Thursday, September 14, 2017

Congrats, you're the best. Buy an ad.

I hate to be Debbie Downer, but here it goes anyway: The purpose of the local newspaper’s “Reader Choice Awards” is to sell advertising to you.
That’s right. You win but you lose.
Soon after the award is announced there’s an advertising rep knocking at your door with a little window sticker that says “We’re the best!” Oh, yeah, and you'll want to buy an ad.
That’s the reason there are dozens of categories – the more winners, the more advertising targets.
Best self storage facility?
Best divorce lawyer?
Best tattoo parlor?
Best place for a cold beer?
And how do you pick the best pizza parlor? Doesn't it depend on your mood, whether there's a coupon, whether it's open and where it is? I mean I've never met a pizza I haven't liked.
If your business is not the best at something, then you must be doing something terribly wrong – probably a failure to tell your employees and customers to vote for you.
This is not sour grapes although there is the fact that yours truly failed to be nominated for the “best columnist” award yet again. Obviously that’s because I’m no longer attached to a media outlet. Has to be the reason. Doesn’t it? Besides, the paper probably figured that I couldn’t afford to buy an ad if I won.
Anyway, just be cognizant of the fact that the newspaper found a good money-maker a few years ago and has milked it ever since. Lord knows it needs the revenue.
Disclaimer: If by any chance I missed a category in which I was nominated for a best award, well then, never mind this post.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

More evidence that a lot of us weren't paying attention in school

There’s been considerable discussion, on my Facebook feed at least, about Dover City School District appropriating the Dairy Queen property on N. Tuscarawas Ave. for the purpose of building a new school.

Some of the comments underscore yet again the dumbing down of America and should be a wake-up call to those who determine and plot the civics curriculum in our schools. Obviously, the kids -- who grow up to be intellectually challenged adults, i.e. voters -- aren’t learning basic fundamentals of a democracy.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, eminent domain – the process by which Dover City School District acquired properties needed for its project – “has been utilized traditionally to facilitate transportation, supply water, construct public buildings, and aid in defense readiness.

“Early federal cases condemned property for construction of public buildings (e.g., Kohl v. United States) and aqueducts to provide cities with drinking water (e.g., United States v. Great Falls Manufacturing Company, 112 U.S. 645 (1884), supplying water to Washington, D.C.), for maintenance of navigable waters (e.g., United States v. Chandler-Dunbar Co., 229 U.S. 53 (1913), acquiring land north of St. Mary’s Falls canal in Michigan), and for the production of war materials (e.g. Sharp v. United States, 191 U.S. 341 (1903)).”

The DOJ continues: “The Land Acquisition Section and its earlier iterations represented the United States in these cases, thereby playing a central role in early United States infrastructure projects.”
In other words, without eminent domain U.S. citizens would encounter a far less-than-desirable infrastructure and probably would still be driving their cars on dirt roads. In our case, there’d be no flood control in place, which would leave a significant portion of our “settlement” under water on a regular basis.

Without eminent domain, we wouldn’t have our lakes, four-lane highways (two-lane for that matter), or much of our public park land. President Ike Eisenhower’s vision was an interstate highway system that not only could transport people and goods expeditiously but also to provide another cog in our defense system.

If necessary, our interstate highway system not only can provide unobstructed routes so troops and equipment can be moved quickly but also runways for F-18s. The federal government didn’t ask for properties to build our interstate highway system. It appropriated them through eminent domain.
The kicker to the process is that the government must fairly compensate the owner of such acquired property for its value. That’s the law. And it’s followed.

As for Dover, it proceeded with a plan to build a new school – and, yes, we need a new school to replace the old dump -- in the same area as the old one based on what citizens told it to do.
(I personally would have preferred a land swap with the city so that the new high school and current middle school could create a campus that would have allowed younger students easy access to modern educational advancements afforded in a new facility. That idea didn’t get very far. We love our tennis courts.)

In addition, the owner of that Dairy Queen property assured the Dover Board of Education that his family would work with the district, according to board members, if voters approved the project. Apparently there was some mind-changing going on.

Rest assured, dear underdog-loving citizens, the owners of the Dairy Queen will be fairly compensated for their decades-old building and the land it sits on (although I’m sure not for what they believe is their restaurant’s “blue sky” value.)

Meanwhile, Dover gets a brand new school and the public good is served again. And I’ll bet that a new Dairy Queen will spring up some place.

Funny how things work out.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Let's get this straight: Robert E. Lee was a traitor

I post this only because many people believe that the statues of Robert E. Lee (and other Confederates) in the South’s public squares honor cultural heritage.
Robert E. Lee, who was trained at the U.S. Military Academy, was a traitor.
Putting a statue of him in front of a courthouse is akin to putting one of Judas in the churchyard.
In the aftermath of the Civil War, Lee applied for and was granted amnesty (full amnesty a couple years later) and was allowed to participate in all citizenship activities usually reserved for those loyal to the flag.
He certainly was considered a brilliant military strategist but declined a major role in the Union Army, opting instead to join up with the traitor states, including his beloved Virginia.
It is reasonable to conclude that Lee ultimately was responsible for the 54,000 casualties at Gettysburg, Pa., a battle from which the South never recovered. It was Lee’s decision to invade.
Civil War statues were erected years after the war ended – you know, during the lynching period -- and served as effective reminders to African-Americans that the white man was in charge.
Put the statues in museums. Give them explanation and context. But get them out of our public areas that are shared by all of us.
And, dammit, don’t compare Lee to George Washington, who led a rag-tag army of patriots against all odds to fight tyranny and who formed a country – after fits and starts – that offered a Bill of Rights on which (eventually) all citizens can rely.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

America the beautiful -- but not so great

A presidential candidate’s campaign slogan got me thinking while I watched the Jackie Robinson story on PBS.

I know. My mind works in mysterious ways. I won’t mention the candidate’s name because I’m attempting to stay apolitical in this space at least until this year’s election season is over.

But as the story of Jackie Robinson’s life unfolded, the slogan – “Make America great again” – popped into my head with a realization.

America has never been great, so it will be impossible for Mr. Candidate to make it great “again.” Somebody ought to tell him to put a strike through the word on his ball caps (which incidentally sell for about 20 bucks and help pad his coffers).

Yeah, I know. It’s terrible for me to say that. But it’s true.

For sure America has done some great things in its young life, including but not limited to helping to save the 20th-century free world from having to live under fascism and communism; sending men to the moon; creating the world’s greatest economy; and giving the world a host of inventions, creations and discoveries.

It’s got great scenery. But we didn’t do that. God did. And he/she gave other countries great scenery, too.

Consider the story of Jackie Robinson, the talented black baseball player who along with his peers was prohibited from joining a major league baseball team because of his color.

That’s not ancient history. That was the reality of post-World War II America – just a handful of years before my birth.

After Robinson broke the barrier and was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, his clubhouse stature was far from equal. He endured separation from his racist teammates and death threats from haters.

All that was systemic of our “great” American culture.

Anyone for a lynching? How about a Ku Klux Klan membership?

One of the best “America isn’t great anymore” rants was given by character Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) on the HBO series “Newsroom,” which was written by Aaron Sorkin.

“We stood up for what was right,” he said.

“We fought for moral reasons, we passed and struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest.

“We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy...”

Except, Will, America was never great.

For the first hundred years of our history, it was OK for our forefathers – the ones who wrote the untouchable constitution – to own people.

In the subsequent 100 years, it was OK for the white folks to pass laws that prohibited co-mingling. To the back of the bus, the white guys demanded.

Meanwhile, we accused others of being communists and isolated Japanese-Americans and German-Americans in wartime.

And speaking of war, we’ve seen no shortage of that. We’ve been involved in armed conflict most years of our history. Who among us will point to Vietnam as a noble exercise?

We certainly have great educational opportunities and health care systems as long as you can afford them. Twenty years ago, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that our system of funding schools favored the wealthy. What’s changed there? Nothing that I can tell.

The citizens of other countries see us as obese, aggressive and consumed with hours of mindless TV. Many of our citizens have an ignorance of geography and an intolerance of race, creed and color. And they vote and own guns.

“Make America great” is something we can try for, Mr. Candidate. Kill the “again.”

This commentary originally appeared in the Bargain Hunter in April 2016.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Cleveland Clinic wins the bidding contest for Union Hospital

I’ve seen quite a few opinions voiced on Facebook about the purchase of Union Hospital by Cleveland Clinic and, for what it’s worth, I thought I’d offer my own observation.

Union Hospital is a jewel in our community. Employing 1,100 people, it is not only a viable and necessary medical facility, but an economic driver. Its independence has served its community well over the decades, expanding into necessary areas (such as building a state of the art trauma center) and abandoning services that other facilities are better equipped to provide.

Make no mistake that an independent medical facility, managed locally by your neighbors, that can meet expenses and save for the future is the best option for this community. Sadly, the demographics of our community – an increasing number of Medicare and Medicaid patients – don’t help the bottom line.

Enter the Cleveland Clinic.

Personally, I am owing to both facilities. If competent medical personnel weren’t employed locally at Union and for sure at the renowned Cleveland Clinic, I probably wouldn’t be writing this. We can be sure of this: Things going forward will be different and some of that will be good and some will be bad.

I’m told from an independent source that the Clinic is very agreeable to purchasing state-of-the-art equipment for its facilities. That will help Union keep pace with advancement. Time will tell what happens to the 100 beds inside Union.

And at the same time, say goodbye to local control. Your neighbors might serve on a board, but their input will be weighed accordingly.

Meanwhile, all 1,100 employees will answer to Cleveland. While most employees might applaud the sale, it’s my guess Union-employed doctors probably are not jumping up and down over the prospect of answering to what will be a far more authoritarian Cleveland Clinic.

The Times-Reporter used the word “partner” in an editorial rather than “new owner” in describing the Union-Cleveland Clinic relationship. It’s a lot like what’s happening in the newspaper business when small, community newspapers are gobbled up by big publishing conglomerates. Smart corporate types will use the word “partner” in the initial news release. But don’t believe it.

Cleveland Clinic outbid other healthcare providers, including, according to sources, Canton’s Aultman Hospital and Cleveland’s University Hospital systems. Both are quality alternatives. I think it’s safe to assume that the Clinic’s offer was financially the best one.

What happens to the proceeds?

Well, this is where it gets dicey. The proceeds from the sale, minus obligations that Cleveland Clinic will be forced to assume, will be deposited into a charitable foundation. Many details, such as who will serve as a stewards of that money and the goals of such a foundation, are sketchy and are probably among the details to be worked out in coming months.

Personally, the Clinic’s purchase is good news for me. My health care is dictated by the folks in J Building on the Clinic’s main campus, but I have visited a number of Clinic satellite facilities, including a former Akron General one in Green, for lab work. With Union a part of the system, it will make my life easier and my digital record more accurate. (Yeah, I pay attention to the numbers.)

In my visits to the Clinic’s Green facility over a period of a couple of weeks recently, the large “Akron General Hospital” signs were downsized and replaced by larger “Cleveland Clinic” ones. I think you can bet on Union’s “UH” signage to become much smaller in the coming months and for “Cleveland Clinic” to assume space on the side of the building on the Boulevard.

And that, folks, will signal an end to an era.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

After extended 'vacation,' back on the blog beat

Edited and updated Jan. 29, 2017, at 12:15 p.m.

I saw on Facebook a thread on which people lamented the fact that Dover City Schools were going to use eminent domain to acquire the Dairy Queen property, which sits in the footprint of the new high school campus.

This should not be a surprise to anyone and underscores my belief that people actually don’t absorb the news. They just scan it and believe what they want to believe. To hell with the facts.

The David Angel family of Dover owns the property, which is now being managed by Angel’s son-in-law and daughter – Dave and April Angel-Yoder. I’m not sure whose name is actually on the property, but over the years it’s been operated/owned by various members of the Angel family.

When the possibility was raised that the property might be needed if Dover were to construct a new high school in the neighborhood (which subsequently proved to be what voters wanted), Angel assured the Dover Board of Education that he would work with members on a price for the property.

As the property changed hands over the years, the value of it remained constant – about $160,000.

All the other property owners in the path of the new campus settled with the board on prices for their properties and to my knowledge did so willingly.

That leaves one option for the school district to acquire the Dairy Queen property – eminent domain. My guess is that the Angel family will net $160,000 or a little more.

And now the people who have only been scanning the news rather than actually reading it are boo-hooing on behalf of the Angel family.

I’m never surprised by such developments. People read headlines and watch TV (see Trump). That’s about it.

Speaking of the news, GateHouse Media has parted company with Times-Reporter Editor Melissa Griffy Seeton and at least a couple other GateHouse Ohio staffers.

GateHouse is a vicious cost cutter and another round of layoffs indicates that it’s been another year of diminished returns. And I think we’re a little closer to the possibility of a non-daily newspaper serving our area.

Good luck to Melissa in whatever endeavor she undertakes.

Congratulations are in order for WJER and radio listeners throughout the Tuscarawas Valley. The longtime Dover-New Philadelphia station is an adding a FM version after selling off 101.7 10 years ago. Hard to believe it's been so long. The FM station will offer a mirror of the station's AM broadcast.

By the way, if you’re interested in a daily news briefing without forcing you to sort through honor rolls and sports stories, check out WJER’s website and bookmark its news page. That takes me to my next subject…

As primarily a consumer of news and information, I have to indict newspapers, TV stations and major electronic news outlets for their horrible websites that have become bogged down with pop-up ads, unwanted videos and irritating electronic billboards urging readers to subscribe.

If you’re lucky, maybe you can read the story after dealing with the clutter, but you’re better off getting your news feed from social media if you’re on a mobile device, or Microsoft’s new Windows 10 news feed if you’re using a laptop. The Windows 10 news feed offers numerous stories, photos and editorial cartoons from numerous sources without the annoying clutter.

Sorry, newspapers. And, no, I’m not subscribing to 10 different websites. Quit asking.

Early reviews of the plans by the new owner of Atwood Lodge and Conference Center are mostly positive. The general reaction to the idea of turning the lodge into an alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility is “we’ve needed something like this for a long time.”

I’m OK with it as well and apparently so are a number of investors. I’m told that rehab centers generate a fairly decent return on investment.

Based on the amount of money put into New Philadelphia’s Hospice facility – a former nursing home – I would think such a conversion of the lodge into a rehab facility would cost upwards of $5 million to $10 million. So, the project will need a significant infusion of money to succeed.

I’m curious what will happen to the facility’s liquor license. Does it die with the resort, or can it move on to somewhere else? Let me know if you know.

(Update: From MWCD Director John Hoopingarner: "The liquor license at Atwood Lodge is a hybrid of sorts. If you recall, the area around the lodge was 'dry'. As the lodge struggled in the late '70s, conservancy district officials appealed to State Rep. William Hinig.

"He helped spearhead legislation that created the opportunity for publicly owned hotels of 100 rooms or more to obtain a liquor license without having to go through a local option election. This legislation helped Atwood Lodge and several other remotely located state park lodges as well.

"The thinking was the ability to serve alcohol would improve business. The license at the lodge has been maintained as such. Radius Hospitality (former operators of the Lodge under agreement with Carroll County) does not own the license, nor are they able to use it elsewhere. Because the lodge is now privately owned, the liquor license effectively evaporates."

Thank you, John.)

I can’t put my finger on why I’m losing interest in Facebook – maybe it’s the dogs and cats -- but I’ve mostly moved to Twitter for discussion on the issues. On Twitter I can respond briefly with zingers. I love it.

Some -- not all -- of things I’ve seen and read on Facebook border on being ludicrous, not including the dogs and cats and those tasty-looking meals at your favorite Mexican restaurant. Fake news reigns supreme and the idiots who blame mainstream media for all problems are about all I can take.
(If you remember, I was a longtime member of mainstream media and my goal and that of everyone I worked with and knew in the business was to deliver the truth. I don’t think that’s changed.)

There are also a large number of Facebook users who want to escape from political discourse, posting pictures of their kids, grandkids, food and, of course, dogs and cats. They don’t want to read about politics. And it’s probably why “Dancing with the Stars” continues to be a TV ratings winner – escapism.

So, I’m trying to limit my Facebook issue-based posts while using Twitter to answer the Great Orange One’s tweets. After all, he’s not reading my Facebook posts. At least I don’t think so.
You can follow me on Twitter by searching for dfarrell_dover.

For the life of me, I can’t figure how some of my friends, neighbors and family members cast a ballot for a man who mocked the disabled, who is the world’s biggest narcissist, who is a bigot, who is a liar, and who obviously has some mental health issues.

He’s pathological. defines “pathological” thusly: “If something is caused by a physical or mental disease, it is pathological. Someone with a pathological compulsion for cleanliness might scrub the floors for hours every night.”

Trump is a pathological liar.

And he has surrounded himself with men and women, including but not limited to Sean “Baghdad Bob (reincarnated)” Spicer and Kelleyanne “Propaganda Barbie” Conway, to provide the masses with “alternative facts.”

Any of this scare you?

If it’s not obvious to you, well, maybe you’re part of the problem. And don’t be leaving me hate notes on Facebook. I don’t want to read them.

The man has been president for a week and every day brings a new concern. A couple days ago, we’re told the government is going to probe dead voters because Trump can’t handle the fact he didn’t win the popular vote.

Yesterday, he banned some Muslims from entering the United States, although not from the countries that gave us the 911 terrorists. He’s handpicked a few Muslim-populated countries (seven to be exact) such as Iran and Iraq. We shed a lot of blood in the latter country to free its population from a demagogue. Now we won’t let their citizens into our country. Trump also is irked we didn’t steal Iraqi oil.

Meanwhile, countries that host a Trump investment get a pass.

Expect more daily consternation.

Meanwhile, a plurality of voters doesn’t seem to care. I’m hoping that fact changes sooner rather than later because I really think Trump is a danger to the Republic.

After hours of research and watching and listening to Trump voters interviewed on cable TV, it’s apparent that the Great Orange One spoke to a lot of one-issue voters.

He got the pro-life vote (see religious right).

He got the gun vote (see National Rifle Assn. rolls).

He got the under-employed vote (see Walmart).

He got the vote of depressed small-town inhabitants (see Wilmington, Ohio).

He got the vote of coal miners and their families (See West Virginia).

He got the military vote (See communities outside U.S. bases).

He got the Mexico border population vote (See Arizona).

He got the oil vote (See pipelines).

He got the traditional Republican businessman vote (See marketplace regulations and stock market numbers).

And he got the racist and dumb vote (see angry white guys afraid of people who don’t look like them and people who weren’t paying attention in school).

Throw in the people who wasted their votes on third-party candidates and we have a Trump presidency. Yeah, it’s their fault, too.

God help us.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Lovable Ed a fixture in the news business

The Tuscarawas Valley news business lost its most veteran member – Ed DeGraw, 92, of Dover, who reported for a gazillion years for The Times-Reporter and other publications.

I’m not sure the business can create characters like Ed any longer. Always puffing on his pipe and sipping a Coke, Ed was a fixture in our newsroom, sitting in his little corner of the world pontificating about everything and launching into a rant without warning.

Ed was one of the few reporters and photographers that I managed who actually liked covering the county fair – it could get tedious -- and in tandem with another veteran, Joe Mizer, provided unprecedented coverage for our local agricultural community year after year. I suspect that demographic has noticed that coverage might not be the same since Ed and Joe retired.

But that’s not all.

Ed didn’t understand the concept of overtime pay and would show up for work on days off because there was a story or column to be written. Need a volunteer? Ed would raise his hand.

He’d cover the cops, or city council. Or attend that all-important chicken dinner without complaint. God love him.

I don’t remember him ever calling in sick, or asking to be excused from traveling to work because of bad weather. And he brought a historical view to the news that he wrote -- sometimes to a fault. He knew when stuff happened. Ed was our Google before Google.

It sounds corny, but Ed had the proverbial nose for news and maintained sources on all levels. The first phone call I received on a fateful Sunday morning a couple of decades ago was from Ed who reported that “New Philadelphia High is on fire” and that we needed to rally the troops. A source had tipped him off.

Ed also had a special relationship with gardeners. At the first sign of frost, Ed would knock out a column, offering his thoughts on preparing the soil for winter and he wrote that column from scratch every year. His other passion was the Cleveland Indians, but his sportswriter roots allowed him to offer commentary on every aspect of athletics. And he did. Often.

I suspect God is getting an earful from Ed right now. And if God is smart, he better listen. I suspect He’ll learn something.

A few more quick hits and I’ll let you get on with your pre-Christmas activities:

--Please don’t ask me “What do you think of Trump now?” That question usually comes from a Fox News devotee who hasn’t been paying attention. It gets me all riled up and puts me in a really bad mood.

--It seems to me that every elementary school should have its own principal. I would have gone nuts in my elementary school without Sister Monica waving her paddle (with holes drilled in it to alleviate wind resistence) at my fellow hooligans. Fortunately, New Philadelphia Superintendent David Branch agrees and will request Monday that the Board of Education approve the hiring of a full slate of building principals effective Jan. 1.

--If you study the tax duplicate for the famous Dairy Queen which sits in the footstep of the new Dover High campus you will come to the conclusion that the property is worth about $160,000. In my mind, that would be a good offer from the school district to the Yoder-Angel family which owns the property.

--Driving north on N. Wooster Ave. recently, I noticed that I got stopped by only one traffic light, which is a vast improvement over the old system. There’s still more work to be done before the synchronization project is completed and traveling south is still dicey through the retail portion of S. Wooster Ave.

--I’m still encountering folks who are unaware of the existence of this blog. If someone happens to mention to you that he/she can’t find Farrell’s column in the Bargain Hunter, tell them to Google "" It’s easily found.

--This is probably my last offering before Christmas. I hope you and your family have a great holiday. Talk to you soon.