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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