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February 10, 2008
Toledo Mayor Tells Marines to Take a Hike
On the heels of Berkeley, California telling the Marine recruiters that they were "intruders" in their own country and "unwelcome" in the city, the Mayor of Toledo gave a Marine training unit 24 hours to leave his town:
Mayor Carty Finkbeiner on Friday ordered some 200 members of Company A, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines from Grand Rapids, Michigan, out of Toledo just before the unit was supposed to start a weekend of urban warfare training downtown. The Mayor's office claims the snafu was the result of a misunderstanding between the police and his office. The Marines had drilled in Toledo before and after the last time, the Mayor had expressed his belief that they shouldn't be allowed to drill in his town again.
The mayor’s spokesperson, Brian Schwartz said, “The mayor asked them to leave because they frighten people. He did not want them practicing and drilling in a highly visible area."
Toledo police said they knew about the training and had approved the unit’s use of the Madison Building and the Promenade Park area. The training was scheduled to start Friday afternoon and last until Sunday. Police said the unit’s presence would have a minimal impact on the city.
Police issued a press release earlier in the week saying the Marines would be wearing green camouflage uniforms, operate military vehicles, carry rifles, perform foot patrols, and fire blank ammunition during the exercise.
Schwartz said there was a breakdown in communication between police and the Finkbeiner administration that led to the mayor’s action.
Chief of Police Smith related the Mayor's reasons for denying the Marines training privileges:
“He told me he did not want them, as he put it, 'playing war in Toledo,'" Smith recalled. "I told him, as a former Marine, that if one young Marine’s life is saved because of training he or she received in Toledo, Ohio, then it was worth the inconvenience.” Sounds like there's no misunderstanding whatsoever. The Mayor doesn't like the Marines very much and doesn't care if the training saves lives or not.
Smith said if the mayor objected, then he should have been the one to convey those feelings to police. Smith took his run-in with the mayor as an objection to that last visit and not future training in Toledo. As a result, the Toledo police went ahead, granting approval to the 1-24th Marines to conduct the routine exercise. The police notified members of the Finkbeiner administration who were not aware that the mayor objected to units training in Toledo.
At a press conference last night, the Mayor was tripping all over himself trying to weasel out of the situation:
Finkbeiner held a news conference Saturday night to address the growing controversy. Finkbeiner says bad planning and communication breakdowns led to his decision to bar a Marine Corps unit from training in downtown Toledo. Finkbeiner spent much of the twenty minute news conference explaining what he didn't know, and when he didn't know it. “I don't know when we were first asked,” he says, “were we asked Tuesday or Wednesday of this week?”Here's a man who obviously doesn't know what's going on in his own town. All in all, the incident has reflected very poorly on the Mayor's administration.