Two of Toledo's police and fire unions blasted Mayor Jack Ford's recent campaign commercials that refer to the north-end riot, saying his negotiation attempt at the incident hindered police operations.
The Toledo Police Patrolman's Association and Toledo Firefighters Local 92 held a news conference yesterday to address the television spots, which they want pulled from the air.
Both unions endorsed former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, who is running against Mr. Ford in the Nov. 8 election.
"The mayor's ads are outrageous," said Gregg Harris, TPPA president. "I can't believe that you would do something like that."
Union leaders said they have fielded dozens of calls from members "outraged" and "appalled" by the ads that refer to the riot.
"We believe what the mayor did is both inappropriate and opportunistic," said Jim Martin, Local 92 president. "It does not speak well of a top official using an event like this to get re-elected."
Megan Vahey, Mr. Ford's campaign manager, disagreed and said the ads will not be pulled.
"We think that it's an important message to tell Toledoans of the mayor's actions during the North Toledo disturbance," she said. "It's something that's on everyone's minds, and we feel it's important to keep it on."
Mr. Ford's campaign issued a statement indicating the mayor complimented and gave "full credit" to the police chief, the safety administration, and all the safety personnel for their restraint and efficiency during the Oct. 15 riot.
"This is a desperate attempt by the Finkbeiner campaign to besmirch the mayor's actions during the North Toledo disturbance," it stated. "It is too bad that safety unions' leadership, who have endorsed Mr. Finkbeiner, are being used by him in an attempt to smear Mayor Ford to further Mr. Finkbeiner's own political agenda."
Bob Reinbolt, Mr. Finkbeiner's spokesman, said the campaign had nothing to do with the unions' remarks.
Mr. Reinbolt said Mr. Finkbeiner's campaign was told of the news conference yesterday morning, but he did not know specifics beyond the unions' discussing the riots and their concerns.
"I think this was an expression of strong feelings that police and fire had regarding the situation. If anybody is trying to make politics out of this, it's Mayor Ford's campaign," Mr. Reinbolt said.
He said Mr. Finkbeiner's ads could start running at the end of the week. None of the filmed spots mention the riot, and Mr. Reinbolt said he doesn't "know what will be gained by belaboring that point."
"We are staying positive on our accomplishments. We will monitor what ads are out there and establish other ads if necessary," he said.
The first of Mr. Ford's spots has him expressing his reaction to the riots, and saying he saw actions that were "unacceptable."
He promises to prosecute wrongdoers, credits police and firefighters for the few injuries, and tells listeners: "We must not let this one event cloud our city's future."
In the second spot, three speakers talk about the riot and Mr. Ford's determination to lead the city forward.
One speaker is the Rev. Mansour Bey, associate pastor of First Church of God, who talked about the mayor's unsuccessful attempt to reason with the mob at the height of the riot.
Mr. Ford, several of his top officials, and Mr. Bey went into the angry crowd, which included gang members, at Mulberry Street and Central Avenue.
The mayor's efforts to explain why he couldn't prevent neo-Nazis from holding a rally in the neighborhood were shouted down. The dialogue ended when Jim and Lou's bar at the same intersection was looted and set on fire.
Mr. Bey said the mayor "showed courage" and "kept the situation contained."
Union leaders disputed that, and said the situation escalated while Mr. Ford was negotiating.
The TPPA claims that officers wanted to act on the crimes they saw at the bar and drive people back, but their requests were denied as they were told to "Stand by! The mayor is negotiating a peace."
Union leaders said by the time negotiations failed, it was too late to prevent the damage.
"What I really think is unfair is they are trying to blame the mayor for that when their own command approved everything that was being done," said Joe Walter, the city's safety director, who was appointed to the post by Mr. Ford in 2003.
The TPPA is forming a committee to look at what went right and wrong the day of the riot.
It requested in writing, through state public records law, copies of taped communication transmissions from police channels during the riot.
It asked for all e-mail and written correspondence from and to Chief Mike Navarre, Deputy Chief Derrick Diggs, Captains Diana Ruiz-Krause and Louise Eggert, and Lt. Gregg Sekela regarding the riot.
It also requested a copy of the log book maintained at the command post detailing every request by officers and command officers that was transmitted during the riot, a copy of roll call orders restricting officers' making arrests without the OK of a command officer, and a list of orders given to officers as they arrived at the command post.
The formal request was filed after an informal request was denied by Chief Navarre, said Dan Wagner, TPPA vice president.
Union leaders said they will take the matter to court if they don't receive the requested information.
Chief Navarre's office received the request and forwarded it to Deputy Chief Don Kenney because the chief is on vacation.
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