Sounding like a father eyeing suspiciously the young man standing at his front door, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner yesterday warned the two mayoral candidates not to tinker with the city's financial condition.
He disagreed with Jack Ford's proposal to appoint an arts director. “That is not a position that, in the bread and butter service area that citizens like to see taken care of, is needed,” Mr. Finkbeiner said. “If you're thinking of adding an arts director to the city of Toledo when we have an Arts Commission of Northwest Ohio, be aware of the fact that in the present budget you may have to lay off a few folks anyway in the year 2002.”
The mayor has previously criticized Ray Kest's plan to borrow $5 million from the $14 million budget reserve fund to hire 40 additional police officers.
He lumped both under the heading of “unrealistic campaign promises.”
The mayor said he had decided who he will vote for on Tuesday but would not publicly endorse a candidate for mayor.
Mr. Finkbeiner said the city has never laid off employees during his tenure as mayor, unlike Detroit, Cleveland, and Cuyahoga County. He said that's because his administration has been prudent about filling vacancies. He said the city has 129 fewer city employees than the 3,065 in place when he took office.
“We are not in financial trouble today because of timely and decisive management on the part of this administration for eight years,” Mr. Finkbeiner said.
“I caution all candidates to exercise restraint. I urge them to get a comprehensive picture of this city's financial picture before they head down a slippery and precarious financial slope,” Mr. Finkbeiner said.
“At least Mr. Kest stated where he'd find the money. Mr. Ford has not even explained that,” the mayor said.
Mr. Finkbeiner acknowledged that as mayor, Mr. Ford would have the right to shift job titles and responsibilities.
But he contended that the city can't afford an arts director at a time when it will be difficult to maintain current services without layoffs.
In a written response, Mr. Ford compared his interest in the arts to the attention Mr. Finkbeiner has lavished on flower beds and fountains. “Each mayor has the opportunity to set priorities and make his or her mark on the city,” Mr. Ford said. “As mayor, I assure you that we will pay as we go rather than irresponsibly borrow from our future.”
In addition to having a cabinet-level arts director, Mr. Ford has said he would appoint a chief of staff and a cabinet-level liaison with the education community - two jobs not in Mr. Finkbeiner's cabinet.
James Ruvolo, Mr. Ford's campaign consultant, said that by focusing on issues that interest young people, Mr. Ford will attract people into the city and restore tax revenues. “You have to spend money to make money,” he said.
Mr. Kest responded by noting that Ohio officials have started talking about taking $279 million from the state's rainy-day fund to balance the state budget.
“After I'm elected, I'll try to have someone from the rating agencies come to [city] council and explain that it probably will not hurt the city [bond] rating, and it's being done all over the country, [and] that as long as we try to rebuild the balances that it won't hurt the city in any way, shape, or form,” Mr. Kest said.
“I haven't proposed any new positions without saying how I'm going to pay for them,” Mr. Kest said.