The Press Newspaper
Seventy-one percent of the East Toledo electorate voted for Mayor D. Michael Collins when he defeated incumbent Michael Bell last November.
Collins spoke at the Birmingham Development Corporation’s monthly meeting at Birmingham Branch Library. He was asked by BDC President Father Frank Eckart to talk about housing stock code enforcement, safety issues, and a need for more youth recreational facilities.
Collins, who took office January 3, went further and talked about Toledo’s antiquated infrastructure and sewer problems, potholes in the city’s streets, snow removal, a return to neighborhood policing, and his desire for the city to employ new technology.
For example, on his first day at his office on the 22nd floor of One Government Center, he looked around for his computer but found none. He was then told that no previous mayor had ever used a computer in the office, which he changed immediately.
Add to that, he plans to employ new technology on reporting crime, housing nuisances, domestic violence issues, and other neighborhood disturbances, by taking advantage of social media networks. He also talked about changing the culture of families and neighborhoods in Toledo.
“Call City Hall is gone — we’re putting it all under one umbrella,” Collins said. “We are not going to do things the way we used to do them because obviously that doesn’t work. We’re never going to fix it unless we fix the fundamentals, like responsible parenting.”
Collins added that he plans to hire 40 police officers, with an estimated attrition of 28 retirees per year, and says the net gain will gradually get the city’s manpower back up to the 700 officers that is needed.
“Right now, we are a police department which is reactive rather than proactive,” Collins said. He promised the city will become more aggressive on burglaries, property crimes, and crimes against persons.
The mayor, a former city police officer, recalled days when an officer was assigned a beat, and often walked that beat. He said he wants to bring back neighborhood policing, including pairing up officers in patrol cars and assigning policemen to a specific neighborhood.
“Indeed, we’ve scratched the surface, but it’s going to happen,” Collins said.
Former city and state lawmaker Peter Ujvagi, a Birmingham native and resident, said he would like to see an officer, when paired with another in one patrol vehicle, get out of the car and walk the streets for three or four blocks at a time. He said the officer’s presence, although brief, will benefit the neighborhood.
“They are going to be directly responsible to network with Block Watch and we are going to turn our neighborhoods around one at a time,” the mayor continued.
Collins said he believes a pilot project, to start soon in Point Place before coming to East Toledo, will build partnerships between the city and residents. The program has been altered slightly since he announced it during his campaign.
“I’m sort of getting away from this Tidy Towns, because we’re not a town, we’re a community of neighborhoods,” Collins said. “To call us a bunch of tidy little towns isn’t really correct. It works in Ireland but it doesn’t work very well in Toledo, because we have neighborhoods which have exclusive identities and have their own culture and structure. One size doesn’t fit everybody.
“We’re not in a situation where government can come and say, ‘This is the way it’s going to be.’ Nobody should tell you what your neighborhood should be, you should tell government what you would like to see that neighborhood be. After all, you are the stakeholders in that neighborhood. The government is merely an entity that provides the structure, the support, and the core services which go to an urban setting,” the mayor continued.
The mayor said the city could help find business partners for neighborhood projects, but added that residents need to do their part in taking back neighborhoods.
“This is not the city’s project. This is the city’s way of filling our responsibilities to your project,” Collins said. “I used an analogy, I said, ‘If we come out and clean an alley, we can spend three days cleaning an alley, and that alley can be pristine when we get done. We get everything clean and a month later what is that alley going to look like? It’s going to be right back to what it looked like.
“Now, if we engage the people who live on those streets near that alley, and we get sweat equity across the board, and people are out there participating and we are out there participating, and we have a partnership, what do you think is going to happen when that next knucklehead comes down there and decides he is going to throw tires into that alley? There’s going to be a license number, there is going to be a report, and there’s going to be an arrest, and that’s the way we keep our neighborhoods because we have to take control of our own neighborhoods as well.
“We’re not watering the plants and we’re not weeding the planters. We may provide the planters, you guys tell us what you want as far as the floral design, and then you guys go out and buy your own flowers.”