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Published: Friday, 7/18/2003

TPS seeks levy credibility

BY SANDRA SVOBODA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A poll showing Toledoans had the most favorable feelings about Mayor Jack Ford and found the school board among the least believable of a group of individuals and organizations has Toledo Public Schools considering who will speak and how much for the Aug. 5 levy campaign.

“I think our strategy is going to be not to focus on personality, but to focus on the facts. We're not going to say, for example, `Everybody be quiet. The mayor is going to speak,' and put him on TV and radio,” said Peter Silverman, president of the board of education.

The survey of 400 likely voters conducted during the week of June 16 asked respondents about whether they had favorable impressions of seven individuals and groups as well as whether they thought they were believable. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.

Mr. Ford received the most “favorable” responses with 61 percent of the respondents rating him that way. Former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner had a 53 percent favorable rating, followed by Mr. Silverman with 44 percent, Superintendent Eugene Sanders with 43 percent, the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce and other business leaders with 42 percent, members of the school board with 34 percent, and leaders of the AFL-CIO at 27 percent.

Forty-one percent of respondents said Mr. Ford was “extremely” or “mostly believable,” while 38 percent said the same for Mr. Silverman, 37 percent for Mr. Finkbeiner, 35 percent for Dr. Sanders, 29 percent for the chamber and business leaders, 27 percent for the board of education, and 21 percent for the AFL-CIO.

Jim Ruvolo, a campaign consultant, said the seven individuals and groups were chosen for questions because they were likely to speak about the levy.

“We wanted to see who is held most favorable and who is most believable,” he said.

The poll, paid for from campaign contributions, was not applicable to any individual politicians' campaigns, he said. The terms of Mr. Ford and Mr. Silverman expire in two years while two school board seats are up for election in November.

“It doesn't give them what they would need. When I work with a candidate, I would ask totally different questions than this.

“It's nice information to have, but it's not anything they can use directly to help them in the future,” Mr. Ruvolo said.

Dr. Sanders said he wasn't sure how to interpret the results, except that the mayor would continue to play an important role as the district campaigns for the 6.5-mill, five-year renewal levy up for a vote Aug. 5.

“Certainly the mayor is a key person for our levy,” Dr. Sanders said. “We don't think we can win it without his involvement or support.”

Mr. Ford said he would continue speaking in support of the operating levy that provides about $16 million annually.

“I think it's crucial that we pass our school levy. To not to pass it [in August] and to not pass it if we have to go out a second time, we'd have to close some schools. I don't think there's any choice that we have to continue to support it so that we can operate our schools,” he said.

While Mr. Ford had not seen the actual poll results, he called his 61 percent favorable rating “pretty good numbers.

“But I understand that polls go up and down,” he said.

Mr. Finkbeiner called polls “about as valuable as zero,” but said his 53 percent favorable rating and 29 percent “unfavorable” were an “improvement” from when he was in office.

“I'm usually 50-50 on that,” he said. While the former mayor spoke against the district's levy for new and renovated school buildings last fall, he stopped short of saying he would campaign against the Aug. 5 request.

“I don't think that [district administrators] have been as respectful of taxpayers in Toledo as they should have been in recent years,” he said.

“My misgivings and mistrust of the superintendent and the school board's program of 2002 was pretty deep. I just don't think they get the degree of citizen dissatisfaction with the dollar ticket that the citizens are being asked to pay to support these supposed improvements.”

The poll included questions about Mr. Finkbeiner because he has discussed school issues on his television program, Mr. Ruvolo said.



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