Thursday, October 27, 2005

Akron Muni Court: What's at Stake

The ABJ is for all intents and purposes done with its endorsements on the Muni Court races. Now is as good a time as any for an argument in favor of voting a straight ticket.

The only race left for ABJ is Tavia Baxter against Alison McCarty. Their position is a no-brainer. McCarty is by far the leading light on the Muni bench and, in terms of ability and experience, is a given for the recommendation. Tavia will make an excellent judge, but is frankly fodder in this fight.

On the other hand, I have no problems voting straight D because I will be voting against Alex Arshinkoff’s interests.

As mentioned previously here and elsewhere, much of the Arshinkoff machine runs on patronage jobs in offices controlled by Republicans. I’ve seen the effects first hand, and it’s not pretty. Not only does an applicant need to be in Alex’s good graces to land a job, even his apologists admit that he has no compunctions about placing patently unqualified people into important positions. Remember, this is the guy who ultimately guided Maureen O’Connor onto the Supreme Court. When it comes to cronyistic hackery, W has nothing on Alex.

Control of Muni court has been sliding in and out of Alex’s hands for the past few years. The court was split 3-3 when Marvin Shapiro won a seat on Common Pleas. When Taft appointed Brian Stormer giving Republican’s a majority, Alex famously orchestrated the firings of a number of D’s on the court staff. Then Annalisa Williams beat Stormer (campaign slogan: I am not Eleanor Marsh’s ex-husband, I’m Brian Stormer), again splitting the court. In the last election Eleanor Marsh Stormer won a spot on Common Pleas and Carla Moore on the Court of Appeals. The resulting appointments again gave control to the Republicans and there for to Alex. Any resulting staff changes slipped under my radar screen, but it’s impossible to believe they didn’t occur.

To give an idea how it works, I once had a colleague who, well, wouldn’t make anyone forget about Vincent Buglisi. Or Marcia Clark, for that matter. We went our separate ways, but I noticed that she ran against Brian Williams in the Republican primary for mayor. This puzzled me because she is a loyal R. She didn’t put up much of a fight, which puzzled me because she has access to a considerable war chest. Then I ran into her recently and leaned that she landed a magistrate gig at muni court. This really puzzled me because she had run against Alex’s boy. Then I learned something that put it all into place; under campaign finance laws, each donor can give double if a candidate has a primary opponent. So it appears that Williams doubled up on donations and a mediocre lawyer got a sweet job.

ABJ will end up split on its recommendations. So far they have picked re-electing Annalisa Williams (D) over token opposition George Pappas, Jr. (R), Eve Belfance (D) over recently appointed Kathryn Culver (R) and second-time-around appointee Edna Boyle (R) over Kathy Michaels (D). As I said, McCarty over Baxter is as good as done.

If you happen to be one of those principled Democrats or Independents that just wants the best person, get over it already. First, the D slate is quality back to front. A couple of the matchups might give me pause in differe circumstances, but there is no John Adams vs. Larry Cook race here.

Second, the other side doesn’t play that way. It’s time for D’s to say that, at the least, if we have quality candidates on both sides of the ballot, vote straight D.