Mayor snubs Toledo airportWritten by Kevin Milliken | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Mayor Carty Finkbeiner flew to Miami this past week to give a presentation on the Marina District to a group of design experts and architects at the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Big deal, right? The mayor is in sunny south Florida while the rest of us are dealing with a Northwest Ohio winter. He’s playing economic development director, selling the merits of a huge project while trying to get some valuable feedback with the hope of making the project stronger.
To some, it may be a big deal, especially how the mayor traveled to the conference. It turns out the mayor flew out of Detroit Metro, shunning Toledo Express airport for a direct flight to Miami.
Mayoral spokesman Brian Schwartz said the Detroit Metro flight was cheaper than one out of Toledo Express, although he could not provide exact figures when asked. Schwartz also says the mayor expects city staff to take flights that make the best use of their time. In this instance, there would be no layover at another airport for Finkbeiner.
All that said, there’s a big billboard along Erie Street as you enter Downtown Toledo, encouraging commuters to “Buy Local, Fly Local.” That’s the mantra the Port Authority has used for years trying to drum up business for Toledo Express, while hoping to stop some of the flow of passengers to Detroit Metro.
The Port Authority even pulled out some figures to show the economic challenges posed by people choosing Detroit Metro: an annual loss of $80 million to 100 million, plus a cost to the local consumer base of $14.8 million from people driving to Detroit to catch a flight.
Toledo City Council even joined the fray last fall, unanimously passing a resolution encouraging the mayor to have city officials use Toledo Express whenever possible.
All that said, the mayor still made a conscious choice to fly out of Detroit Metro anyway.
Did Mayor Finkbeiner purposely thumb his nose at all those factors? I doubt it. Carty the Consumer probably made the same decision most busy travelers face: what will get me there in the least amount of time, with the least amount of hassle at the best price?
We expect our elected leaders to be good stewards of our taxpayer dollars. If the mayor found a cheaper flight and saved some of our nickels, we should be glad.
However, if the mayor/economic development director/former port authority member sets an example that encourages more business leaders, city officials, and citizens to skip our local airport and go to Detroit instead, that could cost our region a lot more money in the long run.
Is that sending the wrong message?
Even the mayor’s spokesman seems caught in the conundrum, because he has also worked as the Port Authority’s public information officer. As someone who once encouraged people to fly Toledo Express, he now finds himself defending the mayor’s decision to use Detroit Metro. He even seemed disappointed the Detroit flight turned out to be cheaper.
“I hate to admit it, but that’s the truth,” Schwartz said.
But sometimes cheaper can be more expensive — and this may be one of those times.
Kevin Milliken is the host of “Eye on Toledo” on WSPD-AM 1370. His blog can be found at www.millikenmouthingoff.blogspot.com.