Written by: Nick Rokicki
There was a time, not long ago, that I loved snowstorms. I loved waking up to a sea of white, smelling the fresh air that seems to come with a blanket of snow. I even enjoyed shoveling the stuff… just something about digging in, sharing an experience with each neighbor I saw doing the same thing. Yes, a big snowstorm is definitely a shared experience. It’s the one time where we’re all in it together. When, in reality, we should have that feeling every day.
But my feelings have changed. Last year, the winter was obviously unbearable. Both the elements and the human loss. This year, I thought we were in the clear. A few storms with 3-4 inches of snow? Let me get my broom. No big deal. Then, yesterday happened. A police officer lost, a mayor fighting for his life. Both public servants, both stricken with heart problems, something so common.
However common heart problems may be, finding a good person with a servant’s heart… is not.
Even more so than snowstorms, I’m a lover of politics. National. State. Local. I can’t get enough of it. Your Super Bowl Sunday is my Election Day. In particular, I’m fascinated by Toledo Mayoral Politics. I capitalized all of that because I believe it could be a movie, a book… or even a college course.
My love of Toledo Mayoral Politics probably started with my Mom. We were at the St. Catherine’s Festival in the Library Village area of Toledo in 1989. It’s where I went to school through third grade… and the neighborhood you’ll find me in today. Anyway, back to the festival. Our group was approached by one Donna Owens, running for reelection as Toledo Mayor. Ms. Owens, working the Toledo festival circuit, approached my mother, hand stretched to greet her. Having had a few beers, Sandra Rokicki sneered her nose, stood up, and walked away, ignoring the Mayor. I was hooked.
The love affair continued in 1993, as Carty Finkbeiner was running to be the first Mayor under the City’s newly-enacted “Strong Mayor” form of government. My father and I had just left his Aunt’s house in the LaGrange Street-Polish Village neighborhood, riding in his ’76 Olds. Pulling up in front of Mancy’s steakhouse, on our way home, there stood Carty… campaigning to passing vehicles at Sylvania and Lewis. Carty quickly approached, seeing a voting-age, responsible-looking adult. He talked my father’s ear off until the light turned green, when my Dad stepped on the gas, nearly pulling Mr. Finkbeiner’s arm off in the process.
Throughout the 90’s, this city lived and breathed Carty Finkbeiner. Deaf people at the airport? Check. Citizen’s arrest? Check. Public spat with the Insane Clown Posse? Check. If we had to worry about a mayor having a heart condition, it should have been Carty. The man, in his own special Carty way, led this City with a gusto that I haven’t seen since.
In 2001, my love of politics got a ringside seat when I worked at WSPD radio, this city’s news/talk/Republican station. Of course, 2001 was a local election year. So I was able to rub elbows with all of the candidates… Jack Ford, Ray Kest, Ragtime Rick… even Opal Covey. In fact, I had the distinct pleasure of co-hosting the morning show with Ms. Covey on Labor Day morning. Nobody was listening, anyway. So why not make it amateur hour?
Yes, Toledo Mayoral Politics has always been filled with characters. After the dynamic personality that was Carty Finkbeiner, we dealt with Jack Ford’s barely-awake persona. Seriously, did anyone ever get excited or inspired when hearing Smilin’ Jack speak? All I can remember about his tenure is some rambling speech about making Toledo an “elegant” city. That, and some goddamn lawnmower program.
It was evident that the City was bored when we returned Carty to office with the 2005 election. Just goes to show you, a loud mouth and some action can lead to success.
Mike Bell was a mix of Carty and Jack. Personality? Uh huh. Talent? Uh huh. Brains? Uh huh. But he was the victim of economic times, in my opinion. That, and a rock sitting at the Chinese-owned Marina District.
Which brings me to the man that’s been on my mind since yesterday afternoon… Mayor D. Michael Collins.
I didn’t vote for him in the primary. I wanted to see Mayor Bell get a chance. But he got my support in the general election. Serious times called for a serious person with serious intentions. This City was ready for a fatherly hand on the steering wheel… someone with an even-keeled attitude that we could look to for guidance. And we found it in Mike Collins.
From last year’s terrible winter, to losing two Toledo firefighters, to the City’s water crisis in the summer, to the news that we might be losing production of the Jeep Wrangler… Mayor Collins has played the role of re-assurer-in-chief. Yes, he may not have the steam coming out of his ears like Mayor Finkbeiner. He might not have the professorial, rambling dictation of Mayor Ford. And he surely doesn’t have the celebrity presence of Mayor Bell. But Mayor Collins has the perfect mix of all three. And he is just what this City needed for the past year.
Fight, Mayor, fight. City politics is meant for my personal entertainment. We don’t need a tragedy. We need you to keep leading us to brighter tomorrows.