Last night I stopped by the Take Back Toledo kickoff in the Chowder House at the Erie Street Market.
The main entrance doors were locked and I had to go around to the side door to the Chowder House to enter. As I usually do every day at 5:30, I called in to Brian Wilson's radio show for our roundtable discussion. I stepped into the foyer area of the ESM so I could hear better on the phone.
While in this foyer area, several individuals came in from the larger bay and progressed into the Chowder House. But at about 5:40, a security guard came into the foyer area and told my husband, who was waiting with me, that he was shutting and locking the doors and to 'spread the word' that we needed to use the side entrance.
Around 6 p.m., some people had to leave and tried to exit through the foyer doors, but found them locked and one was chained. WSPD morning show host Fred LeFebvre took some photos which are available here.
The Ohio Fire Code details the state rules and requirements for egress from buildings. Chapter 10 of the code addresses the size, shape and number of exits for building. Section 1019 lists the number of exits based upon occupancy and for 1-500 people, two means of exits are mandated.. While the Chowder House complied with this rule, with their south-side exit and their exit into the foyer of the ESM, the doors in the foyer which would allow access to a 'public way' were locked, essentially leaving the Chowder House with only one legal exit.
Now, the Take Back Toledo group is starting with a recall of the mayor. The ESM is Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's 'baby' - a black hole into which he has poured money for years, always insisting that it will, ultimately, be successful. Toledo owns and leases out space in the ESM.
Were the doors locked to make it more inconvenient for people to come and go from the recall meeting? Was this Carty's way of trying to hamper the efforts? Would a mayor really want to risk lives, in the event of an emergency, by having exit doors to a public building locked? Was this intentional, or just a miscommunication?
Sadly, most of the people at the meeting believed this was an intentional act of the mayor, as a type of retaliation for the people attending and the business hosting the meeting. They easily speculated upon Carty's reaction to hearing that the recall was going to kick off in his precious Erie Street Market: "They're going to start a recall of ME in my Erie Street Market??? I'll show them! Lock all the doors!"
While I have no idea if this was planned or just happenstance, any manager of a facility should have ensured that proper legal access was ensured and that fire codes were followed. But I think it says a lot about what people think of the mayor that many in attendance believed he was capable of putting us all at risk by ordering the exit doors locked.
Maybe that's why so many of them were there in the first place.