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Published: Monday, 9/3/2001 - Updated: 1 year ago

Cost of mayor's race puts city in new league

The tales of the campaign finance reports filed Thursday with the Lucas County Board of Elections can be boiled down to one simple message: The race for mayor of Toledo will be the most expensive in history.

Fasten your seat belts - a million dollars could be spent before it is all over.

It means Toledo has moved into a new political league. Not the big leagues, but not the smallest, either.

It also is a good indicator that the city's form of government is working; that Mayor Carty Finkbeiner has been a success in defining the office as something worth fighting hard to win.

That is the good news.

There is another side to the coin.

When the city charter was changed in 1992 to grant the mayor sweeping powers, left out were any controls on the election process that could influence the person with hands on the $400 million yearly budget.

There are no limits to what can be contributed to candidates for mayor.

In a political system with no limits, the potential for abuse exists.

It could be controlled with a simple fix: contribution limits.

Candidates for state and federal offices deal with them. The city should have them, too.

The per-person limit should probably be about $1,000. It is almost unheard of for people to contribute more.

Last week, Mr. Kest reported that 95 people gave him $1,000 or more each, but just 25 of those contributions were for more than $1,000.

Most of those larger contributions were from political action committees.

Mr. Ford reported 38 people gave $1,000 or more. Just a handful gave more than $1,000.

Another possible fix for the city charter: a higher filing fee for candidates for mayor of Toledo.

It now costs just $45 to run. It probably should cost more.

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COULD TOLEDO's collective poor self image be melting away? According to the Zogby poll, 80 percent have noticed.

Four out of every five likely voters in Toledo told pollsters that they believe the city is moving in the right direction.

Toledoans? Thinking good thoughts about their own city?

It could happen. It apparently is happening.

Mayor Finkbeiner is due some of the credit. Bringing a literal interpretation to the political designation as the city's first “strong mayor” in 62 years, he has pushed his chest out and pushed forward for eight years.

Maybe, he said in a recent interview about the poll numbers, Toledoans have seen his unabashed civic pride and decided their city is worth fighting for after all.

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THE FRIDAY before the Nov. 6 general election, some heavy hitters will meet in Toledo to talk about what is very likely to be the political issue of the 21st century: water.

Governor Taft, Senator Voinovich, Senator DeWine, and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur will be among those gathering at the University of Toledo College of Law for a conference titled “The National Water Crisis: A Great Lakes Response.”

Literature promoting the event indicates it will explore the federal government's role in the battle over diversion of water from the lakes, and how political leaders from the region should deal with the demands for water from other parts of the country and world.

Al Gore has also been invited to attend - and why not? It's not like he has a lot to do these days.

Fritz Wenzel covers politics for The Blade. Email him at fritz@theblade.com.



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