Ohio River Life
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Sheriff should resign
Like anybody else, Columbiana County Sheriff Dave Smith is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, but given the apparent evidence against him, which now includes the results of a urine test, things aren’t looking good.
If Smith is found guilty of OVI, the law prohibits him from seeking re-election. Even if he is found not guilty of the charges against him, the unflattering video and audio account of his arrest will make any bid for re-election virtually impossible.
According to the Morning Journal, Smith is sticking with his not-guilty pleas and will fight the various charges associated with his Oct. 11 arrest in Geurnsey County. Given the apparent evidence, one has to wonder what he stands to gain by a high-profile jury trial.
Because the trial will be covered closely by television and print media throughout the region, the situation is bigger than Smith. The reputation of the county sheriff’s department—indeed, the entire county—will be on the line.
While I very much believe that Dave Smith should do whatever he and his attorney think is right for his personal legal situation, he should seriously reconsider going through the process wearing his badge. Put more directly, the sheriff should resign sooner rather than later.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I hope everyone is reading the election stories in the newspapers and paying attention to comments on public Web sites. Local elections often are not easy to decide because voters typically have to make decisions with very little information.
Clearly the most hotly contested race in the South County region is for Wellsville mayor, but there are others that are just as important. Let’s look at a few.
Everyone knows I support the re-election of Mayor Jim Swoger in East Liverpool. Jim’s devotion to our city cannot be questioned. He is perhaps the most honest and above-board politician I’ve ever known, and he’s never been afraid to make difficult—even unpopular—decisions. He does what he thinks is right, regardless of the political cost. I like that.
Swoger has been active in removing dilapidated buildings and homes in the city, and I am one who applauds that effort. Under his management, the city has razed five abandoned homes in our neighborhood alone, which has made our little corner of the world an immensely better place to live.
As I’ve stated many times before, I’ve never had a problem working with East Liverpool City Hall either as a citizen or journalist. The mayor and his staff provide assistance to residents in a friendly, professional manner at all times, and I remain not only satisfied, but extremely impressed with how our town in governed.
I read the Review story today on law director candidates John Drumm and Charles Payne. I am not acquainted with Mr. Drumm, and although I have spoken with Mr. Payne a few times, I cannot say I know him.
I do wish the challenger would have given us more information in the Review story about why he thinks Payne needs replaced. When both candidates are qualified and the challenger cannot isolate problems with the incumbent, the challenge isn’t easy. Personally, I’m going to talk to more people before I make my decision on this one. I’m going to need a reason not to vote for the incumbent.
The MRDD levy is going to be hotly contested, especially since county voters approved a levy for the organization earlier this year. Jeff Diddle, president of the Robert Bycroft Education Association, left a well-written comment here yesterday in support of the 2.5-mill levy. His comment was a response to my negative post on the issue, which was a reaction to what I perceived as an idle threat from Bycroft Superintendent Bill Devon.
I’m not convinced by Devon’s do-or-die characterization of the issue. I do not believe at all that Bycroft will close its doors if we do not support this new levy. On the contrary, I think Devon will be forced to manage the operation more efficiently.
One argument I will not accept is the all-too-convenient emotional appeal. Everyone wants to help those with disadvantages, but this isn’t about the kids. They will be taken care of. What it is about is whether the perfectly normal people who manage the school can manage our money efficiently. Quite simply, I want to give Bycroft officials a chance to do just that, so I’ll vote “no” this time around.
I’ll revise my comment from yesterday: How about we don’t pay now and see if Mr. Devon’s dire predictions are valid? Depending on what happens, we’ll take another look at the situation down the road.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Unusual for a Monday, today’s Review carries some interesting stories that should get people’s attention.
Wellsville Councilwoman Diane Dinch has done what Mayor Joe Surace was afraid to do: let taxpayers know what they paid for. Dinch spoke to reporters Sunday about the results of the recent police department investigation that Mayor Surace has been trying to keep hidden.
See The Review or the Morning Journal for the stories.
According to Dinch, the outside law firm’s report reveals a police department with “no chain of command” and “unreliable” personnel records. Dinch also showed reporters a copy of the police log for the morning of the Yost murder, which allegedly is at odds with what Surace has stated publicly about Lt. Ed Wilson’s role (for which he was placed on administrative leave). At least one of those statements is the subject of a slander suit against the mayor.
According to The Review, Surace claimed that Dinch’s release of the information is—you guessed it—another “personal vendetta.” Why the mayor would consider the release of a report funded by taxpayers (at his request) a personal vendetta is anyone’s guess. Dinch said she released information to the press only after she was assured by the village legal adviser that the report was a public document, which is bound to lead everyone to ask why Surace has been sitting on it.
Surace’s intransigence on the issue has even angered The Review, which for the past few years has been the leading apologist for his administration. The following is from an Oct. 22 editorial:
“If Wilson has been declared clear of any wrongdoing, then it is only fair for the mayor to tell Wellsville residents why and to clear the man's name. If the investigation contains evidence of wrongdoing, then that should be released as well. Keeping quiet about the results of the investigation is also not fair to the taxpayers of the community, whose dollars not only pay Wilson's salary, but which were also used to pay for the investigation.” [See entire editorial here.]
It certainly appears that the mayor’s ploy is blowing up in his face. Now that at least some of the details are out, the pressure will be on Surace to release the entire report to the public. Naturally, his campaign staff will be working overtime to spin the situation in his favor, especially since even his supporters are starting to see through these repeated cries of “personal vendetta.”
At some point, Mayor Surace will have to take personal responsibility for his actions rather than simply bask in other people’s accomplishments. It appears that the plan to delay releasing the report to the public until after the election has failed. The press has finally managed to flush Surace out of his hiding place, and now it’s time to fess up.
On other fronts, The Review also carries a story today on the Columbiana County Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities 2.5-mill levy on the November ballot. It appears that embattled MRDD Superintendent Bill Devon has decided to threaten county residents by saying we can “pay now or pay later.”
Before he left the Morning Journal, Jeff Martin was working on an exposé of MRDD that has no chance of seeing print now that he’s gone. That’s too bad. My response to Mr. Devon is: How about we don’t pay now or later? Manage your budget efficiently or step aside and let someone else do it.
Also in today’s Review is a story about Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort President and Chief Executive Officer Ted Arneault, who was named “man of the year” by an organization known as “Circus Saints and Sinners.” According to the paper, Arneault was given the award due to his “philanthropic” efforts.
I don’t know about you, but I sleep better at night knowing that there are philanthropists like Mr. Arneault in the Tri-State Area. Now that Hancock County appears to be controlled almost exclusively by gambling interests, the award is fitting. I wonder if Joe Surace will attempt to take credit for Arneault’s honor?
Saturday, October 27, 2007
WFD/VFD Open House
On top of the snacks, give-aways, and raffles, an auto extrication demonstration will be held at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. This is a perfect opportunity to see the fire department, emergency vehicles, and your firefighters in action.
As pithy as it sounds, this country once again finds itself at a crossroads. While the 2008 presidential election still is more than a year away, we've already had a few dozen people declare their intention to run and had several debates.
The choice next year is clear, do you prefer the socialistic, high-minded but unrealistic vision the Democrats (i.e. Clinton) are pushing forward that will raise your taxes through the roof and make you more dependant on the government? Or do you want to take another chance on a Republican? Possibly one who will continue to abandon the true beliefs of the party like its current idiot and chief.
Yes, I am a right-wing guy, but I'm one who believes Senor Bush has hijacked the core ideals of the Republican Party and gone to the extreme, pandering to the religious right wing, sacrificing our freedoms in the name of "health, safety and welfare," and, after seven years, STILL can't make a public speech without sounding like an illiterate 2nd-grader.
God Bless America.
Yep, I'm pretty pissed off at the state of the union. The current crop of candidates make me want to vote "none of the above" next year, but that's not an option for us hapless voters yet. It should be, though. Maybe, if everyone got together and rejected the jackasses in charge, we'd have some real change. To quote one of my favorite writers, though, " . .. but I digress."
You see, it's not views on healthcare, abortion, taxes, or even the war in Iraq (although the war is important) that will win the day for the next president of the United States. It'll be which NASCAR driver they decide to root for. This country is being slowly taken over by the Redneck culture, and it's a trend that's starting to scare the shit out of me.
Now I'm going to piss a lot of people and off, and frankly, I'm fine with that because I'm tired of the rising level of Redneck BULLSHIT you have to wade through during the day. Even out here, quite close to the Left Coast, the Rednecks are everywhere.
What, you ask, do I mean by Redneck? I'm glad you asked. A Redneck is any person who believes the world outside of their own narrow view isn't worth seeing. This is a person who spends their vacations sitting in a deer stand shooting things while drinking Bud Light. This is a person who spends $60,000 on their truck but can't be bothered to buy their kids school clothes.
To be perfectly clear, we all have our views and opinions and sometimes take hardline stands. Please, by all means, continue to do so. The difference with the Rednecks is, they take the hardline stand out of ignorance, and with that ignorance, they espouse righteousness for their cause. Let me illustrate my point with a personal experience.
During my tenure at the East Liverpool Review, I was asked to write a business story about a shop selling NASCAR memorabilia. Bear in mind, I don't watch NASCAR, I don't know who the drivers are, and I don't really care who wins the Nextel Cup. Now that doesn't mean I can't do my job, it just means I don't have a Jeff Gordon hat or Dale Earnhardt Jr. poster in my room. (By the way, those are the only two drivers I know.)
Anyway, I walk through the doors of this establishment, smile politely at the owner and tell him what I'm there for. He smiles back, begins to chit-chat, and I start taking notes. Then the guy asked me who my favorite driver was. Admittedly, I could've lied. But I didn't. In my own ignorance, I didn't see the point in deception. So, I just off-handedly said, "I'm sorry, I don't really follow racing, I'm more of a baseball guy."
This guy stops dead in his tracks, fixes me with the most incredulous stare, and says, "Don't follow racing? What the HELL kind of FAGGOT are you?"
The rest of the story is irrelevant to this column other than to illustrate this man's run-in with a different mindset that resulted in an angry, borderline-violent response.
Now, to bring everything together, I want you to look at the advertising you see around you. Look at the entertainment, "The Blue Collar Comedy Tour," Racing on 13 channels, a Redneck in office, elected twice even though no one really seems to like the guy. You ask the average Redneck--you know the guy in the corner bar constantly bitching about money even though he owns a jacked up extended cab pickup, has a swimming pool and drinks three or four cases of light beer a week--about the war and what's his answer? "I hope we shoot everyone of those damn towelheads!"
He'll yell before ordering another beer and crying about his wife who hasn't updated her hairstyle since "The Dukes of Hazzard" went off the air. These people are the ones deciding the future of this country. These people vote in droves. These people earn $20 an hour in the trades and have the disposable income to influence the corporation who now control the elections.
As sure as the drunken Redneck girl, sporting a mullet, who screamed "You look like Stone Cold Steve Austin" to me one day while walking down Fourth Street; you can bet the next President will be driving down victory lane with the Nextel Cup winner and asking the guy "That thing got a Hemi?"
War, death, taxes, poverty--these things don't concern the United Rednecks of America. Expanded deer hunting season, cheaper Bud Light and less reliance "dem foreigners from other places" are the issues of 2008.
So sit back, brush up on your NASCAR trivia and, for safety's sake, leave your brain at the door because the next election isn't going to be Clinton vs. Giuliani or Obama vs. Thompson. It's going to be Boss Hogg vs. Cletus.
Brian DiTullio once covered the city of East Liverpool for The Review. Currently he resides in Arizona.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Pay attention. Look around.
I see in today’s Morning Journal that the attorney for convicted murderer Andrew Irwin was sentenced to jail for contempt of court. Unless his appeal is successful, George Kafantaris will spend 20 days in county jail at his own expense.
I’m glad to see that Judge C. Ashley Pike followed through on his contempt citations rather than allow them to evaporate into the post-trial air. At the very least it sends a clear signal to out-of-town attorneys who think of our local courts as circus tents.
Perhaps if Kafantaris would have been better prepared for the trial in the first place, he wouldn’t have had to resort to the theatrics that landed him in jail. Then again, maybe it’s just his style. I don’t know. Either way, it looks like he’s going to get an uplanned 20 day vacation in Columbiana County.
As expected, Wellsville Mayor Joe Surace avoided yet another opportunity to appear before voters Thursday night. This time his excuse was that he had a prior engagement in East Liverpool. My understanding is that his daughter appeared in his place to read yet another statement prepared by someone.
Truly there is nothing left to say about Mayor Surace’s faux candidacy. The guy simply refuses to face his constituents. With all of these prepared statements and stand-ins, voters have been denied access to the mayor himself. In short, they are being asked to vote for a straw man. All I can say is that if a majority of Wellsville voters can’t see through this nonsense, they deserve exactly what they get.
Congratulations to the Future Voters of Wellsville for doing something that no other civic group in town would do.
I was extremely pleased to see that the plan to restore the old YMCA building at Fourth and Washington in East Liverpool has begun. According to The Review, roofers were working on the grand old building Thursday.
Apparently Craig Newbold and Soaring Eagle are making good on the promise to put the building into use as a dormitory, day-care and recreational center. This is what it takes, folks—private investment from dedicated individuals with a purpose. Mr. Newbold is showing us once again that he’s no mere talker.
Those who insist that East Liverpool is dead are simply wrong. Pay attention. Look around. Things are happening in this old town. We all have a choice to either be a part of it or to stand in the way.
NOTE: In the coming days, check ORL for essays and photos from former local journalists Brian DiTullio and Will Whitaker.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
This and that
The announcement earlier this week of the creation of a joint economic development district was great news for the East Liverpool area in more ways than one (see story in The Review). Beyond the specifics of the venture, the move sets a precedent for township-city cooperation and provides a long overdue spark of progressive thinking in the South County region. To everyone involved in the venture, good job!
On other fronts, I spoke to East Liverpool Service-Safety Director Bill Cowan last Friday about the status of the Smith Auto Parts building at Broadway and East Fourth. Cowan told a group gathered at the Alumni Clocktower on Oct. 10 that a condemnation notice was being prepared. He confirmed Friday that the process was moving forward.
Kent State East Liverpool Eastern Flash writer, Melody Gustafson, interviewed building owner Bill Smith earlier this week, who said he had yet to receive the notice. [See Dilapidated building issue remains at impasse.] My understanding is that Kent State officials plan to meet with Mr. Smith to see if some kind of deal can be worked out on the building.
Kent State has a collection of brick and wood debris that has fallen onto the sidewalk over the years. Just last week, a KSU employee was nearly clobbered by bricks falling from the building’s chimney. It is extremely fortunate that our man was not injured or killed, but it’s only a matter of time until something very bad happens on that sidewalk.
In my view, Kent State should do whatever it can to initiate friendly negotiations, but the same goes for Smith. No one is going to pay him hundreds of thousands for a crumbling, useless building. If he continues to stand in the way of progress, he runs the risk of the state playing the eminent domain card. I sincerely hope it doesn’t come to that, but this is shaping up to be a classic E.D. situation.
It looks like Wellsville Mayor Joe Surace’s people plan to continue keeping him away from the public eye. Surace failed to appear at the Morning Journal/Channel 27 candidates forum last night in Lisbon. It remains to be seen if Surace will grace his own constituents with his presence at the Future Voters of Wellsville event to be held at the Alumni Center tonight from 7 to 9 p.m.
Clearly Surace’s campaign strategy—if you can call it that—is to avoid facing public questioning at all costs. His Democratic Party handlers know all too well that such exposure would be the kiss of death. As pathetic as that sounds, there can be no other explanation.
One has to wonder about the motivation and mentality of the people who support this silent candidate. All you have to do is go to Ole Nib’s Looking Out My Window blog to find out. They appear to have gathered there. So if you’re on the fence and thinking about leaning to the Dark Side, please visit Nib’s site and have a look at your future comrades.
I used to think this was going to be a close race, but I'm beginning to wonder how anyone who cares about the village can support Joe Surace for a second term.
ADDENDUM: I read the print edition of the Morning Journal coverage of last night's candidates forum and noticed that East Liverpool Mayor Jim Swoger also did not show up for the event.
Although I am an ardent supporter of Mayor Swoger, I certainly think he should have participated in the event. Unlike Mayor Surace in Wellsville, Swoger has no serious opposition; still, I think candidates have an obligation to participate in any event designed to provide voters with information that can help them make intelligent decisions.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Not ready for prime time
The Pittsburgh Steelers had a chance Sunday night to show a national television audience that they deserved to be ranked among the NFL’s elite teams, but instead they showed why they aren’t.
This was a spooky game from the start. Pittsburgh showed up with the league’s leading rusher in Willie Parker to play against the league’s worst run defense, so what do they do? They bring a game plan that relies on the pass.
Even after the Steelers offensive line showed they were no match for their Denver counterparts, Pittsburgh stuck with the ass-backwards game plan, sending quarterback Ben Roethlisberger running for his life on nearly every down. If Ben were a smaller, less mobile quarterback, the Broncos would have racked up 15 sacks. In his desperation, Ben looked good throwing on the run, but it was in a constant catch-up effort—one that seemed doomed to fail because of serious problems on defense.
And what in the world was the coaching staff thinking when it decided to hand the Broncos nearly two minutes to get in position for the game-winning field goal? The running game was going fairly well, and with under two minutes left on the clock, you play for the tie and run out the clock. Instead, Ben throws a touchdown pass, daring the home team to score against a defense that had been an easy mark all night.
If a relatively weak team like Denver can run the ball up and down the field and put up 31 points, what’s going to happen when Pittsburgh plays a scoring machine like New England? It won’t be pretty.
Thanks to Baltimore’s loss to Buffalo, the Steelers retain first place in their relatively weak division. I still feel confident that Pittsburgh can make the playoffs, but most of the second half of the season will involve division play, and it remains to be seen if the Steelers are good enough to win those games as needed.
As of right now, Pittsburgh is definitely not ready for prime time.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Back on the job
Friday, October 19, 2007
Ok, this one is worth its own post. Alerted by ORL readers, I looked at the print edition of today’s Review. Indeed a small story based upon a “late night statement to the press” from Wellsville Mayor Joe Surace regarding WPD Lt. Ed Wilson's case is buried on page 5A.
There are so many things wrong with this that I need to make a list.
1. First of all, Mayor Surace has known about the attorneys’ findings at least since Tuesday, yet he sat on the information for days only to issue a “late night” statement at the end of the week. Why? My guess—and it’s only speculation—is that he didn’t want reporters to have a chance to question him on the issue. Is there a pattern here?
2. Surace’s claim is that he “inherited a long standing police personnel problem not of [his] making.” The simple truth is that all of the charges, investigations, and suspensions involving Ed Wilson have occurred on Surace’s watch. How on earth can he expect people to believe that he “inherited” this problem?
3. The attorney fees for the recent investigation of Ed Wilson reportedly cost the village $10,000. Well, that’s just for starters. Once you figure in the wages paid to Wilson for not working along with the wages paid to other officers to cover his vacated shifts, the figure jumps substantially. And for what? A failed attempt to nail Lt. Wilson on bogus accusations? Keep in mind, the whole thing started with a recommendation to council from the mayor. Because all but one council member voted to support the recommendation, it won’t be easy for council to avoid its share of the blame.
4. The mayor’s late-night statement offers no apology whatsoever—not to Lt. Wilson or the taxpayers. Wellsville voters need to understand that every cent of that money came out of their pockets. As for Wilson, he and the mayor already have an upcoming date in court. How much will that cost taxpayers? That's money you're going to pay regardless of the outcome of the November election. Beyond attorney fees, if the mayor should lose the case, that's another $25,000.
5. As for The Review “coverage” of the Wilson resolution, I’m inclined to give them some leeway in that the statement was purposely released late at night, no doubt after the reporters had gone home. Still, the story should have been on the front page, top of the fold. This is a BIG story, not something you bury in the back pages alongside the death notices and grip-n-grin photos. I haven’t seen a hard copy of the Morning Journal yet. Does anyone know if that publication carried the story at all?
6. Finally, I’ve gotten several reports alleging that unknown vandals have attempted and/or have succeeded in removing Lloyd signs from private property. I’ve also heard allegations that the opposition has been putting signs in the yards of people without their permission. If these reports are true, then we can only assume the dirty tricks have just begun. The Sign War of ’07 is on!
Ah, you gotta love the Wellsville Zone! The longer we wait, the crazier it gets. Sit tight; you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain
It’s a sad day for journalism when a newspaper allows an incumbent mayor to submit a prepared statement in lieu of a standard election interview. Wouldn’t you know that the culprit would be The Review.
Today’s edition carries a press release issued by the Surace campaign—a statement carefully crafted (by someone) to eliminate any possibility of the candidate actually having to speak or answer questions. This is a disgrace and an insult, not only to Wellsville voters but to the democratic process itself. As for The Review, any remnant credibility the publication may have had is gone.
By now it’s painfully obvious that what Surace’s Democratic Party handlers fear most is putting the mayor in a position where he’d have to discuss issues in public. Needless to say, an honest debate with challenger Dave Lloyd is out of the question. Why? Because Surace would look like an idiot beside Lloyd, and his people know it.
I ran into a Surace campaign insider the other day on the streets of Liverpool. Although he readily admitted that his man had made any number of bonehead mistakes in office, the only reason he could give for supporting Surace was that the opposing candidate sat out a couple of elections. That’s all they’ve got: that Dave Lloyd didn’t vote in a couple of elections.
Surprising no one, today’s sham Review story includes a list of other people’s accomplishments passed off as Surace’s own good works. The fact is the mayor and his friends have spent the last four years destroying the credibility of village government. But somehow they always manage to show up at other people’s parties to get their pictures taken, don’t they?
One thing is for sure, Wellsville voters have a clear choice in November. They can reclaim village government by electing an intelligent, articulate, competent, well-respected man in Dave Lloyd, or they can have four more years of a mayor who simply does what he’s told.
I guess those who make up what Surace supporters call his “base” prefer the latter scenario. Of course they do; they can’t stand the thought of having a mayor they can’t control. But they’re also starting to feel this one slipping away, and they are most definitely getting nervous.
If I’m so very wrong about this, then why don’t they just let Joe stand up and speak for himself? There’s a little time left. Why not let the mayor out of his cage? Let him face the voters and answer questions. Let him tell the people what he stands for. But please, take your hand out from under his shirt and let him do it in his own words.
NOTE: I don’t blame Review reporter Jeremy Lydic for this newspaper fiasco. He’s new on the job and in no position to second guess his bosses. For what it’s worth, I think he’ll be a good journalist once he gets his bearings.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
A note to posters
The main rule is no anonymous posts. Having said that, when I receive a worthwhile anonymous post, I often repost it under a screen name derived from the content. My assumption is that the poster either does not know the rules or does not know how to post with a screen name.
The problem is that I'm getting more and more of these types of anonymous posts, and it is quite time consuming to cut, paste, and repost this stuff. So starting right now, I will reject every anonymous post, regardless of the merit of the content.
How to post comments with a screen name:
1. Click the post a comment link at the bottom of the comment string.
2. Below the leave your comment space, click other.
3. Type a screen name in the name field.
Another ORL posting rule is that comments that display excessive profanity or needless personal attacks will not be accepted. I try to be somewhat liberal, depending on the discussion at hand, but some posters have been pushing the limit.
As a result, I will either reject or edit any post that does not adhere to my standards. If you have a problem with that, then be more responsible with your posts or don't post at all.
Lastly, because the comment section of this Web site is a public-access bulletin board, all posters are legally responsible for their own comments. Even if you post under a screen name (as most do), your identity can be traced with a court order. So please do be careful.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Privacy is dead
The Vindicator has released what appears to be a somewhat edited dashboard video of the arrest of Columbiana County Sheriff Dave Smith in Guernsey County last week. I gotta tell you, folks, this is not easy to look at.
Most of the action takes place off camera while the trooper is interrogating Smith and attempting to perform field sobriety tests, which the sheriff refused. No question that Smith’s various requests to be let go represent the most damning part of the video. Here is a transcript of some of the exchange (Smith’s comments are in red):
Can’t you just let me go home?
Could you do that in Columbiana County?
You just stop people, and not test them, and let them go home?
Yes, if it was me, yes.
Ok, I’m not able to do that.
C’mon trooper, don’t do this to me, you know.
Listen to me, I’m going to tell you right now. I’m going to come back and I’m going to look at your eyes. If we need to do more tests, we’ll do more tests, but I’m going to do my job, ok?
Trooper, I’ve got an election coming up next year.
Right. I need to do my job, ok?
I don’t want a DUI on my ...
It’s very difficult to see our sheriff squirm like this, but it’s reassuring to see and hear the state trooper doing his job in a thoroughly professional manner. The contrast is striking. I come away from the video embarrassed not only for the sheriff, but also for our county.
I was surprised initially that the state patrol would release this material to the news media, but in an age when virtually everything is captured on video by someone, we are forced to revise antiquated notions of privacy. Here in the 21st century, we must act as though whatever we do, say, or write is being recorded and stored.
It’s getting to the point where there is nowhere left to hide--not even in rural Ohio. Hey, maybe the Amish have had the right idea all along.
Dead pope caught in flames
Pope John Paul II has made an appearance in his native Poland, not on a toasted cheese sandwich or potato chip (as we might expect), but inside a bonfire held in his honor near the Holy Father's birthplace.
According to the Telegraph, the pontiff appeared “dressed in robes, slightly hunched [with] his right hand raised in blessing.” Hundreds of people attended the bonfire ceremony marking the second anniversary of the popular pontiff’s death, but no one saw the image until it appeared on a photograph taken by Gregorz Lukasik.
According to the Telegraph, “The photograph has since been shown repeatedly on Italian television, and a religious website displaying the image crashed as thousands logged on to see it for themselves.”
Naturally, such a manifestation must be taken extremely seriously. A team of Vatican forensic scientists will study the image and deliver a verdict on the validity and meaning of the photograph once the investigation is complete.
Initial word on the streets of Rome is that the dead pope’s spirit was, in fact, in Hell. Speculation on why John Paul II, who in life was generally considered a good guy, would have been sent to the Fiery Pit is running rampant. However, a dominant theory is emerging: The former pope was sent by God Almighty to retrieve a 100-piece jumbo bucket of “Eternity’s Best” barbeque chicken.
Interviewed Monday by the Associated Press, Jehovah said, “The photograph incident was unfortunate, but they do make damned good chicken down there. It’s worth the risk. Unless you’ve tasted Hell’s birds, don’t judge. Of course we won’t eat the unclean pork, but the chicken? Oh yeah!”
Asked why the pope would be sent to retrieve carry-out, Jehovah would say only, “Now that’s none of your business. I work in mysterious ways. How’s that?”
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Heinz Chapel Open
Saturday, October 13, 2007
It looks like county Sheriff Dave Smith has gotten himself into some significant trouble. WTOV broke the story Friday evening about his run-in with the highway patrol in Guernsey County, but it’s the Morning Journal’s Tom Giambroni who gives us the ugly details.
Why is it that people seem so pleased when a prominent person gets into this kind of trouble? Is it because the story of an alleged DUI presents a case of overt hypocrisy, or is it just politics? Or could it be the standard formula for tragedy: a person of prominence is brought down by his own “tragic flaw”?
I’ll admit there is something compelling about a chief law-enforcement officer getting popped by a fellow cop. If Smith was driving impaired, he definitely shouldn’t have been on the road. Of all people, he should know better. And I’m glad to see that the state trooper did his job without succumbing to cronyism. Still, I’m concerned that people are going to revel a little too much in the sheriff’s alleged mistake.
If Smith is found guilty on these charges, his days as county sheriff are surely numbered. It’s one thing to beg forgiveness; it’s something else entirely to ask voters to put you back in office once you’ve crossed the line. Although I am appalled by these allegations, I also feel bad for Dave and will not revel in his misfortune.
Especially because it is an elected position, the office of county sheriff demands an extremely high standard of behavior. A sheriff—indeed any officer of the law—can’t be like other people. He must set an example by leading an exemplary life, both public and private. It just goes with the turf.
I see also in today’s papers where James “Billy” Yost, the Wellsville murder suspect who admitted to police that he bludgeoned his own father to death with a pipe wrench, hung himself in his jail cell with a bed sheet.
I’m inclined to think that, at least in this case, suicide was the “honorable” thing. After all, if you kill your own father over a joint, you’ve got demons that need addressed. Wasn’t it just a few days ago that the Morning Journal reported that Yost’s competency hearing was delayed “because the report [was] incomplete”?
Well, it’s complete now.
Finally, we should note that Morning Journal writer Jeff Martin is leaving to take a job in Kansas City. Aside from the fact that I’ll miss my good friend, Jeff is an intelligent, talented and creative person whose departure significantly diminishes our area. Of course I hope everything works out for him in the big MO, but for all our sakes, I hope he manages to find his way back home when the time is right.
Best of luck to you, my friend!
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Planning the university district
Representatives from the urban architectural firm EG&G presented the Kent State East Liverpool Campus Master Plan Project to the public Wednesday at the Alumni Clocktower. The six-month planning project, funded entirely by the university, began last month, so we should have a clear idea of what the project is about by February.
Because EG&G was responsible for designing the downtown integration project 20 years ago, we have seen their work and know what to expect. The whole idea of the “university district” is to physically integrate the area bordered by Washington Street in the east, College Street to the west, and Fifth Street and the highway to the north and south. The final design may include the Broadway Wharf and other areas beyond the original planning borders.
Aside from laying out preliminary concepts, Wednesday’s meeting was mostly about getting input from those in attendance, which included university and city officials, representatives of institutions within the proposed district, local business leaders and interested citizens. About 25 people showed up for the discussion.
Beyond possible disagreement on the details, I find it hard to imagine why anyone would oppose the project in principle. Of course it could turn out that the thing falls apart due to funding problems, but I suspect there are enough significant players involved that most of those hurdles can be jumped. If funding can be obtained, the plan could go a long way in preparing the university and the city for much-needed growth and development.
Regular readers know that I constantly preach the “critical mass” theory when it comes to growth in the downtown area, and despite the recent closing of a couple of old businesses in town, I firmly believe that it’s the continued development of the professional sector that will push the city forward and revitalize the business sector—not in the way it used to be, but in a way that is appropriate for our time.
Businesses can thrive only when there are a lot of people with expendable income living and working downtown. Contrary to popular belief, I think we are not far from achieving that critical mass as long as those institutions already in place join forces to promote growth and development. As a major player in professional development downtown, Kent State University is the natural leader for this kind of urban planning, and I very much believe the leadership is in place to get this ball rolling.
The knee-jerk negatoids will immediately look for reasons to shoot down this project. Others will continue to find ways of saying useless, stupid things about our city. Thankfully, there are people in our area with enough energy left to try to accomplish something good for the future. You know who you are, so let’s all get together and get this thing done, shall we?
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Who is Frederick Saunders?
Last night’s WTOV-9 news broadcast led with an interesting story about a guy who allegedly walked into a Harrison County middle school and started working as a substitute social studies teacher. According to the story, the man taught students for “several days” before someone discovered no one had hired him.
The school district may never have found out about the guy had he not hit a teacher with his car while crossing a picket line last week. Once the information came out, the district superintendent issued a statement saying that he regretted the incident and would try to do better with background checks on teachers.
Given the labor dispute in the Harrison County district, I suppose an incident like this could happen easily enough. The story did not indicate whether the unhired substitute, a Youngstown man named Frederick Saunders, posed any kind of threat to the students. Instead of giving any information about Saunders—that is, how and why he came to be teaching at the school—News-9’s Natalie Pasquarella chose to interview parents, who said they were afraid to send their kids back to the school.
According to the story, Saunders “walked right through the doors” and started teaching the class, but the motive remains a mystery. Was this just some kind of mixup? Is Saunders a bad guy who took advantage of the situation to pose as a teacher? Is he a teacher? Did he think he was supposed to be there?
Pasquarella pushed the security-breach/fear angle so hard that she failed to ask or even bring up these questions. I certainly hope WTOV follows up with more information, but as it stands, Monday’s lead story served only to scare people and make the administration look bad—all this during a teachers strike.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Earth tones in the city
A brief comment on slander
In today’s Morning Journal, Wellsville Mayor Joe Surace is quoted as saying that he did not slander police Lt. Ed Wilson and that legal action against him is political. The mayor was wise to leave it at that.
Libel and slander cases can be very complex, and since they deal with language, a lot depends upon the interpretation of words and their demonstrable effect. As everyone knows, interpretation can be very subjective. The matter is further complicated by whether the “victim” is a public figure and if the statement under scrutiny can be considered political opinion. As well, "intent" usually is not an issue--that is, a defendant cannot expect leniency because he did not intend to slander.
Frankly, there are so many variables that it's impossible to cover all of them here. Generally speaking, if a statement is true and can be shown to be true, it’s not slander, but there can be complexities even with that, depending upon the situation. Many people think the First Amendment is absolute—that Americans can say anything they want about anyone and anything—but nothing could be further from the truth. As well, many people cannot adequately distinguish between fact and opinion, which is a crucial element in many slander cases.
According to Communication and the Law, “For an allegedly defamatory statement to be actionable—that is, for a lawsuit to be based upon the statement—the statement must be one of fact rather than of opinion. ... The threshold question facing the opinion defense is how to distinguish fact from opinion. Whether a statement is a statement of fact or opinion is decided by the judge. If the judge cannot determine whether a particular statement constitutes fact or opinion, the determination is made by the jury.”
In Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc. (1974), the U.S. Supreme Court said, “Under the First Amendment there is no such thing as a false idea. However pernicious an opinion may seem, we depend for its correction not on the conscience of judges and juries but on the competition of other ideas. But there is no constitutional value in false statements of fact.”
From what I’ve seen in the papers, it appears that Wilson’s attorneys will argue that Mayor Surace made a "false statement of fact." In this instance, what he said is easily recoverable. (It was broadcast on television.) So everything will depend upon interpretation of the statement itself.
NOTE: Slander involves oral speech; libel has to do with written speech.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Another voyage to the Wellsville Zone
It looks like everybody has lawyered up in Wellsville. According to the Morning Journal, Wellsville PD Lt. Ed Wilson has filed a slander suit against Mayor Joe Surace and the village. And as expected, contractor Craig Suzany has filed a breech-of-contract suit against the Buckeye Water District.
The timing of Wilson’s lawsuit couldn’t have come at a worse time for Mayor Surace, who is currently running for re-election against independent challenger Dave Lloyd. If you read the MJ story, you know the suit involves comments made by the mayor on a WTOV-9 television news broadcast regarding Wilson’s role in a June murder investigation.
Responding to a recommendation from the mayor’s office, village council agreed in August to hire a Cleveland law firm to investigate Wilson’s actions. To my knowledge, the firm has yet to report its findings. That investigation is further complicated by Wilson’s suit against the village, which now must spend still more taxpayer dollars defending the mayor in court.
Wellsville watchers know that these recent actions are the culmination of years of bad blood between Wilson and village hall that began in the early days of the Craig Roberts murder investigation. Since that time, Wilson has been charged and found innocent of drug trafficking. He also has been investigated for fraud involving a clothing allowance expenditure. The decision to place Wilson on administrative leave following the Yost incident is only the most recent battle.
The hens have come home to roost just in time for the November election, which is bound to be influenced by these events.
On other fronts, Wellsville’s Buckeye Water District faces a lawsuit filed by Craig Suzany Inc. regarding allegations of breech of contract. The suit stems from disagreements between the contractor and the water district over the construction of a raw water pipeline leading to the new BWD filtration plant on state Route 45.
The suit was filed after the water district voted earlier this week to terminate the contract with Suzany Inc. Most of you know that Buckeye is currently awaiting a judge’s decision on another breach-of-contract suit filed by the city of East Liverpool—a suit I expect the city to win.
How is it that tiny Wellsville remains the focus of so much drama and litigation?