Decorum takes beating in mayor’s office tiff; Finkbeiner, McCloskey face off

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 1

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner has fought many times with city council before – but the council has never hit back.

That is, until Councilman Bob McCloskey decided Thursday night that he had had enough.

With the mayor repeatedly pointing his finger in the councilman’s face and obscenities flying during a private meeting, Mr. McCloskey angrily pushed the mayor’s hand away.

“It’s not something I’m proud of, and I’m sure the mayor is not proud,” Mr. McCloskey said. “He’s not going to put his finger in my face or threaten me, and that’s that.”

The clash took place in the mayor’s office downtown. Mr. McCloskey and Councilman C. Allen McConnell wanted to discuss the mayor’s proposed move of the department of parks, recreation, and forestry from its Ottawa Park home to a building in International Park.

Mr. McCloskey, whose council district includes International Park, opposes the move.

According to Mr. McConnell, the mayor and Mr. McCloskey were engaged in “a very heated discussion” when Mr. Finkbeiner pointed his finger in Mr. McCloskey’s face. Mr. McCloskey then slapped it away.

According to another source who was in the room but did not wish to be identified, Mr. McCloskey then got up from his seat, bumped chests with the mayor, and gave him a small shove.

Mr. McCloskey confirmed that there was a physical conflict but declined to give any details. Mr. Finkbeiner did not want to talk about the incident, but said: “I did not get out of hand except to present my position quite vigorously.”

The mayor said that “Mr. McCloskey, in my judgment, is not going to tell the mayor and the chief operating officer of the city how to administer the city.”

The chief operating officer of the city is Tom Kovacik, who was present at the meeting. He confirmed Mr. McCloskey’s actions.

“It was a good meeting, other than it got to be a little too emotional,” Mr. Kovacik said. “It didn’t end with people shaking hands.”

Mr. McCloskey said there is a personality clash between him and Mr. Finkbeiner.

“The mayor and I are both very strong-willed people,” he said. “We both think absolutely that we are right. It’s not the first time, and it probably won’t be the last time.”

Mr. McCloskey said he believed the animosity had a lot to do with other issues the two men have clashed over, such as the controversial placement of a new Rite Aid in South Toledo.

In the past, Mr. McCloskey has attacked what he considers power-hungry moves by Mr. Finkbeiner, at one point saying: “It’s a manhood issue for the mayor.” In November, he said of the mayor: “I think he needs psychiatric care.”

Both the mayor and Mr. McCloskey confirmed that Mr. Finkbeiner did not physically respond to the push. Mr. McCloskey said that things could have easily escalated had the mayor responded. “It could have been a lot worse than it was,” he said.

Medlin signals changes for Port Authority; New board chairman hopes to boost agency’s support

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

From the start of his first meeting as chairman of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority board, G. Ray Medlin signaled that 1999 will bring changes to the board.

He taped a small road sign below his nameplate in Maumee’s city council chambers. It read: “Work Area Ahead.”

“What we’re trying to do is create a community here,” he said. “We serve the citizens and taxpayers of the county, and that’s the way it should be.”

Mr. Medlin was named chairman of the board last month, and he made it clear that his leadership will focus on building public support for the port board’s activities.

Not mentioned as a priority: any changes in the staff of the port authority, which has come under significant criticism in the last year.

In November, Lucas County voters rejected the renewal of a 0.4 mill levy that primarily funds economic development. It lost by more than 12,000 votes.

Port leaders attributed the loss to negative publicity the port received last year, in large part through a series of Blade investigations.

Donald Jakeway, president of the Regional Growth Partner ship, compared the insular public relations problems of the port to those of Washington politicians: “Maybe we have our own little Beltway.”

The port authority will put the levy before the voters again sometime in 1999.

Mr. Medlin said that everything about the board will be open to change.

“We intend to take a look at the entire system, taking a look at some of the paradigms and rules and see if they make sense,” he said.

The changes began as soon as the meeting did.

For the first time in years, the board stood and said the Pledge of Allegiance before starting through its agenda.

“This is the first change,” Mr. Medlin said.

He said that board members would be meeting with leaders from a variety of parts of the community, including political, educational, and labor leaders, to improve the public perception of the board.

“We want to go out and let people know what we’re doing,” said the board’s new vice chairman, J. Patrick Nicholson. “But we want to listen, too.”

Port President James Hartung said he wants to do a better job of public relations.

“The general public are the people who have to understand the contributions the port authority is making to this region,” he said.

The outgoing board president, James Poure, is still a member of the board, but was not in attendance.

At the meeting, port President James Hartung presented the port’s goals for 1999. Board member Robert Sullivan noted that passing the levy was not on the list.

But Mr. Medlin said he is confident that, if the board makes the right changes, the levy will take care of itself. “If we do our jobs right, our levy will be a by-product,” he said.

Mr. Sullivan pressed his case, however, with the support of Mr. Nicholson. “Last year, the levy was in the background,” Mr. Sullivan said. “Then it arrived in November and we were whipped.”

The board then voted unanimously to officially add the passage of the levy to its goals.

Bald eagles may block 2nd half of Parkway

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 1

Bald eagles are nesting in North Toledo, threatening one of the city’s most anticipated construction projects: the eastern section of the Buckeye Basin Greenbelt Parkway.

One of the two confirmed eagle nests is in Manhattan Marsh, which means it is in or near the path of the planned parkway.

It means city officials might face legal barriers to construction if the eagle’s habitat would be damaged.

Opponents of the road are elated.

“The eagles are just the miracle we needed to push it over the top,” said environmental activist Rick Van Landingham, who leads the group Citizens for Buckeye Basin Parks.

Mr. Van Landingham has spent years trying to stop the eastern section of the Buckeye Basin project, which would connect Point Place to downtown.

He argues that the roadway would sacrifice wetlands, including Manhattan Marsh.

In 1996, he was arrested for chaining himself to a bulldozer in an attempt to stop construction on the parkway’s western half.

But now that an eagle’s nest has been found in the marsh, Mr. Van Landingham has a new weapon in his arsenal.

Federal law is very strict about limiting development near a nest of America’s national symbol.

“The city sure isn’t interested in destroying something like that,” said Mike Justen, the city’s director of public service. “That could certainly be an issue.”

Mark Shieldcastle, a biologist at the Crane Creek Wildlife Research Station in Ottawa County, said the state has never faced a situation where a nest was threatened by road construction.

If the parkway were to go forward, state and federal wildlife officials would have to determine how much it would interfere with the nest.

Buddy Fazio, an endangered species biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Ohio office, said that the Bald Eagle Protection Act prohibits anyone from disturbing or destroying an eagle’s nest.

But he added that exceptions are possible if federal officials conclude that an important public project would need to disturb a nest. “We try not to do that, but that is a legal mechanism we have,” he said.

He did not know of any exceptions being granted for a bald eagle nest.

Issues involving the eagles would be decided during negotiations between city and federal officials after the project’s start. Those negotiations can take years, Mr. Fazio said.

The Buckeye Basin has been in the planning stage for more than a quarter century.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is scheduled to complete the western section of the road – connecting Cherry Street to I-280 – by this fall.

The eastern section, though – connecting the interstate to Summit Street – is a city project.

The federal government has agreed to contribute $24 million to the $30 million cost; the city will have to come up with the rest.

Mr. Van Landingham’s group has purchased more than 40 acres in the marsh in an attempt to protect it. The eagle’s nest sits on the group’s property.

Proponents of the parkway have maintained that it is a critical link from Point Place to downtown. Two major train tracks, owned by CSX and Norfolk Southern, cross the other major streets joining the two areas, making long delays a fact of life for residents.

But a merger involving Norfolk Southern and Conrail means that Norfolk Southern will reduce dramatically the amount of traffic on its North Toledo line.

There will be only one major train track across the area.

Building a bridge over it might be cheaper than building a new road, Mr. Van Landingham said.

The parkway remains in the city’s plans, but no money has been allocated to the project.

“Right now, we don’t have immediate plans to move forward with it,” Mr. Justen said.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner learned of the eagles when Mr. Van Landingham sent a photo of one to him in early December.

On Dec. 14, he received a memo from Dennis Garvin, the city’s supervisor of parks, recreation, and forestry, confirming the nest sites, which could be used by eagles for years.

But the mayor has not mentioned the bald eagles publicly. He did not return numerous telephone calls seeking comment.

Nature advocates were thrilled at the news of Toledo’s newest residents.

“Boy, a bald eagle!” said Mr. Garvin, when asked his response the first time he heard about the eagles. “That’s a strong argument for maintaining public green spaces.”

Councilwoman Edna Brown saw a bald eagle at the marsh last month when Mr. Van Landingham took her on a tour.

“It was an exciting moment, just to think that we have a bald eagle right here,” she said. “That marsh is really an intriguing area.”

She said she would oppose the Buckeye Basin project’s extension through the marsh, and said she doubts it will ever happen.

“That phase of the parkway is on the books, but frankly I don’t think that it will ever be built, with or without the eagles’ nest,” she said. “But having the nest there makes the possibility even less.”

Mr. Van Landingham is trying to raise money to purchase more land, as well as build a nature center and a trail from which to view the eagles.

As for the state, Mr. Shieldcastle said its next step is to wait to see what the birds will do.

Bald eagles usually stop their nest building during early winter and resume in February.

The other confirmed bald eagle nest is in North Toledo, north of Alexis Road.

It is on private property. The two sites are believed to be the first bald eagle nests ever in Toledo.

Bald eagles were put on the federal endangered species list in the 1960s but were removed from it in 1994, after their populations made a remarkable recovery.

They are still considered a threatened species under federal law.

Mural might be moved; Greater visibility, safety sought for Spanish gift

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 9

A 15-foot-long mural in International Park, a gift from Toledo, Spain, has been a target of vandals, and the city wants to see it moved to a more protected site.

The mural, depicting the skylines of both Toledos, is actually a mosaic of ceramic tiles donated to Toledo, O., to mark its 150th anniversary in 1987. It was assembled and dedicated July 4, 1990.

But its glass enclosure is coated with cobwebs, and someone has smashed a glass segment under the mural intended to represent the Maumee River and the River Tagus, which flows through the Spanish city. And officials and citizens have complained that it is not very accessible to the public.

The Toledo Arts Commission, which controls the city’s public art, is looking for a way to move the mural to a more accessible and secure place.

“We’re trying to find the most appropriate place for it, where it’s going to be most visible to the public,” said Heather Rohrs, the commission’s interim executive director.

Councilman Bob McCloskey, who has pushed for improvements in International Park, said he supports a move. “There has been some vandalism on it,” he said. “I want to see it taken out of the area and secured.”

Those who have been successful in finding the site – at the north end of the city building that houses Cousino’s Navy Bistro restaurant – say it is a less-than-fitting location for the artwork.

“It’s crummy looking, it looks like a hotdog stand,” said Perrysburg resident Sybil Small. “You couldn’t tell from a few yards away that it’s a work of art.”

Mrs. Small, who teaches English at the University of Toledo, has been hunting down the mural for nearly eight years. She went to International Park to see it in 1990 after it was unveiled and couldn’t find it. She returned a few times over the ensuing years, until finally discovering it a few months ago while searching with her husband.

“We looked and looked,” she said. “We were both shocked at how filthy it was. The glass is so dirty, there are these cobwebs on the lights, and it looked so tacky.”

She said if the Spanish city ever were to send a delegation to Ohio, “I think they would be disgusted. It would be a real slap in the face.”

The work of art cost more than $16,000 to produce in 1987. It took three years to have a site picked and a shelter built. The mayor of Toledo, Spain, came to Ohio for the work’s dedication.

Another mayor of Toledo, Spain, Agustin Conde, visited Toledo for six days in June, 1997. Whether he got to see the monument that his city donated a decade earlier was not clear yesterday, although Mr. Conde did attend a function in the Navy Bistro.

John Henry Fullen, director of Toledo Sister Cities International, which organized Mr. Conde’s visit, said he believes they visited the site. In any case, he has taken many out-of-town visitors there.

“It is a beautiful thing we want to preserve and protect and make accessible to everybody,” Mr. Fullen said. “It’s a logical place for it to be, International Park. I’ve taken people from China, Bulgaria, Spain, all over, to see it.”

Sharon McKisson, the commission’s public art coordinator, said the move is important because the current site “is becoming more of a private-enterprise venue.” By summer, four restaurants will open in the Navy Bistro building as part of a continuing development. “It is very vital that the art be publicly accessible in a public site,” she said.

In fact, she said she has never been able to see the site in person because of accessibility problems.

She said she hopes the mural can be moved by the end of 1999.

City unit move to east side assailed

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 9

The city’s parks, recreation, and forestry department will be moving to International Park, and some council members are raising objections.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner is transferring the department from its Ottawa Park home and into the former Department of Environmental Services building in East Toledo. The reason: to keep a closer eye on the department.

“I want this department to be, as much as possible, under one roof, close to the rest of the administration and with increased emphasis on the waterfront,” Mr. Finkbeiner said in a letter to council President Peter Ujvagi.

The department was known as the department of natural resources until last year.

It’s the latest move in the mayor’s longtime battles with the department.

Mr. Finkbeiner has had five different natural resources directors since he took office in 1993.

Margaret Bretzloff was acting director for two years before the mayor demoted her in 1996, in what some in and out of government said was a sexist act. Her successor, Jim Barney, was demoted by the mayor in September for not whipping the department into shape.

“You’ve got an ethic or culture in place for a quarter of a century that has basically been, `Do your own thing. Don’t be too concerned about what direction you’re getting from the mayor or city council or department director,”‘ Mr. Finkbeiner said at the time of Mr. Barney’s demotion.

Mr. Barney quit rather than take a 43 per cent pay cut. Theresa Gabriel, the former commissioner of streets, bridges, and harbor, was then named to the post. She said she was “not at liberty to discuss” the move and said she was directed to refer all questions to other administration officials.

The move will place the department next to the Docks development, a group of restaurants set to open in the summer, joining the Navy Bistro in International Park.

The building, while city-owned, is leased to River East Economic Revitalization Corp., which in turn has leased part of it to other businesses. Tom Kovacik, the city’s chief operating officer, said that a $1-a-year lease deal likely will be worked out with River East.

He said the move was aimed at keeping the reins tight on the department.

“Carty wanted to have the director and the top team closer to downtown,” Mr. Kovacik said. “He thought that the team needed to be together at one location for better team-building and response.

“I think he had a certain level of discomfort with the number of directors in a short period of time who couldn’t pull that team together,” Mr. Kovacik said. “He thinks he’s found the right person now.”

Councilman Bob McCloskey, who has clashed with the mayor in the past, is the chairman of council’s parks committee. He said that the move is unjustified, even if it fills a building in International Park, in his own council district.

“Theresa is doing a fantastic job,” he said. “If he doesn’t like what Theresa is doing and has to bring her close to keep a watch on her, then I don’t think anybody can do a good enough job for Carty.”

He said the Ottawa Park structure is a “very user-friendly, park-friendly building. It has been a very pleasant place to do business. Why would you take something like that out of Ottawa Park?”

Don Monroe, River East’s executive director, said that one of the future restaurants in the complex, Hoster’s Brew Pub, raised objections about the move. The restaurateurs were concerned that the city offices would close off river views for patrons, he said.

But the city has struck a deal to appease the restaurant. A corridor connecting the environmental services building and the restaurants will be torn down to open up the view and provide access to the river side of the restaurant. About 1,200 square feet will be torn down.

Mr. Monroe said that has satisfied the restaurant owners.

“There were initially concerns when we didn’t know if we were going to be able to remove the part of the building,” he said. “Now everything is fine. This doesn’t impact our development.”

But Mr. Kovacik said that the corridor removal at Hoster’s and the move back into the environmental services building were “coincidental” and were not linked.

Mr. Monroe said the restaurants likely will start opening by mid-summer. They will include Zia’s Southern Italian, Hoster’s Brew Pub, Shorty’s Top House, and The Real Seafood Co. A banquet facility, known as Cousino’s Courtyard, also will be included.

Mr. Kovacik said that the fate of the Ottawa Park facility has not been determined. He said there are no significant problems with the building, although he said there were some issues about compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

He added that the move was likely “in the works” when Mr. Barney was still the director.

Mr. Kovacik said that the move will cost about $8,000 or $9,000. Mr. McCloskey estimated the cost at $40,000 to $60,000.

The difference is significant. Under the city charter, council must approve any expenditure over $10,000. With Mr. Kovacik’s estimate, the mayor would not need to seek council approval.

The move will take place before the end of January.

Hardened Toledoans shake off latest snow

By Joshua Benton and Kim Bates
Blade Staff Writers

Page A16

Whew.

After the area’s nasty bout with winter last week – when snow became a four-letter word – local residents were thankful that Friday night’s storm whimpered instead of roared.

“This is nothing,” said David Archer, 36, who was shoveling the light accumulation the snow shower left on the walkway to his West Toledo home. “I’m happy to do this.”

About three inches of snow fell in Toledo on Friday and early yesterday morning. Forecasters had feared up to six inches, but the unexpected speed of the storm meant it left the area more quickly than expected.

“After last week, I think Toledo can deal with three inches of snow,” said Laura Hannon, a forecaster for AccuWeather, Inc., a private forecasting service based in State College, Pa.

The snow that fell – which reached four inches in some parts of the region – was nowhere near as troubling for residents and city street crews as last weekend’s blast, when eight inches of snow, blowing winds, and freezing rain made travel hazardous and trapped many in their homes.

“This system was not nearly as powerful,” Ms. Hannon said. She said that areas south of Toledo, from Findlay southward, did experience some freezing rain Friday afternoon.

And after a week of wrestling with ice and slush, drivers were treated to mostly bare pavement on Toledo’s major streets.

“It wasn’t really bad at all,” said Jesse Graham, manager of the city’s division of streets, bridges, and harbor. “We are still plugging away.”

In southeastern Michigan, the main roads were dry and most sidewalks had been shoveled. But for some people, the hard work was just beginning.

Tim Allshouse and his son, Chris, 14, were busy with two shovel’s atop the roof of Mr. Allshouse’s father’s home in Adrian.

The father-son duo carefully was moving around the roof, trying not to fall, as they threw snow and ice to the ground. Tim Allshouse said his father, Lee, 75, had discovered a leak inside his home just hours before.

“We’re doing grandpa a favor,” Tim Allshouse said. “We don’t want him on the roof.”

Inside the home, several buckets had been placed on the floor to collect water as it dripped from the ceiling.

Tim Allshouse said he planned to clear most of the roof and then take a break from all weather work. His son planned to resume studying for exams.

Despite the improved weather, some streets remained unplowed. Frederick Smith, who lives on Chesbrough Street in East Toledo, said his street has not been plowed at all since last weekend’s storm.

“We cleared all the cars off the street, but no one came to plow,” he said. “Then someone parked on the street a couple of days ago, and now a plow couldn’t come through.”

City officials have repeatedly asked residents to remove cars from their streets to allow plowing.

Mr. Smith said that, when he needs to drive down his street, he “gets a good running start and hopes no one’s coming at the intersection” with Navarre Avenue.

Adrian resident Robert Burke was spending the day exploring in Blissfield.

He was casually licking a Moose Tracks ice cream cone as he waited outside an antique store for his wife.

“There’s something about cold ice cream and cold weather. They go together,” Mr. Burke said. “It’s just a beautiful day today. I’m not worried about the weather.”

Jane Tuckerman, co-owner of the consignment store Treasures and Pleasures in Blissfield, said business was back to normal yesterday after a slow week.

“I think when the sun comes out, that really helps,” she said.

Last weekend, most of the store owners here had to shut down their businesses on both Saturday and Sunday.

The region’s good luck is scheduled to continue. Ms. Hannon said another, even weaker system is scheduled to hit the region today, but it will give only a dusting of snow, perhaps an inch or two of light powder.

The projected high is 20 degrees; the low tonight should be 10.

Finkbeiner chided for ‘silly’ letter; Bergsmark: No conflict of interest

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 9

The president of the Mud Hens’ board of directors lashed back at Mayor Carty Finkbeiner yesterday, saying that the mayor’s accusations of a conflict of interest are “silly.”

“Everything is incorrect,” Ed Bergsmark said, referring to a letter the mayor sent him Thursday.

The letter laid out a series of accusations against Mr. Bergsmark, including that he had a conflict of interest because he is a part-owner of the Toledo Storm, the minor league hockey team that plays at the Toledo Sports Arena. The Mud Hens have proposed a site in East Toledo next to the Sports Arena for a baseball stadium.

“Of all people to be talking about conflicts of interest!” Mr. Bergsmark said.

While Mr. Bergsmark would not say what he was referring to, Mr. Finkbeiner has been accused of a conflict of his own. In 1992, he purchased a condominium on the Middlegrounds property downtown. Two years later, a developer purchased the condo from him at a $107,880 profit.

The condo was purchased to make way for the Owens Corning world headquarters on the Middlegrounds. Mr. Finkbeiner was the city’s lead negotiator on the project and encouraged the corporation to put its headquarters there.

Last year, the mayor pleaded guilty to a fourth-degree misdemeanor for not disclosing on an ethics form that he had received a $10,000 payment from the developer. Mr. Finkbeiner called it an honest mistake. He was fined $250 plus court costs.

Mr. Bergsmark said that, while he owns part of the Storm, he has no financial interest in the Sports Arena. He said he will have no role whatsoever in the planned renovations to the arena.

“There isn’t any conflict,” he said. “Let’s just drop it.”

Mr. Finkbeiner was in Detroit yesterday for President Clinton’s speech at the Economic Club of Detroit. He could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Bergsmark took issue with the mayor’s claim that he and the team had not “really enthusiastically” supported the May, 1998, levy campaign that would have raised money for a new stadium through a temporary sales-tax hike.

“That’s just silly,” Mr. Bergsmark said. “We gave money to it, we did everything for it.”

He said the mayor’s letter is a typical response for the mayor.

“That’s the Finkbeiner tactic,” he said. “I’m sorry that it happened. We’re above that.”

Mr. Finkbeiner has said he would prefer that a stadium be built in downtown’s warehouse district, not in East Toledo.

“I’m surprised that Mayor Finkbeiner has that low a regard for the east side of the town.” he said. “It’s part of the downtown center and has been for years.”

Mr. Bergsmark repeated his insistence that the team would accept any of a variety of locations for a stadium. “The site, to us, is open,” he said.

In the letter, the mayor called on Mr. Bergsmark to sell his interest in the Storm or resign as chairman of the board if he said the East Toledo site was the only one the team would accept.

The quest for a new stadium for the Mud Hens has been riven with internal conflict, as city leaders, county officials, and team executives have traded insults and barbs in almost every direction.

But Mr. Bergsmark said he wants the team to maintain a positive relationship with city and county officials.

“I think what’s hurting us is the fighting back and forth between the city and the county,” he said. “I feel that the city and the county should sit down with us and try to get united on solving the issue.”

Finkbeiner criticizes Mud Hens’ board head; Bergsmark is accused of conflict of interest

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 11

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner has lashed out at the president of the Mud Hens board of directors, accusing him of a conflict of interest and a lack of devotion to May’s stadium levy campaign.

“This project is too important as part of a larger downtown revitalization to allow self-interests and personal agendas to come between what is in the best interest of the Toledo Mud Hens and our community,” Mr. Finkbeiner wrote in a letter to board President Ed Bergsmark yesterday.

The Mud Hens are seeking a new stadium for their minor league baseball team. The mayor’s letter was another salvo in the year-long blame game over who is responsible for the stadium project’s failures to this point.

Last May, Lucas County voters rejected a temporary sales tax that would have raised money for a stadium in downtown’s warehouse district.

In his letter, Mr. Finkbeiner said he has been “troubled” by Mr. Bergsmark’s stadium approaches since the levy failed.

“I did not feel that you ever really enthusiastically supported the levy,” the mayor wrote.

A Blade reporter called Mr. Bergsmark’s home last night and informed his wife about the nature of the mayor’s letter. Mr. Bergssmark did not return the phone call seeking comment.

Mr. Finkbeiner’s comments were not the first time a local official has said the team did not do its best to support a new stadium.

“The Mud Hens were not in the forefront of the issue,” County Commissioner Mark Pietrykowski said in May, after the levy failed. “But they were participants. They didn’t come forward in the beginning and say, `We need a new stadium.’ They did not initiate the whole process.”

The mayor continued his criticism of Mr. Bergsmark, saying that the team’s latest plan – to build a park on the site of the Toledo Edison Acme plant in East Toledo – misleads the public about the project’s cost.

Mr. Bergsmark estimated that an East Toledo stadium would cost local taxpayers $2 million, with the remainder coming from private and state funding. But Mr. Finkbeiner said that did not include the cost of leveling the Acme plant and preparing the site for a stadium. The mayor has said those costs will add more than $10 million to the project’s public price tag.

He criticized the team for not coming forth with a new plan for a stadium for seven months after the May levy loss. Mr. Bergsmark did not announce the East Toledo plan until last month.

“In the months since the levy’s defeat, I heard virtually nothing from the Toledo Mud Hens Board,” the mayor wrote.

Mr. Finkbeiner has said he wants a Mud Hens stadium built in the downtown warehouse district.

The mayor’s final complaint with Mr. Bergsmark is what the mayor calls a conflict of interest. Mr. Bergsmark owns 9 per cent of the Toledo Storm, the minor-league hockey team that plays in the Toledo Sports Arena. The proposed East Toledo site for a stadium is next to the Sports Arena.

“You have a conflict in making this proposal,” the mayor wrote. “If you and your board officially designate the [East Toledo] site as your sole site, you should either step down from your position as president of the Toledo Mud Hens board of directors or sell your interest in the Toledo Storm.”

Mr. Bergsmark has never said that the East Toledo site is the team’s “sole site.” In fact, he has repeatedly said it is up to county officials to deliver a site to the team, and that sites other than the team’s “preferred” site in East Toledo would be acceptable.

Mr. Bergsmark has said his part ownership of the Storm is not a conflict of interest because he owns no part of the Sports Arena. The Storm leases the arena for games.

“The only impact [having a stadium next door] might have on the Storm is our lease might go up,” Mr. Bergsmark said last month.

This was not the first time one of the three major stadium proponents – the team, the city, and the county – has blamed another for the project’s problems.

At various points, county officials have pointed the finger at the Mud Hens and the mayor. County commissioners went so far in May as to say Mr. Finkbeiner had contributed to the levy’s defeat, calling for him to reduce his role in the stadium project.

The mayor refused. He said county leaders were making the levy loss into a “circus.”

In addition, Mud Hens officials have expressed their dissatisfaction with a variety of Mr. Finkbeiner’s statements over the last year.

Proposed city moratorium on demolitions to be heard

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 11

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner’s proposed 60-day moratorium on demolition permits will get a hearing tomorrow before a council committee.

City council’s zoning and planning committee will decide at 9 a.m. if it wants to reverse course and stop a drugstore development it has twice voted to support.

The mayor proposed the moratorium, which would affect about half the city, to stop a new Rite Aid store at Broadway and South Avenue. To build a new store, Rite Aid would tear down several older buildings that the mayor considers important to the neighborhood’s historic character.

The council voted 10-2 on Nov. 24 to approve the Rite Aid project. When the mayor used his veto, the council voted 9-3 to override his veto.

Some council members have expressed opposition to the moratorium, saying that the mayor has failed to understand that the council wants the project to go forward.

At last night’s council meeting, President Peter Ujvagi said he would support the moratorium if there is an exception made for the proposed Rite Aid.

“I do not perceive this as `the mayor’s moratorium,”‘ he said. “I want to take the target off the mayor. In fact, I will put the target right on me.”

No matter what the committee decides, the full council will have to take up the proposed moratorium, likely at its Jan. 19 meeting.

The council will also consider:

* A proposed drugstore in East Toledo, a Walgreens at Woodville Road and East Broadway.

The Toledo city plan commission staff recommended that the council not approve the drugstore because of concerns about disrupting a residential neighborhood. But the full commission voted to approve the proposal, which now must be approved by the council.

Mr. Finkbeiner said his proposed moratorium was also in response to the Walgreens project.

* Approving zoning changes to allow the Edison steam plant downtown to be converted into apartments and retail. The council will be asked to convert some of the greenspace surrounding the plant from industrial zoning to a park.

* Approving a group home at 3217 Wendover Rd. The commission has recommended against approving the zoning change because of parking concerns.

Council OK’s amended gun-control ordinance

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 9

In a surprising show of consensus, council unanimously approved a gun-control ordinance last night, but only after 10 amendments to weaken the bill.

The ordinance, with certain exceptions, makes it a crime for anyone to leave a loaded firearm anywhere that someone under age 18 is likely to gain possession of it.

“It’s certainly a victory,” said Toby Hoover, director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, which has been pushing the ordinance. “We’re very happy with the fact that all of our council members came together to protect our children.”

The law also applies to unloaded firearms accompanied by ammunition. It requires “negligence” on the part of the gun owner, which is a lower legal standard than “knowingly” leaving a gun in an accessible place.

The legislation is designed to encourage owners to use trigger locks on their firearms to prevent accidental firings by children.

Last night’s vote followed months of debate, including an eight-hour hearing on the subject that set a new record for the city’s longest ever council hearing. Council members and observers had been predicting a split vote, with passions running strong on both sides. But a series of amendments persuaded even the two council Republicans, Gene Zmuda and Rob Ludeman, to approve the ordinance.

“I want to be clear that this is not a change of heart,” Mr. Ludeman said. “This was a change in the legislation.”

Among the changes that the amendments make: the penalty for firearm dealers for not posting a sign warning about the new law is reduced, the ordinance is restricted so it does not apply to someone under a specific threat, and the ordinance automatically expires after three years, so council can decide if it wants to make its provisions permanent.

The ordinance makes an excep tion for owners who have a gun stolen. If that gun is used by someone under 18, the owner is not liable.

Council took a rare 20-minute recess before voting on the ordinance, in order to consider the numerous amendments.

However, when they returned, members voted 12-0 to approve each of the 10 amendments and then 12-0 on the entire ordinance.

Proponents were quick to claim victory, but opponents said the vote was neither a win nor a loss for their cause.

“This is still going to have a chilling effect on people’s ability to feel comfortable having a gun available when they need it for self-defense,” said John Mueller, who led the opposition to the gun ordinance. “There’s no government that can create a one-size-fits-all safety law. This was probably the best compromise we could reach.”

The ordinance that was passed was one of four introduced last year by Mayor Carty Finkbeiner. Council members repeatedly singled out him for criticism, saying he introduced legislation that was ham-fisted and unpass able.

“For the other three, let’s make sure the mayor does the job of sitting down with [gun-control opponents] and hammering out this sort of compromise,” Mr. Zmuda said.

The three other ordinances will be brought up again in March, after council finishes its budgeting process for 1999. Ms. Hoover and Peter Ujvagi, council member at large, said that they expect those ordinances – which include the registration of handguns and the banning of some handguns and assault weapons – will be even more controversial.

Council deferred most of the rest of its legislation to future meetings or council committees.

The body passed only nine ordinances, pushing back action on 27 others. Along with minor zoning changes, council unanimously approved the design of the facade of the Superior Street Garage expansion downtown.