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A Meet and Greet with Toledo’s New Mayor

By India Duke
Sojourner’s Truth Reporter

Toledo community members came out Wednesday night, January 31, to ask the new Toledo mayor, Wade Kapszukiewicz, questions about public safety, water regionalism, road repair and issues pertaining to the city’s youth.

The event was organized by Paul Hubbard, a local entrepreneur and former government official; Keith Mitchell, attorney, and Fletcher Word, publisher of The Sojourner’s Truth newspaper.

Gearing up for the session held at Our Brothers Place in downtown Toledo, singer Karen “Lady K” Harris and fellow musician J Bone performed covers of various song titles.

After being introduced to the packed room, Kapszukiewicz expressed his gratitude for such an opportunity.

“I really appreciate this opportunity to be here tonight, I really do. I’m really looking forward to working together and I am thankful for Fletcher and Paul and Keith Mitchell to bring this together,” said the mayor.

He began with a brief speech expressing his desire to try different approaches to handling city issues including bringing new people into roles in city government. He urged the audience to remember that the city leaders are people as well and will naturally make mistakes. “But when we do make mistakes, we’re going to admit them, we’re going to learn from them . . . we’re going to get up off the ground and dust ourselves off, we’re going to figure out what we did wrong and the next day we’re going to try something else,” said the mayor.

He expressed his willingness to have these meetings as often as necessary and opened the floor for questions.

The first question to the mayor focused on public safety specifically methods to prevent incidents like the one resulting in the death of 22-year-old Marquise Byrd last December when youngsters threw a sandbag from a I 75 overpass.  A community member asked why didn’t the city provided training and prevention tips prior to such a tragedy?

The mayor resounded, “This is not passing the buck but that was the state of Ohio’s responsibility and they should’ve done it and they didn’t and that’s not an acceptable answer.” He went on to say, “We have to do better to anticipate problems and cut them off before they happen.”

Then followed a question about the threat of water regionalism and its tendency to create urban sprawl. “Is it regionalism by giving away the water or is there some way we can share some revenue and the city can benefit and the suburban communities in an equal way,” asked community member Terry Glazer.

Kapszukiewicz assured the audience that the concern was keeping water in and not forcing it out. “I would be thrilled if we can merely hold on to Sylvania and Perrysburg and Maumee as our customers,” he said.  He expressed that water talks are still in the beginning stages of the process despite the celebration by the Chamber of Commerce and extending the water beyond its current limits would result in a tripled water rate for its consumers.

Earlier that day the Toledo City Council had held the first meeting to discuss the water proposal. The mayor confessed that the suburbs are starting to leave and get their water from neighboring cities including Bowling Green. “This isn’t about extending water I’m just hoping to hold on to what we have.”

A question directed towards street repairs and transforming the vacant buildings in the city into training centers for the youth to aid in the reduction of crime seemed to be one of the easier questions for the mayor. He explained that Toledo was simply an older city with an aging infrastructure and that funding was an issue in regard to rehabbing abandoned buildings.

 “We have a pretty good vessel in this town to get our hands on vacant abandoned properties. But, here’s the trick, you have a whole bunch of great ideas and how to redevelop them, but where are you going to get the money to open your center? That’s tough.”

In a similar question about training programs for youth, the newly-elected mayor said that those programs are carried out through Lucas County through the Jobs for Ohio initiative but admitting that it’s “a kick in the gut when you have businesses that want to hire and people who want to work and we can’t connect.”

Expanding on youth issues, a young questioner suggested a curfew to decrease in trafficking and homicides. Councilman Larry Sykes joined the conversation to discuss the ordinance he has drafted for a curfew for those 16 and under to be home by 9 p.m. and those, 17 and under, home by 11 p.m. Unless members of either age group are accompanied by an adult or legal guardian, they will have to abide by the curfew, he has proposed.

 The councilman went on to say that the city cannot hire enough police and arrest its way out of safety problems and suggested that “what we have to do is start taking back out our neighborhoods.”

The final question the mayor fielded was one in which he described as trying to solve world peace in 90 seconds. It was a question of the education system and the return of extracurricular activities. He disclosed that the library is investing $8.2 million in Smith Park. “There’s a brand new school there and a brand new library,” said the mayor.

“We’re going to do our part for youth and Smith Park is going to be the first example of that.”

Before leaving for another meeting Mayor Kapszukiewicz closed with a thank you and the hopes that this isn’t the last of these conversations.

“This is the first of a long conversation, this is not the end, this is not goodbye.”

These meetings are planned to be held on a semi-regular basis by the organizers in the hope keeping elected officials informed on the residents’ wants and needs.



Copyright © 2018 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08/16/18 14:12:12 -0700.

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