Business-led effort aims to recall mayor, establish PACWritten by Scott McKimmy | | firstname.lastname@example.org
If a group of Toledo-area business people has its way, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, at worst, will face a recall ballot during the 2009 primary election in September. At best, they said, he will resign from office.
Under the banner, Take Back Toledo, Finkbeiner opponents are rallying a petition drive to unseat the mayor during his 2007-to-2009 term, the second such attempt he has faced.
The drive kicks into gear at the first of the year, according to spokesman Tom Schlachter, secretary and treasurer of The Moses-Schlachter Group. He said the mayor has failed in his policies to develop business in Toledo, submitting a budget well in the red and spending the city’s funds to meet his personal agenda, which is not in the best interest of the business community.
“He’s fiscally irresponsible. He took us down the primrose path eight years in good times; Jack Ford got it somewhat squared away, and now here we are again,” Schlachter said, referring to the mayor’s first two terms in office from 1994 to 2002.
Take Back Toledo plans to hire an outside firm to coordinate the petition drive, needing about 20,000 signatures within 90 days of its launch. Schlachter said there is not time to have the recall petition placed on the ballot in March, so the effort has become more of a message than an actual recall. If successful, the drive will force Finkbeiner to choose between resigning within five days or face a referendum by voters in September about two months before the 2009 mayoral election.
Finkbeiner responded to Toledo Free Press by e-mail, defending his office against the recall.
“These individuals, almost all of whom live in the suburbs of Toledo, and in recent years haven’t lifted a finger to better Toledo, should be ashamed of themselves,” he wrote. “In a time of national and local severe recession, instead of pursuing their selfish personal and political agendas, they should help us raise money for the United Way and Salvation Army, and fight for auto jobs just as hard as I did to keep Jeep a few years back.”“They should also support us in working to bring alternative energy jobs and companies to Toledo. I just fought to keep COSI, and none of them helped. I just traveled to Washington to fight for Jeep, GM and Ford jobs. I’m working with the Governor and Lt. Governor to expand Ohio’s economy. I’m working weekly with Larry Dillin to build a Marina District and rebuild Southwyck. And I am working to maintain city services while balancing a very strained city budget.
“They talk while I, and others, work … and will keep working for caring, concerned and loyal Toledo families.”
Widening the field
If Finkbeiner is recalled and still opts to run for re-election, Schlachter expects the petition drive to encourage other potential candidates to announce their intention to run.
“In the meantime, in order to open up the field to other candidates who may not feel like they have a chance at the agenda we’re discussing, we’re going to try to create an environment where they may come forward knowing that there will be support for them; it won’t be business as usual,” he added.
Schlachter cited numerous blunders by the Finkbeiner administration, including the marina project, the steam plant and Southwyck Mall as examples of his “incompetence as a real estate developer.” Finkbeiner originally elected not to hire a development officer, but rather to handle the duties himself. He also has been unable to submit a balanced budget to city council and is making cuts to city services as well as cutting employee workdays, which has raised concern by the city workers’ union.
In essence, Schlachter equated the economic conditions in Toledo to that of Titanic’s fateful voyage.
“The ship of Toledo is sinking and there are those who ask, ‘Why would you bother with a recall with only a year left?” he said. “And the answer to that is there will come a point when we can’t save it and that point may be reached prior to a year or two from now when a good pro-business mayor takes over.”
Two open organizational meetings have taken place, with more than 100 attendees from across the business spectrum, said a source who attended both meetings. Attendees were asked to donate $1,000 to fund the recall effort and establish a permanent political action committee.
A Web site, www.TakeBackToledo.com, has been launched, and all Clear Channel radio stations will run commercials promoting the recall effort, according to Andy Stuart, general manager of Clear Channel in Toledo.
Brian Wilson WSPD 1370 AM program director and afternoon talk show host, submitted a statement to Toledo Free Press, published here.
Pinched for time
Take Back Toledo faces an uphill climb, according to one city official who asked to remain off the record. Collecting 20,000 signatures in 90 days requires an average of about 222 per day, and the signatures must signed by at least that number of electors which equals twenty-five percent of the electors voting at the last regular City election for that office. The signatures are then submitted to the clerk of council for validation, and, if the final tally falls short of the required 20,000, the group will have 20 additional days to collect the required number.
Tom Morrissey, one activist who has experienced a recall petition drive, said the process is difficult. Morrissey attempted to recall Finkbeiner in 2007 but fell short by about 2,500 signatures.
The 23-year-old’s efforts did, however, spark interest in the possibility of recalling the mayor, as outlined by Section 87A of the city charter. Morrissey said he appreciates the fact that business people have taken up the cause, admitting that his efforts were noble yet underfunded.
“It’s a lot of work, a whole lot of work, especially in 90 days,” Morrissey said. “But what I heard is that they’re raising money to hire a firm, and that’s really good. You either need a whole lot of people or a whole lot of money.
“I think more than anything, it will be symbolic showing the business community’s disgust. And because what’s most important today is the businesses. If we don’t have businesses and we don’t have jobs, we don’t go anywhere.”
Schlachter emphasized that Take Back Toledo also serves to promote a re-examination of the city’s form of government, which since the ’90s has been based on the form of a strong mayor and “weaker” city council.
The group deems the experiment a failure and hopes to urge a change, placing more power in the hands of council to make municipal decisions. Schlachter placed the blame for the ineffective strong-mayor form of government primarily on Finkbeiner’s shoulders because he advocated it and led the helm throughout his three terms. He also indicated a lack of initiative by council.
“Ultimately, we want to examine the form of government we’re using now — it’s been 15 or 16 years now under the strong-mayor form and it isn’t working,” Schlachter continued. “There are those who say that the charter contains plenty of power for city council, but they’re just not exercising it due to their leadership.”
While inherently political in nature, Schlachter assures the group promotes positive business development for Toledo. He said the effort has no bearing on ideology, and whether a good candidate to back for mayor is Republican or Democrat has not been an issue.
“This isn’t about politics at all; it’s about promoting the community, and we’re not anti-union; we’re not anti-anything,” he said. “We’re strictly ‘pro-moving Toledo ahead.”
Schlachter cited the exodus of big businesses, such as Owens-Illinois and FedEx, as symptoms of a worsening problem of poor economic development. Schlachter also blamed the mayor’s lack of diplomacy in handling delicate situations like the U.S. Marines’ exercises Downtown, which Finkbeiner canceled, causing an uproar by veterans and the community in general.
“His priorities, in our opinion, are inappropriate,” Schlachter said. “He just fiscally doesn’t understand how two and two makes four in the world today. He’s vindictive; he’s unapproachable; he’s isolated. He takes no advice from anybody.”
“Take back Toledo” by Michael S. Miller
“The Plus or Minus Game” by Brian Wilson