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Published: Friday, 11/4/2005

TV time gave Finkbeiner a forum to criticize Ford

BY TOM TROY AND JOSHUA BOAK
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

Former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner left behind the burdens of public office on Jan. 3, 2002, when Jack Ford succeeded him.

But he didn t leave behind his interest in the job.

Three months later, Mr. Finkbeiner had his own weekly appearances on television, and three months after that he was blasting his successor. So much for the honeymoon.

A review of the scripts for It s Just Not Right, Mr. Finkbeiner s weekly segment on the 6 o clock news at WTVG-TV, Channel 13, show that Mr. Finkbeiner commented on Toledo Public Schools, Catholic schools, pedophile priests, national politics, and national holidays when they occurred.

But one of his favorite subjects to criticize was economic development in the city of Toledo, and his target was often Mayor Ford and the Toledo City Council.

A frustrated Mr. Ford lashed out at Mr. Finkbeiner from the podium of a live debate Tuesday.

Mr. Finkbeiner spent the last three years attacking me weekly on his show with Channel 13, never forget that, Mr. Ford said in the debate sponsored by The Blade and WTVG-TV.

A review of the scripts showed Mr. Finkbeiner s digs at his successor were more monthly than weekly.

Mr. Finkbeiner, 66, consid-ered several potential new careers before landing a part-time job as a weekly commentator on WTVG in April, 2002.

It s Just Not Right was a ratings hit for the station. It aired for more than three years, except when he had heart bypass surgery in 2004.

Again and again, Mr. Finkbeiner lanced the administration of the city, sometimes naming Mr. Ford, sometimes not.

In November, 2003, Mr. Finkbeiner attacked the mayor s awarding of the Marina District development contract later rescinded to Toledo builder Bruce Douglas, who had contributed $7,050 to Mr. Ford s 2001 election campaign.

Mr. Ford, this process is flawed, Mr. Finkbeiner intoned. Some might say, smelly and dishonorable.

He passed judgment on slow-poke economic development, loss of tenants in the Erie Street Market, Mr. Ford s creation of the police central tow lot, the decline of Southwyck Shopping Center, and the closing of a Farmer Jack store on Cherry Street.

Carty Finkbeiner talks to Allison Perz during a taping of  Carty & Co.  at WTVG-TV, Channel 13. The public affairs show aired Sunday mornings. Mayor Jack Ford never appeared on the show.
Carty Finkbeiner talks to Allison Perz during a taping of Carty & Co. at WTVG-TV, Channel 13. The public affairs show aired Sunday mornings. Mayor Jack Ford never appeared on the show.
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And he was paid by WTVG to blast Mr. Ford and his running of the city. Mr. Finkbeiner s 2004 IRS filing shows the station paid him $21,340 last year.

Mr. Finkbeiner also weighed in on the power struggle that was taking place in the Lucas County Democratic Party in early 2004 and acknowledged that he had a hand in it.

[Paula Ross s] re-election [as chairman] is being challenged by a group known as the Coalition of Concerned Democrats. I m one of them, Mr. Finkbeiner told the camera in the segment aired Jan. 26, 2004.

He didn t acknowledge the connection when he commented not unapprovingly Jan. 10, 2005, on the appointment of Dennis Duffey, business agent for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 8, to be interim Lucas County Treasurer.

Mr. Duffey was one of the leaders of the takeover of the Lucas County Democratic Party from former Chairman Paula Ross, who had backed Mr. Ford.

Since then Mr. Duffey has provided a paid organizer from the union s office to help Mr. Finkbeiner run his campaign for mayor.

On June 24, 2002, Mr. Finkbeiner attacked his successor for lobbying the Bush administration for $10 million in technology grants.

Mayor Ford, our technology hopes will never materialize if you depend on the public sector to make it happen, he said. Technology is expensive. It is risky. And it must be led by the private sector.

Mr. Ford chose not to respond to the criticism, according to the news program s transcript.

Even worse, the mayor did not plan for any Rallies by the River or keep a professional bowling championship event in Toledo, Mr. Finkbeiner said on Feb. 10, 2003.

Get to work and understand that our citizens want events and entertainment on the waterfront, he told Mr. Ford from the megaphone provided to Mr. Finkbeiner by WTVG.

After an FBI report found that homicides in Toledo increased 29 percent between 2001 and 2002, Mr. Finkbeiner scoffed at the mayor s decision to assign 24 police officers to ticket anyone who dropped a coffee cup, an apparent dig at the mayor s crusade to clean the city.

Mr. Mayor, I know you want an elegant city, he said on June 2, 2003. But a safe city should be your number one priority.

Even when Mr. Finkbeiner did not mention the mayor s name, he blasted Mr. Ford s attempts to reduce unemployment by holding a closed-door meeting on the 28th floor of the Owens-Illinois building.

The city leaders discussed how government and economic development agencies could help the city, a strategy Mr. Finkbeiner disagreed with.

We ve got to market, he said on July 21, 2003. We ve got to sell. Sell. We ve got to promote.

Mr. Ford s backers groused that Mr. Finkbeiner was getting free publicity not only in his Monday television time slot, but also in a Sunday morning public affairs program, Carty & Co. Mr. Ford never appeared on the show, although he was invited, according to Jennifer Wingate, a WTVG producer.

The It s Just Not Right segment was canceled in late May, a month before Mr. Finkbeiner declared his candidacy, when the station s management became concerned about the appearance that Mr. Finkbeiner was taking advantage of his television platform.

A spokesman for Mr. Finkbeiner said the vast majority of Mr. Finkbeiner s commentary was not aimed at Mr. Ford or the city council.

Bob Reinbolt, the former mayor s spokesman, said Mr. Finkbeiner was doing what he was hired to do and did not take the job with the intent of running for mayor.

I don t think he ever thought he would run again, Mr. Reinbolt said. I tried to encourage him to run and he wasn t very receptive to it.

Mr. Finkbeiner was asked often by news reporters whether he was a candidate for mayor, but he denied it until this summer. Mr. Finkbeiner formally declared his candidacy for mayor on June 30.

That hasn t stopped his critics from claiming that re-election was in his mind all the time.

I think Carty s been running for mayor since the day he left office, said James Ruvolo, Mr. Ford s campaign manager.

Frank Szollosi, a Toledo city councilman, said Mr. Finkbeiner s allies, including Mr. Duffey, John Irish, the longtime deputy of former Lucas County Treasurer Ray Kest, and Teamsters Local 20 President Bill Lichtenwald, engineered the takeover of the party for a reason.

Everything they ve done for two years was to secure the election of Carty Finkbeiner, Mr. Szollosi said.

Party activist Jerry Chabler, who was involved in the party takeover, said Mr. Finkbeiner s fingerprints are all over it.

You d have to live on another planet if you didn t believe that was the program, Mr. Chabler said. It s obviously been very effective for the [former] mayor, if you believe the most recent polls.

Mr. Finkbeiner s supporters said the reluctance he expressed to give up the Channel 13 job and his family time was genuine.

Pat Nicholson, Mr. Finkbeiner s fund-raising chairman, said Mr. Finkbeiner didn t seriously consider challenging Mr. Ford until January especially after the long recovery in 2004 from heart bypass surgery.

Mr. Finkbeiner even encouraged other people to run, including Mr. Nicholson and his attorney, Tom Palmer.

If he was totally committed to running he wouldn t have discussed me running or Tom running, Mr. Nicholson said.

Brian Trauring, the news director for WTVG, doesn t deny that a weekly gig on the local news helped Mr. Finkbeiner by keeping his name in the public eye and educating him on how the electronic media works.

But he said he never thought Mr. Finkbeiner was going to choose to run.

We hired him to be a commentator. We didn t want him to endorse Mother s Day and apple pie. We wanted him to take on tough subjects, Mr. Trauring said.

The television news director said the former mayor was asked to tone down the criticism of Mr. Ford at times.

A lot of times he was faulting the Regional Growth Partnership, which has nothing to do with Jack Ford, he said.

Mr. Trauring said the station might be interested in a Jack Ford version of Mr. Finkbeiner s segment, if Mr. Ford loses in Tuesday s election.

If Jack Ford were interested in talking with us, I think we d sit down with him, Mr. Trauring said.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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