Commodore Perry reopens; Resident is pleased with her much shorter commute

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

When Denise Williams moved from Houston to Toledo in October, she had one goal in mind: to shorten her job commute.

“I lived 27 miles from my job in Houston, and the commute was 1 1/2 or two hours each way,” Ms. Williams said.

When she landed a job at Owens Corning’s headquarters downtown, she was determined to live close by.

So on Dec. 19, she became one of the first tenants in the “crown jewel” of downtown Toledo, the Commodore Perry Apartments.

The Perry was once Toledo’s grandest hotel, for decades home to visiting dignitaries. But the building, which is at Superior Street and Jefferson Avenue, had been shuttered since the 1980s until the Smallridge Co. began renovating it this year.

The 16th and 17th floors of the building opened to tenants Dec. 19, while workers continue fixing up the other 10 floors of apartments. Lower floors will be reserved for office and retail space.

Seventeen of the 24 units on the top two floors have been filled.

Jodi LaPlante, the building’s marketing manager, said most of the tenants have been young professionals age 25 to 45, but some senior citizens have made the building their home.

Rents range from $560 for a 650-square-foot one-bedroom apartment, to $890 for a two-bedroom with 1,340 square feet.

For Ms. Williams, choosing where to live was easy.

“When I visited, even though it was still being worked on, I could tell this was the place to be,” said 27-year-old Ms. Williams, who does internal audits for OC.

After her horrific commuting experience in Houston, she knew she wanted to be close to work. It does not get much closer than the four blocks from her apartment to OC.

“Now I’m spoiled. I’m just tired of driving,” she said.

She also liked the price: “Only in Toledo can you afford to live in a high-rise with this kind of view.” Her apartment overlooks the Maumee River, and she said the July 4 fireworks should be quite a show.

She said none of her OC colleagues have joined her in the building, but she’s doing her best to convince them.

“I’m trying to get them to know,” she said. “I think they’re all from around here, so they’re used to the suburban life and don’t want to live in the city.”

Ms. LaPlante said the 15th floor should open in mid-January, followed by additional floors opening until the grand opening sometime in the spring.

Mayor opposes east side ballpark site

By Joshua Benton and Jack Baessler
Blade Staff Writers

Page 1

Putting a new Mud Hens ballpark in East Toledo is not the best choice for the city, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said yesterday.

And the city’s top economic development official said a stadium on the site proposed by Mud Hens board members is “just not possible.”

“I have always thought, and I continue to feel, that the best location for the new stadium for the Toledo Mud Hens is downtown Toledo, within the warehouse district,” the mayor said in a statement yesterday.

Among the reasons: the East Toledo proposal would require demolition of the behemoth Toledo Edison Acme generating station, which he said could add up to $12 million to the stadium costs. Barry Broome, the city’s director of development, said the demolition costs make a stadium there impossibile.

The Mud Hens’ board of directors went before the Lucas County commissioners yesterday to present its latest plan for a new ballpark. It would place a riverfront stadium on a site along Front Street, on property owned by Toledo Edison but available for free to the city.

Commissioners expressed concerns similar to Mr. Finkbeiner’s about the cost of site preparations.

Ed Bergsmark, president of the Mud Hens board of directors, estimated that the cost of a new East Toledo stadium would be about $16 million, with 72 per cent of the funding coming from private sources.

The Mud Hens play in Maumee at Ned Skeldon Stadium, considered one of the worst in minor league baseball.

If the Mud Hens move to East Toledo, they might join another new sporting venue. An official with the Toledo Storm said the team’s owners might build a new arena rather than renovate the Sports Arena.

“Part of the process of dusting off our renovation plans is to at least look at other options, and that is, what it would cost to build a new facility,” said Gary Wyse, arena general manager. “At this point, we’re just talking about it. It’s really just conversation.”

Mr. Wyse said the renovations, if carried out, could start by summer, 1999, and be completed by fall, 2000.

Mr. Finkbeiner has supported building a ballpark in the warehouse district to spur downtown development. But in May, Lucas County voters soundly rejected a temporary sales tax plan to pay for a stadium there. The price tag for the warehouse district site ballooned to $37 million when the cost of land for parking spaces was added.

Mr. Finkbeiner criticized the new proposal, saying the $16 million estimate does not include the cost of preparing the site – including demolition of the Acme plant.

The proposal “seriously underestimates the total project cost,” he said.

Toledo Edison offered to donate the plant and surrounding land to the city in 1997 in exchange for the city’s approval of Toledo Edison’s merger creating FirstEnergy Corp. The utility offered to pay up to $2.3 million in redevelopment costs.

About $300,000 is reserved for studies to determine whether the land requires environmental work. Those studies are being conducted, officials said.

Mr. Broome said the city is waiting for the environmental studies to be concluded before determining whether the city will accept the donation offer.

But he said too many obstacles exist at the site for a stadium there to be possible.

He said a Toledo Edison electric substation on the site powers all of downtown Toledo. A stadium using just Toledo Edison land would require that the substation be relocated at a multimillion-dollar cost to the city.

Another problem would be the hulking Acme plant itself, which Mr. Broome said would have to be stripped of its contents before being demolished.

“There’s a whole city in there,” Mr. Broome said.

Those problems, along with possible pollution issues, make a stadium on the site an impossibility, he said.

“The $2 million from Toledo Edison wouldn’t come close to the total cost to prepare that land,” he said. “That is not a developable site for a stadium. You couldn’t do it.”

But Mr. Bergsmark said he believes demolition and cleanup will not reach the estimates the mayor projects.

“I would be flabbergasted if it cost $10 million,” he said. Government funding sources often can be tapped to pay for the cost of cleaning up urban eyesores, he said.

Securing funds to buy land and the associated costs of relocating businesses often is an expensive proposition, as the city found in acquiring land for expansion of the Jeep plant.

A Toledo Edison spokesman said last night that the company has never estimated how much it would cost to prepare the land for other development.

The East Toledo site has a number of things going for it, including parking and easy access from the Maumee River crossing that will replace the Craig Memorial Bridge.

Officials never adequately addressed the problem of parking for a stadium in the warehouse district, Mr. Bergsmark said.

“There was never really a plan that was developed for parking that maintained it as free or af ford able,” he said.

“I think as you go around, that is the strongest issue. People are not going to walk three or four blocks with little toddlers,” Mr. Bergsmark said.

Mr. Broome said a downtown site in the tough-to-market warehouse district would do much more to spur economic development than a riverfront site.

“I think the stadium project loses a lot of its economic impact if it’s not in the central downtown area,” Mr. Broome said.

“Developing riverfront property is not a challenge. We’ve got more people interested in developing riverfront property than we can afford,” Mr. Broome said.

But the mayor said he liked at least one element of the team’s East Toledo proposal: its heavy reliance on private funding.

The Mud Hens board believes it can raise $11.5 million in private funds in 12 months to build the riverfront stadium that was introduced yesterday to Lucas County commissioners.

Of the $16 million Mr. Bergsmark said the stadium would cost, $4.5 million would come from public sources, including $2 million from the county and $2.5 million from the state.

The remainder would come from a variety of private sources, including selling naming rights to the stadium, leasing luxury suites, and selling commemorative bricks.

Under the proposal, the county would own the stadium, and the Mud Hens would provide a portion of their annual earnings to the county, Mr. Bergsmark said.

It’s the format that exists with the stadium in Maumee that the Mud Hens lease from the county, he said.

Commissioner Mark Pietrykowski said after the presentation that the proposal appeared to be well thought-out. He called the fund-raising provisions “ambitious.”

The stadium the Mud Hens use in Maumee has insufficient parking and will need infrastructure improvements if the stadium were enlarged and renovated, he said.

Sandy Isenberg, president of the county commissioners, said much information is needed before the county will provide support, including general obligation bonds.

The proposed East Toledo site near the Toledo Sports Arena is in a growing entertainment district along Main Street.

Two years ago, the Sports Arena’s owners announced plans for a $17.5-million renovation. But an ownership battle over the Toledo Storm hockey team delayed those plans.

Last month, the battles ended when the arena’s owners, V/Gladieux Enterprises, bought the Storm. Arena officials are planning to go ahead with the long-delayed renovations if they don’t decide to build a replacement arena.

Year had ups, downs, and a balance due; 1998 had its pluses, but it was no bargain

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 4

This year, Toledo learned there is no such thing as a free lunch. If 1997 was about heady optimism and promises of revitalization and renewal, 1998 was the year residents realized that it arrives with a price tag.

And this year, the bill came due.

There were the major projects, such as the Valentine Theatre, which needed emergency infusions of cash to continue.

There was Toledo city government facing severe budget cuts and possibly layoffs at a time when the economy rarely has been better.

And, most notably to city taxpayers, there was the Jeep deal, soaring tens of millions of dollars over budget. Unexpected costs meant the city will have to come up with an extra $40 million for the project that will require the destruction of an old North Toledo neighborhood of 83 homes.

Projects considered critical to area leaders – such as a new ballpark for the Mud Hens downtown – got a thumbs-down from voters concerned about the cost.

The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority had to face voters after a year of bad publicity, including reports of lavish spending by executives on overseas trips.

Voters overwhelmingly rejected their levy, symbolically making the port pay for their past deeds.

One exception to the pay-up theme came on area roads. Northwest Ohio came out a winner when the federal government came through with $17 million to work out a possible route to replace U.S. 24 from Napoleon to Toledo. The federal money replaced local dollars previously committed to the project. The state also came through with $19 million for work on State Rt. 2, one of the region’s most notoriously dangerous roads.

Other winners in 1998:

* New leaders. The University of Toledo named controversial Vik Kapoor to lead the school into the millennium. Roger Berkowitz replaced David Steadman to become only the third director of the Toledo Museum of Art.

Toledo police now look to Chief Michael Navarre for leadership after Gerald Galvin became police chief in Albuquerque, N.M..

* Big business mergers. Mirroring the national trend, Toledo’s biggest employers got bigger in 1998, with the creation of nursing home giant HCR Manor Care and auto behemoth DaimlerChrysler AG.

* Downtown revitalization. COSI proved to be a smashing success in its first full year of business. The Hillcrest, the Commodore Perry, and the Edison Steam Plant are being turned into apartment buildings by developers hoping to match the success of the LaSalle Apartments. The Erie Street Market is growing to include an antiques market, and the Valentine Theatre is on schedule to open in October.

* The Perrysburg school board, which was finally able to persuade voters to pass a levy for school construction in the booming suburb. Voters had rejected them three times before but this time approved a 5.45-mill levy to pay for a new high school and expansion of Toth elementary school.

* Toledo civic pride, thanks to the city’s new status as an All-America City. After winning the title in June, Mayor Finkbeiner has been on a tireless quest to make sure everyone knows about it. He’s planning a first-ever, joint philanthropic project among All-America cities: a mission to Central America to help hurricane victims there.

wPastor Michael Pitts. If anyone can be called a “winner” after pleading no contest on two counts of criminal trespass, it’s Pastor Pitts, who fended off charges accusing him of exposing himself repeatedly to motorists around Toledo. The plea deal that led to the trespass charges (along with 14 days of house arrest and a $500 fine) meant he avoided the sex charges that could have troubled his 5,000-plus-member Cornerstone Church.

* The Defiance High School band. It will receive one of the highest of honors Friday: It will be one of 12 high school bands to march in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif.

* Home Depot. The giant retailer finally convinced voters that it should be allowed to build a store on Secor Road – after two trips to the plan commission, a few lawsuits, and a political campaign. But it did cost the company nearly $500,000 in campaign costs.

*General “Mad” Anthony Wayne. The site of the 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers might be saved from development, as Mayor Finkbeiner switched sides and decided a military park would be preferable to an industrial park.The state this month allocated $2 million for the purchase of the battlefield property for preservation. Maumee has contributed $500,000.

* Toledo Public Schools and the Toledo Federation of Teachers. The two sides fought a contentious contract battle but were able to stop short of a strike that would have crippled the city’s schools.

* Paula Pennypacker. The two-time mayoral candidate successfully led a rebellion within the Lucas County Republicans, leading a grass-roots drive for precinct leaders in the May election. The result: a wider activist base for the party and the resignation of party chairman James Brennan. Ms. Pennypacker then moved herself and her makeup business to Arizona.

* Toledo city water, after city council’s own Watergate. After being publicly shamed, council members decided to remove the Culligan water bottle from their meeting room and stick to the city’s own tap water. It was the famed “appearance of impropriety” that cinched the switch: Council members didn’t want to be seen drinking anything other than “the Champagne of the Great Lakes.” Opined council clerk Michael Beazley: “It was a tempest in a water pot.”

* Wilson Sporting Goods. The Ada company was stunned to hear that Ohio State University would stop buying their footballs from a Buckeye supplier and start buying from Nike. But a little bad publicity for OSU and some public dismay in Ada caused the university to reverse field and keep Wilson.

And the losers:

* Toledo Express Airport. After setting a record for passengers in 1997, its two largest airlines, Delta and AirTran, skedaddled. Soon to follow was airport director Mark VanLoh, who left to take a job as commissioner of operations at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

* Carty Finkbeiner. The mayor pleaded guilty to failing to report a $10,000 payment he received as part of the sale of his Commodore Island condominium in 1994 to make way for the Owens Corning headquarters. The charge was a fourth-degree misdemeanor; he was fined $250.

* Republican congressional candidate Ed Emery, who had a truly bad day on Nov. 3. First, he was arrested for allegedly stalking a neighbor and resisting arrest. Then he ran into the electoral buzzsaw that is U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), who won 81 per cent of the vote.

* Custodians at Ottawa Hills High School, who became ad hoc exterminators on May 22, when senior class pranksters released hundreds of cockroaches into their soon-to-be alma mater. The roaches, of course, were imported. Oh, and they smeared raw eggs, milk, and chocolate syrup all over the walls, apparently having done poorly during the cake-making segment of home economics class.

* Doris Matthews, the UT secretary who was suspended for five days without pay for freeing a trapped pigeon from her office. Her boss, Thomas Sharkey, then acting dean of the college of business administration, had specifically ordered that an animal removal expert not be hired to free the wayward pigeon. But Ms. Matthews did it anyway, paying the bird mover $25 from her own pocket.

* The homeless Lucas County Republicans. They were evicted from their old headquarters at 324 North Erie St. after not paying rent for more than two years. “Your periodic tenancy is no longer desired,” read the eviction notice. Perhaps even more galling: The Erie Street building was owned by former party chairman Tom Noe.

* Seneca County Sheriff H. Weldin Neff. First, in April, the sheriff pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of menacing by stalking a former dispatcher, Alice Dohner. Then in August the charges got more serious. He faces seven counts of tampering with a witness in a criminal case and three counts of theft in office. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges. His trial has been halted, and two employees testifying against him in the trial have been placed on paid leave to avoid any conflicts.

* Albert Apling’s red wooden barn in Ottawa County. In a few hours time, it went from budding star to scrap heap. First, Ohio’s bicentennial commission asked to paint an Ohio logo on the barn’s side as a way to promote the coming anniversary in 2003. On June 24, an artist was almost finished with the painting when it started to sprinkle. So he left. Ten minutes later, a storm blew the barn to bits.

An official from the bicentennial commission called the next day. “He said, `Do you think you can put the barn back up so we can repaint it?’ I said there was nothing left,” remembered Dolores Apling. “City slickers.”

* Dennis Roark and Neel Sheth, two men who bluffed their way through the medical establishment to play doctor. Roark led a charade through hospitals across the region, including a stint at Medical College of Ohio in which he assisted in 95 surgeries around the city. He was sentenced to six to 14 years in prison. Mr. Sheth got a year of community control after it was revealed the Flower Hospital resident physician’s last diploma was from a high school, not a medical school. He had been hired as a doctor in Deshler when the charges were made.

* The Federal Aviation Administration. The National Transportation Safety Board ruled that the FAA was the “probable cause” of the January, 1997, crash of Comair Flight 3272 near Ida. All 29 people aboard were killed. The NTSB blamed the FAA’s lack of safety standards regarding wing icing for the accident.

* Bert Hamrick, who didn’t seem to learn his lesson. In 1995, Hamrick was driving a stolen vehicle when he was chased by police. A police cruiser slammed into a car at Douglas Road and Berdan Avenue, killing 9-year-old Shannon Incorvaia. Hamrick was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, but the conviction was overturned a year ago.

On Nov. 12, Hamrick was again driving a stolen car in West Toledo when police tried to pull him over. He again led them on a chase, this time through West and North Toledo, before heading into Michigan. During the chase, authorities said, a female passenger in the car handed him cans of beer to drink.

This time, the 30-minute chase ended in his arrest, not tragedy. Hamrick is awaiting trial.

* Buckeye Egg Farm. The giant egg producer, known for its huge factories with millions of chickens, lost a key battle when the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency decided not to issue a permit to allow it to expand. Local opponents in the Mount Victory area say the huge facilities pumps tons of pollution into the environment.

* Going to the dogs. It was a bad year for animal cruelty cases. Brenda Studer of New Washington was convicted in Seneca County for abusing more than 150 dogs and cats.

In Fulton County, Mary Barker was sentenced to 30 days in jail for violating her probation, which requires her not to sell dogs. She sold one named Blosser to a deputy dog warden. She previously had been convicted on animal cruelty charges in 1997.

And Toledoan Opal Covey, still upset over the seizure of nearly 500 birds authorities said she was mistreating, filed suit against Judge Denise Dartt and others claiming a conspiracy against her. Her claim in the suit: $86 million in damages.

In what may have been the biggest local news story of the year, a North Toledo man went on a killing rampage the day before Valentine’s Day.

Joseph Chappell, who had a lengthy criminal rec ord, lashed out against a co-worker he had been harassing, Vivian Morris. Just hours after she filed a formal police complaint against him, Chappell went to her home and stabbed her to death. He also stabbed her two children, but they survived.

But he wasn’t done. Chappell car jacked a van, then fired shots at the ambulance carrying Ms. Morris, hitting a firefighter in the chest. He saw 21-year-old Brandy Williams in front of her home on Barrows Street and demanded her truck; when she refused, Chappell shot and killed her as she tried to run inside the house.

Then came a chase across West Toledo, ending when Chappell lost control of the stolen van at one of Toledo’s busiest intersections, Monroe Street and Secor Road. He was gunned down by three police officers as he pointed his shotgun at them.

Even Joseph Chappell’s death didn’t end this saga. On April 3, his brother Andrew Chappell was arrested for harassing Ms. Morris’s best friend. “All Chappells are armed,” he warned.

He got six months in jail.

Thisyear seemed to have more than its fair share of tragedy, with every week seemingly bringing some new story of horror:

* Seven Hillsdale County residents were killed when a fireworks factory exploded in Osseo, Mich., on Dec. 11. Federal investigators say they will probably never learn the cause.

* A Michigan college student, Delaina Hodgson, was killed on Oct. 16 when a tractor-trailer crushed her car from behind on I-280 northbound near the Front Street exit. Ms. Hodgson was stopped because of construction on the Craig Memorial Bridge across the Maumee River. Her death even be came an issue in the governor’s race, as both major candidates pledged a new bridge to replace the problem-riddled toll bridge.

* On Feb. 10, a tractor-trailer failed to slow down for stopped traffic and slammed into seven vehicles on I-75 near Lima. Four were killed and five injured.

* Former Toledoan Peggy Carr was carjacked while running errands on April 22 in Wilmington, N.C., by two armed robbers who wanted to use her Geo Tracker as a getaway vehicle. They killed her and dumped her body in a neighboring county. Her remains were not discovered until November.

* Children were increasingly a target of violence in Toledo. Incidents like the killing of 13-year-old Maurice Purifie and the shooting death of 10-year-old Deontre Hicks led to public outrage.

Historic building fall to drug store chains across U.S.; Toledo fights over Rite-Aid

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page B1

The nation’s largest drugstore chains have been battling each other for several years.

But in Toledo, Rite Aid has been mostly alone in its aggressive construction of stand-alone “box” stores.

“Rite Aid is just an irresponsible corporate citizen,” Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said at a recent press conference. “They have given up on mid-street locations and absolutely like piranhas are going after corner locations.”

For the last year, Rite Aid has been replacing many small, neighborhood stores – many of them in strip malls – with larger stores on busy intersections.

Company officials say the move allows consumers to have more choice and convenience. But Mr. Finkbeiner and other Rite Aid opponents say the new stores come at the expense of old, historic buildings torn down for new, characterless hulks.

Most contentious has been the proposed Rite Aid at Broadway and South Avenue. Rite Aid wants to build a “model store” – the 11,000-square-foot box-styled store the company has built 1,000 of in the last three years. It would replace a smaller store Rite Aid operates just a block away.

But building the new store would require the demolition of seven older buildings housing several operating businesses.

So when council approved the demolition last month, Mayor Finkbeiner made a rare use of his veto power to stop it.

Council overrode his veto, 9-3, so the mayor had to try another method. He asked council to issue a 60-day moratorium on the issuance of most demolition permits in the city, saying the move is aimed at stopping Rite Aid from tearing down buildings.

In the last year, Rite Aid has closed stores at Bancroft Street and Upton Avenue and at Dorr Street and Junction Avenue. The company had opened a new store at Monroe Street and Detroit Avenue in 1997, about a mile from the two shuttered stores.

In April, the mayor held a press conference in front of the Dorr Street location, calling the moves an abandonment of the central city. Rite Aid officials said the new Monroe Street store was, in fact, a significant new investment in the central city.

At least two other former Rite Aid stores – at Dorr and Detroit, and in the River East Shopping Center – remain vacant.

Rite Aid is not done with its changes in Toledo. A company spokesperson said that it plans to build at least four more stores in the next year, each replacing an older store.

Rite Aid officials defend their moves, saying that they are all driven by giving consumers what they want: easy access, good parking, and access to convenience foods and other items that just can’t fit in smaller stores.

“A lot of our growth in Toledo is based on upgrading to better service to our customers,’ said Suzanne Mead, vice president of corporate communications. “As the demographics have changed, our strategy has moved toward busier intersections.”

She said that Rite Aid works with local communities in planning stores. The company has made some concessions on the Broadway and South store to make it more fitting for the neighborhood.

Rite Aid will soon be joined by a new player in the local drugstore field. Walgreens, absent from the Toledo market for nearly 30 years, plans a store at Woodville Road and East Broadway.

City misses mark in access for disabled

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

The city of Toledo has failed in hundreds of ways to make facilities accessible to the disabled, a U.S. Department of Justice report says.

The 96-page report outlines access problems at 53 structures at which city programs and services are provided. Most violations were only a few inches too high, too low, too wide, or too narrow.

The report stems from a complaint filed five years ago by the group Barrier Free Toledo, which said the city hadn’t done enough to evaluate its access problems.

Now that the report has been filed, the city will negotiate with Justice Department officials on how to fix the listed problems.

Perlean Griffin, manager of the city’s affirmative action office, said the cost of compliance won’t be known until next month, after all the effected departments total their own cost estimates.

Among the violations listed in the Justice Department report:

* The rest room stalls in the 13th-floor restrooms at Government Center are 19 inches too narrow for wheelchair-access standards.

* The Scott Park district police station has counters four feet off the floor, when three feet is the standard. The station has no van-accessible parking spaces, and the grab bars in the rest rooms are too short and too far from the wall – both by one inch.

* At the Erie Street Market, no sign to notifies wheelchair users about a lift to the elevated restaurant area.

Sue Deck, an activist for disabled people, said she had expected the report to point out all the problems it did.

“I guess now the city knows what’s expected of them,” she said. “They’ve had plenty of time to fix these problems. This is nothing new. The city’s just been dragging its feet.

“I don’t care if they’re required to spend millions tomorrow. They have to do it,” she said.

Some of the most used structures had the most violations.

Toledo Municipal Court had 30 problems, the report said, ranging from rest room issues to too-high coat hooks, too-narrow doors, and too-high elevator floor buttons.

The Toledo Botanical Gardens had 40 violations, including doorknobs that are too tight, pay phones that are too high, and the absence of Braille signs at rest rooms.

Christine DiBartolo, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said she could not comment on an ongoing investigation. But she did say she is hopeful for a resolution.

“We continue to negotiate with the city, and it is our hope to resolve this amicably, short of litigation,” she said.

Nader sends soapy present to wash out mayor’s mouth

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

Some people think Mayor Carty Finkbeiner’s mouth needs to be washed out with soap. Now he’s got the means to do the job.

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader gave Mr. Finkbeiner an early Christmas present yesterday: a bar of soap to protest the mayor’s use of vulgarity in a recent news conference.

“Is there a Mayor in the United States who expresses his public temper as if he is playing pool badly in a bar?” Mr. Nader asked in a letter to the mayor. “If so, please identify your peer.”

Mr. Nader has been critical of the mayor for the last year about the Jeep deal, which he considers to be “corporate welfare” for DaimlerChrysler AG.

The soap joke dates to the mayor’s Dec. 8 news conference, in which he angrily denounced a Dec. 6 Blade article on the Jeep project. Mr. Finkbeiner, who has long been known for his temper, used a vulgar term to describe what he thought Blade editors should have done with the article.

“There is … a feature of your coarse verbosity that is fairly consistent over time. You direct your sneering, barnyard language away from corporate executives and their corporations and focus on the people you were elected to serve,” the letter reads.

Because any good chiding requires a prop, Nader representatives delivered the bar of soap to the Government Center yesterday. “A cleaner tongue may induce a cleaner mind – at least that is the aspiration behind the gift,” Mr. Nader wrote.

Mr. Finkbeiner, in a response relayed through his spokeswoman, had a simple response: “I wish Ralph Nader a Merry Christmas, and I hope in 1999 he has better things to do.”

In a separate letter to Daimler Chrysler Co-chairman Juergen Schrempp, Mr. Nader asked the carmaker to better reimburse the homeowners whose neighborhood is being destroyed to make way for the expanded Jeep plant. He threatened to hold a news conference in Stuttgart, Germany to publicize what he calls “corporate welfare” if Mr. Schrempp does not respond to the letter.

The mayor left yesterday for Washington, his third trip there in a week, to attend a holiday event hosted by President and Mrs. Clinton. The flight was paid for with city funds but cost only $20 because of accumulated frequent flier miles. His ground expenses could not be calculated last night.

Council OK’s demolition of Auto-Lite

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

Before the holidays, the Toledo council was in no mood to dilly-dally with lengthy debates on controversial issues.

As a result, the council members pushed quickly through their lengthy agenda, finishing in less than two hours, but delaying some of its most controversial matters to future meetings.

Among the issues held:

* A controversial gun lock ordinance.

* Mayor Carty Finkbeiner’s proposed 60-day moratorium on demolition permits.

* The design of the expanded Superior Street parking garage.

* The $6.2 million sale of 213 acres of city land in Monclova Township.

* A resolution of support for the unionizing of migrant laborers.

Council did find time to approve a few important pieces of legislation, including the allocation of $150,000 in capital budget funds for the demolition of the former Auto-Lite plant in North Toledo.

The city’s $150,000 will join $100,000 from the state government, $150,000 from the federal government, and $100,000 pledged by the Lucas County commissioners.

“I think it’s remarkable that you have all four levels of government supporting this project,” Councilman Peter Gerken said.

The council also voted unanimously to support new restrictions on how the mayor can spend money the city gets through a 1997 agreement with Toledo Edison.

In exchange for the city’s support for Toledo Edison’s merger with FirstEnergy Corp., the utility agreed to pay the city $1.2 million a year for five years for economic development purposes.

Since the agreement, Mr. Finkbeiner has spent the money without council approval. The city charter requires all city expenditures over $10,000 be approved by council, but the mayor claims that the money never entered city coffers, and thus can be spent however the mayor wants.

The ordinance, which was approved 11-0, would require council approval for the spending of any Edison money.

“It is sad that the mayor chooses not to follow the law of the land and of the city of Toledo,” Councilman Gene Zmuda said. “He is choosing to violate the law here. It shows a complete lack of respect for this council.”

Mr. Gerken also pointed out that the original Edison merger agreement set aside half the total of $6 million for electric rate relief for small businesses. He said the mayor hasn’t done that.

Council also approved a 20-year lease of city-owned land at 311 Wade St. to a group that wants to create a youth hostel near Central Union Terminal.

It also approved a resolution thanking the Northwest Ohio Carpenters Union Apprenticeship Class for construction of a small wooden stand for children to stand on when testifying before council.

The last half hour of the last meeting of 1998 was given over to honoring outgoing Councilwoman Jeanine Perry, who will resign her seat on Jan. 3 to become the state representative for District 50.

Council honored her with a resolution thanking her from her service. Because she was still a member of council, Mrs. Perry had to vote on it. She voted yes.

The Lucas County Democratic Party has chosen Wade Kapszukiewicz to take Mrs. Perry’s seat.

Auto-Lite demonstration is expected; Council may restrict use of money from Edison

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

Toledo officials have put together a financial package they believe will allow them to tear down one of Toledo’s worst industrial eyesores in 1999.

Tomorrow, the council will consider an ordinance that would allow the city to accept bids to tear down the Auto-Lite plant on Champlain Street.

Demolition of the 87-year-old plant could cost more than $750,000, but city officials say they have gathered $800,000 from a variety of sources.

“We’ve made enough progress that we believe we’ll get it done in the next year,” said Anthony Reams, the city’s director of neighborhoods.

The structure has been vacant since the late 1980s. It was the site of one of the pivotal moments in Toledo labor history: the bloody 1934 battle between striking workers and armed guards that left two people dead and 200 injured.

But for the last decade, it has been most noted as the target of sustained calls for demolition. City officials and North Toledo residents say the hulking structure is a major safety risk to the area. It has been the site of numerous fires.

So far, the demolition project has received a $150,000 federal challenge grant through the office of U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo). The ordinance before council will add $150,000 from the city’s capital budget.

In addition, Mr. Reams said the city is prepared to borrow up to $500,000 from a $26.8 million line of credit provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The HUD credit was primarily created to cover cost overruns in the Jeep project. But city officials now say they will not have to borrow all the money for Jeep.

Mr. Reams said that the city is searching for other funding sources, such as grants or lower-interest loans, to reduce the amount of money the city has to borrow from the U.S. government.

The ordinance will allow the city to begin environmental testing to better determine the total cost of demolition. Mr. Reams said he has no timetable in mind for when bids for the entire project will be taken.

“We’ve gathered together quite a bit of money, and we’ll keep looking for more,” he said. “But it looks like we’ll be moving forward on demolition sometime in 1999.”

The council will consider an ordinance to require the so-called Edison Compact funds to be spent and allocated just like any other money.

Some city council members say Mayor Carty Finkbeiner uses Toledo Edison’s annual $1.2-million payment to the city as a personal “slush” fund.

The money comes to the city because of a 1997 city agreement with the utility. The city agreed not to object to Toledo Edison’s merger with Ohio Edison Co. of Akron to form FirstEnergy Corp., in exchange for $6 million in economic development funds over five years.

The mayor has spent that Edison money on a variety of projects, but without city council’s approval. About $4.8 million of the $6 million is dedicated to the Jeep project.

The city charter requires city council to approve any spending over $10,000. But administration officials say that since the Edison money never officially enters the city’s coffers, council does not have to approve how it is spent.

Several council members, most vocally Peter Gerken, object to the mayor’s use of the compact funds. He pointed to a $112,000 grant to help an antiques mall in the Erie Street Market.

“Maybe that’s a great program and a great use of the money, but maybe not,” Mr. Gerken said. “The point is, we on council don’t have any say.”

The ordinance will require Edison money to be deposited into a city fund, meaning council would have to approve how it is spent. The ordinance is co-sponsored by six of the 12 members of council, making passage likely.

Toledo Edison’s parent company, FirstEnergy, is the target of a Justice Department probe investigating whether the payments constitute an illegal restraint of trade.

Other items on the council’s agenda include:

* Mr. Finkbeiner’s proposed 60-day moratorium on the issuance of demolition permits in certain parts of the city. The mayor is asking for the moratorium to prevent the demolition of several buildings in South Toledo. They are scheduled to be replaced by a Rite Aid drugstore the mayor says will hurt the historic character of the Broadway and South Avenue intersection.

The mayor could have a tough fight to persuade the council, which has voted twice to support the new Rite Aid. Council approved the demolition of the buildings 10-2 last month, and when Mr. Finkbeiner used his veto to reverse the vote, council overrode him, 9-3.

* Leasing the former Page Dairy site at 311 Wade St. to the Toledo International Hostel/Guesthouse Corp.

The site will be used to construct a hostel for travelers. The lease payments will be $1 per year for 20 years.

The Page Dairy building was razed in 1994 after being the site of numerous incidents of vandalism.

Mayor recruits volunteers for hurricane-striken areas

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 24

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner issued a call to action yesterday, asking Toledoans to join him in helping relief efforts in hurricane-stricken Central America.

“If we are truly an All-America City, we will reach out to people both in this country and outside it who are in need,” he said.

The mayor said he hopes to get more than 100 Toledo area residents together for a 7-to-14-day journey to Honduras, or one of the other countries battered by Hurricanes Mitch and Georges.

Most needed are people who speak Spanish, and those with skills in engineering, child care, and health fields, he said.

The effort is tied to Toledo’s All-America City status. Mr. Finkbeiner said it is important for the nation’s 10 All-America Cities to join together to help.

When the mayor traveled to Washington this week to accept the All-America City award, he approached the mayors of the other cities and asked them to join Toledo’s efforts. They agreed.

Tipper Gore, the wife of Vice President Gore who is working on Central American relief efforts, named Toledo as the lead city in the project.

Other cities have been gathering food and toys for Hondurans and other nations badly damaged by the storms, but the mayor said skilled volunteers are the most needed quantity. “We need people who can go down there and do the work to rebuild,” he said. “They need us to provide the bodies.”

In recent years, aid officials have been struggling with a phenomenon they call “disaster tourism,” in which well-to-do Americans zip in and out of a disaster site, staying just a day or two to look around.

But Barry Broome, the city’s point man on the project, wants citizens to know that this trip won’t be a walk in the park.

“This’ll be working a lot of hours with a pick and a shovel for a lot of them,” he said.

The project is being coordinated through the U.S. Agency for International Development, which will spend the next few weeks deciding when and where the Toledoans will be used.

Mr. Finkbeiner said he wants to gather 100 to 200 people, “enough to fill a plane,” to send down. Once there, Toledoans will probably sleep in pup tents and live in less-than-optimal conditions. “But they’ll know they’re doing a lot of good,” Mr. Broome said.

Mr. Broome said not every volunteer must know Spanish, but said a majority will have to. Many of the other All-America Cities have large Hispanic populations who will be able to readily provide Spanish speakers, he said.

City officials hope this effort will create a tradition of each year’s All-America Cities sending relief teams to disaster areas.

The city is asking area corporations, foundations, and labor unions to contribute to the cause by paying the cost of transporting the volunteers to Central America. The mayor said DaimlerChrysler AG has contributed $10,000.

Anyone interested in being a volunteer should call the mayor’s office for information. They will be asked to provide a letter of interest and a resume.

Union turns down city’s call for pay concessions

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 17

Government leaders have asked Toledo’s largest union to accept lower pay increases to shore up the city budget.

The union – Local 7 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees – said no.

On Nov. 25, city human resources director Marsha Serio sent a letter to the union president, Charlie Noble, asking that the union agree to “reopen economic terms” of their contract and reduce the pay raises union members are scheduled to receive Jan. 1.

The letter said the city is facing severe budget constraints that require “reductions of force.” Under the terms of Local 7’s contract, that means the city can ask for the contract to be reopened.

But the union must agree to the reopening, and Mr. Noble said no. He said the letter was as much a positioning for contract negotiations as a serious request.

“We had anticipated it,” he said. “It’s part of the bargaining game. I understand where they’re coming from.”

The preliminary budget Mayor Carty Finkbeiner presented to the council on Nov. 16 calls for the elimination of 30 positions, and Ms. Serio said that number may be as high as 40. But more than 40 city government positions are vacant, so layoffs might not be necessary, city officials have said.

Ms. Serio said that lower pay raises could mean fewer positions would have to be eliminated.

“There is a problem in the budget, and it is only fair that the city try to do something about it,” she said.

Personnel costs take up about three-quarters of the city’s annual budget, and Local 7 is the city’s largest union, representing more than 900 of the city’s 3,000 employees.

On Jan. 1, Local 7 members will receive a 3.5 per cent raise. In addition, the city will begin paying, in full, each employee’s contribution to the state pension system. Currently, employees pay 2.3 per cent of their salary to the pension system.

Mr. Noble said that in times of true economic crisis, the union has been willing to reconsider pay raises. He said that in the early 1980s, the union agreed to lower pay raises because of a tumbling economy.

But with the economy as strong as it is, he said, “this is not an economic crunch or a shortage of revenue. What we’re facing here is a priority of spending.”

Both sides have agreed to meet to discuss the city’s budget, but reopening the contract will not be an option, Mr. Noble said. Those discussions have not yet been scheduled.

Local 7’s contract expires on June 30. Mr. Noble said no negotiations for a new contract have been scheduled, but he said he hoped the two sides would start talking in March.

Ms. Serio said the Local 7 contract was the only city union contract that included a clause for reopening. Contracts with police, fire, and other city employees could not be reopened.