Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Carty's "Passion"

For many years now, I've watched Carty Finkbeiner's political career. Anyone who knows anything about him will say that he truly loves this city and he is known for being the #1 Cheerleader for Toledo.

But a closer look at his career will also show that, on any given day, 40-45% of the people love him, 40-45% hate him and the other 10-20% switch back and forth, depending.

We were both elected to office in 1993 - he as the first strong mayor and me as the Clerk of Toledo Municipal Court. I've always had a cordial, professional and often friendly working relationship with him, despite our disagreements on various issues. Like everyone else, I've heard the stories about his language and behavior, but nothing 'on the record.'

And right about now, you're probably wondering where this post is going. So let me get to the point.

Recently, he took exception to the Shriners wanting to move to a more economical building than the one they've occupied for decades in downtown Toledo. Carty characterized their financial decision as "abandoning" the city - "running away" from the city - among other things.

Today, on WSPD 1370 AM, there are clips of his town hall meeting last night, in which he 'passionately' (he likes to use this term) defends the job the police department is doing. I wasn't at the meeting, but from the discussion on the morning show, it appears he was responding to a question about crime.

In both these instances, his 'passion' has gotten the better of him. His reaction to the decision of the Shriners to move was one of saying 'shame on you for this decision.' I don't know if he met with them to offer a location within the city limits that might meet their need - although, that's what I would have done. But I do know that his criticism of them was severe, public and personal - certainly not the way to generate goodwill.

But generating goodwill is really hard to do when you see a financial decision as a personal affront.

At the meeting last night, when asked about increased patrols, he changed the subject to say that crime is down and that he thinks the police are doing a very good job. He got defensive about the job the police are doing despite the fact that no one said that individual officers weren't doing a good job.

He saw this as a personal affront to the police department and reacted to defend them. However, he missed the critical point. The concern wasn't the individual actions of all the officers, but rather the management of the department - which is his ultimate responsibility.

I've got to hand it to him, though...taking such a position in defense of the police officers was an effective way to shut down the criticism. All of a sudden, the 'complainer' finds him/herself in a defensive mode. Some may see this as a good political strategy, but I don't ... and the danger of such a 'strategy' is that it leads the public to think you are just deflecting the issue and not really answering the question.

These two incidences draw a clear distinction.

In the first case, the Shriners' decision wasn't personal and shouldn't have been taken as such. The mayor of a city should understand why people/businesses move into a city AND why they move out. This was an opportunity to look at factors within our limits that encourage or discourage such decisions. It was also an opportunity to see if we could have met the needs of an organization that needed to make a change. Had the mayor not issued such a scathing personal attack, there might still have been an opportunity to keep the Shriners in Toledo - but I believe that opportunity has now passed.

In the second case, Carty should have take the criticism of the management of the police department personally. He should have explained what decisions he was making regarding staffing levels, why he hasn't brought them up to the number he identified while campaigning, why citizens wait hours, sometimes, for an officer to respond and what he plans to do about it. He even could have begun the discussion of setting priorities with the budget - something he says he wants to do anyway with performance-based budgeting.

But he didn't do any of these things. He chose, instead, to 'interpret' the public comments as a slam on the officers, apparently in the hope that it would eliminate the need for him to account for his mayoral decisions regarding the department. And then he responded 'passionately.'

Passion in politics or leadership can be a good thing. But as these situations demonstrate, 'passion' falls short - when it's all you've got.

10 comments:

Roo said...

Maggie,

From what I heard of the Town Hall meeting last night it seems as though the concerns over public safety remain primary in the minds of the voting public. And understandably so.

It borders on unconscionable that the citizens of Toledo are grossly underprotected and underserved. Especially in light of the personal income taxes we pay, the additional sales taxes we pay and the increased property taxes. Not to mention the 'garbage fee' that is still not sitting well with me.

Toledoans are paying more and more and receiving less and less. There is something obviously wrong with that process.

I heard a portion of the morning talk show on WSPD today and there was some comment about how the issues of the flowers downtown is not really a large amount of money. That may be true - to an extent, but when you have many expenditures that are 'not a really large amount of money' and then add them together...

I am very disappointed in the way the city is being managed/governed at the moment. It feels as though we are being duped at every corner and if anyone dares to ask what is going on, where is the money going, why is the money going, etc. then we are shot down with a huge dose of passion.

Chad said...

Absolutely Beautiful! Well written, couldn't have said it better myself.

Maggie Thurber said...

roo - I agree that the spending priorities for the city don't seem to correspond with what the public wants. I was hopeful when I read that Carty wants to implement performance-based budgeting. But so far, he's not said anything about it publically...and that's a shame.

I'd love Carty to get passionate about that, instead of flowers or chastizing good organizations.

Maggie Thurber said...

thank you, chad...

Luke said...

I once interviewed for a supervisor's position at a former employer where all the other interviewees were much older than me.

In my interview they asked if I had any apprehensions about being supervisor. I said that it may be especially difficult b/c some of the people I would be supervising were older folks who were competing with me over the position.

Their response was that if those other folks responded negatively b/c I beat them out, it just confirmed to them that they had made the right choice.

The type of reactions that Carty has to businesses moving out of the area just make those businesses believe they made the right choice. He needs to learn to tame his tongue.

Smoke If You Got 'Em

-Sepp said...

After he is reelected for another term, we'll all be asking the same questions again.
Maybe they should add something to our 5th place water supply that enhances voter's memories!

Chad said...

The OBC has to go. Carty is just one of many that is long past retirement.

If I were to have my highest,lofty idea come true, we'd fire the whole bunch of them, rip up the city charter and start all over.

I'll settle for firing half of them and chaining the rest of them to their desks..laf!

Hooda Thunkit said...

Well Maggie, you've done it again; excellent post and spot on.

You'd think that more voters would have caught on after his first "coronation," after his election as a strong mayor, something that he and his cronies carefully crafted with that preceding Charter change.

One of the reasons that I refer to hizzoner (always in lower case, BTW) as "The Charlatan," is that is exactly I see him acting as when conducting his mayoral duties.

His arrogance is readily apparent as is his so-called passion for his agenda and not ours.

Plus, hi is a master of switching topics and turning conversations to suit his wishes and agendas, all while professing that he is doing it for us.

His Royal Arrogance (yet another suitable title) will always do what he wants and when he wants.

For "The Charlatan," it's always about what he wants and the voters/citizens be damned...

Kurt said...

pI tend to agree with you on this one Maggie. If you think the county is screwed up, just look at the city. I have personal knowledge that Carty has cut the city prosecutor's staff to below the courtroom level. Meaning, there is one more judge who has a docket than there is a prosecutor (7 city prosecutors remain, yet Columbus has roughly 30, and two of Toledos are incompetent, so essentially five). If the city wants true representation in these cases, they should at least have two prosecutors per courtroom, not less than one. But while Carty and friends continue to expand unnecessary services, and the police and prosecutors are cut, surely our priorities are screwed up.

Maggie Thurber said...

Very good point about the prosecutors, Kurt. While the National Center for State Courts says that only 5% of misdemeanor cases should go to trial, I don't think that they mean the others should be 'settled' in some way because of a lack of time for the prosecutor to properly handle a case.

As usual, and just like in the county, it's style over substance. Or, as one of the county employees always said, "Smoke and mirrors...don't actually do something - just look like you do."

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