Thursday, October 31, 2013

Arshinkoff to drop the nuclear TV ad bomb in Falls mayoral race

Is Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff ready to drop the nuclear Cleveland  TV ad bomb on Tuesday's  mayoral race in Cuyahoga Falls?  A Republican source  tells me he is a little surprised that the boss hasn't spent more to prop up Tea Party mayor Don Robart and has saved the cash for the final week end assault on Democrats in several races that will doubtless include radio bursts.

There must be some anxiety in the Robart camp over polls showing he is in a tight race with Democrat Don Walters, the president of Falls City Council.  You may recall that Robart, now in his 27th year in the mayor's office, ran unopposed four years ago.

Robart continued his mystical hold on  the local media this year with odd endorsements from both the Beacon Journal and Cuyahoga Falls News Press, a weekly.  We say mystical because, as we've written, the mayor has never aspired to the BJ's goal of regional cooperation.  In fact, Robart has no bipartisan  ties with Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic and has preferred to administer a municipal island in the county.

As for the News Press, it complimented Robart for an "exciting vision for the the city's future."

Some of that, oddly, will depend on federal dollars, scorned by the hard right, to pay for the excitement.  (I tire of reporting  that I attended a Tea Party Rescue America Tax Day rally in the Falls in which he welcomed the throng as the social, moral and fiscal conscience of America.  Right. They also help shut down the government,  as we have since witnessed.

As the Falls Press noted in its endorsement, "He also hopes to use federal money to upgrade vacant homes,  secure federal  funds to improve the streetscape  from Chestnut Boulevard south to the city limits and work with the schools to possibly increase the city income tax to help pay for construction of a new high school/middle school  campus." (Lord.  New taxes? More excitement!)

By the way, let the record show that the BJ editorial writers never had anything good to say about Arshinkoff's often unruly political hijinks -  the same party financier who is said to be preparing the nuclear TV bomb.

As for me, why can't I dismiss the fact  that Robart played his socially conservative card by successfully opposing a discounted family rate at the Natatorium to a gay couple, one of whom was a wounded Iraqi veteran who wanted to rehab at the Nat?

Personal note:  We moved out of the Falls 14 years ago.  As we grew older, we couldn't take the excitement.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Repeat performances of wars of the worlds

The PBS American Experience documentary on Orson Welles' War of the Worlds was a strong reminder of how easily fooled many Americans were in 1938 - and apparently also  by today's entrenched  political fantasies on the hard right.  As  witnesses to the mass hysteria that struck the dupes of the broadcast of a Martian landing in New Jersey later noted:  "I couldn't understand how anyone would fall for this."   But folks, countless people did, in fact, even with scattered reports of suicides. Indeed, they did.

As a reporter for the Columbus Citizen-Journal during  the Cuban missile crises, I got a taste of mass fright in the newsroom as several colleagues hovered over the rattling wire service machines waiting for the latest word on the ominous approach of Russian ships to Cuba to dare  triggering a war between two atomic powers.  The young reporter sitting across from my desk  remained on the telephone to her mother with panicked instructions to rush food, water and medical supplies to the basement (as if that would have helped!).

Of course, the threat of annihilation was in this case real unless the confrontation was somehow resolved .

At night, I watched dirt flying from a lantern-lit hole in a neighbor's yard opposite  our place.  He had chosen to construct a fallout shelter, which was OK, I guess,  if perishing in a useless homemade shelter was preferable to atomic incineration.

But American ingenuity in the marketplace took hold the next day as ads appeared from construction companies that they could offer guaranteed family fallout shelters with no interest and six months or so to pay.

OK, the bomb be damned.  Everybody back to work!  I never asked my young colleague what her mother was going to do with all of the food and medical supplies in the basement.

Aeros to become a swimming team?

Rubber ducks?  C'mon man. For a baseball team?  And we thought the Lansing Lugnuts were at the end of the line!  ...How about the Polymer Polka Dots?...Drippy Zippies? ...Tired Tires?   Warning: Try calling a burly first baseman a Rubber Duck - and duck!

  Good grief. Is even baseball no longer sacred?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A teaching moment in 2013

Back for a repeat performance in case you missed it the first time: Tea Party-blessed David Bitner's campaign posture in his bid for a seat on the the Springboro, Oh., school board: 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Three not a crowd in OSU investment

Let us begin the week in Beautiful Ohio with a squinty look at the academic/political complex that is the pride of Gov. Kasich.   While public universities genuflect to the governor and legislature in hopes of squeezing out a few more public dollars for their campuses, Ohio State University and a private venture capital fund have worked out an investment scheme - private! -  that has been exposed by a couple of Plain Dealer reporters.

But only partly exposed because the major players in the deal aren't talking - enforced silence that Kasich honed from his days with the defunct Lehman Brothers.

Such ideas were seeded when Kasich replaced the state development department with a new office with the seductive  name of JobsOhio, a merger of two prized words in the governor's lexicon.  To protect the agency's virginity, it was guaranteed total secrecy in its stated workaday world  of creating new jobs in the Buckeye marketplace.

So now we are told that OSU has invested $50 million in the secret venture capital fund run by Mark Kvamme, who had directed JobsOhio until a a year ago when he left  to create his very own private fund. A close friend of Kasich, Kvamme isn't talking about the deal.  Nor is recently retired  OSU president  E.Gordon Gee, who surely knows a lot more about it as the widely reputed Wizard of Oz.

 And where will the invested money eventually land?  Only the privileged insiders to the flow know.  And given OSU's iconic position in the state's academic universe, it appears no one will find out soon.

As the PD's Brent Larkin observed  in a Sunday column,  OSU has long nurtured a bad habit of keeping blemished  episodes  under the radar.   He described the lastest stone-walling on major transfers of public money, as is this one, as an exercise in obfuscation". 

Meanwhile, Mike Douglas  called it "coziness" in Sunday's Beacon Journal  but more gently  dampened  concern by describing Kvamme as a credentialed operative with success in his past who "may prove to be a winner" in this instance.

Kasich,  Gee,  Kvamme.  Connecting the dots can raise dark suspicions.  Coziness?   While we're waiting for transparency, it looks more like crony capitalism under a rock in the governor's office.

ONE scary way to run for school board

Ohio Tea Party activists have set their sights on controlling local school boards around the state, and they are doing it through deceptive marketing campaigns, claiming to care about “students.”   Many are following the lead of Springboro’s Kelly Kohls.
Last week we reported that Kohls, the School Board President from Springboro who tried to push Creationism and Christian Nationalisminto the curriculum of her public school district, was taking her show on the road, training Tea Party school board candidates in the Olentangy district.
Dr. Kohls (she has a PhD in Nutrition), has also been spotted recently in Westerville, where three Tea Party candidates are trying to replicate Kohl’s model – running together as a team promoting a “student’s first” agenda.
The ticket is headed up by Westerville Tea Party director Jim Burgess, one of the leaders of an effort to overturn the Westerville school levypassed by voters last year.   
The plan, promoted on their website, calls for cutting school funding by opposing school levies, then reprioritizing spending for the remaining money.    A fancy pyramid graphic shows the order in which things will be cut, starting with teacher benefits and reimbursements for things like classroom supplies.
Support services go next, and then sports, food service and busing.
Under the Tea Party plan for Westerville schools, a small number of uninsured, low-paid teachers with no support staff will be sharing a single whiteboard marker while teaching classrooms full of hungry kids.   And eliminating busing and sports?  That’s the real genius behind the whole plan.  Walking to school is great exercise – and it doesn’t cost the school a dime for uniforms or coaches!
Back in Springboro, Kohls has recruited David Bitner and Kolton Vaughn as candidates in this year’s race for school board.   Kohls will not be running for reelection this year, but she circulated petitions for both men.
Bitner and Vaughn have also received the endorsement of Sonny Thomas, head of the Springboro Tea Party.  
Thomas, like many Tea Party activists around the state, has developed an interest in local school board politics.   So much so that, back in July, he showed up at a school board meeting to speak in support of Kohls’ plan to invite a group headed by a white supremacist to “teach” a class on the U.S. Constitution to Springboro students and parents.   Thomas spoke while holding up a confederate flag.
Thomas’s Twitter feed is mainly Tweets about Blacks being criminals and Jews lying and trying to control the world (not kidding!), but he recently managed to squeeze in a few endorsements like this one for Kohls’ protégés:
STP has proudly endorsed David Bitner and Kolton Vaughn for Springboro School Board. We feel they will be a nice match up w the remaining members to continue the excellence that has become a standard w Dr. Kelly Kohls.
Like their Westerville counterparts, Bitner and Vaughn also have awebsite on which they discuss their “Children’s First budgeting process” – a similar model to the Westerville’s that also focuses on starving districts of funding by opposing school levies and then redirecting the remaining funds to “the students.”
Make no mistake, Bitner and Vaughn and Burgess are running a marketing campaign based on a message developed by Kohls: “Student’s First”.   In reality1, the message might better be named “Teachers Last” or  even “Students are kind of important – but not as important as low property taxes”.
Tea Party activists want to control your local school board.  And that should scare the hell out of everyone in Ohio.
Before you vote next month, we highly suggest you read fully and carefully any messaging coming from Tea Party-backed school board candidates.   More importantly, please keep in mind what school board members like Kohls and her cohorts at Springboro actually did once they got into power: killing funding for schools while introducing their own religious beliefs into the curriculum.
1.  Speaking of reality, headshots of Bitner and Vaughn are posted on their website, and both appear to be normal, clean-cut, upstanding citizens.   Images circulating around the Internet now might give you a different idea…
Also Bitner