Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
At the height of his star power, the best of his generation to play the game, leaving it behind to serve in the military.
Think of Derek Jeter leaving the Yankees behind after the 2001 World Series just months after the World Trade Center towers fell. Or LeBron signing enlistment papers at St. Vincent St. Mary High School instead of the Nike contract in 2003 just months after the U.S. went to war in Iraq.
That's what Bob Feller did after Pearl Harbor.
I mean no disrespect to Jeter or James. But what Bob Feller did, literally hours after Pearl Harbor, stands as a bigger measure of the man than his fastball and Hall of Fame credentials.
60 years separate two distinct and major events in U.S. history, almost to the day. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese Empire sneak attack on the American military base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii left 2,403 dead. On September 11, 2001, the Al Qaeda terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington and a third passenger jet which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania left 2,996 dead, including 14 who succumbed to their wounds that day or lung cancer from working the Ground Zero site.
Enlistment after both attacks showed the resolve of Americans to fight the fight. It is often pointed to as an expression of the patriotism shown by this country in defense of this country.
But 1941 was different. With the exception of Arizona Cardinal Pat Tillman, later killed in action in Afghanistan and his legacy all the more tragic after higher-ups tried to cover up details of his death by friendly fire, 2001 was not 1941 with high-profile athletes leaving behind their careers to put themselves in harm's way.
Bob Feller, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams -- all among those giants of baseball who enlisted.
But Feller's service was different; DiMaggio enlisted in February 1943, served most of his time in-country and in Hawaii as a physical education instructor despite requests to the military that he be treated no differently than any other soldier. Most pro baseball players did the same, although a few did see combat.
Williams tried to delay his entry into the service as a sole provider for his mother, at least until he was able to establish a trust fund n her behalf. The draft board agreed on appeal, but the public outcry provided a different direction and he enlisted in May 1942. He flew as a Navy aviator with distinction in combat in both World War II and Korea, losing five years of his most production athletic years in service to the country.
Feller recalls hearing the news of the Pearl Harbor attacks and being "angry as hell" while driving from his home in Iowa to Chicago to discuss his next contract with the Cleveland Indians.
He signed a contract with the U.S. Navy instead on December 9, the day after President Roosevelt's "Day that will live in infamy" call for the U.S. to declare war on Japan. Feller served for three and a half years aboard the U.S.S. Alabama, and is the only Chief Petty Officer in Cooperstown.
Here's a man who was inducted into the Hall of Fame, honored as the "greatest pitcher ever" by The Sporting News, a player who stayed loyal to his team throughout even over the half-century after he retired from the game. Adored by millions, a household name. He played with and against some of the greatest at the height of baseball's popularity as "America's Pastime" but when he spoke of past glory, there's no doubt the highlight of his life was the time he spent playing for the Navy.
Bob Feller could be a crapshoot interview; think of your great-grandfather, the times their opinions were forged in, and the luxury of speaking their minds in their golden years. Radio broadcasters would frequently hold their breath when he came to the live microphone, especially when talking about the war years and the "angry as hell" feelings he still felt toward the Japanese Empire and it's subjects.
In many ways, time had passed Bob Feller by but time never passed his love of the Cleveland Indians and the responsibility he felt to his teammates, even those who's parents weren't even born when he hung up his spikes in 1956. He still wore the Wahoo with pride, making his team his passion through the worst times and the best times as the franchise rebuilt from it's glory years when Feller took the hill to throw a baseball.
It's no surprise the flowers and items are piling up in front of Bob Feller's status at Progressive Field. As with Jim Brown, Bob Feller was the Cleveland sports icon, burning brightly on the field and in the hearts of the fans. That still holds true even as the final out came at age 92.
God bless you, Bob. For not being afraid to be yourself, for following your heart and for playing the game.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Friday, December 3, 2010
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
Friday, November 5, 2010
Updated from Nielsen 4:32p: TV viewers in the Cleveland market were exposed to the highest proportion of political TV ads (23.4%) over the last month. Ohio’s capital city Columbus placed a very close second in the ranking with an estimated 23.37% of paid ads bought by political entities. Columbus, Portland, Sacramento, and Seattle rounded out the top five.
We need more grown-ups in the process. Ones who understand there's life after an election and flaming the crap out of an opponent only destroys the process because it makes voters want to vomit.
It's time to hold the frat boys (and girls) who dream up these stupid campaigns accountable. In some sense, that's what happened Tuesday in at least two of the Summit County state representative races.
Brian Williams is and has been an honorable, thoughtful community leader and politician. So has Lynn Slaby. Kristina Daley Roegner cares about her community and wants to work to make it better. So does Mike Moran.
So why can't they articulate the vision instead of spending all their resources to re-define their opponent?
Case in point: the ads targeting Lynn Slaby as pro-NAFTA, can't-wait to unload American jobs overseas, and frothing at the mouth to layoff 40,000 teachers.
The problem with these Columbus-originated attack ads -- remarkably in line with the aggressive personal slash-and-burn "f-bomb" style of Ohio Democratic Party chief Chris Redfern -- is that Summit County voters were already familiar with Slaby. It was common to hear voters both Democrat and Republican observe that the Summit County Prosecutor and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had little to do with NAFTA when it was passed seventeen years ago.
This would have been the time for an adult to step up and remind the out-of-town creative advertising geniuses that voters really aren't that dumb, and they were going after someone people had voted for before, not a blank slate where "defining your opponent" would work.
Do negative attack ads work? Sometimes. Governor Strickland, handicapped by the worst economy in generations, had little choice but to present Congressman Kasich as a Wall Street insider. Where that strategy went astray is when Kasich re-defined the definition by pointing out the Lehman office wasn't on Wall Street but Columbus -- and then hammered his positive "morning in Ohio" message while standing at a crossroads.
Josh Mandel correctly earned the scorn heaped upon him for the despicable ads against Kevin Boyce in the campaign for State Treasurer, misleading voters to think Boyce was Muslim. The outrage -- across the board, mind you -- put Mandel on the defensive personally but he coasted in the election. Did he need to stoop so low to win against such an underfunded competitor? I worry that Mandel -- who led the statewide executive offices with the more than two million votes and the widest margin of victory -- won't heed the danger of just how much he hurt himself in the eyes of people who expected better. The electorate has a long memory when it comes to judging personal character, and in Mandel's case he's already disappointed and demeaned himself in a cakewalk. What would he be like when the contest is truly competitive? Mandel won, but at a cost of defining himself as a candidate who couldn't control his own message at a time when he didn't need to muddy himself or his opponent.
Here's the take Mandel had on the ad in October:
Look to the U.S. Senate contest. Rob Portman didn't need to attack Lee Fisher on a personal level, and set a higher standard in his advertising. Highlight Ohio's job creation record under Fisher was fair game because it reflected on policy and the record. Fisher himself, far behind with nothing to lose by going extreme negative, instead took a higher role even in defeat by staying on issue, tying Portman to trade policies that two years ago would have worked. But he remained on message and even employed humor in the closing days. Lee Fisher may have lost the race, but at least he could look at himself in the mirror the next morning with honor intact.
Would the three Akron issues that lost -- 11, 16 and 17 -- have had a better chance if supporters, funded mostly by Akron's corporations, concentrated not on getting even with opponents but presenting their reasoning to reasonable people? Or has the political discourse sunk to the level where only personal attacks and vituperative rhetoric cuts through the clutter of the voter's mindset to set the issue?
According to their campaign finance filing, Citizens for Akron spent money that came largely from Akron's corporate interests -- led by FirstEnergy, GOJO, Goodyear, Roetzel and Andress, Brouse McDowell, Thomarios -- amassing $86,000 to get that message across. There's an irony that increasing campaign spending limits was helped largely by a campaign funded almost exclusively by corporate campaign contributions.
I can't imagine any of those companies using a similar strategy marketing a new product or service to their customers. In the realm of community service and public debate, however, they willingly underwrote the smear strategy targeting the usual group of critics. Think this type of campaign is employed by these companies when their own names are on the ad?
The Beacon Journal was right, in it's "Covered In Mud" editorial of November 1, to point out:
"It is most disappointing, then, that Citizens for Akron, a group promoting the amendments, has chosen the very low road of personal attacks. In a mailing, ''Busted,'' it dishes dirt on a group of opponents dubbed a ''gang of scoundrels.''
In a political season that has produced its share of tripe and worse, ''Busted'' ranks among the lowest. It is classless. It is cheap. It is irrelevant to the pros and cons of the issues at stake. It does not advance the worthy cause it seeks to promote.We in the media need to do a better job of holding the political ad fraternity to task for these ads. Voters need to do a better job of holding the candidates and political parties -- and yes, the companies and individuals who write the checks used to slime somebody accountable for smear strategies.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Now comes the hard part.
The campaigning itself isn't evil -- it's just what people do with it. Millions upon millions spent on vapid commercials, mailbox stuffers, pre-recorded phone calls got us to November 2.
Now it's November 3, and time to figure out just where the hell we go now with a deficit in the billions (yes, Billions with a B) forecast in Columbus and the ongoing deficit in the trillions (yes, Trillions with a T) in Washington likely to dominate every public policy discussion for at least the next five months.
Why five months? Because between now and swearing-in January, politics is about the transition, measuring office space, sending out resumes for political appointments if you've got an R tagged to your name and sending out resumes for real jobs if you've got a D tagged to your name.
Give both sides a couple more months to puff and fluff and do the positioning dance, then they'll be ready to start doing business by the time spring baseball season starts. So how exactly does one go about doing the right thing with the wounds of that hatchet in the back still fresh?
By taking the high road, of course, and following the advice of more seasoned hands who've both won and lost before. Put it behind us. Be true to who we are, but re-introduce the respect we expect from others into our dealings with our political enemies -- remembering people with differing viewpoints are still our fellow citizens, even friends, likely neighbors and certainly interested in making life in Ohio and America better for us, ours, you and yours.
I liked this email that came out of yesterday's election results. Brian Rothenberg heads up Ohio's Progressives -- they go further than the standard Democrat positions. He rightfully doesn't apologize for what he believes, but he does at least dial back the usual hyperbole pre-election and helps set the tone for what a loyal opposition should be doing: respecting the process the owners of the country use to set a direction, while still making sure their voices and observations are part of the debate.
Well done, Brian.
- - -
Over the haze of coffee this morning, surveying the news and election results, I did find someone who had it worse:
- A Zimbabwean has been killed by a pride of lions while he was showering in a camp in the country's north.
So, fellow progressives, there were winners and losers yesterday, but we live another day. The guy in Zimbabwe had it much, much worse.
We'll leave analysis to others for now. Instead we ask our new Governor-elect to help answer these 10 lingering questions we have, as we move forward as Ohioans, Americans and citizens:
10. Redistricting: Many leaders, including Chairman Kevin DeWine and Secretary of State-elect Jon Husted, have long championed a fair and balanced approach to redistricting. Now that the GOP has control of the Apportionment Board, will you and Secretary Husted advocate for those issues in a consistent manner?
9. Reaching Out: Much was made about the tone of the campaign. Victory however was both narrow and sweeping. Will you reach out to the minority caucuses in the legislature? Will you reach out to ideological opponents? In short, will you govern to bring Ohioans into the room or perpetuate the politics of exclusion that has permeated Washington, D.C.?
8. Presidential Politics: Obviously there is now split government between Ohio's Statehouse and the Obama White House. Will the coming presidential campaign interfere with solutions in the face of national politics?
7. Higher Education: Much has been made of the Third Frontier Program and the work of Universities and private businesses in creating jobs. Will you continue the Third Frontier? Will you create measurable goals? Will you provide adequate ethical and administrative oversight of job development money in the University structure?
6. Primary Education: You've indicated we'll be increasing the role of charter schools in the state. Will you keep the Race to the Top money? Will you keep or increase the oversight of charter schools, particularly for-profit schools, in order to protect the usage of our state money? What other education issues are your
5. LGBT Rights: You have long been open as a conservative to some social issues. Will you continue the Governor's executive order about LGBT discrimination in executive departments? And will you champion legislation in this area to provide LGBT anti-discrimination provisions in Ohio code?
4. Business-Friendly: Ohio is now 'open for business.' What does that mean? What ethical and legal parameters will you put in place to make sure that being business friendly doesn't veer off into Noe-land?
3. Renewable Energy: You have indicated support for Governor Strickland's renewable energy programs after first expressing concerns. However, you've also come out for drilling in Lake Erie. Do you see Ohio being a leader in the clean energy field? What, if anything, will you do to emphasize job development in that sector?
2. Privatization: You have hinted at privatization. What exactly are we selling/leasing/shedding? Can you assure us these aren't one-time fixes that will cost us more in the long run? Which leads us to'¦
1. The Budget: Ok, you've said there will be no new taxes to fill the $8 billion budget hole. Now that the election is over, we need to know, how are you going to fix it?
Will individuals continue to bear so much of the tax burden compared to businesses? Will you use one time funds, including federal funds? Will you maintain needed services at the state level and not just shift government and tax burdens to the local level?
You are now in the same boat as Barack Obama was two years ago. You've won a long, difficult campaign and have large majorities in both bodies of legislature. Unemployment, the budget, education, and all of the other problems facing our great state lie squarely at your feet.
We stand ready, willing and able to work with you.
Where we disagree with you, it is our right and our duty to voice our concerns. Where we can find common ground for the good of our State '“ and yes there will be moments of common ground '“ we will seize those moments.
In the end we are all Ohioans who live breath, work and dream together. Let our role be a productive one, and let us hope for all of us, that advocacy and understanding can lead to a better place for all of us.Brian Rothenberg
Executive Director, ProgressOhio.org
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
The germ of this came in a conversation with Bruce Winges, editor of the Akron Beacon Journal. We've discussed areas where it made sense for both of our media organizations to collaborate rather than simply compete.
Contrary to perception, there are plenty of such opportunities.
I am reminded of a Town Hall forum organized by the League of Women Voters of the Akron Area where Mike Douglas, the Beacon Journal's editorial page editor, acted as the moderator for a live stream on our website. It was informative, interesting community service and using our facilities together to spur thought and discussion is a mission shared by both WAKR and the Beacon Journal.
Our discussions with the candidates -- not quite the normal give-and-take one might find in an editorial board meeting with newspaper editors and reporters ahead of endorsement, but more than the Q&A sessions one would normally hear on WAKR's Ray Horner Morning Show.
LINK to AkronNewsNow video interviews with candidates Frank Comunale and Frank LaRose for the 27th District State Senate
Having interviewers from other media isn't unusual; Steve Hoffman proved that point a week ago as one of those participating in the U.S. Senate debate held in Cleveland between Lee Fisher and Rob Portman. What is unusual in this case is the ability to make these interviews available not only on the air or in print but also on both Ohio.com and AkronNewsNow.com as well as on Time Warner Cable.
Bill Jasso, who's journalism and community service chops date back to the glory days of WHLO and now works as vice-president for communications for Time Warner Cable locally, thought it was a good idea too.
Thanks to Bruce, Doug Oplinger, Mike Douglas, Steve Hoffman and Rick Armon for their work on this project.
We all still compete -- including for ad dollars -- but it makes sense for competitors to come together in public service. We're proud to be part of this outreach and endeavor and will look for other opportunities to work with our rivals to help make Akron and Summit County a better place to live.
Even when we still want to get the story first. Just as they do.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
Friday, October 8, 2010
I hesitated to even write this post. On one hand, it can legitimize a rumor without merit. On the other hand, maybe it can help put a lid on at least one story that deserves to be put to rest. It's one thing to go after public officials on the issues, quite another to continue to perpetuate rumors that have no basis in fact.
We haven't -- nor have other Akron-based news organizations with honest-to-God reporters -- even reported this. In fact, we've removed comments on our pages suggested the story since it is unattributed and as far as we can tell just plain false. But local talkers on WNIR, in particular the night-time host, have made reference to what you'll read below.
This is the case of the continuing rumor of a fist-fight involving one high-profile public official and reportedly a retired police officer.
As the unsubstantiated story goes, a disagreement on the evening of Thursday, September 21, 2010 outside a downtown steakhouse led to a trip to the parking lot where one side supposedly starting whalin' on the other. The unsubstantiated story (seeing a trend here?) then speculated that's why the public official didn't make any public appearances -- because he was nursing his injuries.
Nice, lurid tale and the kind of story scandal-lovers scoop up with a spoon. It's peppered the comments sections on the Akron Beacon Journal and our comment sections on AkronNewsNow. It made Howie Chizek's midday show, where he pretty much debunked it. Later Thursday night, late night host Tom Erickson acted as though he was "in the know" but refused to tell all that he knew.
Here's the problem with the unsubstantiated story: on the date is supposedly happened, the public official wasn't even in town. He was in Washington, D.C. attending a conference. In fact, here's a photo taken during a reception that period:
No shiner. No scrapes, no cuts, no abrasions. Looks like all the teeth are in place. In matter of fact, he looks pretty healthy and even happy. The photo was taken in a meeting room; I've cropped out the photo of another individual also in the shot, since they are not material to this story or the point I'm about to make.
At the time Don Plusquellic was supposedly involved in a fistfight he was 355.23 driving miles from downtown Akron to downtown Washington, D.C.
Even with a lead foot pounding the pedal, that's still a good six hours plus drive from one place to the other.
If he had booked a commercial flight from Reagan National Airport (DCA) into Akron-Canton Airport, it would have him in the air for one hour and ten minutes -- assuming he flew non-stop on U.S. Air.
Do your own search on here on CAK's site!
If he flew another airline he would have a one-stop through either Philadelphia (two hours and 52 minutes) or Orlando (eight hours and seven minutes) or Raleigh-Durham (five hours, 35 minutes) and that isn't taking into account going through the security and pre-board hour-plus at Washington and the drive from CAK to the steakhouse.
The reason the smiling face (seen above) didn't attend the Akron Roadrunner Marathon Mayor's Reception on that Thursday? Don Plusquellic was attending a U.S. Conference of Mayors event in Washington, D.C. He was listed in the USCM news release, which included details of more than 40 others mayors chatting up issues with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Don't believe it yet?
That would be LaHood in the middle, the Mayor of Los Angeles to the left, and peering out over his reading glasses?
Both photos come, at my request, from the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Bottom line: this entire rumor is just dumb. There's no police report of two old guys duking it out in the parking lot; even if the sluggers decided to keep it personal, the day it supposedly happened is a day one of the boxers was more than 350 miles away. Under direct questioning, the office of the one person clearly identified in the rumor say it absolutely didn't happen. The photo above speaks for itself; so did our reporters who spotted the Mayor at City Council and even earlier this week the Firefighters Memorial Service.
I've certainly had my own run-ins with the Mayor; that doesn't surprise anyone who knows either of us. My observations and line of questions have generally kept on track of particular issues, and most of his criticisms of me have been disagreement over my interpretation.
Sometimes those disagreements become heated. At no point did he ask me out to the parking lot. On one occasion, when he had reason to be particularly vexed with me, I actually offered him a ride from an event back to City Hall. He accepted and was gracious, or about as gracious as I figure he'd be with me behind the wheel. We've exchanged a harsh word or two but that really isn't unusual between two adults with strong opinion and personality. Frankly, I find the entire story of a fistfight hard to believe.
The "it happened" crowd is now pitching their version saying the dust-up didn't happen September 21 as first thought, it happened the following Monday. Except our reporters clearly remember seeing the Mayor, with no ill-effects. It's why I've advised those trying to sell me on the scoop to have the real Rocky-in-question give me a call to confirm.
Still waiting for that phone call.
The "in the know" radio talkers, the folks who post comments, the whisper campaigners who insinuate they know more should own up to what they know, whether it's credible, and put it to rest. If there was a rumble, let those come forth and talk about it. In the open.
Otherwise, can we get back to talking about the stuff that really matters?
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Monday, October 4, 2010
Friday, October 1, 2010
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
Take, for example, Saturday's news release from the City of Akron listing the per-officer "cash sacrifice" cost of what the City says was it's best and final concession package offer. The members of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 turned the package down by 29 votes.
Saturday's accounting listed the following; I've taken the liberty of listing what the number would be, when available with additional notes in boldface:
-Defer (put in the bank for payment later) longevity (bonus) payments of 2010 and 2011;
-Work three, non-traditional holidays in 2010 at straight time pay rate. (Officers receive 13 paid holidays/yr.);
-Take 14 hours furlough in 2010. (Most city employees have taken 32+ hours);
-Have no wage cut or increase for 2010 and 2011 (actual amount unknown; City asked for clarification on "cash sacrifice" cost per officer based on current contract terms);
-Replace $300 cash fitness payment with a free gym membership for 2011
-Reduce 2011 clothing allowance (ranges from $1200-$1500) by approximately 25 percent. (Officers uniforms are provided by the City) (Cost to each officer: $300-375 based on ranges noted by the City);
-Make minor change in mail order prescription plan
-Agree that specific non economic issues would remain before fact finder
At this point the cost to officers in the fitness payment and clothing allowance alone is $600 apiece, and that doesn't include the "cash sacrifice" impact for straight time for three holidays, a wage freeze, or 14 hours of furlough pay for the remainder of 2010.
We asked the Mayor's office to explain how it arrived at the $450 figure that would set the "cash sacrifice" for the 449 officers now on duty.
In a response today, the longevity pay deferral over two years would amount to $720,000 over two years, or about $360,000 each year. That alone is worth $801.78, on average, to each officer. There is a promise to pay the amount back in 2012 -- just as the City and F.O.P. agreed to defer the 2009 amount to 2012, which means four years of longevity pay (2012 current + deferrals) would come due in 2012.
That's a whopping minimum $1,440,000 total police longevity pay bill due in 2012 -- $360,000 for 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. The actual amount will fluctuate depending on each year's makeup of the workforce; less longevity and seniority, lower payments.
The response also lumps together the clothing allowance, 14 hours of furloughs, straight time instead of holiday pay for three holidays, and changes to the prescription plan into additional impact on the balance of $1.4 million the City says it would save over two years.
Perhaps the oddest twist comes regarding the impact of the $300 per officer cash fitness payment. The City doesn't consider this a loss of cash to the officers, since they would be receiving value in a free gym membership in return. The gym is the CitiCenter Athletic Center facility, which is owned and subsidized by the City and was the focus of a 2007 story by the Akron Beacon Journal (archive access only) and AkronNewsNow.com over costs of over a million dollars over the past decade. In that year City Council approved a $233,000 subsidy for the CitiCenter Athletic Center even though membership fees only brought in $90,000. The athletic facility is managed by the Akron Area YMCA.
The CitiCenter website lists the monthly cost for city, county and state members of $37.60 -- a 20% discount from the regular membership. Based on the membership cost listed for government workers, coverage of all 449 police officers at the government rate would be $16,882.40 monthly, or $202,588.80 annually ($37.60 monthly x 449 officers x 12 months). The fitness payment now costs the City $134,7000 annually ($300 cash payment x 449 officers).
A spokesman for the Mayor writes the City has an arrangement with Medical Mutual that provides for lower health care premiums based on participation at the CitiCenter gym, noting that if police officers join it will lower costs.
So the "simple" math: $1,400,000 in savings over two years divided by 449 officers works out to $1,559.02 each year over the period, not $450 as reported by the City on Saturday, according to the City's own numbers.
We should note some of the City's concession package breaks no new ground; the FOP agreed to concession terms in 2009 that included deferral of 2009 longevity bonus to 2012 as well as working three holidays -- Columbus Day, Veteran's Day and the Friday after Thanksgiving -- for straight time rather than overtime at a time-and-a-half rate.
Around this time last year it was Akron firefighters on the grill rather than police. FOP members approved concessions by a 94% margin (399-27) while members of the AFD took layoffs rather than the concession package proposed by the City. Those firefighters were called back earlier this year when Akron was able to secure federal funding. The firefighters union appealed to the Akron Civil Service Commission, which rejected their appeal and noted the layoffs could have been avoided had firefighters agreed to concessions.
This year it's the F.O.P. essentially playing chicken with the City, but it won't be the Civil Service Commission ruling that awaits. It's the ruling of a fact-finder, who's mission was triggered when the City couldn't convince the F.O.P. to take a concession package earlier this year during contract negotiations. Critics of the Plusquellic Administration assume the report will find against City Hall, but it is important to note F.O.P. president Paul Hlynsky has repeated said the findings may very well come in to the favor of the Mayor's position.
There's been plenty of drama distraction the past few months in following this story. There was the document released by the Mayor's office that threatened more than 90 police layoffs in light of a $4 million dollar projected deficit and protests from the Administration there were no other places to cut. But weeks later, that number shrank to 49 -- 40 layoffs and nine demotions -- after Police Chief Gus Hall was able to shift general fund spending to grants.
Then came the membership vote when the bargaining committee agreed to present the package to Akron police; it flunked by a relatively slim 29-votes, especially slim when considering these same officers approved concessions last year by a 94% margin. Before the ink was dry on the results, the Mayor suggested a political wrinkle that community leaders be allowed to observe the negotiating process.
In political circles this is clearly a tactic designed to position your opponent; who is in the room is a function of agreement by both parties, not the arbitrary wishes of one side over the other. The City points to an F.O.P. guest on hand last week, but fails to mention the "guest" was in fact a vice-president of the union and someone with a direct stake in the negotiations. Community leaders Rev. Ron Fowler and Judge Marvin Shapiro, while honorable men, are not parties to the negotiations. It was within the rights of the F.O.P. to refuse to accept the condition of meeting imposed by City Hall to include Fowler and Shapiro, just as the City would have been within it's rights to refuse to allow the F.O.P. first vice-president permission to attend.
The Mayor is correct when pointing out there's less money in the City budget to do what the City needs to do. Something has to go, and in a services-industry budget like government that "something" usually means someone. He clearly telegraphed the punch early, noting layoffs -- just like last year -- were on the line. The F.O.P. is correct in working within the parameters of the collective bargaining system, and proved last year members were willing to absorb some short-term hurt to help. But what hasn't helped is losing focus on meeting the growing deficit, made even harder by a call to base the budget on concessions that weren't agreed on by both parties. Just search the word "concessions" on AkronNewsNow.com and put the last year in context.
Lost in the swirl of soap opera on High Street remains what actions the City will take to avert a projected $4 million dollar budget deficit, and whether the political posturing of tying a funding proposal involving breaking the promise to use Issue 10 for purposes other than schools will cost voters the chance to decide whether they feel it is enough of a worthwhile investment to change the terms of their approval in 2003 of the school construction tax. That language -- while politically crafty -- may come back to outfox the Administration and City Council by tying their own hands in an attempt to position the F.O.P. rather than address the threat of an out-of-whack budget.
The decision of the City to move forward with a negotiating strategy that called into play a fact-finder has been costly. The name-calling by both sides has built an atmosphere of distrust and enmity. Tying the budget deficit to the police contract, neither side breaking out issues of agreement, the war of numbers that don't seem to add up...all bring to mind the popular scene from the movie "Dave", where accountant Charles Grodin is asked by his president-impostor friend Kevin Kline to figure out the federal budget.
They do so over a late-night meal.
If only it was a simple as a couple beers and sandwiches.