Council, mayor go toe-to-toe on funds

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 17

The twists and turns of Mayor Carty Finkbeiner’s latest battle with city council reached new levels last night.

First, council overrode the mayor’s veto of some items in the city budget.

Then, the mayor announced he would ignore council’s action.

Finally, council members claimed they had found a little-known clause in the city’s charter that would force the mayor to do their bidding.

By the time the meeting was over, matters were even less clear than they had been before the meeting began.

“The mayor needs to realize that he’s not right on everything, and that other people aren’t always wrong,” council President Peter Ujvagi said.

On March 16, council passed the mayor’s proposed budget with several small changes.

The most notable: an increase in the size of this year’s police class, from the mayor’s proposed 15 officers to 30 officers.

Council members repeatedly have said that their changes amounted to less than a third of 1 per cent of the budget, and said the larger police class is necessary for the public’s safety.

A few days later, Mr. Finkbeiner vetoed the changes, calling them financially irresponsible.

Last night, in a show of unity, council voted 11-0 to overturn the mayor’s veto. Councilwoman Edna Brown was absent.

“This shows that the mayor’s scare tactics are not effective,” Councilman Wade Kapszukiewicz said.

But it took only minutes for Mr. Finkbeiner to issue a statement about council’s vote, saying he would ignore it.

“Toledo city council acted just as I expected,” the statement read. “We will proceed as planned to hire 15 police officers in May.”

The city’s law director, Ed Yosses, said the law is on the mayor’s side: that he could choose simply not to spend the money council has allocated.

Several council members grudgingly accepted defeat. “The law seems to be on Carty’s side,” Councilman Peter Gerken said.

Visibly incensed by the mayor’s statement, council leaders held a series of backroom huddles before Mr. Ujvagi announced a new tactic: getting backing from the city charter.

He cited Section 140 of the charter, which states the police force shall be composed of “such officers, patrolmen, and employees as may be provided for by ordinance or resolution of the council.”

In other words, Mr. Ujvagi said, council has the power to pass an ordinance that would order the mayor to expand the police class to 30. He said council will do that at its next meeting.

“I’m very disappointed at the mayor’s approach,” he said. “I wish it did not come to this.”

Through spokesman Mary Chris Skeldon, Mr. Finkbeiner said last night that he would meet with Mr. Yosses today to determine what his response would be.

Council members said this dispute is a key test of the strong mayor form of government, which Toledo voters approved in 1992. Council members have said that Mr. Finkbeiner has tipped the balance of power too far in his direction.

“The mayor should calm down and take a deep breath,” Mr. Ujvagi said. “The council did not do anything wrong. There is nothing in the charter that says the mayor can ignore the will of council.”