Higgins: Sporting ToledoWritten by Tim Higgins | | email@example.com
Disclaimer: The Toledo Free Press takes no responsibility for the insanely mixed metaphors in the following piece.
Sporting events have always been a favorite in the Glass City, whether we’re talking about the college-level efforts at UT or the more professional ones of the Mud Hens and Walleye. This goes a long way to explain the considerable amounts expended to provide top-line venues at the Glass Bowl, Fifth-Third Field and the Huntington Center. In recent days however, a surprising one might have been added to that list, as One Government Center saw its debut with a political multisport event.
Play began innocently enough when Mayor Mike Bell sought to raise the ranges of pay (not the pay itself) for some of the city’s nonunion employees; pointing out that the last time that range had been increased was back in 1998. Now such an opening move would not normally be regarded as good first play call, coming at a time when the city has seen some preliminary bouts of budget balancing with labor unions that came out as little more than a draw. Since raises for politicians are never a popular opening gambit to those in the stands, few would have seen this as a time for a relative newcomer to turn it into a pugilistic opportunity.
Fate however, occasionally allows a hitter with an 0-2 count a big, fat hanging curve ball to take a swing at. Such was the delivery from City Councilman Steve Steel in his attempt to send Mayor Bell to the dugout, cap in hand. Not many realized this however, when he proposed an ethics pledge to the mayor not to accept campaign contributions from those same city employees whose salary range the mayor was asking to increase. Fellow Democratic Councilman and Council President Joe McNamara (Bell is an independent) even attempted to hold a block for Steel, saying to 13ABC of such contributions, “It’s not illegal, but it’s shabby to accept money from who he can hire and fire.”
Failing to recognize that this was not the mayor’s first rodeo, both could only watch open-jawed as the mayor returned this weak serve with a solid cross court volley. Instead of the expected prevent defense, Bell in fact blitzed his opponents, firing back to Steel that “his proposal was an excellent one, but I thought it went a little short.” Assuming a seasoned poker face, he saw their employee contributions and raised them “all in” with a city ordinance that would prohibit candidates from taking contributions from current city employees, their family members or the bargaining units that represent city employees.
Now Councilman Steel came from the more rarefied intellectual atmosphere of the Toledo Board of Education (wait, is that a contradiction in terms?); so he might be forgiven for attempting to move the play toward the more elitist sport of fox hunting by (as reported by WSPD) calling the mayor’s play a “red herring” (red herring were used to fool fox hunting dogs while training them to properly track scent). Calling it a “diversion” however, was in fact little more than a diversion itself or, maybe more accurately, fumbling the ball. Since it was Councilman Steel who brought the whole thing up in the first place, going further by calling it “an SB5 like attack” might even be considered a personal foul for piling on.
Being an appointed at-large Councilman, Steven Steel may now have a different sport to begin training for, that of political back-pedaling (amateur, of course, if he ever hopes to make the Olympic team) as he attempts fundraising and running for election. Even at this early stage of his athletic career though, he might take heed from Lance Armstrong and avoid potential contact with substances like steroids and testosterone that promise potential fame and glory, but can shorten even the most promising career.
As for the proposal and counterproposal on political contribution restrictions by the mayor and council, it’s possible that a lively debate might ensue, but it’s far more likely that it will end faster than a three up, three down inning. Anything passed probably would face a court challenge that was largely decided by “Citizens United.” Money was deemed free speech, and neither City Council nor the mayor can go toe-to-toe with the Supreme Court and expect to win.
As for Councilman Steel, he might also want to be more careful in picking his future bouts and opponents. He would probably fare better next time fighting in his weight class (no offense Mayor Bell, I’m talking experience, not mass). He might also want to seek some minor medical attention. I’m sure that I’m not the only one that noticed a little fluid leaking from his face recently. He did after all, get tagged.