Stepping in itWritten by Jim Harpen | | email@example.com
Last week I was having lunch with a client who would commonly be described as “outspoken.” He was recalling the management style of former Soviet strongman Joseph Stalin, who during the siege of Stalingrad got things done by putting underperforming subordinates in front of a firing squad. Stalin got results. But Stalin was a maniac. He didn’t command respect. He instilled fear.
What does this have to do with 21st century Toledo? Well, nobody in the Finkbeiner administration who “underperforms” by Carty’s unpredictable standards and dictates dies. They just want to.
Maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement. But it’s interesting how many former top Finkbeiner administrators aren’t satisfied with just leaving their jobs and going on with their lives. They’re out for blood and the betterment of Toledo.
On Jan. 12, I went to the kickoff of the “Take Back Toledo” campaign, whose first task is the recall of Mayor Carty Finkbeiner. I went as a media observer, not a participant. I took an inventory of the people who are leading the charge and those who are following the leaders.
Brian Schwartz is the petition coordinator of this effort to unseat the mayor. “I graduated with my degree in Carty in June 2008,” Schwartz joked, referring to throwing in the towel last summer as Finkbeiner’s battered spokesman — battered by Finkbeiner, that is. Schwartz quit without even having another job lined up. In Toledo, that’s tantamount to personal finance suicide.
Schwartz’ involvement is particularly interesting. In his former life as Finkbeiner’s mouthpiece, he was no friend of radio station WSPD, where the whole Take Back Toledo movement started. You might remember the door-busting shoving match Schwartz had with WSPD’s Fred LeFebvre and Brian Wilson. Today, they’re comrades in arms. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Perlean Griffin was on hand. As the city’s former Affirmative Action/Contract Compliance director, she had a front-row seat to Carty’s, um, style. Carty’s style now has him locked in a $3 million lawsuit filed by Griffin and two other former city employees. (I should point out that we Toledoans are paying to defend Finkbeiner against this lawsuit. And we’ll probably end up paying for the settlement.)
And then there are the former Carty supporters. People who actually forked over cash to help get the guy into office.
Tom Schlachter is the recognized leader of Take Back Toledo. He donated $225 to Finkbeiner’s 2005 mayoral campaign. Oops. Same for Ed Nagle, one of the other principal leaders of the recall initiative: $250 to Carty in October 2005 that Nagle probably wishes he’d spent accessorizing his Harley.
We’re not talking about “career Carty critics.” We’re talking about solid people who know, who’ve worked under, and who’ve tried to work with the mayor, and who are in a position to see how what he’s done has adversely affected our hometown. Carty’s harshest critics are the people who know him well.
I’ve written in this space the reasons relatively few Toledoans know what’s happening on the 22nd floor of One Government Center. The Blade has the horses to report what’s actually going on, but rarely does (see my column from Sept. 28, 2008). I’m not sure what happens when a Blade reporter gets behind the computer after covering a Carty-centric story. Maybe it’s amnesia or tiny strokes or strokes of the “delete” button by editors.
Then there’s the television news media (see my Jan. 4, 2009 column “State of the Local Media”) Most of us still get the majority of our news from television, and frankly, they just don’t dig deep. They barely have the resources to dig at all. So what we get is “he said/she said,” without the barest effort to reveal who’s telling the truth.
Given the people who are behind the recall effort, the risk of retribution they’re exposing themselves to, and most notably, their unique up-close and inside view of Finkbeiner’s performance, one might reach this conclusion: The mayor’s office under Finkbeiner is like a pile of manure. The closer you get, the worse it smells.
E-mail columnist Jim Harpen at firstname.lastname@example.org.