Thursday, May 31, 2007

Around the Horn

Another fine day of blogging. Let's get to it.

  • Bill Callahan has today's must-read: A blow-by-blow account of the House Committee hearings on SB 117, the cable franchise bill. Be sure to read through the whole post as his walk-off (note writing term learned from yesterday's YDS/Connie Schultz interview) his walk-off is a brilliant Joe Hallett crackback.
  • Progress Ohio posts the case against Ken Blackwell's lame duck bonuses as obtained from current Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.
  • Ohio Media Watch posts an exclusive: That the end of the Big Chuck and Li'l John Show is rumored to be imminent. If you were a B movie geek in high school in the seventies and eighties, you feel the pain.
  • The Chief Source has a Readers Post contest going and posted a long comment as an entry. The comment is a review of Sam Harris's Letter to a Christian Nation. This I especially loved:
      Sam's motives are unmistakably admirable, but it seems to me a book written similarly about a rose bush would go into great detail about the thorns, how many people they had hurt and how dangerous they could be; then grudgingly and in passing admit that the thorn bush occasionally has a rose; then declare that all thorn bushes should be eliminated because we could still have flowers without them.
  • Finally, Jill discovers that Life Skills Centers is spamming the blogosphere.

Summit and Medina Counties Trying to Hook Cabela's

Call it Destination Outdoor Retailer, Part 2.

I've heard rumors that Cabela's might be coming to the area under a deal similar to that proposed to bring Bass Pro to Akron. The PD finally broke the story today. Medina and Summit Counties are each putting together deals to lure Cabela's to set up shop. Medina's is an impact facilities deal similar to the offer to Bass Pro in exchange for opening a store in Brunswick.

Summit on the other hand is looking to "put together a deal that would create a "synergy" between a proposed domed soccer stadium and a Cabela's store. Part of the venture could include a county tax on cigarettes and alcohol that would raise $4 million for the stadium and pour $1 million into county arts groups."

Wait a minute.

Synergies between a domed soccer stadium and an outdoor sports retailer? Aside from the fact that your best bet to find them on TV is ESPN2, soccer has little in common with hook and bullet sports. The next time I see a minivan with a deer carcass lashed to the top will be the first. Do they think people will attend soccer matches then, as long as they are in the neighborhood, go shopping for duck blinds?

In the Topix comments section to the quickie story the ABJ posted today, one commenter says that he has travelled to Michigan to shop at Cabela's -- the quality of the gear is that much better than the big boxes around here. I posted a couple open questions in a comment but, since I wasnt' actively insulting anyone's intelligence, manhood or mother, wasn't made part of the discussion. So I will post them here.

Obvious question: will this affect Bass Pro wanting to build here?

Less obvious question: Since half the customers must come from more than 100 miles away to fall under the "impact facility" law, would two facilities built a county or less apart affect that evaluation? And in what direction?

Finally, some notes about the Beacon Journal's coverage of the story. As I said, the rumor has been circulating. Yesterday, the ABJ published an editorial about the Bass Pro dealer that included the following paragraph:

    Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's (another giant outdoor retailer) know their way around local government. The companies have received ample tax breaks and other public subsidies in developing locations elsewhere across the country. Bass would do so in this instance, Heydorn and her colleagues approving a decade of relief from the county sales tax. If the County Council moved quickly, the early details suggest it hardly gave away the store, so to speak, the incentive aimed, appropriately, at a worn urban area.
Just happened to mention Cabela's. Did the ABJ have wind of the Cabela's deal? I've asked and gotten no reply. Regardless, the PD owned them on the story. Reading between the lines, it looks like the PD figured out what the Medina Co. Commissioners were set to do in their meeting scheduled for today. ABJ, as I said, threw a story up on so quickly the headline initially spelled "Cabela's" with two "L's" (and it still looks that way on Topix as of 11:00 Thursday.)

I want to believe that ABJ/ can run with their hyper-local model and their current post-purge staffing levels. I really want to believe it. I'm just not seeing it.

Brownback Reads Blackwell

Really, hard to interpret this any other way. Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback raised his hand along with two other candidates when asked in the first primary debate who does not believe in evolution. Last week Blackwell's Townhall column purported to offer an escape for conservatives from the "evolution trap." Here's his advice on how a candidate should answer the question, "Do you believe in evolution?"

    “Well, if you mean microevolution, where an organism adapts to its environment with the flexibility inherent in its DNA, then yes I believe in that; we see it every day in nature. But if you mean macroevolution, where mutations stack on one another to create entirely new organ systems and transform one species into a totally different species, then I, along with many scientists, have serious issues with that theory.”
Today's New York Times runs an op-ed from Brownback in which he clarifies his position. Here's his main point:
    The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it. [h/t Faith in Public Life which reproduces the piece getting you around TimesSelect issues]
This is a better refinement in that it doesn't even reject macroevolution, avoids a lot of jargon and invokes mushy intelligent design style language that happens to be the majority position of American voters.

Nothing yet on RAB, but Matthew should be proud of his boy. Don't say I never did anything for ya, Matt.

By the way, Brownback does not invoke the eye lie. Is he reading Pho as well?

Ohio Approved for NCLB "Growth Model"

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings gave conditional approval to Ohio's proposed growth model for evaluating public school students. Under standard NCLB testing, a school or district is judged by how many kids are proficient according to the test results. Under a "growth model" the state evaluates how each child is progressing year to year. If schools show sufficient growth, they can still meet Adequate Yearly Progress. The Department doesn't like to use words like "Pass" or "Fail," but if you meet AYP, frankly it means you pass.

In addition to Ohio, Spellings approved Iowa's proposal. She reached her decision last Thursday, though the press releases didn't go out until earlier this week. Here's the presser from USDOE. The decision has received scant press attention.

This makes Ohio one of seven states approved for growth model evaluation. The Department is peer-reviewing proposals with the goal of approving up to ten states to serve as test cases for the new evaluation method.

The Ohio Department of Ed website hasn't updated to indicate that their proposal was accepted, but a page summarizes the proposal and links to a pdf. of the whole thing. Here's the summary in Educationese:

    The projection measure will calculate student trajectories toward proficiency as a second look, once the conventional assessment of whether all subgroups are meeting the status or Safe Harbor goal for percent proficient is made.
And translated for the rest of us:
    Under this provision, if one or more subgroups (including the all students group) falls short of the status goal and safe harbor, but the school or district demonstrates that students are making gains such that they are on track to reach or remain proficient by the next grade beyond the school’s grade configuration . . . then the district or school will meet AYP
This is potentially good news for schools and districts that teach high numbers of at-risk kids who come into the district without much of a knowledge base. It's potentially bad news for failing charter schools that fall back on the argument that they have bad test scores because they are educating kids ruined by bad public schools.

In Akron we haven't felt the bite of NCLB sanctions yet. The district met AYP two years ago after a couple of years of falling short. Then last year the district came up short again. Next up on the sanction schedule. is the district paying for outside tutoring. Sadly, the district is making gains in part because of an aggressive program of district-provided tutoring. The sanction could really be a waste; hopefully under the new model we won't have to find out.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Around the Horn

I'm not going to promise this as a regular feature, but I'd like to; A sampling of good work being done in the Ohio blogosphere.

  • YellowDogSammy wasn't just coasting when he was off. Among other things he sat down with PD Columnist (etc.) Connie Schultz for an interview. He has Part 1 transcribed. My personal favorite revelation: The idea for the book arose from a conversation her editor had with columnist Anna Quinlan.
  • Jill uncovered that the tasteless Benneton domestic violence ad is in fact a fake tasteless Benneton domestic violence ad.
  • OhioDave at Into My Own writes up Jarod's Law, a set of new safety regulations for traditional public schools with some unintended consequences that, well, we hope they were unintended. If you read one piece on the list, make it that one.
  • If you haven't heard, Jerid at Buckeye State raised money to travel New Hampshire for the summer and has been sending back brilliant dispatches. And getting into a bit of mischief. Case in point -- asking Mitt Romney if abortion is murder.
  • Another week, another charter school in trouble. PO has details.

Sherrod Brown on Tour Talking to Ohio Vets.

According to the Beacon Journal, Senator Sherrod Brown is in the midst of a three-day, six city listening tour of Ohio focusing on veteran's issues. Brown is the first Ohio senator to sit on the Veterans Affairs committee in 35 years.

ABJ has an account of the meeting in Canton. You can also find accounts of the kick-off meeting in New Philadelphia -- co-hosted by Rep. Zach Space -- here and here. Can't find where he was to be today, but tomorrow is Toledo.

Vinson Case Update: Report Coming, then New Police Auditor

According to Eric Mansfield, the report on the independent investigation of the Demetrus Vinson shooting will soon be released:

    So now I hear that the Demetrus Vinson case file has been reduced to a draft of a final report. Sources tell me that County Prosecutors (Both Walsh’s and Mason’s offices) are reviewing its contents, but there’s no way of knowing when they’ll be ready to announce a final ruling to the public. What I don’t know is if the prosecutors are asking additional questions or even requesting additional tests be complete .. or whether they’re just making sure that everyone involved is in agreement. One prediction I will make is that when a press conference is finally held to announce the findings, the explanation will be short. Think “less-is-more”. The less investigators say, the more likely the explanation will reach the public in its entirety. I would expect copies of the final report to be released to the public to add some transparency to the final ruling – whatever it is – but don’t look for a long public statement from investigators.

And as always, I have to tell you where it is so you can scroll down on the blog. The paragraph is quoted from the May 28 entry. It's the sum total of what he says about the case.

Meanwhile ABJ is reporting on today that the city will name a police auditor after the investigation is concluded.
    Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic said today he is close to naming a police auditor, but he won't make the announcement until an independent review of a police-involved shooting is ready.

    "I wanted to have the other investigation completed so that this person doesn't get dragged into that," Plusquellic said.
The police auditor idea has been kicking around for at least five years now. I know it was a subject of discussion when I was still working. Good to know that it's close to fruition, though this case makes me wonder if it will make a difference. The police still won't trust the Mayor, the Mayor will still be aggravated by the police, the people in the neighborhoods will still say the Mayor and the police are in cahoots and the Auditor will always be accused of favoring the other side, depending on who the other side is.

Meanwhile, I haven't heard any additional news about a community effort to raise money for an independent foresic examiner to look at the case. More on that if I can run it down.

APS Slowly Emerging from the Woods

From today's Beacon Journal comes more good news that the masses won't believe. Akron Public Schools is restoring some of the programs they cut when money was tight and voters rejected two levies. They had cut instrumental music and foreign language instructions in middle school grades. In a comprimise move, they are restoring instrumental music down to fifth grade -- but not fourth -- and foreign languages to eighth grade -- but not seventh.

Much of the change is thanks to some happy news over which the district has little control:

    The revised five-year financial forecast approved by board members also shows a much lower deficit for the 2010-11 school year: $6.5 million.

    That compares with a $22 million deficit that had been projected for 2010-11 earlier this year.

    Much of the decrease involves medical costs, Pierson said. He said health insurance premiums are not expected to rise as much as initially anticipated.
The more I learn about the five year forecast requirement, the less I like it. A school's budget has to balance five years out based on projections that are nearly impossible to make. And the kicker: if school business officials make the wrong call in either direction, the district looks incompetent and the voters lose that much more faith.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Jillian's in Akron Closes; World to End Tomorrow

The Jillian's restaurant on South Main Street closed suddenly and without explanation over the weekend. This is hard news. If you were desperate for dry, overseasoned meat cooked in the style of a Japanese-American steakhouse by clumsy white guys, this was the only game in town.

The story is remarkable for the flurry of comments on the page. First off, it's gotta be the fault of someone in government. The smoking ban, yea that's it, the smoking ban. Then the people who disagree pile in and it's on. But sprinked throughout are comments about how this is just another sign that Akron is slipping into the Vortex of Inescapable Despair.

People. First off, the closing may have something to do with Jillian's restructuring under Chapter 11 bancruptcy.

Second, entertainment, like retail, doesn't drive the economy. Jillian's was just about moving around the money already in the economy. It wasn't about generating wealth. Businesses like restaurants can provide a glimpse into how an economy is doing, but they don't spur growth themselves.

Reading the comments page was a "What's the Matter with Akron?" moment. You can read in the comments the phenomena Michael Frank observed in Kansas -- the economic insecurity, the search for scapegoats, the simultaneous belief that government action is killing the economy and that government intervention should save the economy.

I was listening to today's TSOI on 90.3 this morning about how Youngstown is adapting to its shrinking population. In the midst of the show the guests and host Dan Mouthrop joked about whether Youngstown residents are more cynical and resigned than Cleveland residents. Akron should be different, but people utterly refuse to believe that the city could be swinging upwards.

More on Hallett and Blogs

Brian Bryan introduced his post on Joe Hallett’s anti-blog outburst by noting that Jill and I have more nuanced views of MSM/blog relations. So probably I should comment on the substance of Hallett’s (not Schultz’s) statements.

Joe Hallett is full of crap.

How’s that for nuance?

I’m not bothered so much by Hallett equating influence with readership. Or his assertion that blogs just render opinion on news. Or his woefully inadequate acknowledgement of the throng of blogs that engage in original reporting. On each of those points he is oversimplifying, but none is the most troubling aspect of his piece.

What bothers me most is the dismissive and condescending tone of his piece and what it means. Of course bloggers get the dismissive and condescending treatment alongside Sherrod Brown and Connie Schultz, so maybe we should just be happy to be on that list.

But in dismissing blogs as a part of the political landscape, Hallett becomes yet another MSM figure so thoroughly missing the point. Blogs and traditional media outlets are not fighting against each other. We are fighting the same battle. Our project is, or at least should be, to encourage civic engagement. Our adversaries shouldn’t be each other. Our common adversaries are American Idol and PS2 and Lindsey Lohan’s latest DUI. Or more generally, the apathy, cynicism and distraction that have cut people off from the business of running a polity.

Some time ago Jill ran across a piece in OJR that described blogs as “parasitic.” That’s when it hit me. The “Don’t Get It” crowd in the MSM sees blogs as parasitic. The forward thinking newspeople see the relationship as symbiotic. Each medium has a role and all media benefit from working in close proximity. Without the MSM, blogs would have little to opine on or organize around, and too much untilled ground to do effective original reporting.

Conversely, for all of our bitching about the MSM, we highlight stories they uncover and, at our best, send them readers. Our criticisms of the media can make them better if they listen. Not that every criticism by every blogger is on point, but an atmosphere where the media get feedback of every kind is a healthier atmosphere.

Finally, there’s that civic engagement we help promote. And that’s the real influence of blogs on the political process. Even the blogs that are simply vanity outlets for op-ed pieces, if they have readers, are keeping those readers engaged in with the political process. And people who care about what happens in government, community and the economy are far more likely to read the paper.

That’s why the difference between Connie Schultz’s view of blogs and Joe Hallett’s is so important. Schultz truly wants blogs to be better at reporting information and engaging readers. Hallett just wants us to go away. It’s a short sighted view.

Scott Pullins -- Runnning for State Rep? UPDATED: No

UPDATE: See Scott's comment.

Soon after I took down the comment about Kathy Pullins I suspected something was up with the Pullins family aside from wife Kathy wanting to be clear rumors circulated by Scott’s many enemies. Searching for “Scott Pullins” pulled up a “Pullins for Ohio” website I hadn’t seen before. A correspondent noted that it was registered in 2003.

But it had been updated. Across the bottom a legend read “Copyright 2007.” One of the items on the feeds page was a feed from the Eye on the Statehouse blog that Buckeye Institute launched only a couple months ago. The site proclaimed itself to be “Under Construction,” so I’ve been keeping an eye on it.

Today the site is a blank page, but the title in the address bar has changed.

Here’s the screenshot:

And the detail:

If that doesn't work on your computer, it says "Scott Pullins for State Representative."

For a guy who has worked overtime the past year generating oppo research and accumulating enemies on both sides of the aisle, this is a ballsy move. He has to know what an appealing target he is going to be. Of course if he continues, Cafaro-like, to threaten litigation against his critics, maybe not ballsy so much as bullying.

And yes, the email is en route to Chez Pullins, but the mere fact that the website is moving in this direction is worth noting.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Joe Hallett and Connie Schultz Not Really in Lockstep About Blogs

In Sunday's Dispatch, columnist Joe Hallett wrote about Plain Dealer columnist Connie Schultz and her upcoming book. He had participated in an ethics workshop with Schultz and used that as a hook to discuss the book and Schultz's discusison of political journalism in it. In the course of talking about Schultz and Sherrod, Hallett took a couple grafs to talk junk about blogs:

    On the matter of political blogs, Schultz and I were in lockstep. Their importance is overblown and their readership, although growing, still is a fraction of those readers who rely on newspapers to get their politics.

    Little original reporting comes from political blogs. Exceptions in Ohio include and its counterpart on the liberal side,, whose authors at least make an effort to talk with newsmakers. Mostly, though, political blogs are echo chambers for ideologues to comment on and twist what they've read in the morning newspaper or on newspaper blogs such as
This sounded different than what Connie Schultz had said at the Akron Press Club. At the Press Club she reiterated her belief expressed in interviews that bloggers have a positive role to play in the process but that we need to aspire to a higher level of citizen journalism. Specifically she says we should call to confirm information before posting, that we should not traffic rumors and that we shouldn't post anonymously. More detail on all this in my reaction post.

Because of the divergence, I emailed her last night. She confirmed my suspicions that Hallett did not accurately convey her views about blogs. She understood the ethics seminar to be off-the-record, but did say that her views expressed at Kent were essentially the same as those expressed at the Press Club. She does not dismiss blogs out of hand, she reads blogs, but she has some misgivings about how people blog.

Sadly, the episode is another example of her criticism of blogs. Hallett's anti-blog mini-rant doesn't quote Schultz. What he does in voice his views and assert that she agrees with him. That should have thrown up a warning flag. Nonetheless, both RAB and DailyKos accepted Hallett's piece as an accurate summary Connie Schultz's views, without reservation. Each then moved on to criticize her, she being a higher-profile target.

(Bryan at BSB mentions her in passing, but correctly directs his criticism solely at Hallett.)

Sadly, Connie Schultz tells me that no other bloggers contacted her for confirmation or clarification of the information in the Hallett piece. So RAB rehashes the outdated "Sherrod vs. the Blogs" tiff, DKos rants at the wrong person and all for the want of sending an email. She deserves better than that from Joe Hallett and from us.


I was seven when the U.S. pulled out of Saigon. So I remember that day. I remember a banner headline in the ABJ proclaiming the war over -- really this time.

It's depressing beyond words to contemplate a second failed military adventure in my lifetime. So much so, that I can do no better than Fred.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Strickland, Guns and the Urban Agenda [REVISED]

Columbuser asks out loud about Strickland's urban agenda. Cbuser is riffing off some snarky questions by a friend about vouchers and high gas prices being good for cities. You can read my take on vouchers and the urban poor here.

As for gas prices, I pretty much agree with another Columbuser post that the Dems' energy position is incoherent policy, but I also understand that people don't lose elections becasue they stand for cheaper energy. "Understand" in this case shouldn't be conflated with "am happy with."

But keeping an eye on Strickland's urban agenda isn't a bad idea. It was nice to see references to an urban development agenda in the Akron Doesn't Suck stories, but we haven't heard much before that. Sixteen years of Republican rule have equated to sixteen years of policies hostile to cities, and Strickland did not exactly go out of his way to reassure we urbanites that he understood how to address urban problems.

So I wonder if Gov. Strickland would veto H.B. 225.

Ted has made a point of being a Gun Guy. The reason the One-Winged Psycho-Demon Duckbeast from Hell rushed to dilute the concealed carry law last year was that they did not want Strickland to get the political juice for signing it as he promised he would. Instead they overrode Taft's veto to further distance the party from his failed governorship.

Strickland's promise to sign the bill shows that, unlike Taft, he would go favor the wishes of the gun nuts over those of the law enforcement associations. So it's an open question how bad an idea has to be before Strickland will break with Gunnutistan.

As reported in yesterday's ABJ, Ohio cities, along with everyone else, are seeing an uptick in gang violence. Among the pathologies accompanying the gangs is a proliferation of young men carrying powerful semiautomatic weapons and using them to settle minor beefs. These are the sort of people who don't apply for concealed carry permits, and concealed carry charges are a useful law enforcement tool

Time will tell whether it has any legs -- it's currently in a House committee that, among others, includes two Akron area Dems (Sykes and Dyer) and a moderate area Republican (Widowfield.) This is the same committee that so watered down the stripper bill that any sane observer would conclude that CCV got its clock cleaned. Clearly this committee has moved beyond doing the wishes of the far right.

It may well be that House 225 was introduced as a stalking horse to smoke out Strickland's veto threat and separate him from Gunnutistan. As long as it languishes in Committee Strickland should hold off.

But if Strickland is serious about preserving Ohio's cities, he should indeed veto this train wreck if it ever gets to him.

CORRECTION: The gun bill has been assigned to the Criminal Justice Committee. The stripper bill was in Judiciary.

Internet Advertising Revenues Keep Growing, But . . .

If you've paid any attention to my list, you may notice that I'm a bit obsessed with advertising in the information age. If I find an article I bookmark it. It's because I believe that advertising drives what is happening to the internet and much else in the information sector.

Music piracy, the collapse of the first internet bubble, economic hard times in the news gathering industry and and other growing pains of the digital age have a common antecedent: getting people to pay for information is very difficult. In the early days of the internet people marched under the banner "Information wants to be free." In fact, people want information to be free. And people are a hell of a lot more difficult to control than information is.

So, some possibly good news from Advertising Age:

    Internet ad revenue grew 35% in 2006, with search, display, classifieds and lead-generation categories continuing to rise at a healthy clip[]
I say "potentially" with two caveats. First is that the figures don't include a breakdown of advertising that supports content versus advertising on advertising-only sites like Monster or Craig's List.

Second, content providers have reason to be worried about the increasing sophistication of online advertising (for example). In the pre-information age, advertisers only knew that potential customers would probably among the viewers of a particular medium and so carpet bombed the media with ads. Online advertising is more like smart bombs and, like smart bombs, advertisers need fewer of them to hit the target. And tools like AdSense let advertisers pay for the ads that actually find their mark.

All of this calls into question the ultimate economics of advertising supporting online content. Someone somewhere is surely writing about this with greater sophistication than my armchair observations. If I find it I'll link to it. If you find it, feel free to drop it in comments.

Meanwhile, one unqualifiedly good piece of news from the Ad Age article:
    E-mail's share remained flat, although total dollars spent on the tactic was up 34% to $338 million. Ms. Draizen suggested e-mail may be reaching a plateau and that spam-blocking by consumers also is a key factor in its slow growth.
That, and the spreading realization that herbal supplements don't actually make penises bigger.

Random Ten

  1. "Stressed Out," A Tribe Called Quest
  2. "Blue Mountain Hop," Bela Fleck
  3. "Poison Moon," Elvis Costellow
  4. "Graveyard Shift," Uncle Tupelo
  5. "Pinhead," The Ramones
  6. "A Roller Skating Jam Named 'Saturdays,'" De La Soul
  7. "So Much to Say," Dave Matthews Band
  8. "Lapdance," N.E.R.D.
  9. "Industrial Disease," Dire Straights
  10. "Seen Your Video," The Replacements

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Future of the Beacon According to Publisher Moss

I didn't make it to the Akron Roundtable address by newish Publisher Edward Moss, but happily the Akron Roundtable posts the audio. His comment at the end of the Mizell Stewart story about the Beacon becoming "a multimedia company, as the industry grows online," is basically an extention of the thoughts he expressed in his address and in the Q&A afterwards.

He ran through the usual litany of news business woes. I would recommend for a primer on the newspaper business the Roundtable speech last year by Laura Rich Fine. She spoke more frankly, but then she is a financial analyst whose job is to describe the prospects of business sectors, as opposed to Moss whose job is to cheerlead his company. (My thoughts are on GABB)

The short form is that, while declining readership is a problem, the real danger to newspapers is losing classified advertising to the web. Until hearing Ms. Fine I hadn't realized how vital classified ads are to a newspaper's bottom line.

So the main challenge for Moss is how to overcome that, and how explain that to Akronites concerned about the future of the paper. I've heard serious people talk seriously about the day the ABJ will fold. A platform like the Roundtable is Moss's chance to allay those fears.

For me, at least the speech shows he Gets It. He's not whining about, say, competition from blogs. And he has a plan. Time will tell if it's the right plan.

Regarding the news, Moss's choice is hyperlocal coverage. Among the changes the Beacon has made to implement his hyperlocal vision are:

  • 60 community briefs
  • Road construction info
  • Information about how elected officials voted.
Moss also said the company is being more aggressive in advertising.
  • Monster dot com
  • The Drivers’ Seat (car ads) feature on Thursdays
  • Autos dot ohio dot com
  • Bringing in local small businesses that had been priced out in the past.
As noted, Moss accepts the prevailing wisdom that the future for newspapers is evolving into media companies, particularly moving from print to online presence, then branching from there. Moss says that Ohio dot com is the "key to future." Some of what's happening there includes:
  • Easier to search
  • More content on story-level page
  • Most popular feature list
  • Allow people to submit their own news items. The have identified "25 communities" in the paper's draw area and are hoping to cultivate news items from them.
  • Community Calendar function to launch in a few weeks. It would allow community groups to use tools on the website to schedule events.
  • More video and sound
The website stuff is pretty standard issue -- who doesn't have a most popular list? The big question is whether the mesh of online advertising and expanded online content will compensate for the loss of revenues.

Moss refered to getting input from the community. I have some input as well. Folks reading from the ABJ, here are my suggestions:
  • Expand the offerings for email newsletters to headlines and breaking news. Currently the ABJ allows members to sign up for emails for things like community events and sports updates. Pretty much every other major paper offer e-newsletters for headlines and breaking news.
  • Open links to past stories relevant to something in today's paper. This ought to include a temporary reprieve from pay wall. The PD -- whose website is generally pretty miserable to use -- offers links to all the past articles relevant to a developing story on a headline page.
  • Searchable databases I'm excited about the databases the PD is offering on Openers. The databases themselves aren't so interesting as the idea of using the interent and existing content to provide a more functional information tool.If the Beacon is transitioning from a newspaper company to a multimedia company, they can also move from writing the first draft of history to creating an ever-expanding permanent record.
  • Understand that hyperlocal means more reporters. I'd like to know more about what is happening in Goodyear Heights or Streetsboro, someone needs to do some sophisticated reporting to get the information and present it in a way that everyone will want to read it. Hyperlocal is labor intensive in a way that pulling stories off the wires are not.
You can also read the write up of the speech in the ABJ and reaction on BJ Retirees.

ABJ: Mizzel Stewart Out as Managing Editor [UPDATED]

Mizell Stewart, managing editor of the Akron Beacon Journal, is leaving to become "vice president and editor" of Scripps-Howard's Evansville Courier and Press.

As with all things ABJ, I'm looking at this as a tea leaves thing. Generally the best information on that is the BJ Retirees blog, which as of now hasn't posted on it.

A couple of considerations, though. I'm assuming that the ABJ calling Stewart's new position "editor" is shorthand for editor in chief which would be a step up for a managing editor. Certainly, the market is a step down the ladder. ABJ's circulation is 130,000 weekdays and 175,000 on Sundays. Stewart is leaving for a paper whose circulation is 65,000/90,000. Close call whether this looks like Stewart moving to the next level or Stewart bailing on a sinking paper.

Second note: The story is in the Breaking News section of, having been posted at 3:00 a.m. last night. It's not in the Local News section and presumably not in today's print edition. Hard to believe the Beacon didn't have control over the break. If so, they deliberately posted the story to hit the papers in the news black hole that is Saturday of a three-day weekend. They aren't exactly celebrating Stewart's success.

Stewart is being replaced by an internal candidate, Bruce Winges, who is being named "vice president and editor." The paper doesn't say whether this is a different job description from managing editor or just a different title. It seems at least moderately good news that they are promoting from within as one concern when Black bought the paper was that he would remake it entirely.

Newspeople, feel free to fill in my many blanks.

UPDATES: BJ Retirees just post the ABJ story. Maybe they get a copyright exemption.

AkronNewsNow has an audio clip up of Stewart talking about the move. He sings Winges' praises and says he's excited about moving to the Evansville paper. The paper, he says, is on the "cutting edge" of making the structural changes the climate is forcing newspapers into. That is, a strong web presence, mulitmedia content, additional media properties (he mentioned a couple of magazines).

Quickly looking at the Courier & Press online, gotta say it's an impressive looking site. Very clean, great graphics, ad content that blends with the overall look and more. They have their story about their new editor up.

CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, I misstated Mr. Stewart's new position at one point in the story.

Update on the Newt Gringrich/Diane Rehm Spat

At the close of today's 10:00 News Roundup on the Diane Rehm Show, host Diane Rehm reset the show's view of the Newt Gingrich cut-and-run incident. According to Ms. Rehm, Newt's publicist called Monday before the Tuesday show to get Newt on. The producers bumped an already-scheduled interview to get Newt on 11:00 Tuesday. Tuesday morning at around 10:00 as Ms. Rehm started to go on air, Newt's publicist called to say that Newt was "tired" and wouldn't do the whole hour.

In my years of listening to Diane Rehm, I'm hard pressed to remember a one-on-one guest getting out early. The 11:00 hour is the author hour. Someone gets on to flog a book for a couple segments, then takes call-in questions. Anyone with casual familiarity with the show format would know this. Nonetheless, Newt's people called as the show opened and asked to break format.

Diane says that had she knows before 10:00 that Newt wasn't in for the full hour she would have declined the interview or at the least opened up for questions sometime before he bailed. She says that there is an audio file posted somewhere in which you can hear Newt tell an engineer that he's only in for forty minutes. Her response is 1) he was an engineer not a producer and 2) the information was given to the producers at the last minute.

She also says that Gingrich's website has "incorrect information." I can't find any information about the issue on It does seem most likely you would find that on the blog which is only open to Newt Premium members which I am not. But a site search of "Rehm" pulls up nothing.

Newt has offered to reappear on the show. Rehm's people have wisely given him The Hand.

I have to wonder about someone contemplating running for President who says he's "too tired" to last an hour. The little State BOE campaign I worked on last fall was exhausting. Probably it was cover for having another interview to do. But why use a cover that makes the potential candidate sound physically weak?

Immediately after the incident, NYTimes ran a story with the competing stories from the two camps. You can listen to the original show here. Diane's reset will appear on this page sometime in the next hour or two, then cycle off sometime over the weekend.

Meanwhile, I'm experiencing another plumbing surge. I'm headed off to the salt mines. The thread is yours; use it well.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ken Blackwell Flogs the Eye Lie

Matt at RAB put me on to an article J. Ken wrote on TownHall about evolution and the Republican Prez Debate. Blackwell's strategy is to distinguish between "microevolution" and "macroevolution." You can read the piece to understand what he means by the difference. It's a standard tenet of the Creationism Lite favored by wingnuts who nonetheless want to be taken seriously.

It's also based on a bunch of arguments that aren't true. One statement he makes that is argurably false is that many scientists have doubts about macroevolution. It's true that people exist that do science for a living and question macroevolution. They tend to do their main work in other disciplines and visit the biology lab only to criticize evolutionary theory.

It's not true, though implied in his piece, that macroevolution is controversial among biologists and other scientists who study living things systematically. This does lead down the road to both "what is a real biologist" and the Troothish stories anti-evolutionists tell about discrimination against critics of evolution. Generally you can skip over having that debate and wait for the speaker or writer to say something truly outlandishly false. Usually it has to do with eyes.

Oh, look, in the next paragraph:

    There are scientists who echo the concerns of a vast number of Americans. Models like the doctrine of irreducible complexity explain that certain organs, such as the eye, require dozens of different components, each made of billions of cells, all working together to function as a whole. It argues such organs cannot evolve over time, they only benefit the creature at one hundred percent capacity. A 99% evolved eye is useless. This model suggests organs must be entirely present and perfectly fit together or they do not work. Modern theories of macroevolution have no explanation for how such organs came about.[Emphasis mine.]
He could have said that he doesn't believe the current theories about the evolution of the eye, but no. Blackwell repeats the oft-made charge that evolutionary biology simply has no explanation for the eye. They say this time and again and time and again it's shown that there does exist an explanation for the evolution of the eye and still they say it. This has happened enough that saying it is a lie. It's happened enough that my only theory for why they persist in saying it is the hope that saying a lie often enough will make it true.

For evolutionary biology does have an explanation for the eye. Short form: eyes evolved in stages from light-sensitive cells to the complex eyes of vertebrates. Talk Orgins elaborates:
    All of these steps are known to be viable because all exist in animals living today. The increments between these steps are slight and may be broken down into even smaller increments. Natural selection should, under many circumstances, favor the increments. Since eyes do not fossilize well, we do not know that the development of the eye followed exactly that path, but we certainly cannot claim that no path exists.
Again, one can accept theories of eye evolution or not. But to say no theory exists is a lie. That Blackwell repeats the lie is not surprising but nonetheless sad.

More on Akron's Economy Sucking Less

The ABJ fronts the Brookings study today with some original reporting. John Higgins interviews Ned Hill from the Levin College at CSU who contributed to the Brookings report. Hill lists some of the advantages Akron has over some of the other cities in the area including diverse housing stock, a strong urban public school system and a solid downtown. He specifically credits the Mayor and UA President Luis Proenza for their work.

I'd add some visionary developers like Tony Troppe and Micheal Owen who, among other things, are responsible for the Historic District and the AES building and Canal Place, respectively (and both of whom are friends of mine.) And obviously lots of other people leading big companies sited downtown and entrepreneurs starting small businesses.

Both the ABJ and I have been measured in assessing the degree of the good news. Neither being "off the weak list" or being "less sucky" exactly describes unqualified success. Nonetheless, the relative success of Akron over the rest of urban Ohio is worth remarking on.

And worth studying, which is the next step. Brookings is going to conduct a case study of Akron in an attempt to figure out why things suck so much less here. One of the dominant questions will be the role of states in encouraging urban development. AdNEO is pushing that angle.

Finally, I can't help myself. I wrote up the PD's story from the perspective of the good news it contained for Akron Monday night. But newspapers don't give hat tips.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Voting Fraud, Political Fraud

One good thing coming out of the US Attorney scandal is the light shone on how the Republicans used fictional fears of election fraud to suppress voting. When we were arguing about voter ID bills, Repubs insisted that the laws were necessary to avoid the dread spector of Dick Tracy showing up at the polls. Plenty of us didn't buy it at the time. Still, it's nice having the confirmation.


  • Jill notes that Monica Goodling testified extensively about the the Department of Justice's "vote caging " activities.
  • In Slate, Election Law blogger Richard Hansen uses the disappearance of a Republican astroturf vote fraud advocacy group as a hook for a brief history of voter fraud claims. As he shows, the claims have never been proven, but they still serve as a basis for vote supressing activities like roll purging and ID laws.
  • Digby gets excited about the prospect of Senators quizzing his "favorite election suppressor Hans von Spakovsky."
  • Another election blogger, OSU prof Daniel Tokaji, offers a detailed rundown of how the US Attorneys scandal is part of a pattern of politicizing the U.S. Justice Department to play games with voting rights.
So. I can't say that I understand why Jennifer Brunner wasn't more careful about choosing sites for her pilot program to register high school graduates. But if she's trying to use her position to tip elections, by the standards set by Republicans, she's a piker.

CORRECTION: See Jill's comment.

Ida Wells Community School Gets Another Reprieve.

To my utter and complete lack of surprise, Ida Wells Community School has been given more time to get it's financial house in order. If you haven't been following the story, the Akron charter school has been living on borrowed time -- at increasingly attractive interest rates, apparently.

First, the school's original sponsor, Lucas County Education wanted to close it down. In response it changed sponsors to Richland Academy for the Arts. Then Richland started looking at the books and making noises about shutting them down.

The latest turn is reported in today's Beacon Journal. The school has another thirty days to clear up problems or Richland will -- Really this time!! -- pull its charter.

Complain to a charter schools honk about school accountability and you hear the following:

Hey, charter schools have to meet all the same requirements as regular schools and they can get shut down if they don't suceed and regular schools never are and by the way the free market is the best way to regulate anything.

Go ahead and ask one, you'll see. It's like they are reading it off of a card.

Look into how charter school accountability actually functions, the picture is not as bright and sunny as proponents claim. Ida Wells Community School is an example. An ABJ article from a couple weeks ago gives a good thumbnail history of the problems -- financial irregularity, gallons of red ink and bad test scores.

Ah, the test scores. While the record of Ida Wells is currently in Continuous Improvement, with two indicators met over 2005-06(one being indicator attendance) and a Perfomanc Index of 70.7. The second indicator met was Sixth Grade reading on which they scored a perfect hundred despite doing no better than 54 in any other grade level, and despite a 50 on the previous year's fifth grade reading indicator.

But with all that, it's not academics that have Ida Wells in trouble. Contrast Ida Wells' scores with those of another Richland Academy school, Lighthouse Academy which is in Academic Emergency with no indicators met and a Performance Index of 60.1. Richland hasn't even hinted that it's looking at closing Lighthouse.

Supposedly the new charter accountability law passed last session by the One-Winged Psycho-Demon Duckbeasts from Hell tightens all this up. Supposedly a school that fails to get out of Emergency or Watch for three years running will be shut down. But it's the sponsors who exercise what passes for accountability over the schools. Based on the experience so far, there is little reason to be optimistic.

And the market? I think Jean Schmidt has the best answer for that: If we are giving people money out of a sense of the societal good, society has the right and the responsibility to make sure that the money is being spent wisely.

Oh wait. She wasn't talking about charter schools, she was talking about food stamps. Choice is such a fickle thing.

Breaking: Paul Monea Guilty

Guilty on all four counts. The Stark County "entrepreneur" will no doubt be heading to prison a second time.

I've been unable to find one of those "If convicted he could face" sentences in any of the preview stories.

Why I Deleted a Very Old Comment from a Scott Pullins Post.

Few would probably have noticed this, but in case someone does, better I lay all this out now.

The comment was in response to a now-famous post in which I publicly declared Scott Pullins a douchebag for flogging the "Ted is gay" whisper campaign during the election. An anonymous commenter posted an argument that went like this:

  • Pullins "pitched 16 kinds of hissy" when someone posted a rumor about his wife on a local message board.
  • Using Pullins' logic and facts he has provided, I can make the same insinuations about Pullins and his wife that he is making about the Stricklands.
A second comment made additional remarks along the same lines.

Generally I don't favor posting unsubstantiated rumors on blogs. I've done it, regretted it, pulled it. I've challenged people on a couple of occasions to back up claims they make in comments. And I especially don't like rumors posted by anonymous commenters.

In this case the comment was different because the Anonymouse was reporting the fact that the rumor had been posted elsewhere and the fact that Pullins had gone thermonuclear over it to make an argument about his hypocrisy. The poster wasn't endorsing the rumor, and in fact his argument is stronger if the rumor is not true. I read the post carefully with the cursor hovering over the "Delete" button before deciding it was OK.

Until yesterday when Scott's wife Kathy emailed. She has gone through an emotional ringer because people around them keep running out the rumor. She says they tracked it down to a former employee.

I explained to Kathy why I left the comment up and my reading that the comment doesn't endorse the rumor. All the while I assured her that the comment would be deleted because keeping it up is not worth her emotional pain. Her only role in this is having married Scott Pullins. She hasn't stepped out, she's not part of his political activity. She doesn't deserve this. I know from Sitemeter hits that every once in a while my post gets a link on the Knox County bulletin board and people from around there come by and read it. If the post is leading people to believe that a rumor about an innocent third party is true, it's not worth it. It comes down.

One final note to my friends in the lefty blogosphere. In her two-day email exchange with me, Kathy Pullins has been nothing but class. She could have rolled into my life blasting away with "How dare you" and "John Brunner" and "You're a hypocrit," but she didn't. She was measured and civil throughout. As far as I could tell, she was acting on her own, appealing to me as a human being to help her out of an ugly situation that was not of her making.

So please, let's not have any nasty posts that make Kathy regret approaching me. You know what I'm talking about. None of the "Scott send his wife to do his dirty work" or "Scott Pullins, henpecked" or anything else like that. This was between Kathy and me, she agreed to let me disclose that as part of bringing down the post and I'm telling you; Kathy is OK. OK? OK!

As for Scott Pullins? Still a douchebag.

Jack Morrison off the Hotseat and Other Thoughts on the Monea Trial

At the end of the latest story about the latest weird turn in the Paul Monea case, we learn that the other shoe is not going to drop for attorney Jack Morrison:

    Monea also tried to conceal the source of the money from his attorney who helped arrange the sale, [Assitant US Attorney Robert Bulford] said. Monea's attorney, Akron lawyer Jack Morrison Jr., had testified that he was unaware of the drug connection.

    "(Morrison) was being used," Bulford said. "His firm was being used."
So the government's position is, and will almost certainly remain, that Morrison didn't know that the undercover agents led Monea to believe that he was helping wash drug money. That should close the book on questions about Morrison's culpability.

As for the entrapment argument raised by Monea, it's less a legal defense and more a jury appeal argument. You can argue it, but except in the most extreme cases it's not a basis for any kind of constitutional challenge. Certainly it's a stretch in this case, given Monea's history.

I reserve judgement about the affidavits submitted by Monea's attorney until we get more information. If Monea is convicted the affidavits will serve as the basis for a motion for a new trial and possibly an appeal based on ineffective assitance of counsel. If he is acquitted, the issue will probably die.

I should probably disclose at this point that over a decade ago I worked for Monea's attorney Bill Whitaker and that my family still sees Whitaker and his family socially on occasion.

Ask a Horse About a Fish

I name-checked Redhorse in yesterday's post about Akron's Bass Pro Shops deal and he reeled it in. Not only does he give a fisher's enthusiastic review of the business, he ventured into the Dark and Scary Place that is the comments section and answered a number of the argumentish rants found there.

He notes the following misinformation in the ABJ story:

    Impact facilities are those described as spending at least $50m in land, buildings, and infrastructure over 2 years, creating 100 jobs, providing an educational component, and pulling in visitors from at least 100 miles away according to the Beacon. The PD states the job creation level is 150 and the organization must draw half its customers from more than 100 miles away. The ORC says Zach Lewis of PD got it right.
While Red says people will indeed come from 100 miles away, I am skeptical that half the customers will be from that far off. Contra the comments on, plenty of people around here fish, especially once you get out of Akron and into the townships in Summit, plus Portage, Geauga and beyond. As Red notes, head east of here and you find glacial lake after reservoir after tributary. Point is, there are so many fishing fans who are less than 100 miles away, I don't see getting another half from more than 100 miles. If Bass Pro is serious about meeting that commitment, you will see loads of special events.

According to ABJ staff, this story is on the local/politics beat of Kymberli Hagelberg who was off that night. Kymberli assures me she is tracking down where the deal goes next. Keep an eye on the paper over the next couple of days for that.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Fish Story

County Council voted last night to finalize the tax abatement deal to Bass Pro Shops. Under the deal, Bass will develop one of it's superstores in the old Goodyear complex. In return, they get to keep 75% of sales tax revenues over 10 years or until they make back their investment , whichever happens first.

Yesterday's preview story on the vote described Bass as:

    a sprawling destination retailer which typically includes an aquarium, indoor boat showroom, climbing wall and theme restaurant.

    The sports equipment retailer has 30 stores in the United States and Canada, including Cincinnati and Detroit, and another 28 in the works, including one outside Toledo.
To fit under the "Impact Law" that allows the abatement, a company must:
    have a substantial impact on the area; invest at least $50 million in land, buildings and infrastructure over two years; bring in at least 100 new jobs; have an exhibition or educational component; and attract visitors from at least 100 miles away.
As a development deal, this sounds like a no-brainer. Big retailers just don't set up shop in big cities anymore, much less in an area less travelled like Goodyear Heights. Akron gets an anchor tenant in a building that otherwise might become another blight sight. They get whatever income tax comes from the employees, they get spillover business and, if the store takes, tax revenue from 11 years on. All this for giving up something that presumably Akron wouldn't have without the deal. The Akron Watch crowd will no doubt howl about it, but it sounds like a good deal to me.

I don't know the business well enough to opine on whether having a Bass shop in town is the big deal it sounds like. Redhorse, our resident hook 'n' bullet guy, will no doubt have something to say on that.

Boring asks aloud whether Bass has real prospects of pulling in folks from 100 miles out. Looking at the Bass website, the store sponsors events like pro tournaments, scout camps and in-store promotions that would bring people in from all around. That what will pull folks in. No one is going to drive up here from Mansfield just to buy tackle -- I'm sure there's a Dick's somewhere in between -- but if Bass sponsors a tournament in the Portage Lakes, say, that can bring in the fishing enthusiasts from all around, not to mention the pro teams who are from all across the country.

And by the way, if all that happens, it could lead to a greater awareness of the importance of cleaning up the rivers and lakes around here. If the area is to become a fishing destination, we need good water to fish in. Again, Red can fill you in on the particulars there.

In any event, it's not clear from the ABJ story what the next step is. Presumably, the deal has to go through a state agency to verify that it meets the criteria, but it isn't mentioned in either story. And yes, I have an email in to the reporter per my new policy.

I'm not at all fond of tax abatements. I'm not fond of the trend away from state and federal aid that levels the field among cities and toward a system of abatements in which cities compete to offer the most generous corporate welfare packages. One bit of evidence of the difficulty with the trend is the controversy over keeping the deal secret during negotiations. Keeping negotiations under wraps is exactly how business operates and exactly how government is not supposed to. When the system forces cities to negotiate business deals, the clash between the spheres becomes apparent.

All that said, given that we operate in the world as it is, this deal seems better than most. I hope it turns out as good as it looks.

Welcome Back and Welcome Back

Two bloggers on extended hiatus have re-emerged. Some time ago Len at Blogesque announced he was stepping out indefinitely. He suddenly just reappeared and is taking feedback on a new bloglook.

And as I teased earlier, YellowDogSammy is back. Jeff Coryell has revived Ohio Daily Blog with a slew of posts. He has a three-page format now and promises crazy content.

These are both guys who have been missed, Len for his biting wit and Jeff for his tireless research, balance and maturity. Surf by and say Hi.

On the Fed Courthouse: A Clarification, a Non-Retraction, a Scratch of the Head, and a New Policy.

Earlier today John Higgins from the ABJ sent an email taking up my challenge regarding my research on the Beacon's coverage of the tussle between the city and the Feds about a parking deck proposed for next to the Federal Building housing the Federal courts in Akron. He sent headlines to four stories, two from May that I had read and two from March about the proposed parking deck. The March stories contained more detail about the proposed deck, including a bit about how the proposal grew in scope as the discussion progressed.

The March stories didn't discuss any controversy because, as far as I can tell, the controversy came to light when the feds issued their open letter. One story, entitled "Developer will lease city land for building" is safely behind the Beacon's paywall. The other, "Akron plans $12 million parking deck," was reproduced on the Downtown Akron Partnership website. That story recounts the need for more parking downtown, and especially there by the First Energy Building.

I thanked John for the information, pointed out a couple things I'll get to in a minute and asked a question that I haven't yet gotten an answer to. I also promised to do something about the post. In the meantime, life happened, I decided to write a couple original posts first and my ABJ-defending Anonymouse returned to box my ears in his cazhul writtin accent good ol' boy style. *sigh* Priorities.

Anonymous includes an excerpt of a May 1 story that talks about the expansion of the project, but again the story came before the controversy erupted.

So here's the thing. I recognize that I'm going to screw up, having little time and less in the way of resources. When I screw up I freely admit it and prostrate myself as entertainingly as possible. This time I just don't think I screwed up.

What made a difference to me in the NYT coverage was reading that the project started small, then evolved into something progressively larger with each iteration until it encroached on whatever space buffer the feds think they need. That is a different story than the city deciding in a trice to plop a huge parking deck next to a Federal building. In the latter scenario, the administration looks arrogant and autocratic which, by sheer coincidence, matches the narrative about the present administration. In the former scenario, the Feds look like they stood by as the project evolved, then all of a sudden went Henny Penny about it.

So I don't withdraw my argument that the stories about the controversy should have included a narrative about how the project got bigger as it evolved. Now I'm wondering why the Beacon didn't include that information in the stories about the controversy. That's the question I sent Higgens to which I haven't gotten a reply.

Generally when I make remarks like the one in the original story about information not covered by the ABJ, it's more out of exasperation at what the cutbacks have done to news gathering there than a blogger's "The MSM Sux!" sort of critique. In this case, however, they had reported the information before, but only people following stories about the deck prior to the controversy would know about how the project evolved. That, to me, was a mistake on the paper's part. Happily, the Times rolled up to clarify everything. For those of us who read it.

Notwithstanding all that, I was thinking about my post in light of Connie Schultz's suggestions to bloggers. The ABJ reporters do a pretty good job of getting back in touch. When I have a question about coverage or decisions made, I'm going to try to write in first to get a comment before firing the guns. If I had it to do over again in the present case, I'd post the story about the NYT covering the controversy, send an email asking about the information contained in the story, and save my opinion about the ABJ's coverage for a later post once I got either a reply or waited sufficient time to call it a non-reply.

Hard as it is to add another layer to an already taxing hobby, that's what I endeavor to do from here on out.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Kansas Intelligent Design Supporter Poised for President of National State Boards Association

H/t Panda's Thumb for first alerting me to the story. The New York Times reported Saturday that Kenneth Willard of Kansas is running unopposed for President of the National Association of State Boards of Education.

Let's pause and take note of the fact that there is an umbrella organization for umbrella agencies. There.

Back to it. Kenneth Willard is identified as having "voted with the conservative majority in 2005" when the Kansas State Board of Education voted to include in the science curriculum the critiques of evolutionary theory flying under the banner of intelligent design. In fact, he is apparently more than just a guy who went along, but is a true believer.

Pro-science activists are trying to mount a write-in campaign for Sam Schloemer Cincinnati-area member of the Ohio State Board of Ed who is a scientist and a Republican. According to the NYT story, it's not clear that the bylaws of the organization allow for write-in candidates.

Meanwhile, the Ohio SBOE last week declined to take action on a proposed resolution supporting the slate of candidates for the national organization, based on Willard's position on science standards. (To find that in the article, scroll down to the SBOE summary, then scroll down to a list of items on which the Board took action. The decision on the resolution is discussed in the paragraph introducing that list.)

Good News From Brookings: Akron Economy Less Sucky than Other Ohio Cities.

The Plain Dealer covers a new Brookings Institute study about revitalizing old industrial cities. In the report Brookings spotlights the 65 "least prosperous" cities, eight of which are in Ohio.

    In a report to be released today, the Brookings Institution concludes that Cleveland, Canton, Cincinnati, Dayton, Mansfield, Springfield, Warren and Youngstown are among the nation's least-prosperous big cities.
The good news: Akron isn't on the list (and kudos to the PD for running this down).
    Jennifer S. Vey, a senior research associate, said Akron's economic performance improved enough to join 16 older cities that dropped off the list from 1990 to 2000. Lorain's overall economic performance was strong enough that it didn't make the list, Vey said by e-mail.
The study ranked cities on two criteria: Economic Condition and Residential Well-Being. For the record, of the 302 cities studies, Akron ranked 217 in economic condition and 183 in residential well-being.

I've been meaning to respond to Highland Square Gadfly Lady whom Village Green quoted at length trashing Akron city government.
    I discovered most of the federal HUD Community Development Block Grants have been spent on street and side walk improvements, land acquisition and demolition and administration. Only 5% is spent on programs like senior and youth services and a mere .73% on fair housing activities. Our streets are important, but only a fraction of the grants went to housing and social services. The city's economic development policies are not working and people are leaving Akron in droves, our population is just over 200,000.
I suspect that HSGL is wrong regarding much of her assessment of how Akron spends HUD money and she is certainly wrong in the implication that the road to economic prosperity is paved with more social service spending. But what really got me was the claim that Akron's economic difficulties prove the administration's development policies "are not working." Anyone paying attention knows that Akron is doing better than most similarly situated cities -- the only measure that comes close to making sense. The Brookings report confirms the impression.

Meanwhile, the Brookings Report has some interesting ideas that, according to the PD article, are consistent with how Strickland plans to move forward.

"Keep Lisa Carano" Launches

Yes this is an off-off year, but some positions are up for election. Lisa Zeno Carano is running to keep her appointed seat as Clerk of Cuyahoga Falls Municipal Court.

I met Lisa through Summit County Progressive Democrats. A couple years ago she was elected to Tallmadge City Council and, per the rules of the Prog Dems, resigned her membership. Then earlier this year she was appointed by Gov. Strickland to the Clerk post after Strickland appointed the sitting clerk, Eric Czeti, to ODOT.

While I haven't been following her time at the Clerk's office, during her SCPD membership she enthusiastically took on leadership positions. According to her website, she already has some accomplishments as Clerk to run on.

Muni court clerk is one of those minor offices on which political power bases are built. Cuyahoga Falls Muni serves Cuyhoga Falls, Tallmadge and all the communities to the north in Summit County. It's generally a swing part of the county that probably leans right overall. This would be a good office to hold on to. Surf by her website and consider making a donation.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Akron's Courthouse Squabble Goes National

Commenter OhioExile points out that todays New York Times runs a story about the ongoing snipefest between the city and the Feds over Akron's plans to develop the lot next to the downtown's Seiberling Federal Building.

Ooh! Can I say this is promoted from comments? That's so cool!

OK, I'm back. The story is interesting for what it does and doesn't add to the coverage. First off, it offers the best reset of the controversy I've read anywhere:

    The south side of the John F. Seiberling Federal Building in Akron faces a city-owned parking lot. Nearby employers, including FirstEnergy, continue to expand, causing a parking shortage downtown, said Dave Lieberth, Akron’s deputy mayor.

    City officials originally hoped to replace the lot with a 300-car parking garage. The proposal more than tripled in size, to 1,000 cars, after Signet Enterprises, a real estate development company, decided to build its new corporate headquarters in an office building atop the garage.

    As the proposed garage grew, its planned location mover closer and closer to the south wall of the court building. The courthouse, built in 1975, presents an especially challenging security situation because its outside walls are glass. The north side of the building is within a few feet of West Market Street, a busy downtown thoroughfare.
ABJ folks are welcome to correct my research again, but this is the first I've heard about how the project, and therefore the controversy, emerged. So a paper 400 miles away gives us better information than the hometown paper of record. Kind of makes you think again about that whole outsourcing news to India thing.

The main thrust of the Times story is to put the controversy in the context of increasing concern about the safety of Federal judges. Unfortunately, the story in the Times doesn't provide any updates on the basic controversy. The city says the plans are evolving and will attempt to address concerns. The Feds seem to be saying that there must always be a space buffer (though as the Times points out, there is no space buffer on the north, or for that matter, along the west side of the building.) I can't tell from the story whether the city and the Feds have been talking and what the status of the negotiations is.

For the most part, this seems like an engineering issue more than a political one, which is a big part of why I haven't covered it before. But the Times story suggests that Akron may turn out to set precedent, one way or the other, as the country continues to grapple with a post-9/11 world.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Wingnuttier Than Thou

Fred Phelps is at it again, proving that his Westboro Baptist Church will stop at nothing to hold the title Craziest Crazies on the Planet. Now they are skipping their usual protest of a soldiers funeral for . . . wait for it . . . protesting Rev. Jerry Falwell's funeral. Why? I'm so glad you asked:

    "There are dead soldiers everywhere," [Member and church attorney Shirley] Phelps-Roper said. "You don't have a very high-profile, cowardly, lying false prophet like Falwell dying every day."

    Phelps-Roper said the group plans to demonstrate at Falwell's service because members believe he was never harsh enough in his declarations that homosexuality was the source of America's problems. [Emphasis added.]
So do you think conservatives do any soul-searching about whether Westboro fits in their big tent? Do you think conservatives who criticize the good Reverend and his merry band of nutballs get grief for not being true conservatives? Me neither.

Hat-tip: Faith in Public Life

Friday, May 18, 2007

Random Ten

Before I get to it, some programming notes. In the constant battle with time and demands, I'm buried under fractional blogposts and half-formed ideas. I'm also up against it with work, honeydo projects and kids who act like they are nursing and that I would have something to do with that if they were.

All of which is to say, I don't know how much blogging I'll get done over the next few days, but if you are thinking of making news, please don't.

Now here it is, your Moment of Ten:

1. “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts,” Bob Dylan
2. “Glue Man,” Fugazi
3. “Are You Hung Up,” Mothers of Invention
4. “And It Stoned Me,” Van Morrison
5. “Train 45 (Heading South)” James Monroe and the Midnight Ramblers
6. “Title Track,” Death Cab for Cutie
7. “The Modern Adventures of Plato, Diogenes and Freud,” Blood, Sweat and Tears
8. “Take It or Leave It,” The Strikes
9. “I Feel Fine,” The Beatles
10. “Bright Sunny South,” Alison Krauss and Union Station

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Strickland Order Protects Gay Employees; World to Open Up and Swallow Ohio

As promised, Governor Ted Strickland today signed an executive order reinstating language that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and inserts language banning discrimination based on gender identity.

The Governor also says he will consider signing legislation banning private sector discrimination if he feels it gets around Constitutional problems posed by the gay marriage ban. Personally, I don't think there is a problem as employment has never been considered something that "approximates marriage."

Equality Ohio is predictably giddy about it. They note the following in an email:

    [W]e expect some will try and make this decision controversial, despite the facts:

    * 66% of Ohioans polled believe he’s right[]
    * 88% of Fortune 500 companies believe he’s right[]
    * It’s already policy for many major Ohio companies
    * It’s already policy for many Ohio cities
This is one I don't have much of a take on, except "Woo Hoo!"

As much as I liked seeing the Governor do the right thing, it was particularly enjoyable watching the Right get all verklempt about it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Connie Schultz at the Akron Press Club. [Revised]

I took in the address by PD Columnist Connie Schultz (who also happens to be married to Sen. Sherrod Brown) at the Akron Press Club today. She has written a forthcoming book And His Lovely Wife: A Memoir By The Woman Beside the Man. She kept her talk short – about 20 minutes – to leave about that much time for questions.

The talk will be replayed (see below) and I highly recommend taking it in. Connie Schultz is not only a fine writer, she’s an engaging, compelling speaker. Here are a few highlights of what you’ll catch in the broadcast.

Inside Baseball

From what I hear the book will be more about her experiences on the trial and less a pitch-by-pitch recap of the campaign from inside the dugout. Nonetheless, she did fill in information about some of the sentinel events of the campaign. First off, she shared that she was the reason that Sherrod entered the race late. It wasn’t that Sherrod was indecisive; nor was she for that matter. She simply did not want him to run. But as time passed and she saw Sherrod talking to other people about running – she named Ted Strickland though Betty Sutton was probably among them as well – she saw how excited he was about the prospects for the election. Eventually she decided it was his time as well.

She also talked about taking leave from the Plain Dealer. It was, she says, her decision. She’s talked about a number of the factors that went into the decision, one of which was the blogs. At that time the PD had started Openers. In blog tradition, Openers writers were posting links to blogs and, at that time, the Ohio lefty sphere was very much pro-Paul Hackett and therefore anti-Sherrod. As the blog discussions got more vitriolic, she saw her colleagues at her paper *linking to blog posts slamming her husband.*

Now don’t go quoting me as saying that Connie ran away because of mean bloggers. It was one factor among many and probably not the most important. It was interesting, though, to hear that what we were doing and saying and reading was having that kind of effect both in the paper and the campaign.

The Non-Traditional Political Couple

Ms. Schultz is a nontraditional political wife in more ways than one. Of course, she is a journalist of high accomplishment. From what I’ve heard, one strong theme of the book is how she maintains her identity as a person of great professional accomplishment while also supporting her husband as a candidate’s wife.

In addition to the obvious, she is a nontraditional candidates wife in a couple other ways. As she notes, she and Sherrod were essentially newlyweds at the time. Also, there’s was the second marriage for each of them. Now I never heard anyone say it, but more than once it struck me that these two people are completely nuts about each other and that political beat reporters would have a difficult time taking their obvious affection at face value. As cynical as reporters are about politics, it’s no stretch to imagine that they are particularly cynical about political marriages.

But Connie and Sherrod’s marriage not only is different because of the kind of people they are, it also was a new, second marriage. They were still in that flush of the first couple of years. Plus, second marriages are different. People have made their mistakes and figured out that they can survive uncoupled and take the second chance only if they know the he/she is The One. All the questionable reasons for getting married fall away and the wedding doesn’t happen if it’s not based on love. Personally, this is my first marriage but I am a second husband. It makes a difference.

I wonder how much of the skepticism about Connie came from cynicism about political couples.

Meeting the Press.

Connie’s book will talk about blogs, and she will have some pointed observations. But based on her talk, her sharpest criticisms will be for the press. She loves being a journalist and loves the profession, but found much of the political reporting maddening. Primarily it bothers her that so many rumors, charges and half-truths were reported without the reporters working the story to get complete information.

In addition, she talks about how political reporters follow The Narrative. The Narrative on Sherrod was that he’s an angry man, and often stories would report facts so that they would fit that narrative.

More on Blogs.

She mentioned blogs two more times. She expressed concern that blogs “get all the attention with none of the responsibility.” The anecdote that followed ended with a newspaper story in which she is quoted as saying she loves her husband. A conservative blogger then opines that if she really loved her husband, she would have changed her name.


I asked her what she felt could be done to improve blogs. She enthusiastically suggested a few basic journalistic rules – call to confirm information, correct mistakes promptly and don’t traffic in rumor. She said people should blog under their names which would be a huge discussion in it’s own right so let’s not go there tonight.

Then she got to the crux of the thing – her belief that reporters will become more likely to use information from more responsible bloggers. That is key. As long as the traffic and links come when a post is first with the rumor or has the best snark, that’s what bloggers will pursue. But if the stories that jump into the mainstream media are the best-reported, the reporting will improve. That will require considerable discipline among journalists, discipline we haven’t yet seen.

Watch It.

The program will be broadcast on Time Warner the following times:

Sat. May 19 7:00 p.m.
Sun. May 20 4:00 p.m.
Thurs. May 24 7:00 p.m.

In Akron, Canton, Mansfield, and Youngstown it will be broadcast on channel 23. In Cleveland it will be on channel 15.

In addition, the program is supposed to be added to the Ohio On Demand slate on Channel 1111. According to the information handed out at the event, it’s supposed to be up sometime after today. But as of tonight, they have not yet added the Ben McConnell program from last month, so we will see what happens with that.

*Due to an editing error the end of a sentence was chopped off. It's been fixed and thanks to the alert reader who let me know.