Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Goodbye Finkbeiner!

Here we go. I've been calling it for months. Finkbeiner officially joins the mayors race Thursday. There will be a lot of diversity at the podium, but its the former Kest operatives & select Kest supporters who have delivered for Finkbeiner, and to whom he's made his most important promises. He took 13 ABC for a good ride the past few years, got his Kest buddies to temporarily subdue the Lucas County Democratic Party, and worked overtime to badmouth Mayor Ford at every turn. He's been campaigning for over a year, even as an on-air television commentator. And, starting today, his polling numbers will only go in one direction. Down.

These next 76 days will be historic for Toledo. A great debate about our city's past, present and future is about to unfold. As I've said here before, no one should be afraid of a contest of ideas, and, at last, honesty catches up to Finkbeiner's lurking, deceptive, divisive and selfish strategy. His is a strategy upended by the surprise entry of Keith Wilkowski, who with Rob Ludeman will siphon thousands and thousands of dollars and votes away from him in the September primary.

Which is why I say, "Goodbye Finkbeiner!" I believe these next several weeks will be his swan song as an aspiring politician.

He has devoted his life to the City of Toledo, and we should respect that and the many good things he has accomplished. In a way, my attention to this matter could be interpreted as honor. But his time is past, and neither do I want nor expect him to be successful this fall. He was fortunate to be Mayor under a President who's fiscal policies ushered in a golden economy, not a wartime, jobless recovery - and he played the role as best he could, despite all the self-inflicted humiliation to himself and our city. (Not that he has the market cornered, I have goofed and will goof again - same for my colleagues.)

My observations would be less corrosive if Finkbeiner had simply been honest from the get-go. "Yes, I want to run for Mayor again. I won't play coy to stay on TV. Yes, we changed the rules of the Democratic Party last summer to deny the endorsement to the incumbent Democrat this fall, despite all that he's done for the party and how little I have. Yes, I just think I should be Mayor again and again, because no one is better than me." What is this, his fifth or sixth run for Mayor of Toledo?

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Is this the pot calling the kettle black? Am not I an "aspiring politician" that works an agenda not openly disseminated? Why all this from Finkbeiner's last campaign manager? What did Finkbeiner ever do to Szollosi? Doesn't Frank have something better to work on?

Good questions, and I welcome more. I will support candidates that work together for the benefit of our community, and by extension, work together to elect Democrats. It is my sincere belief that electing Democrats at the local, state, and national levels proves beneficial to our community. It is also my sincere belief that Finkbeiner has been and continues to be a complete failure in the "working together" department - both within NW Ohio and within the context of helping to elect Democrats. Finkbeiner's failure is a stark contrast to Jack Ford's success. He has striven to work together within Lucas County, and no local Democratic elected official has done more to assist Democratic candidates in Toledo, Ohio, and at the national level than Jack Ford. I genuinely respect that - though I don't expect our critics to respect it, nor do I even expect a lot of people to understand what I mean, because you have to be a fairly dyed-in-the-wool Democrat to get it. And I respect what Mayor Ford has been able to do for Toledo despite the Bush recession - not laying off police & fire, and making sure municipal employees by and large only got bumped into utility positions. Quietly working with the private sector and labor to attract thousands of new jobs. Faced with these deficits, there is no doubt in my mind Finkbeiner would axe employees by the dozens.

Mine was a brief episode with Finkbeiner. In 1997, as an incumbent Democrat, Chairwoman Paula Ross endorsed Carty and worked with B-Teamers to re-elect him. I just wrapped up my work for Clinton-Gore in Washington, and worked with both A & B teamers to re-elect Carty. For all of Finkbeiner's faux gravitas and affable courtliness, it is a courtesy he and the Kest gang are too small as persons to repay to Mayor Ford. And I stand for re-election in my own right not only without the support of the B team, but they've purposefully, and with great deception, denied my endorsement by the party for which I've long labored. I will work to secure their defeat without rest and in good cheer.

There are people with Finkbeiner who I consider friends, just as there are people with Wilkowski who I consider friends. Politics is a strange business. And the next 76 days will hold an awkwardness of unusual dimensions. We will all be working to win - and Toledo will never be the same.

Monday, June 27, 2005

An Early Birthday Gift

As the Fourth of July approaches, Uncle Sam is giving us 296,467,721 American citizens an early birthday gift:

Congress will allow the Congressional Research Service to grant open public access to its work. CRS is the public policy research arm of Congress, operated by the Library of Congress.

Information will be posted at www.opencrs.com, a web site that has organized previously public CRS reports. The Center for Democracy and Technology www.cdt.org deserves a lot of credit for this victory.

Another group dedicated to transparency in government is the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government www.cjog.net

When I served as Press Secretary for Rep. Marcy Kaptur, we worked closely with CRS staff on several projects, including the issues of our federal budget deficit, federal debt and taxes. I look forward to accessing research on Homeland Security, alternative energy, and technology commercialization that we can put to work for Toledo - and I'd be interested in hearing from you about what you found interesting in all this research.

If you get a chance, send Marcy a note of thanks.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Good ideas (& action) sought

Justice perhaps for staying up all night on a home improvement project and missing the charette Saturday morning:

Russ Lemmon takes me to task today over the new arena.

Yes, I've expressed my preference for an east side location consistently. I've also said that an arena would pay big dividends downtown, and that we may have better luck selling suites, naming rights, etc. with a downtown site. What we need is a successful public-private partnership - like the Mud Hens ballpark.

The Marina District, with destination retail and a new arena, will revitalize Main Street, our waterfront, and some great old neighborhoods. I speak with so many people who have interpreted the Section 79 vote as an endorsement of an east side location. East Toledo activists are as passionate about the arena as the Maumee folks were about the Mud Hens. Change is tough, especially if you feel your losing something, that other people are gaining at your expense.

And yet, the Marina District and East Toledo can be successful with or without an arena. Another good idea is to locate the arena several blocks away from the ballpark, and have restaurants, residential and commerical space develop between the two anchors.

Then there is Jim Donnelly: attach the arena to the Convention Center, and draw more conventions and expendable income to Toledo.

These are all sound, worthy ideas that would make Toledo a better place. When I get the report from the planning session Saturday I'll share it here. And tomorrow morning I'll put down the trowel and mortar at home and get back to work downtown.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Carty & Kest Gang Silent on Noe, Attack Dems

Word comes that Carty & the Kest Gang want to call authorities in Columbus about Toledo Mayor Jack Ford using old yard signs from 2001 with the word "endorsed" on them. What a joke. It would be funny if it wasn't such a sad commentary: instead of going after the GOP and Tom Noe, instead of sticking up for Ohio's injured workers, nope, time to carry water for Finkbeiner and weakly smack at Mayor Ford. Apparently calls are being made for a Carty press conference late next week at International Park - probably see some new Carty Party candidates, too.

For the record, Carty & the Kest Gang have opted for "banishment" (their word) of popularly elected Democrats, including three young, white Catholics, several African-Americans, a gay Latino, and the President of the Toledo School Board who happens to be Jewish. Carty & the Kest Gang, and some in the party, have treated Mayor Jack Ford with considerable disrespect. They have cooked up weak explanations about when the "sanctions" will occur. Whatever. We are men and women who have given time, money and loyalty to the Democratic Party at every level for years. All have good reputations as elected officials. And for what? The personal ambition of perennial wanna-be Carty Finkbeiner and John Irish's comfort in the Treasurer's Office for the few weeks that remain. Democrats around Ohio and in Washington are terrified by the damage they can do to our chances next year.

Thing is, Carty & the Kest Gang have had strong allegiances with GOP Commissioner Thurber. She, GOP County Commissioner candidate Lynn Olman, and Gov. Bob Taft have enjoyed the support of Teamsters Local 20 chief Bill Lichtenwald - a key ally to Kest & Finkbeiner. After Kest resigned to avoid prosecution for unlawful actions, that his top deputies looked past, the Treasurer-elect by all rights should have taken over. Sure, there were going to be some new folks up there, and Kest deputies Mr. Irish and Mr. Montalto could have taken other jobs. But no, Carty & the Kest gang wanted to prove who was boss, set Wade back, and cast him as someone who was hard-hearted about treatment of employees. (Yeah, Carty concerned about someone else treating public employees inappropriately, that's a good one.) When the time came for the Commissioners to fill the post, a longtime Kest aide withdrew her name at the last minute, and Carty, the Kest Gang, and Thurber talked someone close to Finkbeiner into blocking the Treasurer-elect. After a brief period, a local labor official, pro-Carty and who hosted Ray Kest's fundraisers for years and years, again shunted the choice of the people aside and stepped in ahead of the candidate endorsed by the Lucas County Democratic Party for Treasurer, and who had just been resoundingly elected to the post. Carty, the Kest Gang and Thurber worked very closely to perpetrate this sham.

If I sound angry, I am. Many of us worked hard, long and in good faith to bring Democrats and labor together to win elections, no one worked harder or more duplicitously at undermining Mayor Ford and aggravating the local Democratic split than Finkbeiner and the Kest hold-outs.

I guess they don't want us at Executive Committee so they don't have to hear this brought up again and again. But Mayor Ford and Wilkowski are the most likely to pop through in the September primary, 85 days away. Carty knows this, the Kest Gang fears this. The voter's choices will be a little harder to disrespect next time fella's.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Jazz

If you missed the Art Tatum Jazz Festival today, don't make the same mistake on Sunday. What a scene! International jazz acts tearing it up on our riverfront, a happy, boisterous crowd, great food and drinks - including battery-acid-hot spareribs from Po Mo's (hurt so good) - it was a great night in Toledo. I got there in time for our own jazz legend, Jon Hendricks. His work is so unique, with that voice and singing style - a Toledo original that has been embraced and celebrated around the world. Then, history was made with the performance of Ellis Marsalis and his band. Introduced as "the father of jazz," with his son, Jason, on drums, Marsalis tickled the piano for 45 minutes, then signed autographs for an hour! You should have seen the smiles on those faces. Los Calientes Hombres closed out the first night, bringing with them honorary resolutions from the City of New Orleans for Toledo Jazz Society leaders, Jon Richardson, Jeff Jaffe, and Jim Sattler for their contributions to the preservation of jazz. Then they rolled out silky Latin inspired riffs, including a sing-a-long they first performed and recorded in Havana. Sunday brings Rance Allen, and later, the great George Benson. Mayor Jack Ford deserves a lot of credit for his passion for our city and this event, raising $180,000 over a period of about 14 months for the festival. He talked DaimlerChrysler into being a major ($100k) sponsor, and Daimler had a number of 2006 and concept cars on display. Mayor Ford gave both Marsalis and Los Calientes Hombres glass keys to our city. And he enjoyed the music with his family. You simply must get there Sunday or make plans for next year now. It's a Father's Day tradition for my son Lucas and me.
UPDATE ON SUNDAY: Was there in afternoon with Lucas & Wednesday under a warm sun, sandwiching some time between cook-outs. Also hit the very cool car show at Stickney Jeep. There are a lot of new buildings under construction out there. Later, caught the last few songs of George Benson and the show capper, Fred McGriff. The smoke coming from McGriff's B-3 is the kind we need more of in Toledo - great set.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Change for Ohio

I joined fellow Ohio Democrats yesterday at a gathering of potential statewide candidates in Cincinnati. We have an obligation to renew Ohio's sputtering economy and create jobs, to restore public trust in the handling of tax dollars, and to labor towards the goal of awarding Ohio's electoral votes in 2008 to a Democrat. 2006 presents a historic opportunity.

Candidates for State Treasurer spoke first: Hugh Quill, Montgomery County Treasurer followed Richard Cordray, Franklin County Treasurer. Cordray was the first, and not the last, to hammer away at Coingate, as well as the scandals that forced GOP Treas. Joe Deters from office about two years ago. Cordray has an easy delivery and his presence, and fundraising, reflects the time he's spent on the campaign trail in two previous tries at statewide office. He's also got a good record as County Treasurer.

Quill has been a Treasurer for over ten years and has a sterling reputation. He's racked up the endorsements of roughly two dozen fellow Ohio County Treasurers. Quill has also been to Toledo this year courting elected officials, labor leader, and others lining up support. His no-nonsense approach presents a stark, welcome contrast to the financial hijinks of the Ohio GOP. He said he plans to compare his "legacy of production against their legacy of corruption."

There are two seats up on the Ohio Supreme Court, and Judge Sikora and Judge A. J. Wagner, of Cuyahoga and Montgomery Counties respectively, gave sharp remarks. Judge Sikora, alluding to the 5 GOP Justices who recused themselves from the Coingate cases for taking money from the Noes, said that he understood the GOP running government like big business, but "I wish they hadn't chose to run it like Enron and Halliburton." Judge Wagner noted he was one of 18 children, quoted Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and pledged to run as a team with Sikora.

Four people spoke on the Secretary of State's panel: Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy, Mahoning Valley State Rep. John Bocceri, Franklin County Municipal Judge Jennifer Brunner, and former State Rep. Brian Flannery. In a surprise move, Flannery announced he was not going to be a candidate for SoS this cycle. Judge Brunner explained it would difficult to discuss the Coingate scandal as a related $215 million class action lawsuit was just assigned to her court. She is a recognized election law expert, and a former staffer for Rep. Sherrod Brown when he was SoS back in the 1980's.

Kilroy threw a blistering shot at Pat DeWine, son of the sitting U.S. Senator from Ohio, and who lost badly in the 2nd Congressional GOP Primary this past Tuesday. "I pledge not to leave behind my pregnant wife for another woman." Ouch. Bocceri is a recent entrant into the SoS race, and just returned from Air Force duty in Iraq. Refering to the problems of SoS Ken Blackwell and Ohio elections, he noted that fighting for democracy in the Midwest is just as important as fighting for democracy in the Mideast.

Two candidates for Auditor followed. Mahoning County Auditor John Reardon, and Ohio House Democratic Leader Chris Redfern. Reardon stressed his experience as an auditor, and seemed very businesslike. He had stickers, banners and brought in a couple dozen supporters, including the excellent Mahoning County Chair Lisa Antonnini. The rationale for Redfern is that he has led the fight against the Ohio GOP machine, had success picking up 3 seats last cycle in the Ohio House, won't be caught napping like incumbent GOP Auditor Betty Montgomery, and pledges to take that fight to the Apportionment Board upon election as Auditor, further helping to break the GOP grip on the Statehouse. Very, very worthy goal. Redfern has served as Chairman of my brother's Oregon City Council campaign since 1999.

Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman gave a strong speech with a memorable ending likening Petro, Taft, Montgomery and Blackwell to an "old, cold, stale, bitter pot of coffee that needs to be thrown out." Rep. Ted Strickland was in DC voting on the Defense bill, and was ably represented by his wife, Frances.

Susan Gwinn, Athens County Chair and Chair of the Ohio Democratic County Chairs Association, organized the event and will play a key role in the success of these candidates next year.

At the outset, former Ohio Attorney General Lee Fisher, 53, announced he would not be a candidate in 2006. He gave a statesman-like speech, and discussed the joys of working for families and children as CEO of a Cleveland-based agency. He and his wife Peggy Zone Fisher are class acts.

Wilkowski torpedoes Carty

I support Mayor Ford, and he certainly can beat Finkbeiner this fall - but Keith Wilkowski's surprise entry should force Carty out of the mayor's race. Republican Rob Ludeman's entry earlier this spring frustrated Finkbeiner's pursuit of Republican campaign money (Remember his courting of Coingate kingpin Tom Noe?) and locked up the bulk of GOP primary voters for the certified Republican, not the former Republican. That meant Finkbeiner was going to have to attempt to split the middle, focusing on white ethnic Democrats and court African-Americans against all odds. Unfortunately for Carty, he has always done far better among African Americans than among those white ethnic votes, so his chances against Ford were never as good as early polling suggested. Wilkowski in the race absolutely hurts Finkbeiner's totals in the white, ethnic Democratic precincts - Jack Ford will carry the African-American precincts big.

Bad news for the Kest gang hoping to flip from the Treasurer's office to the Mayor's office. Carty's decision to abandon the race leaves them flat.

Less than 30 days till the filing deadline.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Open House - June 25

Join my wife Wednesday and I as we welcome Democrats from across Toledo and Ohio for an Open House, Saturday, June 25th from 1:00pm on through till 8:00pm. Tickets are $15 and benefit my re-election this year to Toledo City Council. Make an on-line contribution today using the "Make a Donation" button along the right column. Email me for directions.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Fighting For Jobs

With all the attention on the GOP's disrespect of Ohio's injured workers, we can't allow Taft and statehouse Republicans to undermine the rest of us who work hard and play by the rules.

First, after much pressure, Taft found money in the budget and announced late last week that he will ask the Legislature to eliminate his planned 20% cut to the Local Government Fund to cities and counties. The City of Toledo is $3.6 million to the good, money that we can use in tight budget times to keep our municipal workers, police and fire serving us. I went to Columbus two years ago and three times earlier this spring to lobby against such cuts. Coverage here and here and here from toledoblade.com

Second, the GOP is seeking to gut enforcement of prevailing wage in Ohio - a keystone not only for Ohio's organized construction trades, but also for Ohio contractors. They seek to eliminate "interested party" lawsuits that serve as one of the main weapons in the arsenal in the enforcement of prevailing wage. More on this Monday.

Third, Taft is repaying his gubernatorial endorsement from the Teamsters with a huge tax increase on Ohio's trucking industry that threatens the jobs of thousands of honest, hard-working men and women. Also more on Monday.

This morning, I ask you to take immediate action. Contact Senate Finance Chair John Carey and Speaker Husted and urge them to protect Ohio's workers for a change by defending prevailing wage, defending Ohio's trucking businesses and workers from another big Taft tax increase and not cutting the Local Government Fund.

Later this week, gather friends and join us for a rally at 4:30pm Monday at One Government Center, and at another rally on Wednesday at the Statehouse in Columbus.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Toledo Leads on Wireless

As someone who reads blogs, I know you'll be interested in this story about Toledo's rapid climb into Wi-Fi. Taking advantage of our new infrastructure and creating jobs is our next step.

Intel has named Toledo No. 5 on their list of Most Unwired Cities in America - we jumped from 64th a year ago. This means, of course, you can go on-line at hot spots across town, the largest wi-fi district being Downtown Toledo - from the ballpark south into the Warehouse District and east through Promenade Park, across the Maumee River, and into International Park. Imagine designers and business people taking their work outdoors, maybe touching up and emailing a PowerPoint while dining al fresco at the Docks. Or maybe someone using their boat as their office, and using one of our downtown marinas. An unwired city is a good carrot in our hunt to attract jobs and investment.

Wireless districts, along with targeted education and training programs, can also help bridge the "digital divide" to economically depressed citizens of Toledo. Click here for a discussion on the grand Philadelphia experiment.

We met at the University of Toledo's Urban Affairs office two years ago - not long after I became a councilman & around the time Richard Florida spoke at the Peristyle - to discuss municipal wi-fi districts in Toledo. The top folks over at Buckeye Cable really are the ones who took the lead and made the investment in our library system and some of our public spaces. This current article from C-Net has some sharp analysis of the wi-fi trend.

Warchalking in Toledo? Marketing hype? I spoke with someone just last night who earlier in the day picked up and used one of our wi-fi signals downtown on their laptop.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Land of 10,000 Handshakes

A classic start to a classic summer.

The Old West End and Point Place Parades. Parish festivals at Sacred Heart and OLPH. Pat Dailey at Rally by The River. Birthday and graduation parties. Steak roast at the Birmingham Post. Even a short kayak trip off Walbridge Park.

Toledo is truly a destination point for people from across the country and region - I spoke to folks from Texas, Utah, Michigan, and plenty from Wood County. In fact, my in-laws drove up this weekend from a southern state. My refrain to everyone was, "Spend more money in Toledo."

One of the benefits of criss-crossing town is checking up on conditions in the city. I took down several addresses with overgrown grass and other eyesores for city crews to respond to this week. If there's a problem near you, let me know.

I was walking out of OLPH Saturday with Mayor Jack Ford and his family, past the ferris wheel, Fun House, and bumper cars, when we stopped and acknowledged John and Diana Irish and one Carty Finkbeiner. Like I said, a classic start to a classic summer.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Coingate Nationwide

National on-line threads on the Noe saga...

Jerome Armstrong at MyDD.com has some good analysis.

Over at DailyKos some good people did some fine research on following the money. Kaczala, Petro, Lanzinger, Voinovich...uh-oh.

Get up to the minute reports from the blogosphere at technorati.com and news reports as it happens with Google Alerts

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Wrong Values

Tonight in Columbus the GOP dominated Legislature is set to vote on a $51 billion budget that cuts millions that cities and counties rely on to support police, fire, and emergency responders. The City of Toledo stands to lose as much as $3.6 million. This comes as the Noe Coins scandal begins to sink in...at least $12 million unaccounted for, with revelations of Beanie Babies and comic books among the collectibles seized by investigators in Maumee.

So much has already been reported about the malfeasance of Capital Coin Fund, managed by Tom Noe. Why shouldn't Republicans at every level return contributions made by Noe? How can an elected official justify keeping money that could possibly belong to Ohio's injured workers? My advice to them is to distance themselves now by returning the contributions. Tax dollars have gone missing - state funds are being cut that help our police and fire - you bet I'll be speaking out every chance I get.