2007 Newsmakers came from media, politics, businessWritten by Scott McKimmy | | email@example.com
Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner is Toledo Free Press Newsmaker of the Year for 2007, but several other people were discussed for their impact. Here is an alphabetical listing of the other finalists for this year’s designation.
• Allan Block, Block Communications chairman, helped his family’s newspaper weather strikes by eight unions he described as “contentious.” Four months later, he laid blame on unions for an exodus of manufacturers from Toledo. The Blade lost circulation and advertisers during the strikes, according to Communication Workers of America, locking out employees for most of the duration. Unions, such as Toledo Newspaper Guild, agreed to wage cuts, more workdays, longer hours and commission for advertising representatives in exchange for future pay raises if profit goals are met.
At a meeting of local economic developers, Block said “Toledo is in ‘terrible shape,’ ” according to The Blade, and proposed a “Toledo Guarantee” concept, calling for labor to “promise that businesses will make a fair profit.” Block also appeared in a series of ads touting China as an economic model.
• Developer Larry Dillin was a case study in multitasking. The Dillin Corp. president faced adversity all year against a series of barriers in closing the deal to launch the Village at Southwyck and all but finalizing the $320 million Marina District project.
Toledo City Council approved $7.8 million in taxpayer money — just in time for Christmas — for Dillin to redevelop the comatose South Toledo mall. Along the waterfront, he put up $25 million for prime property as part of the Downtown master plan for revitalization.
• Jack Ford managed to make headlines by trying to not make headlines. He ran a successful bid for Toledo School Board virtually on reputation alone.
The former Toledo mayor won the majority of votes in a campaign so laid-back, it was almost subliminal. Such confidence defied logic for many in the media, who continually questioned his low-profile approach. Since, Ford has perked up, talking to the media about his kidney problems, chatting over coffee on local TV with his wife, Cynthia, and applying his experience to resolving issues affecting TPS.
• The late Ohio Rep. Paul Gillmor departed this life far too soon for his constituents, after representing most of Northwest Ohio in Congress for nearly 20 years. Ohio lost a “favorite son,” according to one colleague, as a result of an accident in September at the 68-year-old’s suburban Washington, D.C., apartment.
Gillmor had visited areas damaged by flooding and attended a series of town meetings a week before the tragedy. Yet his influence lives on.
“Paul never lost sight of the reason he came to Congress — to serve this great institution and his constituents with dedication and distinction,” House Republican Leader John Boehner, also of Ohio, said in a statement.
• UT President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs encountered myriad issues during 2007, causing growing pains for the university while adjusting to the merger.
The school underwent scrutiny for athletes possibly involved in betting schemes, a lawsuit for unlawful discharge, threats to pull ProMedica educational programs for medical students and alleged improprieties by staff charging perks to the university.
Under Jacobs, the university persevered in part by juggling damage control while investing in Toledo’s economic welfare. He moved to the forefront by adocating efforts to spur the local economy, such as reshaping Toledo’s image. He has overseen the UT/MCO merger with mostly positive appraisals.
• Fifteen-year-old Robert Jobe’s trial for the murder of Detective Keith Dressel wrought tragedy and controversy. Essentially, two lives were lost in the aftermath, and no level of justice exists to compensate the Dressel family. Dressel should and will be remembered for his sacrifice, and Jobe will serve 18 years to life for his crime.
“I guess with all bad things come good things,” Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre told Toledo Free Press. I never in my tenure with this police department have seen a community come together the way they did.”
• Ben Konop swore in as a freshman county commissioner and left the starting gate at full stride in 2007. He left his fingerprints on several proposals implementing checks and balances, supporting the arts community and trying to draw new business to town — all while adopting a D’Artagnan-like swagger in the media.
He called Lucas County Improvement Corp. on possible ethics violations, suggested naming a poet laureate and, along with his fellow commissioners, pledged to live on a food budget of $21 per week. One of the wheels fell off his cart, however, when his insurance policy lapsed nine days before an accident involving his brand-new Mercury Mariner.
• Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez spent 2007 pursuing her goals during her first year in office. The Democrat ousted the longtime incumbent, Republican Larry Kaczala, by a margin that surprised many.
Lopez ran on a platform of revamping the system for evaluating property taxes that is “not working for citizens” adding that residents have been “overtaxed.” Voters appear to have liked her ideas and gave her an opportunity to implement them, which seems to be the case.
Last year she unveiled the new Tax Distributor and Levy Estimator online programs that allow county residents to access their tax and levy information on the auditor’s Web site.
“People are always asking how their tax dollars are being spent. Our number-one goal was to make sure that taxpayers are informed about what their taxes are going for by amount and percentage,” Lopez told Toledo Free Press.
• Toledo School Board candidate Chris Myers and author Lisa Reneé Ward represent two of the many blog and discussion board owners who give Web surfers a place for their 2 cents: Ward at www.glasscityjungle.com and Myers at www.swampbubbles.com.
They share a spot on the short list for their efforts to focus on the political climate of the Toledo area and encourage intelligent discussion of the issues that face the average Joe. Myers’ site asks, “What will bubble up today?” referring to the spontaneity with which issues arise. Ward’s touts “Because local politics can be a jungle out there …”
Myers, who lost his bid for school board but remains a TPS educational advocate, announced plans to launch two new blog sites in February, www.GreatOpenSwamp.com and www.Governmentfor.us. He also owns and operates the TPS-oriented www.ideasfortps.com and www.tpssearch.com, which addresses the superintendent search.
Ward, who writes weekly for Toledo Free Press, authored “In Memory of … The Loved and the Forgotten of Ohio,” a book inspired by research of her father’s family, and runs a blog at www.liberalcommonsense.blogspot.com.
• Although his “Recall Carty” campaign failed, political advocate Tom Morrissey demonstrated the role intended for citizens of a democracy: to get involved. At 22 years old, he led efforts to wield the people’s power, an achievement in a society largely afflicted by political apathy. Falling a couple hundred signatures short of the 20,000 required to make the ballot, he burned the petitions, he said, to protect the signers from any possible retaliation.
• Brian Schwartz drew a lot of media attention in 2007, and because he is a spokesman for Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, it’s easy to say, “Well, that’s his job.”
But on at least two occasions, Schwartz was the news. After a public press conference where he refused entry to WSPD reporter/talk show host Kevin Milliken, he told Toledo Free Press, “WSPD has so violated standards of decorum that come with the inalienable right to a free press that we have to take this action.”
Not only did Schwartz find himself on the frontlines for the mayor, he made unwanted news when WTOL-TV ran a story on his posting to local blog sites, which led to a moritorium on that activity.