5:30 PM UPDATE FROM THE CLOWN-IN-CHIEF
I couldn t get through to Carty Finkbeiner in time for my earlier post (below), but I just got back home from the day's activities, and just got off the phone with Hizzoner. As it often the case, I had but to ask him a single question Mayor, what on earth were you thinking when you told the Marines to get outta town? to get Hizzoner talking. And talking. And talking. And talking
So, what was the mayor thinking?
I observed the May 2006 staging in downtown Toledo on a Saturday late morning, right about noon hour. They were on St. Clair Street at that time, right near Levis Park. And I watched their maneuvering and I also observed citizens who appeared to be quite bewildered by what was taking place. And I parked my car along the curb and it was both interesting and intriguing to see the maneuvers, but I also saw the expressions on the faces of the people walking down St. Clair.
Yeah, yeah. OK, we got it. But why wait until the 11th hour to banish the USMC? Well, the answer to that goes alllll the way back to that Saturday spring morning in 06. See, the mayor watched the urban warfare drills awhile, and then on Monday went back to city hall and well, here. Let him tell it:
I came back in on Monday and said to my chief of staff and my safety director that I had concerns about military staging exercises in the heart of downtown Toledo, and that I thought it was a good idea that they not be done again.
Tell me, mayor, in your mind at that time, were you giving a clear directive?
I made it clear with those I huddled with. And the first I heard about [this week s Toledo military drills] was mid-morning Friday, a small [item] in The Blade, indicating they were. And I inquired and I was told yes they were, they would be in the vicinity of Madison and Huron about 3 pm, using a city building, the Nasby Building, and that they would probably be utilizing it right through until the early evening, up to 9 o clock that night, and perhaps even bunk there and then pick up again in the morning.
I conveyed [the mayoral cease-fake-fire order] to my folks, both the police department and other folks, and they immediately conveyed that. And we suggested the old Jones Junior High School on Broadway -- which is somewhat isolated from lots of human interaction -- would be a good alternative. We thought they were going to take advantage of that. Last I heard, they were. It was between that site and a site perhaps in Wood County, out near Willis Day Industrial Park.
I have wonderful respect for the Marines, who always seem to get the hard assignments. But I just don t think central business districts that are trying to bring back excitement, I don t think you want to send out a message that it s OK to stage operations there.
Well, I think you could argue that camo-garbed Marines darting in and out of buildings could provide p-l-e-n-t-y of excitement, but I get the man's point. See, here s the way Hizzoner sees it:
I think our downtown business district is a valuable piece of real estate. I want people to see it not as a staging ground for military operations. That suggests to me that you ve kind of given up on the vitality of the business district
Carty, I said, I want you to get out your calendar, and circle this day with your pen. Because this is the day when you and I actually agree.
Up next: Hell freezes over...
[P.S. I know just what you're wondering. You're wondering: Well then, who deserves the blame for this oversized mix-up?
If I told you how the blame game for all this is shaking out within the city administration, you just wouldn't believe it. But I can't, because it was told to me off the record -- sorry, this joke is mine and mine alone. Suffice it say, there is indeed finger-pointing going on among the mayor's underlings, but not all the parties are in a position to defend themselves....]
SATURDAY (ORIGINAL POST)
Spent most of yesterday researching/writing tomorrow s column. Then picked up the paper this morning and saw the story about Carty throwing out the Marines.
Theoretically, I should spike my Sunday column and start all over again, given the immediacy of the latest Cartyism. But I can t. It s Saturday, and I ve got family obligations that will remove me from the computer for the better part of the day.
All I ve got is a few minutes here to say
Good for you Carty.
Bad for us, Carty.
Like so many mayoral efforts, this one started out with what could be considered a kernel of wisdom before it went off half-cocked and veered totally off course.
Question No. 1: Is it such a great idea to have Michigan Marine reservists use our downtown as the site of their urban training exercises?
I gotta tell you, I m with the mayor on this one. I ve been downtown during these training sessions, and I think Hizzoner is right: It s creepy-scary to see soldiers er, Marines running around in camo and toting M16s to play war games. And yes, I know: They ve gotta train somewhere. But is ours really the only boarded-up downtown this Grand Rapids, Mich., unit can find within a day s drive?
Question No. 2: Is it such a great idea to let the Marines get partially set up before we tell em no, sorry, they ll have to go now.
This is the half-cocked part of the story. Yeah, Carty. OK. We don t think mock ambushes and gun battles even while firing blanks is such a great atmosphere to create in our downtown. But . but . couldn t we have mentioned this to those poor Marines long before they got here?
Ideally, the city s disinvitation shouldn t even be a news item. Ideally, all this should have happened in plenty of time, and behind solidly closed doors. Ideally, we shouldn t even know about any of this, let alone have it out there for coffeehouse discussion.
Right idea, Carty. But the execution? A budding public-relations disaster of such magnitude, sir, that you might eventually have to send in the Marines.