Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Congratulations to 28-year-old Josh O'Farrell on being named by the Democrats to be Allan Sayre's successor in the Ohio House of Representatives.

O'Farrell also will face off against Republican Allen Landis, 55, of Dover in the November election. The winner, of course, will represent the 96th House District for the next two years and will have to deal with a state budget that will be awash in red ink.

Both candidates seem to be in the right stages of their lives to take on such a thankless job. O'Farrell is the father of a 1-year-old, who I'm assuming is not yet involved in youth league sports (these days one never knows) while Landis is retired from Greer Steel and presumably has plenty of time on his hands.

Being a state representative in Ohio is far from glamorous. Many of the Legislature's members haven't been there long enough to have a handle on anything. Term limits have killed the institutional knowledge that state reps like Bill Hinig had. So, there's a huge learning curve down there in Columbus.

In addition, the winner likely will hook up with another state rep and look for a hole-in-the-wall apartment to sleep in when they can't get back to their homes. Add to that the chicken and Swiss steak dinners, the endless speeches by grandstanders and the one-issue constituents that continually will hound them over immigration or abortion or whatever. And that drive to and from Columbus very early in the morning or very late at night over and over again. Don't forget that most people believe that state representatives are overpaid (legislators are paid about $59,000 annually).

A lot of people seemed to be surprised that Sayre jumped at the opportunity to take a mid-level job in the county auditor's office. I wasn't. I'm sure he'll feel like he's on a permanent vacation. And he gets to see his kids grow up.

Oh, and he also won't have to host a golf outing/fundraiser, which helped him pay for all those signs that had to be planted every other election year.

I welcome O'Farrell to the local world of politics. He holds an undergraduate degree from Notre Dame and a law degree from Wake Forest, so it would appear he's certainly smart enough. His candidacy is refreshing to say the least.

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The first thing consultants do when they are hired to solve a failing or struggling business is examine salaries from top to bottom because for most businesses that is the No. 1 expense. And it's not the employees on the bottom rung who necessarily have to worry, it's the people at the top.

So, it's not surprising that Twin City Hospital has lost three top administrators, including the chief, Marge Jentes, over the last couple of months. For TCH, though, there are many problems. One source who knows something about health care offered this speculation:

"The 10 highest paid people are physicians employed by the hospital in their primary care medical office. It could be the revenue generated by the hospital-owned medical practices hasn't been sufficient to cover their operating overhead, including the doctors’ salaries.

"The State Franchise Fee -- a tax -- hasn’t helped either, costing TCH $300,000 plus over the two-year state biennium. And just like other hospitals, the amount that Medicare and Medicaid pay hospitals doesn’t cover the cost of caring for those patients...

"I don’t know what their cash reserves are to weather the storm, but if they’ve turned management of the place over to this Pittsburgh firm I’d guess there’s not much cash in the bank to overcome operating losses in the short term."

The "storm" is the recession and with people losing jobs with benefits, that means they get less health care and when they do, they can't pay for it.

American Healthcare Solutions is the consulting firm hired to solve TCH's problems. You can bet that it will at least save the cost of its fee if not the hospital.

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I caught a piece on "Nightline" the other night about a family in New Hampshire that is "unschooling" its children. It's no wonder that Americans are getting beat in science and mathematics by kids schooled in Asian cultures.

Hopefully, I'm not the only one out there who believes this family is out of control and unlikeable to boot. If this is our future, we're sunk.

Check it out here.

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Just a few years ago, I thought that newspapers would be around for some time to come. That was back when newsrooms were well-funded (relatively speaking) and when paging favored the reader rather than the bottom line.

OK, I've changed my thinking. Publishers across the country have devalued their products by slashing the budgets of newsrooms and the result shows in all of them. A $1.75 (in Dover-New Philadelphia) for a downsized Sunday Akron Beacon Journal with a six-page sports section?

It's getting to the point that the best part of a Sunday newspaper is not the news and features, but the advertising supplements.

And that, folks, is sad.

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I'm hoping that the consultant that is working with the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District comes up with a viable plan to save Atwood Lake Resort and Conference Center, but I'm not optimistic.

When I was an editor employed by Copley Press Inc., we were treated to periodic work sessions at the company's resort -- La Casa Del Zorro -- in Borrego Springs, Calif. It was a beautiful place in the middle of the desert with a four-star restaurant and A-1 service. One could comfortably live in one of the resort's villas indefinitely.

Copley Press sold the resort -- a drain on cash flow in good times -- at the same time it divested itself of its newspapers. In a matter of months, the resort's buyer went bankrupt. La Casa Del Zorro now is shuttered.

Times change.