UT and the City of Toledo began an “innovation partnership” to make college more accessible and safer for students.
Newly-elected Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz gave his state of the city address Feb. 22 at the historic Ohio Theatre in downtown Toledo.
During the address, Kapszukiewicz covered a wide range of topics involved in modeling Toledo after other “successful cities.”
Though UT President Sharon Gaber was unable to attend, he thanked the other UT representatives who were present.
This partnership will work to better access street conditions, install LED streetlights, add advanced monitors on water meters and install free Wi-Fi around the city, Kapszukiewicz said.
“Successful cities are smart cities and invest in the future,” Kapszukiewicz said. “Resources are tight, and smart cities better enable them to spend those resources wisely to make data driven decisions.”
He thanked ProMedica on Toledo’s behalf, an academic affiliate of UT’s College of Medicine since 2015, for its role in revitalizing downtown Toledo.
The Toledo Art Museum is a major economic contributor to the area and the arts in Toledo need be funded and maintained, Kapszukiewicz said.
“Cities like ours are seeing an economic uptake, that’s good but we can’t blow this chance,” Kapszukiewicz said. “This is a good time for cities, this is a good time for urban America.”
Kapszukiewicz also outlined how he plans to address a variety of issues around the city.
“One of the things that absolutely knocked me back in my seat, because the biggest thing the citizens wanted was just communication with their elected leaders,” Kapszukiewicz said.
To do this, he started different initiatives including a weekly email newsletter and monthly events called “Wednesdays with Wade.” These events will be held at a different Toledo branch library every month and are a way to interact with different city legislators, not just the mayor.
“I am very accessible; if you want to have a conversation with me come to ‘Wednesday’s with Wade,’” Kapszukiewicz said. “If that doesn’t work, get a bullhorn and come to my house.”
For environmental reforms, Kapszukiewicz said that a bike-share program is being developed downtown and they initially intend to have 100 bicycles at 20 different stations.
He also outlined a plan to obtain Grassy Island, a 15-acre green space, from the Army Corps and turn it into a major park.
“This is a part of Toledo that has seen some challenges, but now it is going to be revitalized,” Kapszukiewicz said.
Ohio EPA officials said 85 percent of the algal bloom problem comes from agricultural runoff, and he wants the city to address this issue.
“We are doing our part to address one of the largest non-economic issues in Toledo – Lake Erie,” Kapszukiewicz said. “We all know that when the weather gets warm we are likely to face algae blooms.”
It is impossible for the Ohio EPA to address this issue due to laws restricting them from regulating agriculture. The key to saving the lake and fixing these issues lies in the upcoming election for governor, he said.
“The head of the EPA Ohio knows who’s causing this problem, would love to do something about it, but is prevented by the governor and the legislator from doing something about it,” Kapszukiewicz said. “We have a governor's election this year. During that governor's term, Lake Erie will either be saved or it will die.”
Near the end of his address, Kapszukiewicz said that he is proud of the diversity of the city and wishes to embrace it.
Before he ran for mayor, an elected official encouraged him to change his name to be less Polish and more “American-ized.”
“This is a neighborhood of proud people, and as someone who happens to be Polish it is prideful to me,” Kapszukiewicz said. “I am proud of who I am, I didn’t change my name and I have never lost an election.”
His goal is to continue to help Toledo grow and expand to become as successful as it can.
“The slogan I have chosen is, ‘Our city, our future,’ not ‘My city, my future’ because we are in this together,” Kapszukiewicz said. “We have made some progress, but there is so much more to do.”