Monday, December 14, 2009

More bad news for a troubled industry

As if you needed any more signs that newspapers are in trouble, last week brought us these:

-- After 108 years, Editor & Publisher -- the trade publication that could be found in every newspaper office in the country -- announced it was folding its print and online products.

-- The Knight Center for Specialized Journalism announced it was closing.

-- American Journalism Review announced it would publish four issues in 2010, down from six in 2009.

The Web site "Paper Cuts" estimates that nearly 15,000 have lost newspaper jobs in 2009. That's a conservative estimate because I know that it has unintentionally failed to count cuts at every newspaper.

Watch for more industry-wide layoffs early next month as companies fine-tune their 2010 expectations or lack thereof.

* * *

There are three Web sites that I frequent to keep abreast of developments in the newspaper business. Here they are:

-- Romensko: Jim Romensko of the Poynter Institute aggregates newspaper/media news.

-- Fading to Black: Another site that aggregates news (mostly bad) about the newspaper business.

-- Alan Mutter's Reflections of a Newsosaur, which provides thoughtful commentary about what the business ought to do -- or not do -- to survive.

* * *

A number of people have asked me for the Web address of this blog. It is so named to allow the Google search engine to easily find it. You don't have to remember the address, just my name and the fact that this is a blog.

So, if someone asks you how to find this site, tell them to Google dickfarrell blog or dick farrell blog.

* * *

Needless to say, I consume a lot of news from a lot of different sources. The sources that are located on or near Wall Street seem to think the worst of the Great Recession is over.

That might be, but how come it doesn't feel that way in Ohio? The people in business I've talked to lately aren't talking about any upturns on their ledgers.

If there are good signs in Ohio that I'm missing, please let me know.

* * *

See you next time.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Oh, no, not another one...

In less than a month, an incident on an airline has turned into a "conspiracy" as a result of a widely disseminated e-mail.

I received my copy of the "conspiracy" e-mail Sunday night from a friend. He had forwarded an e-mail to what looked like everyone in his contacts folder.
Muslims were the subject of the e-mail and, of course, it contained a zinger directed at President Obama:

"In my opinion, the Muslims are all getting very brave now, since they have one of their own in the white Tedd's story below. Semper Fi, - Gene Hackemack"

First thing I do when I receive such e-mails is go to, which does a terrific job chasing down the truth about such things. Snopes directed its readers to an actual AirTran news release that refuted the claims -- point by point -- contained in the e-mail.

I give that to you below with the company's explanations in bold and the e-mail content in italics:

After conducting additional research into this situation, we have verified, according to flight manifests (legally binding documents) that the individual that allegedly created a first-hand account of events on-board AirTran Airways flight 297, a Theodore Petruna, was never actually on-board the flight.

According to all available records, Mr. Petruna’s trip originated from Akron-Canton, Ohio (CAK) on AirTran flight 205. This flight arrived at the gate in Atlanta at 5:06 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Flight 297, the flight which Mr. Petruna allegedly wrote a first-hand account of, originally pushed back from its gate in Atlanta at 4:40 p.m. EST, a full 26 minutes before flight 205 arrived at the gate in Atlanta making this flight connection impossible.

While Mr. Petruna was originally scheduled to begin his journey on AirTran flight 202 from CAK and connect to flight 297 in Atlanta he did not make that original flight.

On November 17, 2009, AirTran flight 297 was scheduled to travel from Atlanta to Houston-Hobby. During taxi a passenger was non-compliant with Crew Members, using a cell phone and taking pictures. The flight taxied back to the gate and the passenger, who did not speak English, and his companion acting as his interpreter were asked to de-plane. They were met by customer service personnel and TSA.

The passengers were allowed to re-board and continued on the flight after speaking with AirTran and TSA representatives. The flight was delayed by more than two hours.

Since the flight and initial media reports, several blogs and Internet sites have recounted the incident as portrayed by a passenger originally scheduled for the flight. Below is that passenger’s account (unedited in any way including spelling and grammar), as reported on several blogs. Highlighted between the passenger’s account, are the factually accurate circumstances surrounding this incident.

We bring this to your attention in order to dispel myths that are beginning to make the rounds in chat rooms, blogs and conspiracy theorists’ Web sites.


I was in first class coming home. Eleven muslim men got on the plane in full attire. Two sat in first class and the rest peppered themselves throughout the plane all the way to the back.

The full party was 13 individuals. Their religion is not known to anyone at AirTran. The individuals in this party proceeded to their seats throughout the aircraft and were dressed like any other passenger.

As the plane taxied to the runway, the stewardesses gave the safety spiel we are all so familiar with. At that time, one of the men got on his cell and called one of his companions in the back and proceeded to talk on the phone in Arabic very loudly and very aggressively. This took the first stewardess out of the picture for she repeatedly told the man that cell phones were not permitted at the time. He ignored her as if she wasn’t there.

There have been no reports of any individual phoning any other individual on the flight. Furthermore it would be extremely difficult to know who someone is calling. If they are calling someone in the back of the plane, the person listening in on this conversation would not be able to hear the person in the back of the plane nor know where the call was going to.

The second man who answered the phone did the same and this took out the second stewardess. In the back of the plane at this time, 2 younger muslims, one in the back aisle, and one in front of him, window, began to show footage of a porno they had taped the night before, and were very loud about it.

It would be impossible to know what people were allegedly watching or whom they were speaking with in the back of the plane from Business Class. Furthermore, how would anyone know what was on this alleged videotape or when it was made?

Now, they are only permitted to do this prior to Jihad. If a Muslim man goes into a strip club, he has to view the woman via mirror with his back to her (don’t ask me, I don’t make the rules, but I’ve studied). The third stewardess informed them that they were not to have electronic devices on at this time. To which one of the men said, “Shut up, infidel dog!” She went to take the camcorder and he began to scream in her face in Arabic.

While the flight attendants did ask an individual to discontinue the use of portable electronic devices, there are no reports of screaming or shouting insults to our Crew Members.

At that exact moment, all 11 of them got up and started to walk to the cabin. This is where I had had enough! I got up and started to the back where I heard a voice behind me from another Texan twice my size say, “I got your back.” I grabbed the man who had been on the phone by the arm and said, “you WILL go sit down or you Will be thrown from this plane!”

There are no reports of any passenger standing up in a threatening manner. At NO time was there any physical altercation between passengers. Upon returning to the gate, the individual on the phone and his party were asked to de-plane and did so in full compliance of Crew Members’ instructions.

As I led him around me to take his seat, the fellow Texan grabbed him by the back of his neck and his waist and headed out with him. I then grabbed the second man and said, “You WILL do the same!”

This is simply untrue. At NO time was there any physical altercation between passengers.

He protested but adrenaline was flowing now and he was going to go. As I escorted him forward, the plane doors open and 3 TSA agents and 4 police officers entered.

At no time did any law enforcement or Transportation Security Administration (TSA) official enter the aircraft. Two TSA inspectors came to the gate to assess the situation and spoke with the individual involved and his party.

Me and my new Texan friend were told to cease and desist for they had this under control. I was happy to oblige actually. There was some commotion in the back, but within moments, all 11 were escorted off the plane. They then unloaded their luggage.

The entire party complied fully with Crew Members’ instructions to exit the aircraft in order to ascertain the situation. Their bags were not removed at any time.

We talked about the occurrence and were in disbelief that it had happened, when suddenly, the door opened again and on walked all eleven!!

After determining none of the individuals posed a security threat to the aircraft, the party was allowed to re-plane.

Stone faced, eyes front and robotic (the only way I can describe it). The stewardess from the back had been in tears and when she saw this, she was having NONE of it! Being that I was up front, I heard and saw the whole ordeal. She told the TSA agent there was NO WAY she was staying on the plane with these men.

There was no TSA or law enforcement agent ever on the plane.

The agent told her they had searched them and were going to go through their luggage with a fine tooth comb and that they were allowed to proceed to Houston.

There was no TSA agent on the plane and there was no additional screening of anyone’s bags.

The captain and co-captain came out and told the agent, “we and our crew will not fly this plane!” After a word or two, the entire crew, luggage in tow, left the plane. Five minutes later, the cabin door opened again and a whole new crew walked on.

The crews were swapped. This is a common occurrence in the aviation industry for any number of reasons. If a Crew Member cannot or will not continue a flight, we must replace that Crew Member.

Again, this is where I had had enough!! I got up and asked, “What the hell is going on?” I was told to take my seat. They were sorry for the delay and I would be home shortly. I said, “I’m getting off this plane.” The stewardess sternly told me that she could not allow me to get off.

Now I’m mad! I said, “I am a grown man who bought this ticket, who’s time is mine with a family at home and I am going through that door, or I’m going through that door with you under my arm!! But I am going through that door!!”

At no time did any AirTran Crew Member refuse to allow a passenger off the plane. Had any passenger threatened a Crew Member, we would have taken appropriate action, including contacting law enforcement.

And I heard a voice behind me say, “So am I.” Then everyone behind us started to get up and say the same. Within 2 minutes, I was walking off that plane where I was met with more agents who asked me to write a statement. I had 5 hours to kill at this point so why the hell not. Due to the amount of people who got off that flight, it was cancelled. I was supposed to be in Houston at 6pm. I got here at 12:30am.

After offering all passengers the opportunity to de-plane the aircraft, 12 individuals decided to not take this flight and opted to be re-booked. AirTran officials did not request any passenger to complete an official statement.

The flight was not cancelled and did continue to Houston-Hobby

Look up the date. Flight 297, Atlanta to Houston.

The flight was not cancelled and did continue to Houston-Hobby

If this wasn’t a dry run, I don’t know what one is. They wanted to see how TSA would handle it, how the crew would handle it, and how the passengers would handle it.

I’m telling this to you because I want you to know. The threat is real. I saw it with my own eyes.

The flight was not cancelled and did continue to Houston-Hobby.
The TSA determined this was a customer service issue. The party continued on the flight to Houston-Hobby that evening without further incident.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Vote for our kids (maybe they'll get scholarships)

This tip from a reader:

Several Dover football players, along with one from New Philadelphia and two each from Carrollton and Harrison Central, are up for honors, courtesy of WTOV-TV in Steubenville.

The Dover Tornadoes have been nominated for Team of the Year, but are up against the squad -- Steubenville -- that defeated them in the playoffs.

Individual players nominated for honors include:

-- Dover's Marcus Mamarella, New Philadelphia's Will McEwan, Carrollton's John Lowdermilk and Harrison Central's Ben Palmer, Big 22 Player of the Year

-- Dover's Dan Jeandervin, Carrollton's A.J. Dalton and Harrison Central's Jake Mallernee for their Blocks of Granite

-- Dover's Brandyn Murtaugh for Defensive Player of the Year.

You can vote for the Tornadoes (team) or for one or more of the individual players by going here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

You'll recognize this format...

I used to call an offering such as this a "potpourri" (pronounced POT-PORY) much to the chagrin of my staff.

Speaking of which, I need to give props to T-R City Editor Kathy Vaughan who edited many of my commentaries over the years as did Managing Editor Sandy Stewart.

Sandy, who retired a few days after I left, still is reading these things and e-mails me when I need to make a correction. Anyway, without the strong editing skills that both of these women offered, I wouldn't be here today writing a blog that at least a few dozen people are reading.

* * *
I talked with U.S. Rep. Zack Space following President Obama's speech Tuesday night and both of us agreed that Obama took a reasonable course of action by planning on sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan.

Space, who visited Afghanistan last summer, said he met Gen. Stanley McCrystal, the U.S.' top military commander there, and found him to be very credible and a strong leader.

It was McCrystal who advised the president to send re-enforcements to the war zone.
I have no problem with Obama setting a 18-month deadline (goal?) for our involvement in Afghanistan to end and believe that if events warrant, Obama will back off.

Despite some disappointment on the far left, I never believed during Obama's campaign that he would immediately end our involvement in Iraq or Afghanistan if he was elected president.

The situations in Iraq and Afghanistan are too complex and anyone who says they can guarantee a particular outcome is smoking something. For all those whose loved ones serve, let's hope the new strategy works.

* * *
CNBC says that it won't be hiring Lou Dobbs, who has become a Bill O'Reilly wannabe. This country has become so polarized with Fox News on the right and MSNBC to the left that we need other news networks to hold middle ground.

Of course, it would be nice if someone would watch those networks rather than hearing only that it's Obama's fault (Fox) or Bush's fault (MSNBC).

* * *
I haven't read anything in The T-R about the Dover Elks Lodge No. 975 closing, but someone ought to acknowledge that fact.
OK, I will.

The club, which had been existence more than 100 years and whose members included doctors, judges, attorneys, businessmen and others, could not meet its financial obligations and closed its doors in September.

Social clubs, including veterans clubs and exclusive country clubs, are under stress for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that young people don't see the value in such organizations.

Dover Elks had about 400 members when it closed, but only about a fourth of that number or fewer actually visited the club and spent money there.

Most people won't give a darn that the Dover Elks is closed, but it is another sign that Dover isn't the same Dover of just a few years ago. Heck, you can't even find a filling station that will pump your gas anymore.

* * *
But there is a station in New Philadelphia that will pump your gas -- the Fuel Depot on E. High Ave. (Nice transition, eh?)

This may not mean a hoot to you, but to senior citizens (and a few others), it is important.

* * *
That's it for now. See you next time.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A character in our midst now belongs to the ages

Former Dover Police Capt. Bob Everett, now an officer in Mesquite, Nev., penned a Facebook tribute to Dover Reserve Officer Jerry Plunk, who died a few days ago.

Jerry was a neighbor of mine in my old Stucky Dr. neighborhood and he and I shared quite a few laughs together over the years. Although his day job was with the phone company, his real love was the Dover Police Department. (After his family, of course -- his wife Paula, daughter Melissa and son Marcus).

Bob asked me if I'd publish his tribute in this space. I'm more than happy to oblige...

Jerry L. Plunk

By Bob Everett

Where do I start when writing about Jerry Plunk? Of course, Jerry was best known as a Dover Police Reserve Officer. Over the years as a Reserve, Jerry spent countless hours of time, donated (FREE) helping others. For those who aren’t aware, the Reserve officers are not paid by the city of Dover. They serve on a volunteer basis.
Jerry was always there to help full-time officers when they asked and the never-ending number of citizens who needed a police officer. Jerry may have been a Reserve officer, but when someone was in need and they saw Jerry pull up, they didn’t care what title he held.

To his credit, Jerry had the ability to spring into action as a police officer and took care of their needs. He may have held the title of Reserve officer, but Jerry demonstrated as much expertise, know-how, compassion, and professionalism as any regular officer when handling a call. There was no sub-standard service from Jerry Plunk. He took care of the situation as if it were his full-time job, an act not many people would do in life, especially with the situations police officers must face at times. Jerry gave it his all and loved every minute of it. There wasn’t a duty he was asked to perform that he didn’t or wouldn’t do.

As a captain, I called upon Jerry many times to work a dance, a ballgame, or some other function and his answer was always yes. Never mind the fact that he worked a full-time job at GTE/Verizon, he was still willing to be there to help us. Jerry exemplified the word “volunteer” in all aspects. He loved the uniform, the police cruiser, and job as a Reserve Officer for all the right reasons. Many times, people volunteer in life for self-centered selfish reasons, but not Jerry. He was there for all of us at the police department and the citizens of Dover that he truly loved.

There will be a void in the Dover Police Department without Reserve Officer Jerry L. Plunk. Unit No. 60 will no longer be heard on the radio, but his laugh, his smile, and his willingness to help everyone will NEVER be forgotten. I’m glad I had the opportunity to know Jerry not only as a Reserve officer, but as a friend. Thanks for all the memories, Jerry.

You’re going too be missed dearly by a lot of people.

Unit No. 60 is now silenced and out of service, but his reputation at Dover PD shall live forever.


Jerry Plunk was 64. Funeral services were held Nov. 24.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mean Mr. Carrington

One of my sisters, who lives in the South, is kind enough to send me all sorts of chain e-mails.
Some are funny. Some are thought provoking. And some, of course, are just plain propaganda. My sister says she doesn’t have the time to investigate whether there’s any basis of fact involved and that if there isn’t she knows I will tell her.
I love my sister.
Hot off the presses, here’s the latest Internet ditty my sister sent me. It starts off with an unattributed introduction, to wit:
“This is one of the most eloquently put descriptions of what small business is all about that I have ever read. It will take a few minutes to read, but it is the reality of the world we live and work in today and what future we may have to deal with. “See what you think.
“I learned a lot from this email; very well written! Read to the bottom line!!”

The Employee Meeting: I would like to start by thanking you for attending this meeting, though it's not like you had much of a choice. After all, attendance was mandatory. I'm also glad many of you accepted my invitation to your family members to be here as well. I have a few remarks to make to all of you, and then we'll retire to the ballroom for a great lunch and some employee awards.
I felt that this meeting was important enough to close all 12 of our tire and automotive shops today so that you could be here. To reassure you, everybody is being paid for the day --- except me. Since our stores are closed we're making no money. That economic loss is mine to sustain. Carrington Automotive has 157 full time employees and around 30 additional part-timers. All of you are here. I thank you for that.
When you walked into this auditorium you were handed a rather thick 78-page document. Many of you have already taken a peek. You were probably surprised to see that it's my personal tax return for 2008. Those of you who are adept at reading these tax returns will see that last year my taxable income was $534,000.00. Now I'm sure this seems rather high to many of you. So ... let's talk about this tax return.
Carrington Automotive Enterprises is what we call a Sub-S - a Subchapter S corporation. The name comes from a particular part of our tax code. Sub-S status means that the income from all 12 of our stores is reported on my personal tax return. Businesses that report their income on the owner's personal tax return are referred to as "small businesses." So, you see now that this $534,000 is really the total taxable income - the total combined profit from all 12 of our stores. That works out to an average of a bit over $44,000 per store.
Why did I feel it important for you to see my actual 2008 tax return? Well, there's a lot of rhetoric being thrown around today about taxes, small businesses and rich people. To the people in charge in Washington right now I'm a wealthy American making over a half-million dollars a year. Most Americans would agree: I'm just another rich guy; after all ... I had over a half-million in income last year, right? In this room we know that the reality is that I'm a small business owner who runs 12 retail establishments and employs 187 people. Now here's something that shouldn't surprise you, but it will: Just under 100 percent ... make that 99.7 percent of all employers in this country are small businesses, just like ours.
Every one of these businesses reports their income on a personal income tax return. You need to understand that small businesses like ours are responsible for about 80 percent of all private sector jobs in this country, and about 70 percent of all jobs that have been created over the past year. You also need to know that when you hear some politician talking about rich people who earn over $200,000 or $500,000 a year, they're talking about the people who create the jobs.
The people who are now running the show in Washington have been talking for months about raising taxes on wealthy Americans. I already know that in two years my federal income taxes are going to go up by about 4.5 percent. That happens when Obama and the Democrats allow the Bush tax cuts to expire. When my taxes climb by 4.5 percent the Democrats will be on television saying that this really isn't a tax increase. They'll explain that the Bush tax cuts have expired .. nothing more. Here at Carrington we'll know that almost 5% has been taken right off of our bottom line. And that means it will be coming off your bottom line.
Numbers are boring, I know ... but let's talk a bit more about that $534,000. That's the money that was left last year from company revenues after I paid all of the salaries and expenses of running this business. Now I could have kept every penny of that for myself, but that would have left us with nothing to grow our business, to attract new customers and to hire new employees. You're aware that we've been talking about opening new stores in Virginia Beach and Newport News . To do that I will have to buy or lease property, construct a building and purchase inventory. I also have to hire additional people to work in those stores. These people wouldn't immediately be earning their pay. So, where do you think the money for all of this comes from? Right out of our profits .. right out of that $534,000. I need to advertise to bring customers in, especially in these tough times. Where do you think that money comes from? Oh sure, I can count it as an expense when I file my next income tax return .. but for right now that comes from either current revenues or last year's profits. Revenues right now aren't all that hot ... so do the math. A good effective advertising campaign might cost us more than $300,000.
Is this all starting to come together for you now?
Right now the Democrats are pushing a nationalized health care plan that, depending on who's doing the talking, will add anywhere from another two percent to an additional 4.6 percent to my taxes. If I add a few more stores, which I would like to do, and if the economy improves, my taxable income ... our business income ... could go over one million dollars! If that happens the Democrats have yet another tax waiting, another five percent plus! I've really lost track of all of the new government programs the Democrats and President Obama are proposing that they claim they will be able to finance with new taxes on what they call "wealthy Americans."
And while we're talking about health care, let me explain something else to you. I understand that possibly your biggest complaint with our company is that we don't provide you with health insurance. That is because as your employer I believe that it is my responsibility to provide you with a safe workplace and a fair wage and to do all that I can to preserve and grow this company that provides us all with income. I no more have a responsibility to provide you with health insurance than I do with life, auto or homeowner's insurance. As you know, I have periodically invited agents for health insurance companies here to provide you with information on private health insurance plans.
The Democrats are proposing to levy yet another tax against Carrington in the amount of 8 percent of my payroll as a penalty for not providing you with health insurance. You should know that if they do this I will be reducing every person's salary or hourly wage by that same 8 percent. This will not be done to put any more money in my pocket. It will be done to make sure that I don't suffer financially from the Democrat's efforts to place our healthcare under the control of the federal government. It is your health, not mine. It is your healthcare, not mine. These are your expenses, not mine. If you think I'm wrong about all this, I would sure love to hear your reasoning.
Try to understand what I'm telling you here. Those people that Obama and the Democrats call "wealthy Americans" are, in very large part, America 's small business owners. I'm one of them. You have the evidence, and surely you don't think that the owner of a bunch of tire stores is anything special. That $534,000 figure on my income tax return puts me squarely in Democrat crosshairs when it comes to tax increases.
Let's be clear about this ... crystal clear. Any federal tax increase on me is going to cost you money, not me. Any new taxes on Carrington Automotive will be new taxes that you, or the people I don't hire to staff the new stores I won't be building, will be paying. Do you understand what I'm telling you? You've heard about things rolling downhill, right? Fine ... then you need to know that taxes, like that other stuff, roll downhill. Now you and I may understand that you are not among those that the Democrats call "wealthy Americans," but when this "tax the rich" thing comes down you are going to be standing at the bottom of the mud slide, if you get my drift. That's life in the big city, my friends ... where elections have consequences.
You know our economy is very weak right now. I've pledged to get us through this without layoffs or cuts in your wages and benefits. It's too bad the politicians can't get us through this without attacking our profits. To insure our survival I have to take a substantial portion of that $534,000 and set it aside for unexpected expenses and a worsening economy. Trouble is, the government is eyeing that money too ... and they have the guns. If they want it, they can take it.
I don't want to make this too long. There's a great lunch waiting for us all. But you need to understand what's happening here. I've worked hard for 23 years to create this business. There were many years where I couldn't take a penny in income because every dollar was being dedicated to expanding the business. There were tough times when it took every dollar of revenues to replenish our inventory and cover your paychecks. During those times I earned nothing. If you want to see those tax returns, just let me know.
OK ... I know I'm repeating myself here. I don't hire stupid people, and you are probably getting it now. So let me just ramble for a few more minutes. Most Americans don't realize that when the Democrats talk about raising taxes on people making more than $250,000 a year, they're talking about raising taxes on small businesses. The U.S. Treasury Department says that six out of every ten individuals in this country with incomes of more than $280,000 are actually small business owners. About one-half of the income in this country that would be subject to these increased taxes is from small businesses like ours. Depending on how many of these wonderful new taxes the Democrats manage to pass, this company could see its tax burden increase by as much as $60,000. Perhaps more.
I know a lot of you voted for President Obama. A lot of you voted for Democrats across the board. Whether you voted out of support for some specific policies, or because you liked his slogans, you need to learn one very valuable lesson from this election. Elections have consequences. You might have thought it would be cool to have a president who looks like you; or a president who is young, has a buff body, and speaks eloquently when there's a teleprompter in the neighborhood. Maybe you liked his promises to tax the rich. Maybe you believed his promise not to raise taxes on people earning less than a certain amount. Maybe you actually bought into his promise to cut taxes on millions of Americans who actually don't pay income taxes in the first place. Whatever the reason … your vote had consequences; and here they are.
Bottom line? I'm not taking this hit alone. As soon as the Democrats manage to get their tax increases on the books, I'm going to take steps to make sure that my family isn't affected. When you own the business, that is what you're allowed to do. I built this business over a period of 23 years, and I'm not going to see my family suffer because we have a president and a congress who think that wealth is distributed rather than earned. Any additional taxes, of whatever description, that President Obama and the Democrats inflict on this business will come straight out of any funds I have set aside for expansion or pay and benefit increases. Any plans I might have had to hire additional employees for new stores will be put aside. Any plans for raises for the people I now have working for me will be shelved. Year-end bonuses might well be eliminated. That may sound rough, but that's the reality.
You're going to continue to hear a lot of anti-wealth rhetoric out there from the media and from the left. You can chose to believe what you wish .. .but when it comes to Carrington Automotive you will know the truth. The books are open to any of you at any time. I have nothing to hide. I would hope that other small business owners out there would hold meetings like this one, but I know it won't happen that often. One of the lessons to be learned here is that taxes ... all taxes ... and all regulatory costs that are placed on businesses anywhere in this country, will eventually be passed right on down to individuals; individuals such as yourself. This hasn't been about admonishing anyone and it hasn't been about issuing threats. This is part of the education you should have received in the government schools, but didn't. Class is now dismissed.

After some Internet investigation (anyone can do it), I learned that the author of this piece is Neal Boortz, a conservative talk show host and columnist.
There is no Carrington Automotive and the “boss” and his “employee meeting” are figments of Boortz’s imagination. The piece is contrived but effective in message.
It’s easy to understand how such a piece makes it into the e-mail loop. It speaks to people’s fears and prejudices (“You might have thought it would be cool to have a president who looks like you”) as a couple of pundits, such as the progressive Blue Orgeon’s Chuck Sheketoff, have pointed out.
Someone who left a comment on the Blue Oregon Web site had this to say:
“OK ... I've read ‘Carrington's’ speech, and the names aren't the only thing fictional about it.
“‘Carrington’ says his personal taxable income last year was $534,000. That's his net, after business deductions. But then he later says that advertising, new development, and other overhead is taken out of the $534,000, so that he's not really as wealthy as the government thinks he is.
“That ain't true. If his net taxable income is $534,000, that means the several stores he owns likely brought in combined revenue (gross income) of over $2 million, from which advertising, rent, supplies, development, salaries and benefits to employees ... all the overhead is deducted BEFORE the personal net taxable income of the owner is reached.
“My own small business grossed over $200,000 last year, of which less than $50K was my personal income. ‘Carrington’ is right that business profit is not a high percent of business gross income, and that some business owners are not wealthy even with high gross incomes. However, if the PROFIT is $534,000, "Carrington" is very well off indeed.
“He further says that he has to salt away part of that as a reserve against bad times. Most business owners do that. We put the bad-times fund in a relatively safe, liquid investment like a high-yield money market account or a set of short-term laddered CDs, so that they make money for us personally, sometimes at a lower tax rate for capital gains while still being available if a cash infusion is needed for the business. Doesn't sound so bad when the full truth is pointed out.
“‘Carrington’ prides himself on not providing health insurance to employees. What a guy! I would hope that, since he doesn't want businesses on the hook for providing coverage, he would be lobbying hard for a robust public option, or better yet, a single payer system, under which employers would not be required to provide coverage and uninsured employees would have someplace else to turn to. I'd be disappointed, but not surprised, if he was not.
“Finally, he anticipates having his income go higher than a million dollars in the foreseeable future. By this he must, again, mean his NET income, since his gross, before deductions is already much higher. From this we can tell that his income, even if his taxes were DOUBLED, will be far, far higher under the Obama administration than they were under the Republicans. And also, if he is concerned about keeping his income under the new tax threshold he dreads, the easiest way to do so would be to reward his best employees with well-deserved salary increases or contributions to a 401(k).”
After having been involved in management of employees over the last couple of decades, I’ll add that “Mr. Carrington” is someone for whom I wouldn’t work.
He’s cold, callous, condescending ("Class dismissed!!") and believes his employees are nothing more than indentured servants. They should be thankful that he was kind enough to give them jobs. Obviously, running a business is all about him and little else.
Friends of mine who operate small businesses in Tuscarawas County are nothing like “Mr. Carrington.”
They have had to make cutbacks in their businesses in this tough economic environment and are cognizant of their own actions – they’re not buying a new Lexus one day and cutting employee benefits the next.
None of them, I believe, would hold a company meeting to announce to employees that the boss’ annual salary exceeded a half-million dollars and then ask: “By God why do I owe you health insurance?”
Nor would they assume their employees belong to a certain political party and then criticize them for it, also assuming their vote was based on race, or age, or gender.
“Mr. Carrington” obviously is not part of the solution in this country. He’s part of the problem.
See you next time.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Got swagger?

I love the Gannett Company, which owns a host of large newspapers and numerous small ones including in Ohio the Cincinnati Enquirer, Coshocton Tribune, Newark Advocate and others. It also owns WKYC-TV in Cleveland.
And, like other media companies, it has slashed reporters and editors from its payroll over the last 18 or so months.
I love Gannett because over the years it always seemed to have a solution for all the ills that beset the industry. A half-dozen years ago or so it laid out a rather lengthy initiative, telling its newspapers how to attract young readers.
From that initiative, I believe, the roots for “numbers to know,” bullets lists, multiple Page 1 headlines and so on were planted. You know, we needed to dumb down the newspaper for the youngsters.
Breaking news: It didn’t work.
According to Editor & Publisher, the newspaper industry trade publication that is widely read by publishers and editors, Gannett’s editors are being urged “to improve watchdog journalism, reposition web sites for breaking news and better engage young readers and Sunday readers.”
Kate Marymont, vice president/news for Gannett’s community publishing division, issued what she called “content priorities.”
(“Content” is what executive types call “news” these days in case you’re wondering.)
Marymont also suggested that Gannett papers “get their swagger back.”
A few months ago, most Gannett editors and reporters presumably were shaking at their computer terminals as the company whacked jobs left and right. What happens in a situation like that is that editors and reporters lose any swagger they had and realize that they should have picked a different career path.
The last thing on their minds is righting wrongs and tweaking power. They’re worried about whether they can pay their rent and college loans next month. Believe me.
Community journalism should be at least halfway satisfying for those who engage in it – hell, they’re not making a lot of money -- and one gets the satisfaction from engaging the community by writing and producing stories (and editorials) that matter.
Of course you can do that a lot better if you have job security.
Ben Bradlee, editor of the Washington Post from 1968 to 1991 was asked a couple of years ago what newspapers needed to do to attract readers.
“What newspapers need,” he said, “are some damn good stories.”
Sometimes we overthink things. I think Bradlee’s simple directive is the one Gannett and all the other newspaper companies ought to follow.
To hell with content. We need some damn good stories.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Casinos? Here's what happened in Alton

My old buddy, Jim Shrader, who served as publisher of The Times-Reporter for much of the '90s and who is now publisher of the Alton (IL) Telegraph, offered his thoughts on Ohio's casino issue. Without further ado, here's his take:
* * *
I agree with you and reader Kyle on the issue of casinos. They can be important to jobs and new tax revenues for the state, but let caution be the guide.
I lived in Alton, Ill., in 1991 when the city was awarded the first license in Illinois for a riverboat casino. The boat actually had to cruise the Mississippi River, and patrons paid to board the boat. At the time, the city was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Streets weren't repaired, damaged vehicles weren't replaced, infrastructure was being pieced back together and layoffs were evident in every department in city government.
Then the Alton Belle Casino opened its doors. The city (and the state) both received $2 for everyone who boarded the boat, PLUS a share of the profits. It didn't take long for the city to go from a deep deficit to a huge surplus. All the backlogs in repairs and replacements soon were being addressed, and the city was more than flush. Those were the good old days.
Even the opening of another casino in East St. Louis (about 30 miles south) left plenty of profits for the boat operator, the city and the state. Life was good.
Life was so good that the folks in neighboring Missouri wanted to play, too. And they did in a big way by licensing "boats-in-moats," land-based casinos surrounded by a shallow pool of water. The resulting casinos were not locked in by the size of the boat and they were bigger, fancier and glitzier than the little boats in Illinois. Guess where the gamblers flocked?
Strike 1.
Fast forward to January 2007 when the Illinois Legislature banned smoking in all public buildings. Government buildings, bars, restaurants, stadiums, bowling alleys and CASINOS no longer could allow smoking indoors. Now what do gamblers do with their free hands? Yep. Drink and smoke. Want to smoke in an Illinois casino? Stop your gaming and step outside. But right across the river in St. Louis, they welcome your cigarettes! Guess what happened to casino (and city and state) profits.
Strike 2.
The one advantage Illinois casinos had over Missouri was they did not cap losses. In simple terms, you had to register with a magnetic card to enter a Missouri casino, and you could only lose $500 in a 24-hour period. Now high-rollers didn't like that cap, so some of them continued to frequent Illinois casinos.
Then Missouri passed legislation to lift the loss-cap. And more recently, when Missouri passed its version of a smoking ban, casinos were EXEMPT!
Strike 3.
Last week the City of Alton laid off 10 percent of its police and fire force and is manning shifts with fewer officers and firefighters. All city departments have had RIFs (reduction in force) through layoffs and attrition. And the city still is facing a deficit.
Yes, casino gambling can bring new monies to the state and the city. The Buckeye State should learn from Illinois, and Cleveland should learn from Alton. Build a rainy-day fund and leave it alone. I promise, one day you will need it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Trust in government? We don't have any

Part of the problem with the current health care debate is the fact that few Americans trust the government to solve anything, let alone such a seemingly complicated issue such as health care. And you don't have to look very hard to find examples.
Most recently we have the Muslim Army psychologist who went nuts at Fort Hood and whose disposition was widely known among colleagues and even among Homeland Security types. Why wasn't he intercepted before going berserk at Fort Hood?
Why didn't the government work like it should have and stopped this kook?
A couple of weeks ago "60 Minutes" documented Medicare fraud that goes on unchecked because there are insufficient resources in the bureaucracy to investigate such matters. And we spend $1 trillion a year in that program.
So, we have a lot of skeptical Americans out there and many of them are covered by employee-sponsored health care insurance policies that work just fine. If it ain't broke, why fix it, they conclude.
While the debate rages on, keep in mind that there are many in Congress, such as Zack Space, who have our best interests in mind. They are not communists or socialists or Pelosi wannabees.
It's OK to disagree with them, but to resort to childish name calling, like the kind of stuff I see on a lot of Web sites, is just plain wrong.
* * *
There were a lot of good reasons to vote against the casino issue in last week's election. Many of my friends voted against it because of the fact that it altered the constitution, which is a legitimate concern.
But I take exception to those who voted against it only because they don't like casinos as an entertainment venue.
(I'm also skeptical of people who are against casinos on moral grounds but then invest all of their 401K in company stock, but that's another issue...)
Let me go on record here.
I like visiting casinos periodically (though not lately -- you know, recession and all that).
I like Las Vegas -- the lights, the people, the excitement. Sometimes I lose. Sometimes I win. I know going in that the casinos were built on losers' dimes.
That said, I have tried over the years to become interested in NASCAR races. But try as I may, it just doesn't click for me.
Now, if NASCAR wanted to build a track in one of Ohio's major cities for a premiere race event, I'd be all for it even though I probably wouldn't attend. The economic benefit, hopefully, would be worth it.
Different strokes.
Know what I mean?
* * *
Say a prayer for my neighbor, Ann Skocaj (pronounced SKO-CHI), who is ill. You might have run into the spry 85-year-old at the YMCA, or Hospice Browse-and-Buy, or Buehler's.
She also is my favorite mother-in-law.
* * *
See you next time...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

And that's a wrap...

This is the first year in 36 that I didn't spend election night in a newsroom. That doesn't mean I wasn't paying attention.
The passage of all three state issues should send a message to the state Legislature, to wit: Ohio voters are more than willing to legislate their own course by amending the constitution to allow such things as agriculture boards and casinos.
As for the casinos, I believe that a $600 million investment in downtown Cleveland (as well as in Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo) will do more good than harm. Unless the Cavs or Indians are playing and winning, the downtown area is relatively dead. A casino just might change that.
In addition, the casinos will provide revenue and jobs for a needy Ohio and perhaps might help in convincing young people to stick around.
It will not be a cure-all for all of the state's ills, that's for sure. Ohio has been slow to reinvent itself during the course of the manufacturing-to-service-to-high-tech sector transition and education continues to be the key.
Last figure I saw was that only 12 percent of Tuscarawas County residents (the state as a whole fares better but not much) are college-educated. That's an increase from a couple of decades ago, but still woefully behind other up-and-coming markets.
Affordable education remains a key to our survival...
* * *
Don't underestimate the intelligence of voters.
New Philadelphia said goodbye to one councilman, who was unable to work with just about anyone. And a township candidate who dipped his campaign strategy into the gutter was soundly defeated.
* * *
I'm not privy to the facts surrounding the resignation of Sugacreek Police Chief Tom Agler but media types throughout the Valley are probably applauding. Agler was less than open with the media, at least the one headquartered in New Philadelphia, about what his department was investigating.
That's not uncommon among small-town police types, who like to keep their communities' bad news under wraps.
Like I said before, be thankful for the Walt Wilsons and Orvis Campbells of Tuscarawas County. They're professionals.
See you next time.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Thank you, Time Warner

Many of us are keeping a closer watch on expenses these days, including me. So, I've been attempting to read the fine print on the bills that previously were paid without much thought. The most recent Time Warner bill had this little ditty on it:
"Effective with your next bill, the rate for Lifeline Basic will change from $19.99 to $21.85. The rate for Standard Service will change from $58.99 to $64.85. The rate for DVR service will by $9.95/mo. Road Runner Home Networking will be $10.95/mo. For complete revised prices and channel line-up, please visit beginning Nov. 21."
Remember when you were satisfied with getting three over-the-air channels (without the ghosts) for free? I can't say those were better days because I do appreciate the technological developments, but come on, Time Warner, the DVR rate increase is 101 percent (at least on my bill). That's a gouge in my book.
* * *
Have you ever paid attention to the prices advertised by the people who will rent you TVs, computers and living room furniture among other stuff?
One recent ad touted a low price for rental of a washer and dryer -- the kind you can buy for about $500 -- that would cost more than $2,000 over the life of the credit arrangement.
Some would argue that the rental places fulfill a community need. Yes, they do just like the predatory lenders.
I think a good way to judge the economic condition of a community's citizens is to count the number of storefront ("Paychecks Cashed Here!") lenders and rental companies.
* * *
One of this blog's readers pointed out that not only is the Swifty gas station closed, but so are the hobby shop and record store in downtown Dover. The reader blames it all on a retail space property owner who raised the rent.
And by the way if you see a senior citizen having trouble pumping his/her own gasoline, lend a hand (as did one of our readers). Many seniors depended on Swifty to do the pumping.
* * *
Congratulations to Sheriff Walt Wilson, Detective Orvis Campbell and the rest of the sheriff's staff who cracked the Sherrodsville murder case in a timely fashion. The sheriff's department in Tuscarawas County is top-notch and professional and citizens should be proud of their work.

Monday, November 2, 2009


One more day and we won't have to listen to the police union guy, Mary Ellen Withrow (God bless her) and "The Devil is in the Details" people.
Since this blog endorsed Issue 3 last week, I've heard a lot of good reasons from people who why we should vote down the casino issue.
Brian Hanner, a reasonable person, responded with this on my Facebook page, "Sorry, but I'm voting no on three because of the distortion used by "yes on three" committees who have made this a job's issue. If we are serious about casino's - why not logically place one right between Cle, Cols and Pitt, where it is easily accessable from three major markets? Instead, 4 casino's will have to try to thrive in their own market Toledo?!? - Seriously?"
Well, Brian, have you ever been Toledo? I have and believe me it needs a casino.
Seriously, there are very logical reasons to vote against casino gambling, but I'm currently of the opinion that if we don't do it this year, we'll have another proposal to vote on next year. And if we don't find additional revenue soon, taxpayers will assume a larger tax burden. Already, the Legislature is considering suspending an income tax reduction because the Ohio Supreme Court ruled slots at racetracks unconstitutional.
I also believe that the perfect proposal does not exist and frankly I'm weary of the debate. Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, is involved in the casino projects for Cleveland and Cincinnati. He's delivered on promises in the past and has invested heavily in the success of the Cavs franchise.
I'm willing to bet that he can get it done.
See you next time.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Say it ain't so: Dover Swifty's is history

Dover's last "We Pump The Gas" filling station -- Swifty's on S. Wooster Ave. -- has been shuttered.
This will come as horrible news to those who have depended on the station's attendants over the years to do the dirty work, especially in the winter. Plus, you got a discount if you paid with cash.
The station also lagged behind others when it came time to hike the price, so it saved more than a few drivers a little cash.
It doesn't quite feel like a death in the family, but it does leave another hole in the retail landscape.

More endorsements

There are clear choices for Dover Schools’ voters in the upcoming election.
This blog endorses longtime incumbent Steven Mastin and newcomer Shaun M. Immel to fill two seats on the Dover Board of Education.
Other candidates are Steve Page and Landon L. Anderson. Vacating her seat is Beverly McHenry.
Mastin, who has served on the board 16 years, still is a tireless supporter of Dover schools. Criticism has been leveled at him for being on the board “too long.” That’s bunk. He has the experience, knowledge and drive to continue in an effective role.
Forty-one-year-old Shaun Immel also impresses. He serves as chief technology officer at Micro-Poise Measurement Systems LLC of Akron.
A Dover High and University of Akron product, Immel has served on numerous community and school-related organizations.
He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children.
Both Mastin and Immel deserve your vote on Nov. 3.
* * *
Because I know all four candidates who are vying for three at-large seats on Dover City Council, this blog will refrain from making an endorsement in that race.
The candidates are incumbent Democrat Don Maurer, incumbent Republican Joseph A. Parolini and former Democrat councilmen Dan Minnis and Anthony J. Korns.
All of the candidates certainly are qualified to serve and good luck to them. Hopefully, we’ll hear some noise from the new council because contrary to popular belief, Dover is far from being a little Mecca.
I give less than satisfactory marks to current and previous councils, which have faltered on occasion in their watchdog roles. Running a multi-million dollar operation like a city requires oversight. Lots of it.
A resolution for 2010? Do your job, council. Ask questions. Lots of them.
* * *
New Philadelphia’s Ward 2 residents have the opportunity on Tuesday to say goodbye to Councilman Robert Conner, who is the extreme opposite of Dover’s “quiet” councilmen. His shenanigans have been well-publicized.
This blog strongly endorses John Zucal for the seat.
Zucal’s brother-in-law, Darrin Lautenschleger, also is a councilman while his brother, Jim Zucal, is the city’s service director. If John Zucal wins the seat, I feel for family members who presumably will be exposed to a lot of shop talk.
If this were Cuyahoga County, I’d be worried about such a situation. But it’s not. It’s Tuscarawas County, where family involvement in public service is not necessarily a bad thing.
John Zucal promises to listen to constituents and work with colleagues and there’s no reason to doubt that. Richard Buterbaugh also is running for the seat.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Yes, Yes, Yes

Hi, folks. I’m back – a little earlier than I had planned but the upcoming election forced me to weigh in now rather than later.
I’m not sure what direction this blog will take, or whether I will continue it into the distant future. A lot depends on the feedback that you, the reader, provides. And, of course, I need to make some money and that fact might preclude my offering a smattering of opinions and/or news.
Likewise, I’m uncertain what direction this blog will take when it comes to publishing your comments. I am not enamored with the state of online newspaper comment sections that for the most part resemble the Old West at high noon – everybody’s shooting at somebody.
So, let’s get on with it.
* * *
Recently, I received a political mailing that was headlined, "Ohio Democrats are Voting NO on Issue 3." Prominent Democrats against Issue 3 include Gov. Ted Strickland, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher.
After those names, the list gets a little dicey.
Others mentioned included state Rep. Ted Celeste of Columbus, Parma Mayor Dean DePiero, state Sen. Teresa Fedor of Toledo, Franklin County Commissioner John O’Grady, Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams and state Rep. Tyrone Yates of Cincinnati.
In addition, a TV ad proclaims that one of the promoters of Issue 3 – Cleveland Cavs owner Dan Gilbert – once was arrested for illegal bookmaking. Well, yes, he was – while he was a student at Michigan State (his record ultimately was expunged).
Big deal.
Given the current economic situation in Ohio – it ain’t pretty – it’s time to finally bite the bullet and allow construction of casinos.
In other words and for what it’s worth, the editorial board of this blog (me) endorses passage of Issue 3 on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Is Issue 3 a perfect solution? No, of course not. It only allows for construction of casinos in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo. Gilbert is involved in the Cleveland and Cincinnati plans. And if the casinos are successful, Gilbert and friends will make money. If they aren’t, Gilbert and friends are the big losers.
One can only imagine what would have happened in distressed Lorain County if Alan Spitzer had been permitted to transform an old shipbuilding site into a Las Vegas-style casino resort back in the early ‘90s.
But voters throughout the state turned down Spitzer’s proposal because, well, it wasn’t perfect.
Been to Lorain lately? It ain’t pretty.
In the meantime, while we looked for the perfect solution and depended on our underperforming Legislature for one, our neighboring states planted gaming sites close to our borders in order to tap into Ohioans’ pocketbooks.
OK, see if you can wrap your arms around these bullet points:
-- The Cleveland Plain Dealer and Cincinnati Enquirer have endorsed passage of Issue 3 despite long histories of being against casino gambling in Ohio for whatever reason. Could it be the editors at those esteemed institutions looked out their ivory tower windows and were alarmed by what they saw?
-- Editors, by their nature, are primarily conservative in their outlooks on society. We don’t want to be too Democratic or too Republican or too anything. And gambling is rather decadent in nature (isn’t it?) and we would rather you spend your money on four Cleveland Browns tickets than blow $200 for a chance at a million and that’s the main reason most newspapers don’t endorse casino issues, excepting the PD and Enquirer this time around.
-- The newspapers that didn’t endorse Issue 3 will gladly accept any advertising thrown their way if the casinos are built.
-- There are many Democrats who are supporters of Issue 3. Check out the list at
-- Most politicians don’t want to go out on a limb and reveal that they are for casino gambling, although privately they’ll admit that "we have to get it done."
-- The casinos will employ thousands of Ohioans, although it’s conceivable that some skilled positions might go to out-of-state residents who have the qualifications. It’s conceivable that some of those people are ex-Ohioans.
The state is broke and our big cities need be reinvigorated. Issue 3 will help on both counts.
* * *
It’s tough to get excited about Issues 1 and 2.
Issue 1 gives rather meager bonuses – $500 to $1,000 – to veterans of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan by allowing the state to issue $200 million in bonds (at no cost to the taxpayers). How can anyone be against that?
Issue 2 is a pre-emptive move to create an agricultural board that ultimately will determine what’s right and what’s wrong with how our farmers treat the animals that provide us our food supply, and it amends the constitution to empower the board.
I don’t like amending the constitution to accomplish something like this, but like I said before … if you wait on the Legislature…
This blog supports passage of Issues 1 and 2.
* * *
See you next time.