Thursday, August 24, 2006

On Becation

When my desk looks like this:

. . .it's a pretty good sign that I'm trying to do too much. So, as my four-year-old says, I'm "On Becation." I'm taking a week off to catch up on various things around the house and in my personal business, smooth out the transition as the kids start school and gird myself for the coming campaign season insanity. It's not easy because the past week has seen some spirited discussions in comments (sorry I haven't had time to weigh in) and traffic has been humming. But when I was away for a week earlier this month things rebounded nicely on my return. In any event, I've decided mental health is more important than internet traffic. That may seem like an obvious choice to you, but here at the House of Pho, mental health is often considered an indulgence.

See you all in a week.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Beacon Watch: Don't Watch the Beacon Updated

At the House of Pho we subscribe to the print edition of the BJ on weekends and pick up stories online during the week. Today we got a copy of the print edition because, as you can see, it's a bonus day. Which led to an odd discovery: No story about the layoffs. Anywhere. Not on the front page. Not, as you can see, in the preview box. Nowhere.

Goddamit! My biz section stuck to the back of sports, which I didn't check. So instead of spiking the story altogether, the BJ just buried it. Hat tip to reader Rick in Medina for pointing it out.

Cruised over to -- same story. Nothing in the News or Breaking News tabs. If you already have the link, you can check out the story posted last night, but I couldn't find it on the site.

I have to wonder if someone in Western Canada objected to the coverage. Though it's not like they can keep it under wraps.

Meanwhile, some anonymice who appear to be in the know -- based on SiteMeter hits possibly staffers -- have posted some comments worth rescuing:

  • Yo...announcement on layoffs was indeed made today. 25 percent of the newsroom cut. Gone -- after 60-days -- will be some well known bylines, parents that are sole breadwinners in their households, single moms, folks who uprooted their families to come work at the once heralded place. Cuts include 11 reporters, 8 copy editors, 7 student correspondents (students at local colleges who do a terrific job -- sort of like longterm internships), 4 photogs, 3 clerks, 2 artists and 1 librarian. These are the Guild -- union jobs. In addition, three managers were cut. See more on the retirees' blog --- Google Akron Beacon retirees blog -- that should get you there. Cuts expected to save $2.3 million a year -- that is indeed in the newsroom alone, according to folks on the inside.[R]
  • [R]eporters cited in your post were indeed hit -- Abrams, Abraham, Reed, Thomas, Storm, McManamon and Wallace. In addition, Armon, Mackinnon, Massey and Estwick. All very, very sad.
  • Addendum to above -- voluntary resig. being accepted 60 days.... would reduce no. of layoffs, which would be a terrif. thing, but positions still gone forever
Update: You can read about the BJ cut in the Plain Dealer, including some historical context:

    The Beacon Journal's new owner has said profits have declined by half during the last several years and are expected to drop again this year. The newspaper has about 135,000 daily subscribers. Employment was cut in 2001 with the first newsroom layoffs in the newspaper's history. A voluntary buyout followed.

    "We knew the cuts were going to be deep . . . but it's a tough day here at the paper," said Andale Gross, Akron unit chair for the newspaper union. "We lost a significant number of people out of the newsroom. We lost some special talent."
By the way, the BJ isn't the only area paper feeling the economic pinch. If you missed it, here's how the PeeDee is dealing.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Akron Sinking Journal

The Bloodletting in the Beacon Journal has begun. 40 newsroom employees got their contract-mandated 60-day notice. Accoring to the BJ's story:

    Canadian publisher Black Press Ltd. paid $165 million for the newspaper and its Web site after the breakup of parent Knight Ridder Inc. in June.

    Black told employees days before the transaction closed that jobs would have to be cut because of revenue losses.

    * * *

    ``There could be the need for further reductions'' in the newsroom if revenues do not improve, Moss said.

    Before the cuts, the newsroom had about 160 employees.

    Editor Debra Adams Simmons said the layoffs will affect the newspaper.

    ``We're evaluating everything that we do and everything we need to do to determine the best combination of content possible with the staff that we have,'' she said.

    The restructured newspaper's efforts will focus on Summit County, its core market, managing editor Mizell Stewart said.
The only people who might feel OK about this are my readers who have heard dark rumblings of 50% cuts. In fact my souce was spot-on with the number of people let go, but we had a miscommunication what that meant percentage-wise.

The story is fairly hard-hitting, given that it's essentially a gripe against the new boss. Blog reaction is filling in the gaps.

From Ohio Media Watch:
    WEWS/5 reporter Brad Harvey - who witnessed the story first hand from the station's Akron bureau inside the Beacon Journal building - lists names of some of the paper's staffers now being cut... including names such as Browns beat reporter Patrick McManamon, and writers Lisa Abraham and Julie Wallace.

    OMW has heard other names on the cut list, including movie critic George Thomas, music/entertainment writer Malcolm X. Abram, and sportswriters Stephanie Storm and Tom Reed. (A special note goes out to Mr. Thomas, who dropped us a note a while ago telling us he's a regular OMW reader. Here's hoping some OMW Karma visits you soon, George!)
From BJ Retirees:
    Managers affected by the layoffs were design editor Mike Needs, deputy metro editor David Wilson and David Helmick, computer guy for the newsroom.

    A total of 41 or 42 staffers including 36 in Guild and management positions were given the required 60-day notice. Those whom the layoffs would affect were named with indications by the company it would reduce the number one for one if others resigned. If a photographer resigned, for instance, then a photographer would not be laid off.

    The sports department took a big hit. Artists Steinhauer and Hagedorn, eight copy editors, four photographers, 11 reporters, a librarian, three clerks and seven college student correspondents. Generally those with least seniority by job title lost their jobs.
From PsychoBilly:
    Mike Needs, formerly the Public Editor and leader of the Reader's Panel I've been a part of this year, was let go. He had recently been moved to Design Editor. Needs has a long history at the Beacon, including being on the leading edge of developing the website content. His loss is significant, in my mind, regarding the paper's quality.
A few thoughts.
  • Black's mode is to focus on local news, so shedding people whose work can be replaced by wire pieces (Abrams and Thomas, for example) isn't too surprising.
  • The focus on Summit County is a nightmare. At the risk of sounding all Voices and Choices, Summit is too enmeshed in the region for that to make sense.
  • It's really a shame about Abrams and Thomas. Pop culture criticism in general-interest publications isn't terribly diverse. I felt proud that the local paper employed not one but two African-Americans
  • I'm guessing that part of the plan is to shift more work to freelancers. Inevitably the journalism will suffer as people write one-off pieces as opposed to developing expertise on beats.
There's some more reorganization in the works which, if sources are correct, will make a bad situation worse.

Remind me: Why do we still live here?

Politics Datebook [WITH CORRECTION]: Sawyer Announcement, Phillips MTB and more.

Just Christmas season now begins before the day after Thanksgiving, increasingly the political season is starting before Labor day, its supposed unofficial beginning.

Tom Sawyer State School Board Announcement.

Sawyer will turn in his petitions and formally announce his candidacy at the Old Stone School on Broadway Wednesday, August 22 at 10:30 a.m. I’ll try to be there for a report. I’ve been told that the response to the signature campaign has been overwhelming – over a thousand signatures in only a few weeks’ time.

Debbie Phillips MTB

I’ve talked about Debbie before. She’s a friend and – full disclosure – the Executive Director of Ohio Fair Schools Campaign for which I am a contract Field Organizer. She is currently on leave from OFSC while running for the Ohio House in the 92nd District. Debbie will be in Cleveland for a fundraising and will stop in for a Meet.the.Bloggers session, starting at 4:00 at Talkies Suite 105 of the Tower Press Building. Details on Upcoming. Catch up with Debbie at her campaign site, or this extensive report from YellowDogSammy.

Judy Hanna Night with the Aeros.

Judy Hanna is running against Kevin Coughlin in the 27th Senate District. From the campaign:

    Support Judy Hanna & the Akron Aeros on Friday August 25th at 6pm. Enjoy an evening of fun & fireworks at Canal Park for only $7. Please join us as Judy Hanna throws out the first pitch of the game!

    The Aeros are taking on the Trenton Thunder in the last home stand of the season.
    Show your support for Judy in the 27th Senate District Race by wearing a Judy Hanna t-shirt. We will be arriving early to hand out literature at the gates to welcome all of the fans!

Beacon Watch

Two sources (each of whom are outside, but with multiple sources of their own) say zero hour will be sometime today.

Blackwell Brings in the Little Guns

Poor Ken Blackwell. Not only is his highest-profile national endorser in the state stumping for someone else, he has to resort to bringing in Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who probably came just to avoid his own constituents. Daniels appeared with Blackwell and Gov. Bob Taft at “a private Republican Governors Association fund-raiser.”

Blackwell patterns his plan to lease the Turnpike after Daniel’s similar scheme in Indiana. So how is that working out? Let’s ask Indiana.

According to polls, 60% of Indiana residents think the state got a bad deal. 73% of residents in Northern Indiana where the turnpike is think it was a bad deal. 53% think the state is on the wrong track, up from 48% the year before. And Daniels himself has an approval rating of only 37%.

The good news – since Bob Taft was at the event, Daniels wasn’t the least popular Governor in the room.

I have to wonder about J. Ken’s standing in the national party. Once the darling of national conservatives, he now has to resort to bringing in an unpopular adjacent-state governor to stump for him.

Monday, August 21, 2006

More Beacon Rumors

A group of retired Beacon Journal staffers run a blog called (appropriately) BJ Retirees. Needless to say, they have more sources than I do and they are hearing the same rumors of major bloodletting in the newsroom. Here's what they say tonight:

Guild contract provisions require a 60-day notice of any layoff plans and so far neither the owner nor publisher has given one. Some middle management folks have been talking to individual staff members so it is pretty messy around the newsroom. One rumor indicates that about 50 staff members will be cut.

Conventional Wisdom

This week, the planners for the ’08 Republican National Convention come to Cleveland to kick the tires, check the oil, and generally see if a Cleveland Convention will run. Cleveland is apparently competing with New York City, Minneapolis and Tampa.

WCPN’s 90.3 at 9 had an interesting discussion today -- you can check out the podcast. The Plain Dealer has run a series of stories about the potential selection, and the positive effect of the ’00 convention on Philadelphia

The stories and the CPN show focused heavily on the logistics Of course, my interest is in the political dimension. Parties do pick cities for political reasons – like, say, picking the site of a major terrorist attack used to justify an unpopular war.

As such, I think Cleveland’s bid is in trouble because Blackwell is in trouble. Presumably one of the attractions to Ohio is the swinginess of the state. But if Ohio swings strongly blue this go-round, the Republicans could be setting up shop in troublesome territory. Worse than that, Ohio will come to symbolize the nadir of the W years.

Personally, I think the Republicans should embrace what they are and hold the convention in an exurban megachurch, but that’s just me.

Above all else, I’m interested what the Dems might do if Republicans convene here. Republicans famously out-maneuvered Dems at convention time, churning out scores of press releases during each speech to counter Dem talking points. Assuming there is a war room for rapid response, don’t you think the Dems would be well-served by embedding some home-grown bloggers? It seems to me this sort of thing is what we do best.

If Cleveland gets the nod, we (bloggers) should start lobbying to be included in the Dems’ plans for response.

Meanwhile, if you enjoy speculating about what will happen at the convention, the NYT runs a story today (h/t Slate Magazine) about which Republican hopeful is locking up which consultants.

It’s Official! Craig Foltin Is a Sleaze!

The penultimate in campaign sleaze is to send a staffer off on a dodgy errand and stand by as he falls on his sword. Everyone knows that the campaign was behind the dirty trick, but that they leave the hapless staffer twisting to preserve the candidate’s deniability.

Atop the sleaze scale, Craig Foltin has declined to fire the staffer who attempted to burrow into Betty Sutton’s campaign, leaving no doubt that the campaign was attempting to plant a mole. Scott Bakalar has tried to warn us about Foltin. He runs down the story and plus a parallel story of a city worker under indictment.

If Foltin had an issue this year, it was the abrasiveness and arguable dishonesty of the Sutton/Em-List campaign in the primary. Safe to say that’s pretty much gone. I was going to write something about Foltin sabotaging his future prospects in the Republican Party, but in the Rove era this isn't a gaffe, it's an audition.

NOTE: Blogger had trouble uploading images. I posted without the art, but had to add it once blogger would let me.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Two Faces of Ken Blackwell

As the campaign rolls on, I see more confirmation that J. Ken Blackwell delivers messages to inner-city Black audiences that vary sharply from those given to his true conservative base. The latest is Dayton Daily News story about a Blackwell appearance before the Dayton Women’s Roundtable at the Dayton Urban League. According to DDN, Blackwell outlined his agenda including:

    • Taxes: He would work to lower the state's income tax to a flat rate of 3.25 percent to stem the exodus of businesses, young entrepreneurs and college graduates from the state. He also wants to ensure that blacks get their fair share of bank loans and economic development opportunities.

    • Health care: He said Ohio should look at Massachusetts' compulsory health coverage plan, which aims to provide universal health coverage with citizens, businesses and government sharing the costs.
Just wow. He can slash taxes but still afford a massive new entitlement. Businesses will stay thanks to their reduced taxes, never mind their new mandated health care expenses. Even more than promising to spend the several times more on public works than the Turnpike lease will net, this is so brazen, I can’t help but feel somewhat awestruck.

(If you need to brush up, here's a Business Week article on the nuts'n'bolts of the Mass. plan, complete with some of the conservative criticism. Also a WSJ editorial flaying Mitt Romney for the plan, reprinted in a conservative blog.)

And he will keep doing this as long as lazy reporters let him get away with it. Someone at DDN should have called the campaign to ask the questions – how does he pay for this when he cuts that? How does this keep them here and that not chase them away? How is any of this consistent with his purported love of free markets? No, just let Blackwell be Blackwell.

Whoever the hell that is.

50 Pho points to the first conservative who admits this is at least a little disquieting.

The Governor’s Race and the PR Power of Campaigning

Not one but two stories in today’s Beacon Journal about the Govenor’s race, focusing on the Strickland campaign. Front page below the fold they run an analysis piece on Strickland’s rapid response to Blackwell’s attacks on his voting record. The Local/Opinion section off-leads a dispatch from the Turnaround Ohio tour.

Both pieces show how campaigning aggressively can garner earned media (that is, media coverage not bought) for a campaign. The fronter about Ted’s counterpunch offers a study in contrasts with Kerry’s tactic of sticking fingers in ears and singing “Ni ni ni ni can’t hear you,” when the Swiftboating started. Happily, Ted has adopted a different strategy:

    The term swift-boating, as a verb, was born out of the 2004 presidential campaign, when Republicans attacked Democratic Sen. John Kerry by questioning his military service as a swift boat commander in Vietnam.

    * * *

    For Kerry, the attacks proved fatal; his campaign was slow to react and rebut the allegations.

    Strickland said slow reaction isn't a mistake his campaign would make. ``I know how to fight,'' he said.

    His campaign went about proving that on Thursday, when, less than 24 hours after the two TV ads surfaced, Strickland's camp launched a counterattack in all of Ohio's major television markets -- an ad that depicts Ohio Republicans as stern-faced characters in a scene from the 1941 Frank Capra movie, Meet John Doe.

    "We are responding in a muscular way to this negative attack,'' Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey said. "As far as we're concerned, the negative smear campaigning against Ted Strickland has been going on for some time. This is the first television attack that demands a swift and muscular response."
I’ve always contended that the real damage was not in the Swift Boat ads, but in the failure to respond. People rightly asked how they could depend on Kerry to defend them if he couldn’t/wouldn’t defend himself.

The dispatch from the campaign trial is similar to a PD piece that Jill writes up. In the Beacon the story hangs on the dual hooks that 1) Dems are campaigning hard in the reddest parts of the state and 2) They are finding friendly people who are sick of all this crap:

    In Warren County, roughly 50 Republicans had a meet-and-greet with the Democrats. Betty Davis, a Republican who organized the session, said she's been a Republican ``since sixth grade,'' but she's tired of her party's disconnect from everyday people.

    "I don't want to hear about any more indictments," said Davis, who was mayor of Mason from 1981 to 2000. "More and more Republicans in Warren are saying, `It's time for a change.' "

    She said that if the Republicans who confide in her do support Strickland, he'll get more than 40 percent of the vote in Warren County -- a pickup of about 11,000 votes for the Democrats.
Both stories run generally positive toward Strickland, though J. Ken’s camp gets its obligatory quotes in. Our friends on the Right will no doubt decry this as more media bias. I think it’s more that the Dems’ newfound moxie is in itself news.

But if papers are biased against J. Ken, he has no one but himself to blame. People opposed to Ken Blackwell aren’t just opposed; they are terrified of what his radical vision for Ohio would mean. The papers, whose continued viability depends on a stabilizing population and growing economy, may rightly be scared as well. Favoring Ted may not be about political bias, it may just be a good business decision.

Ohio Senate Roundup

A couple stray items about the Ohio Senate race. Chris Cilizza, Washington Post political reporter and blogger covers the Senate in this week's Friday Line -- his weekly assessment of the seats most likely to change hands. This week Ohio moves up a place to #4. Says Cilizza:

    Although we still believe Republicans will have a field day with Rep. Sherrod Brown's (D) voting record, we also can't ignore polls. In a July Columbus Dispatch survey, Brown had a 45 percent to 37 percent lead over Sen. Mike DeWine -- a VERY dangerous place for an incumbent to be with just a few months left before the election.
The question presented in this race is whether Brown's consistently Liberal record is more poisonous than DeWine's generally Bush-friendly one.

Cilizza also notes that help is on the way for DeWine. Arizona Senator and once-and-future Presidential hopeful John McCain is coming to Ohio today, staying through tomorrow night when he will be here in Akron for a Party dinner.

Cilizza works though political calculus behind McCain's work on behalf of DeWine. I'm more interested in what he isn't doing -- stumping for Blackwell whom he endorsed in the primary. Is it just a RSCC thing, or are national figures steering clear of J.Ken?

Finally, I neglected to mention that Karen Kilroy attended the Sherrod Brown event, took down some video and posted it on Akron.TV. Be warned that it froze up my laptop when I tried to play it, but we're pretty low-end here.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Beacon Watch Continues

You're right, nothing in the paper today. My anonymous source says the announcement is being postponed until next week. What we are talking about here, of course, is layoffs -- as much as half the newsroom staff if rumors are to be believed. Which makes postponing the announcement a fine management decision. Nothing bolsters workplace morale like saying "Go home for the weekend and think about the jobs you might not have next week."

I have some guesses about what is going on, but will leave you in suspense until we know more specifics.

And there is always the possiblity that my source is having fun with me. At this point, it would be a relief to find out he was. You may not think it, but hollowing out the Beacon would be a serious blow to the community. It's easy to criticize an outsized target like the town's only daily, but the Beacon helps hold this community together. Don't take it for granted. "You don't miss your water until your well runs dry."

Random Ten

"Back from Vacation" Edition

1. “Blues at Midnight,” B.B. King
2. “Distance,” Pat Metheny Group
3. “I’m Mad,” Willie Mabon
4. “Stable Song,” Death Cab for Cutie
5. “Travis Walk,” Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
6. “Texas Playboy Rag,” Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
7. “Off the Wall,” Little Walter
8. “Baby Phife’s Return,” A Tribe Called Quest
9. “Start to Move,” Wire
10. “Kissing the Lipless,” The Shins


For months I have wondered about a mobile billboard that shows up around town taking Republicans to task for the coingate scandal. A couple of times I've seen it and chased after, looking for a disclaimer to find out who paid for it. It looked like the same truck used to advertise the Muni Court candidates last year.

Then today Buckeye state posted pics of a similar, anti-Blackwell billboard on a truck spotted around Ohio. And on my way back from Meet.The.Bloggers/Tim Ryan I see it parked at the Dairy Mart at Market and Rhodes.

I had my Digital with me, so I took a couple of fotos and lurked. When the driver came out with a bag full of caffinated drinks, I asked if he knew who was paying for it. He said, "I am."

Meet Bill Wise, President of Ohio Mobile Billboards (I didn't have the presence of mind to snap a portrai.nt, so this is a really abstract meeting.) Bill is a veteran political operative, having run a number of local campaigns, and now is the proprietor of his mobile billboard company.
Bill told me that he indeed sold space to the Muni Judge candidates -- his first political account. He has been running the anti-Republican/anti-Blackwell signs as an in-kind donation, keeping track of the time, charging his going rate against his contribution limit and getting ready to file paperwork. He says this is his last day with Boot Blackwell.

By the way, he told me that he was at a Blackwell event at Summit Lake (notoriously poor area of the city) where the Blackwell crew was giving out T-shirts and someone from J.Ken's campaign took pictures. So 1) Understand that Blackwell gives out T-shirts in inner-city neighborhoods and 2) don't be surprised to see a picture of the truck coming to a Matt Naugle post near you.

Bill does what he does in part to support Strickland and in part to generate buzz for his business. (He in fact was the reader who sent the pics into BuckeyeState.)
Given the good behind his first motivation (not to say I'm completely at peace with his design and message), I'll give him some help on point two.

Right now Bill runs two trucks and can subcontract for more. Rates start at $1000/day and can drop for multi-day contracts.

In addition to the billboard, the truck has a legend on the back telling people to tune to a radio frequency. That's because the truck carries a narrowcasting transmitter playing a message on a loop. The transmitter has a range of a couple hundred feet, but the idea is to take advantage of an audience in slow traffic.

When I saw the adds for the judges last year, I thought they were quite effective -- more so than a conventional billboard which I have pretty much programmed myself to ignore. I've reproduced Bill's pitch card below. I'm not getting anything for all this, I just thought the story was interesting. But we all like to know if advertising is effective. So if any of the campaigns who read here call Bill, tell 'em Pho sent you.

Art in the Square POSTPONED

Honestly, I've never heard of postponing an event as extensive as Art in the Square, but it's certainly worth a try. The organizers looked at the morning weather reports and saw this:

And decided bailing on the event was better than bailing out the event. So it's pushed back one week to August 26. Keep an eye here and/or at PeppermintLisas for the band lineup. And if you see me there next week, say "Happy Birthday, Pho."

Friday, August 18, 2006

Help Wanted, Pt. 2

I've been asked to assemble a how-to for activists interested in blogging. The technical stuff is easy enough, but I've found that understanding the more, folkways and taboos of the blogosphere has been nearly as important. I've started a list of do's and don'ts, but I would like to tap the collective wisdom of the community. What unwritten rules of the 'sphere do you think newbies need to know? For that matter, what rules do benefit the blogosphere?

My list so far:

  • Enable comments
  • Embed links to your sources whenever possible.
  • If you get an idea for a topic from another blog, acknowledge that with a link to the blog.
  • If you make a mistake, correct it on the blog. If a commentor points out an error, you should nonetheless make the correction on the blog itself.
  • If you correct an error, make it clear you have done so. For example, strikeout the erroneous information and note that the post is corrected in the body or (better) the title.
  • Blogroll those who blogroll you.

Help Wanted, Pt. 1

A request from the Bliss Institute:

    We have joined several other universities in a national study of the 2006 midterm election: Battleground Ohio. In Ohio, The University of Akron, the University of Cincinnati and Ohio University are asking people like you to help us track who is campaigning, how they choose to communicate campaign messages, and when those communications occur.

    This election could be one of the most important in Ohio history. We will be targeting five key competitive races in Ohio:

    * Ohio Gubernatorial
    * United States Senate
    * 6th Congressional District
    * 13th Congressional District
    * 18th Congressional District

    This is where you come in.

    We are asking you to collect and record the campaigns’ mail, television, radio, phone, and personal communications that you receive.

    We understand the busy schedules and many commitments that you have, but this project will take very little effort on your part and will ultimately speak volumes about the state of political communication and campaign finance after the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.

    The first step to participate in this project is to visit and sign up.

    We will follow up with all the materials you will need to help us in this endeavor. Meanwhile, if you have any questions or suggestions on how to conduct this analysis, please do not hesitate to call the Bliss Institute at (330)972-5182 or send an email to

    We greatly appreciate your participation in this project. Thank you for continuing to make the Bliss Institute network the best in the nation.


    John C. Green

Beacon Journal Watch

An anonymous source says big -- and from the sound of it, disturbing -- changes are in the offing at the Beacon Journal. Things may be announced this afternoon to take advantage of the Friday News Sinkhole. Keep an eye out. If my source's info proves accurate, I'll have some thoughts.

Big Guns Trained on Ohio [with correction]

It's a cliche to say Ohio is a bellweather, Ohio is a swing state, Ohio is the lynchpin of this year's election. It also happens to be true.

Consider a little of what has happened just in the past week.

It started a week ago when Senator Evan Bayh (IN) stopped in Ohio to raise money and campaign for John Cranely, candidate in Ohio 1st against Steve Chabot.

Wednesday U.S. Rep. and Dem. Caucus Chair James E. Clyburn (D-SC), teamed up with Tim Ryan and Stephanie Tubbs Jones to stump for Betty Sutton, candidate in the 13th. YellowDogSammy has a summary and video of the press conference up on Ohio2006. All I have is the blurry pic to the right.

At the event, Rep. Clyburn mentioned having stopped in Cincinnati on the way up for, as it turns out, another stump for Chabot Cranley. The link above also mentions that former Georgia Senator and Karl Rove victim Max Cleland will be visiting to campaign for Sherrod Brown.

Today I got a robo-call from Sen. John Kerry calling for volunteers to help Ted Strickland and Sherrod Brown. The call gives you the option of pressing one to reach the Party. I pressed, expecting to get some lame recorded message and instead reached a real volunteer at Summit Dem HQ. Smooth.

And I got two fundraising invites from Subodh Chandra on behalf of Ted Strickland today. One is a meet and greet with former Virginia Governor and '08 hopeful Mark Warner in Cleveland next Wednesday. I'll try to get details on the Upcoming badge. The other is a house party with Al Gore in the California home of Joel and Susan Hyatt. Needless to say, that's a big ticket, but if you are reading in NoCal and have an interest, details here.

Art in the Square

I've had Art in the Square in my Upcoming badge for some time. This is the third go 'round and should be a good time with bands, art booths, funky folks and much gawking at the newly crafted craters in the Square. (BTW, I've posted pics of the demolition on the Square on GABB if you are into such things)

Blogger and Highland Square Neighborhood Association President PeppermintLisa runs down the details.

I will be there with the fam and at some point to staff a booth sponsored by the Citizen's Committee supporting the school levy campaign.

What Every Republican Is Wearing This Season

As I drafted this post (waiting for the cherubs to return from a playdate), I was listining to the Sklar Brothers guest hosting on the Jim Rome Show. As is their want, they developed a couple of running jokes and invited the audience to contribute. One joke was: Derek Jeter has a new cologne called "Driven." What other jocks should come out with colognes emblamatic of themselves.

For example, Kenny Rodgers’ cologne is called “Aggression." It smells like dirt and camera lens. Like that.

Since the Tribe totally sucks right now, I've been ignoring sports in favor of politics, but I can make this fit the political news of late. So. The Ohio Republicans’ cologne is “Desperation.” It smells like old coins, elephant sweat and a donkey in a landslide. And by the way, you can smell it everywhere.

David Broder sounds that theme in his column today focusing on Ohio, but gleaning trends from other Midwestern states. He starts by noting Blackwell’s predicament:

    When the Columbus Dispatch's respected poll recently reported that Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell was trailing Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland by 20 points in the race for governor of Ohio, there was dismay but no shock among his fellow Republicans.
Let’s put that 20 points in perspective. Blackwell could gain a point a week from now until the election – which would be a damned impressive gap-closing – and still stand for a 9 point drubbing on Election Day.

Broder continues:
    I had dinner one night with a group of Ohio Republicans, all with many years of experience in state politics and none directly engaged in this year's gubernatorial race. One of them said, ``I'm afraid this could be another 1982,'' a year when recession pushed unemployment to 15 percent and cost the Republicans the governorship.

    Another said, ``I'd settle right now for another 1982. I'm afraid it will be another 1974,'' the post-Watergate election when Democrats swept everything in sight.

    Ohio may be particularly vulnerable because the economy in parts of the state where the auto industry remains vital has been hurt by layoffs, and because a series of scandals have left retiring Gov. Bob Taft with approval ratings in the teens.

    But similar concerns are voiced across the Midwest.
The tactics of the Blackwll campaign increasingly reek of Desperation®. The latest is nicely summarized by Modern Esquire’s headline on Buckeye State – Latest GOP Attack on Strickland: He works in a bipartisan manner to successful protect Ohio's manufacturing jobs – though the whole post is worth reading. Add this to an erstwhile staffer falling on his sword for spreading the Ted is Gay rumor, and it’s clear Blackwell has little to say to anyone but his right flank

An even more fervent embrace of Desperation® -- the move from aftershave to body spray, if you will – is the move from simple distortion to actual dirty pool. The latest candidate to be shocked shocked the conduct of his staff is Ohio 13 hopeful Craig Foltin whose staffer – on an alleged frolic of his own – tried to embed himself in Betty Sutton’s campaign. Open and Psychobilly have the details. I especially like the fact that said staffer tipped his hand in part because he used his actual email account instead of setting up a free dummy. You would think that after Foltin’s experience being recorded that he and his people would be a little more savvy to covering their electronic foot prints.

So Republicans are wearing Desperation®; should we stand pat? Certainly not. For one thing, J.Ken shying from the media indicates he is once again campaigning underground through church networks. He’s following the ’04 strategy – putting everything into turnout. Well turnout with a little suppression on the side. The point is, Dems have to get the voters to the polls. If they do, Ted should win barring some unexpected turn.

Catching up with Vernon Sykes

First off, the breaking news from

    Former State Rep. Vernon Sykes, who is seeking to reclaim his legislative seat, pleaded guilty this morning to a reduced charge in connection with his drunken-driving case.

    * * *

    In a deal worked out with special prosecutor Patricia Ritzert, who was hired by the City of Akron to handle the case, Sykes pleaded guilty to being in physical control of a vehicle after consuming alcohol.
As it happens, yesterday YellowDogSammy invited me to crash his one-on-one interview with Vernon Sykes. I showed up about quarter to two when YDS and I were planning to attend the Betty Sutton event. I walked into the interview as Sykes was talking about his experience trying to organize people in government programs, which was a very interesting discussion and one I’m sure YDS will post. I had two minutes to ask a couple questions which elicited about fifteen minutes of answers.

I started asking about the odd primary challenge he faced. It was fairly well known that neophyte and pre-teen impersonator Patrick Bravo was getting some fairly substantial help from local Dem leaders. Sykes is clearly not happy it happened, but went to pains to emphasize that he’s moving past the incident and as such, doesn’t expect any blowback.

More generally, he lays much of the blame for the decades-long party doldrums on the party forgetting about grassroots organizing and GOTV efforts – a claim certainly consistent with my observations. Happily he says that Redfern is a far more grassroots-friendly party chair. As I’ve said, I am watching and wondering.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Kucinich vs. O'Reilly

From Sweet Jesus I Hate Bill O'Reilly comes a referral to a Newshounds piece about O'Reilly taking on Rep. Dennis Kucinich earlier this week. The piece it pretty funny. The upshot is that O'Reilly wanted to "prove" that Democrats have no terror-fighting strategy, they only bash Bush. Kucinich showed up with a four-point plan and O'Reilly had to talk over him to prevent him from getting it out. O'Reilly trying to talk over Mr. Big Volume must have been quite the bit of theatre.

The Newshounds piece notes that Kucinich has penned more thoughts on terrorism on his website. What's really sad about all this is how badly O'Reilly could have cuffed Kucinich if he had just done his homework. Imagine for example, if he had bothered to unearth this nugget:

    NAFTA and the World Trade Organizations have only served to increase global poverty, thus deepening one of the most virulent causes of terrorism. This is why I am calling for immediate cancellation of NAFTA and U.S. withdrawal from the WTO.
Squeeze me? Setting aside debate over whether bailing from NAFTA now would repair the economic damage it has wrought, does Kucinich think we have to address the hotbed of Islamist terror in Guadalajara?

All in all, Kucinich writes wooly-headed root causes nonsense, almost exclusively. Here on the left, we are well aware that people can hate other people for just being different. We sometimes forget that that malady is not restricted to straight White Americans. There exist in the world Muslims who hate non-Muslims. A fundamental tenet of jihadism holds that Western secular government is evil because it’s secular. Islamists may hate Americans generally, but they would hate liberals most of all. No counter-terrorism strategy can garner credibility or can hope to work without acknowledging these controlling facts.

The root causes card is a cop-out. If Kucinich can devise a non-military strategy to address Muslim hatred toward the West, he should have at it. But if his strategy is simply to make them like us – Really like us!!! – he’s nowhere.

One for the Blackwell Files

CityBeat, Cincinnati's alt weekly, puts J. Ken Blackwell on the cover this week for a jigsaw puzzle profile necessitated by his refusal to do interviews. The article serves up plenty of red meat for Blackwell opponents, though I found a couple bones to pick as well.

You have to wade through quite a bit of material to get to the good stuff. You get a pretty hilarious rundown of Blackwell hiding from the press, including refusing CityBeat's requests for interview of he and his wife (Rosa's refusal to be interviewed came via the campaign.)

Then we go through what is known about Blackwell's history including his conversion to the Republican party. Anyone who knows the street buzz -- that Blackwell's Reagan-era conversion was a matter of expedience rather than conviction -- will be looking for confirmation and will find it, though the writers fall short of making an ironclad case. The bit is this quote from a veteran civil rights activist:

    I'm 86 and I have thought about a lot of things over the years, and I don't need a lot of time to think about Ken," Spencer says at the get-go. "I've been around long enough to see all the changes in his life, and they have been so varied. I see him -- and this is very harsh -- but I see him as the ultimate opportunist. It's that word I'll give you again in capital letters -- it's OPPORTUNISM.
The real fun comes when they start reading his book. Here's a representative bit:
    [Blackwell and his co-author] start early, on page 34, with a nod to McCarthyism: "In today's world of cultural relativism, many on the political left attack families, arguing (as in earlier decades true socialists or communists did) that families are simply historical human structures that came into existence to socialize children into the class ideology of a bourgeois capitalist economic structure."

    And this, on page 57: "Again, as we have noted, the political left has been attacking the family since the early days of communism."


    They continue: "In the thinking of extreme socialists, the family is an artificial structure, man-made, designed to imprint traditional thoughts of political and social control on the young."

The article also culls some nutty bits about Blackwell arguments that abortion is "indiscriminant" genocide against blacks (in fact, abortion providers are very careful to discriminate between women who willingly enter their clinics and request abortions and those who do not. It’s a fairly easy distinction to draw.)

All in all a must read. But a couple of quibbles

First, ya gotta love this gratuitous anti-blog line about Blackwell's blog entries on Open: "Of course, it's just a blog and given to superficiality." That screams to me Lazy Journalist – someone who has heard the party line on blogs, but doesn’t actually read them. In fact, Blackwell’s blog was a quite thorough – and I’ve argued, useful – explication of his political philosophy. It is far more thorough than most campaign communication. Imagine “Unlike a campaign flier the blog lacks detail. . . This was a blog entry and thus less pithy than a radio ad.”

Second, I’m weary of Blackwell getting credit for being a small government conservative. For me the most obvious evidence that the man is an OPPORTUNIST is the disconnect between his anti-government rhetoric and his Great Deal/New Society JOBS program, to be funded by selling off the turnpike. Spending four billion dollars to kick-start the economy may or may not be a bad thing, but it isn’t a small government conservative thing, regardless of how he plans to pay for it.

I’m especially intrigued by the gap between JOBS and the policy prescriptions in his book. He apparently claims in the book that the only path to eliminating poverty is establishing strong families, but his JOBS programs are, well, jobs programs. Of course, working to protect marriage quickly reaches a point of diminishing political returns. After you are done bashing gays for wanting to form stable families, you are left with the millions of people whose personal frailties have led them to divorce or unwed parenthood. Those millions of people vote, and have a limited tolerance for moral hectoring when it’s aimed at them.

And never mind that all the JOBS spending would have been impossible under his beloved TEL amendment.

Don’t expect Blackwell to resolve the tension anytime soon. His campaign is based on segmented messages – bash the hated minority group and promise goodies to Christian audiences, then assure the supply-siders that it’s all about slashing taxes. Why doesn’t he do interviews? Because he doesn’t want anyone to see all of Ken Blackwell in one place.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Sherrod Brown in Akron

Sherrod Brown did Akron yesterday. Atop the agenda was a press conference about alternative energy today. Once again, childcare fell into place – well, sort of. I ended up dragging Kid T (the four-year-old) with me, but Kid Z was otherwise occupied. In an amusing episode from the Daddy/blogger files, I pulled into a parking space around the corner from the venue and was getting my stuff together when I saw across the street Redhorse and his kids.

Yeah, the venue. I didn’t really get it. Wildflowers II is a flower shop on Market – for you non-Akronites, probably about the busiest street in the ‘Kron. The sidewalk in front is maybe one and a half panels wide. Something like 40-50 people crowded into the space.

I judge these things in part by whether it's unclear how the majority of folks got there. By that measure, it was a success. That is, the attendees are not vanloads of obvious union guys, they aren’t all from a particular government office, they aren’t all SCPD. Also, they weren’t from a zillion different campaigns. Judy Hanna was the only candidate there in person. She had a couple staff with her, but no one else was represented. People were waving signs at traffic and getting a pretty good honk rate.

After a bit of wait, Sherrod came out and started working the crowd. Then he took to the podium which faced toward the street. All the supporters and volunteers bunched behind the podium to provide backup, while those of us trying to hear the speech were left to stand in the street. Yes, the street. The reporters, camera operators and bloggers were standing in the lee of a parked car, hoping none of the traffic whizzing by veered into our space.

The topic for the day was alternative energy. Sherrod’s theme was that the Bush Administration – abetted by lobbyist-fattened Republicans like DeWine, biases its energy policy toward ever-greater consumption of fossil fuels. He runs a tag line about making Ohio the “Silicon Valley for Alternative Energy,” but that part of day is short on specifics – we need to “work with” local governments and small businesses.

The supporting cast was instructive. Frank Communale – a Dem stalwart – spoke about small businesses struggling over energy prices. Then we heard from two alternative energy entrepreneurs -- Jeff Wilhite from Ovonic Hydrogen Systems, then Robert Dirgo from Creative Fuels (below). Both talked about the exciting work that they and others are doing. Again, the specifics about how Federal policies can spur this Silicon Valley were wanting.

Regardless, Brown's performance was all in all impressive. The core of the message was the bankruptcy of the administration's petrol-heavy energy policy. When questions came up asking for specifics, the Brown responded by reiterating the need for to start with a real energy policy -- on not written by and for oil companies.

The effect was to bash the administration for an old but singularly unsavory episode -- the closed-door meetings that generated the oil policy. But Brown can't be accused of simply bashing -- he's brought all this out in the context of advocating for progressive policy.

What's more, by bringing in small businessmen, he is giving a business-friendly gloss to his usual economic populism. I think small business people are a real potential constituency for Democrats, given the Republicans' fealty for large, rich corporations. Unfortunately, a strong faction in the Democratic agenda-setting apparatus says they fear taking on corporations lest they be accused of class warfare (though I think they really fear losing campaign money from Conglomeration, Inc.) Brown is ignoring the memo, to his advantage.

A couple of quibbles. First, there was no mention of what made Silicon Valley in the first place -- world class higher education. While noone can replicate the proximity of Cal-Tech, Stanford and Berkely in Northern California, bolstering higher education, and particularly graduate-level higher education, is an essential step in advancing a technology-based economy. Second, Dems running on energy should be quoting Chaney's bumbling claim that the economy depends on ever-higher levels of fossil-fuel consumption. But those are minor points -- the overall effect of the event was positive.

For much of the primary, I cringed at how ham-fisted and left-footed the campaign seemed to be. Sherrod's intelligence and passion have never been subject to debate, but it seemed at times that he couldn't get out of his own way. Lately I've been marvelling at how deft Sherrod Brown has been in messaging the campaign, and how effective in getting that message out.

After the event I spoke to Wilhite whom I had met before. Until recently he headed the Mayor's Office of Economic Development. In that capacity, he has long been a cheerleader for Ovonics -- now he's on board as President and COO. He told me about a potentially exciting effort to forge a bipartisan energy policy in Ohio. I certainly hope Democratic candidates are up on this, it certainly sounds like a campaign issue for Dems. Meanwhile, I hope to have more to say about Ovonics in the future.

POSTSCRIPT: The kids spent the night with grandparents, so Prof. W and I had time for a meal in a grown-up restaurant. We decided to check out Crave -- hadn't been to that point. Crave is second only to Bricco as a Dem power meal spot, so I wasn't surprised to see Finance Chair Wayne Jones heading there as we parked. Or to see Judge Linda Teodosio come in. Or a couple high-powered Dem lawyers.

But when the Mayor came in, it looked like something bigger might be afoot. About halfway out Sherrod came shambling out (he never moves slowly) with a staffer in tow, working to keep up. Apperently he had some sort of high-end fundraiser/reception in the back room.

Pho on the Radio

Today and perhaps into later this week public radio station WCPN is airing a brief spot featuring me talking about faith. A few weeks ago WCPN guy Dan Moulthrop contacted me after reading this post about my church reflection. He is starting a series of 5-minute spots in which area people talk about faith and wanted me to come in for an interview.

After much scheduling and rescheduling, I found a sliver of time to head up to Cleveland between our in-law visit and our vacation. He interviewed me for 20 minutes or so, promising to edit it down to five, add music and pauses in the style of This American Life.

As of now, I haven't heard the final product, though 54Cermak isn't alone in heaping praise. I've also gotten emails and been flagged down in the local Acme. The piece should be up on the WCPN website as a podcast sometime soon. When I get a link, I'll update.

One benefit of all this was a tour of the new IdeaCenter -- home of WCPN and WVIZ-TV. I took a few photos to share. This is the hall leading from the reception desk to the studios and offices. This gives you a good representation of the decor theme -- industrial modern and neutral tones. They also have these TV projections going in a few spots.

The real benefit to CPN is upgraded technology. This is the real jewel of the place -- a performance broadcast/recording space with state-of-the-art acoustics. You don't realize how much echo from walls is part of ordinary sound until you talk to yourself in a space like this where the bounce doesn't happen.

This is the control booth for the performance space.

Here's where the interview happened -- one of a series of production booths. Moulthrop sat at the chair in the foreground while I sat across the console from him, trying to remember to speak into the mic as opposed to moving out from behind it to maintain eye contact. He peppered me with questions which I answered more or less. I said some pithy things and some regrettably dumb things. From the reports, it sounds like he did a good job of winnowing out the dumb.

View from my chair through the production booth windows. At the far end, hidden by the flash reflection, Cindy Deutchman-Ruiz is broadcasting a "90.3 at 9" spot on discontinuing the penny.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Sawyer Run for State School Board Gives Hope to HOPE

Erstwhile U.S. Representative and Congressional candidate Tom Sawyer is running for the District 7 seat of the State School Board. The latest from the news media is this PeeDee story from Thursday noting that Sawyer is considering a run. As of now, he and his supporters are gathering signatures. The signature campaign looks pretty solid, so expect a run. (District 7 comprises Summit, Portage, Trumbull and Ashtabula Counties.)

Sawyer will be running against crypto-creationist and charter school honk Deborah Owens Fink. Through nothing but sheer luck and coincidence, I've been privy to much of the backstory as foes of Fink have looked for a champion. A number of university science professors have been actively seeking a candidate since D'Oh Fink led the unsuccessful Intelligent Design charge this past spring. And just so you know, my name (my real one) was floated as a potential candidate, as were names of some friends of mine. Sawyer's name came up at one point, he was approached and said yes.

The U profs are sufficiently determined that they have formed a political organization, HOPE (Help Ohio Public Education). Media darling Lawrence Krauss and former Steven Gould protege Patricia Princehouse, both at Case, are leading the charge, but academics from Akron and OSU are also lending strong support. (Some of the Akron folks are friends of mine, hence the inside dope.) The link to the website should find a permanent home on the sidebar soon.

I have to give some serious credit to Sawyer for taking this on. He certainly saw the politics as ugly as it gets in the Ohio 13 primary. He is walking into a race that, given the stakes for the players, promises to be plenty ugly in it's own right. Anyone in politics will tell you that elected officials never run for a "lower" office, as a matter of etched-in-granite political law. Sawyer jumping back in this soon after a bruising campaign is a selfless, party-and-principle-first move -- one that makes me doubt some of the street gumbling I heard in the primary. Makes me doubt it enough that I've deleted the posts I wrote about it.

Looking forward, Sawyer has a decent shot at this. I've noted that the unions who still speak well of him are teachers unions who will put whatever they have to spare behind this race. He is likely to get significant support from the scientific community, hopefully overcoming his well-worn reputation as a reluctant fundraiser. Between he and his wife, he has strong credibility as an education policy maker. And because he is a high-profile Democrat, he should benefit from the generally D-friendly political environment.

As of now, the signature campaign appears to be going well, but if you can contribute to the effort, and in particular if you are in Trumbull or Ashtabula County, consider getting in touch with the nascent campaign to volunteer. You can use the contact info on the HOPE website or, email me and I'll forward it to my friends in the effort. I'm working on a research-heavy post about why the State Board of Ed. race matters. In the meantime, feel free to visit the State Board webpage and read up on your own.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Tanned, Rested, but not yet Ready

We’ve been back for a couple of days now – arrived Friday night, drove to Columbus for business Saturday morning. And I just haven’t gotten my blogging legs (fingers?) back. It’s been kind of nice to just focus on ticking items off the to-do list. It's been nice releasing myself from the pressure of being witty and clever.

But having built this thing up to this point, it seems a pity to waste it. I certainly have plenty to say and hopefully will find time to say it – even with the kids here full-time for the next two weeks.

In the meantime, some things happened on vacation that continue to puzzle me. Not big things, but odd little incidents that have kept me wondering since about the backstory.

Chincoteague has a tabloid-style local news weekly that was free in the lobby of our hotel called the Chincoteague Beacon. The front cover consistently inspires me to double-take:

If that’s not the exact same masthead of the Beacon Journal’s on-again off-again Sunday magazine, it’s damn close to a match. No, the Chincoteague paper isn’t owned by McClatchy and wasn’t owned by Knight-Ridder. (The headline, by the way, was referring to the Island's annual Pony Swim.)

I was checking around for wi-fi spots in Wilmington Deleware where we were visiting my stubbornly unwired mother-in-law. In a plaza hosting not one but two coffee shops I used my laptop to search for networks. I didn’t find a useful one, but I did find a secured network called – swear to God – DEA Stakeout House. I’d like to think that it’s just some wag who gave his home network the name to amuse his friends. But given the tech illiteracy of too many in law enforcement, I’m not optimistic.

Memo to Wilmington law enforcement: I hope you aren't counting on your targets not having a laptop and basic connectivity software. If that's you, maybe consider a name change for the network.

We went swimming at a sister-in-law’s club in the Wilmington burbs. It was a cool, breezy day so business at the pool was unusually slow. One of the teen employees fired up a mix CD he/she had apparently burned – mostly stuff on the Dave Matthews/Phish tip. The first few chords of a new song sound familiar, but out of place somehow. It’s “In the Sun” by Akron singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur. Dude, you apparently have a fan in Hockessin Deleware.

Ponder all that and I'll try to post something a little meatier tomorrow.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Checking Out

It's been a fine week here, but the end is drawing nigh. We check out today for a few days of visiting in-laws. For the blog this means limited internet access and therefore even more sporadic posting than you have dealt with thus far. On the plus side, I won't be sharing a room with the young'uns, so I'll be able to write more. I have some more things to say about what we saw on this trip, plus a couple other thought pieces rattling around my dome. At some point, I may have a number of posts up all at once.

In the meantime, my usual plug for hotels that offer free access. If you decide to vacation in Chincoteague, I recommend The Hampton Inn and Suites. And hey, you get to add to Paris Hilton's ultimate inheritance, which is apparently the most important thing for our elected officials to be doing right now.

Finally, I maintain the inverse logic of my vacation posts. I started with a sunset. I close for now with sunrise on the beach this morning.

Friday, August 04, 2006

How Baltimore Did Waterfront Redevelopment.

On the way to Chincoteague, the fam and I spend a few days visiting some old friends. One day in Baltimore we hit the aquarium, ate some seafood (trust me on this, get your crabcakes on the Maryland side of the Bay) and hooked up with some college buddies of mine. We got a deal on a tour of the Inner Harbour by taking the water taxi around and having my friends narrate the tour.

One of the frequent refrains about What Cleveland Should Do is that someone needs to do something with the lakefront. And one of the frequent comparisons I hear is Baltimore. Baltimore put up the first throwback baseball-only stadium and they dropped it into their resurgent Inner Harbor area. Maybe it's the temporal proximity of Camden Yards and the Jake, but more than once I've heard folks say "Look what Baltimore did."

I don't begin to claim any understanding of what that would take to develop the lakefront, what the current barriers are, who owns the available properties. But since I hear the comparison, I took some pictures to post a tour for anyone who wants to take it.

As you head out from the Inner Harbor, you pass the Rusty Scupper, one of a number of waterfront bar/restaurant nitespots. An awful lot what's on the waterfront is this sort of entertainment venue.

In the background you can see not one but two construction cranes. I still do a double-take sometimes when I see the construction cranes at Northside Lofts. We just haven't seen new construction like that around Akron in forever.

One crane is putting up a set of Ritz-Carlton condos. Condos on the water is another theme of Balto's waterfront redevelopment. Serious condos with major amendities, access on the water and high-end prices.

And by the way, you can see the row houses in one of the soon-to-be-gentrified working-class neighborhoods that border the harbor frontage.

All of which raises a few concerns. First, does Cleveland have a market for that kind of housing? The sheer volume on the Harbor is amazing. Scores, if not hundreds of units built on the water or in converted industrial buildings. I think not. I think this sort of development doesn't lead economic growth, it follows it.

Ditto the entertainment venues. This also reaches back to the casino/Learn and Earn debate. Mushrooming entertainment complexes seem to me a sign of growth rather than a growth engine. Too much of what we hear about in NEO is entertainment or retail development -- that's another one. Places whose business model is about people spending money on finished product don't seem likely to create real growth. Growth happens when value-added businesses set up shop.

Next stop on the tour is the Domino's Sugar factory. This is still a working factory, though word is that most of the work is done elsewhere and operations are scaling down. Since the factory is one of the enduring landmarks of the city -- the sign by the way is the second-largest neon sign in North America -- the building will be hot property for an office space conversion.

Like the old Tide plant -- now Tide Point, a former Proctor and Gamble factory, now a state-of-the-art office space, complete with an on-site day-care.

Now that's some redevelopment! But again, where is the chicken that laid this egg? Could this have happened without the burgeoning tech economy in the DC suburbs knocking on Baltimore's door?

And of course, the convertable properties have to exist. Warehouses like this one have enough challenges. The sort of heavy industry that built Cleveland carries a whole new set of challenges. Not insurmountable as the AES Building shows, but there are brownfields to clean up, floors to cut through, plenty more I don't know about.

Not to mention the aesthetic challenges. At the risk of getting spammed by fanatical Hullet lovers, I've always wondered if anyone would say out loud that the Hullets are, well, ugly. A warehouse conversion can be funky and attractive. The bones of Cleveland's industrial economy just arent' that attractive.

Toward the end of the tour we find the Marine Bank building -- across from Ft. McHenry, more or less. From here the harbor opens up on its way to being part of the larger bay.

Which raises my final misgiving. Baltimore harbor is a harbor. It is sheltered from the elements in a way the Cleveland lakefront isn't. Not only is the weather milder in Baltimore (though it was hella hot the day we were there), Baltimore doesn't get the full blast of wind coming off a large body of water. I've found myself freezing on summers days on the lakefront. All of which poses an additional layer of challenges to any sort of condo/restaurant/waterfront office development strategy.

No doubt Lake Erie is an asset that Northeast Ohio has underutilized in the days since it's use as byway for large quantities of raw materials to feed our factories. But I suspect that something more needs to happen before developing the waterfront makes sense.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Programming Notes

You may have wondered about that last post. Vacation continues so posts will mostly wear a suntan and reek of bug spray, but I have a few lingering bits, not all that time sensitive. That was one of them -- started in Ohio but not finished 'til now. A few others may follow.

Meanwhile, I'm quite unhappy with that post. Partly it's because the thing is a mess, partly it's because even though you were warned that things would go up completely out of touch with any sort of news cycle, I really should have reset why I was blogging about something a week and a half late. But mostly it's because I had thought of a great way to set the tableau of a blogger meet, but didn't write it down, then forgot it when it came to writing and knew I had forgotten something, but still couldn't remember it, then remembered it today. Instead of saving it for some other time that it may work, consider the following an addendum to that post:

    Someday -- perhaps someday soon -- someone will set a movie in a community of bloggers. If they are doing it right, the vibe will be much like the Con scenes in the movie Chasing Amy, where comic book writers meet with lines like "Yeah, I've read your book. You do mostly chick stuff . . ."

    That's what it's like. You read someone's blog for a while, get how that person is using the medium, figure out what you like and inevitably compose a mental picture. Then you meet and sometimes the picture is pretty much on (Jeff Hess, perfect example) sometimes completely off (PeppermintLisa -- my mental image went straight back to rewrite.)

    And most importantly, you start a new layer of relationship with bloggers who you've known by posts, comments and emails to that point.
That's what I wanted to say.