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Published: Friday, 9/1/2006

Szollosi criticizes mayor for using Detroit Metro

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Finkbeiner
Finkbeiner
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Toledo City Councilman Frank Szollosi yesterday chastised Mayor Carty Finkbeiner for using Detroit Metropolitan Airport instead of Toledo Express Airport for trips to New York City, Florida, and Iowa.

Mr. Szollosi said he plans to introduce an ordinance that would require all official Toledo air travel to use the Toledo airport, even if it costs more and takes longer.

According to Mr. Finkbeiner s expense reports, the city paid $271.60 for him to fly to New York June 14-15 for a meeting with bond rating officials and $509 to go to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in April for a National League of Cities Conference. Both of those flights were out of Detroit.

Joining Mr. Finkbeiner on the trip to New York was Councilman George Sarantou, who flew out of Toledo Express. Mr. Sarantou stayed in New York two nights, and his travel cost the city $401.20, according to Toledo Clerk of Council Gerald Dendinger.

Yesterday, the mayor flew out of Detroit to Ames, Iowa, to attend the University of Toledo s football game last night against Iowa State University. He paid his own airfare for the Iowa trip, Brian Schwartz, the mayor s spokesman, said.

The mayor met with reporters yesterday at the University of Toledo for a political event promoting Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland, but he declined to answer questions about why he chose the Detroit airport over Toledo.

The UT football team flew on a charter airplane out of Toledo Express, a UT spokesman said.

Mr. Szollosi cited the buy local, fly local campaign launched in June by Toledo Express Airport aimed at getting local travelers to use Toledo instead of Detroit.

The mayor, who also is the economic development director for his administration, should set an example and buy local and fly local, Mr. Szollosi said. His trips are pennywise and pound-foolish.

A 2004 study commissioned by the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, which operates the city-owned airport, found that the loss of passengers costs the community about $82 million, including $5.4 million in lost airport revenue, $62.6 million in spending by visitors, and $14.8 million in fuel and other costs for local travelers driving out of town.

Mr. Schwartz said the city s unwritten policy is to use the lowest-cost, most direct flights available for official travel.

He said Toledo Express increasingly is difficult to justify by that rule because of the decline in departures from Toledo.

It s getting harder and harder to get an affordable flight at a convenient time and it pains me to say that, Mr. Schwartz said.

He said a trip that involves a four-hour layover in Cincinnati or an unnecessary extra night in New York isn t a good use of the mayor s time.

The mayor is a former member of the port authority s board of directors, and Mr. Schwartz was public information officer for the port authority until Mr. Finkbeiner hired him in May.

Mr. Schwartz said that, when the mayor was on the port authority board, there were 25 percent more departures from Toledo Express than there are now.

James Hartung, president of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, said he wants people to use the Toledo airport, but declined to comment on the mayor s decisions.

The issues with passenger service at the airport are pretty well documented, he said.

He said travelers should always shop air fares at Toledo Express.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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