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Published: Monday, 1/18/2010

No question about it: There will never be another Carty

NOW THAT the era known as "The Carty Years" is over, the armchair quarterbacks are eager to tell us what it all meant. Though the football reference is appropriate, as I'll explain, I'm going to call an audible and keep my own analysis to relatively personal matters.

First, I have met a lot of politicians and public servants over the years, and I've never met one like Carty. I like the guy. I've always liked him - even when he was mad at me, which was probably more often than I realize.

He wore his passion on his sleeve. Sometimes his heart overruled his head. No great revelation there. However, I never sensed that his intensity - unlike that of some of his contemporaries in public service - was anything but genuine and well intended. I remember the great line often attributed to the late George Burns, who said "Once you learn to fake sincerity, you've got it made." Carty never faked it.

He laughed in public. He cried in public. He ranted in public. And always for the same reason: he could never understand why every single Toledoan didn't see what he saw, didn't get what he got, didn't care like he cared.

As Ignazio Messina's excellent Jan. 3 piece in The Blade made clear, even Carty's critics acknowledge he made Toledo a better place during his 12 years as the city's chief executive. His problems, it always seemed, stemmed from his personal style. More than one Carty story between friends started out with "His heart is in the right place, but …"

I think it was the football coach in him. Once an assistant coach for the University of Toledo Rockets and an unabashed fan of Michigan football and the legendary Bo Schembechler, Carty brought the coach's mentality to City Hall: "If we do this and this and this, we win."

Public policy is not always about X's and O's, of course, but if the assistant coaches on the 22nd floor let him down, or the players out in the field failed to perform to his expectations, the result was predictable. He either benched them or dismissed them from the team. Coaches are sometimes less than diplomatic, though as far as we know, Carty never pulled a Texas Tech and locked anybody in a dark shed.

It was hardly a coincidence that he called his administration Team Toledo.

In that regard, I'm reminded of the only time Carty ever got angry at me to my face, and it was on television, no less. He was a frequent guest on our public affairs program, The Editors, and during one of his appearances I asked him if Team Toledo was ahead or behind.

He turned a little red, his eyes narrowing, and said "Mister, you've got to be nuts to even ask that question."

It's okay, Carty. I heard a lot worse than that over the years from readers who challenged my mental acuity all the time.

Carty never did anything halfway. A few years ago he agreed to compete in a free-throw shooting contest at halftime of a basketball game between the University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University. His opponent was to be Bowling Green Mayor John Quinn, and since the game was to be played at BGSU's Anderson Arena, Carty felt Mr. Quinn had a "home court" advantage.

So he asked me how he could get in to Anderson Arena the night before and practice his free throws. I don't know how he did it, but he got in and he practiced. As I recall it, he lost to Mayor Quinn, but at least it wasn't for lack of preparation.

Carty also had an amazing facility for remembering names and the personal circumstances of others. On the very day he was leaving office as mayor and relinquishing the job he loved, he cared enough to call and ask about my wife's health.

I have a feeling Mike Bell will do a good job as Toledo's new mayor, and I'm sure most Toledoans wish him well. Lord knows he inherits a financial mess, so he'll be tested early. But let's face it. We'll never forget the 12 years Team Toledo had Carleton S. Finkbeiner as its coach.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. That's probably not the case for those who consider him their avowed political enemy.

As for me, I'll miss him - not because he was always good copy for journalists but because I admire people of passion, focus, and resolve who endure those slings and arrows Shakespeare wrote about and keep on truckin'.

It's hard to have a lot of sympathy for folks who are unhappy with the seats at the new Lucas County Arena. The seats, according to this vocal minority, are too small. Perhaps we should respectively suggest that the people doing the complaining are too large.

When a 2007 study concludes that 70 percent of Lucas County adults are obese or overweight, the problem is obvious. Seats in the new building, which measure 19 to 21 inches wide, with 33 inches of leg room, are basically the same as at Fifth Third Field and are actually larger than at major league arenas such as the Palace in Auburn Hills and Nationwide Arena in Columbus. A friend of mine attends hockey games at Nationwide and says he has never heard complaints about the seats or the leg room.

Seats at Lucas County Arena are cushioned, which could cut into the leg room for some individuals, but the seats were built to industry standards. Maybe it's time for those standards to change and begin to reflect the reality of our expanding girth. At the same time, we keep hearing complaints that the arena should have been built with more seats, not fewer, despite the limitations of building the place in a tightly defined downtown site.

So there will always be those who find the Lucas County Arena inadequate. In the meantime, however, the attendance records that are already being set at LCA make it clear that the naysayers should just sit down, forgo the French fries, and enjoy the game.

Thomas Walton is retired Editor and Vice President of The Blade. His column appears every other Monday.

Contact him at:

twalton@theblade.com



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