Friday, April 22, 2005

Winning for Toledo

Today's announcement of the new Democratic PAC is great news for Toledo, for Democrats, and for the future. My criticism of Carty & the Kest gang stems from their division of the local party at a time when Democrats and organized labor should be united for 2006 - the Ohio Poll released today indicates that Republican Governor Bob Taft's disapproval rating is the highest since 1981 (when the Ohio Poll started.)

Click here for the latest polling

toledoblade.com has a preview. on the new local PAC.

Much more on all this later...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Baseball Therapy

Making decisions on $300,000 in public money that will be pivotal in a $20 million investment into our downtown is stressful. We have an obligation to get it right, to ask questions, to use our best judgement. Public officials like to get thoughtful input - there is so much needless coarseness and incivility out there - most of us enjoy life too much to waste time & energy, just like most normal people.

City Council voted tonight 11-0 to proceed with the development of the old Steamplant, in the heart of our downtown, along our Maumee River. We have several market rate housing projects already downtown that are 85% to 97% occupied and have added vitality, young people, and an optimistic spirit to our city.

After the council meeting I went to the Hens game, sat along the right field line enjoying the warm air, and like I've done before, just soaked it all in. Double plays, a 400 ft. HR that nearly smashed a windshield on Monroe St., chit chat with people strolling past, a quick dart to the Roost for a conversation with Alan and Ben Konop, and a few phone calls related to the Steamplant and the merger of the City-County Economic Development operations. Oh how some people howl about that one. Just like those who howled that the Mud Hens shouldnt come downtown.

For my 7th inning stretch I left the wi-fi enabled ballpark and walked through the Warehouse District to my car. Bassett Nut Building is offering two loft apartments, 1800 sq. feet. A National Historic Register plaque on The Emporium Building. Construction trades people still working at 8:30 over at Bartley. Music and drinks over at The Bronze Boar (on a Tuesday!) Planning on lunch tomorrow at Grumpy's. Peering into upscale second and third story apartments over at 100 S. Huron and mistaking Toledo for Chicago. Now that's optimistic!

Going to Mud Hens games will always remind me that, although change brings fear and loathing, people working together with good intentions can begin things anew - and that it can go right.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Wenzel's Move

Fritz Wenzel, the political reporter for The Blade, Toledo's hometown newspaper, announced today on his blog he's making a move after 10 years on Superior and starting his own communications consulting shop. (Which is my vocation, along with being a politician. Who knows, maybe we'll see Fritz on the ballot one day?) I wish him well and tip my hat.

I remember first meeting him at Democratic Headquarters back in early 1997, after I returned from working the Clinton-Gore 96 race in Washington, DC. I believe I first earned mention in one of his stories for having to explain a purchase of yard signs made in Kentucky, rather than Toledo. He waxed on in his column the next week about the negative 'multiplier effect' on the Toledo economy. Properly chastened, I resolved to keep sharp as this reporter knew a thing or two about what makes a good campaign.

Its no secret that many on the Democratic side always thought if Fritz let any bias slip into his reporting or columns, he generally favored Republicans - of course I'm biased too, though. That said, he and I have always gotten along. He is a good journalist who did good work for The Blade. His stuff had definite impacts on the campaigns I've been involved with over the years.

As a fellow student of politics, more than once I was somewhat jealous of his access to national politicians and their travels. I first experienced the New Hampshire primary in December 1991, stumping for Clinton, and fondly recall chatting with The Washington Post's legendary David Broder, handicapping the Arkansas Governor's chances as he worked a town hall meeting as only Clinton could. Fritz has a notebook full of stories like that - and then some - I'm sure.

Local Democrats have certainly delivered a wonderful parting gift for Fritz with all our turmoil - some great stories the past few weeks, I especially liked the coverage of the Ford kickoff. The 06 state elections will be fascinating, and I know he'll remain a key observer, perhaps playing some sort of active role. Maybe he'll continue on Sunday morning TV when Finkbeiner is finally canned as he officially kicks off his last run for office - he could even break that story on April 23rd, the next time Carty & the Kest gang gather at the Teamsters - a coup de grĂ¢ce.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Why I'm Hot

Last night the local GOP raised a ton of money and heard from three gubernatorial candidates. Republicans should be very pleased with the desperate work of Carty & the Kest gang. As Ohio's economy, education and health care system are all in crisis, Carty & the Kest gang couldn't care less. Theirs is a venal pursuit of power. They'll fail, and the activists who fight for Democratic principles at all levels, year in year out, will have to pick up the pieces for next years Governor's race, Secretary of State's & Auditor's race, the race for Senate, and to retake the Ohio General Assembly.

There are good people mixed up with Carty & the Kest gang, and I'm furious with them for hurting the cause of electing Democrats. Makes you wonder if some of them aren't working with the GOP. Carty himself is a former Republican who will be held accountable for his pathetic lack of support for statewide Democratic candidates in 1994 & 1998. Most of his advisors are Republicans or have a rich history of generously supporting the GOP. (see story here)

If you buy into their humbug on sanctions for those of us on council who didnt join the Republicans and vote for the party's screening and executive committee's recommendation for the council vacancy, then when will the central committee members who voted against the endorsed Democrat for Treasurer be sanctioned? It doesn't matter because all their baloney is nothing more than an attempt for Carty & the Kest gang to move from the 5th floor to the 22nd.

This next item is more amusing than infuriating: Fritz Wenzel over at heartlandpolitics.com confirms the Noe TV show rumor, expect it on FOX 36. Any suggestions for what it should be called?

Despite all this, elected Democrats are working together to move our city and county forward & creating jobs, as the steamplant is only the latest example. My campaign is busy organizing for this year and the future. And I've got a lot of friends doing the same thing. We won't give up the ship.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Picking Up Steam

Great work by Ford's Economic Development team, Bill Carroll, former Dana executive, and Robert Gilcrest, a young man with with solid corporate experience, on the Steamplant project. Council heard yesterday from Dave Ball, a well known downtown building owner and businessman and partner in the project with Jimmy Jackson. We also heard from Dana Noel, from the general contractor, Jera, that Ball & Jackson selected. Mayor Ford is well justified in offering $300,000 from our capital improvements budget to achieve a $19 million riverfront investment. The development agreement we'll vote on includes a June '05 start date for construction.

I understand skepticism about the project, after all, then Mayor Finkbeiner led City Council to spend $1.85 million on failure. A mistake of commission, I'm sure. Would be nice to call that out of state developer and get our money back. Or better, maybe WTVG 13 ABC could dock Carty's pay for his failure (he did that all the time to his city employees.)

My colleague Phil Copeland and I are leading the charge to insist that as much of that construction work as possible get done by local labor and with minority contracting goals in mind. Mayor Ford is as solid a supporter of local labor as we are. We want the jobs to go to people in Toledo.

toledoblade.com covers yesterdays great exchange with City Council and the Mayor. We have a council committee hearing Monday afternoon at 4:00pm.

Tale of Two Candidates

Howard Dean and Joe Lieberman bookend the spectrum of Democratic politics. Their candidacies came to embody the disaffected liberal, anti-war, reform spirit and the quintessential Third Way, centrist, DLC-view of the world. Lieberman was Bill Clinton without the smooth southern delivery & sex appeal. Dean - the internet comet with whiskey courage - taking it to Bush early and with gusto.

The Pew Research Center has just released a detailed survey of Deaniacs, and pays particular attention to their sustained impact on politics and their grudgingly loyal but critical allegiance the Democratic Party.

In the interest of full disclosure, although I was attracted to the spirited former Governor of Vermont for his ambitious and colorful critiques of Bush (went to an early houseparty and made a contribution) - my impression was that he didnt have much chance against heavyweights like Gephardt, Kerry or that he could even attract the mainstream appeal of a candidate like Gen. Wesley Clark. So I decided to keep relatively clear of the primary and help organize Ohio for the real battle come fall - and, as a favor to Craig Smith, whom I worked for way back in the 92 and 96 races, agreed to help Joe Lieberman find delegates in Ohio. (Disagreed with hawkish position on Iraq, though conceded that he was the duly elected Vice President of the United States in 2000, but would probably be out of the 04 race by the Ohio primary. He was.)

What a difference a couple years make. Dean sits atop the DNC and Lieberman is a top target of the liberal blogosphere. Got this from Dean in my inbox today - and I wonder why Ohio isn't a higher priority for the new Chairman.

"Dear Frank:

Every four years, a few months before the presidential election, the Democratic Party puts staff and resources on the ground in a few battleground states ... and then they're gone. After November the whole operation disappears.

Then, four years later, we do the same thing all over again.

That hasn't worked. And I ran for chairman on a promise to do it another way.

So a few days ago I met with the state party chairs, and we made a decision together. For the first time ever we're going to build for the future by putting staff and resources on the ground early -- starting in 2005, not 2008. The first four states: North Dakota, Missouri, North Carolina and West Virginia.

How soon the next 46 states get moving depends on you -- can you make a contribution now?

You mandated a party built from the ground up, and that's exactly what we're going to do.

The half-million dollars we're investing in these first four states will pay for professional organizers -- the key staff who will develop skills and help build a permanent network of Democrats at the grassroots level.

But we cannot stop here. It's your party, and it will only grow with your help."

Monday, April 11, 2005

Ford Kickoff A Blast



Saturday afternoon at Ford HQ was a treat. A crowd of hundreds who we've worked with over the years in Democratic politics, preparing to make our optimistic case for the future. Mayor Ford spoke of jobs created & maintained, expanding access to health care, the city's commitment to public safety and quality services, and his faith in us that we'd stand strong and keep him in a position to do more good works for Toledo. He also touted his 100% voting record for labor as Democratic Leader in the Ohio House.

Noone should be afraid of a contest of ideas - yet Carty & the Kest gang continue to dodge & weave, even sending a mole into the crowd at the Ford kickoff. (note to Irish: Gary isn't subtle)

And yet, Finkbeiner continues to get outed, this time in the front page Blade article on the mayor's race. His charade on WTVG 13 ABC continues to provide him a campaign platform. This weekend he played gracious, forgiving host to GOP fatcat Tom Noe.

(note to 13: all a campaign needs to be doing at this point is quietly raising money & securing commitments, and behind the scenes organizing - why not send the I-Team to the Teamsters some Saturday morning and cover your employee's mayoral campaign? His announcement can certainly wait until the first weekend in June, just in time for the festival season.)

Monday, April 04, 2005

Working Together

Tom Troy writes a good retrospective on the coke project, the cities, and the brothers over at toledoblade.com:
"Tax dispute adds new chapter to 'tale of two cities'
Toledo-Oregon rivalry resurfaces in flap over income from coke plant
(150 new jobs, $300 million initial investment, and putting scores of carpenters & building trades to work on this new construction)

Wednesday is the Labor-Management Committee's annual meeting here in Toledo.

Tomorrow Toledo City Council asks HCR Manor Care to stay neutral in an upcoming NLRB supervised union election - respecting employees right to organize and collectively bargain for better wages and health & welfare benefits.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Keep Hockey in Toledo



Attended my first hockey game of the year tonight - only a few more Storm games left this season.

The Sports Arena opened in 1947. Walking in seemed like going back in time, yet my ticket reads 2005.

A boisterous crowd, but the place was maybe half full. Fans erupted as Toledo scored first, and they sounded great as the natural acoustics are perfect (though the piped in music lacked any acoustics whatsoever)

The fact that's its an intimate venue gives it a certain charm, and everyone I talked to was friendly. It was a young crowd, too.

As I walked around between periods I sought the opinions of people who worked there.

"Where do you think hockey can be played in Toledo that makes the most money?" Half said downtown, half said East Side.
The East Side half cited parking as a major factor. I'm not convinced acres of asphalt on our riverfront is good land use. If it does get built in East Toledo, there's got to be a parking structure away from the riverfront.

"Where do we get the money to build?" More than one employee said that the city shouldnt spend a taxpayers' dime. But, the public-private partnership that's needed to finance and build the new arena will have to buy the land from Tim Gladieux. And he'll certainly seek to do the food service at the new arena, as he does at the ballpark. I'm not against profit, but reinvesting in the business is required. For instance, the faded yellow curtains in the attached building (that greet visitors to International Park) are horrid, embarassing & have been there untouched for years. The City will absorb infrastructure costs (subject to negotiations.)

"Did the NHL strike help or hurt the Storm? And does the uncertainty of next year's NHL season put investors of a new Toledo arena "on ice"? The consensus was that the strike hurt more at the beginning and now at the end of the Storm's season. One guy said that if the NHL and Storm go dark next year, he knows dozens of folks who'll just show up at Tam-o-Shantern in Sylvania just to watch a game of hockey.

"Do you live in Toledo?" Everyone I spoke to (about a dozen in total) lived in Toledo. I then reminded them of how the Mud Hens ballpark got financed, through the sale of suites and naming rights, and that the key to the sales was listening to the market.

An important distinction between the ballpark & arena projects is that the ballpark is owned by Lucas County and the profits get returned to the taxpayers of Lucas County. The Toledo Storm and the Toledo Sports Arena are privately owned and operated. A $50 or $60 million outlay of taxpayer dollars that will enrich private investors is not being considered, and even if it was, no local gov't has that kind of money. John Harris and Dan Saevig at toledoblade.com share valuable insight on this point. Thus, I believe the percentage of private dollars needed to finance an arena is higher than the ballpark needed. Receipts from both venues are/would be used to help retire the debt for construction.

The City of Toledo's arena developer, the Pizzuti Co., is in the field right now conducting a feasibility study. The Pizzuti's did Nationwide Arena for the Columbus Bluejackets.

One thing I concluded tonight: hockey is a product that will sell here. Its exciting to watch, you can feel the roar of the crowd when something good happens, and its appealing to families with children at any age, appealing to groups of young people, and I think would strongly appeal to the same folks who sit at the suites at Fifth-Third Field. It would be a place you'd want to take clients, guests and family from out of town.

The success of hockey in town I believe can meet or perhaps exceed the success of baseball here. Those in the private sector who made large investments in the Mud Hens really need to consider making another buy. It would be a huge lift to our civic pride, and would increase tax dollars we could use improving our neighborhoods and fighting crime.