Monday, January 31, 2011

Summit County Council approves county's portion of new Goodyear HQ financing, "Internet Cafe" regulations for townships...more coming on ANN
When words attack: the Case in Copley.

The Case In Copley

As if local school districts, but especially Akron and Copley-Fairlawn, haven't had enough time in the spotlight. Now comes a student fight that carries a far bigger message than just a couple kids deciding to duke it out.

Late last Friday, well after the end of the school day, there was a fight at Copley High School.

To portray this honestly, it wasn't a fight. That implies both sides got their licks in.

This was an old-fashioned beat down.

The incident involved a group of students -- black and white -- and was caught on video, which is apparently the thing to do in this age of mobile communications. Welcome to A Clockwork Copley.

In this particular incident, a student used a word most consider so vile and horribly offensive that we don't even use it -- we call it by it's initial, the "N" word.

There's even a publisher looking to make "Huckleberry Finn" politically correct for this day and age by removing the N word, part of one of the main character's name. Some schools in America don't even want to teach one of America's greatest writers because of "that word" in his works.

The website BanTheNWord makes a very persuasive case why it should be eliminated from the language; their homepage banner provides a rundown of the ethnically offensive words that drive other people crazy. They aren't the N word, though. That's just my opinion, one who's ethnic slurs are included in the list but recognize they just don't hold a candle to N.

- - -

By most accounts, the word was used not in anger or in racist overtone but as a greeting of juvenile camaraderie. It is easy to see how that happens with young people regardless of race or ethnicity -- music objectifying women, thug life and gangsta culture frequently use this word. What makes this case worth reporting, and worth debating, is whether a white person can or should use that word in the same context someone of color can.

This isn't a new debate; Richard Pryor called out the N word (a YouTube refresher course) in social commentary masked as comedy. Chris Rock does the same, as do many comics today, but Pryor's point was he didn't want to use the word anymore. Jesse Jackson found himself in a firestorm when an off-the-mic comment using the word went viral in 2008. This blood-and-spirit-sucking word has almost been de-fanged by those who use it routinely, as one would use a secret phrase to be a member of the club.

But Friday night, the battle lines were drawn. Mobile device at the ready, a group of students apparently decided the line had been crossed and payment had to be extracted.

This isn't to excuse the beating victim from his words, which as he knows all too well now carry consequences. In this particular case, the consequence is a suspension (we're officials won't confirm) along with a busted nose and concussion.

Whether the victim had something coming may not be in dispute, but the severity of the beating delivered with the hoots and hollers of support (from other students using the N word) also carries consequences. In this particular case, the consequence is an assault charge and a suspension (we're officials won't confirm) longer than that of the beating victim.

- - -

Anyone who's spent a day in high school, and that includes some of the most exclusive in our area, knows there are fights. White kids take on white kids; black kids take on black kids; black and white kids take on each other. It's not just testosterone-juiced young men, either; some teachers have told me the worst fights come with young women throwing fists of fury.

But this one feels different.

The video, posted on YouTube and then removed, shows a group of students confronting the beating victim. It isn't a stretch to offer the opinion the only reason the cell phone camera was rolling was because the group knew what was coming down. This wasn't the usual schoolyard tussle; it was planned and premeditated.

The first punch wasn't thrown by the student charged with assault. Police say they can't prove that swing connected. But it sparked the next punch, and the one after that, and the one after that, and the more than dozen more blows that followed. Along with a kick to the midsection. What may have started out as a lesson in language went out of control. Mob mentality took over.

- - -

There are several questions school officials must deal with in the aftermath of this episode, and not just the no-brainer not to fight on school property:
  • No adult is seen in the 1:45 clip; is it standard practice at 4:40 p.m. on a Friday afternoon to leave school unattended to groups of students to do as they please?
  • The beating victim was treated and released from a local medical clinic for a fractured nose and concussion -- on Saturday. Where was the appropriate supervision in the school to call police and an ambulance on being presented a student with a bloody face, or is it just standard policy to send kids home with a broken nose?
  • The student administering the beating and the student receiving the beating both were disciplined by the school for their conduct, but what about the student who shot the video? Is it standard operating procedure to treat his actions as merely an observer, when clearly he came to chronicle the beat down? Doesn't that make him part of the plan?
  • Finally, if one student is disciplined for using a word so vile we dare not speak it's name, then why are the other students clearly using that same word in the heat of a beating not subject to the same discipline?
- - -

Justice, especially in today's racially-charged atmosphere, carries many such questions. A standard of rules that cover one and covers all is easier said than done when it is widely accepted the same rules don't apply to everyone. Unfortunately, every time society excuses another act of incivility and muddy standards it sends a message to the next round.

Time was, a high school fight was just a high school fight. It usually wound up with the combatants walking off shoulder-to-shoulder, even buddies if not just uneasy participants in showtime for their bored friends. But this one feels like more than that, especially after the last two weeks of needed debate in Akron and Copley-Fairlawn Schools on equal justice and whether the standards of right and wrong still apply.
Talk about right call; birthplace of AA won't hold boozy events anymore.
Racially-charged school fight at Copley High leads to assault charges.

Friday, January 28, 2011

MORE Coventry homeowner arrested in Ricin case, identified.
UPDATE: woman arrested in beating of wheelchair-bound victim, other man still sought.
FBI, locals arrest owner of Coventry Township home where Ricin was found. No motive revealed at this time.
Newsnet 5: FBI says it was Ricin found in Coventry house.
BREAKING: Prosecutor won't pursue theft against Williams-Bolar but will against school mom's father.
Akron school mom Williams-Bolar will keep her job.

Media Lessons: Williams Bolar

Unfortunately, we've now reached the point where apologies are due for the behavior of the media in reporting the case of the State v Kelley Williams Bolar.

And apologies are sorely needed.

If you've been following the case of The State v Kelley Williams Bolar then you are aware of opinion, emotion and tears. Only some of the facts. Problem is, the opinion leaders are absolutely clueless when it comes to -- as Paul Harvey used to say -- the rest of the story. There's no putting that genie back in that bottle.

And that's on us.

Somehow missing from all the national reporting is the more complete version of the remarkable lengths the Copley-Fairlawn School District went to in trying to avoid bringing this to trial. After all, it was the taxpayers of Copley-Fairlawn paying the freight for her attempts to game the system. The district is charged with seeking out abuse and fraud. They did their job.

Months of working to get a resolution stretching into years, parent after parent after parent doing the right thing and working to appeal or resolve the issue instead of compounding lie after lie after lie after lie. After all, it's the prosecutor which must enforce the law. They did so with compassion and allowed the dozens of other families to do the right thing without the weight of the law about their shoulders. They did their job.

The opportunities presented to Kelley Williams Bolar to not only resolve the issue at little or no cost but to do the right thing by her employer, the Akron School Board, which suffered by losing the state funds they should have received from enrollment of the children. That Williams Bolar not only broke the law by lying time and time again should play a part in determining if she's fit to teach Akron's children. At the very least, it deserves a serious debate and not automatic calls for clemency before the full and unvarnished truth comes out. The Akron district should be outraged one of their own, a colleague, falsified statements time and time and time again and ultimately cost Akron the state support it would have had through rightful enrollment under the rules everyone else must follow. That's their job.

Missing somehow from the media record are the records where school lunches were approved by Copley-Fairlawn based on false income statements which didn't include the child support or even Williams Bolar's Akron public schools employment?

There should be outrage from those serving our country when learning that the response to one of many letters delivered to Williams Bolar was that she was not available because she was "deployed"; not only lying on court documents, sworn statements and multiple interviews but even invoking the image of military service to dodge the issue.

How about the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority, told repeatedly in sworn statements that Williams Bolar and her children were qualified to live in public housing, a three-bedroom home and including utilities, for less than $130 a month? This at the same time Williams Bolar was switching her drivers license, registering to vote and attesting to her residence in documents to Copley-Fairlawn? Is Akron so flush with affordable housing that there were no other families deserving of the opportunity to share in the helping hand AMHA offers those in need?

What about the fact that dozens of parents, many of them minority parents (added here because supporters of Williams Bolar are themselves playing the race card now) were caught in a similar situation but did the right thing by appealing the residency ruling, paying tuition or withdrawing their children to the proper schools? Should they argue they settled too early, that stacking lies atop each other would have been rewarded in the end with national publicity and fundraising efforts on their behalf?

This case has become a referendum on the safety of Akron's neighborhoods and, unfortunately, the quality of an Akron education because Williams Bolar says she wanted a better environment for her daughters. In the process, her supporters have twisted this case into a battle cry that a mother was just looking for a better education for her children. In the process, a nation now thinks the Akron education is worth so little that even a mother who works for the school district would lie, cheat and steal to get her daughters to another district.

Wrong after wrong after wrong shouldn't make a right.

It has risen to this level of a national outcry because we in the media didn't do a good enough job of reporting the case. That's especially true in viewing the preponderance of reporting from television networks and programs and even the New York Times all based on the incomplete coverage provided by us locally, including the only media outlet to properly staff the trial -- the Akron Beacon Journal.

The opinions formed by ignorant talking heads now weighing in on this case -- from cable to network television and radio to national newspapers -- rely on a single source of information, one where apparently the facts didn't get in the way of a good story. That's just plain poor journalism.

That's on us in the media, and a sad reminder of what we do with the public trust depends on us doing our job to report honestly, faithfully and comprehensively on our communities. It's a reminder that extra sets of eyes and ears on a story help, not hinder, public understanding of the debate. Here's a case where more reporters in the room would have helped provide context and additional views.

Eyewitness testimony is often called the least reliable; one source reporting going viral is no different. The problem today is the far-away pundits have little interest in confirming facts; their interest is talking points, not truth.

When the case files are made fully available, we all owe it to you to post these documents, reports and testimony online and in a complete fashion for you to draw an educated conclusion.

Unfortunately, the folks at Fox, CNN, ABC, CBS, Rev. Sharpton, and the rest of the gang will have moved on by then to another story of a troubled homeless man with a golden voice, a publicity-desperate father willing to pretend his son was afloat in a balloon floating in the skies toward the Rockies, or a woman who fell into a fountain while using her cell phone crying foul only to be revealed as a criminal with a penchant for lawsuits. What used to provoke shame and embarrassment now provides ratings and entertainment.

They never learn as long as we continue to reward them to feed us wild opinion based on unreliable news. We are all hurt while our sources of information -- both traditional and new -- suffer from lower standards not because of rivals in the business but because of the lack of competition in the news marketplace.

Prior post on this subject: The Excess Isn't In Prosecuting Wrongdoing

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Major fail in reporting the Ohio School Mom case of Kelley Williams-Bolar

The Kelley Williams Bolar Case

I usually don't use this forum to disagree with my friends at the Akron Beacon Journal, but their editorial slamming the prosecution of Kelley Williams-Bolar -- the "School Mom" case now attracting national attention -- is just about as wrong-headed as I've seen from the editorial brain trust on Exchange and Main.

The reporting from the national media has been far worse.

Sunday's editorial was over-the-top, calling to question the prosecution of Williams-Bolar for the crime of wanting better for her daughters. It paints her as a victim of an uncaring system. It tries to frame what is now a national debate on the mom who's being persecuted for simply wanting better for her children.

Problem is, that's not what Williams-Bolar was indicted for. It's not what she was prosecuted for. It's not what she was convicted of by a jury of her peers. It's not what she did time for. It's not what she will serve probation for.

It's time for her defenders to address the most basic of lessons parents instill in their children at an early age: two wrongs don't make a right.

In this case, it's way more than two wrongs.
  • Williams-Bolar repeatedly ignored attempts, over a period of years, by the Copley-Fairlawn School District to resolve the residency issue. Other parents caught in the same net took responsibility and either proved residency, pulled their children from the District or acted like adults and paid the tab;
  • Williams-Bolar compounded by her own sworn statements that her daughters lived in the district by claiming full residence for her daughters on free school lunch programs, even to the point of misrepresenting her own income on the entry forms in addition to residency;
  • Williams-Bolar not only attested to the residency issue on Copley-Fairlawn enrollment forms and the school lunch program, she also attested to the residency of her daughters in Akron, not Copley Township, when she applied for and received a three-bedroom Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority subsidized home;
  • Williams-Bolar may have misrepresented her residency when taking part in the most basic of democratic institutions: voting;
  • Williams-Bolar was caught on video tape gaming the system by dropping off and picking up her children so a Copley-Fairlawn bus could pick them up each morning, just not from the AMHA home the family inhabited in Akron. Even with the claim of safety for her children, the fact remains her daughters still lived in the home Williams-Bolar now says was unsafe;
  • Williams-Bolar admitted to investigators from Copley-Fairlawn and AMHA that she misrepresented herself verbally and in writing;
  • Williams-Bolar and her family submitted documents the Summit County Juvenile Court system later found were not true;
  • At one point, Williams-Bolar even sent one of the school district's letters back with a handwritten note insinuating that the addressee was serving overseas, a despicable misrepresentation that should outrage any member of the military and their family truly deployed in service to this nation.
Williams-Bolar stands accused of "misrepresenting" herself to a school district, the Juvenile Court, AMHA and the Summit County Board of Elections. The newspaper editorializes of the "great injustice" suffered by Williams-Bolar, as though she played no role in the willful misrepresentation of her personal financial situation, her residence, even her status as an Akron school employee as this case moved through the system.

The injustice is letting her get away with it.

Over a hundred parents in the similar circumstances acted like adults, made their appeals, argued their residency or took responsibility and resolved the situation with Copley-Fairlawn schools.

That Williams-Bolar is the only parent who refused to act responsibly is not an example of uneven justice as the Beacon Journal, her family, and supporters suggest. It truly shows the remarkable lengths the systems we have in place to protect the public went to help her avoid her fate. Time and time again the school district reached out to resolve the issues, even to the point of offering to work with her on the money she rightfully owed the district. Time and time again she had the opportunity to speak and attest truthfully, only to "misrepresent" her situation again and again.

When taxpayers rightfully want those gaming the system punished, it's easy to not see the face of those who take from all of us through fraud and abuse. It's easy to take the stand that a mother's love should be all that matters, and her heart was in the right place even though her wallet was clearly all over the place.

But if we are to be honest about protecting the public, that means calling out those who would take advantage of systems established to benefit all of us for their own personal use. "Misrepresent" is a nicer word than what the jury of her peers clearly felt Williams-Bolar was guilty of, after taking into account the entire breadth of this case and not just the headline treatment or the heart-tugging editorial stance that apparently ignores those lessons that should anchor this story: two wrongs, three wrongs, four wrongs -- many wrongs -- still do not make a right.

Williams-Bolar is fortunate she found in Judge Patricia Cosgrove someone who had compassion for her circumstances while recognizing the gravity of her crimes...and these are crimes. These actions cost two school districts:Â Copley-Fairlawn in providing services unfairly secured and Akron, which lost state funds that would have come to the district with enrollment. This is income the very school district which now employs Williams-Bolar, who awaits determination on whether the choices she made will cost her not only a week and a half in jail and years on probation but her job and employment future.

Judge Cosgrove correctly notes Williams-Bolar should not pay a career death penalty for these charges, and I think most reasonable people would agree. But this is a story of choices Williams-Bolar made, and her decision to try and continue standing on a house of cards built on misrepresentation after misrepresentation.

This case should give no one cause for celebration. Two children have had their education disrupted because of the decisions made by adults; a mother sat in jail and will be on probation for the next two years; the people who pay the taxes in two school districts lose because those decisions took money away from other children or programs; the prosecutor's office is slammed for "excess" when in point of fact the excess was on the part of Williams-Bolar from day one; a jury of citizens had to decide whether one of their neighbors would be branded as a criminal; a judge was forced to send a mother of two to jail.

It's not easy calling someone a crook, especially when what they did seems for such a good reason. But lying to government agency after government agency after government agency is what makes this a criminal case, not the desire to see better for the children.

If this was a case of insurance scammers ripping off Medicaid, taxpayers would be outraged if a penny of public money went to subsidize such behavior. Why is motherhood a positive defense in the People v Kelley Williams-Bolar?

All for the decisions Williams-Bolar made that the rules didn't apply to her. Is this the lesson you would want to teach your kids? Are you teaching them the end always justifies the means?
A barn fire on Wright Road in Copley Township has closed that road between Jacoby Road and Collier Road, for approximately the next hour.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of Ohio replacing scarce execution drug with Pentobarbital; first use to come in March, won't impact Spisak execution next month.
State of Ohio replacing scarce execution drug with Pentobarbital; first use to come in March, won't impact Spisak execution next month.
The nominees for the 83rd Academy Awards have been announced.
Listen live NOW to the Academy Award nominations on 1590 WAKR!
Listen to the live Academy Award nominations on 1590 WAKR at 8:37 a.m. What is your choice for Best Picture?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

UPDATE one dead after Barberton Walgreen's shooting. Was just-fired worker...
WKYC: Barberton Walgreens, man fired comes back shooting. Sheriff' reports he's dead, waiting on confirming injuries.
I-77 Southbound at Ghent Rd. is closed due to an accident. Drivers can exit at Ghent Rd. and re-enter I-77 from Ghent Rd. to I-77 South.
Winter Weather Advisory in effect from noon today through 3 a.m. Friday.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Avoid 76 Westbound between Cleveland-Massillon Rd and Barber Rd, police are on the scene of an accident in that area.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Route 8 Southbound has reopened for traffic
Akron police have shut down the Perkins entrance ramp to Rt. 8 south. It's because of a multi-vehicle wreck. Authorities say traffic is gridlocked. Avoid the area if you can or expect lengthy delays.
A Lake Effect Snow Warning has now been issued until 7 p.m.
Many schools are delayed this morning due to the wintry weather. Parking bans in effect, too.

Monday, January 10, 2011

LIVE audio of AZ Shooting updates NOW on 1590 WAKR and streaming online from WAKRNewsNow:
Online streaming audio coverage 10:55 a.m. of the AZ Shooting Moment of Silence: WAKRNewsNow
An accident involving as many as seven vehicles is slowing traffic along Rt 8 North at Perkins.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Swearing Over Swearing In

Update 3:45 p.m. The Governor-elect will now allow folks "in the house" for the ceremony. I'm told his staff was working on this before the yelping started Tuesday, but it sure makes the media feel like it won one...

All my friends in the media are having a conniption (meaning: tantrum) over Governor-elect John Kasich's desire to keep his private home private, even as he's sworn in with a midnight technicality ceremony. My first question is: why is his house now considered public? This really isn't about the First Amendment or government transparency. It's about politics, silly

Kasich's decision to remain at home in a Columbus suburb -- providing stability for his family while he works his "day job" in the Governor's office -- tosses a monkey wrench of sorts in the land of government transparency.

Is this really at the same level as the swearing-in of LBJ with widow Jackie Kennedy by his side, at left, with the slain JFK in the hold below?

Prior Governors who called the Mansion home lived in a building owned by the state; the expenses of running the place, records of phone calls, all considered the people's business and therefore open to examination by friend and foe alike. That's the price one pays for serving their fellow citizens.

But Kasich's decision to stay at home and use the Bexley Governor's Residence for ceremonial purposes adds a wrinkle to how the people's business gets done. When he's living in his house, it's not the "people's house" but his private residence where his family lives. I think most of us, when pressed, would sympathize with his desire to offer as normal a life as possible for his family.

Which brings us to being sworn in as Governor at midnight, a largely technical exercise ahead of the more ceremonial inaugural bash set for January 10th in Columbus. It's to legally allow Kasich to act as Governor in the event of an emergency before the public show.

We're told there's plenty of precedent in modern Ohio political history to have the moment captured on film. At least that's the argument offered by the Associated Press and other journalism organizations, equating coverage of the act as a show of transparency in government. They want to be there to capture the moment, and make a good argument it is part of the people's business and should be open press.

But this isn't taking place in a state-owned building; it's in someone's personal, private residence. If "a man's home is his castle" is a dictum you embrace, then it stands to reason the homeowner decides who to admit to their home and is not bound to do so because that's the way others have done so in the past. I doubt many of us would consider giving up the privacy of our own homes as a price to be paid for serving our fellow citizens and neighbors. The Kasich home is still the Kasich home, regardless of what he does for a living, so long as the taxpayers aren't footing the bill.

And no, just because he's Governor doesn't mean we're footing the bill for his family's home. That would be like saying your employer has a right to inspect and enter your house on demand.

This "midnight swearing ceremony" may be part of history, but other public officials here and across the country have similar ceremonies without having a news photographer on hand. Even when new statehouse lawmakers were sworn in this week, I doubt every newspaper was lined up to have photos of the official event. Fact is, the candidates themselves usually send the media a photo. It's no different than life behind the curtain at the White House; it's not always an AP photographer snapping history. Some of the most iconic photos of our Presidents are taken by the official White House photographer, a surrogate for the press corps.

I'm not inclined to buy in to the outcry over transparency for a ceremony taking part in Kasich's private residence, and think it highlights for every potential public servant a good reason to think twice before putting their name on a ballot. A balance should be struck, and in this particular case a technical ceremony in an official's private home at midnight doesn't exactly rise as a litmus test of transparency for me.

That said, there are compelling reasons why the Governor-elect and his advisors should heed the protest letters likely to come from media and critics alike. Those reasons aren't in defense of open government; they are offered here because of the politics.

Governor Kasich, you have far more on your agenda than wasting time fighting over this. The most important times in any politician's career are those moments building support to get elected, and then the message you send on your first steps in office. What you will be doing in Columbus over the next four -- or eight -- years begins with how you project your leadership these next few weeks.

Your fellow citizens are far more concerned with how you intend to plug up to a $10 billion dollar shortfall -- that's $10,000,000,000.00, approximately $909 and change for every man, woman and child in Ohio -- in the budget without raising our taxes or cutting off our services. We're far more interested in the reforms you and your team will try to push through the Legislature while every Tom, Dick and Harry special interest squeals like a stuck pig and pulls out all the stops to protect their way of life. It matters more to Ohio how you get us and our neighbors working again, with jobs that make a difference to our community and provide a real future for our families without packing up the moving van and heading to Texas.

It starts with being on the up-and-up and building trust. Yes, it's your house. Yes, the histrionics from both sides over whether they'll get a picture of you swearing the oath before going to bed at midnight seems silly. But this is politics and the media, both of which you are all-to-familiar with.

Use some common sense: let the AP or a pool photographer enjoy a brief moment of hospitality in your home to take a photo for posterity. If you absolutely protect the privacy of your own home (I'm with you on that one, by the way) see if the local city hall or library if they mind you using their building to be sworn in at midnight. Get the Ohio State University's official photographer to snap away and send the images to the media. It was good enough for John F. Kennedy; it should be good enough for John R. Kasich.

You accepted the transition of private citizen to public leader when you filed the papers to run for Governor. Leadership is knowing when to pick a fight, and this small potatoes isn't worth the time, energy and political capital as you prepare to undertake the hardest job in Ohio.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs will be stepping down in February, according to ABC News.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011