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Published: Wednesday, 6/17/2009

Council's next president

MARK Sobczak's resignation from Toledo City Council with six months to go in his term is far more than a distraction for a city government trying to figure out how to close a multimillion-dollar budget deficit. It is particularly important who is chosen to replace him, both as Council president and to fill his at-large seat.

If the ill-advised attempt by suburban interests to have Mayor Carty Finkbeiner recalled in the November election is successful, whoever is council president would become mayor for about six weeks, until Jan. 4, when the winner of the Nov. 3 mayoral vote would take office.

With the city currently projected to be $12.5 million in the hole by the end of the year, it is possible that the interim mayor will have to make significant and difficult decisions affecting Toledo's economic future.

Mayor Finkbeiner has challenged the recall petition, which we expect Toledo voters would in any case reject as unwanted outside interference from the suburbs and a waste of time.

Councilmen Michael Ashford and Joe McNamara have expressed interest in leading council, which will vote on a new president July 7. Of the two, Mr. McNamara is clearly the better choice.

As The Blade pointed out in January, Mr. Ashford has been an infrequent attendee at committee meetings and has less-than-perfect attendance at regular meetings as well. This year, he's missed all or part of at least four regular council meetings.

In support of his candidacy, Mr. Ashford notes that he's been a constant critic of Mayor Finkbeiner, a reminder both of Mr. Ashford's involvement in the A Team/B Team foolishness and his unwarranted accusation last year - a month after being ousted from his own stint as council president - that the mayor had a record of racial discrimination.

In contrast, Mr. McNamara has been an innovative and constructive member of council who has moved beyond factionalism and appears ready to take the next step in what has the potential to be a significant career in public service.

Equally consequential is who will take Mr. Sobczak's at-large seat, which council has 30 days from next Tuesday to fill. Considering the important issues facing the city, the quicker a choice is made the better.

About two dozen people are considering a run for the six at-large seats that are up for grabs this year. But the decision as to who should serve the rest of Mr. Sobczak's term must be based on the needs of the city, not used to give any one candidate an advantage in the Sept. 15 primary or the general election.

Mr. Sobczak's departure comes at a critical time in Toledo history. Who is chosen to wear his two hats will tell voters a lot about how seriously council takes the current crisis.



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