Voicing unanimous feelings of gratitude, Toledo City Council yesterday stood solidly behind local safety officials assigned to the front lines of Saturday's North Toledo riot.
Not a word of criticism fell upon police Chief Mike Navarre, fire Chief Mike Bell, and Safety Director Joe Walter, who were invited by council to offer first-person narratives of five hours of turmoil and were given a standing ovation.
Chief Navarre repeatedly credited his officers for restraint while being pelted with rocks.
He said the arrest of two people throwing rocks while neo-Nazis were standing by their cars before a march scheduled that day "did incite the crowd, but that's something we had to do."
When crowds grew from 200 to 600 and "the rocks became very steady," Chief Navarre canceled the march and used officers to push back the crowds - a tactic that only fragmented the crowds for short periods, he said.
It was only after Chief Navarre put out a "mutual aid" call to adjacent departments in Sylvania, Maumee, Ottawa Hills, and Oregon that he said he had enough officers to surround the mob and move in, expecting violence.
"We realized if this confrontation took place, it wasn't a matter of whether people got hurt or not - it was a matter of the severity of hurt," said Chief Bell, who later noted there were no severe civilian injuries.
After settling down to daily business, council came a step closer to deciding whether to back a FirstEnergy Corp. plan, supported by the Ford administration, that would freeze electric rates for the next three years in exchange for marginally increased fees for the following quarter-century.
A 6-6 tie vote to pull the ordinance from council's environment, utilities, and public service committee - despite the protests of committee chairman Ellen Grachek - was passed by a tie-breaking vote from Mayor Jack Ford, who also was on hand to weigh in moments later on a 6-6 tie vote to pass the ordinance.
But this time, Mayor Ford said he would withhold his vote for two weeks, as is allowed under the city's charter.
After the meeting, Mayor Ford said he wanted time to review an issue raised by Ms. Grachek, who noted that the Ohio Consumers' Counsel was negotiating with FirstEnergy about their plan.
FirstEnergy officials will go before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, which approves rate changes, Nov. 29 to propose the plan.
In other business, council:
●Authorized $170,000 from the city's general fund to support a paid executive position for the Lucas County Improvement Corp., the city and county's economic development entity.
●Voted to sell 27 acres of Monclova Township land for $1,155,224 to developer SACT Inc.
The city originally bought the property for $190,676 as part of a larger 1986 land purchase.
●Expanded the reach of Toledo's pawn shop ordinance to include second-hand consignment shops and those holding garage, yard, or estate sales exceeding seven cumulative calendar days.