Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The story behind the story...

Today's Blade has the story of the change in Toledo City Council president from Republican Rob Ludeman to Democrat Michael Ashford. But here's the story behind the story....

Ludeman was elected president with the support of the Republicans and a couple of B-Team Democrats, as well as the support of Democrat Mayor Carty Finkbeiner. The A-Team/B-Team split in the Democrat Party has deep roots and is the source of much embarrassment to the local and state parties. The fact that the two teams couldn't come together to elect a president of council when they hold the majority became a major sticking point and a further indication of the extent of their differences.

"The 7-4 vote came after almost two weeks of public jockeying for the job among Democrats who were embarrassed that Democrats held an 8-4 majority, but that a Republican ran the agenda and appointed the committee chairmen."

Yes, embarrassment was the reason for the change - not that Rob was doing a poor job in the role. But the political need for a Dem president far outweighed the actual skills and performance of the person in the position.

"He (Ashford) said it made sense for council's majority party to be a "working majority," and that he would work with Mayor Carty Finkbeiner.

"My job is to work with the mayor to make the mayor successful on all his initiatives. At the same time, my job is to serve as a voice for the citizens," he said."

The Dems already had a working majority - they just couldn't get themselves to work toward the same goal...and the stickler was the A-Teamers (Ashford included) who routinely opposed the B-Teamer mayor. Some might say that this was because there were no Republicans to oppose - but that's another story for another day.

And now, those who've positioned themselves against the mayor now say that their job is to 'make the mayor successful on all his initiatives'???? They could have done this without the presidency of council, as Ludeman was actually doing a better job in this role than Ashford and his A-Team colleagues. But now all is rosy...

""To replace him for no reason whatsoever, with but four months left in his term, underscores the pettiness, bitter partisanship, and ongoing political gamesmanship of this council," the mayor said."

Yes, the mayor gets it right...this was more about partisanship and political power than it was about any policy or public need.

"The change in leadership will give the A-team Democrats more power to make a difference in city policy, said Mr. (Frank) Szollosi, who led the effort to overturn the GOP leadership.

"We wanted to move into a period of greater cooperation and respect," Mr. Szollosi said."

Now, how 'having the presidency' will move them toward greater cooperation and respect is beyond me - especially considering than the leading spokesman against that mayor has been Szollosi, sometimes rightly so.

Szollosi opposed certain taxes and spending, gaining much support from both Republican and Democrat voters. But he never missed an opportunity to slam the mayor and others opposed to his own positions. If there was a true interest in moving toward greater cooperation and respect, it certainly didn't take a change in the council president to do so. This 'excuse' is a smokescreen for the real reason - that it embarrassed the Dems locally and state-wide for them to have a majority on council with a Republican as president.

Considering the past disagreements between the A/B teams, I'm sure some of the seven who voted for Ashford had to be persuaded. Lisa Renee at Glass City Jungle (who reported the story before the local media outlets - congrats!) wrote that State Party Chairman Chris Redfern met with the Dems yesterday morning before their council meeting. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall in that room!

But that raises all kinds of questions - like why a state party chairman is meddling in our local city council presidency in the first place. Especially when it's extremely obvious that this vote to elect Ashford was more about Democrat Party unity (or the appearance of such) than it was about what is good for the city...and even more so when you remember that city council is a non-partisan office and race!

But, image is more important than substance these days. And the story behind the story is that now the Dems can brag that they've 'defeated' the Republicans and are 'standing together.' However, as I've said in the past, those A-Team/B-Team wounds are very deep and not likely to be healed by a thinly-veiled show of unity.

The sad part is that even Ashford, in his morning interview on WSPD, couldn't give a valid reason for why this change needed to take place. He tried to make the point that it was about 'policy' but his meager response to the question only demonstrated that the real reason is politics - he just couldn't say it honestly without looking even more foolish than he - and his cohorts - already look.

And that's the story behind the story...

9 comments:

Jay Ott said...

Thanks for your clear insight on this backstory. It sure helped me understand it better.

Frank said...

This is so stupid! How can the city council or as Ashford states
"My job is to work with the mayor to make the mayor successful on all his initiatives. At the same time, my job is to serve as a voice for the citizens,"
You can't serve 2 masters. He was elected by the people to serve the people and while I somewhat agree he needs to work with Carty to help run this city properly, it should have been taking place ever since he was elected into office (whenever that was).
One other reason it may have taken so long is the fact that Carty is pretty close to being recalled and if the president of council takes that role when it happens, then the Dems keep power as oppose to a Republican.
This sounds like elementary school kids fighting on a playground over who the captains for the kickball teams should be.

Frank said...

Hey Maggie I have a question for you.
If Carty is recalled and the President of City Council takes over the role of mayor, does he finish out the rest of the term for mayor or his own term (since he was elected as a councilman)? If his term ends before the next election for city mayor, then is there a special election?
Thanks for any information!

Maggie Thurber said...

Frank - I agree that concern over the recall was a small factor in the decision to replace Ludeman with Ashford. However, the timing was the result of the issues I've outlined, as there would be plenty of time following the certification of the petitions (if they have enough signatures) to change the president.

However, they may have been concerned about the claims of political shenanigans if they waited to see if the petitions are valid before changing the president of council.

As for the replacement of the mayor, the president of council takes over upon the certification of any recall vote (this usually happens by the first part of December). The Charter then says that:

"If there is a vacancy in the office of Mayor or Member of Council at-large, an election for the unexpired term shall be held at the next general election occurring more than ninety (90) days after the date of the vacancy."

This means that whatever 'general election' occurs 90 days after the vacancy, is when we'd elect a new mayor. In the meantime, Ashford would serve in that capacity.

Hope this answers your question.

Hooda Thunkit said...

With the deep divide and the equally deep political wounds within the "A" and "B" dem factions, this has the makings for a nearly two-year long dem battle/war, if the recall drive fails, which it likely will, unless the true number of signatures has been deliberately/carefully hidden and/or misreported.

And what an "interesting" two years that is likely going to be.

Redfern may live rue the day that he strong-armed this deal together. . .

Maggie Thurber said...

I agree, Hooda. Are you taking bets for how long this "alliance" lasts???

-Sepp said...

"The sad part is that even Ashford, in his morning interview on WSPD, couldn't give a valid reason for why this change needed to take place."

My guess is that there was no valid reason and, for Mike to actually tell the truth about this would probably sound so juvenile and petty it would be too embarassing for him.

Council must think we enjoy paying them to squabble, backstab, jocky for power and position, namecall and whine while nothing of substance ever gets accomplished.

Chad said...

Chad <---- bows to the master, Ms. Maggie :-)

Maggie Thurber said...

lol, Chad...that's what 13 years in politics in Toledo gets ya!

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