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Published: Wednesday, 1/6/2010

It's time for Toledo's close-up

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Mayor Mike Bell speaks to staff members on his first day in office as Bob Russ mans the camera. Mayor Mike Bell speaks to staff members on his first day in office as Bob Russ mans the camera.
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With the often dramatic and sometimes pugnacious Finkbeiner years now a part of Toledo's past, a filmmaker is attempting to develop a reality show about the city that would highlight the positive aspects of the community.

"We don't want to make the city look bad," said Robert Russ, founder of Toledo Pride Paddleboats rental service at International Park, who has worked in television for years.

"This all came about with the paddleboats and after I got involved with the city," Mr. Russ said. "When you are regular Joes like me, you don't know what's done here, and there is a lot of unjust criticism, and then there is the drama that's built into politics."

Mayor Mike Bell has offered Mr. Russ extraordinary access to his office, his staff, and all of the city's operations.

"It's for us and it's for the city, and what I believe it will help us do is market the city of Toledo," Mr. Bell said yesterday. "I think it will help put us in a positive light."

The mayor said his administration's plans to fix the city's growing budget problems could make for good TV.

"We are equally situated as other cities throughout the United States with a budget deficit, and the city that's able to turn it around the quickest and be able to do it in the most professional and efficient way will be the winner in this game," Mr. Bell said.

"I'm putting on a team that has the ability to do that."

Mr. Russ has filmed the new mayor for two consecutive days, including his swearing-in ceremony Monday and his first staff meeting yesterday.

He promised to tread lightly when confidential matters are discussed and not reveal information that could jeopardize deals for the city or a potential investor.

Adam Martinez, the newest member of Toledo City Council, said he was initially skeptical about the project. "Reality TV doesn't have a very good perception," he said. "I was really apprehensive, but he seems to have an idea that it will be positive and nothing that will put Toledo in a bad light."

Mr. Martinez, 31, said he would not be supportive of the show if Carty Finkbeiner were still in charge. Mr. Finkbeiner was known to have a temper and didn't hesitate to raise his voice or use vulgarity.

Mr. Bell, by contrast, described himself yesterday as laid back but very focused. In fact, Fire Chief Mike Wolever, a longtime friend of the mayor from their years together in the fire department, said previously that he had never seen Mr. Bell yell at a firefighter under his command.

Mr. Russ said several other cities were interested in his reality show concept, including Pittsburgh and Phoenix.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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