Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson delivers State of the City
Paula Hicks-Hudson gave her first State of the City address as the mayor of Toledo Wednesday night.
Hicks-Hudson was elected mayor in November after receiving 35-percent of the votes. She is the first Democrat elected mayor in Toledo since 2006. Hicks-Hudson assumed the mayoral seat last February after the death of Mayor D. Michael Collins. She will serve the remaining two years of the unexpired term.
The mayor opened the speech thanking multiple people and groups including: Toledo City Council, city employees, public servants and the citizens. She also mentioned Mayor Collins for his part in advancing the city. "He believed, just as I do that Toledo and northwest Ohio is a place of great opportunity," Hicks-Hudson said.
Hicks-Hudson then touched on the creation of Toledo from swampland into a productive land. She brought up Libbey Glass, the JEEP Wrangler, HCR Manorcare, Owens Corning and Welltower making Toledo their home.
The mayor listed the challenges Toledo faces now and in the future.
- Aging infrastructure
- Sewer line replacement
- Safety and the drug epidemic
- Water challenges- Increased costs
- Job growth and preparing citizens for those jobs
"As we face these challenges, we must continue to press for a return of local tax dollars to the City," Hicks-Hudson said. "Since 2008 Toledo has cumulatively lost $83 million from the state of Ohio, because of reductions in local government funding and other reduction from other revenue sources. This year, for example, we will receive $8 million in state local government funds, a third of the $24 million that was returned to the City in 2008."
Hicks-Hudson then talked about her mission to make Toledo into a "21st Century City".
To do that, the mayor said she has encouraged city directors to align activities within their department in four key categories: Water, safe neighborhoods, improvement of city services and economic development.
The mayor addressed the improvements made to the Collins Park Water Treatment Plant and how well it worked through last summer's extreme algae bloom season. She also said there will be improvements to the plant in 2016, including a "silver bullet" to eliminate microcystin and contaminants and will also reduce the use of chlorine. No rate increase in water rates has been established through 2018, according to the mayor.
In regards to economic development, the mayor pinpointed job creation. Hicks-Hudson said 687 jobs were created in 2015 in connection to economic development projects. She also mentioned the City selling the Erie Street Market to IBC, Inc. The mayor admitted that in the past, Toledo has not done a great job helping small business owners, but says that is changing. "Our team is focusing on innovative and smarter ways to help business open their doors in Toledo," Hicks-Hudson said. "For example, our building inspection department will be using technology as they inspect business and reduce the paper work and time necessary for businesses to start operating."
When talking about safer neighborhoods, the mayor stated it begins with the "walkability" factor. More than $450,000 in grant funds is expected to be used this summer to improve infrastructure and programs to increase students walking to and from school.
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The mayor also mentioned the blight issue in Toledo and the City's 10-year partnership with Republic Services who will be providing monthly bulk collection. More than 400 unsightly structures were torn down in 2015, according to Hicks-Hudson. Also, police and fire presence within neighborhoods and help from the community will make the area safer.
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One of Toledo residents' biggest concerns is how to improve the pothole epidemic. The mayor reverted to Issue 2, which is an increase in the temporary income tax for the next four-and-a-half years. Hicks-Hudson says $8.3 million will be generated specifically for road paving projects in 2016, where $16.6 million would be available annually from 2017-2020.
READ: Voters asked to raise income tax to fix Toledo's streets
The final talking point the mayor addressed was the way technology will make Toledo a 21st Century City.
"Throughout the enterprise we continue to identify and implement technology and be more cost-effective in delivering city services to drive higher levels of citizen satisfaction and expand business development opportunities for Toledo," Mayor Hicks-Hudson said.
The mayor spoke about Engage TOLEDO, a way citizens can track service requests put in to the Department of Public Utilities. She also mentioned the launch of online billing, making it more convenient for customers to view and pay their bills. Lastly, Hicks-Hudson mentions the body cameras now being worn by Toledo Police Department officers in an effort to bring transparency between officers and citizens.
To end, the mayor stated she wants citizens to voice concerns and ideas in order to incorporate them into future plans for Toledo.
On the state of Toledo, the mayor said, "We are a tenacious, tough city. We have challenges, and we have opportunities. We will not give up on either. We must continue to move forward. We must meet and work to realize the charge that Jesup W. Scott gave us over one hundred years ago: we are a Great Future City, a 21st Century city"