By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. – Marcel Proust
Last week’s press conference by Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, highlighting the significant reduction in crime rates for 2023, was a striking series of impressive statistics. Yet, there’s more to it than you might think.
Upon closer examination, the presentation unveiled a multifaceted strategy that reveals not merely a blueprint for safer streets but also a savvy political maneuver that could reshape Toledo’s future and governance.
The mayor’s decision to bring former City Council member Tiffany Whitman into his administration, coupled with the subsequent vacancies on the City Council, hints at an ambitious but strategic attempt to mold the council “in his image.” This subtle yet profound move offers a glimpse into a future where governance and policy will be more harmoniously aligned with the mayor’s agenda.
The crime reduction, marked by significant declines in homicides, burglaries and theft, is undoubtedly a triumph for the city. Yet, the mayor has to look no further than his appointment of Michael Troendle as the city’s police chief in March 2023. Troendle was a noted disciple and mentee of late former chief Derrick Diggs and his data-driven community policing model. The positive crime results are also the consequences of the effectiveness of targeted initiatives, including the domestic violence task force and the enhancement of youth programs.
However, the strategic hiring of former councilwoman Tiffany Whitman as the mayor’s DEI director and the opportunity to influence the selection of new council members suggest a more profound, more calculated plan to consolidate political power and ensure the continuity of the mayor’s policy directions.
City Council Dynamics and Future Predictions
The impending City Council vacancies, following the recent resignations of Whitman and Katie Moline, who left to become Lucas County Auditor, introduce a pivotal opportunity for upcoming strategic appointments in the next 30 days. The filling of these vacancies underscores a crucial moment for the mayor to influence the council’s composition, aligning it more closely with Kapszukiewicz’s vision for the city.
Whitman was one of the four newest councilpersons appointed by mayoral confidant Judge Jack Puffenberger. Her transition to the mayor’s administration indicates a successful process used to replace the former councilpersons Sykes, Harper, Riley and Johnson, who were arrested and imprisoned for ethical lapses.
On the other hand, Moline has been a political thorn in the mayor’s side, often clashing with him on budget and other political matters.
Therefore, the appointment process for replacing Whitman and Moline could set the stage for longer-term governance styles and priorities, mirroring the mayor’s ethos.
Mac Driscoll may currently have the votes for one of the city council appointments. He’s an urban planner who has done substantial footwork for the Democratic Party, has good relationships, and almost certainly seems to be a lock for one of the vacant seats.
The Party would likely fill the second seat with a person of color. The candidates poised for this role include Randall Parker and potentially Marsha Hill or Bryan Latta, who signify diverse prospects for Toledo’s legislative future.
Parker is fresh from a school board electoral victory. The recently elected board president represents the multifaceted talents that could steer Toledo towards a nuanced, inclusive approach in addressing citywide concerns. Latta is a Deputy Court Administrator with legal experience, training, and a substantial commitment to the Democratic Party. Marsha Hill is a Teamster and has called City Council President Carrie Hartman to lobby for the position. Hartman may seek to fill one of the vacancies with another woman.
Considering candidates like Parker, Hill or Latta further emphasizes the administration’s intent to reflect the city’s diversity in its leadership.
Will Mayor Kapszukiewicz pursue a third term?
The city is doing well and enjoys as stable leadership as Toledo has had in the strong mayor system. In addition to the dramatic crime reduction, Wade can claim to have gotten us through COVID-19, having a slew of active economic development deals going, and investing substantial American Rescue Plan dollars in the Black community, such as the multimillion-dollar YMCA project and others.
Influential elements in the business community have taken note of Toledo’s stability and steady-handed leadership. They are trying to convince Wade to run for a third term. The previous failure to amend the city charter in 2022, which would’ve allowed such a term extension, now finds itself in a context ripe for reconsideration. With crime declining and the mayor’s approval rating reportedly above 65 percent, the political and social climate may be more amenable to charter changes that could extend the mayor’s tenure. Indeed, if city councilpersons are allowed three terms, why shouldn’t a mayor?
In the unlikely event that the charter amendment fails and the pursuit of a third term doesn’t materialize by 2025, several candidates are poised to emerge. You can always count on Nick Komives, who has been positioning himself for a shot at mayor for several years.
John Hobbs’s name, George Sarantou, and Carrie Hartman have also been mentioned as likely entrants in a 2025 mayoral campaign. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Carty also took a stab at running for mayor again for the umpteenth time.
Looking Forward and Beyond the Headlines
What is certain is that the strategic orchestration of highly publicized crime reduction statistics, upcoming city council appointments, the community’s response to upcoming charter amendments, and the unfolding political landscape all contribute to a narrative much richer than the sum of its parts.
With Mayor Kapszukiewicz’s approval rating soaring, the timing couldn’t be more opportune. His political influence is at its peak. The mayor has taken advantage of a prime opportunity to modify Toledo’s governance structure to ensure that the initiatives and policies that have begun to bear fruit can continue to do so under his stewardship.
That’s what good politicians do.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at firstname.lastname@example.org