By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer
It was Round 6 of the Mayor-Council Police Class Staredown last night, and council did its best not to blink.
“We have the power under the [city] charter to determine the size of our safety forces, and we are doing that tonight,” council President Peter Ujvagi said.
The council voted 11-0 to approve an ordinance that members say will force Mayor Carty Finkbeiner to hire 30 police officers to replace those who will retire this year. The mayor wants to hire only 15.
The vote comes after months of back-and-forth between the council and the mayor.
The major issue: The council wants to keep the number of police officers roughly constant. Anywhere from 30 to 39 officers are projected to retire this year, and council says hiring 30 new ones is the only way to maintain public safety.
Mr. Finkbeiner counters by saying that placing civilians in certain office positions can make more officers available for street duty, meaning the city can get along with fewer officers.
So far, the mayor has vetoed the city budget, seen his veto overridden, and ignored the override.
The ordinance that the council approved last night specifically directs Mr. Finkbeiner to hire a 30-officer class, citing a section of the charter they say gives them the authority to do so.
Councilwoman Betty Shultz was absent from the meeting.
Before the vote, council members attacked the mayor’s statement that a larger police class would make the police force less diverse, because most available candidates are white. Such a move could threaten federal intervention, the mayor said.
The four minority members of the council issued a statement saying that a larger class would not significantly affect the force’s diversity. They also took Mr. Finkbeiner to task for not doing enough to recruit minorities.
The ball is once again in the mayor’s court. Council members say they expect him to veto the ordinance, which likely would lead to another override, and then a potential legal battle in which the council may sue the mayor.
But several council members pleaded with Mr. Finkbeiner to stop the staredown before it reaches the courts. “I hope it doesn’t reach that point, because that wouldn’t be good for the council, good for the mayor, or good for Toledo,” said Councilman Wade Kapszukiewicz.
But for every moment of attempted conciliation, there was just as much tough talk. “I’m disturbed that the mayor would hold the community hostage over a turf war,” Councilman Peter Gerken said. “This isn’t about the cops, it’s about turf.”
Dan Hiskey, who will become the city’s chief operating officer on May 1, said the mayor had not yet decided whether to veto the ordinance. “The mayor is going to take it under consideration, just as he would do with any ordinance passed by council.”
In other action, the council:
* Voted, 7-3, to approve a zoning change that will bring a fourth drugstore to the corner of Dorr Street and Reynolds Road. A Walgreens will join Rite Aid, CVS, and Food Town in hawking medicine at the intersection.
Voting no were Mr. Gerken, Gene Zmuda, and Rob Ludeman, who said the decision showed a lack of planning by council.
“I think we are missing our responsibility,” Mr. Ludeman said. “I hate to think that Reynolds Corners is now going to be Drugstore Corners.
“I have a real strong suspicion that in five years, one or more of those drugstores is going to be vacant and an eyesore,” he said.