In their sharpest face-off yet, mayoral candidates Paula Hicks-Hudson and Wade Kapszukiewicz tangled Wednesday over the city’s relationship with Lucas County, how to proceed with Lake Erie, and whether the city tried to hide its budget accounting missteps during a forum with The Blade’s editorial board.
Mayor Hicks-Hudson, the incumbent and endorsed Democrat, accused Mr. Kapszukiewicz, the Lucas County treasurer and an unendorsed Democrat, of misleading the public for political gain about the controversial accounting of $8.2 million in city funds.
“We have a candidate who is making statements that are not true. I am very sensitive because I care that the city of Toledo financial status is impeccable. All these comments made for the purpose of a campaign to damage the credibility of a community [could cause] higher interest [on city bonds],” Ms. Hicks-Hudson said.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz, in turn, said the city’s efforts to conceal the faulty accounting of $8.2 million in the city budget - which started in a previous administration — undermined public trust. The money was parked for five years in a debt retirement account until it was quietly repurposed by the finance department last year.
Challenger Wade Kapszukiewicz, the Lucas County Treasurer, field questions from the editorial staff of The Blade Wednesday, October 11, 2017, at The Blade in downtown Toledo.
“According to the consultant the mayor hired, the financial team was using tricks to prevent the state auditor from finding it. That hurts the city’s credibility with the citizens. There may come a time that we need a levy. Will it be harder to get community buy-in?,” he said.
The two also argued about the city’s disagreement with Lucas County over the location of a jail. Mr. Kapszukiewicz said the acrimony that was exposed last month when Lucas County commissioners and the Hicks-Hudson administration failed to agree on a site for a new county jail seemed petty. He described both sides as acting like children engaging in a spitball fight.
“I believe the acrimony and dysfunction has grown to a level that I do not believe the lawsuit will be settled until we have a new mayor,” Mr. Kapszukiewicz said.
Ms. Hicks-Hudson said she was trying to make sure citizens are no longer double-taxed, under the “wise policy” that was initiated by former Mayor D. Michael Collins of no longer arresting people for misdemeanors under the Toledo Municipal Code but under the Ohio Revised Code. The change instantly shifted millions of dollars in criminal justice costs from the city to Lucas County.
“I will always put the citizens of the city of Toledo first. I will not be the fourth commissioner and act as if this is a petty, spitball kind of enterprise,” Ms. Hicks-Hudson said.
Incumbent Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson, pictured, and challenger Wade Kapszukiewicz, the Lucas County Treasurer, field questions from the editorial staff of The Blade Wednesday, October 11, 2017, at The Blade in downtown Toledo.
Ms. Hicks-Hudson said she believes a new Lucas County jail should be downtown or as close to downtown as possible so it is near services and the courts, as well as for the convenience of families of inmates.
Mr. Kapszukiewicz said he didn’t disagree, but said the proposed Dura site, now the city’s police impound lot, was a good location. He said he was the first mayoral candidate to issue a statement opposing the former site picked the commissioners — and then withdrawn — on Angola Road because of its impact on nearby neighborhoods.
They both asserted they would be ready to file a lawsuit to pressure the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to force the declaration that Lake Erie is in “impaired” status. The designation is needed to bring action against farmers and livestock operators whose fertilizer and manure are believed to be the major cause of dangerous algae growth in Lake Erie, supporters say.
In a lightning round of questions, the candidates were asked whether they would keep on Fire Chief Luis Santiago and Police Chief George Kral. Ms. Hicks-Hudson said “yes,” while Mr. Kapszukiewicz said he would assess all department positions.
Asked for their best ideas, Mr. Kapszukiewicz said he would partner with Metroparks Toledo and locate a park on Grassy Island in the Maumee Bay, while Ms. Hicks-Hudson said she would make Toledo a “smart city” and continue to expand LED street lighting.
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