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Ford accuses challenger of bias in plan to raze central-city homes

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Mayor Jack Ford yesterday called his opponent's plan for demolishing blocks of dilapidated residential and commercial structures "discriminatory."

"Trying to just rip out a neighborhood is impossible financially. I think it's discriminatory. It's morally reprehensible to do that," he said. "There is not enough money to completely tear down all the homes in need of that."

Carty Finkbeiner, Mr. Ford's opponent in the Nov. 8 election, on Wednesday aired his idea for remaking two to three-block segments of neighborhoods with new housing.

Mr. Finkbeiner said he would relocate residents and offer incentives to developers to build new housing stock. He said he had in mind a particular area in the near downtown, but offered no details and did not say whether he would try to use the power of eminent domain.

Mr. Ford held his news conference at Lawrence and Palmwood avenues in front of a house being built on a vacant lot.

He used the occasion to renew his recent strong support for a point-of-sale ordinance that would require a nonoccupant seller to have a house certified as habitable before it could be sold. The ordinance is stalled in City Council for lack of a majority.

"I have no idea why folks would fight that," Mr. Ford said yesterday. "It's a clear line of demarcation between Mr. Finkbeiner and myself."

Mr. Finkbeiner has said he opposes the ordinance as ineffective and anti-business.

Mr. Ford said the ordinance would protect people who unwittingly buy houses with structural defects through land contracts. Under land contracts, the seller retains legal title until the house is paid off. Such contracts are often used when the buyer can't get a conventional mortgage.

Mr. Ford has not always been such an enthusiastic supporter of a point-of-sale ordinance.

According to minutes of a Toledo Housing Task Force meeting March 15, 2004, a representative of Mr. Ford said the mayor did not want to try to push the ordinance to a vote of City Council because he was concerned about the "unintended consequences."

"Let's see if we have existing tools in the toolbox before moving into new legislation," Tom Crothers, now the mayor's chief of staff but then the deputy director of development, said, according to the meeting minutes.

Mr. Crothers said yesterday the administration has done further analysis and concluded: "What we have on the books is just not adequate to protect our citizens."

Mr. Finkbeiner did not immediately respond to Mr. Ford's statements.

- Tom Troy

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