Toledo City Council yesterday voted to override Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's vetoes of two charter-school permits, to the disappointment of a Toledo teachers' union that opposes charter schools.
Council voted 9-2, with one member absent, to override the mayor's veto of permits for the Imagine School at 1517 Madison Ave. - the former Zenobia Shrine hall, and the Maritime Academy at 1000 Monroe St.
Dozens of members of the Zenobia Shrine and their spouses, many wearing the fez hats of their organization, joined with representatives of the Uptown Association and other business groups to show their support for the permits.
They broke out in cheers when council achieved the nine votes needed to override the mayor's veto.
Manos Paschalis, owner of Manos Greek Restaurant, which is near the Zenobia Shrine, said the schools will contribute to an emerging neighborhood that will bring families back to the downtown, if only for the school.
"That's how downtowns flourish," he said.
But the move disappointed Francine Lawrence, president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers, who said it undermines public school teachers and students.
She showed up with a group of about 10 teachers to voice their opposition, although just as the vote was concluding. She criticized council President Rob
Ludeman for not honoring a request to delay the vote until 5 p.m. The vote was the first item on council's agenda, about
"[Mr. Ludeman] used his authority as council president to advance it [on the agenda]. He sold out public schools," Mrs. Lawrence said.
Mr. Ludeman said he was handed a memo from the mayor at 4:12 p.m. asking him to delay the vote so the teachers could "hear the discussion." Mr. Ludeman said that wasn't fair to the 200 or so supporters of the permit who showed up on time. He said council always handles veto overrides as the first item on the agenda.
Calling himself one of council's staunchest supporters of public schools, Mr. Ludeman said opposition to charter schools is not a justifiable reason to approve or reject a zoning permit.
Imagine Schools of Arlington, Va., plans to open with grades K-3, adding a grade each year up to grade eight. Eventually it would have 700 pupils, and focus on math, science, and technology.
The Maritime Academy, in temporary quarters in the Warehouse District, expects 100 pupils to start in grades 5-12.
Both permits passed two weeks ago with only eight votes - one shy of a veto-proof majority, putting last night's veto override in doubt.
Councilman Mark Sobczak, who switched his vote from two weeks ago on the Imagine School, said he received assurances from developer David Ball that the large parking lot attached to the Zenobia Shrine building would not be sold separately. He voted for the Maritime Academy both times.
Councilman Michael Craig had voted for the Imagine School but against the Maritime Academy two weeks ago. Last night, he voted for both. Councilmen Wilma Brown and Phil Copeland voted no on both permits yesterday and two weeks ago. Councilman Frank Szollosi cast the fourth no vote on both permits two weeks ago, but was absent last night. Mr. Finkbeiner scolded council for its override, saying the buildings are better suited for commercial use, and that schools would harm the budding Uptown entertainment district.
He also claimed that council rushed the vote and "should be embarrassed by the disrespect they showed" the Toledo teachers.
Council agreed to borrow $5 million from the state-owned State Infrastructure Bank to ensure construction begins this year on the Marina District.
Council voted 8-3 to approve the loan sought by the administration, despite the concerns of Finance Director John Sherburne as to how it would be paid back.
Todd Davies, commissioner of development, said the loan is necessary to meet the city's $10 million commitment to a planned $25 million riverfront park and drive in the Marina District, on which construction is to start this year. In return, developer Larry Dillin is to assemble $50 million in private investment.
Councilman Michael Craig, who represents East Toledo, said the loan was a small risk for a big return. "The future of this development hinges in no small part on what we do today," Mr. Craig said.
Mr. Davies said the loan is a place-holder for a $5 million grant expected to be approved by the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission in August. He said the administration is confident the grant will be approved, and that the loan would not have to be taken.
Left unclear was whether the city would go ahead and borrow the money if the grant is denied.
The loan payback would be deferred 30 months, and then would be for a term of 10 years at 3 percent. Voting no were Councilmen Ellen Grachek, Michael Ashford, and Joe McNamara.
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