Stuart marshals radio resources to ‘create solutions’Written by Gail Burkhardt | | email@example.com
Clear Channel General Manager Andy Stuart takes Toledo’s economic and government deficiencies so seriously, he uses his full resources to create solutions.
In the past year, Stuart and others in the political action committee Take Back Toledo began a recall effort of Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner. Take Back Toledo also launched a campaign broadcasting editorials endorsing Michael Bell about 900 times on Clear Channel stations for the November election. Bell won the election with about 52 percent of the vote.
Take Back Toledo’s results have been mixed.
Although the group collected more than 45,000 signatures to put a recall of Finkbeiner on the ballot for September, the issue was thrown out by the Ohio Supreme Court on a technicality, Stuart said. Still, Finkbeiner decided not to run for another term.
“I think that the fact that we had 45,000 people sign the petition demonstrates that there were a very high number of people that were very dissatisfied with his administration and he must have felt that he couldn’t possibly win re-election based on that,” Stuart said.
The first goal of Take Back Toledo was to oust Finkbeiner and the second was to elect “somebody who could actually fulfill the duties and obligations of the office the way that it needed to be,” Stuart said.
Stuart, a registered Republican, and his fellow members interviewed the mayoral candidates to determine whom they would endorse. They chose the former Toledo Fire Chief and Ohio Fire Marshal Bell, an independent, over attorney and former Toledo City Law Director Keith Wilkowski, a Democrat, because they felt Bell had better plans for the city. The decision was tough, Stuart said.
“We actually had a choice this time with good people instead of a lesser of two evils,” he said.
Stuart spoke in the editorials about how Bell will be bring jobs to Toledo and how Bell’s experience as the fire chief will keep Toledo’s streets safer.
The editorials ran on five of Clear Channel’s stations: 1370 WSPD News Talk, 101.5 The River, 92.5 KISS FM and 1230 WCWA Fox Sports Radio. They ran about three times a day on each station, Stuart said.
“The campaign was so extensive that there’s no way that a voter could not have heard them and heard them a lot, so I do believe that they made a difference to the outcome,” Stuart said of the editorials.
Although Wilkowski was able to purchase ads on Clear Channel stations, Stuart did not give him equal time to run editorials, Stuart said, adding that it was not an ethical violation.
“There’s a well-set precedent for people who are in charge of the media to be able to express their opinion,” he said.
Andy Schotz, the chairman of the Society of Professional Journalists Ethics Committee, said that all editorials should be clearly introduced so listeners do not mistake them for ads or news. Editorials take the risk of losing the audience’s trust, but the amount of the Clear Channel editorials may not have been excessive.
“That’s not like five times an hour where it’s a constant drum beat,” Schotz said.
Wilkowski declined to comment on the mayoral race, but he confirmed that his campaign spent about $6,000 on radio advertisements.
Bell’s campaign spent $14,223 on radio ads with five stations, two of which were Clear Channel stations, said Jennifer Sorgenfrei, Bell’s spokeswoman.
Take Back Toledo met with Bell before the election and would like to meet with him again, Stuart said.
“I don’t know that there’s any solid plans. I think [Bell is] definitely reaching out to folks in the community and will continue to do that just to make sure he’s getting all perspectives,” said Sorgenfrei of possible meetings with Take Back Toledo.
Stuart said he has endorsed candidates in the past, but this is the first time he has supported a candidate to such a great extent.
Take Back Toledo is still working on its third goal to change the city’s charter to put more checks on the mayor’s power, he said.
Stuart lives in Sylvania, but said he plans to continue his involvement in Toledo politics, including giving endorsements because his business and listeners are in Toledo and he cares about the city’s welfare, he said.