Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The List of Thanks

OK, let the sap flow even though it's far from spring...what are YOU thankful for this holiday season?

I'm thankful for my wife Diane who puts up with so much news nonsense even though she long ago came to terms that more than 75% of the garbage we get exorcised over isn't really worth the effort. Nice to have such a rudder when the storm winds hit. Plus love really is a wonderful thing...

I want to thank Joe Finley and Warner Mendenhall for the nice reminder to the poobahs at City Hall that elected office really isn't a life term. Regardless of whether you voted for or against, it was heartening to see there were enough people in Akron who decided NOT to be automatic votes for either candidate and make the 2007 Mayor's race an actual race...

Thanks to Don Plusquellic for taking Finley more seriously than some of my compatriots in the media did. Lord knows it would be a boring job covering government without the thin-skinned Don of Akron launching off and tearing us a new one now and then but at the very least he understood he had to run for re-election rather than sitting back and letting it slide. Of course, he was able to do that once the Primary was over and done with and it was back to globe-trotting on behalf of Akron's economy...

Thanks to John Saros and the rest of the CSB crew and Don Davies and his ADM folks and the Summit County establishment for working hard under the radar and better yet thanks to the voters of Summit County who know a good thing when they saw it this past November. Nobody likes taxes, especially when it costs more money because of the way the law is worded -- and at a time when $3.00 gasoline was just around the corner -- but once again the people proved they aren't stupid when it comes to taking care of kids and people with big needs helped by common-sense solutions. Bravo on passing the CSB and ADM issues...

Thanks to the TSA for keeping our skies safe, even if not everybody remembers to keep the heat neat and locked in the closet...Marco's back in court next week...

Thanks to LeBron for bringing us close enough to a world championship to make us remember northeast Ohio used to be the home of champions; no thanks to LBJ, though, for wearing the Yankee hat and then acting surprised when he caught a dose of reality over it...

Thanks to Eric Mansfield, Steve Hoffman and Jody Miller for their friendship and arguments after the cameras go off on NewsNight Akron every Friday. Some think it's rude to argue; for the rest of us it's a debate, so get over it...

Finally thanks to Russ Vernon. What would the holidays be without spending our savings on Killer Brownies over the holidays? And while we're at it thanks to Luigi's even though we won't be stopping in after Thanksgiving through Sunday because everyone with Akron in their blood will be there or Swenson's this weekend. Hmmmm...I wonder how a Galley Boy would taste piled high with mozzarella cheese?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Marco's Moment In Muni Court

Akron Council President Marco Sommerville is scheduled to appear in Barberton Municipal Court this afternoon, where he's formally charged with packing a gun through the TSA checkpoint at Akron-Canton Airport en route to a National League of Cities convention in New Orleans last week.

If you haven't heard about this story yet it's because you didn't read a paper, surf the web, listen to a radio or watch TV; given the usual holiday dearth of hard news this one easily bubbled to the top for the Akron newsies given the powerful combination of political power and "what was he thinking?" content.

Marco was supposed to visit with WAKR's Ray Horner this morning but it's not a real surprise defense lawyer Bob Meeker stepped in; if it were my client (I'm playing lawyer on the web now) I would've weighed in with a "what ARE you thinking NOW?" about going on the air, even for an apology, before all my legal ducks were in a row. I note, however, that Marco did phone Ray to talk with him early this morning and explain the reasoning and Meeker did the same thing a few hours later.

So here's the way it should play: we'll find out this afternoon is the Marco charges will be bumped up to the feds. The FBI reportedly examined the case but it could go either way; there was no intent to break the law and when it comes to criminal charges "intent" is the operative word. For all those screaming for Marco's head on a platter and accusing him of getting preferential treatment it is important to note the handful of folks who've screwed up and forgot about their guns in other CAK cases were also allowed to continue their travel and face the music when they got home. The tune played usually wound up as a plea to a misdemeanor, public service and a fine.

Does anyone really believe Marco intended to pack a gun for the flight to New Orleans? Is the airline snack service that bad that you need to hold attendants at gunpoint for a bag of nuts rather than pretzels.

Big mistake, not thinking doesn't lead to jail time in these cases. Whether it should is another story and something TSA reportedly wants to get a handle on so at least the pursuit of the law is uniform at each airport around the country.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

More Marco Moments

Today one of my Starbucks barristas lent her voice to the talk over Akron Council President Marco Sommerville's trouble with a loaded .38 in his bag while en route to boarding a plane at CAK. She's a Christian woman, she tells me, but then whispers "what the HELL was he thinking?"

Here's the answer.

"I wasn't," he tells friends and family who were asking the exact same question (albeit some with more forceful language). That's the one-on-one Marco had with WAKR morning host Ray Horner, although not on the air -- yet. Sommerville's lawyer has already done most of the talking here and Marco confirmed for us he does have a concealed carry permit and just forgot the gun was in his carry-on luggage while moving through the security checkpoint at the Akron-Canton Airport to lead a contingent of Akron council reps to the National League of Cities get-together in New Orleans. (sidebar: is it just me or does anyone else find it interesting a leading major city Democrat has a concealed permit and regularly packs a gun, even for business purposes? I thought all those folks were supposed to be gun control wackos...)

An honest mistake, but now there are more questions on what happens next.

Marco's attorney is Bob Meeker, and he tells AkronNewsNow this isn't the first time someone has been popped with a piece at the TSA checkpoint; in fact, he says, three others were treated as misdemeanor violations when they went through the court system and it stands to reason Marco would be treated otherwise. The Council President was also allowed to continue on his trip as long as he agreed to face the music when he got back, also typical treatment in cases such as this where the perpetrator clearly acted out of ignorance and wasn't pulling an Osama by slipping weapons past the security inspectors.

But today's Akron Beacon Journal reports police may seek to serve Sommerville with a felony warrant when he gets back in town. Is Marco being subjected to a higher standard because he's a government official? The conspiracy theorists speculate Sheriff Drew Alexander, as a Republican, will push for the felony warrant and the feds will then take over throwing City government into turmoil because Marco will be turfed from office since felons can't serve. Alexander says most of that story is bunk, telling AkronNewsNow the treatment is typical and he expects the rest of the way out to be typical, too.

Makes a nice story to fill space in the paper (and online in blogs, thankfully) but don't look for it to get that far.

If it's a felony warrant it'll be because that's the way the law is supposed to be, followed quickly by a plea on misdemeanor charges just like everybody else. Most of these cases of innocent what-the-HELL-where you thinking stupidity wind up exactly where they belong: in a muni court, not a federal case, with time served and fines paid and embarrassment serving a more fitting punishment. But in the meantime it gives ink-and-electron stained scribes something to fill space and time with, which in the greater scheme of things is a welcome change from the usual pre-holiday fare involving 765 different ways to cook a turkey, how many police will be looking for boozers, what gas costs and the hassles of flying during the busiest travel time of the year blah-blah-blah.

Shameless plug: Marco's scheduled to be in-studio with Ray Horner on 1590 WAKR Monday morning in the 8:00 hour. He's been a stand-up guy off the air, telling us he knows he messed up (even Marco asked what-the-HELL was he thinking, barristas!) and will take the medicine. Sommerville is not the kind of politician to duck questions from reporters or the public, taking phone calls many times while on our airwaves. I'm just hoping the warrant blood lust holds off enough so Marco doesn't have to call us collect from the Barberton lockup.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Another Typical Akron Tuesday

A week after the elections and already the news hounds are bored; how the last five hours provided the spice of life for the ink-and-electron stained wretches doing your news for you. Too bad we don't get paid by the hot story.

First things first the big wreck on I-77 at South Arlington that basically left the world south of downtown a parking lot for four hours. NewsChannel 5 reports the driver of a pickup truck was critically injured.

Then there was the electrical vault fire that spewed black smoke over downtown and spoiled the late afternoon for the lizards still pumping down a drink or two near Canal Park (OMG, how did the late crowd at Brico wet their whistle?) but worse yet knocked out power to just about all of the business district of America's 74th largest radio market -- including the corporate headquarters for FirstEnergy, parent company of Ohio Edison. Power may not be fully restored until Wednesday.

The resulting scramble was such a mess the Akron PD begged people to avoid downtown at all costs since it was pure gridlock. Our partners at WKYC had Akron-Canton anchor Eric Mansfield standing in the dark on their 6p broadcast and their 630p cablecast news; usually his perch beside the ballpark is a fine location to show off the lights downtown but not this evening.

Oh, by the way down the pike today the auction began on the guts of Hoover. The once-mighty worldwide sign of northeast Ohio corporate and industrial dominance has been reduced to people coming from around the country to cart off machines and whatever else is ready to go from the North Canton location where Boss Hoover once ruled a worldwide empire made possible by machines that sucked -- literally. How the King of Vacuum has been reduced to this still makes me shake my head but now even the marble topped fireplace facade in the private office where Boss used to do his business is up to the highest bidder. Hell, even the room where the Boss really did his private business is up for grabs; as of this writing I hadn't heard if anyone was able to cart off the tile floor, sink or commode in Mr. Hoover's private bathroom.

Before I wrap up: Akron Council President Marco Sommerville and a handful of other members of Council were taking their annual junket to the National League of Cities meeting in New Orleans when they ran into a snag; seems Marco forgot to pull his piece out of his carry-on. The TSA at CAK felt and FYI was DOA and arrested city government's second most powerful politician for packing heat in his bag. WKYC's coverage was anchored by Bill Safos but Eric Mansfield tells me the law enforcement community, as a whole, as unavailable to comment on this bust but the Barberton prosecutor has the case since Akron-Canton Airport is in the Barberton Municipal Court district. Early word suggests Sommerville will face charges since the feds have a well-deserved reputation for not thinking too kindly of people smuggling weapons onto planes, whether they just forgot or not. I'm guessing here that Marco has a legit reason for a concealed carry permit but that doesn't mean squat on a plane. Our efforts to get a call on the cell returned failed but we'll try again tomorrow.

I think this Friday night's NewsNight Akron program on PBS 45/49 should be interesting...

Sunday, November 4, 2007

America's Real Pastime: Politics & Paranoia

It's a potent combination and Tuesday's roll call of electioneering is no exception. It is what makes watching politics fascinating in considering the wonderful gap between the true believers of fill-in-the-blank cause and the rest of us.

I won't name names but we've been on the receiving end of some great e-mails and phone calls from candidates, family of candidates, party conspiracy theorists and the spin doctors as we edge closer to November 6th.

Some of my favorites include warnings of dire consequences should X beat Y in the race to show who's political chromosome actually protects the American way; how Y accuses X of running "...the dirtiest race ever." Yeah -- like accusing President Grover Cleveland of fathering an illegitimate child, or the whispering campaign that candidate Warren G. Harding was of mixed-race heritage, hence "The Shadow of Blooming Grove" tag for the Great Bloviator, was polite campaigning.

It always amuses me to see just how thin-skinned those who speak the loudest can be. She threw mud, he's playing dirty, this party's just filling patronage, that party's just paying off know the drill because you hear it every election cycle. Always have, always will, because political rhetoric is easier to generate than substance because it's what we political junkies enjoy so much about the process and it's usually the best way to cut through the clutter of everyday life and convince voters our candidate is less evil than the other.

Keep those calls and emails coming -- along with getting your frequent whiner card punched for number of letters posted or earning extra points for your Fat Cats account you are keeping the traditions, values and entertainment of American politics alive and well.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Bill's the MAN!

A great Columbus Monthly article now making the rounds came across in email form today from a high-ranking Summit County Democrat, targeting the ratings of two prominent GOP-er's for being the biggest publicity hound and laziest legislator -- but actually reading the article provided even more mirth.

If you want to read it online you're screwed; there's no direct story link other than the alternative newspaper website that serves more as a bid to subscribe than get it for free, but I'm hoping this link to the .pdf file of the article works but if it doesn't you can try my blog entry on AkronNewsNow.

First things first: it won't come as a surprise that Cuyahoga Falls State Senator Kevin Coughlin wins Best Publicity Hound, hands down. My guess is he will probably wear the tag with pride. His stylist will also appreciate the #3 Best Hair Award.

Tagging Cuyahoga Falls Representative John Widowfield as Laziest Legislator, however, isn't a good thing even if the writer got the story wrong when he noted Widowfield was running for judge (it's municipal court clerk, but never let a few facts get in the way of a good story) and his service was a great example of why we should support term limits.

The rest of the article, however, paves the way for Medina Republican Bill Batchelder to claim he's the highest overall rated member of Ohio's General Assembly in general, covering a wide range of categories: #1 Most Knowledgeable and #2 Best Orator to outweigh tops for Worst Hair and third Worst Dressed nods. Maybe if he compared notes with Coughlin he could start working on a push that really matters when he's nailing down votes for House Speaker.

Also worth noting: Kent Democrat Representative Kathleen Chandler ranked third in the "Least Politically Savvy" category. That won't come as a surprise to those watching when the promise of Portage County's turn in the State Senate went to Summit County's Tom Sawyer...