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Published: Wednesday, 2/13/2008

Council votes to apologize; resolution aims to squelch mayor vs. Marines flap

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo City Council yesterday attempted to quell the controversy surrounding Mayor Carty Finkbeiner s order to cancel a Marine Corps warfare training exercise downtown with a unanimous vote of apology.

Without discussion, the 12-member council approved a resolution apologizing to Company A, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., for the mayor s action Friday afternoon.

Mr. Finkbeiner, who has refused to apologize and has defended his decision, yesterday declined to say whether he would sign the resolution or if he believed the controversy would hinder the city s attempt to renew the 0.75 percent income tax on the March 4 ballot.

Katerina Bekyarska, a spokesman for Mr. Finkbeiner, said the mayor had not seen the resolution and has 10 days to consider signing it.

Regarding the effect on the tax renewal, Ms. Bekyarska relayed the mayor s comment: We ll see on March 5.

People on both sides of the Marine issue testified before a council committee yesterday. Many blasted the mayor, and some even called for his resignation.

James Hintz, of Henry County, testified that people should vote no on the 0.75 percent tax.

Carty is a politician and the only thing that makes them aware is to take away what feeds them and that is money, Mr. Hintz said.

Councilman Joe McNamara, who presented the resolution along with Frank Szollosi, D. Michael Collins, Michael Ashford, and Mike Craig, pleaded with people not to attempt to punish the mayor by defeating the income tax renewal.

Voting no on the 0.75 percent tax will not remove Mayor Finkbeiner from office, Mr. McNamara said. Please don t throw the baby out with the bath water.

The 0.75 percent is projected to raise about $57.7 million in 2008 and is part of the city s total 2.25 percent wage tax. The money would be allocated equally to police, fire, and other safety departments; the general operating fund, and the capital improvements fund.

Last night, council also unanimously approved a resolution of support for the 0.75 percent income tax renewal.

Joe Correa, Jr., of Toledo joins demonstrators in front of One Government Center protesting Mayor Carty Finkbeiner s decision to cancel the Marines  training exercises downtown.
Joe Correa, Jr., of Toledo joins demonstrators in front of One Government Center protesting Mayor Carty Finkbeiner s decision to cancel the Marines training exercises downtown.
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During the committee hearing, Mr. Collins and Mr. Szollosi grilled Deputy Police Chief Don Kenney and Dave Moebius, the mayor s assistant chief operating officer, about when the mayor learned the Marines would be in Toledo and whether he had given a previous order to keep them from using the downtown for urban exercises.

Mr. Collins, a former Marine, also wanted to know what the mayor would do to fix the problem, which has thrust Toledo into the national media.

Initially, Mayor Finkbeiner said if there was one major regret about the matter, it was the lack of communication to his office.

The mayor said if he had known of the Marines plans ahead of time, he could have arranged for the city to open the vacant North Towne Square mall or the former Jones Junior High School for their training.

He said he only learned about the training event scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Friday from an article that morning in The Blade.

The majority of those who spoke at yesterday s hearing opposed the mayor s order last week.

The only thing he could do is spare us more embarrassment and resign, said Chris Tiefel, of North Toledo.

Others, like downtown resident Robert Russ, supported Mr. Finkbeiner s decision to prevent the Marines from using the downtown for the weekend-long exercises.

I truly believe canceling this exercise was the prudent thing to do, Mr. Russ said.

The exercises were to include mock firefights, ambushes, and the firing of blank ammunition.

Mr. Russ said if the weapons fire had caused somebody to die of cardiac arrest, people would have criticized the mayor for not canceling the event.

He added that the political aftermath is just A-team, B-team garbage, referring to the two factions of local Democrats that often are at odds.

Mayor Finkbeiner s office yesterday released dozens of e-mails sent to city hall showing support for his decision. The office received many more negative e-mails.

During his State of the City address Monday, Mr. Finkbeiner said he would choose to again cancel a Marine training exercise in downtown Toledo, despite the backlash.

Later in the day, Mr. Finkbeiner e-mailed several Marine officers a formal invitation back to the city.

I have further stated my desire to have the U.S. Marine Corp. [sic] conduct training exercises in the city of Toledo, wherever appropriate, with the probable exception of the central business district, the e-mail said.

Mr. Finkbeiner said downtown, particularly on a weekday afternoon, was not suitable for military staging operations because as many as 14,000 people would have been departing their office buildings at the same time. He also said thousands of schoolchildren would have been transferring buses downtown Friday just as the exercise was to have begun.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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