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Published: Tuesday, 11/27/2012

No union seat

Toledo City Council should fill a vacancy with the best available candidate, not a special-interest selection

Unions don’t own Toledo City Council; it merely has seemed that way sometimes. But organized labor is no more entitled to a specific seat on the council than is any other special interest. If council members are to maintain any credibility, they will resist an effort by union leaders to dictate who should fill a pending council vacancy.

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Phil Copeland, a union official, will vacate his at-large council seat when he becomes Lucas County recorder, a post he won in this month’s election. Whoever council members select to replace Mr. Copeland would gain an advantage in winning a full four-year term for the seat in next year’s municipal election.

Construction unions are leaning on council to replace Mr. Copeland with Shaun Enright, a union organizer who unsuccessfully challenged Councilman Mike Craig in last year’s Democratic primary.

The Blade reported that Mr. Enright’s background includes a 1999 conviction for illegally carrying a concealed handgun and a declaration of personal bankruptcy in 2004. The Ohio Department of Taxation filed an income tax lien against Mr. Enright and his wife last August — a debt he says he has repaid.

Despite the 33-year-old Mr. Enright’s insistence that such past problems should not be held against him, these matters hardly burnish his credentials for a council seat. Mr. Craig asked: “This is the best they could come up with?”

Still, union leaders say Mr. Enright would provide important representation of labor interests on the council, and suggest that unions deserve another member “who thinks like us” on key issues to succeed Mr. Copeland. The Lucas County Democratic Party seems likely to endorse Mr. Enright for the council post.

But council members, especially at-large members, are charged with representing a broad range of constituencies throughout the city. There should not be a dedicated union seat on council, any more than there should be a business seat or a lawyer’s seat or a seat for a particular demographic group.

Former Toledo Mayor Jack Ford also has expressed interest in replacing Mr. Copeland. Mr. Ford has a long record of service as an elected official and nonprofit executive, and a deep knowledge of policy issues. He has had serious health problems in recent years.

Several members of the Toledo Board of Education also are said to be interested in the council post. The school board faces a number of urgent budget decisions after voters defeated the school district’s property tax proposal this month. This would not seem an opportune time for a board member to seek to jump ship.

Council members need to consider a broader array of candidates for the pending vacancy. If they do not have an effective way of soliciting applications for the job, they ought to develop one, at least for future vacancies.

Unions’ effort to get their choice named to council could provide a prelude to their campaign to elect a pliable candidate for mayor next year. Again, the emphasis should be on selecting city officials who are equipped to provide effective government and broad, rather than narrow, political representation.



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