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Outraged Sandy Isenberg speaks out on new Republican majority in Toledo city council


News Analysis by Alan Abrams
La Prensa Senior Correspondent


So where’s the outrage over last Tuesday’s betrayal of the Democratic Party by two Toledo council members in the election of Republican Rob Ludeman as council president? Look no further, here’s what you haven’t read in any other print media.


“This never would have happened under my watch,” says Sandy Isenberg, the outspoken former chairperson of the Lucas County Democratic Party and ex-Lucas County Commissioner.

Sandy Isenberg with Latina activist Margarita De León, with Jerry Chabler and Carty Finkbeiner in the background—La Prensa Archives, Oct. 2004.

Remember when Isenberg was coaxed back into the political hot seat to serve as party chair with the mandate of reuniting the A and B team Democrats? Her peacemaking efforts were undercut after four months by the same people who brought you last week’s council election shocker. A United Nations negotiator trying to bring Hamas and the Israelis to the same peace table would have stood a better chance of success.


Isenberg was appalled that Dennis Duffey, head of the Lucas County Central Committee “who took an oath to elect and support Democrats, was twisting arms to elect Republicans.”


“This is self-destructive. This is not doing anything to help bring A and B together,” she adds.


So what’s the reward for the turncoats? Will freshman councilman and party disloyalist Mark Sobczak become president pro tem of council, or at least wind up with a juicy committee chairmanship? Watch this space. [We’ll leave Bob McCloskey alone for now. He has enough problems with Julia Bates and Pilkington North America.]


Isenberg concedes she really doesn’t know of anything that can be done to help the divided party. But she is even more discouraged at the negative picture it presents to young people seeking to enter the political arena as volunteers or candidates, such as inspirational and refreshing Bowling Green State University grad Taylor Balderas.


“It just sends the wrong message to young people who want to run for public office,” says Isenberg.


Yet while the Democrats continue to self-destruct, the Republicans continue to present a united front. “They all stick together. You see it in the Ohio statehouse. It is the same in Washington D.C. as it is here in Toledo,” says Isenberg.


It help explains why there are now four elected Republicans on council.


It may appear at first blush to be a drastic remedy, but those who have blatantly strayed from party ranks to aid and abet the enemy have in the past been expelled from the Democratic Party. Is that an option to now consider? Isenberg concedes there have been precedents for such drastic action. But no one is calling for those steps to be taken.


So why is anyone really surprised by Tuesday’s shameful display? It really started with the exclusion of Harry Barlos.  Most political observers thought it reached its low point with the abandonment of Jack Ford. But no, that was just the prelude.


Tuesday’s denial of the council presidency to Wilma Brown, the most qualified candidate on the council dais, must have brought a much needed smile to former Lucas County Republican chair Bernadette Noe. Isenberg is not alone in thinking this was not the first time that B team members have “played footsie” with Bernadette.


Isenberg said Tuesday’s vote “must have lots of old time Democrats spinning in their graves.”

Wilma Brown and Frank Szollosi converse during last week’s Jan. 3 council meeting.

But aside from Isenberg and Michael Ashford, moral outrage was a scarce commodity to be found in the wake of Tuesday’s outrage.  Has anyone even bothered to apologize to Wilma Brown for the shameful display of public humiliation she received? I’ll offer mine here and now.  Who will join me?


And what about Louis Escobar? Had he known what his absence spawned, might he have given some second thoughts to leaving council and the presidency?


The Tuesday vote was sabotaged from the start as the obstructionists conspired to deny victory to Ms. Brown. The tally has been reported and analyzed in countless news reports, columns, and Web sites/blogs.


The prevailing opinion is that this is but the first volley in a series of 6-5 council votes that will be victories for the reactionaries in both parties. [6-5 until a District Three replacement is found.] Attempts to locate former Lucas County Democratic Party official Jerry Chabler for comment on this issue were unsuccessful.


It has been said that we live in interesting times. Just how interesting will be quickly determined on Jan. 17 when Council considers the nomination of Taylor Balderas, and possibly others, to fill the McCloskey vacancy in District Three.


The only good upside to this ugly episode is that it resulted in more people than usual paying attention to council business.  And that’s not all bad. Because it is going to require a great deal of vigilance to police Toledo’s new Republican administration.  Under the anything-but-benign reign of Carty II and Ludeman too, the A team can officially lay title to being His Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition. 






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