Thursday, October 27, 2005

For Toledo, Ohio

In the wake of the disturbances in North Toledo, the switchblade politics of the Toledo Mayoral race and party meltdown, and utter impatience with the direction of our city, state and country - local progressives cannot allow themselves rest:

1. 500,000 God-fearing, work-a-day Ohioans signed petitions expressing their outrage over the corruption permeating state government like a cancer. Issues 2, 3, 4, and 5 are the embodiments of that mainstream outrage, and those with everything to lose - on both sides of the aisle - are doing all they can to preserve the status quo. Anti-reform Democrats are about to strike, joining the pay-to-play Gov. Bob Taft boys, in seeking to defeat reform.

2. Kudos to the local activists who honored the death of the 2,000th U.S. soldier in Iraq. They gathered tonight at the Lucas County Courthouse and around the world. May God have mercy on the family & communities of all the fallen, and all who continue to serve - many on their third, fourth and fifth tour. My honor and respect for our service personnel is second to no one. At the other end, I'll give the chicken hawk, neo-con architect's of this war all the respect they deserve, too. Pigs.

3. The efforts to renew our city must step up on many fronts: in each of our homes, on our streets and in our neighborhoods, at work, school and church, at City Hall and through all our civic organizations, and at the state and national levels where critical, critical decisions get made that effect us back home in Toledo. On City Council we will join Mayor Ford in contending with the '06 budget, increasing resources and addressing issues within our safety forces, and building on the new spirit of cooperation in regional and neighborhood economic development.

4. According to a report by the US Conference of Mayors, 2000 census data reports 6,500 Toledoans ages 16-24 were neither enrolled in school nor working. That number is undoubtedly higher in 2005. Each and every one of us has to accept responsibility to reconnect young people with the American Dream.

My search for solutions makes different stops: From the The Communitarian Network and The Third Way (wrong on trade, right on tech & values) to the fighting mainstream progressives. Perhaps the battle for Ohio's Democratic Senate nomination will serve to galvanize us with strong debate on the war, taxes, health care, and the competitiveness of American business, a.k.a. "jobs". Maybe the Governor's race will catch fire. This I know: citizens of Toledo - and of cities, townships and villages across Ohio - would be well served by having a local progressive demanding accountability and putting people before special interests statewide.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Point Place & Old West End Forums

Tuesday night in the Old West End and Wednesday night on 131st in the Point.

A local creative was keeping time in the carriage house at the Mansion View on Collingwood - Mike Pedee, editor of Talk of the Town - sold me an ad in this month's issue. Glad to support a local business.

I had about two minutes & will here weave in some statements I made at Council Tuesday as well: (definitely not verbatim)

Hello, my name is Frank Szollosi, I'm an at-large City Councilman running for re-election. I'm a Democrat, and I thank everyone who came out on this great evening to talk about the future of our city. Saturday was a very difficult day for Toledo. Our public safety forces, police, fire, deputies & others - they all demonstrated restraint and discipline - each and everyone in the room, and everyone in Toledo, has every reason to be proud of them. They responded to the unexpected with courage, and prevented the loss of life and more serious bloodshed. I join the Mayor in seeking justice for the individuals and businesses harmed. We all have to take responsibility to heal our city. Among what was exposed Saturday was a condition the US Conference of Mayors calls in a June 2005 report "Youth Disconnection" The report cites Census data indicating 16% of Toledoans age 16-24 are neither enrolled in school nor employed. That's 6500 young people - and you can't help but wonder how many were involved in the skirmish Saturday. We have a window now to more forcefully address these and other underlying issues that the Nazi visit simply brought to a head.
Toledo needs more jobs. I have served as the Chair of the Economic Development Committee for a few months now, and can report tonight we have changed the way our region retains and attracts business. The private sector has raised $8 to $9 million to privately fund the Regional Growth Partnership, and this evening, the City has taken another historic step in the merger of the city & county economic development departments. The public & private sectors have unique roles in ED, and for the first time 15-20 years, we have our acts together. Economic growth means good things for neighborhoods like the Old West End. We shouldn't be financing our city with gimmicks like the garbage tax, which I was immediately and forcefully against, as it would only add pressure on homeowners already saddled with rising state taxes.

We took questions on Columbia Gas and the proper staffing levels for the police & fire departments. Our authorized strength for Toledo Police is 700, we stand today at about 675, with a plan to put at least 29 more on the street in 2006. The good news is our revenues continue to rise, and Mayor Ford is now looking at 705, even with retirements. I am opposed to any dimunition in daily required fire department staffing.

Wednesday night we had three minutes with Point Place "dean" Howard Pinkley, WTOL News 11 anchor Terry Thill, and about 3 dozen Point Place residents. (again, not verbatim)

Good evening (I went next to last, at 9:30pm!) and thanks for staying out on this beautiful evening to hear us talk about what's important to each of you here in the Point. Again, my name is Frank Szollosi, I'm an at-large councilman, serving since January 2003. I'm a Democrat. In two years we've handled several big Point Place issues. First, the $450 million storm water re-build is on time and on budget, delivering huge environmental benefits to the neighborhoods and waters of Point Place. We're also putting people to work with all this construction. I serve on Council's Budget Task Force, and we have a great responsibility to balance another difficult budget in 2006 without impacting city services, and without gimmicks. I serve as Chair of the Intergovernmental Relations Committee, and one of the issues were addressing is international - with huge implications for the Point and the City of Toledo - turning back efforts of those who seek the diversion of Great Lakes water to the American Southwest or Canada. It is a real threat. Finally, I sought the chairmanship of the Economic Development Committee a couple months back because I believe that retaining and attracting jobs is the key task for the City to address. From 1963 until 1993 my grandfather worked the second shift at Chevrolet down the street, now PowerTrain. I remember as a young boy him coming home late when my brother & I would spend the night. He lives a life of dignity in retirement, with prescription drug benefits, a comfortable pension, and he and my grandma can go to the doctors when they need to - the American Dream should be passed on from generation to generation in Toledo - we need jobs, whether they be from small business to the big automotive plants, and its our responsibility as public officials to work together to see that the American Dream stays alive in Toledo for my generation and future generations.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Carty & Kest Gang Swing & Miss

Today's campaign story demonstrates yet again the arrogance & weakness of Carty & the Kest Gang. When are they going to stop whining?

Legitimate polls may seek out weaknesses of candidates and attempt to ascertain the impact on voters of knowledge of these weaknesses, as well as issues and other facets of a political campaign. Source: National Council on Public Polls

also of interest, a wiki entry on "push polls."

Mayor Ford's pollster sent a letter acknowledging the sample size as 400. The survey also asked for demographic information - which "push polls" never do.

It is perfectly legitimate to discuss Carty's close, long time association with the top deputies of Ray Kest - kudos to The Blade for Monday's front page refresher on John Irish and Domenic Montalto.

Why not discuss Carty's guilty plea on the ethics charge?

Thanks for dividing Democrats, Carty - nice party building going into 2006...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Blade Readers Respond

An interesting use of - to publish reactions of Saturdays events on-line for which the print version doesn't have space.

Monday, October 17, 2005

More GOP Support For Reform

From a Reform Ohio Now press release this morning:

Republican Officials Join Reform Ohio Now Effort
Conference Call Monday at 10:30 a.m

What: Conference Call with Republicans who have joined forces
with Reform Ohio Now on State Issue 4 (redistricting reform).

Who: Joan Lawrence, former Director of the Ohio Department of

John Galbraith, former Republican state representative

Doug Mink, former Republican congressional candidate

Scott Pullins, Executive Director, Ohio Taxpayers Association

Jeff Cabot, member, Columbus city school board

As the Taft Republicans circle their wagons, responsible Republicans are stepping up and speaking out for legislative districts that are competitive - where voters get to pick who gets elected, not politicians picking which voters they represent, insulating themselves from accountability.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Time Magazine, Online

What triggered the events of yesterday? Time's Chris Maag takes a first look.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

A Very Bad Day For Our City

10:30am - I report to the Cherry St. Police Substation (CAPS) to monitor the preparations for the white supremacist march through the Lagrange neighborhood. Councilman Ashford joins me and a lone officer, we listen intently to the chatter on the police radio.

11:00am - At least 200 counter-protesters are reported. The police have 150 personnel deployed - bikes, riot gear, horses, helicopters. "First rock thrown," I heard an officer report over the radio. "Hold the line, stay close, do not go into the crowd." It was clear to me that our officers were concerned for their safety before the planned march even started - and yet they clearly sounded organized, professional and determined.

12:00 noon - The deputy chief announced over the radio that the Nazi rally was cancelled. Another officer ordered everyone to put on gas masks as the tear gas was about to be launched in an attempt to disperse the crowd. The Mayor arrived with his staff from the field. We listened to the radio a bit longer. "We've got a man with a firearm." Later, all units were instructed to return to the command center to update their tactical plan.

12:30pm - Joined the Mayor at Wilson Park, north of Woodward, at the command center. He went in for briefing with the Chief, Sheriff, and Fire Chief. I took in the scene: Several TARTA buses lined up to house prisoners. 20 police cars lined up. Multiple helicopters circling. Various vehicles with windows smashed: a fire truck, two police cars, the FOX 36 Jeep. Heather Miller had to drive her cameraman out - he took a whiff of tear gas.

For the next couple hours police would file in & out, grabbing water, getting new instructions - or new vehicles or equipment and heading back into the situation. From where I stood, I couldn't see much of the melee. Estimates on the size of the crowd had increased to 500 or 600. The Mayor put out the call for community leaders to gather at 4:00pm for a briefing, especially ministers and youth mentors.

Mayor Ford, Chief Bell, Pastor Mansour Bey, Lagrange activist Ramon Perez and mayoral staffer Alan Bannister left the command center about 3:00pm to walk into the crowd and attempt to negotiate a peaceful resolution. They were advised that there were angry people with sticks, rocks, and guns - and that they would be going in without uniformed officers. I got a clump in my throat, and told Bannister I thought it was a bad idea - that the Mayor and company were risking their personal safety. They grabbed a bullhorn and walked two blocks, through the police barricade, and into a crowd of hundreds. I was told that the Mayor was confronted and threatened. A man with a face mask and a revolver in his belt. They were surrounded by angry people with sticks and stones, and that it was difficult to talk with everyone shouting questions at the Mayor. The Mayor & co. were in there for 45 minutes listening, attempting to settle folks.

In the meantime, I had called my council colleagues to brief them and invite them to the 4:00pm briefing at CAPS. On my way back to Lagrange Street we noticed Carty, with tee-shirted volunteers and yard signs, working Manhattan residences as though nothing unusual was happening.

The 4:00pm press briefing started late, when the Mayor, Pastor Bey, Chief Bell, and Bannister made it back - it lasted over an hour & included some tough questions and tough answers. That there wasn't more bloodshed is a testament to the professionalism of our local public safety forces.

The crowd explained to the Mayor they were upset that the City let Nazi's into the neighborhood, and that the police protected the Nazi's and "pushed around" locals, then fired tear gas and flash bombs. There were reports that anarchists and skin heads worked to rile up the crowd against the Nazi's AND the police. The residents who looted and fought police need to take a long look in the mirror - Toledoans, Americans, are better than that. All that those sad, pathetic white supremacists deserved was laughter and pity - not violent, self-defeating responses. The actions of many in Toledo today were nothing short of appalling. Those who broke the law should be prosecuted to its fullest extent, and I'm pleased to report that the investigations will include reviewing video and film to identify perps.

The process of healing will take time. We all need to take responsibility, set aside the easy explanations and assumptions, and really think about what was exposed today. How will today's events shape race relations, our approach in our schools, the strategies, tactics and resources of law enforcement and community organizing, the responsibility of parents and other authority figures, and what of leadership throughout city ranks that responds to the unexpected and dangerous with courage.

Heard that Jerry Seinfeld had a field day with Nazi jokes tonight at Toledo's Stranahan Theatre - I'd love to have been there.

Bring It On!


Reform Group Offers
Former Modell Aide
A Free Trip to Baltimore

The grassroots organization trying to clean up state government is offering a free airplane ticket to Baltimore to the chief spokesman for the other side.

Reform Ohio Now is offering David Hopcraft a Southwest Airlines ticket to Baltimore, where the Browns will play the Ravens on Sunday.

“We wanted to be nice and reunite Mr. Hopcraft with his old boss, Art Modell,” said Steve Fought, spokesman for the reform group.

Hopcraft is spokesman for Ohio First, the organization that is organizing against State Issues 2, 3, 4 and 5. He previously worked for disgraced former Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell, who betrayed the city and moved the team to Baltimore in 1996.

Modell has sold the majority interest in the Ravens, but retains a small ownership portion and has an office at Ravens headquarters in Maryland.

Just one catch, Fought said: "It's a one-way ticket."

Hopcraft, Brian Hicks and P.J. Wenzel (Fritz's son) are among those working to defend the pay-to-play, Tom Noe status quo here in Ohio - attempting to defeat the RON amendments. They are about to launch a counterstrike TV ad campaign using the same sleaze-meisters responsible for the Swift Boat ads attacking Purple Heart veteran John Kerry last year.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Background & Credit

The Blade's legitimate requests for background checks and credit reports Tuesday night caught me off guard. My response was clumsy, not organized. I had privacy issues to think through, and emotions to get in check about disclosing personal financial information to the world.

You have to be a public official or candidate to truly appreciate the contours of this experience. Perception is so easily taken for reality. Your willingness to engage is a reflection of your commitment to service. How do you delineate privacy as a public official? You know you want to do the right thing. I decided to show my cards.

Friday, October 07, 2005

First Full On Council Forum

The League of Women Voters and The Urban League Young Professionals sponsored a Toledo City Council Forum Thursday evening at The University of Toledo. 11 of the 12 candidates for At-large City Council participated. It was our first formal candidate debate of the campaign - and things went reasonably well. Only certain candidates were asked certain questions to allow for greater variety of topics. Here are some questions I wrote down and my (non-verbatim) answers:

1. What does Council do? I didnt have to answer this one, so here I submit Council's homepage.

2. Council is a part-time job, how will you use your time? Managing time is critical. Balancing life as a father & husband, growing my consulting business, and devotion to public service is challenging. I will continue to give great energy, be creative, and not be afraid to take risks.

3. How do you handle constituent services? (I didnt get to answer this one.) I give each request equal attention, and attempt to respond as soon as possible. We field email, phone, mail, and walk-in requests. I also tap issues into my PalmPilot when I'm out in the community. People have previously used blogs to address issues to me, which is cool.

4. Do you support city intiatives for minority owned businesses? Yes. Small businesses lead other enterprises in job creation. This is reflected in our income tax reciepts - Toledo has realized modest growth in small business employment the past year. I support the UT Capacity Building initiative run by Ken Dobson, which has received state, federal, city and significant private funding. The $450 storm water renewal project is another example of help for minority & in fact all businesses. The Responsible Contracting Ordinance that I introduced in 2003 included help for all local workers, including women & minority businesses, thanks to the input of colleagues such as Karyn McConnell Hancock.

5. Living Wage support? Yes. Here's a reason.

6. Arena site? (I didn't get to answer this one either, but, being a good sport, will give it a shot.) I'm an East Toledo partisan, and I respect the intent of the voters in the '01 Section 79 vote. I also remember working for the Board of County Commissioners, along with Tom Chema and Pat Zohn, on the wildly successful Ballpark Project, and I'm currently part of an arena working group with the county. It has to be a public-private partnership. Identifying $50 to $60 million for construction and management is daunting - especially for what would be private owners of a hockey franchise, and the special management concert and event bookings & promotions would require. Of greater concern is the development of housing, commercial and retail in the Marina District - and the City deserves credit for its skill in property acquisition and remediation, and deserves a break on the development in light of the national "jobless recovery" and the challenge of arena financing. Pizzuti and the City clearly has work ahead.

7. LCIC, RGP, economic development? Kudos to Mayor Ford, Commissioners Gerken & Wozniak, and the regional-minded suburban and township officials who chose to work together in good faith with the new & improved Lucas County Community Improvement Corporation. Kudos as well to private sector leaders who have raised upwards of $9 million to fund the RGP for 5 years. Each agency has a role to play in the retention and attraction of jobs & investment. Now is not the time to go back to "my way or the highway" Finkbeiner. We must work together as a region, utilizing our competitive advantages against regions around the country and the world.

I'm going to bed, check back for responses to the remaining questions:

8. Cut council to 9 from 12?
9. Smart growth vs. suburban sprawl?
10. Toledo as point of destination?
11. Vision for Downtown Toledo?
12. Local political turmoil?
13. Brain drain?
14. New schools?
15. poverty in Toledo?
16. unions & economic development?
17. How to stop domestic violence?
18. TABOR?
Closing statement

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Carty & Noe, Redux

As evidenced by an article published in The Blade, and using Carty Finkbeiner's own campaign finance reports, my claim that Carty was seeking to enlist Tom Noe in his mayoral campaign clearly stands. According to Finkbeiner's spokesman, Carty's campaign invited Noe to the Navy Bistro. According to The Blade, Carty's campaign circulated forms asking guests, including TOM NOE, what they would be willing to contribute to help the unannounced, yet clearly active, Carty for Mayor campaign. Its all documented. I stand by my charge. And I would have loved to explain my position to the so-called, self-appointed "Clean Campaign" Committee if they had ever bothered to ask me, and not merely accepted the hokum lobbed from the Finkbeiner camp. There is no factual evidence by Carty or his campaign to dispute my claim that Carty & his campaign were seeking the support of Tom Noe - weeks into the scandal. It is a reflection of Carty's desperate quest for campaign cash and lack of Democratic bona fides.

I noted the Carty courtship of Noe way back in May. Click here for another previous Carty & Noe blog entry.

After reading the "Clean Campaign" Committee's Press Release earlier this evening, where they pass judgment on my statement without ever attempting to communicate with me, I called Rev. Blaine, the spokesperson for the committee. He apologized to me for the lack of communication and acknowledged that I should have been invited to present to the committee. After I explained that I had public documents to back up my claim - and that Carty doesn't - he agreed that his committee would revisit their decision at their next opportunity.