Ortiz for Toledo
An interview with a newcomer to Toledo's political scene.
We might be living in troubling times of unprecedented wealth inequality during a global pandemic, but at least we still have our God-given right to bitch about politics.
The thing is, bitching is the easy part. It’s much harder to throw your hat in the ring and put your name out there as somebody that strangers should trust with power.
I understand why most people don’t want to run for political office, especially in an era when half the country is convinced that any government official not named “Trump” is involved in a global conspiracy to sex traffic children and/or drink their blood to maintain their youth.
The problem is, that leaves a vacuum for the worst power-hungry jackals among us to seize power. And while Republicans are showing the apotheosis of their movement at the moment, this conundrum also applies to Democrats.
Take Toledo, for example. This once-thriving union town has suffered the same fate as a lot of mid-sized, post-industrial cities throughout Ohio. However, it still had enough opportunity for corruption in that last summer the FBI arrested four city council members for bribery and extortion.
If we are ever going to get ourselves out of this mess, we need decent people to get into the arena. Not everybody needs to run for president, but as we have seen with corruption arrests from Toledo to Cincinnati, there is enough power out there to be wielded for good should the right people pick up the sword.
I believe one such person is Toledo City Council At-Large candidate, Daniel Ortiz. I don’t say that because he’s a Rooster subscriber, although that certainly doesn’t hurt.
Ortiz is a Toledo native who returned to the city after graduating high school, where has lived in the Old West End neighborhood since. Like a of Toledo residents, Ortiz is in the healthcare industry as a supervisor of pharmacy technicians, an industry in which he has worked since he turned 18.
Ortiz owns a house with his fiancée, Natalie. They have a dog, two cats and several rats.
Ortiz, who comes from the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party, became disillusioned with his local representation, former Councilwoman Yvonne Harper, when she wouldn’t stop making cringeworthy posts on Facebook. Coincidentally the FBI arrested her the day after she posted a bizzare“back the blue” rant on Facebook.
Having wanted to run for office for a couple of years — an idea that started over a couple of beers with friends — Ortiz finally saw his chance to bring much-needed change to Toledo.
The Glass City is still a reliably Democratic city. However, Republicans have made gains in recent years with three current members on the city council. I asked Ortiz why he thinks that is.
“If I knew [for sure], I’d probably be rich, because it’s a national problem, right?
“[Toledo] is a really working class town. It’s a union town. And I think Democrats have enjoyed those people’s unwavering support for so long, I don’t know if they’re putting in the work to maintain that anymore. … It seems like the Democratic Party has forgotten the rural and exurban areas and those red counties. They’ve just let them completely go. And while they’ve lost ground out there, the truth is they’re losing ground in Toledo, too. … I don’t know what they’re doing to garner working class votes.”
The lack of response to working people’s needs is a big driver behind Ortiz’s nascent campaign. Toledo plans to resurrect its red light cameras this spring after the Ohio Supreme Court invalidated its appeals process last summer.
Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz calls the traffic cameras, “crucial technology to keep our citizens safe.” Ortiz (correctly) thinks the cameras are more about recouping lost revenue after state government slashed its general fund and with COVID-19 set to wreak untold havoc on the city’s bottom line.
Ortiz thinks there must be a better way than to regressively fine the city’s way out of the situation. After all, a $125 ticket is a “paycheck ruiner” for a lot of people.
“I don’t talk to any regular person who thinks [the cameras] are a good idea. … It’s such an undue burden,” Ortiz said. He disagrees with the program during normal times, but especially during a pandemic when people have had their income disrupted or are out of work.
Unlike a lot of city council members who only see the job as leverage to soliciting bribes or extorting developers, Ortiz plans to approach the job as an everyday person who lives in the city.
An avid bike rider, the crumbling infrastructure and the lack of bike lanes in Toledo embarrasses him.
“Everybody who lives in Toledo knows our roads are trash,” Ortiz said. “And that’s not unique to Toledo.” He pointed out that a recently repaved road by his house is big enough to be four lanes, however the city kept it at two and instead painted controversial “sharrows” that anger both bicyclists and automobile drivers alike.
“A guy in his truck doesn’t give a shit about the sharrows when I’m riding my bike,” Ortiz said. “Why didn’t they just paint bike lanes? If you look at Toledo on Google Maps and pull up the ‘bike lanes’ tab, it’s pathetic when you compare it to any other nearby city.
“So when we fix our streets and fix our infrastructure, we need to do it in a modern way. They call it ‘complete streets’ that have protected bike lines, obvious bright cross walks with lights and sounds so people of all abilities can use the street.”
Ortiz also wants to tighten wage theft laws within the city. Ohio is the second-worst state in the country when it comes to employers pilfering the pockets of low-wage workers. He would also like to go after irresponsible landlords who refuse to keep rental properties up to code and won’t hesitate to throw working people out on the street if they exercise their rights.
As for how he will go about earning the votes he needs to catapult him onto the council, Ortiz will wait until the summer to see how vaccination efforts are going in America before he makes a decision on face-to-face canvassing of voters.
Win or lose, Ortiz hopes his clean campaign will inspire more regular people to enter local politics.
“Think about how many teachers and nurses, and others with regular jobs?” Ortiz said. “Now how many people have jobs like that in politics?”
Learn more about Ortiz at his campaign website.
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