It's probably rare for something in local politics to be entertaining, but it happened once.
10 years ago today on a warm Sunday afternoon, August 28, 2005, dozens of people attended an informal and interesting 'meet the candidates' forum that was held upstairs at the Cricket West
Beaner's Biggby coffee shop.
The participating Toledo mayoral candidates included: Keith Wilkowski, Opal Covey, Martin Okonski, Rob Ludeman, Don Gozdowski, and Mayor Jack Ford.
Carty chose not to participate. He arrived after the event ended, and Opal unleashed on him.
Excerpts from the event announcement ahead of the forum. I'm unsure if any similar format has been used since.
The introductory comments are being limited to a brief autobiographical sketch, qualifications for this office, vision for the City of Toledo, and why each feels he or she should be elected.
The candidates have been asked to structure their presentations in a positive manner rather than making any negative references to the other mayoral candidates.
An informal reception will be held after all mayoral candidates have completed his or her remarks.
This format allows each Toledo mayoral candidate the opportunity meet face to face with voters in an informal, relaxed setting.
It is being sponsored by The West Toledo Herald, Beaner's Gourmet Coffee in Cricket West, and Organization Development Services – Roland Hansen, President.
historymike attended and wrote a recap that included photos.
Excerpts from historymike's post:
Don Gozdowski again devoted most of his five minutes to apologies; this time he offered his regrets to Covey for calling her a "fruitcake," and praised the Prophetess for her "courage and conviction" in bringing forth her inspired predicitions. He also renewed his calls for a campground on the east side of the Maumee.
The most energetic and polished speech came from Keith Wilkowski, who made a convincing case for change from "the leadership of the last 12 years" that has led Toledo to its current situation. Confident, calm, and bright, Wilkowski seemed to make an excellent impression on the room.
I was most impressed today, oddly enough, with Mayor Jack Ford. He defiantly stood by his record, even going out of his way to defend his controversial position on the citywide smoking ban. This was a more engaging Ford than I have seen in a long time, and he even (gasp) cracked a joke at the end of his five-minute speech. He made his way around the coffee shop, speaking with almost everyone present.
The best exchange of the day? This happened long after most attendees had finished off their lattes and espressos, and occurred when Carty Finkbeiner finally arrived (he had just returned to Toledo from his Michigan vacation). Smiling, shaking hands with the few remaining people, he was spotted by Opal Covey in her Megaphonemobile.
Opal, who had been in the middle of a 110-decibel amplified prophecy when she saw Carty, began to go on the political warpath.
"What kind of city do we live in when a mayor can sieze a person's businesses and padlock them out?" she asked, referencing her late-1990s evictions and animal cruelty cases. "What kind of mayor is Carty, who will steal a million dollars from Opal Covey and make her have to go on welfare?"
Carty's smiling, friendly reply: "God bless you, Opal!"
Few questions were settled in this less-than-formal affair, and few undecided minds were likely swayed to one candidate or another, but there are certainly worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon in Toledo, Ohio.
Excerpts from my little notes about what each candidate discussed.
Opal was next. She said that just two hours earlier, God sat her down on the couch and told her what to say at the forum. She said God will speak to her for hours. Opal read from a printout. God's words. God or Opal said "Toledo is dead."
God said this is the second chance we get to vote for Opal to be mayor of Toledo. God said there won't be a third time. According to God, if Opal is not elected mayor, she will leave Toledo and take half of the citizens with her.
Gozdowski said he has a central city ministry, and he is a Christian counselor. He said the problems of the inner city are crime and drugs.
Gozdowski said a campground should go on the land where the current sports arena sits. He bragged about how RVs could pull into the campground. There would be boat docks and shower facilities. Gozdowski said Moms could get their hair pampered and Dad could go fishing. To that I say, what if Dad wants to get his hair pampered and Mom wants to go fishing?
I think Gozdowski suggested a pedestrian tunnel is needed to connect International Park to the other side of Main Street.
And I thought Gozdowski said he would build a tram or something to connect both sides of the Maumee River???
Okonski spoke third. He proposed a monorail system from Southwyck to downtown Toledo. He also mentioned the importance of Lake Erie West as a way to sell Toledo and attract jobs.
Jack said four years ago at a similar forum at Beaner's, he spoke about improving the arts, the economy, and diversity in Toledo, and Jack believes he has met those promises during his first term. Jack said he has been mayor during a "War Economy."
Another success Jack mentioned was the CareNET health care program that now gives 6000 more people health care who didn't have it before.
After the speaking part of the forum ended, I sat upstairs at Beaner's for a bit as people and candidates filed past. Then I stood outside by the door. Jack Ford was the only one who walked over to me and shook my hand. He looked me in the eye and with his deep voice he said, "How's it going chief?"
It was good that Beaner's, the West Toledo Herald, and Roland put this event on for the public.
I've posted this photo often here. It was taken after the forum ended.
Keith Wilkowski is in the background on the left. Opal Covey has her ear to a phone held by a Carty Finkbeiner campaign supporter. Carty was on the other end of the phone line.
Carty was not at the forum. I thought he was suppose to be there. It appeared that Carty definitely had the biggest army of campaign supporters at Beaner's. After the forum, I asked one of the helpers where Carty was. He said Carty would be there at 4:15.
... the forum ended at 3:50, most of the 80+ people present immediately went downstairs or outside to "mingle" with the candidates or [leave]. Carty did arrive at 4:15 but few people remained. That's when I left.
Anyway, shortly after the forum ended, I stood outside by Carty's Army, which was near the Beaner's entrance. One of Carty's helpers called Carty to see where he was. Opal was in her car, which was also by the door to Beaner's, and she gave the Carty Army a hard time over her PA system.
Opal broadcasted that she lost everything she owned because of Carty. Opal said Carty shut her business down in the middle of the night. She said Carty stole her mother's ring.
One Carty foot soldier couldn't take it anymore. He moved closer to Opal's car and held a Carty sign up while he talked to Carty on the phone. That only got Opal more wound up.
Opal got out of her car, walked over to the guy, and shoved her own propaganda into the face of the Carty supporter who didn't flinch. I mean the guy was rock solid. While under a barrage of point-blank accusations by Opal, the Carty supporter never changed his facial expressions, he kept his sign held high, and continued to listen to Carty over the phone.
Finally, I chimed in and said to Opal, "He's talking to Carty." The dude put the phone to Opal's ear, and Opal laughed and said, "Oh, he is."
A few minutes later, Carty arrived. Opal was back in her car blabbing over her PA system when Carty made it to Beaner's. She let loose on Carty. Carty didn't waste any time getting inside.
That's why I hung around after the forum because I thought something amusing might happen.
After the September 2005 primary whittled the field down to Carty and Ford, the Lucas County Democrat A and B teams battled in the trenches. It was a contentious campaign season. But it was jovial for a brief period, one afternoon 10 years ago.