A charter school company whose bid to obtain a permit to open in downtown Toledo failed to garner City Council's support early this week could get a second chance.
Council President Joe McNamara scheduled a special meeting next week to reconsider the matter after fellow councilman Tyrone Riley said Thursday his abstention from the vote Tuesday was a mistake.
Mr. Riley declined to vote on the special-use permit for Connections Education, a national charter-school company that wants to open a site on the fourth floor of One Lake Erie Center, 600 Jefferson Ave.
He did not offer a reason at the time, but said later he couldn't decide which side to vote for. Under city rules, councilmen may only abstain from voting if they have a conflict of interest.
"This is not unprecedented. It happens and there are means of fixing it and that's why a motion for reconsideration exists," Mr. McNamara said after speaking with Mr. Riley. "Councilman Riley made a mistake, it happens, and he is taking active steps to fix it, which is the right thing to do."
Six councilmen voted in favor of the permit earlier this week, one vote shy of the number needed for its approval. Councilmen Steven Steel, Lindsay Webb, Phil Copeland, and Adam Martinez voted against issuing the permit. Councilman Paula Hicks-Hudson was absent.
Mr. Riley said he intends to support the permit next week, having been persuaded by a favorable recommendation from the city plan commission. The special meeting will begin at 1:59 p.m. Tuesday, immediately before council's regular agenda review meeting.
Councilman Riley is City Council's newest member, in office since January. He said other boards' procedures allowed him to abstain from voting because of indecision, and he was unaware council's rules were different.
"I think that [reconsideration] is the right thing to do, in light of the fact I labored under the misconception that I had the ability to abstain from voting," he said.
Councilman Lindsay Webb, who plans to make the motion for reconsideration during the special meeting, said she decided to do so as a courtesy to Mr. Riley.
"I specifically remember being in his shoes at least once, asking to have my vote reconsidered and not having that opportunity," she said. "I vowed at that point that I would provide that professional courtesy [to colleagues]."
But not all councilmen were as sympathetic.
"You can't just abstain because you're undecided on a vote, for crying out loud. That's why we have agenda review," said Tom Waniewski. "He's a bright guy. Don't you read rules? … I don't know anyone who abstains because you don't know how to vote."
Mr. Waniewski said he would welcome reconsideration of the permit, which he supports. He and fellow Republicans George Sarantou and Rob Ludeman said the school would bring an additional and much-welcome business to downtown Toledo.
Mrs. Webb said she probably will remain opposed to the school. She and councilman Steel have expressed concern about its site's proximity to convenience stores and downtown night spots. Mr. Martinez said he also fears the school's central location could lead to parking and traffic problems.
"We've seen issues with parking in other schools. I just think this is going to add to the congestion and the mess," she said.
Representatives for the school, which would be called Nexus Academy of Toledo, said they were delighted that council will take up the permit issue again.
"I am so excited," said Rebecca Booth, president of the school's board of directors. "We are all so jazzed up as to what this program can offer. It would allow us to meet the needs of students that haven't been met before."
Although Connections Education typically runs online charter and private schools, Nexus Academy would be a high school blending on-site instruction with an online curriculum that students would work on from home.
Also up for reconsideration during the special meeting will be a special-use permit for a new kindergarten-through-third-grade school at 4747 Heatherdowns Blvd., the former Masonic Temple. Council approved the permit 10-0, but the vote will be reconsidered because Mr. Riley also abstained from it.
Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6272.