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Published: Friday, 11/4/2005

Finkbeiner, Ford duel over job statistics

Toledo mayoral candidates Jack Ford and Carty Finkbeiner held dueling news conferences yesterday to talk about both men's records on job creation and retention during their administrations. And state Rep. Peter Ujvagi (D., Toledo) appeared at Mr. Ford's conference to talk up the mayor and criticize Mr. Finkbeiner.

Ringed, as usual, by sign-carrying supporters, Mr. Finkbeiner held his conference in the wind-whipped corridor between One SeaGate and the Wyndham Hotel. He opened by listing the issues his campaign has discussed, including the elderly, gang violence, education, housing, utility costs, and fitness. Then he got down to the focus of the event, an attack on Mr. Ford's performance as mayor.

He said the "casual manner" in which the mayor treated rumors that Owens-Illinois Inc. would leave Toledo led to the company's departure, then mocked different figures the Ford campaign has released on job creation.

"Mr. Ford doesn't have a clue how many jobs he's lost or created," he said. "I take issue with this uncertainty."

He said the figures the Ford camp has released "are creating, on the eve of the election, a false sense of accomplishment."

Asked how he would have done things differently in the case of O-I, Mr. Finkbeiner said he would have asked for help from civic and business leaders and the local media.

He also said downtown vacancies fell during his administration. He did not know by what percentage.

Less than two hours later, Mr. Ford held a news conference to challenge Mr. Finkbeiner's charges.

The different figures, some released "a couple of months ago" and other released this week, for job creation on his watch stem from the addition of construction jobs to the mix, he said.

"I should be able to take credit for these," Mr. Ford said. "I think it's appropriate and fair."

He conceded that the city has lost manufacturing jobs, but said it has gained other jobs, citing 77 that came recently with the relocation of a Detroit-area firm.

As for Mr. Finkbeiner's claim that he had a "casual manner" toward O-I's departure, "We took it seriously," the mayor said. "The idea that it wasn't on our radar screen is an absolute lie."

He repeated the story of Erie Street market manager Carolyn Smithers, whom Mr. Finkbeiner allegedly hit with coffee cup when he was mayor. The city paid $35,000 to settle the case in 2001. "What he fears is that the public may be looking at the Smithers" case, Mr. Ford said. "The public may be wondering why he settled."

Mr. Ford also invoked his opponent's 1998 guilty plea to an ethics violation for not disclosing a $10,000 payment he received for selling his condominium for the Owens Corning relocation in 1994. "He's the only mayor in Toledo history that pled guilty in an ethics violation," Mr. Ford said.

Mr. Ujvagi, a former councilman who served with both men, spoke on Mr. Ford's behalf. "There's no comparison between the two men," Mr. Ujvagi said.

"There is no question of whether Carty Finkbeiner will melt down again," he said, referring to the former mayor's temper. "The question is when."

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