Archive for the ‘ Toledo Politics ’ Category

Congratulations, Mayor-Elect Bell!

After what amounted to be a pretty boring race, Mike Bell won an office, complete with shower, on One Government Center’s lofty 22nd floor.

January can’t come soon enough for Toledo, a city sorely in need of  real leadership, some new blood, and a fresh perspective.


And while we wait patiently for the changing of the guard, I’ll share a Mike Bell story.

I have a friend who is more than a bit smitten with the former Fire Chief. She would sigh at the mere mention of his name, and when we worked together ages ago, was literally giddy when he visited our office for a get-together.  She had at least one press photo of Bell as a pin-up on her bulletin board.

A few years later, she and her hubby were at Home Depot, looking for smoke detectors to install in their first home.  As they approached the  display, they noticed a man looking over the smoke detectors. They discussed the many options out loud, uncertain about which was best. The man in the aisle selected a smoke detector from a hook and turned to them–the man was my friend’s celebrity crush…none other than Chief Bell, who told the couple, ” This is the one you want…” and handed them the  model he recommended.

I do believe my friend was speechless…

A Reluctant Non-Endorsement

I opened my  (Toledo) Blade this morning, and read my way to the Op-Ed pages, where I found that the lofty editorial board chose not to use its traditional space to make its traditional endorsement of its favorite mayoral candidate. They claim to endorse neither Wilkowski nor Bell.

 I see things a little differently–the team stands equally behind both men, therefore, it rubber stamps both candidates, or perhaps, some quality or qualification in each of the men vying for  the 22nd-floor throne. Ah, t’wer it possible that both men could be combined into one fair leader who could create prosperity from the ashes! But this is not in keeping with the role of the American newspaper in our daily lives.

Newspapers have ALWAYS been a strong influence in politics in this nation, and newspaper editors have been the engine driving that machine. WHY, the editorial board would so flippantly dismiss its mission, choosing the “Good Choice for Mayor” route is worthy of analysis.

The wishy-washy editorial ends with this statement:   “And so we reluctantly defer to the electorate, hoping that they will turn out in large numbers to make their wishes known on Tuesday.”

Is this a kinder, friendlier, everybody’s happy Toledo Blade? Don’t be too quick to draw that conclusion–

 Let’s look at word choice: Reluctantly?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines “reluctant” as Unwilling; disinclined: Exhibiting or marked by unwillingness; Offering resistance; opposing.

The men and women who sit on editorial boards are “word people,”  that is, they carefully choose words that convey the meaning they intend. This word was not chosen by mistake, or wrecklessly to best describe the board’s inability to come to a conclusion about who they would want to govern the city–a conclusion that editorial boards in this city and thousands of others have done willingly and proudly for  hundreds of years.

One of the tenets of journalism tells us to be suspicious of such changes in policy: Why would the editorial board be so reluctant, so unwilling to make a public statement choosing one man over the other? What does the newspaper business have to gain by endorsing Wilkowski? Bell? What do they have to lose if Bell wins? If Wilkowski wins? Did someone, say a publisher, suggest that the editorial board not endorse a certain candidate, when the board did not feel it could in good conscience endorse the other?

If you read my diatribe levying charges of favoritism toward Democrat Wilkowski, you might be thinking that I should renege and concede that I was off base. You’d be wrong. I maintain my original stance–that the coverage of the mayoral race was biased in favor of Wilkowski. I did term this a “not so clandestine endorsement,” and that opinion stands.

It is clear; however, that for some reason, the editorial board could not or would not solidify that bias in a formal endorsement.



The (Toledo) Blade’s editorial board ought to save itself some effort and costly print-space and nix any formal editorial endorsement of a mayoral candidate. Their choice is already as clear as last Sunday’s sky–they’ve already endorsed their candidate in their news coverage.

Yesterday, The Blade demonized Bell for admitting he was taking a break the very day after his election work ends. Today, above the fold, in large type, we learn that WIlkowski has twice the financial backing of Bell. Both aggrandize Wilkowski and make Bell look like a bad bet.

Both stories are just stories, you say? Just reporting the facts?

Well, that is true, to a point. But let’s consider how the rhetorical choices of a writer/publisher manipulate audience sensibilities.

WHERE something appears on the printed page conveys its level of importance. Both stories had important placement—the first appeared on the front page of the front section. The second was posted at the most prominent slot on the Second News section.

WHAT appears first in a news story is obviously the most significant item in that story, as determined by the reporter, in this case, Tom Troy, who attended a neighborhood meeting at which Toledo Mayoral candidates Keith Wilkowski and Michael Bell took questions.

Troy centered the significance of the story on just one of Bell’s answers.When a member of the United North community group asked the mayoral hopefuls if they would be available to attend their meeting the day following the election, the former fire chief honestly answered that he had planned to take a brief and much-needed vacation after campaigning closed.

HOW MUCH space a writer devotes to a topic also conveys its importance to the audience of readers:
Despite the fact that he cited the exhaustive nature of stumping, The Blade devoted 40 paragraphs to the story, gleaning Wilkowski’s expertise: “I don’t think this is a time for vacations. I think this is the time to go to work,” he said.

I’ll admit, maybe this was a boring Q&A, and the scrap over vacation time was the only interesting tidbit of news. Even if this were true, it doesn’t deserve 40 paragraphs and a photo—the same coverage as the top news story covering the sentencing of a trio of Toledoans in a national terror plot.

When we read just about anything, we are being manipulated by the writer—that is, if they are a skllled writer. In this case, the writer tells us that it is significant that Bell wants a vacation, and he lets Bell’s opponent tell us WHY it is significant. In fairness, Troy does ask Bell to clarify, and Bell does, but the majority of the story is devoted to the idea that taking a break is a weakness.

A large headline above the paper’s fold telling us that Wilkowski is garnering much more monetary support than Bell, makes a claim of importance, and at the same time, serves to send the readership a message that more people are behind Wilkowski than Bell..maybe you should be, too? And if you aren’t already, you might want to abandon ship.

Bell supporters, of course, won’t be swayed by coverage like this anymore than Wilkowski supporters would by unfair coverage of their candidate. It is the undecided and those who entrust the local newspaper to guide them in their choices that will be more likely affected by the Blade’s characterizations of Bell as a slacker with half the support of his opponant.

And these are the voters that worry me.

Cops Toledo…

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner made the news recently for cutting the city budget, and again yesterday for cutting the grass in the city park behind his home. The park was in need of a trim, since Carty’s administration laid off the grounds-keeping maintainance staff.

This got me thinking….If Carty can fill in for the landscapers, why couldn’t he cover some other city shifts on his downtime?  Picturing Carty with the cops lit another lightbulb, one that could generate revenue and get those city workers back on their mowers.  

Put Carty on the job with the cops and we’ve got the next hit reality show. The mayor has famously enforced traffic laws–I seem to remember that he pulled someone over for speeding and also admonished a roller-blader for illegally using a city street. I might add that he singlehandedly took on the Marines and won.

I just picture him shouting on the top of his lungs and sticking his finger in some gang member’s face, or how about the face of that 14-year-old who is accusing Toledo police of brutality this weekend? A lot of former city employees can attest that a verbal attack from our red-faced mayor is more brutal than any choke-hold.

 Bad boys, bad boys, watcha gonna do…

When Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner yesterday was criticized for witholding the run-down of Police Department layoffs, he explained, “The last thing that I think that anybody responsible should do in the city of Toledo is raise the fears of our citizens.”

So, why was fear the first thing that he, Toledo City Council, and the Toledo Blade turned to when the 3/4% income tax was up for renewal in 2008?

From a Feb 25, 2008 Toledo Blade newstory:

“Nearly a third of the uniformed people who patrol
the streets of Toledo, investigate murders, pick up trash, and put out
fires could be off the job if the 0.75 percent income tax on the ballot
next week is ultimately defeated, city leaders have warned.”

The Toledo Blade editorial team joined in, warning just a day before the election that Toledo voters would be making a “grave mistake that could irreparably damage this city, ” if the levy went down in defeat, said,

Defeat of the surcharge would require laying off 735 city employees, 40 percent of the total workforce, including 456 police officers and firefighters from safety forces that total 1,146. It is no exaggeration to point out that such cuts would severely delay police and fire response to crime, fires, and other emergencies. With 200 officers on layoff, the police department would have to close two district stations, two substations, and six neighborhood offices. Police no longer would be deployed in public school buildings, and they wouldn’t be able to respond to noninjury traffic accidents.

And then they go for the jugular:

“The threat of crime becomes all the more likely when carjackers, robbers, and burglars know fewer police are on the streets. A minor home or business fire can become major the longer it takes firefighters to respond to an alarm.

Then-councilwoman Edna Brown said that should the tax renewal fail, she would “fireproof her home,” and wouldn’t drive anywhere in Toledo, conjuring up a picture of a lawless city.

A year and a half later, with .75 percent of our income in hand, the city makes generous gashes to safety and fire resources anyway. And, they are looking for more ways that they can bleed us to support their irresponsible management and inability to prepare for an economic crisis. Fear is no longer a tactic, but a state of mind wrought by the actions of those who promised that all would be well if we continued to pay.

Think The Godfather II: Don Fanucci, the blackhander, forces the merchants of Little Italy to pay protection money. Even Fanucci, who we couldn’t wait to see offed, didn’t renege.

In that same Feb. 25, 2008 news conference mentioned above, the mayor said, “I hope and pray that thoughtful people will realize that there is no evidence the city of Toledo has in any way taken taxpayers’ dollars and irresponsibly spent [them].”

We have our evidence now that 150 police officers will likely be laid off, the gang task force will being eliminated, and the vice squad will face cuts.

Fear was used to keep the income stream flowing, and now that Carty can’t use fear as leverage–as a tool to get what he wants–he’ll claim it’s not “responsible” to release information to us directly related to the quality of life in the city.

It’s time the citizens of Toledo raised some fear–and a little hell–of their own.