Anything from current events, campaign finance reform, sports (especially baseball), corporate/political/legal ethics, pop culture, confessions of a recovering comic book addict, and probably some overly indulgent discourses about my 3-year old daughter. E-Mail: sardonicviews -at-
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Friday, August 06, 2004

Great Moments For Web Headlines

Sorry the image quality isn't better. Relating to the post below.

You have to love the list of headlines from the News-Messenger in Fremont, Ohio. Posted by Hello

For those that can't read the list of top stories reads:
Police raid PC spa
Looking for fun?
For Your Information
Who says the newspapers don't respond to reader interests?

Double up on the Latex Gloves

Police in Port Clinton, Ohio, raided a spa and massage parlor as a (can you believe this) "house of prostitution." I know I was shocked to read that such things could go on at these places. I assumed from all the ads for similar places in the Cleveland Plain Dealer sports section that these were merely places in the middle of nowhere that strictly kept it above the belt.

The police took many things for examination.
About 2:30 p.m., Port Clinton police entered the building and blocked off the Perry Street eastbound curb lane, along with an adjacent nearby north-south alley. Officers parked a U-Haul truck next to the spa and -- wearing blue latex gloves -- loaded the vehicle with wooden massage tables, accompanying orange foam pads, fans and black garbage bags filled with assorted items.

What kind of examination?
"We're looking for traces of bodily fluids and lotions, oils, anything used when giving massages," Port Clinton Police Detective Sgt. Mike Toney said, leaning on a metal railing outside the parlor door.

Now there's a fun job.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Looking For The Half Full Glass

I'm not sure who was spinning this line of crap in Eastlake, but it was no one willing to go on the record.
But most city officials said the results still signal an increased
confidence level in the city's government.

Voters rejected a three-year, 2.3-mill additional safety forces levy
1,977-1,651, according to unofficial tallies.

That was 55%-45%. Technically it was an improvement from a similar levy that failed by a 66%-37%. Of course this was a special election where the turnout dropped by 1413 votes. The March defeat was 3,354-1,687. I wouldn't see that as much to build on. You can only have so many special elections to count on a low voter turnout.

The article also manages (intentionally or not) to reveal that the garbage collection fee wasn't going away.
Had the levy passed, $500,000 a year would have been used to hire three additional firefighters and maintain the staffing level in the police department, and $700,000 would have been applied to the deficit, city officials said.

The levy would have raised $1.24 million per year. By my math (I don't know how the News-Herald Editorial Board would figure the numbers), that would have left $40,000 to pay for garbage collection in a year. That might be true if the city of Eastlake had maybe 300 homes ($12/month X 12 months X 300 = $43,200 [assuming a discount to the city]), but the number is significantly higher than that -- try 12,000+ just for 1-unit detached houses.

As I said, they couldn't get anyone to go on the record to say that they really believed there was increased confidence in City management. One councilman half-heartedly said there was some gain in support, but even he didn't' buy it. The only councilman who didn't support the levy (who represents my ward, though I've never met him) clearly says that cuts in the city administration are what is needed.

Now let's see what gets cut.

If You Don't Agree With Us, You Are Clueless

I keep re-reading this editorial in the News-Herald amused by the absolute clueless, arrogant shock that people would vote against increasing their property taxes even though the News-Herald Editorial Board had recommended the approval of all tax votes in Lake County.
Meanwhile, Eastlake officials asked voters to approve a 2.3-mill safety forces levy. The choices were these: The owner of a $100,000 home could vote "yes" and raise his taxes $70.40 a year. The owner of a $150,000 home could vote "yes" and raise his taxes $105.66 a year.

Or they could all vote "no" and pay a garbage collection fee of $144 a year.

They voted "no" - to hold the line on property taxes and pay a fee that will be more than their tax increase would have been.

Math, anyone? Go figure.

As one who voted against it, and actually thinks the voters fully understood the issue, let me try to explain it for the N-HEB.

Let's look at the math: The debt is anywhere from $3.2 to $4.5 million depending on the day; the Lake County auditor's office estimates the levy would have brought in about $1.24 million per year; with that levy the City claims it could help pay down the debt, pay for garbage collection, hire 3 more fire fighters and not lay off any police officers. Wow. Talk about bang for your buck. "Math, anyone?"

Now, let's get serious. Repealing the garbage collection fee while ostensibly under the City's control would be subject to approval from the state appointed fiscal oversight commission. That means the residents of Eastlake could face having their property taxes increased and still pay the garbage collection fee. Plus there are legitimate issues of the City having to pay additional money for the ballpark stadium debt (that the N-HEB pretends will not be a problem) in the next few years.

Voters weren't fooled by the promises and alleged short-term savings. They had a deeper understanding of what Eastlake will be facing in terms of taxes and fees in the next several years. More than can be claimed by the deep thinkers of the subject at the N-HEB.

Wanna' Get Away?

Can't help but think about that Southwest Air commercial where the band thanks the wrong city after reading about Kerry on the road.

On Sunday night in Taylor, Mich., Kerry noted that he had just come from Bowling Green but apparently forgot that he had arrived in the state of the Ohio Buckeyes' most bitter rival, the University of Michigan Wolverines. The nickname of the Bowling Green team he had celebrated hours earlier also seemed to escape him.

''We just came from Bowling Green, and I was smart enough not to pick a choice between the Falcons and the, you know . . . all the other teams out there. I just go for Buckeye football, that's where I'm coming out."

As a smattering of boos alerted him to his faux pas, Kerry tried to right his wrong: ''That's while I was in Ohio. Now I'm in the state of Michigan, and your great big 'M' and a powerhouse of a team, and the bottom line is all of us are still waiting for Massachusetts to somehow get in there."

Kerry may want to lay off the personal touches. How will the rest of Michigan handle him claiming he carries a buckeye for good luck. Or the Wendy's incident in NY. Or picking up a pizza in Wheeling, WV. Or getting some food in Milwaukee.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Anyone holding old papers?

So exactly 3 weeks ago, Angie and I are out at Chagrin River Park. As is usual, she demands a lot of time in the swing, and so I am pushing her. A photographer from the News Herald is walking around looking for cute summertime photos and asks if he can take some shots of me pushing Angie in the swing. I say sure. I wasn't sure if he got any good shots, because Angie acted incredibly aware of the guy standing 15 feet off to the side, crouched and aiming a camera at her. He finishes, and gets the basic information from me. I ask when it might run. He says maybe tomorrow (Thursday) or Friday, or maybe not at all. It's up to the editor. I understood.

Well, I picked up the paper on Thursday and Friday -- nothing. Even took a look at the Saturday paper. Nothing. Turns out, I should have picked up the Sunday, July 17 paper

For the record, she wasn't as high up as it looks (short chains on the swing, I swear) .You can order a copy -- but it is exorbitant ($20 for a 5x7??)

I don't suppose anyone has the News-Herald Sunday paper from July 17 on hand?

You Know Who They Blame

Even the UN is a little worried about being in Gaza these days.
The main U.N. aid agency in Gaza is evacuating most of its foreign staff citing security concerns, after Israeli forces pushed deeper into the northern part of the coastal strip, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which cares for hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees in Gaza, said it was pulling out 19 staff, in addition to 20 ordered out last month, leaving only nine foreign workers in the territory.

Of course, the reason for pulling out has nothing to do with the rash of kidnappings of foreign workers by terror groups in the last month. Oh, no.

But UNRWA spokesman Johan Eriksson said: "The main reason (for the evacuation) is the expanding Israeli operation in northern Gaza."
The UN and the UNRWA: where no blame or responsibility is expected from Palestinians.


Other Eastlake Thoughts

The city has a bit more than 20,000 residents. There are roughly 12,600 registered voters (roughly 30% participation in this vote). That makes tax issues more difficult to get approved as it suggests an aging population (and usually a more fixed income) less willing to take on additional tax burdens.

Only potential downside to this non-approval. "Unofficial" use of ticketing by police officers as a way of generating income for the department and city. Eastlake, unlike say Willoughby Hills and Cleveland Heights, doesn't run many speed traps or look to hand out tickets for traffic and parking violations. The officers of the Eastlake force actually seem to be out doing their patrols and not looking to give tickets.

Voting Smart

As the scrambling begins to deal with the defeated levy in Eastlake, there is still spin. Mayor George Spinner:

"I truly believe that voters voted with their hearts and not their heads, which they have every right to do," Spinner said.

I have to disagree. The voters did vote with their head. They looked at what was asked of them, what was promised, and said -- This doesn't add up.

The voters were told: Pass this levy and not only will it help pay down a $3.7 million dollar deficit, but it will allow us to maintain the present level of police officers and hire 3 more fire fighters (hence the "safety forces" component of the levy) and we will rescind the garbage collection fee. Plus, this levy would only be temporary. Three years and it would be gone.

The voters looked at it. The levy, by the county auditor's calculations, would bring in about $1.24 million per year. That barely covers the debt, and assumes there will be no other problems. The Mayor has already admitted that the City may have to help pay some of the Eastlake ballpark stadium debt in the next few years. The garbage collection fee, may still remain in place despite their promise if the state fiscal oversight commission decides it needs to remain. How can it also pay the salaries of 3 more fire fighters on top of it? Economies of scale can only carry you so far.

Then there is the "temporary" nature of the levy. They never are. Once a levy is passed, they never seem to go away. They merely come up for "renewal." You know the claims -- this is not a tax increase, merely a renewal. They count on the voters forgetting the promises that this was supposed to be a one time deal. Not showing up in perpetuity.

The voters have spoken. They have told the mayor and city council to get serious with the cuts in spending. Not just some layoffs. Cut the spending. Make the hard choices, for which you said you were willing to make when you ran for the offices. The budget got out of control while you people were there, now fix it. So far, all the elected officials have tried to do in two elections in 2004 has been to get the voters to agree to pay more taxes. Show the voters how serious you are, and then maybe...

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Working Electronic Voting

One of the nice things about Lake County, is that they transitioned to electronic balloting several years ago. They use a machine called "AVC Advantage" from Sequioa Voting Systems. Seems to work very well (even in Florida) as compared to some other electronci voting. That's right, despite living in a Republican leaning county in Ohio, there are no Diebold machines. That's why the election results are already completely tabulated at this point.

Now It Hits

In a stunner, to me, the safety forces levy in Eastlake went down to a sound defeat -- 54.5% to 44.5%. The supporters of the levy got the small turnout they were hoping for, only 3628 voters out of at least 10,000 registered voters. They didn't get the outcome, though.

The wife wasn't too surprised. She thought the levy would go down because a lot of people were probably thinking about the deficit and budget problem the same way we were. Most of the elected officials who are now trying to get the levy passed now, were the same ones who didn't pay any attention when the deficit occurred. They can claim that they were kept in the dark, but a lot of people think they just weren't looking very hard.

Now these officials and the City is under the gun. They have to get an official budget submitted to the state appointed fiscal oversight commission this week, and can no longer count on the levy for additional revenue -- even when it reappears on the ballot in November. This means more layoffs and cuts.

Changes are a comin'.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Eastlake's Big Day

Tomorrow, is a special election in Eastlake, Ohio for "Issue 1." This is the "safety forces levy" that I've previously expressed some skepticism over. Our monthly edition of The Eastlake Gazette (free local publication) had ads for pro and con groups in it. The pro -levy groups (and city council) stress that if the levy passes, the garbage fee will be repealed.

The anti-group makes a point that I've been wondering: will they really be able to do that. Eastlake has a state oversight commission now in place to oversee and approve expenditures. They can reject the City's repeal and keep it in place. It gives council and the mayor an out -- "we intended to repeal it, but we weren't permitted to."

I honestly don't see how they can do it. What the pro-levy people are really counting on, is a low turnout. They have a good shot at that. There has been practically no signage about the levy around Eastlake, and very little to remind people there will be a vote tomorrow. I think I'll be throwing a "no" vote on Issue 1.

Naturally, the Lake County paper, the News Herald supports this and all the special election levies around the county. It makes me wonder, what it takes for the average newspaper editorial board to come out against a tax levy? I'm not sure I've ever seen a call to oppose from a paper in Northeast Ohio.

Of course, even if the levy is somehow defeated (I'm not optimistic), it'll be back on the ballot in November. They have some time, the levy wouldn't go into effect until the 1st of January. Their main problem is submitting the budget to the oversight board for approval. That is due just after the vote.

Summer Colds Suck

And it's even worse when a 2-year old has it.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

And the Winner Is...

Media companies in the "battleground states."

The race between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry is as close as it has ever been, even after the Democratic National Convention last week, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Sunday.

The poll -- conducted Friday and Saturday, after Kerry's acceptance of the Democratic nomination Thursday night -- found the senator from Massachusetts running slightly ahead of Bush among registered voters but slightly behind among likely voters.

In each case, the difference between the two men was less than the margin of error, making the results a statistical tie.

That puts me in the "loser" category since I live in one of the battleground states and can only expect the partisan crap on both sides to get worse over the radio, TV and in print.

I find polls like that useless for really saying anything meaningful at this point, but you can bet that both campaigns and 527 organizations will just see it as the need to put even more messages out about how the other side must not win.

I'd say this election is going to drive me to drink, but it's a little late for that.

Oh, and this...

This alt in Pittsburgh may be dust, now, but one of my friends actually did the print version of blind date (here's the Google cache version for when the site archives go poof).

Jefferson: She's a lot like me in the sense that conversations can easily take a sideways turn. That very stream-of-consciousness thing. She was very energetic. That was one of the things that struck me right away.

Clarissa: A lot of popular culture references -- Sheilds and Yarnell, really archaic. From the early '70s, something probably nobody else would know. One of those evenings where you talk a lot; it was easier than usual.

Jefferson: We talked about things we had read. Some political science texts -- God, I sound like such a cheesehead when I say that. I'm a middlebrow at best. She was a former lit major at the graduate level. She's read a lot. It gives you a lot to talk about.

Clarissa: He actually knew something about economics. I'm a little bit of a brainiac and he didn't seem bothered by that in the least. A lot of the guys I've dated are in their mid 30s, and their careers aren't going well and they're emasculated. I think there's a cultural lag. I know how to sew, cook and fix stuff. But he didn't seem bothered by anything like that. There wasn't any time when I thought he wasn't interested in what I was talking about.

They lasted a little more than a month.

Reviewing MWC with Plenty of Bias

Ready for the bias: one of my friends is in the band, MWC. I'm hardly a disinterested party, but you can judge for yourself as to their quality by downloading some of their songs for free.

I've meant to do this for some time, since Jon sent me a CD of some of their stuff from a show back in May (at the Landmark Arts Gallery), but I kept putting it off. Today seems like the perfect day. Jon is a diehard Cubs fan and I'm watching the debut of Nomar Garciaparra with the Cubs on the same day that Maddux goes for #300 (he didn't get it, out after 6 innings, down 3-2).

If you live in Chicagoland, go check them out sometime.

As for the music. This is more than just a jam band. They have a full sound that comes with two drummers, keyboard, horn, flute, bass and lead guitar. Best song amongst the downloads, "Sanded Wood." Personally I love the full bodied sound that at time seems to be a blend of the big sound of Chicago in the 70s with Widespread Panic tossed in.


Back in April, I mentioned the story of the 2004 Mr. Football in Ohio being arrested and charged with murder on another blog -- in the context of it costing him his scholarship. The kid, Raymond Williams, and two friends attempted to commit a holdup in their neighborhood one night. Williams had a fake gun that he pulled. Unfortunately, they tried to holdup the wrong guy. He was packing a gun of his own, and fired first. The guy shot and killed one of the kids as the other two ran.

The guy was not indicted for murder, because the grand jury found that he acted in self-defense. He did get brought up on a weapons charge (carrying a concealed weapon), but had no record so he only received probation. I don't have a problem with that. Despite the tone of the story which detailed the crying of the dead kid's mother and the loss of the life:

Before the judge rendered her sentence, Assistant County Prosecutor Thomas Cahill asked Gallagher if Lorenzo's family members could speak. Gallagher declined the request, saying they were not victims of the concealed-carry charge Roberts was convicted of.

Then Tucker, Lorenzo's mother, stormed out, wailing. Afterward, she said little. But Eric Johnson, who said he was Lorenzo's youth-football coach and a family friend, said Gallagher's denial was "a crushing blow." He then read from a statement.

Only Lorenzo knew why he was there that night, said Johnson, who called the teen "an exceptional young man" and an exemplary scholar-athlete who "could be counted on to motivate his peers to do good works."

"His death left a huge void not just in his family, but in the community," Johnson said. "I can tell you he had no desire to participate in that activity."

The kids tried to rob him, and threatened him with what looked like a real firearm. The counted on their numbers, size (they were all football players), and the appearance of a weapon to intimidate and cow their prey. He refused to be a victim.

If the kid didn't want to participate, then what was he doing trying to rob a guy on the street? The judge made the right call. No matter how sad the loss of life, and the pointlessness, there was no reason for the family of the dead kid to speak at Roberts' sentencing. They can choose to pretend that their boy was an innocent victim, but the facts speak differently.

What bothers me is that the dead kid's friends are looking at major prison time under Ohio law. They are charged with "murder and aggravated robbery." Not really arguing with the aggravated robbery part, but the murder charge is ridiculous. These kids are facing murder charges for the death of their friend, and co-conspirator, in a botched hold-up. It's one of those "tough on crime" laws that gives too much power to the prosecutor. Suddenly the accused is under enormous pressure to take a deal, because trial means a risk of huge jail time completely out of proportion to the action.


(Copyright © 2002-2005 Chas Rich All rights Reserved.);
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