Journalists spend a lot of time – maybe too much – cracking on and criticizing people. So they shouldn't get jacked up when politicians take public shots at them.
But former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner got his facts twisted when he called out Blade editors for criticizing his remarks on public safety. At a candidate forum this week, sponsored by the Old West End Association, he chided Blade editors who he said didn't live in the city. “They are pontificating about the urban core, but none of them seem to live there,'' he said, as reported by The Blade on Wednesday.
As the deputy editor of The Blade, I wrote the Oct. 20 editorial, “Looking backward on crime,” that Mr. Finkbeiner rebutted. He can blast the editorial all he wants, but he shouldn't try to discredit it by falsely suggesting it was written by an out-of-touch suburbanite.
I moved here from Detroit more than two years ago. I've lived in the city of Toledo ever since. When I first moved here in 2013, I stayed in a downtown loft. The landlord sold the unit last summer. Since then, I've stayed in a blue-collar neighborhood on Reynolds Road in West Toledo.
Prior to moving here, I lived in the city of Detroit for 15 years. I loved every minute of it, even though Detroit's crime rate makes Toledo look like Green Acres. I'm a city guy. That's partly why I love Detroit.
For the record, the Blade's editorial board, for the moment, consists of four members – three of whom live in the city of Toledo. We just lost an editorial writer, Suzette Hackney, who also lived in Toledo – that's four of five members. (And, yeah, the reporter who wrote the Blade story should have given one of us a chance to point that out. )
In a voicemail to me on Friday, Mr. Finkbeiner touted his expertise on public safety but never addressed the residency issue that I asked him about.
While in Detroit, as a columnist and editorial writer for the Detroit Free Press, I wrote about urban affairs, prisons, crime, city issues, and the criminal justice system. Living in the city made me much more effective in doing that. It also gave me more credibility. Residency means a lot in Detroit. So I understand what Mr. Finkbeiner was trying to get at.
I used some of my experience and knowledge to oppose the old-school tactics that Mr. Finkbeiner proposed, such as calling for police officers to investigate groups “hanging out” in the city's most troubled neighborhoods – a policy ripe for abuse. If people are committing crimes, arrest them. But harassing young men in the hood for simply “hanging out” will just create more distrust and animosity toward the police.
The mayoral candidates have also practically ignored effective community-based initiatives like the Operation Peacemaker program that Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp has advocated. By directly engaging young shooters, that program has cut homicides in half in Richmond, Calif.
I respect Mr. Finkbeiner and his knowledge of urban issues, including public safety. I'm sure he could give reasonable arguments against my views or The Blade's institutional opinions on these issues. But do it straight-up and honestly – not by misleading people about where I, or the rest of the editorial board, lives.
Mr. Finkbeiner should do what he would expect us to do whenever we get it wrong: Issue a public retraction and vow to get it right next time.