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Published: Thursday, 6/22/2000

The mouth that roared fells Michigan

News Item : Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner led a caravan of Jeeps to three Michigan cities Tuesday, hoping to counter a campaign by that state's chamber of commerce to lure Ohio jobs.

Mr. Finkbeiner stopped in Monroe, Ann Arbor, and Dearborn to tout regional cooperation and likened the job-snare effort to an 1835 border war between the two states.

"Good evening from Washington. This is Nightline, and I'm Ted Koppel. Tonight's program: Michigan Held Hostage, Day One.

"We begin with a report from the nation's Heartland, where the formerly obscure mayor of a medium-sized Ohio city invaded the state to the north. Carleton S. Finkbeiner, the two-term mayor of Toledo, Ohio, says he was moved to act because of a campaign by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

"To counter the campaign, Mr. Finkbeiner organized a caravan of Toledo-built Jeeps filled with city employees alleged to share the mayor's thinking. The group arrived in nearby Monroe, Michigan, by midmorning. The mayor's staff set up a self-serve lectern, pulled from the back of a Jeep, and Mr. Finkbeiner began to speak.

"And that, witnesses say, is when things began to get out of hand. The nation has watched closely as one mayor tries single-handedly to overpower Michigan, armed only with his mouth.

"Mayor Finkbeiner says he meant only to highlight the benefits of regional cooperation. He insists he never meant for his speeches to fell innocent bystanders.

"But critics tell a different tale, one of a mayor who was so roused by his own speechmaking that he inadvertently launched the nation's first modern-day state invasion by means of filibuster.

"We begin tonight's report in Monroe, with correspondent Johnny Onthespot."

"Good evening, Ted. Here in bucolic Monroe, just north of the metro Toledo area, residents are still talking about the Ohio mayor who blew through town and felled much of the population simply by making a speech.

"In his remarks, Mayor Finkbeiner referred to an 1835 border war, saying, 'At that time with muskets ready, volunteer armies marched off for war.' The mayor likened the Michigan chamber's campaign to 'waging a civil war [that] will only make things better for foreign companies.'

"But witnesses say it was the mayor's own speechmaking - tangled George Bush-like sentence constructions delivered with a marathoner's endurance - that by default waged civil war. Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency reported Michiganians dropping like flies. Economists said the widespread unconsciousness would cause precipitous declines in the state's next productivity report.

"The mayor's staff, meanwhile, worked frantically to free Mr. Finkbeiner from the lectern, where witnesses say his mayoral mouth apparently became entangled with the microphone. Speaking on condition of anonymity, one Finkbeiner staffer said the mayor was, quote, 'constitutionally incapable' of ending a speech any time he found himself before more than two persons.

"Still speaking into the microphone, the mayor arrived in the towns of Ann Arbor and Dearborn to much the same effect.

"There is great fear tonight, Ted, of an international incident should Mr. Finkbeiner inadvertently end up in Canada."

Roberta de Boer's column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Readers may contact her at 724-6086, or e-mail roberta@theblade.com.



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