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Former Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner put a stop to rampant speculation regarding whether he is running for mayor - speaking long and loud yesterday about the need for energetic leadership and offering himself up for the job.
"Because I love this city and its people, today I enter the race to become Toledo's next mayor," Mr. Finkbeiner, a Democrat, said before a crowd of about 350 people at The Docks restaurant row on the east side.
"Toledo must fight its way out of its current stagnation, and the only way that will happen is by bringing all Toledoans together in a united effort."
Casting himself as a great motivator and speaking of a need to "mobilize and energize," "awaken," and "excite" Toledo, Mr. Finkbeiner released a list of 34 campaign pledges, promising everything from new jobs to permanently fixed potholes.
Mr. Finkbeiner did not make public mention of current Democratic Mayor Jack Ford, who is running for re-election. In a private interview, however, Mr. Finkbeiner was critical of some controversial occurrences during Mr. Ford's tenure.
"My job in the next few months is not to be a critic of Jack," Mr. Finkbeiner said, "but I will say that the inability to get a developer for the Marina District ... the inability to get [investment] at Southwyck mall ... the inability to persuade the gentleman at Owens-Illinois [to keep the corporation in Toledo] ... needs to be all I need to say about an inability to seize momentous opportunities and act upon them with vigor.
"I think there are some who have used the stagnation of the economy as an excuse to really not be very aggressive," he said.
Mr. Ford, in a written statement that "welcomed" Mr. Finkbeiner to the race, said, "Toledo voters will recognize the real accomplishments of the past four years in tough economic times. They will also be reminded of the squandered opportunities and financial recklessness of the Finkbeiner administration."
Like all mayoral candidates, Mr. Finkbeiner spoke of his plans for the east-side Marina District and a new sports arena, saying that people should focus more on getting the district itself started than on whether an arena is placed there.
Mr. Finkbeiner said it would not matter on which side of the Maumee River the arena was placed and should depend more on the desires of a developer willing to put up some money.
Speaking repeatedly of the need for Toledo leaders to embrace the business community, Mr. Finkbeiner pledged to work with local universities to create a technology sector in the city. He also called for creation of an automotive research and development "triangle" between Toledo, Detroit, and Ann Arbor to spur job growth.
Perhaps Mr. Finkbeiner's most renowned accomplishment during his 1994-2002 tenure was negotiating a $280 million state/local incentive deal with DaimlerChrysler AG to keep the Jeep plant in Toledo. The deal included $35 million in city cash to buy and prepare the site for a new plant, and the purchase and destruction of 83 homes and 16 businesses. The $750 million plant began building Jeep Libertys in 2001.
Nationally recognized consumer advocate Ralph Nader was highly critical of Mr. Finkbeiner, saying he had been hoodwinked by DaimlerChrysler to the detriment of Toledo citizens.
Mr. Finkbeiner also negotiated an agreement with Owens Corning to build its international headquarters just south of Toledo's downtown. During his tenure, the Erie Street Market and Fifth Third Field stadium opened, and COSI moved into the former Portside Festival Marketplace.
Mr. Finkbeiner also razed thousands of abandoned structures around the city.
But Mr. Finkbeiner also was ridiculed for numerous social blunders: Less than a year into office, he drew national attention for pushing an idea to sell homes near Toledo Express Airport, which has an overnight cargo hub, to the deaf.
He was known to berate his staff during meetings, was involved in several highly publicized altercations with citizens, and was once accused of hitting the former manager of the Erie Street Market with a coffee cup - an incident that ended with a $35,000 settlement paid by the city.
Mr. Finkbeiner said in an interview that he would be "patient and more disciplined in my emotion. That would be in my best interest." He also said that his drive - which he admitted could be a "pain in the butt for everyone around" - was what it took to "move mountains."
Mr. Finkbeiner, 66, who underwent quadruple bypass surgery last year and has heart disease, has faced questions about how his health might temper his leadership style.
He said yesterday that his doctors have given him clearance for the campaign, and that he "could run loops around Jack, Keith, and Rob."
"We'll see about that," said Keith Wilkowski, another Democratic mayoral candidate. "I generally run four to six miles a day."
Republican candidate Rob Ludeman said Mr. Finkbeiner's "only been in the race for a few hours and he's already spouting off his goofy Cartyisms. He knows darn well I'm in good physical shape."
Mr. Ford said he's "going to keep working 16 to 17 hours a day to keep Toledo moving forward."
Mr. Wilkowski said he was not surprised by Mr. Finkbeiner's decision to run.
"I don't think anyone is. I'm looking forward to a good discussion of the issues facing the community, and the kind of leadership that is necessary to move the city forward," Mr. Wilkowski said.
Mr. Ludeman, who currently is a city councilman, said his campaign strategy wouldn't change, and that Mr. Finkbeiner's decision would help him.
"There's three Democrats in the primary, and that gives an advantage to myself," he said.
As for Mr. Finkbeiner's initial proposals, Mr. Ludeman said, "there's nothing new. When Carty was mayor, it seemed like he was willing to give away the farm to encourage private investment - look at the Commodore Perry deal," referring to Mr. Finkbeiner's role in revamping the former hotel and, in turn, giving away the top floors and parking garage to the developers.
Mr. Finkbeiner said he has not yet decided whether he will resign from his seat on the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority board of directors, but added that "I probably will."
Mr. Finkbeiner was appointed to the board by the Lucas County commissioners. His term expires July 31.
Blade staff writer Jack Baessler contributed to this report.
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