airport to trick-or-treating.
The first question of the night, one on whether red light cameras actually make intersections safer, was a point of consensus for the pair. In a nod to both candidates’ backgrounds in public safety, Mayor Bell and Toledo City Councilman Collins both said the cameras benefit citizens. Bell noted that he had already lobbied in Columbus for the cameras, and Collins said he would.
Bell and Collins also found common ground on one of the evening’s big news stories. Both were asked about word that a group of local investors has been in ongoing talks with the city and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority about privatizing area airport operations.
Both Bell and Collins said they were open to the possibility of privatizing airport operations.
“An airport is crucial to be able to develop our area,” Collins said. “New energy may be necessary to kick start.”
Bell said he had an “open mind” about a potential proposal from Dock Treece of Treece Investment Advisory Corp. and his sons, Dock David and Ben.
Economic development was a hot topic during the debate, with questions and concerns about how productive it is to have a large number of groups with that same focus in the city.
“It’s counterproductive if we do not sit in the same room and talk with each other,” Bell said.
“Each one has a different discipline,” Bell said, calling the relationship between the groups “better than ever.”
Collins said witnessing that kind of collaboration was “not my experience.”
He instead advocated for the “meta plan,” an idea first presented by Dan Johnson, president emeritus of the University of Toledo, which would consolidate the individual economic development organizations under one umbrella grouping.
“It’s not Bell’s fault,” Collins said. “But I firmly believe that going back to the meta plan is the right move.”
The duo also tangled over development in the Downtown area and increasing cultural events and festivals.
Collins blamed Bell for a lack of development at the steam plant site in Downtown Toledo, citing Bell’s dismissal of a lawsuit over the site and calling to attention ties between the Bell and the building’s owners, developers David and Dean Ball.
“Finkbeiner did the right thing in filing the lawsuit,” Collins said.
Bell disagreed, saying, “Mr. Ball is a staple here, and has done a lot for the area.”
Bell later cited renovations at Promenade Park, adjacent to the steam plant, as a success in developing the Downtown area, which he said would pave the way for events like concerts and festivals that would draw out-of-town guests.
Collins expressed some concerns about the proximity to the plant, to which Bell responded, “We never partied in the plant; we partied around it.”
Other lawsuit scuffles discussed were one the city filed over the maintenance of the site of the former Southwyck Mall, which is in the district Collins represents.
“I didn’t have one complaint,” Collins said. He noted that he had been in almost constant contact with the site’s owners, and said that city officials should have used him as a contact point with the investors before filing the lawsuit.
“People around Southwyck were starting to complain,” Bell responded.
Another point of contention for the pair was whether or not they would keep Toledo Police Chief Derrick Diggs if they are elected.
Bell praised Diggs’ time as chief, saying, “He’s a veteran police officer, he’s gone through all the ranks and he is coming up with proactive things. He’s done an unbelievably good job.”
Collins, a former police officer, didn’t praise Diggs as highly, saying Diggs had “lost complete control of the communications section” of the department.
Collins did not say he would definitively dismiss Diggs, but said he would instead “have a discussion about what his loyalties are and what his plans are.”
A major source of disagreement for Collins and Bell sprouted from a question that asked how “in-touch” Bell is with average citizens.
Collins said, “I work as many hours as Mayor Bell, and I can tell you that I went door to door,” noting that he planned to keep doing so if elected.
Bell said claims of him not being in-touch are absurd.
“I’m out there, and everybody knows it. I go everywhere,” Bell said.
But perhaps the biggest spat of the night came over the possibility of rescheduling trick-or-treat times.
Collins said he believed the threat of inclement weather was enough reason to postpone the scheduled times.
“What is the difference with the Fourth of July?” Collins asked.
Collins also slammed Bell on what he called “blaming” the city’s police union for an inability to reschedule.
Bell, who until the debate seemed adamant on not rescheduling, seemed a little softer on the issue. He said the city would decide by noon Oct. 31 if the weather threat was enough to reschedule.
In their closing statements, Collins had the first jab. He reminded voters of Bell’s controversial purchase of a number of vehicles with city budget dollars that had been earmarked for street sweeping equipment. Collins also vowed to not raise taxes, make neighborhoods safer and not take international trips, saying, “Toledo is home.”
Bell got the last word of the night, and used it to spell out to Toledoans what he has done during his four years in office.
“I took a broken system and fixed it,” Bell said, citing road repairs, new business moving into the city and receiving tax revenue from the Marina District property as his term’s successes.
The debate aired on Fox Toledo ahead of the Nov. 5 general election, and was moderated by anchor Jerry Anderson. Panelists included WTOL anchors Chrys Peterson and Emilie Voss, as well as Toledo Free Press Editor in Chief Michael Miller. Toledo Free Press co-sponsored the debate.