Monday, February 11, 2008

Fallout over decision on Marines continues

On Friday, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner told Marines, who'd made arrangements to train in the downtown area, that he didn't want them in the central business district of the city over the weekend.

Immediately, the criticisms began - and for good reason.

The Mayor claims to have found out about the urban training exercises on Friday morning. However, he waited until the late afternoon - after the advance team arrived and shortly before the five-bus convoy of 200 members of Company A, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines got to Toledo - to tell the Company of his decision to cancel the exercises.

According to today's Blade, Finkbeiner refused to meet with the Major in charge of the Company.

"Brian Schwartz, spokesman for Mr. Finkbeiner, acknowledged that Major (Jeff) Brooks asked to see the mayor Friday, soon after the battalion was ordered to leave, but was denied a meeting.

"The mayor was in another meeting," Mr. Schwartz said."

Unbelievable! After sending police to block the streets so the Marines couldn't come into the training area, he then refuses to meet with the Major over the decision.

The Mayor could have met and tried to find another way for the Company to complete their scheduled training, especially in light of his public statements that he wasn't opposed to the Marines, but to the training location they'd selected.

But to find out now that the mayor refused to meet with Major Brooks on Friday afternoon calls into question all his statements since then.

As for Carty's claim that Friday afternoon was not a good time for this exercise with 10,000 - 14,000 men and women leaving from work, well...that doesn't pass the smell test either. It's true that about that many people would be exiting downtown on their way home from work, but the Marines would not have been firing weapons by that time. They were to arrive in Toledo between 4-6 p.m. and would have unloaded themselves and their gear, gotten set up in the building and would not have been actively training on the streets until later.

Besides, simple signs posted around the downtown area would have alleviated any possible questions about the activities ... if anyone had somehow missed all the news reports announcing the event. And by the time the Marines actually made it out onto the streets, the downtown would have been nearly empty - as it is most weekends.

Sadly for Toledo, the news of this decision has reached across the country. In today's world of instant communication and blogs, word has spread and the negative comments range from 'shame on the mayor' to 'boycott Jeeps and Libbey Glass' to 'cut off all of Toledo's federal funding.'

I hope people realize this is an action of the Mayor that is not supported by most Toledoans - and I believe they do. But often, the only way to get an elected official's attention is to hit the pocketbook - and since many of the outraged individuals don't get to vote in Toledo, they're going to show their anger in other ways.

Carty should have allowed the training to continue. Even with the miscommunication within his staff, the best thing would have been to post signs and allow the exercises to go on as planned. Carty could have addressed the communication problem internally and then go on from there. But he didn't ... and now he's digging in and defending his decision.

Carty is always one to brag about Toledo. He thinks that awards and recognitions like LivCom, most un-wired city, 'city of the future' and others will gain positive national attention for us. But he fails to understand that stupid decisions like this one - and the way he handled implementation of the stupid decision - are much more publicized and far outweigh any positives anyone has heard about us.

As it stands, Carty said he apologized to the Marines for the miscommunication. However, any apology needs to be for his decision to send them out of Toledo in the first place - in addition to the miscommunication that led to the internal confusion - and it needs to be in a press conference with, hopefully, as much attention as the decision got in the first place.

Then, he needs to offer to pay the $10,000 cost of the aborted exercise out of his own pocket. With the reputation of the Marines, I doubt they'd accept his money, but he should make the offer anyway.

Through all of this, I'm glad Toledoans have the good sense our mayor is lacking - and are speaking out against this stupidness. Several members of Toledo City Council have expressed their dismay, as has State Senator Theresa Fedor, a veteran herself. But more elected officials need to so, and we need to take note of their positions. Councilman Frank Szollosi has a resolution to present at Tuesday's city council meeting if an apology from the Mayor is not forthcoming. While I don't believe Toledo City Council needs to issue the apology, their willingness to express the sentiments of the city is appreciated.

However, as Carty said over the weekend, he's done talking about this. So I hope Council - and the nation - doesn't hold its collective breath. But despite his hope that refusal to talk about it will make it go away, it won't. This isn't something people will easily forget because it has to do with our Marines and our affection, gratitude and respect for our nation's military members.

Something else that deserves mention is the way the Marines handled the request to leave Toledo. I'm so very proud of their reaction and the dignity and class they showed. After being told to leave Toledo, Major Jeffrey O'Neill said, "But we're Marines. We'll adapt and overcome." Ooh - Rah!


jrs said...

Speaking of more politicians expressing their "dismay...". Gotta love Kaptur's lukewarm statement in regard to this fiasco. She wasn't afraid to use the opportunity to toot her own but ultimately claimed ignorance of "what happened with city government...". As an elected official I can tell you that the last thing I will leave myself is out of the loop.

Maybe if Carty knew & understood clearly how disappointed his fellow politicians were in his antics he would think twice. Shame can be a powerful tool.

Kudos to those on City Council who have already come forward to apologize on his behalf. It's a start.

Frank said...

Yet another smack in the face by our mayor to give Toledo a black eye. He tells us to be proud of our city, a city of the future, yak yak yak...
Well if the city's future is turning into a communist state, I want no part of it!
We are part of the United States of America and the Marines are a part of our country. As a former military member, it is an outrage to have any government leader turn away any military service.
This will also take many years to repair the damage that has taken place as companies, both current & future, to want to do business with our city. With companies looking to shut down some of their buildings, it will make it very easy to see Toledo as an unfriendly environment to do business and move elsewhere.
I would encourage everyone who reads this blog to email or call the mayor to tell of your displeasure of his decision.

Tim Higgins said...

Perhaps we should contact the United Nations again to apply for another award, "Most Uniformed Mayor".

Ours doesn't know how the bills of the City of Toledo are paid, didn't know that the ESM was losing money, and now didn't know that the Marines were coming. How can the leader of a city be so clueless about what goes on in it.

Love said...

Embracing and adopting our marines in Perrysburg, our backyard, would be a show of support. I think they are from this area whereas the other seem to know these marines but aren't from here. Either way, we are better this.

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