Monday, January 04, 2010

Finkbeiner should be judged by the promises he made

If you read the headline of Sunday's Toledo Blade article on out-going mayor Carty Finkbeiner, you'd think that even his critics gave him praise on his terms of office.

After all, that's what the headline says: Finkbeiner's legacy: Even critics admit he made Toledo better.

The problem is, the only 'critic' they found was fellow Democrat Frank Szollosi, who didn't get mentioned until the 35th (yes, 35th!) paragraph. And, even then, gave no praise. The article states in paragraph 34:

Even his critics agree the city is, in some ways, a better place after his 12 years in office - the first eight of which were with Mr. Finkbeiner as Toledo's first modern strong mayor.

But they don't provide the name or quotes of any 'critic' who actually says this.

So is this editorializing? Wishful thinking? An attempt to 'spin' Carty's actions? Or is it bad editing, leaving out details/quotes the reporter included? You can decide on your own, especially in light of the more wide-spread reputation the paper is developing for disguising their opinions as news stories.

What is a more accurate reflection of Carty's term are his original campaign promises. Here are his promises from his campaign website (in italics), saved just for today, along with my comments on whether or not he actually achieved them:

"I will outline our mission and agenda:
Our mission
The Finkbeiner administration will unite and promote, in every way possible, a clean, green, and safe city with vibrant colors everywhere – a city that inspires our citizens to improve our neighborhoods, educate our children and create jobs that offer a future in their hometown.
To accomplish our mission, we will:
1. Work with the University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, Medical University of Ohio and Owens Community College to develop a “technology corridor,” creating the jobs of the future.

* FAIL - Carty's administration did 'work' with these entities but there is no technology corridor as of his last day in office. These institutions of higher learning are working together more effectively without the mayor.

2. Develop the marina-housingrestaurant-entertainment project on the east side of the river that voters approved in September, 2001. The Marina District project will act as a complement to The Docks, which we built in 1995.

* FAIL: While the taxpayers did fund a road and street lights and some basic infrastructure, there is no vertical development and no private funding available for the housing/restaurant/entertainment portion of the Marina District. In fact, after 9 years, there is no one capable of putting forth the private sector support needed to actually bring this plan to fruition. While Larry Dillin still hopes to have some financing for his part of the contract, we haven't seen it yet. One has to wonder if all the efforts and expenditures of employee time and tax dollars have been worth what we have to show today: a road to nowehere with really nice street lamps...and that's about it.

3. Seek private-sector developers to build a new sports arena in the city.

* MASSIVE FAIL: The city gave up the arena to the County and there was no effort by the County Commissioners to find a private developer for the new sports arena. In fact, every suggestion I made toward that end was soundly rejected by my two fellow commissioners at the time, Pete Gerken and Tina Skeldon Wozniak. They didn't want a privately-run arena. They wanted one owned by the County, despite the fact that they/we had no money for such a project. In the end, the total cost of the new arena project was over $105 million, despite a budget estimate of around $80 million ... and identified funding on only $80 million. Of course, there still is no 'name' to the arena and no estimated $14 million in naming rights income, not to mention the other revenue sources that haven't panned out. But never mind the financial facts, isn't it pretty????

4. Meet with the ownership of Southwyck Mall to forge a compact leading to a revitalized mall in 365 days.

* MASSIVE FAIL: After realizing what just about everyone else already knew, that the owners of Southwyck had no interest in revitalizing the mall, Carty embarked upon a plan to take over the property so he could have his way. That, too, failed, and all we have now is an empty space following the demolition of the mall buildings.

5. Meet with the ownership and property owners in the Westgate-Cricket West district to define the future redevelopment of this area.

* I cannot rate this promise as I do not know if Carty actually met with any of the owners of the properties in this area. What I do know of his actions regarding the planned redevelopment of Westgate would give him a FAIL rating. He, along with Gerken and Wozniak, aggressively fought the plans of the property owner to revitalize the private property with new stores and options for consumers. Together, these three politicians almost cost us the new Costco that went up. Fortunately, between the plan commission and then District 5 Representative Ellen Grachek, their efforts to derail the project failed.

6. Nurture small-business development, and establish a 25-person business advisory council, consisting of our best and brightest small-business leaders, to advise the administration on how it can help business develop in our region and eliminate government obstacles. This advisory council will review council legislation passed during the last 25 years, and we will rescind any laws that have hampered job creation.

* FAIL: While Carty did create this council, he didn't allow it to do anything. In fact, one of the first acts Carty embarked upon was the takeover of the ambulance services for basic life support transport from the small, private companies. His business advisory council asked him to postpone the effort until they had a chance to review the plan, but Carty said no. About a year after the establishment of the council, I contacted several individuals the city said were serving as part of the group. Two of them didn't even know they'd be named to the council and two said they'd only received notice of two meetings. Oh - and just to solidify my 'fail' rating, City Council did not rescind any laws relating to 'job creation.'

7. Work with Ann Arbor and Detroit public and private leaders to create an automotive R&D corridor linking our cities. The purpose – job creation.

* FAIL: There is no automotive R&D corridor linking these cities and, with the financial mess the Detroit automakers find themselves in, I doubt they had time to even consider such a plan.

8. Fill the vacancies and voids in the Central Business District with new entrepreneurs and businesses, using tax breaks and incentives..

* PARTIAL SUCCESS: There are some new businesses in the downtown area, but not enough ... and I doubt it is enough to overcome the ones that left, or to replace the employees who were laid off or whose positions were eliminated.

9. Encourage and promote a regional government to include, city, county and suburban governments all under one roof, in as many ways as possible.

* FAIL: I think Carty forgot about this one since he hasn't talked about a regional government since his first year in office. However, his failure on this is a good thing, from my perspective, because I'm opposed to a regional government as described by the Democrats in this town.

10. Establish a grass-roots neighborhood program, in which every neighborhood has representation in City Hall and will be involved in decisions impacting them. This will be modeled after the Dayton program.

* FAIL: I don't think this even got to the planning stages.

11. Develop a “neighborhood pride” program to encourage home ownership, civic pride and urban beautification. This program will include neighborhood competition to honor outstanding efforts to improve properties.

* PARTIAL SUCCESS: Carty did establish a 'neighborhood pride' and beautification program. He used various federal programs to encourage home ownership. Of course, we don't know how many of those individuals in new homes were part of the massive foreclosure problem as a result. And while he had a program, this gets a 'partial' rating because there is no evidence the program achieved the stated goals - or that it will remain once Carty is out of office.

12. Restore the urban beautification program on main streets and in city parks while expanding these efforts into neighborhoods. We will raise $250,000 annually from the private sector to accomplish this.

* PARTIAL SUCCESS: Carty did endeavor to restore the urban beautification program and received a ton of criticism for making this a priority (with limited budget dollars) over such essentials as police and roads. As for the promise to raise $250,000 annually from the private sector? That was a MASSIVE FAIL. I don't think he got to that much total for the entire term.

13. Revitalize the urban-blight program, and return the demolition program for blighted housing to 300 demolitions annually.

* SUCCESS: I believe he did his target goal of 300 demolitions annually.

14. Commit to hiring more police officers, so Toledo will no longer have the fewest police per 1,000 residents of any major city in Ohio.

* MASSIVE FAIL: He actually laid off police officers.

15. Will actively and personally work to restore the Erie Street Market as a centerpiece of downtown revitalization.

* FAIL: Oh, he worked at it - to no avail. The place is a money pit and still isn't breaking even, costing taxpayers and creating a continual drain on general fund dollars while we go without roads and police.

16. Implement a city Gateway project that will utilize the resources of the city as well as the private sector to improve the appearance of the main entrances to the city.

* PARTIAL SUCCESS: He did work to spruce up some of the entrances, but ignored other ones. My impression that his idea of 'entrance' was an entrance to the central core of the downtown area, not the major entrances into the city proper.

17. Increase emphasis on repairing potholes more swiftly and permanently.

* PARTIAL SUCCESS: He may have had an increased emphasis, but if it he did, it wasn't enough.

18. Commit to prioritize city Capital Improvement dollars to resurface city streets, with a target of 40 miles per year.

* SUCCESS: He made the resurfacing a priority in the CIP budget and did achieve his targeted 40 miles.

19. Commit to return every phone call to citizens within 24 business hours, and respond to specific concerns within 7 business days.

* FAIL: From my personal experience, I know that he did not return every phone call within 24 business hours and I waited much longer than 7 business days for some 'specific concerns' I raised. This was a either a bad promise to make or one that sounded good in the heat of a campaign because he did not put the effort forth to ensure he would keep it.

20. Establish monthly “Meet the Mayor” nights that will rotate locations throughout the city.

* PARTIAL SUCCESS: He did get off to a good start with this, but as the meetings got contentious, he stopped having them.

21. Establish a City Hall mentoring program that will pair city officials with young people seeking such guidance.

* PARTIAL SUCCESS: He did start this, but who knows what happened with it or how successful it was.

22. Establish privately funded, summer youth-development programs in city parks.

* FAIL: Never happened.

23. Develop a summer-job program for high school students, working with the Chamber of Commerce.
24. Seek commitments from our local companies to hire college students as “interns” during the summer months.

* PARTIAL SUCCESS: These two went together. I believe there was some type of program begun, with commitments from a few businesses, but it did not continue.

25. Develop job training and retraining programs for the unemployed and underemployed while working with corporations, labor unions and our universities.

* FAIL: The city did not do this, though The Source, the county/Workforce Investment Board (federal mandated program) one-stop shop, does have such programs in place and operating on a continual basis. Carty never should have made such a promise because the federally-mandated program was already in place. He should have just promised to support those efforts and be part of a 'regional' approach to job training.

26. Work with public and private school leaders to assure that new and/or improved academic campuses become the stimulus that creates family oriented neighborhood living opportunities around the academic setting.

* SUCCESS: Carty did work with the existing New Schools New Neighborhoods program which focuses on creating a core of services/opportunities in and around the new schools that are being built.

27. Encourage adaptive reuse of vacated school properties into neighborhood community centers.

* PARTIAL SUCCESS: He may have 'encouraged' this, but there was no success in achieving it.

28. Monitor the levy requests of TPS to assess that the taxpayer is getting his money’s worth from their product.

* FAIL: If he 'monitored' this, he never shared his analysis with the taxpayers so we would know if we were getting our money's worth. Of course, perhaps his failure in this is a good thing, because it's not the job of the mayor to perform this task.

29. Work with county officials, local civic leaders and regional organizations to seek ways to share resources, reduce costs and improve economic conditions in Northwest Ohio to the benefit of all.

* FAIL: The only 'sharing' Carty wanted was for the other organizations and municipalities to 'share' their income taxes with Toledo. Despite opportunities to improve economic conditions to the benefit of all, Carty was interested only in the benefits to the City of Toledo. He even tried to steal Bass Pro from a neighboring jurisdiction because he wanted it in Toledo and not just in Northwest Ohio.

30. Pursue further discussions on establishing a regional water/sewer authority to serve our area while ensuring Toledo residents a reasonable return on their infrastructure investments.

* FAIL: This went nowhere.

31. Will appoint a health and fitness honorary chairperson to promote a “healthier lifestyle” in Toledo.

* I have no idea if he appointed an 'honorary chairperson' or not. Obviously, the effort didn't garner much attention and Toledoans ignored it, if it existed.

32. Establish a courageous and boldcommittee to define how utility rates can be reduced in Northwest Ohio.

* BOLD FAIL: (sorry, couldn't resist)

33. Restore the minority health commission to improve the life expectancy and general health of those impacted.

* Another one I couldn't find information on. If he did restore the health commission, it worked without publicity and unknown impact. But again, this isn't the role of the mayor.

34. Seek “loaned leaders” from the business and union sectors to seek ways to reduce city costs and implement modern systems to promote increased productivity.

* FAIL: City costs were reduced through furloughs, layoffs and the elimination of funding for certain city departments - not because of suggestions made by 'loaned leaders' but because of the economy and the declining tax revenues of the city. I'm certain that 'loaned leaders' would have found even more ways to reduce the costs of government if convened and allowed to actually made and implement recommendations.

Toledo needs a leader who not only hears, but listens to, the voices echoing throughout the city. Toledo needs a leader who not only sees problems of joblessness and lost vision, but sees solutions involving the creation of jobs and growth. Toledo needs a leader who will awaken this city to the great dreams that helped turn this once-stagnant swamp into a jewel set along both shores of the Maumee River. And Toledo needs a pro-jobs, progrowth, pro-Toledo citizenry. It is a time for citizen/heroes. It is a time for each and every Toledoan to take up the cause of building a better, stronger Toledo. With every Toledoan’s help in this endeavor, I seek to be your Mayor – your leader."

So we come up with 19 promises NOT kept, 9 that were only partially kept and many of those without success in achieving an outcome, 3 promises kept and 2 unknown.

That's not good in terms of grades - in fact, eliminating the two unknowns, his partial success and success rate is only 37.5% ... about a third of the promises he made he actually kept in some way or another.

And this doesn't even get into the huge budget deficit he leaves, the zero balance in the city's rainy day fund, or the increased taxes we're all paying thanks to his 'leadership.'

But judging him by what he said he was going to do is much better than trying to spin his term and claim that unidentified critics say he made Toledo better.


JMM said...

I find it interesting and very amusing that the Mayor is suddenly self promoting his history - but only the "good" stuff mind you. Reading the Blade, seeing him on WGTE, etc is a joke. Never in my life have I seen a public offical try patting himself on the back. But then I moved back here and found two democratic parties.

Jay Ott said...

Yes, "Finkbeiner should be judged by the promises he made" [and failed to keep], but he should also be judged by the sometimes illegal threats he made and the "mistruths, half-truths, and outright lies he told."

If those things aren't enough to convince his BLIND, DEAF & DUMB Supporters, then maybe all of the former mayor's "cheerleading, [e.g. contest-entering]I-can-do-no-wrong" psychotic mentality, might convince them.

James said...

I saw a story last night on Channel 11's news and the reporter asked some people about Carty's term as mayor. One of them actually belongs in the "Blind, Deaf and Dumb" category, as he incorrectly stated that Carty got the new hockey arena built.

Tim Higgins said...

If things hold true to form for Democratic politicians, this would mean that Carty would probably grade himself as doing a B+ job, with the potential of moving up to an A- if the Marina District ever begins vertical development.

skeeter1107 said...

I preface my comments by saying, I don't personally know Carty Finkbeiner.

My impression has always been that Carty's promises were not made just to garner votes. I think he actually believes what he is saying at the time he says it. His mind was a cornucopia of ideas and wants that flowed out with no particular rhyme or reason.

So without the old long litany of his boorish personal behavior, his essential flaw as it related to the Citizens of Toledo was his inability to intelligently prioritize the needs of the community. That's why we saw the planting of flowers and the issuing of driveway tickets elevated to the same importance as maintaining basic services and public safety.

I do not wish him any personal ill will, but good riddance.

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