Thursday, March 24, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
Just a couple from the email bag this week before, during and after Governor John Kasich's budget Town Hall meeting and the continued sniping from side to side in Washington as both capitals grapple with the legacy of spending more than they have:
(Columbus) The Ohio School Boards Association both praises and questions the budget's treatment of elementary and secondary education, correctly noting the details are still to be delivered in assessing impact on the state's 600 plus districts. My favorite quote:
"..it is unlikely that those methods mentioned -- health care pooling, changes in procedures for reduction in force and new regional shared services -- will make any substantive difference in the upcoming budget cycle. These are possible changes that may help districts over the long term."
So let me get this straight; it's unlikely consolidating services will make a difference but it's possible it'll help over the long term. That's going out on a limb.
(Washington) Following the House vote to de-fund National Public Radio (NPR), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) issued their take by claiming it would cripple AMBER Alert programs.
"In his partisan zeal to defund NPR, Representative Bob Gibbs opposed an effort to protect NPR's vital role in disseminating AMBER Alerts. The AMBER Alert program is a partnership between law-enforcement and broadcasters that activates an urgent bulletin in child-abduction cases. Under an agreement with the Department of Justice and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, NPR was designated as a disseminator of AMBER Alerts."
Now I happen to know a thing or two about AMBER Alerts, and this is a stretch. A big one. Not only to public stations issue AMBER Alerts, but local commercial stations do as well. We all do so in Ohio because we participate in the Emergency Alert System (EAS) -- those announcements usually preceded by beeps and tones before getting tornado, flood and severe weather warnings. The equipment is in place and has been for years to allow local law enforcement and emergency services, including the state emergency operations center, to issue such alerts. In the vast majority of cases, these alerts are automated -- meaning radio and TV stations pass them along to the public without the touch of a human's hands. The system is designed expressly for that purpose. Whether NPR gets funding or not won't impact stations automatically broadcasting such alerts. Whether NPR gets funding does impact if any humans are left behind to report on it.
(Columbus) My personal favorite is in this item from my friends at ProgressOhio, the group of Progressive Democrats. The topic is the Kasich Administration's ham-handed treatment of the press by ordering, then reversing, a ban on cameras and microphones at a budget briefing. It took about a half-day of protests from reporters to overturn the ban, but critics are still playing it for all it's worth. In the process, however, ProgressOhio's Brian Rothenberg might have used spell check for his subject line:
"Ohio is not Lybia: End the Statehouse Blackout!" Errr...not only was the blackout short-lived...there's also no Lybia. It's Libya. You might have heard of them. Wacko dictator (see at left), lives in tents, takes down commercial airlines, fights his own people? They've been in the news lately...
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
This is still a very important issue, especially as Ohio and the rest of the nation observe "Sunshine Week" this week to spotlight open government and transparency by those who do the people's business.
This issue remains just as important now.
Earlier this year I penned an open letter to Karen Kasich, Governor John Kasich's wife, pertaining to the Kelley Williams-Bolar case. Now it's "Dear Rob" to Rob Nichols, Governor Kasich's press secretary, asking why in the world you would pound reports at the capitol back to the Stone Age?
The Stone Age being the era when things with batteries and power cords were in short supply; in fact, they weren't in ANY supply.
Maybe the Kasich Administration is just hopelessly romantic, pining for more wistful days when reporters came out of "The Front Page" mold -- Hildy screaming for the copy desk, pushing back his Fedora at the same time the copy editor was pushing back his green-shade cap.
Ah, the good old days...if this were the 1950's, Don Draper would be so proud. Unfortunately, it's 2011.
Word from Columbus today is the decision to hold a traditional media briefing on the state budget proposal going to the General Assembly tomorrow -- you know, the one where we learn how Ohio will deal with a projected eight billion dollar shortfall -- won't allow recorders or cameras.
My letter to Rob:
Rob, I'm writing with concern over reports I'm hearing that the Governor's traditional sit-down briefing with the Capitol Press Corps this year -- specifically tomorrow after he presents to the General Assembly -- will be "pen and pad" only and will exclude mic and camera coverage.
Can this be true? Have we advanced media relations in the new millennium to exclude the tools of the journalists' trade anything requiring a power cord and battery? What's next -- imposing rules on print reporters that any coverage be limited to a mimeograph machine?
Although my broadcast operation is 112 miles from the state capitol building, we follow the policy discussion and issues from Columbus both online and through the statewide broadcasts of the Ohio News Network, Ohio Government Television and of course Ohio Public Radio and Television. So do our listeners. To deny electronic journalists the ability to use the very tools of electronic journalism in coverage of the most important budget issue in Ohio's recent history is to deny the citizens of Ohio the ability to weigh the observations and positions of Governor Kasich as precisely the time when they need to see and hear him the most. It is unconscionable to insist broadcast and Internet members of the statehouse news gathering process operate as they did fifty years ago.
If this policy is aimed at forcing electronic media to provide live coverage of the Governor's Town Hall meeting this evening, such policy is a cynical manipulation of the open government process and transparency past Administrations have traditionally followed. It paints this decision as political in nature, and not a genuine opportunity to engage in open and honest dialogue with the citizens of Ohio.
Pragmatically, this decision makes an "on the record" conversation anything but on the record. Without the normal tools available, even print reporters would be forced to leave behind the small recorders they may use to make sure the quotes and comments of Governor Kasich and members of the Administration are accurate and within context.
I respectfully request your reconsideration of this policy. With the significant challenges our elected representatives, including Governor Kasich, must deal with at this critical time in Ohio's history this is a direction away from accountable and transparent government.
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In the Information Age we swing back to using papyrus and charcoal. Perhaps the representatives from the Associated Press, Columbus Dispatch, Akron Beacon Journal, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cincinnati Enquirer and Dayton Daily News would be able to pool their supply of quill and ink as to set an example?
Honestly, with all the spin accompanying the need to transform the way Ohio does business, is this really the direction the Administration needs to set course on when dealing with the statehouse media?
A supporter might say this is all designed to make Ohio's television, radio and web news operations belly up to the Governor's Town Hall meeting tomorrow night where he explains his budget to his bosses -- the taxpayers. Somehow I don't imagine local TV stations blanking out of the night's Doppler 15,000 weathercast to make way for the Governor's webcast. It's a silly, manipulative and cynical view of presenting an important public debate to...well, the public.
Politically and from a public relations standpoint, it makes little sense. By hog-tying television, radio, and even print reporters posting online from using the tools of today's media trade during his briefing, Governor Kasich sets the stage for his very vocal opposition to use those same tools in getting their message out over his. It's a strategy that begs for an aggressive response from the loyal opposition; pragmatically it gives Democrats and those who will fight the Governor's budget proposal the advantage in getting their spin out before voters have had a chance to hear Kasich's voice.
This isn't the first time the Governor's Office has stumbled in putting muscle behind it's talk of transparency and open debate. This latest example, as with some of the most recent, just don't make sense other than to consider it more an expression of ego than smart politics. With so many other weightier fish to fry, why pick a fight with those who's job it is to act as the eyes and ears of the very citizens you are trying to get on your side?
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Friday, March 11, 2011
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Take the tone of tweets from Ohio Democrats:
Just s sampling, and to be very fair the Republicans do the same thing when it's the Democrats standing behind a podium delivering a speech. What is concerning is the process of democracy that depends solely on tweets and Facebook posts rather than actually listening to what the politicians -- either party -- say.
I love social media and practice it often, but watching the real-time spin without even a deep breath to consider what either side says just isn't healthy. It may make politicians look like they are earning your donations, but in reality is just adds to the smoke instead of the fire that's needed to get Ohio's economy cooking again.
Of course, I write this before Kasich is done with his first State of the State. But then, that's social media.
Monday, March 7, 2011
Friday, March 4, 2011
Those following on Facebook know I'm in Goodyear, Arizona field producing WAKR's Ray Horner Morning Show during the first week of Cactus League play. We've been answering those 3:00 a.m. wake-up calls for our broadcast to begin at 4:00 local time, 6:00 back in Akron. Afterwards it's interviews, covering games, more interviews.
Then there's chowing down.
First, my take on what's now my favorite restaurant.
Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King made Pizzeria Bianco a national favorite when they declared it America's best pizza. They knew what they were talking about, but the good people of Phoenix aren't necessarily happy with the fame. It means an hour-long wait may now be three hours long; the locals grumble and understandably won't line up for that long.
Bianco does NOT take reservations, so the line starts forming at 4:30 for the 5:00 first dinner seating. Forget it when there's a big event downtown, such as the Diamondbacks (about a block and a half away) or the Suns (about four blocks away) or a big show at the Convention Center / Arizona Science Center next door.
Here's the deal: Bar Bianco is right next door. Stand in line, move up and they'll take your name. Then waltz over to for a cold handcrafted brew or glass of wine. There are tables and benches set up outside for your comfort. WAKR's Ray Horner (at left) did the honors and made sure we were improperly hydrated for the wait. They have drinks other than beer, so for those non-alcoholic alternatives there's no problem. That'll hold for kids, too.
As to the ambiance, it's casual sophisticated and relaxed.
In our case, we arrived at 4:45. The restaurant itself is small -- a dozen tables or so with the wood-fired oven in a corner by the chef's bar. Hence the long lines. It's unassuming, but very well maintained. While waiting outside, you'll notice some of the restaurant workers tending to the herbs planted strategically outside the building. Rosemary, oregano and basil are the main crops and you'll see once inside they harvest on-demand. Can't get much fresher than that!
We ordered olives as appetizers along with a Spiedini, a skewer of rosemary and Fontina cheese wrapped in thin slices of Prosciutto di Parma ham, then placed in the oven. It's served warm, and -- as Charlie Sheen would say -- a winner. Fresh-baked Italian country bread is also served, along with olive oil for dipping. The bread itself is a draw, and offered for takeout.
The wood-fired pizzas, though, are the main event. There were four of us, so we opted to select four different pizzas -- Margherita, simply cheese, tomato sauce and basil; Biancoverde, with fresh Mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, Ricotta cheeses and fresh Arugula; the Sonny Boy, with tomato sauce, fresh Mozzarella, Salami and Gaeta olives; and finally the Wiseguy, featuring wood-roasted onion rings, house smoked Mozzarella, and Fennel Sausage.
The wood-fired foundation was expertly prepared with just a touch of blackened outside but otherwise the thin crust was perfectly married to the toppings of sauce, cheese and meat, vegetable or herb. It's a traditional Italian pizza, so don't expect the big ball of dough most American tastes are used to.
There are two other types of pizza offered: the traditional Marinara no-cheese version with tomato sauce, oregano and garlic and the Rosa bearing red onion, Parmigiano Reggiano, fresh rosemary and local Arizona pistachios.
Is pizza worth waiting hours for? If your idea of a pie is tons of cheese, sauce and meats atop a hunk of bread then make another choice. If you enjoy authentic Italian cuisine and the experience that goes with it, then this ought to be on your list when visiting Phoenix.
Pizzeria Bianco is located at 623 Adams Street, just off North Seventh Street in downtown Phoenix. Parking is limited but there is metered on-street parking nearby and the Science Center / Convention Center next door to the area have secure garage parking. Remember to take your parking ticket to the restaurant for validation. Hours are 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. No reservations are accepted; takeout is not available but you can order extras to bring home with you.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
The Dr. Phil Show lists Friday as showtime for it's program highlighting "How Far Would You Go For Your Kids?" It will include some of the faces, voices and names you are very familiar with at this point. From the Dr. Phil website - the highlights are strictly mine as noted below:
Friday - March 4, 2011
How Far Would You Go for Your Would you risk breaking the law for your children’s education? What about for their safety? Kelley, a single mom, was prosecuted, convicted and sent to jail for listing her father’s address as her daughters’ residence, so they could attend a better school in a safer neighborhood. Kelley says she was working during the day and going to school at night, and after her house was burglarized, she wanted her children in a safer neighborhood for afterschool care. Kelley was convicted of two felony counts for tampering with government documents and spent nine days in jail. Did her punishment fit the crime? And, what other lies did she get caught in? Joining the discussion are Reverend Al Sharpton, columnist Bob Dyer, Kelley’s attorney David Singleton and a fellow single mom in the same school district. And, meet a mother who made her 15-year-old son stand on a street corner wearing a sign that declared his 1.22 grade point average and read “Honk if you think I need an education.” Is embarrassment a good parenting technique for motivating kids?
- - -
Once again, the "better school" argument. Time and time again the point is raised -- even by Williams-Bolar -- this wasn't about "better schools." Time and time again, the selling point used by newspapers, columnists and commentators uses "better schools" to hang their arguments on. At least Dr. Phil's producers added some balance with the Beacon Journal's Bob Dyer. Advance plug: followers of this case will want to shell out for Dyer's column Friday and a likely addition Sunday. AkronNewsNow also provided producers with audio from some of our coverage, and in our conversations the Los Angeles-based staff seemed honest in their approach to focusing on facts. It's a shame the New York-based staff at CBS, ABC and CNN (among others) couldn't expend the same energy.
- - -
While the Williams-Bolar story draws the most attention, a somewhat similar case unfolded in a Summit County courtroom today that saw a mother sent to jail for falsifying records to collect benefits connected to her children. This case, I predict, will not garner the same attention from the thoughtful out-of-town media minds or the National Action Network. It doesn't quite fit the narrative they need for their own agenda.
From the Prosecutor's Office:
Valerie Ziemba, 41, of North Canton, was found guilty by a jury of Illegal Use of Food Stamps or WIC Benefits and Tampering with Evidence, both felonies of the third degree, and Theft, a felony of the fifth degree.
Valerie Ziemba falsified government documents to claim that her children resided with her in order to illegally obtain approximately $14,427 in food stamp and cash assistance benefits. The children do not live with her, but with their father.
Judge Thomas Parker sentenced her to pay restitution in the amount of $14,427 to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, four months of house arrest, two years community control, and to serve 10 days in the Summit County Jail.Sound familiar?
Valerie Ziemba reportedly collapsed in the courtroom when the verdict and sentence were delivered. There likely won't be cries of racism here; Ziemba is Caucasian. It's unlikely we'll hear an outcry of support to free Ziemba, complete with calls to overhaul the food stamp program. Rev. Sharpton and the host of the truly-concerned probably won't be making a bee-line for Akron. Don't expect Governor Kasich to weigh in with a plea to the Parole Board to decide if she should get a pass.
Ziemba will be portrayed as a welfare cheat who lied to steal benefits we all pay for. Williams-Bolar was a residency cheat who lied to take benefits the taxpayers of Copley-Fairlawn paid for.
Ziemba needs an agent.