Finkbeiner says Bell spending too much time on Chinese investors, should focus on Toledo crime

2/9/2013
BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Finkbeiner.
Finkbeiner.

Former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner on Friday would not rule out another run for his old job and he didn’t hold back about the man who followed him as the city’s top leader.

Mr. Finkbeiner, during an edition of the Deadline Now public affairs show on WGTE-TV, Channel 30, blasted Mayor Mike Bell for not paying enough attention to neighborhoods and the city’s lack of cleanliness.

And he stopped short of giving a definitive answer when asked if he would make another run for mayor this year.

“I doubt it,” the former mayor said. “You never say no.”

He said Mayor Bell has spent too much time overseas wooing Chinese investors.

“I believe our incumbent mayor’s priorities, in my judgment, need to be realigned. Get into the neighborhoods,” Mr. Finkbeiner said on the show. “The crime problem has become very, very serious in Toledo — violent crime in particular, gangs in particular.”

He also said burned-down houses aren’t razed quickly enough, too much litter is blowing along city streets, and the streets are in bad condition. “I wish he would take a few fewer trips to China and spend some time getting to know the condition of some of our older neighborhoods,” Mr. Finkbeiner said.

Mr. Finkbeiner spent eight years in office until he was term-limited. After four years out of office, he ran against incumbent Mayor Jack Ford and won.

He did not run for re-election in 2009, when Mr. Bell defeated Democrat Keith Wilkowski in the general election.

Mr. Finkbeiner, like Mr. Ford, has been a frequent critic of Mr. Bell. Mr. Finkbeiner said he voted for Mr. Bell in 2009 but now he gives him a “C” grade. Among the reasons is a lack of economic development, he said.

“The foreign trips have become excessive and, frankly, I don’t see any jobs being created. I don’t think there’s been one job created that has come as a result of the Chinese trip,” he said. “Now there may if we get some development over there in the Marina District, and I would acknowledge that.”

Dashing Pacific Group Ltd., a group of Chinese investors, in 2011 paid the city $3.8 million for the vacant Marina District property and $2.15 million for the Docks restaurant complex — both in East Toledo.

The firm has yet to build anything, despite pressures to do so.

Mayor Bell announced his re-election campaign during his state of the city address on Jan. 28.

Jen Sorgenfrei, Mayor Bell's spokesman and executive officer, said Mr. Finkbeiner's criticism is hypocritical.

“I think The Blade alone pointed out some of the issues in neighborhoods that went back into the Finkbeiner administration,” Ms. Sorgenfrei said, referring to a series of articles the newspaper wrote on problems in the city’s neighborhoods department.

“I think that is harsh criticism in light of the issues we had to clean up following Mr. Finkbeiner’s last term in office,” she said.

Ms. Sorgenfrei said Mr. Finkbeiner left the city with a $7 million carryover deficit from 2009 that was part of a total $48 million shortfall in the budget Mr. Bell presented for 2010.

Now, she said, the city has $326,000 in its rainy-day fund, unemployment is on a downswing, and overall crime actually fell 18 percent in 2012 compared to the previous year.

Ms. Sorgenfrei added: “As the mayor has said repeatedly, ‘Get off the bench and bring it.’ ”

Toledo City Council President Joe McNamara, also a likely a candidate for mayor this year, said Mr. Finkbeiner had some valid points.

“Mayor Finkbeiner has raised the concerns of a lot of Toledo and ... he is not the only one saying that,” Mr. McNamara said.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.