Mayor Carty Finkbeiner was unapologetic yesterday and said he would do it all over again and cancel another Marine Corps warfare training exercise on the streets of downtown Toledo, despite the backlash for his decision last week.
However, the mayor tried to make good with the Marines and last night e-mailed a formal invitation back to the city to several officers. The invitation incorrectly spelled the U.S. Marine Corps as U.S. Marine Corp.
I have further stated my desire to have the U.S. Marine Corp. conduct training exercises in the city of Toledo, wherever appropriate, with the probable exception of the central business district, the letter stated.
Mr. Finkbeiner opened his State of the City address yesterday by explaining for the third consecutive day why he barred 200 members of Company A, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., from using the downtown for the weekend exercises.
He also lashed back at some of the many critics who have blasted him for the decision.
Anybody who suggests that this man is in some way, shape, or form not loyal to this country or not loyal to the military of this country, well that person is just a plain baboon who doesn t know me in any way, shape, or form and what I stand for, Mr. Finkbeiner said.
About 50 protesters, many of whom carried signs supporting the military and denouncing the mayor, marched for about three hours yesterday in front of Government Center.
Kelley Howard, of Curtice, carried a sign that read, Support the Troops, Not Carty.
He said the controversy could affect Mr. Finkbeiner s bid for re-election should he choose to run for another term.
He should definitely apologize, Mr. Howard said. We all make mistakes, but let s face it, we are in the middle of a war.
The protest was organized by a local radio station.
The mayor s State of the City address before the Toledo Rotary Club at the Park Inn Hotel was eclipsed by the Marine controversy.
The chatter before and after the speech revolved around the Marine story.
Mr. Finkbeiner said downtown, particularly on a weekday afternoon, was not suitable for military staging operations since up to 14,000 people would have been departing their office buildings at the same time.
He also pointed out that thousands of schoolchildren would have been transferring buses downtown Friday just as the exercise would have begun.
Exercises included mock firefights, ambushes, and the firing of blank ammunition.
On the mayor s order, Toledo police greeted the Marines Friday afternoon with a roadblock at Madison Avenue and Huron Street.
Bruce Baumhower, president of United Auto Workers Local 12, heard Mr. Finkbeiner s speech and said he understood his concerns about the safety of students and downtown workers, but still didn t agree with the mayor s action.
If this was done in the right way, they should be allowed to train in the downtown.
Rather than drive the Marines away, the city should take some pride in the fact that Toledo has welcomed the Marines to train here. Somebody s got to do it, Mr. Baumhower said.
Walt Churchill, Jr., a Marine Corps veteran who was at yesterday s Rotary luncheon, said he did not believe the Marine Corps training would have inconvenienced people in the downtown, but he didn t think an apology would make a difference.
I don t think the Marine Corps is worried about an apology, Mr. Churchill said. The problem with America today is too many people think we re in a safe place. I think it wouldn t have been any problem.
Toledo Councilman Tom Waniewski said the Marine Corps made it clear that they disagreed with the mayor s decision not to allow them to train, but they respected it.
It s time to move on
I think it s time to move on, Mr. Waniewski said.
You heard him this afternoon. He had some specific reasons, Mr. Waniewski said yesterday, referring to the mayor.
He questioned the need for Councilman Frank Szollosi s plans for a hearing today on the subject.
If you re going to hold a committee hearing just to bash the mayor, that only perpetuates this stuff, Mr. Waniewski said.
Rick Arnos, Jr., a real estate developer and member of Rotary, said the mayor was right in saying that the downtown is the wrong place for the Marines to train and that the public will support the mayor.
To have an exercise in the downtown central district at 3 o clock on a Friday afternoon [when] people are going home and there are kids changing buses, it s not the right time, Mr. Arnos said.
If those guns had gone off and somebody had died of cardiac arrest, what would have been the sentiment then?
Reached yesterday afternoon, former Mayor Jack Ford said the mayor made a bad choice, and that the situation points up the need for his staff to speak up to the mayor when they disagree with him.
Mr. Ford said he doesn t know why they came to Toledo to train during his term, but he had no objection and, in fact, went out to watch them.
At that time 9/11 was fresh in everyone s minds, Mr. Ford said. My attitude on the Marines coming was that it was a good thing because it not only helped them train for urban warfare, but gave our own fire, police, and health entities understanding of how the armed forces might come in locally.
James Burkhardt, a former longtime city attorney who now works for ProMedica Health System, was one of many people who were outraged and wanted to speak out.
His son, Neil Burkhardt, a former Marine who now works for the Michigan attorney general s office, was wounded in Iraq in May, 2005, and received a Purple Heart.
I think it s disgraceful. We have Marines who are in need of all the support we can provide so they can wage a war in an urban setting. Neil was wounded in a setting like that, Mr. Burkhardt said.
Meanwhile, the Lucas County commissioners and the Greater Toledo Convention and Visitors Bureau yesterday invited the Marines back to town.
The commissioners and the convention and visitors bureau are offering the Marines a free, one-night stay at a hotel, a $50 gift certificate to a restaurant, and free family admission to the Toledo Zoo.
Marines who take advantage of the offer have to stay at a hotel and eat at a restaurant that are convention and visitors bureau members.
They will receive the offer in the form of gift certificates and a Do Toledo card, which will help direct them to the bureau s member restaurants and hotels.
This is obviously a reaction to a situation that gives less-than-favorable publicity to Toledo, Commissioner Pete Gerken said. Let s hope the [news media] finds this decision as unique and creative as they found the mayor s decision on Friday.
Among those who agreed with the mayor was Edward Gubala, 64, a U.S. Air Force veteran, who yesterday said he respects Mr. Finkbeiner s viewpoint and his stance.
With the nation s multibillion-dollar defense budget, he is sure that the nation s armed forces can find more appropriate training grounds than the center of a city.
This is not a matter of loving the military or not it s about common sense, the Point Place resident said.
There is a time and place for everything, and the time and place is not in the middle of a metropolitan area. They just don t belong downtown.
Brian Schwartz, spokesman for Mayor Finkbeiner, said it was likely the Marines would be back.
In a statement released by the city yesterday, Lt. Col. Francis Piccoli, director of public affairs Marine Force Reserve in New Orleans, said even though the training event did not occur, they greatly appreciate the commitment of the city leaders and the support of the citizens of Toledo to assist us with future training opportunities in the Toledo area.
Staff writers Meghan Gilbert, JC Reindl, and Joe Vardon contributed to this report.
Contact Ignazio Messina at:email@example.com or 419-724-6171.