Defending Carty Finkbeiner

Carty Finkbeiner is the latest hard working American to get tripped up by this nation's backward war effort.

Finkbeiner, the Mayor of the City of Toledo, Ohio, has spent the past several years trying to restore his city's pride and prosperity by sprucing up riverfront parks, promoting alternative energy and, often times in direct contradiction to the gritty sights on-the-ground, selling his community as an asipiring 21st century metropolis rather than just another frail front line on the nation's post-industrial Rust Belt battlefield.

The last thing he needed, I imagine, was a bunch of marines wanting to stage war games, run around town, and shoot off guns. But that's exactly what he got last week when a couple hundred members of Company A 1st Batallion came to town to simulate urban warfare in a vacant downtown building. The mayor, not surprisingly, called the exercise off.

"No matter how much I respect, love, and appreciate the military, there are better places to conduct military planning and staging sessions than the central business district," Mayor Finkbeiner told The Toledo Blade.

The decision continues to trigger fierce local and national criticism. Some called the incident "disgraceful" and vowed to support the war not the mayor. Veteran groups are livid. The City Commission, already back pedaling with gift certificates to entice reservists back to local businesses, is considering a formal apology.

Few deny the utterly important need for military training. But there is an appropriate time and an appropriate place. During business hours in a city when people are working and kids are at school does not fit that criteria without clever planning and marketing.

I've said before that sections of Great Lakes cities like Detroit, Buffalo, and Toledo bear a striking resemblance to the war torn images we're shown from Baghdad. Those comments have always been a tongue-in-cheek way to make the case that these urban areas continue to experience a disproportional level of disinvestment and neglect. And at a time no less when the research says that vibrant cities are key to economic success in the Digital Age.

But actually playing Army in a place like Toledo, even if they are using blanks, somehow gives that comparison a whole new level of strength and reality. It confirms, in a way, that the conditions in the city mimic those in blown out Tikrit or Basrah. And it seems like exactly the wrong scene to set, and message to send, in a city trying to do everything in its power to rebuild its image as an inviting place to live and work.

Looking at the dust up that way, the United States Marine Corps. might consider an apology for suggesting Toledo is the closest thing in America that resembles the battlefield in the nation's Mid East theatre of war. Yet Finkbeiner remains under fire for his decision to abort the training exercise, forced to defend his patriotism.

Meanwhile, on a related note, the petro-dependent auto establishment continues to fight a national policy to aid the war effort by promoting energy innovation, reducing dependence on foreign oil, and strengthening the nation's standing abroad. Where's the public outrage over that short-sighted position? Where, I wonder, is the veteran protest?

Toledo, by the way, is no stranger to helping build up America's defenses. In the 1940's, the city innovated and mass produced the Jeep, which helped the nation win WWII.