Tuesday, April 26, 2011

End of an era? NCAA poised to sack Tressel, Buckeyes

I need to qualify my position as it pertains to the Ohio State Buckeyes, specifically football.

Nearly everyone in Ohio is a Buckeyes fan, including me. It doesn't matter that we attended Kent State, or Ohio University, or Mount Union. At the end of the day, we all root for the Bucks because, well, because we live in Ohio and have so few other opportunities to cheer on a winner.

But deep down, I must confess, that in the case of a Mid-America Conference team playing the Bucks in the Horseshoe, I will always root for the underdog -- the Golden Flashes, the Bobcats or even (gulp) the Falcons.

Last year, I got a real kick out of the Bobcats' mascot -- Rufus -- tackling his Buckeyes' counterpart -- Brutus -- prior to the start of the Ohio-Ohio State game. Please don't tell anyone I feel this way.

If the Golden Flashes would ever beat the football Buckeyes, well, that would be cause for celebration.

Tear down the goal posts.

This will not sit well with most Buckeye fans, who seem to be loyal to a fault. It's why Kirk Herbstreit, former Ohio State quarterback and top college football analyst for ESPN, is moving his family to Nashville. He can't say anything negative about the Buckeyes without taking extreme heat from the O-H-I-O folks.

So, at the risk of Buckeye Nation hating me and forcing me to become Herbstreit's neighbor, here it goes: football coach Jim Tressel should step down.


I certainly don't want to vilify Tressel. I like his style. I've admired his ability to attract top-notch recruits. And he beats the snot out of Michigan every year. There are a lot of good things to say about Tressel.

But in the wake of the NCAA's letter to Ohio State this week, it is apparent that Tressel is destined to become a huge distraction for the program. He lied to the NCAA when he signed off on a document that wanted affirmation that Ohio State's program was clean. Tressel knew darn well when he signed the document that the Buckeyes were in violation of NCAA rules.

The NCAA has scheduled a hearing in August, which means that Ohio State fans will be talking about sanctions and recruiting problems rather than what they should be talking about -- football. The fact that the Bucks enter the season without their self-suspended coach and five veteran players seems like nothing more than a sidebar now.

Tressel had a good run. And he'll be remembered fondly in Ohio State circles for years to come. But he's not as squeaky clean as we thought. None of us are. It makes no matter. It's time to go.

* * *
I'm convinced that Gov. John Kasich does not want a second term. A Plain Dealer story reports that the school districts whose voters supported Kasich are taking big hits in the Kasich budget.

Though it's too early to predict, it's probable that a lot of Republican-leaning school districts will have to place school levies on upcoming ballots just to sustain the levels of education its citizens have come to expect. So, while Ohio balances budgets on the backs of local government, including school districts, Kasich's mantra of no new taxes is really just a process of shifting those taxes.

* * *
We took our annual Easter trip to Chicago to visit with our son, Chris, on his turf. While my wife, Suzanne, battled the rain on Michigan Ave., I settled into a comfortable seat at the Marriott's hotel bar. A couple of young lads -- Kevin and Mike -- sat down next to me and ordered a couple Chi-Town beers.

As it turned out, Kevin and Mike own the brand, Chi-Town, and were excited to visit a customer who had it on tap. It's kind of like a would-be rock star who hears his song on the radio for the first time.

Anyway, the executive chef, Myk Banas, who determines what kind of beer is served at the bar, stopped by to visit with Kevin and Mike and wish them well. Yours truly, who determines whether a beer is good or bad by determining whether it has an aftertaste, ordered up a Chi-Town and was pleasantly surprised -- no aftertaste.

So, we toasted the young entrepreneurs and wished them luck. Who knows? Perhaps they'll be the next Great Lakes or Goose Island.

I ran into Chef Myk a little later and chatted more. He asked for my room number and promised to send up some Chicago "goodies." Sure enough, Chef Myk delivered on his promise. The "goodies" basket included a bottle of wine. Nice gesture.

Oh, and Chef Myk is quite the entrepreneur himself. He maintains a bee colony on the hotel's ninth floor roof and uses the honey the bees produce in many of his recipes. A local TV station's report on his initiative is here.

Got some of that honey, too, in the "goodies" basket.

OK, so this is a plug. If you're in Chicago, consider staying at the Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile, which now ranks No. 1 on my Chicago hotel scorecard. In addition, try the Chi-Town beer if you're near a tap system that offers it.

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You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter (dfarrell_dover). And you might find it easier to leave a comment on the Facebook link to this piece.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Guns plus alcohol equals stupidity

OK, let me go on record that I don't have a problem with Ohio's 2007 law that allows its citizens to pack heat. To my knowledge, there have been few, if any, unfortunate incidents since the law was enacted by the Ohio Legislature.

But now the Republican-controlled state Senate, in its infinite wisdom, wants to allow permit holders to carry their guns into places that serve alcohol, including sporting events. (Joining the Republicans are our own Democratic Sens. Joe Schiavoni of Canfield and Jason Wilson of Columbiana.)

Dumb. Just plain dumb.

Proponents point out that if a permit holder carries a gun into an establishment, he/she won't be allowed to drink an alcoholic beverage and, therefore, all will be well.

Suffice it to say that cops and the owners of restaurants and taverns think the Senate bill is a really bad idea for obvious reasons, including the fact that alcohol makes people do crazy things.

Let's hope the Ohio House shows a little more common sense than the Senate and votes it down. I looked online to see if Rep. Al Landis, R-Dover, had taken a position on the bill, but didn't find anything. Perhaps one of our media outlets could put him on the record.

* * *
It will be a different summer at Atwood Lake, maybe a little eerie. The lodge, golf course and cabins are shuttered and there is no immediate savior for the property.

Apparently, a consultant brought in to review the property's prospects was unable to secure financing to get anything going and is no longer involved.

One thing is certain: Leaving the golf course to the whims of nature should take a big toll rather rapidly. At least the deer will be happy.

* * *
One of my last reporter hires as editor of The Times-Reporter was a kid by the name of Kyle Kondik, who had just graduated from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.

I lost Kondik after a year or so when he landed a job as editorial page editor of the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. From there he moved to the Ohio attorney general's office as a policy wonk, only to lose that job when Republicans swept into office last November.

But Kondik landed on his feet and is now a staffer at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, which is pretty much a dream job for a political junkie like Kondik. Anyway, he has an interesting piece on the upcoming presidential election, noting that President Barack Obama could win re-election without taking Ohio and other Midwestern states.

I would add that the Republicans might help Obama's re-election bid by not reaching a consensus on an acceptable candidate. And at this point I don't see any acceptable candidates. Do you?

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Have a nice Easter. Of course, you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter (dfarrell_dover).

Monday, April 11, 2011

Surprise: A curmudgeon finds fodder in a pol's letter to the editor

Sometimes politicians would be better off if they didn't try to put a spin on a partisan issue.

Case in point is State Rep. Al Landis' recent letter to the editor in The Times-Reporter in which he defends his vote for Senate Bill 5 with a declaration that he is committed to Ohio taxpayers and the bill "is a necessary measure for maintaining the services that local governments provide for communities. Raising taxes on the unemployed and underemployed who struggle to pay bills was not an option."

He then goes on to say that the bill, now a law, does not eliminate collective bargaining for Ohio's 360,000 unionized public sector workers, including cops, firefighters and school teachers.

"It does not mandate cuts in pay or benefits, or eliminate pensions," he said.

Well, in my mind, it does, at least in some cases. Forcing all public union members to contribute at least 15 percent of their salaries toward the cost of their benefit packages is, in fact, a pay cut if they were paying less than 15 percent beforehand.

In addition, eliminating the leverage of strikes by public union members and allowing the legislative authority of a political entity to be the final decider in a wage dispute strips bare the ability of a union to collectively bargain.

Landis might call what's left in the wake of Senate Bill 5 "collective bargaining," but I don't.

That's not to say there weren't issues with Ohio's collective bargaining law. There were. Binding arbitration, which gave authority to an unrelated third party over taxpayers' money, was wrong. And the provision should have been corrected long ago.

Other issues that could have been addressed include sick leave payouts and accumulated vacation pay.

Instead, Gov. John Kasich declared war on public employees, beginning with his rant against a police officer who pulled him over on Rt. 315 in Columbus. And the Republican Party, with Landis in tow, followed right along.

The result of Kasich's hardball politics is further polarization of the masses within Ohio. I don't know whether it's a war on the middle class, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a public union employee who doesn't think so.

And then there are the unintended consequences. What are we telling Ohio's best and brightest kids who might have wanted to grow up to be a cop, a firefighter or even a teacher? Will we as parents push them in other directions? Out of the state perhaps?

A friend asked me if I thought a referendum on the new anti-collective bargaining law would be successful. I don't have an answer to that yet. I know there are a lot of people out there who think public employees have it too easy, especially now because private sector employers aren't sharing the wealth with their employees like they once did. Call it the jealousy factor.

* * *
Some further reading on the subject:

-- Plain Dealer and Columbus Dispatch columnist Thomas Suddes isn't making any predictions on whether a referendum would be successful. You can read his column here.

-- Most big city mayors in Ohio don't like the state's new anti-collective bargaining law. A Plain Dealer story explains most of those mayors are Democrats.

* * *
One of the dumber things being proposed in this state is the requirement that voters produce photo identification cards before they cast their ballots in primary or general elections.

In all my years of covering elections in this state, I don't remember an election being thrown because of significant voter fraud. Indeed, if there is one documented case of that occurring in Tuscarawas County in the last 40 years, I'd be surprised.

The law now requires voters to show a driver's license, or utility bill, or some other document that confirms the voter is whom he/she claims to be.

It works. So, now some our legislators in all their wisdom want to fix a system that appears not to be broken.

The local paper pointed to a case in Indiana as reason to approve such a law in Ohio. Apparently Indiana's top elections official was indicted for intentionally voting in the wrong precinct.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why that case underscores the need for a voter photo ID law in Ohio. But maybe I missed something.

* * *
For those who think the newspaper business is dead, just look at the price of a share of stock in the Washington Post Co. It closed Monday at $440.68.

Pretty good, huh?

Last week, an analyst was discussing the company on CNBC. The questioner asked him what the value of the newspaper was to the company, which, according to Google, is a diversified education and media company.

"It's worthless," he said.

* * *
I hate to be pessimistic but there seem to be forces at work that will pin us down economically, at least in Ohio, for some time to come.

The collective bargaining law, while it may have no immediate obvious impact, might keep those 360,000 public employees from being too free with their money. That means the uncertainty that now envelops them will keep them from purchasing big ticket items, including homes and cars. (There's that middle class thing...)

Add to that the skyrocketing gasoline prices, which will order a shifting of priorities in many other people's lives, forcing them to cut back on purchasing across the board.

And, of course, as government budgets tighten, people whose employment is connected to entitlement programs (easy targets for the Tea Party) might be out of work sooner rather than later. They, too, will be subtracted from the ranks of healthy consumers.

Then there's the Medicaid and Medicare funding crisis that is putting a crimp on hospitals and health care facilities and ultimately on their employees.

I'm told by people who ought to know that there is virtually no housing construction under way in Tuscarawas County. There were about a dozen real estate transfers in Saturday's paper and about half appear to be connected to foreclosure actions.

That's horrible.

Perhaps new Chamber Director Scott Robinson can bring together our best and brightest for a little roundtable discussion about what needs to be done to move Tuscarawas County out of the economic doldrums.

Only our future is at stake.

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