Vasquez to run for mayor’s vacated City Council seatWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Toledo Board of Education member Bob Vasquez announced March 9 he will run for the Toledo City Council seat vacated by Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins.
Surrounded by a group of family, friends and supporters at Harvard Circle in South Toledo, Vasquez said he hopes to serve both the city and the schools from the District 2 seat.
“I want to use my experience to make sure our community is not forgotten,” Vasquez said in his prepared remarks. “I chose this location because near here there are potholes and unimproved streets. We have many of the same problems here in District 2 that other parts of Toledo have. It is the district Councilman’s job to make sure the problems are addressed. We need a skilled advocate and I am uniquely qualified to do the job. … I have demonstrated strong leadership during tough times while on the school board. I am a problem solver. … I look at the big picture and I plan for the future. I am looking forward to serving the residents of District 2 and the city of Toledo.”
Vasquez, a Democrat, has been a member of the Toledo Board of Education since 2008 and won re-election to that seat in November. He has served as president and is currently vice president.
“I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while, but I really made my decision just recently because I’ve lived and worked in District 2 for over 20 years and I want to make sure we have good representation,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez said making sure basic services, such as police, fire and streets, are provided to district residents will be a priority for him. He is also concerned by ongoing fund transfers from the capital improvement budget to the general budget.
“I haven’t heard anyone talk about plans to wean ourselves off that in the future,” Vasquez said. “And that does affect basic services, especially streets, because that’s capital improvement.”
He also said he would focus on the whole district, not just the Southwyck area.
“Although Southwyck is an important District 2 issue, District 2 is comprised of many neighborhoods and I consider them gems of Toledo,” Vasquez said in his remarks. “I want to make sure they get the services they need and deserve.”
The District 2 seat is currently being filled by Democrat Matt Cherry, a Sheet Metal Workers Local 33 worker, who was appointed in January. Also planning to run are business owner Marcia Helman, an independent, and businessman Joe Celusta, a Republican who unsuccessfully ran for an at-large City Council seat in the last election. Celustra was at Vasquez’s announcement and confirmed he planned to run.
Vasquez said he has so far been able to talk with two of the other four school board members, Lisa Sobecki and Chris Varwig, who were disappointed, but “supportive and encouraging” of his decision to run.
Sobecki said she would prefer not to lose Vasquez, but wishes him luck.
“I hate seeing people leave the board as we are moving in a forward direction. It’s really stabilized over the years with some longevity [among the board members] and he has brought some help to the board,” she said. “But I wish him luck and I wish him well.”
Vasquez said he isn’t abandoning the school board or the issues he fought for there. He said he believes he can help both the city and the schools from a position on City Council.
“We talked about how I can help the school board and the school district in the capacity as a City Councilman because I’ve always said, even when I was on the school board, that we’re in sync,” Vasquez said. “However the quality of the schools goes, so goes the economy of the city. They are interconnected and you can’t separate them as far as I’m concerned. So when I’ve talked to my colleagues on the board, I told them I would never forget the schools.
“To be honest with you, it’s going to be hard to make that shift because I have been living and breathing education. I’ve been very passionate about it. I have spent a lot of time researching and making decisions. I made some very tough decisions to try to move and change education here in Toledo. And not everybody’s been real happen with that.”
Vasquez said he doesn’t see a move to City Council as a step up.
“People have been saying to me all along, ‘Don’t you want to take that step up?’ I don’t see it as a step up; I see it as a different thing,” Vasquez said. “I really think Toledo School Board is the most important elected office in the whole city, because it deals with quality of schools and with the economy of the city.
“If we keep making the strides we’re making in Toledo Public Schools, businesses will want to come here, people will want to move back in the city, people will want to stay in the city who live here — and that’s the best thing you can do for the economy.”
Vasquez, a licensed social worker who was born and raised in Toledo and graduated from Waite High School, said the skills and experience he developed on the school board, including reading large budgets and making tough financial decisions, will help him on City Council.
He said he wants to see Council members be better forward thinkers and planners with regard to budgeting money and making sure it gets replenished.
“What happens — whether it be the school district, governments, cities, counties — is we seem to look at the next crisis. We go from one crisis to another crisis to another crisis,” Vaquez said. “What I want to do is anticipate what we want to do and plan for it and try to collect the resources for that.
“It’s hard to get people to talk and discuss an issue that you’re going to have next year because you’re so embroiled in [what's going on now]. But at the same time you have to be having a discussion on what are we going to do next year so that we don’t have to worry about closing pools and we don’t have to worry about youth programs and those kinds of things.
“Those are all the questions I have and I want to be part of that discussion.”
Vasquez would also like to see Council members have a greater say in what the body discusses.
“They respond to what agenda the mayor puts out,” Vasquez said. “As City Council members, I think we should be influencing that agenda, not just waiting to respond to it. So that’s one of the things I intend to do.”
Vasquez said two of the people in politics he most admires are Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy.
“They had to make tough decisions and provide strong leadership. So when things weren’t popular and I was criticized heavily for doing what I was doing, I just kept thinking of that and saying [to myself], ‘You don’t get into leadership positions just to go along. You either lead or you go along. One or the other.’ And I feel that I lead.”
Robert Torres, director of the Northwest Ohio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, has been a supporter of Vasquez since he replaced Torres on the board of education in 2008.
“I had spoken to Bob at the time and the politics he was advocating for — sound fiscal responsibility, strong academics and transparency among the school system — those are three things I think make for a great organization and also brings in support from the community,” Torres said. “He’s stuck to that in the years he has been on the school board.
“The one thing I hear about him time and time again is that he negotiated a very responsible contract during a time the school system was in financial straits. He made a sound fiscal decision and that is supposed to be looked upon as being bad? I think that’s good government.
“He brings that experience now to the City Council and it’s what we need. We need somebody with his business background. We need somebody who’s making strong decisions on a fiscal level. That’s what Bob brings to this Council. It’s his time. And I’m certainly hoping Toledoans embrace that.”