Sunday, November 20, 2011

JoePa failed in father figure role

Originally published in the Tuscarawas County edition of the Bargain Hunter.

I feel for the students and alumni of Pennsylvania State University. Through no fault of their own, their school will be forever tarnished by a child abuse scandal that is so appalling that even legendary football coach Joe Paterno couldn’t survive the ensuing firestorm.

And it’s not over yet.

Look for no sympathy for JoePa from this corner. In 2002, a graduate assistant informed the coach that a 10-year-old boy was sodomized in his locker room by a trusted colleague. Paterno then dropped the matter into the lap of his athletic director. Somehow, the report never left the confines of Penn State.
I’d like to think that if I walked in on a child abuser in action that I’d at least go a little nuts on him. Most fathers I know would.

Is Joe Paterno a father figure? Hardly.
And by the way, news media, Paterno is not caught up in a “sex scandal.” Sodomizing a little boy is violent molestation and child abuse. It’s torturing a child’s mind. It’s stealing his innocence.
It is not a “sex scandal.”
You have to love Sugarcreek.

In a newspaper report detailing the mayoral victory by Clayton Weller, we learned that repairing the town cuckoo clock apparently is high on Weller’s agenda.

“Weller is a native of the village, and wants to see the cuckoo clock in place, repaired and running,” stated the story.

It went on to quote Weller, to wit: “I hope to do what I can to help the area grow and help our local businesses to thrive and listen to the people and also try to get Sugarcreek on the map for positive things.”
I can’t say that I was aware that the town’s cuckoo clock was out of commission, but apparently outgoing Mayor Jeremiah Johnson failed to give it the priority it was due. He was defeated 576 to 198.

Let this be a warning to other incumbent small-town mayors.

Got a street light that’s burned out? A big pothole on Main St.? A bad cuckoo clock?
Pay attention to the details, folks. Sometimes it’s the little things that count. I’m being serious here. Really.
After my last commentary, an online responder wondered why I didn’t run for mayor or city council. That’s a fair enough question.

There are several reasons. I would absolutely hate passing out campaign literature and canvassing neighborhoods, especially on beautiful summer and autumn days.

I’d also hate having to attend chicken and Swiss steak dinners night after night and listen to politicos of every shape and size drone on and on.

And I would hate sitting in that little house on the Square every Christmas season, pretending I was Santa Claus.
A couple of years ago, I congratulated New Philadelphia Mayor Ron Brodzinski on his impending retirement.
“I’m really going to enjoy getting up on Sunday morning and not having to worry about whether my name is in your column,” Brodzinski said.

I was flattered and humbled by his comment. So, I think I’ll pass on the politics thing for the time being and continue offering my take on things right here – well, as long as the Bargain Hunter folks allow.
Dover City Council, you can relax now.

I know the ballot issue that proposed a new Dover High School in the north end of the city got absolutely trounced. But there was no call for the cheap shots aimed at members of the Dover City Schools administration and Board of Education, along with community members, who against the odds worked tirelessly in an effort to move the community forward.

Reading a full page of anonymous, venom-infected comments in the local daily newspaper made me about half sick.

Would they prefer the uneducated, uninformed and derelicts make decisions on our behalf?

A friend of mine put it succinctly in an email to me: “The board is made up of citizens who were elected by voters and volunteer their time and make a good faith effort to provide the best educational programs they can for the kids. To read the dozens of printed and online comments, the board is some dastardly mix of arrogant, out-of-touch, elitist, anti-democratic boobs who to a person does not understand the word ‘NO!’

“The undercurrent of class warfare is there as well. From the comments, there’s a lot of jealousy that successful business people were in the forefront of the levy campaign. Who should be doing it – a bunch of minimum wage, underachieving, anti-education boobs?”

This isn’t class warfare. It’s about having a vision for a better community. It’s why there is now a beautiful Performing Arts Center at Kent-Tuscarawas.

I applaud those who stepped up. We need them. I pray they have thick skins.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Election delivers reality check

This commentary will appear in the Tuscarawas County edition of the Bargain Hunter.

Ohio voters’ smackdown of Senate Bill 5 – the John Kasich initiative that aimed to do away with collective bargaining for public employees – underscores a reality that many politicians don’t seem to grasp very well.

That reality is that they should never believe, assume or otherwise think that they have some sort of mandate to govern from voters. They don’t. And among what they fail to perceive in their post-election glee is that more voters lost faith in their opponents than believe wholeheartedly in the winners’ aptitude for making wise decisions.

Kasich unseated Gov. Ted Strickland 49 to 47 percent a year ago in the wake of the Great Recession that cost thousands of Ohioans their livelihoods.

Mandate? Hardly.

So, Kasich’s first move as governor was to all but eliminate collective bargaining for public employees, stating on numerous occasions that it was a necessary move if Ohio was going to survive in the new economy, whatever that is. And with that his Republican-controlled Legislature fell into lock-step.

Bad move.

The issue failed Tuesday by more than 20 points. That’s an incredible misread of the public’s mindset.
Many saw Senate Bill 5 as an attack on the middle class by a guy who reportedly made a lot of bucks on Wall Street – wrong message from the wrong guy at the wrong time.

Even Republicans have loved ones who happen to be teachers, cops, firefighters or others who are following various public service career paths. Even Republicans have voiced displeasure with the very wealthy 1 percent, who seemed to have gotten a free pass from hard times.

I think it’s too early in Kasich’s term to declare him to be unelectable next time around. But he needs to lose the arrogance, embrace humility and quit trying to take giant steps when a series of little ones will do just fine.

The collective bargaining law needed to be tweaked, not bulldozed.

I’m depressed that Dover City School District voters blew off – 71 to 31 percent – the idea of building a new high school with the help of state aid worth $9 million.

I have been a resident of Dover since 1987 and have heard many times over the years what a great place it is to raise children. Well, that might be correct to a certain extent, but not if you take into account the aged, decrepit high school that we make our young people serve time in for four years.

I have seen the high school up close during my stints as a guest in various classrooms and more recently as a substitute teacher/librarian/you-name-it. The place is woefully outdated and an embarrassment.

When the possibility of a new high school was discussed – when it was tagged by the state as one of the worst high schools in the state – a contingent representing the school district approached Dover City Council with a plan.

That plan called for construction of a new high school in the area in front of Dover Middle School. The high school campus would consume the tennis courts and two youth league ballfields in Dover City Park. For some reason – personalities, perhaps? – the district was rebuffed even though the plan called for construction of new tennis courts by the municipal pool and youth league fields at East and South elementary schools paid for by the school district.

It was good plan in my mind. High school kids actually would have some green space, there’d be plenty of parking and seven classes of students would have a shared learning environment in two separate buildings. In effect, they would have a campus.

But apparently, members of Dover City Council and Mayor Richard Homrighausen thought otherwise. Dover City Park must be as untouchable as the hundred-year-old decrepit high school.

Sadly, there was no further discussion. No back-and-forth. No conversations. No leadership. No nothing.

Get this, Dover City Council (and all those who connect themselves to the city’s administration): Dover is one community. Sit on your hands, if you want, but if the community doesn’t move forward with a shared vision, it won’t move forward. It will dry up.

Take a good look at the corner of N. Wooster Ave. and Front St. How long has that corner sported an abandoned gas station? Some vision, folks. Have you even discussed it?

The good news is that you have a second chance to get it right and, hopefully, newly and freshly elected Mayor Rick can at least help lead the charge.

By the way, the newest part of Dover High, including the gymnasium, might make a nice, new Dover City Hall and replace the dangerous monstrosity called Memorial Hall. Don’t get caught in the basement in case of fire.

As we put Election ’11 to bed, some interesting results in Tuscarawas County:

–Longtime New Philadelphia Law Director Democrat Mike Johnson was defeated by challenger Marvin Fete, 2,591 to 2,406.

–Sugarcreek voters soundly defeated incumbent Mayor Jeremiah Johnson, electing Clayton Weller instead. Weller defeated Johnson 576 to 198, or 74 to 26 percent. Jeremiah is Mike Johnson’s nephew.

–New Philadelphia Democratic incumbent Mayor Mike Taylor overwhelmed perennial candidate Tom Gerber, 3,470 to 1,589. Obviously New Philadelphia residents are pleased with Taylor’s performance. I’m not sure why Gerber continues to run for public office. Going door-to-door can’t be that much fun.

–The race for New Philadelphia Municipal Court judge was a close one. Nanette Von Allman edged Kristin Zemis, 10,279 to 9,833.

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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Young people aren't jealous, they're just very angry

Originally published in the Tuscarawas County edition of the Bargain Hunter

By all accounts Henry Ford, who is the father of the assembly line, was a less-than-perfect American who engaged in anti-Semitism and hobnobbed with Nazis before they got caught up in trying to dominate the world.

But historians give Ford credit for understanding one of the tenets of capitalism – he paid his workers enough money so they could afford to buy the products, primarily the Model T, which they were making on behalf of Ford Motor Co.

In the process of paying those workers enough money, other companies followed suit, allowing their workers, too, to participate in the consumer economy.

This seems to be a good course of action. Everyone benefits if the working public can participate in the economy by buying things it makes. It seems, however, the country – the world – somehow got off track recently, rewarding a small minority, who really don’t make anything other than a deal, with phenomenal salary and benefit packages. CEOs love to make deals.

War was the catalyst for the ’60s protests; it’s spoiled, overpaid CEOs in 2011.

Our work-ethic psyche is damaged. You can toil and sacrifice for your company for years and years – no guarantee that you can hold the pink slip at bay. The suits get the spoils. They always do, not you.

Consider a note from a late-twenty-something son, a product of New Philadelphia High, to his conservative-thinking, work-till-he-drops father.

“I would have to say it is very hard to make an ‘honest’ billion,” wrote the young man.

“For every Richard Branson, Bill Gates, or Warren Buffett I would argue there are untold Richard Fulds. (Fuld was chairman and CEO of the failed Lehman Brothers.)

“Yes, one CEO’s salary wouldn't affect a company, but that one CEO isn’t the only one raking in an obscene salary. The super-rich have gotten super richer on the backs of the bottom 95 percent. While jobs were being shipped overseas, automated, eliminated and outsourced in America, the CEOs and shareholders of those companies raked in ever-growing wealth.

“Is it their responsibility to increase profits? Of course, but by what means? No morality or ethics, that's how – profit by whatever means necessary…

“I'm not jealous of the rich. I’m p----- at them. The rich are the useless nothings in Congress; they're the CEOs of companies like Enron, Lehman and Citi. They’re the trust fund babies and banking ‘Kings of the Universe’ who spend their time boozing, doing drugs and feeling entitled to a life of privilege. The super-rich weren’t catered to back in the day like they are today…”

Add Gene Isenberg to the list of CEOs who are well-compensated underperformers. A week ago, Nabors Industries, an oil driller, said it was replacing Isenberg as CEO but will give him a lovely parting gift of $100 million.

That’s right, $100 million – for keeping the company’s stock flat for a decade.

And therein lies President Barack Obama’s problem. This kind of news keeps on coming.

Is the “hope and change” president losing the generation that helped put him in office? Maybe. But tell me, how does the president – any president – influence compensation packages awarded by executive board members who themselves are part of the club?

Won’t fundamental change have to come from within? Won’t we have to start making things again?

Sadly, Obama has failed to live up to advance billing. Nothing much, including the unemployment rate, has changed since Lehman Brothers went belly-up in 2008.

And the price of gasoline has shot to $3.50 a gallon, give or take a dime or two on either side.

And business has never liked Obama, whose continued calls for higher taxes have profitable companies sitting on their hands, uncertain of the future.

So the campaign for the presidency begins in earnest after Tuesday’s election.

CNBC is touting the 2012 campaign as the most important of our time. I’m not one to buy into TV hype but, you know, I think the network is correct.

“The economy is Topic A,” said the voiceover.

That’s an understatement.

Here are some predictions for Tuesday’s general election:

  • Issue 2 will fail and Senate Bill 5 will be repealed. Gov. John Kasich could have gotten away with tweaking Ohio’s collective bargaining law but missed the opportunity. He does not have the support of most public managers, who have forged decent relationships with their unions. And most unions, at least in our area, have made concessions in the wake of the great recession. Many Ohioans are connected in some way to public employees and feel their pain.
  • Incumbent mayors will be re-elected in Dover and New Philadelphia. The opponents have failed to make a case for the alternative.
  • I’m pulling for passage of a bond issue that will pave the way for a new Dover High. It will be an exciting time for a community that hasn’t built a new school in five decades. People who think the old building ought to be remodeled aren’t thinking realistically. That would be like putting new tires on a tired, old clunker. OK, no prediction here, just hope.
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