By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor
The measure of a man is what he does with power. – Plato
Everybody’s talking about Carty!
And that was precisely former Mayor Finkbeiner’s goal as he kept the community in suspense over his potential candidacy for yet another run in 2022.
Convinced that current Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz is a bureaucrat disconnected from the African-American community, marginally strong to labor, and disengaged from neighborhoods, Finkbeiner recruited Tina Butts and other high profile African-American leaders to obtain petition signatures but held off making a formal announcement.
Would Carty seek a fourth mayoral term and challenge Democrat Wade Kapszukiewicz’s incumbency? Or, was he using this artful reluctance as a power play to make a point, gain policy interests or boost attention for Finkbeiner’s handpicked slate of at-large council candidates?
A meeting between the two occurred late afternoon on July 12. However, four days later, former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner announced that he indeed was all in, filing paperwork to challenge Kapszukiewicz for what he previously expected to be a cakewalk reelection.
I spoke with Finkbeiner about his power-play campaign strategy and vision for governing should he be elected.
The following is our conversation:
Perryman: Some say Kapszukiewicz coveted an uncontested reelection campaign. Why are you choosing to run against him for mayor?
Finkbeiner: The key reasons are easy to define. I think we presently have two Toledos, one that is doing okay and the highest priority upon the administration’s agenda. And then, there are the have nots, which have been forgotten about and are reflected in violence that has been going on for five consecutive years and continues to escalate. That’s not acceptable.
Also, too many absentee landlords are allowed to get away with what they’re doing, North Toledo and East Toledo in particular. So, the crime and blight in those challenged neighborhoods where low-income individuals and families live need to be addressed at a much higher profile than they have been.
Perryman: Were these issues a priority when you served as mayor?
Finkbeiner: When I was mayor, about 2/3 of the total city budget was spent in the central part of Toledo, and 1/3 was spent around the rest of Toledo. We took care of alleys, cleaning them up and maintained the highest standards possible in every neighborhood. We were following up conscientiously on complaints that we get from the most challenged neighborhoods. I’m proud that our budget ended up a little on the heavy side for central Toledo as opposed to the rest, but we were putting the money where our mouth was.
Perryman: A few days before you filed to run again for mayor, you met with Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz. Can you discuss the contents of that conversation?
Finkbeiner: I can. My concern was that there needed to be a higher priority and more attention and collaboration between the various city departments to attack blight and violent crime in the neighborhoods.
Perryman: Some people viewed the meeting as an attempt to gain political leverage against Kapszukiewicz or bring attention to a slate of council candidates that you are supporting.
Finkbeiner: I stressed that it’s time for Wade to accept the responsibility for having leadership that will make a difference.
I was encouraged to do that by several people including some clergymen and private sector friends, not because they thought it would necessarily end up with an agreement between the two of us. Still, it was certainly worth the effort to communicate with the man responsible for those areas not being as good as they should.
Perryman: Staying with the topic of crime, if elected, would you replace the police chief?
Finkbeiner: I’ll phrase it this way, I would expect a better record on violent crime and gang control than I have seen for the last five years.
Perryman: How would you go about developing a good leadership team?
Finkbeiner: I will sit down and make a list of the things that I believe need attention. I will then consult with people I have consulted with in the past, including Ms. Theresa M. Gabriel and Mr. Bob Reinbolt. I want their two cents on what needs to be done and isn’t being done in the city at present.
After listening to those things, then comes the tough part – we’ve got to find talent. If all is equal, Toledoans get the jobs. Suppose we happen to find an outstanding candidate, be it a police chief or a neighborhoods leader; In that case, we’ll hire that out-of-towner if that person has excellent credentials and can make a difference in our city.
Perryman: You were known in your past administration as being fiery and sometimes volatile. If elected, will you be as explosive or is there another adjective I should use?
Finkbeiner: I would say the answer to that is the volatile part of it was absolutely exaggerated. There are only two times that I can recall that I was really upset. One is when a high-ranking official asked to make appropriate review of department expenses and had a large budget, the second largest in the city. He told me that there was no room for any cuts and began to walk out of my office.
I had a paperweight on my desk and I banged that paperweight down to get his attention, that he wasn’t going anywhere except back in front of me to tell me why he could not make cuts. The director just before him had come in and said to me that if absolutely necessary, he could lay off 75 persons for 90 days and still get the work done that that department needed always to get done.
The second time I was upset was where somebody lied and said I threw a cup of coffee at an employee of the city. I did not throw a cup of coffee at an employee of the city. I did say, because I was drinking a cup of coffee at the time, and this person I had nurtured and defended, but most of the administrators wondered why I gave the individual a chance to get the feet beneath him and be a success rather than dismiss him or fire him. That person lied to me, and I said, ‘I ought to throw this coffee, not the cup, I ought to throw this coffee at you.’ Did I throw it? Absolutely not.
Those were the two things that this very volatile, alleged volatile mayor did that I remember. The first one, I would do that all over again if some director tried to walk out of my office telling me he wasn’t going to cooperate to help reduce the budget shortcomings we are experiencing. So, yes, I am a pretty demanding, no BS leader. Don’t give me the answer ‘we’re working on it, or we’re thinking about that.’ I want to know precisely what we’re doing at any given point in time, and I don’t want anybody to try to BS me. I haven’t lost that fire.
Perryman: What demographic will your candidacy most appeal? Conservatives, progressives, Seniors, affluent gentry liberals, labor unions, business community?
Finkbeiner: Well, let’s say I have a good relationship in the most challenged neighborhoods. I was an anti-poverty program worker in the 1960s. I learned how the world isn’t the same for every family or every individual, that there are so many more challenges for some folks than there are for others.
I’m also a Christian and know that’s where Jesus repeatedly asked his disciples and others to spend their time. He wanted them to focus on healing and nurturing those persons who were the most hurt.
That does not mean we turn our backs upon Old Orchard or the Beverly neighborhood residents of South Toledo. They have different challenges that they have to deal with. For example, the Old Orchard people have concerns about spillage of University of Toledo students over into their neighborhood or renting houses and not taking care of them.
But on the other hand, some folks are good citizens and good human beings but are not getting their fair share of Toledo tax dollars to stabilize and help grow their neighborhoods positively.
Perryman: Finally, please compare and contrast your candidacy to that of your opponents, Mr. Scotland and Mr. Kapszukiewicz.
Finkbeiner: I don’t want to do anything other than talk about the issues and my way of taking on problems. But, I add, with some degree of what will sound like braggadocio, but isn’t meant to.
What if you could have a mayor who had done some of the following things?
I brought a new Jeep plant to Toledo, Ohio.
Then, the very first month on the job, the CEO of Owens Corning Fiberglass told me they were moving to Granville, Ohio where they have a development plant. They bought land in Monclova Township and liked the site where they have permanently built their new world headquarters. I happened to live in that site, but this was January, and they said by May 30th, you have to have acquired that land from those living down there and not easy to deal with.
So, we got a new world headquarters for Owens Corning and a new Jeep plant in my first four years.
Then we built the Docks restaurants. People forget we used to store our salt piles right directly across the river from downtown Toledo. Well, we removed those salt piles and got five restaurants over there, plus volleyball courts. Of course, people made fun of those volleyball courts, but every night of the week I can watch volleyball being played from down there.
And also, during my final term, we laid the foundation of the Marina District. We took down the old smokestacks, towers, and blighted buildings that were on Front Street. I built a road through that district, and many councilmembers made fun, calling it the “road to nowhere.” Well, the road to nowhere now has a restaurant and a whole bunch of things, including a Metro Park and a bunch of apartments. Got money for it.
I’ll wrap it up. The Buckeye Basin Greenbelt Parkway through the north end from downtown Toledo out toward Point Place. Twenty-five years the plan for that had been built. I went down to Columbus, and met with the assistant to the governor, Paul Mifsud, over lunch. He promised me that he would get the Buckeye Basin Greenbelt Parkway money. So he did that and he also got money to bring in the people who have worked at Jeep from Michigan that came in on the interstate highway, so we got to widen and improve I-75.
We were an All-American City in my second term. In my third term, the United Nations Committee voted us the third most livable city in the world.
Finally, I initiated the thought of bringing the Toledo Mudhens from Maumee to downtown Toledo. I put a levy on the ballot that would build a new stadium. It did fail 52-48; however, in the days following, all of a sudden, the politicians woke up and said, we can help get this done and it got done.
Perryman: Please talk about your efforts since leaving office.
Finkbeiner: Please don’t anybody forget that I didn’t stop as a private citizen. Early in my career, I formed a group called Crackdown. I had lost that race for mayor, but I went to work at the Greenbelt Parkway building on Cherry Street, where drug dealers were all over the place. We put a trailer down, employed off duty police officers to walk the alleys and streets of North Toledo, and we cleaned the drug dealers out in only six months.
Then, when they talked about selling Toledo’s water system, there wasn’t another single politician in Toledo that stood up. I was out of office, but I stood up with a handful of people, and we fought to get through to Toledo leaders that that water system was worth over 1.5 billion dollars. The City of Toledo, the Chamber of Commerce, and even The Blade were encouraging us to sell it for $250 million when it was worth six times more than that. Well, we hosted meetings around the city. Finally, Wade came to the meetings, listened and agreed with us. So, now we still own our water system and have a regional board in place to help set rates for it.
Finally, we were about ready to lose 2,000 workers at UTMC Hospital, and the President of the University of Toledo prepared to put it on the market. The UT board was considering selling it. A handful of us stood up, and said ‘no, that hospital did very well in its early years and needs to be better supported by the state.’ So, we still have work to do, but by golly, we’ve kept that hospital in place.
These last three things – the crackdown in the north end, the water system, and saving UTMC, all were done as a private citizen.
So, my style, however people wish to describe it, is to get people involved and keep on knocking on the door until the door gets opened.
The difference? We are doing things; We’ve gotten things done, and We will get things done!
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at firstname.lastname@example.org