I write this long-overdue column in praise of Mayor Carty Finkbeiner who will be leaving office in two months. As the first strong mayor since 1931 he has done a great job and it is time we set the record straight and give the man his due.
Carty has been successful in transforming a moribund city into a vibrant and exciting place. In a Blade/Zogby poll published in The Blade in August, 2001, a whopping 78 percent of Toledo residents said they were satisfied with the direction their city has taken under Carty. But he still gets a bum rap.
He has been at the receiving end of some of the most vicious personal attacks any public servant has had to endure. Some of this has permeated into the subconscious of our citizens. You mention his name and some self-appointed arbiter of good government and personal behavior will roll his or her eyes in mock disbelief. But when pressured to give some solid reasons, most of them draw a blank or mumble something like “look at the way he puts his foot in his mouth” or “remember how he bullied the restaurant owner at the Farmers Market” or that he “is impossible to work for.”
To all those touchy, feely, huggy people who think to run a city is a Sunday afternoon stroll in the park or an ice cream social, I say a loud “nonsense.” Perhaps in their la-la frame of mind they don't realize that it takes hard work, tenacity of purpose, and an untiring effort to get a difficult job done. To transform Toledo from nearly a ghost town to a thriving place was not easy.
Here is a partial list of what he has accomplished: The retention of Jeep in Toledo, the construction of Buckeye Basin Greenbelt Parkway, Owens Corning world headquarters, the development of The Docks in International Park, and renovation of the Valentine Theatre. Add the construction of the new state prison, North Cross Industrial Park, Home Depot stores, and new Kroger and Farmer Jack stores. Thousands of new houses have been built and scores of old ones rehabilitated. Downtown is alive with people living in the newly refurbished LaSalle, Commodore Perry, and Hillcrest apartments. The city reserve funds have increased from a half million to $12.5 million and the city's bond ratings stands at a high A3 level.
Carty is vocal, gregarious, and outspoken. As a mayor he has ruffled some feathers and perhaps some academic gowns as well. Have these traits in any way hampered his ability to bring about the changes that our city desperately needed? No, they have not. If anything they have put sleazy landlords, lazy city workers, insensitive corporate bosses, and tax abatement opportunists on the spot and forced them to live up to their ends of the deals and their civic responsibilities.
Toward the end of his term even his adversaries have acknowledged that Carty has done a superb job. Robert McCloskey, the councilman from East Toledo who had a much-publicized finger-wagging confrontation with the mayor a few years ago and who has seldom seen eye to eye with the mayor, concedes that Carty has been a successful mayor. According to him Ray Kest and Jack Ford, the two contenders for mayor's job, together could not fill Carty's shoes.
In view of all this was it fair to call him Herr Finkbeiner as he was once referred to and to continue to label him with the derisive Hizzoner as some in the press have been doing rather regularly?
Carty Finkbeiner has been an unabashed cheerleader for Toledo and has served the citizens of this city remarkably well. Perhaps a grudging acknowledgment of his efforts and a belated thank you is in order.
Dr. S. Amjad Hussain is a Toledo surgeon whose column appears every other week in The Blade. E-mail him at email@example.com.