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Published: Sunday, 2/24/2008

Answer this call; you might win a prize

Actual item from Friday's newspaper:

For several hours during the day [Thursday], the telephone voice mail greeting for the city's purchasing hot line was, "Carty Finkbeiner is a complete moron."

For a person in my line of work, that's Christmas morning all over again. I mean, with a pretty bow and everything.

But first, this: It is absolutely wrong (and maybe even illegal, no?) to hack into any automated city system. Moreover, changing an outgoing message to something that is so needlessly offensive to a fellow human being is, well, simply deplorable and should not be tolerated.

Having said that, let me also add: ROFL!

On this prank, Mayor Finkbeiner is uncharacteristically mute. He left comments up to Katerina Bekyarska, a mayoral staffer currently functioning as Brian Schwartz 2.0 - that is, a fill-in spokesman for Carty's absent PR flack.

(Long story. If you're not from around here, think of the reference to Ms. Bekyarska as a private joke, rudely told among close friends in the middle of a larger gathering, and then please accept my apology.

P.S.Brian - Enjoying your suspension since the principal banished you from his high school? Is daytime TV as bad as they say? Reading this in your PJs? A plus: matinee movie tickets are lots cheaper!)

Meanwhile, Ms. Bekyarska proved herself a master of understatement, which is something you don't normally see a lot of around city hall.

"We are looking to see," she told The Blade, "if there is an issue that needs to be addressed with our phone lines and if they need to be better protected."

Now, there are some people who argue (in light of Toledo's "War Against the Marines," which left the city singed by the spotlight of nationwide bad publicity) that protecting Toledo from Carty is another, possibly more immediate "issue that needs to be addressed," but there I go, getting all side-tracked.

In point of fact, the official city phone greeting is: "Thank you for calling Toledo, the most liveable city."

Under previous Carty reigns, city phone answerers in 2000 were required to refer to Toledo as "a millennium community" and then, after the calendar flipped into the next year, "a renaissance city."

Calling Toledo merely "liveable" is refreshingly humble by comparison, don't you think?

Oh, but we're a clever people, we Liveable-City Dwellers. And you can prove it. Look, we can't let one citywide prank stand for all time.

Announcing a contest: E-mail me your ideas for the next "tell it like it is" Unofficial City of Toledo outgoing voice-mail greeting.

Rules: (1) No profanities (what, you think I work at city hall?); (2) No hacking into city computers, and (3) No entries after Feb. 29.

Winner gets one of those red baseball caps with "Toledo" emblazoned across the front. It's official, even - the ball cap's for sale on the city Web site.

And I won't even tinker with it before handing it over.

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