We can sum up the current state of City Politics in three sentences.
Four months and one year of probation. One year and one day and one year of supervised release. Two years and one year probation.
Those are the sentences handed down by a federal judge to former members of Toledo City Council Larry Sykes, Yvonne Harper and Tyrone Riley, respectively. Each had pleaded guilty to various charges of corruption in connection with accepting bribes for votes while serving on Council.
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Meanwhile, a fourth former Council member, Gary Johnson, was found guilty of similar charges by a jury of his peers. Johnson has asked the judge to overturn that verdict and repúdiate the jury. He awaits sentencing while the judge considers his request.
There is another sentence that sums up this state of affairs. In sentencing Harper, US Federal District Court Judge Jeffrey Helmick called it “A sad day for Toledo.” You wouldn’t know it by the public demeanor of the rogue former leaders, though.
Sykes has been spotted at political rallies and other public events. Harper has announced her defiant return to social media with shots at ProMedica and taunts of rivals. Johnson is seen at political fundraisers and events like the Labor Day parade as if he hasn’t a care in the world.
Only Riley has maintained a low profile. He seems contrite. Which makes sense in the face of significant federal prison time.
A couple years in the clink might not sound like much, given the gravity of the charges. But seriously, we don’t want to do one day in federal prison, let alone four months. Or two years.
One might think Harper and Johnson would be embarrassed by federal prison time for official conduct in office. One would be wrong, apparently. “I’m back!” Announced Harper on social media. We wonder if she’ll follow up with, “Oops, I’m gone again” as she’s put behind bars.
One might also think the local GOP would have viewed this as an opening to gain seats on Council and other elected offices. Currently there are no Republicans on Toledo City Council or in any County row office. All four of the disgraced Council members were Ds. One might think the GOP would blame the “sad day for Toledo” on one-party rule and encourage voters to balance elective offices.
Again, one would be wrong. It was instead Toledo’s Democratic Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz who noted the speed with which his office and the rest of the Ds on Council acted to suspend and replace the fallen members.
This fall there is a notable dearth of GOP candidates contesting seats on Council, including seats vacated by Riley and Harper in Districts One and Four respectively. Indeed, there are only a couple GOP candidates running for anything. One is perennial loser Tom Names running for District Five. It’s pretty clear Council will remain one hundred percent Democrat.
All of which makes us pine for the old Jon Stainbrook GOP. Love him or loathe him, he promised to contest every race, and he did. Sure, he recycled losers like Alfonso Narváez and that Stamos guy, but no D ran unopposed.
Bonus points for helping this column write itself.
Instead, most Toledo voters will see one name on their District Council ballot. Now that’s a sad day for Toledo.