Volunteers from Take Back Toledo set up shop in a vacant lot in West Toledo today in their efforts to gather petition signatures to place an initiative on the ballot to recall Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner. The folks I spoke with said that they were "pretty busy" today at the intersection of Secor and Laskey, though they did not offer any specifics on the number of people signing the petition.
In the ten minutes or so that I meandered about, I saw six people pull in the lot and fill out the petition, which would translate into a few hundred people over the course of a day.
Interestingly, a city road crew set up shop on both sides of Secor, closing the road down to one lane for both northbound and southbound traffic. Now, I am not a conspiracy nut, and there have been some water main problems nearby recently, but it certainly is curious that motorists would be so inconvenienced on the same day that Take Back Toledo happened to be nearby.
But hey: perhaps the warm sunny day was just ideal for road work.
I have mixed feelings about the petition drive. One part of me believes that anti-Carty activists would be better off funneling this energy and money into a viable challenger to Finkbeiner, who is also expected to run for re-election in the fall. The TBT campaign received a significant boost from local news-talk station WSPD and its Clear Channel partners in town, which have been running pro-TBT ads featuring Clear Channel VP Andy Stuart.
I used to think TBT might fail to make the ballot because of the antics of WSPD's Brian Wilson, who regularly refers to Finkbeiner with such epithets as "Mayor Pantload" and "S for Brains." I now think that Loose Cannon Brian will end up making Carty look like a victim, and on-the-fence people will vote for Carty because they think he's being unfairly demonized.
Which, of course, he is. WSPD is breaking new ground by throwing all its weight behind TBT, but do we really want powerful media outlets being local political power brokers? Yes, John Robinson Block and the Toledo Blade are at times guilty of this, but at least they put on the appearance of impartiality in the news, and they limit their shilling to op-ed pieces and photo ops. I have been hearing nonstop TBT ads featuring Andy Stuart on every Clear Channel stations for weeks now, and the local talk shows on WSPD are attacking Finkbeiner and pimping TBT at a furious pace.
Carty may be a corrosive force in the city's recovery, but Wilson and Stewart could singlehandedly turn him into a martyr with whom people will sympathize. The 2007 recall campaign by local activist Tom Morrissey was seen as a grass-roots effort by average citizens, but Carty's people will turn this into a "Clear Channel vs. Aw-Shucks-It's-Just-Me-Carty" farce.
"Yes, it's Mr. Finkbeiner, Man of the People, taking on Big, Bad Corporate America," or so says the imagined campaign ad in my head. In the middle of a major recession and AIG-bailout anger, I suspect that this message will play well among the sheeple.
In the meantime, though, folks can follow the above link to Take Back Toledo if they want to learn about volunteering or signing a petition. At the very least, the issue is worthy of consideration on a ballot.
But can you imagine how strange this city's politics would be if Carty Finkbeiner lost a recall election in August but won in November during the general election? Only in Toledo could such a bizarre electoral drama play out.