Friday, August 30, 2013

Political civility: Hardly concern for Kasich's guy

No one has taken on a more challenging mission in Columbus than State Sen. Frank LaRose of Copley, a Republican,  and former State  Rep. Ted Celeste of Cleveland, a Democrat . In their laudable bi-partisan effort to restore a hint of sanity to politics, they are pursuing a goal of creating more civility  in political discourse.  Good luck on that.

They have scheduled an off-the-record meeting on Sept. 17 at the Statehouse of dozens of lawmakers to work out a plan to advance  their goal. My guess is that it would be easier to squeeze the juice back into a lemon.

Until then, they could have a sitdown with Gov. Kasich's top spokespserson, Rob Nichols, who resorted to a sneaky form  of Red-baiting in his attack on Democratic Rep. Debbie Phillips, of Albany.

Phillips had written to Kasich and Scott Nally, director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, demanding  an official explanation of why  the director of the EPA's surface-water division was forced to resign.

George Elmaraghy had informed his staff that his resignation was prompted  by  "considerable pressure" on the Ksaich administration from coal companies.  The coal industry has been among  Kasich's biggest political donors.  The Columbus Dispatch reported that King Coal has given $1 million to Kasich and some friendly lawmakers.

But we digress:  Asked about Phillips , Nichols snapped in an email to a reporter:

"You'd be hard-pressed to find a job creator that she hasn't opposed, vilified or protested at some point.  If she had her way, we'd all be living on a collective farm cooking  organic quinoa over a dung fire.  So, I think we'll take her views in context."

By the way:  Not being a quinoa kind of guy, I had to look it up.  Glad to know the people around the governor are so clued in these days. .

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A hidden benefit of Mayor Plusquellic?

Following national reports that Akron was among the safest cities to be free  of  natural disasters, I received this email that sort of explained the city's privileged status:

 "God would never mess with Don Plusquellic."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Jack Gilligan:A free spirited political rarity

 Jack Gilligan died at 92 on Monday  and it's  regrettable that he wasn't able to announce his passing to a bunch of reporters gathered at his table at the end of a long campaign day.  His eyebrows would rise slightly,  and with a teasing grin he would  report that "the  old banana-nose Irishman had finally done something that pleased his critics."

Gilligan, former city councilman, congressman and governor, had a disarming way of shaping his most serious ideas with  the wit of  one who wasn't quite sure that his listeners were ready for dead-weight political discourse to carry the moment. But those of  us who followed his footsteps over the years were left knowing full well that Jack Gilligan was a free spirit a breed apart  from most politicians. And a crisply intelligent one at that.

Politician?  Not really. A perfect  politician he wasn't, at least not the kind who would mask their thoughts in the  safest cliches.  No one on the stump could match his ready-aim-fire ripostes that revealed a guy who had the kind of courage  that won him a  Silver Star as a gunnery officer at Okinawa.   Or led him through the riotous streets as a Cincinnati  councilman to rescue homebound blacks from the hands of cops.  "Bad poliltics," another politician huffed to me at the time.

Even his campaign advisors doubted the merits of his promise to raise taxes if he were elected  governor. And if the voters didn't agree, he gave them a simple option: vote  for the other guy.  Once in office, he finally got his way to raise additional revenue for mental health, education and various other programs to help any Ohioan in need.

It became an inside joke among Statehouse reporters that after Jim Rhodes, the anti-tax candidate,  nipped Gilligan 's bid for a second term by 11,000 votes, the Republican governor never raised a finger to abolish the so-called Gilligan Tax.

Gilligan's over-confident campaign staff contributed to his defeat by focussing solely on a potential presidential race for him in 1976.  When I reminded one that he still had to win the governor's race, for which polls showed it to be narrowing to a tossup, he would hear none  of it.  Within shouting distance of election day, I and other reporters  trailed him deeply into  Geauga County for a campaign stop for a handful of voters. It was a costly waste of time.

Gilligan had a way of toying with his lesser-prepared opponents, convinced that satire  was the easiest way to expose their pretenses.  Once during a TV debate with a Birch Society leader, Gilligan set up his adversary by citing words from the Society's Blue Book and asking whether the Bircher agreed.  He then read more passages and asked the Bircher if he agreed.  Again the answer was yes.

"Thank you," Gilligan said with a satisfied look. " I've now been reading to you from Mein Kampf."

Despite his droll politically incorrect style, it was his true motivating mission as governor to pursue programs for the common good for Ohioans. In the encroaching Rhodes Era, the big business guys in Rhodes' anti-tax grip cast Gilligan as an eternal threat to profits.  Hardly a day passed that some critic didn't describe Gilligan as a socialist;  Republican newspapers  saw no reason to disagree.  They considered the rough-edged sit-spit-and-whittle Rhodes as a rising economic genius.

So what can we say now that he is gone?  He was humane, a civilized being with a fetching sense of humor and a deep loyalty to the merits of a solid education  who taught literature as Xavier University.  He was  fearless  ("reckless,'' the doubters hooted) promoter of whatever would upgrade the lives of others.   A rarity of his times.  A rarity now. In short, he was a pleasant no-bullshit guy when it was piling up   all around his workaday world.

I wish he could read some of the pro forma praise coming his way from his opposites on the  political right.  Gov. Kasich offered his family's  thoughts and prayers  while praising Gilligan for serving with "honor and distinction".

Fellow hometowner Sen.Rob Portman of Cincinnati said the city and state benefited from Gilligan's "rich legacy of public service".  Yadayadayada.

The banana-nose Irishman  would smile with a knowing rejoinder:

"What took them so long?"

legislative rumors to cancel 2014 gubernatorial election

With encouraging predictions from the GOP's resident gurus, Karl Rove and Dick Morris, that Gov.Kasich would defeat Democrat Ed  FitzGerald by 47 points, several low-ranking Republican lawmakers from southern Ohio are rumored  to be putting the final touches on a bill that would eliminate the 2014 gubernatorial election altogether.  One of the probable legislative  sponsors, an entry level statistician in JobsOhio, the secret Skull and Bones-style fraternity,  said he was impressed by crunching the numbers of campaign dollars and votes.  "It would save the state  money and create 627,492 - maybe even 627, 501 - jobs," he said. "Who could be against jobs?"  he asked rhetorically. Who, indeed?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Maybe we should follow the path of Noah

Don't want to ruin your day with scary news  - and probably won't anyway.  But you ought to set aside a s little time to read National Geographic's terrific cover story  on climate change in the September issue. Without spoiling the plot about a planet in serious  trouble from climate change, we are once again reminded that there is genuine scientific agreement by the experts that we can expect a different world by the year 2100.

Coastal cities will be under water as seas rise more than three feet;  massive glaciers will have melted;  thermal expansion will drive up sea levels.   As the article notes:

"A profoundly altered planet is what our fossil-fuel-driven civilization is creating, a planet where Sandy-scale flooding will be more common and more destructive for the world's coastal cities...We have irreversibly  committed future generations to a hotter world and rising seas."

The Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration adopted 6.6 feet (two meters)  sea rise as its highest of four scenarios for 2100.  The U.S. Corps of Engineers  says planners should be prepared for a rise of five feet.

I know.  Many of us will be gone by 2100, so why worry?   Well, Hurricane Sandy, described as the "second costliest" in U.S. history,  claimed more than 100 lives.  Sandy proved that there is already plenty to worry about.

Meantime, I wish there were a way to flood the  mailboxes  of such climate change deniers  as Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel and California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher with this issue of National Geographic.   During his failed campaign against  Sen. Sherrod  Brown, Mandel hissed that climate change research was "riddled with errors" - as if he were on the highest ground to  know about such things.  And Rohrabach, as well as many of those wingnuts who agree,  continue to sneer that the notion of climate change is a "fraud".


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ohio GOP 'grassroots' lead to an ordinary billionaire.

One of the benefits of laboring as a  political writer for many  decades is that you learn a lot of  new words, courtesy of the genius class. It's a perfect fit for a logophile, which I believe is a lover of words.  I have happily acquired a working knowledge of such verbiage as gravitas (no, not a shortstop on  the Los Angeles Angels!),  death panel, freedom fries and grizzly mom.

Just got a new one, a common everyday word that I have long assigned to another meaning:  grassroots.  It's posted on the latest Ohio Republican Party release below the rural scene and describes the state party's new political director, Katie Eagan,  as a grassroots kind of woman.

So far, OK. But then we're told that she once worked for Americans for Prosperity.  Whoa, there,  elephant!  That's the right-wing outfit whose work is fashioned  by billionaire David Koch.   No more of that sod-level grassroots talk. With Koch rooted as her spiritual guide, you'd  have to believe that there's nothing very shallow about Eagan's conservative experience in the newly defined  grassroots politics of the day.

I should also mention that the release directed the reader to the party's new PR guy, Chris Schrimpf, who once worked for Wisconsin  grassroots Gov. Scott  Walker, who hates unions. They're loading up for the re-election campaign of Gov.Kasich, and the air is already pierced with acres of tall grass with GOP-style faux roots.

P.S.  What's that white elephant doing in the GOP's logo?  Bad vibes, don't you think? 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

In a UA lobbyist's world, the school's problems dismissed

Whatever the University of Akron's critics may think about the school's poor record on  graduation rates and other negative stats, there's one guy in Columbus who is quite prepared to defend the place.  It's Sean Dunn, of Sean P. Dunn & Associates, UA's $270,000 lobbyist.

Dunn, as lobbyists are paid to do,  dismissed the criticism as mere "opinion"  unsupported by the real strength of the state campus in downtown Akron.  Whatever problems that might arise, he told me, are no different than those faced by "gigantic" universities and shouldn't be pilloried.

Dunn also defended the $120,000 annual UA lobbyist contract arranged by Dunn for Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff .  He said the chairman was  of "great value because of Mr. Arshinkoff's great political judgment" that is  respected throughout  the state. When Arshinkoff came aboard in 2011 Dunn asserted: "There's no better political mind in Summit County than Mr. Arshinkoff."

It couldn't hurt the cause that Arshinkoff had sent a $150,000 campaign contribution to the Kasich ticket from the county coffers.

As they say on Fox News, we report, you decide. Even if I already have.

UA woes - first posted on Plunderbund

With the plaintive  sound of school  bells just days away for a new semester, Hemingway could write that they will toll for the University of Akron.  August has been a horrific month for the school, which occupies a generous portion of the city’s downtown real estate and an equal portion of the city’s upscale business world.
Not in recent memory have such critical voices been raised to bruise the sensibilities of the administration and  trustees. And deservingly so.  With the stats on poor student graduation rates, huge debt, falling enrollment  and a growing phalanx of six-figure management operatives (including some double-dippers) on the campus,  it is easy to guess  how it  arrived at what is trending to a point of no return.
On August 7, President Luis Proenza  confirmed rumors that he would give up the reins in June 2014, after which he would take a year’s sabbatical and return as  a full-time professor and president emeritus.  His lifestyle will be sustained by a base salary increase  to $500,000 for his final six months on the job after Jan. 1 and during the  sabbatical.
Meanwhile, the school has ordered  faculty cutbacks – in numbers and hours – for part timers and revealed red ink in other ways.  It has,  through Proenza’s  game plan,  invested more than $600 million in a new campus-scape and erected a $62 million football stadium with the unfortunate consequence that the scenery doesn’t score touchddowns.    The  Zips, even with Terry Bowden, a coach with a celebrity family name, won a mere one game in 2012, matching the futility of Bowden’s predecessor.
So, to the front office’s dismay,  the Beacon Journal’s coverage told the unpalatable story.  Columnist Bob Dyer described the poor graduation rate as “pathetic.  Almost criminal.”
Others seized on the contrast between the spending and the cuts.  An op-ed piece by Joseph Yeado , an analyst at the Education Trust,  complained about  UA’s priorities  that pursued an “extensive building spree” while so many students failed to graduate.
Walter Hixson, UA distinguished  professor of history and former faculty union president,  observed in his letter to the editor:  ”What all too may universities are really about in the modern, corporate environment – and the University of Akron is a real ‘leader’ in this regard – is an ever-sprawling, bloated nonteaching administration and the financial enrichment of architects, planners,  contractors, builders, lawyers, football coaches and assorted charter school shysters and hospital board administrators.”
It doesn’t end there. Matt Williams, the vice president of the New Faculty Majority (adjunct professors), wrote in a letter to the editor  his disdain for the kind of golden parachute given to Proenza  and the “orgiastic spending” at UA while  part-time faculty worked for “poverty wages”. I suspect that conversation will continue.
The unsurprising official  University response:  The critics are overreacting to the numbers.
Oh. Did I mention that  rumors are mentioning former OSU football coach Jim Tressel , now titled as a “strategic engager” at UA, as a potential successor to Proenza. The idea was not dismissed out of hand by the Board.
But would he have to give up his part-time job as a radio host?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

GOP's Schrimpf; Only investors qualify for governor

When anybody tells me that Republicans are cold-blooded predators and don't have a sense of humor, I look for ways to disagree.  For example, there's Chris Schrimpf, who is proving to be  good for a laugh now and then.

Never heard of this fellow?  Well, he's the communications director of the Ohio Republican Party.  His career  path included a stint as communications director for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the anti-union exec who was reported to have exchanged high priority  conversations with Gov. Kasich before  the ill-fated Senate Bill 5 was left for dead by the Buckeye voters.

Who could have a greater sense of humor  than Schrimpf , who decided to strike a fatal blow at  Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed  FitzGerald's  core values by disqualifying him as a worthy candidate.

Here's where the humor begins:  Schrimpf said  FitzGerald doesn't have "investments," no portfolio and stuff that would prepare him to handle the grave business of the state.  Kasich, we know, not only had investments; he also had the experience of being a managing director of Lehman Brothers, the bankrupt Wall Street investment firm.

In one shattering breakthrough from politics as usual, Schrimpf has decided: No portfolio, no governor."

He's kidding, right?

Alas, upon further reflection, I don't think so.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Moving day just ahead for PD news room

The Plain Dealer apparently isn't  close to ceasing news about...the Plain Dealer.   A widely circulating online report   says the paper's 120 news staffers have been informed that they  will be moved  out of their  editorial offices on Superior Ave. to a destination yet unknown to accommodate the paper's new online staff of 50.

The reports have surfaced in Cleveland Crain's Business  and Cleveland Scene as well as from other sources.  Here's word from the media blog, 
 “The Plain Dealer is being kicked out of The Plain Dealer building. Staffers were told today the news operations will move out in as soon as 8 weeks. The first floor of the block-long building will be remodeled so that Advance’s brand new, non-union online news operation can move in. The online company [Ohio Media Group] has about 50 employees. The PD news operation consists of 120 journalists — 36 dedicated to print production who were just moved to the 4th floor of PD headquarters and the remaining 82 on the 1st floor. (There are also 2 in Washington.)”

Managing Editor Tom Fladung reportedly told the news staff  that he couldn't say where it would be stashed  - maybe in a downtown office building or the paper's huge West Side production plant.   Note that the online operation will consist of non-union employes, one of Advance's  unspoken anti-guild missions in the new operation. Obviously, guildsmen whose labors once created a powerful paper have been demoted to second-class citizens.

With so many moving parts at the PD these days, it is terra incognita for anyone trying to guess the next move by  Advance Publications. But this much seems obvious:  None of the remaining options seem bright.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Feagler and Germond: They will be missed

Former newspaperman Dick Feagler, a raspy longtime TV host, announced his retirement last week.  A few days earlier, the national media reported the death of Jack Germond, whose  prickly  columns  and broadcast commentary bounded  around the political universe for more than a half-century.

In each instance, the loss of Feagler and Germond will reinforce  the safety net under  those blowhard politicians who never say what they mean nor mean what they say.

I will remember both of them best by raising a glass to our shared days at the national presidential conventions. These two guys had a lot in common. Cynical. Bored. Acidly reminding their informal after-hours gatherings that there should be a more humane way for political writers to make  a living. A brief  anecdotal account will suffice.

During the 1976 Democratic convention in New York City, Feagler, then a crabby columnist  for the Cleveland Press,  sat impatiently at the bar, fussing about the absence of anything to write about.  Contrary to what many people might believe, there's usually very little news at these lavish reunions.    Finally, Dick absently looked out to the street where he spotted a  mounted policeman.

His mood brightened as he slammed an open hand on the counter. "That's it," he asserted as he whirled on the stool.   "I will interview the horse."  (I was only sorry that, also being column-less, I hadn't thought of it first!).

Feagler's strength was that he never professed to understand what the hell politics was all about, so he decorated it with his own satirical musings.

Germond was just as challenged in the later hours of a convention day when several of us gathered at the  hotel lounge.

A round man with impish humor,  whose clipped words burst from a bald head that tilted  slightly toward  his shoulder as he spoke, simply didn't take the day's proceedings seriously.  He  informed us that his frustration from another barren news day led to a "Dear Mom" column for his paper in which he advised her that everybody was at this event to "fool the public"   because nothing of value had happened on the hall's vast stage that day - nor would it.

But his cutting wit softened on one occasion when he urged me to go to work at  his paper, the Baltimore Sun.  He thought it would be a good  career move  for a political writer.   "Why don't you come to Baltimore?" he asked.

After digesting the flattering offer, I finally replied:  "Why would I want to do that, Jack?"

He paused,and a thin-lipped grin crept  onto his lips.

"You're absolutely right!" he snapped.

Meanwhile, now that Germond had confiscated  the "Dear Mom," idea, I was left with even fewer intelligent options to send back to my paper. But Jack always made the insufferably dumb days at conventions  seem a bit more bearable.

In a day of humorless button-down political writing at sinking  newspapers, I'll miss these guys even more.

From heartbeat to hoofbeat in Ohio legislature

With a new heartbeat bill still breathing in the hallowed halls  of the Ohio legislature, there is now talk of a proposal by a consortium of rural  GOP  lawmakers to introduce a "hoofbeat" bill to honor the many benefits of Ohio cows  ranging from McDonald's hamburgers to Friendly's triple scoop banana splits. A hefty House Republican from southwestern Ohio assured his colleagues that the bill will pass with 49 co-sponsors.  "This will be a perfect fit for our base," he said. "It will be like promising them a quarter-pounder in every pot."  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Against Coughlin, Alex opts for lesser of two evils

How painful it must have been for Summit County Chairman Alex Arshinkoff to join the elections board majority in its unanimous decision to hire former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner as an "elections expert." Her advisory assignment is to determine whether Kevin Coughlin, Arshinkoff's old Republican nemesis, should be granted a spot on the ballot as an independent candidate for Stow Clerk of Courts.

It was Brunner, you may recall, who dismissed Arshinkoff from his elections board seat for being a disruptive kind of guy. He's now back.  And had to choose between  Democrat Brunner, whom he despises, and Coughlin, whom he despises, in the current set-to at the Board.  A longtime poker player, Arshinkoff put his money on Brunner, now out of office,  as the minimally lesser of two evils and doubtless went to confession afterward to expunge the sin of ever supporting any Democrat.

Today's business mode at a newspaper's checkout counter

Adding a lighter touch to the darker side of the upheaval of ownership at today's newspapers, Daily Kos posted Jimmy Fallon's  insightful take on the recent  transaction at the Washington Post:
"Jeff Bezos, the CEO if, bought the Washington Post for $250 million.  He just walked into the Post's headquarters and said: 'Add to the cart.'"

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Rohrabacher; roaring again on climate 'fraud'

Not to bore you or anything after my villainous attack on the Rev. Santorum in my  last post, I must add another to the list of Grumpy Abe Linguistic  Lunatics (GALL) awardees.

True, he's way out in Southerrn California and only imperils us with minimal harm. But we shouldn't igrnore him altogether, should we?

We refer you to U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher.  He recently went around calling illegal immigrants "white trash" that should receive no aid from the government.  And now he is again ripping notions of climate change as"fraud" designed by local elected officials. 

From there he says our problem is really some unamed Nigerian who is making decisions for Americans as a UN guy.

 I'm getting dizzy, so I'll stop there by warning you that the congressman  is a senior member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.  It has also been pointed out by  others that the committee chair is Rep. Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who also is a climate change denier.

Wingnut Republicans who control Speaker John Boehner's haunted house don't leave any  crazy idea to chance. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Santorum: Middle class talk is basic Marxism.

Rick Santorum is on the stump. Or in the pulpit.

The experts say the former GOP senator, the lodestar of Ohio Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine and Summit County Republican chairman Alex Arshinkoff in last year's presidential campaign, is firing his wisdom at audiences across the land for another go at the Oval Office.

But if we must bear the burden of Santorum's well-voiced piety,  how can we take him seriously? We can't. Or shouldn't.  This, after all, is the fellow who once condemned food stamps as the toxic source of all obesity.   And of late, he has been coming down hard on references to the "middle class". That's Marxist talk, he insists, by the "other side". Let him explain.

"Who does Barack Obama talk about all the time? The middle class," he spins off rhetorically to his audiences.  "Since when in America  do we have classes? Since when in America are people stuck in areas or defined places called a class. That's Marxism talk."

Not even Joe McCarthy came up with that notion. Still, for a wild-eyed dead-end politician,  the idea is in a class all by itself.

Monday, August 12, 2013

It's final: 2016 GOP presidential convention to be in Disney World

Among the many benefits of being a Grumpy Abe reader is that you often get news before it happens.  Today's scoop arrives from Washington, where the Republican brass reportedly has completed its months-long mission of finding a comfort zone as the site of its 2016 presidential convention.  The GOP stalwarts and honor guards will convene in Disney World.   Chairman Reince Priebus, who is never without one more linguistic surprise, says D-World is a perfect venue  to integrate family fun and politics. He would not confirm that the search committee also believed that the Disney World setting was chosen so the party's  own clowns would not stand out so much in the crowds.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Plain Dealer: So where was the bonus?

I know that all of you Plain Dealer  non-subscribers must be anxiously wondering about the PD's Saturday "bonus" that I shared with morning coffee.  So am I, folks. In short, I will need much more evidence that it's a bonus and not a garden variety Saturday paper that has greeted me for years. Lots of car ads  Lots of sports.  Lots of visual candy.  

You have to think that  the promotion department labeled the Saturday delivery that way because it is true that nobody can resist the lure of a bonus.  So instead of the four-days-a- week deliveries that I'm paying for, I must now adjust to the idea that the Saturday paper is the PD's way of telling me that I deserve something more than three-day home delivery.


It must have been a horrifying week for the  remaining staffers who faced the awful task of designing a new "reimagined" product that would fetch more readers.  Ted Diadiun, the PD's  reader representative, tried to explain it in Sunday's column, devoting much space to how one was to download the e-edition - the replicated pages of the papery edition that eluded so many old-fashioned readers.

He directed us to the Diversions section and from then on it was a series of moving cursors, click print/downloads and various other digital exercises.    Along the way you would learn how to see a puzzle by accessing  the "share button in the blue  navigation bar"  above a puzzle that looks likes an "arrow curbing out of a rectangle".

Yadayadayada.  Talk about puzzles! (As somebody once said, "I wish I were younger so that I would know everything.")

 Sunday's edition was a cliff-diving effort by the graphics department.   Huge  color photos   were stamped across the pages to suggest a kind of gawdy modernity.   The graphics advisors have been growing in influence for at least a whole generation of declining readership. Big pictures fill a lot of  space once partly filled by text. That means less text by a thinning staff of writers.

I'm resigned to that.  But who defined bonus at the PD?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Alert: House Republicans planning hunger strikes!

Just learned that the House Republicans are planning a hunger strike from 11:45 to midnight Sunday night to protest  Obamacare.  They say it is just a warm-up for when they extend  a similar strike to 30 minutes before their 41st vote to kill Obamacare. As one GOP  House member from a safe Western district put it, "We are too fat to fail". 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Proenza and UA: Red Ink spreads the blues

 Rumors are always the juicier back story  of an institution's narrative.   It follows that the larger the institution,  the more sustained and embellished the rumor mill.

But in the matter of the University of Akron, the rumors were true.  President  Luis Proenza is relinquishing the throne.  And like some other campus chiefs these days - say, OSU's Gordon Gee - he will return with many of the accouterments that have attended his days in office.  Well, not quite so many as Gee's pot of gold out the revolving door but certainly enough to keep him in the style that he's accustomed to.

For the time being  however, before he comes back to the campus after finishing out a new school year and a sabbatical in 2114, Proenza will be the subject  of post-presidential analysis by friends, foes and don't-cares.

Clearly, his dedication to the bricks and mortar development of the campus to make it seem more like, um...a campus, has won him approval from those who see it as a turn-around landscape to attract more students when UA is desperately in need of a strategy to  reverse the serious decline in enrollment.  But so far it hasn't worked and instead has piled up new debt on top of the cost of old stuff, plus a bonded new football stadium.

Times are tough all around for today's state-supported campuses.  I doubt there are many conservative lawmakers in Columbus who want to spare classrooms of the burdens  of budget cuts.  The over-fed pols that I've met over the years already had their college degrees from the days when an education didn't force you didn't have several jobs to pay for tuition,  parking and a few pencils.

If tuition is out of reach for many young people, you must remember that Gov.Kasich is running for reelection next year boasting  of tax cuts and even leaner public spending.

Proenza not only tried to live with  red ink. The financial swamp deepened. It didn't help the public perception of UA  that during his tenure the rise of well-paid (six-figures) titled employes, including public relations operatives,  became commonplace.   When Proenza's critics raised questions about the university's priorities  that seemed more corporately-inspired  than academic with so much cash floating around at the top of the organizational charts,  there was little discernible response from the president's office.

Meantime,  enrollment was plunging,  poor graduation rates placed  UA near the bottom of the ladder and...well, eventually we had to accept that new $61.6 million football stadium that  was expected to lend pride and power to the gridiron hereabouts.

Even before Proenza's arrival, the elixir  for the grid program was the hiring of a high-cost "celebrity" coach"  - Jerry Faust,  with Notre Dame credentials.   (It didn't do much good down on the field.) The latest celebrity to arrive (in December 2011)  is former NCAA Coach of the Year Terry Bowden, whose team won one  game and  lost 11 in 2012 playing in the Mid-American conference.

Oh, should mention former Ohio State University Jim Tressel, now the glad-handing motivational "engager"  (read, fund-raiser) on the campus. (Among the current soaring rumors:  Tressel will replace Proenza,  which is so rumorish that I'll step aside from such wild speculation.)

You have read that faculty hours are being cut for budgetary reasons, and some part-time teachers have been shown the door. Fact:  UA leads all Ohio state universities with nearly 60 pct.  of faculty comprising the part-timers. Some supermarkets may boast of better ratios.

There's not much hope for the next two years. UA is now faced with up to a 7 percent decline in enrollment while $30 million is whacked out of the budget and maybe 100 more jobs are eliminated.

Some of the dark clouds were beyond Proenza's control;  but the debt has grown   worse over the years. One of the reasons university presidents are paid so well is that they are expected to lead the school to higher achievement.  And if things don't go as well as planned, they also will be held accountable.  You see some of that in the corporate world. Isn't that what we've been talking about?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Proenza saying he will leave as UA President

President Luis Proenza's letter to University of Akron Board of Trustees. More later
This morning, John  . . .
. . . at the Board of Trustees meeting, I will publicly announce a transition plan that provides the University ample opportunity to search for a new leader after I complete my presidency next year on June 30, 2014.
After 15 years at the helm, I have decided to take a one-year sabbatical starting July 1, 2014, and return to UA in a full-time faculty role.
Our Board of Trustees also will announce today the creation of a privately endowed Chair in Higher Education and the Economy. I am most grateful for the opportunity to assume that chair and continue to contribute to our students' success, our community's growth, and the future of higher education.
Together, our faculty, staff, and students have forged a vibrant university that is well positioned for further growth. Over the last 15 years, the University's impact on the region's economy has been remarkable. Visitors to our campus are most impressed by what they see; those who come to know us better are even more impressed by the creativity and productivity of our students, professors and researchers. I am most proud of our graduates who excel in their fields and contribute to society well beyond the borders of this campus -- indeed, around the world.
You are receiving this information in advance of its public release to the campus and the community. I am linking you to more information online that will be publicly posted after our Board meeting.
I look forward to seeing you in the near future.
With every good wish,

Monday, August 5, 2013

h-e-e-e-r-r-r-e-e--s the reimagined Plain Dealer

As  it has for years, the Plain Dealer again showed up at our house Sunday.  Sort of.  The big story of the day was the Plain Dealer itself, pitched at the fortissimo level of a successful Mars landing by Rand Paul or the triumphant return of LeBron James or Gov.   John Kasich, whichever comes first.

These are the moments when a newspaper's brass gets a byline or two to persuade you in a neighborly way that whatever else you may have heard, the emergence of a new Plain Dealer avatar will serve your every need over morning coffee while attached to some form of invisible digital umbilical cord.

The rollout of the delivered Sunday  version was the adrenalized prelude to the PD's absence from our mailbox on Monday, one of three weekdays when it won't be delivered now and maybe forever. (I said three days, but Saturday will bring us a "bonus" that  I cannot yet describe unseen.) In a lettered black- on- Nile green fanfare, an unidentified  wordsmith who's always around for these occasions was paid to tell us that we are now in the era of  a "reimagined Plain Dealer.


Like the new home delivery matrix, the paper's presence itself also will be  divided.  The print edition will be available on line and at newsstands seven days a week.     The digital version is 24/7.  Mobile apps will also keep you up to date on LeBron and ...LeBron.

The Sunday project - and it truly was a project - was a team effort.  Celebrity columnist Regina Brett wanted us to know that she would still be writing a Sunday column. She said she gave up  her in-house job voluntarily last week because she wanted to save another staffer's job.  But she guaranteed us that she would still be visible to her many readers:
"Last week, I took a voluntarily [sic] layoff from the Plain Dealer, but I will still write columns for the Plain Dealer.  The plan is for my column to appear every Sunday and more often when  needed,"  she said in an unsparing sugury ode to the PD.  She called it a "win-win-win-win decision" after "much prayer and reflection'' - wins for her, her family, the paper and colleagues. The out-of-work-colleagues, too? Imagine that one!  
Did I mention that the staff was cut by upward of 50 jobs one way  or the other by dead reckoning layoffs  and "voluntary" retirements.  Even worse, in a brutal exercise of front-office  mentality, the staffers  had to sit by the phone for two hours the other night to  learn from the company whether they still had a job. (Full disclosure:  I at least got a free lunch from a Beacon Journal boss  when he wanted to inform me  that the time had come.)

And so as the once-mighty Plain Dealer whose editorials and news coverage once roared across  the state is now  making a major concession to the digital age, we must ask what's next.    There are no finalities in the publishing business these days.  The PD is playing its endgame which doesn't always turn out the way anyone expected.  Advance Publications, its owner, tried the three-day-a week delivery in New Orleans at the Times-Picayune and I've read that it was such a disaster the  paper is back to home delivery seven s days a week.

Is anybody having any fun yet reimagining things?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A prescription for walking dogs and circus elephants

Well, another week of frantic stupefying behavior from our homegrown political aliens that would make you wonder why any Martian would ever want to take up residence here. A couple of items - unverified rumors, really - circulating throughout GOP land are interesting enough to reprint and bear watching:

Hospitals in the nation's capitol are reporting a growing number of right-wing U.S. House members suffering from symptoms of repetitive motion syndrome -  particularly weakness and numbness.

A new group of reps covered by plush health insurance have shown up in emergency rooms following the Boehner House's 40th unsuccessful vote to kill Obamacare. Doctors say the only remedy is for the  victims to walk their dogs.  Or their lame circus elephant...

Meantime, a new advocacy group to be known by the acronym WOMBs (Wives of Manic Bubbas)  have taken to Twitter to promote a plan denying sex to their husbands or significant others until the latter stop probing uteruses for even stricter abortion laws.  A spokeswoman said her group got the idea from Aristophanes'  Lysistrata in which women shut down intercourse with their husbands until the militant spouses stopped  their warring behavior.

* * * * *

Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor,  who also is Ohio's insurance director,  has grabbed more than a few headlines with her department's reports that the Affordable Care Act will raid our pocketbooks with serious increases in premiums. She first warned us that it would drive up costs 88 pct. But last week, Taylor,  a proud CPA in her former life, drew back from that figure to now warn that the price more likely will be 41 pct.   But even that figure, if only invented, got into newspaper headlines in a manner to scare the hell out of those folks who didn't read the actual story.

Score a minor  self-serving propaganda coup for Taylor  in her obsession to resist  health care insurance exchanges in Ohio well beyond the usual partisan opposition. The noise is  likely to remain this way right  up to next year's gubernatorial election as she persists in warning us of an impending economic doomsday under President Obama's health-care plan.    The facts  have no value in this deceptively iterated plan.  But if you want to sanely break down the argument into its many moving parts and come away with a better idea about where it is leading, I recommend Luke Brockmeier's investigative reports in Plunderbund.Com  that could lead you to conclude that we will be witnessing  a Republican Hail Mary that won't produce a touchdown

Friday, August 2, 2013

The PD Guild's "survival kit" from its executive secretary

Rather than further parsing the  comments from  Plain Dealer sources , I've decided to share with you the precise letter from the Guild's executive secretary to its members in this Week from Hell at the paper:

* * * * *
To all Plain Dealer Guild bargaining unit employees:

A number of our members have received offers for jobs to go to work for Our hope is that you will remain employees in the Guild bargaining unit at The Plain Dealer.
My advice to you is to think long and hard about what leaving will mean for you.
You will give up a number of important protections if you leave the PD Guild bargaining unit.
• No job security. Except for five more people to be laid off 1/1/15, if you are still a PD employee today you have, by name, a job until 2019, as long as the PD publishes at least one edition a week.
• You will no longer have a democratic workplace.
• No guarantee of an eight-hour day.
• No guarantee of 5-day/40-hour week.
• No guarantee of daily overtime, or a minimum amount of overtime for work on your day off.
• No more just cause for discipline, or a grievance/arbitration procedure with a collective bargaining representative.
• Sick pay (at two weeks per year of service) up to a max of 52 weeks.
• Vacation (up to four weeks) and a vacation bonus.
And many other protections afforded under the Guild's contract with The Plain Dealer.
Also, remember who you're dealing with here. These job offers were supposed to come BEFORE the layoffs. So ask them if they'll put what they are offering you in writing.
Remember that if you do not have the protection of a contract, Ohio is an employment at will state. That means you can quit anytime you want, and they can fire you anytime they want. 
The decision is up to each of you. But make sure you consider well what you will be giving up.
Rollie Dreussi
Executive Secretary
Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild-CWA, Local 1
216-661-6144 or 1-800-621-6202