Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson, left, and challengers Tom Waniewski, center, and Wade Kapszukiewicz, right, during The Blade mayoral debate at The Blade on September 7.
Lucas County Treasurer and Democratic Toledo mayoral candidate Wade Kapszukiewicz is right when, in a TV ad, he calls the questionable handling of $8.2 million in city money the central issue of the mayor’s race.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz’s campaign commercial blasts both of his opponents — incumbent Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson, a fellow Democrat, and Republican City Councilman Tom Waniewski — as responsible for the farce of the mystery millions.
The saga began in late May with a Blade report that the city had $8.2 million in unspent funds, just sitting in a fund, for at least five years. During the same time, Mayor Hicks-Hudson was telling voters the city badly needed an income tax increase.
The mayor called in retired Justice Andy Douglas to investigate the issue. He determined that the $8.2 million was misplaced tax-increment finance money that could not legally be spent for street projects or any similar purpose.
Finance Director George Sarantou was forced to resign when explanations over the money management weren’t satisfactory.
And finally, with questions persisting, the mayor yielded to calls, by The Blade and others, to request an outside audit arranged by the state auditor’s office.
The case of the $8.2 million justifiably angers the public because the city administration offered a series of explanations over the course of two months that raised serious questions about whether city hall had a grip on Toledo’s finances.
Toledo residents, understandably, have lingering questions about how the city’s money is being managed. Those questions are fair game in the race for mayor.
But the commercial by Mr. Kapszukiewicz, a county office holder, goes too far when it seeks to paint him as the outsider while painting Mr. Waniewski and Ms. Hicks-Hudson as city government insiders equally responsible for the management of that $8.2 million fund.
Mr. Waniewski has cried foul over the ad and rightfully so.
City council members participate in the budget process and should ask hard questions, as Mr. Waniewski generally does. Would better scrutiny from council members working on the budget each spring have caught the issue sooner? Possibly.
But the mayor’s administration is responsible for drawing up the city’s annual budget proposal. And it has been Ms. Hicks-Hudson and her staff who have failed in several attempts to adequately explain how the money was handled and budgeted.
The mayor and Mr. Waniewski are not equally responsible.
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