Tuesday, July 26, 2011

SB 8 at Carroll/Buchtel area blocked due to wreck, down to one lane. Might be awhile before fully re-opened.
Missing Bath Township man found alive, crews trying to rescue him. @WEWS http://ping.fm/UYL7j
Akron post offices part of mass USPS closing announcement: Chapel Hill, Downtown, East Akron, Downtown and Maple Valley. http://ping.fm/hX5aX

Monday, July 25, 2011

After 32 years of service with the City of Akron, CSPA President Chuck Victor will be retiring at the end of August.
Debt talk tonight during Indians game on WAKR: it's on the web http://ping.fm/dOxp7
BREAKING NEWS: Akron school board members move to start the process of putting a levy on the November ballot. More soon on AkronNewsNow.com
Report from @WEWS - alleged Kent shooter found dead in Cleveland hotel room. http://ping.fm/YNCBQ

Friday, July 22, 2011

Flash Flood Warning until 10p for Summit and Geauga Counties; Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Medina and Wayne until 8p.
Verdicts in Sowell trial: guilty, guilty, guilty...
Judge Dick Ambrose reviewing jury forms before announcing Anthony Sowell murder verdicts.
Anthony Sowell verdict coming down in moments; jury entering the courtroom after two days of deliberations in Imperial Avenue Killer case.
Summit Red Cross keeps Akron, Barberton, Rimer CLC cooling centers open. Akron puts theirs on regular hours citing low demand.
Akron scaling back "cooling center" hours; only six people in past few days taking advantage. Back to normal this afternoon.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

NFL Commish says Canton's induction ceremony will "go on as planned", but not enough time to prepare for the game.
NFL cancels Canton's HOF game this year, despite impending labor peace: http://ping.fm/PxPov

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Akron-Canton Airport has reopened. All commercial traffic was shut-down for several hours this morning due to flooding.
All commercial flights are suspended from the Akron-Canton Airport due to flooding for at least four hours.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Portage and points east severe thunderstorm warning extended until 530 p.m.
Northern Summit, northwest Portage under severe thunderstorm warning until 4:45 p.m.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Playing Nice

Today's been an interesting day; at this point 24 hours ago, the Mayor's office was pushing their side in a campaign battle of words (not a war yet; two months until the elections) over jobs and then new police chief James Nice grabbed a headline.

Or two. Or three.

The Chief, who served as a F.B.I. agent prior to retirement from the federal service and taking the top cop job here, called New Franklin PD Sunday night after someone tossed a sledgehammer through the window into a bedroom of his home. We should note the Chief doesn't live in Akron, but instead lives in the New Franklin jurisdiction.

The jurisdiction part of the story is what has folks in a Twitter. Following their response to the call, which Chief Nice notes was appropriate (they were "real nice and looked around," per a single-page report to Akron Law Director Cheri Cunningham) he called APD and asked if a detective and crime scene crew could review. A supervisor, Nice reports, suggested an overnight detail to watch his home if anyone came back with more than a sledgehammer.

New Franklin PD tells AkronNewsNow.com they came back the next day to review the case, but were turned away from Akron PD members working the scene. Ironically, this is the kind of jurisdiction flap that usually involves state or national (like the F.B.I.) fighting with local police. It's important to note that while Akron police have mutual aid compacts with neighboring departments, there doesn't seem to be a call for mutual assistance.

Chief Nice seems to have a better understanding of the jurisdiction can of worms he's opened by inviting his officers to New Franklin, instead of calling the Summit County Sheriff. I'm guessing the propriety of using Akron city resources (the time spent by APD officers) on a case outside the city limits will be reviewed as well, overtime or not. Use of city resources outside the city limits usually doesn't set well with auditors for one, and taxpayers for another. Ask any road supervisor using city crews to fix his driveway.

There's a perception in some quarters this represents treatment that's different for Nice, that he's getting more attention than we might see if someone threw a hammer through our window. Such consideration can, sometimes, trip over the line and become "look the other way" abuse of power, the kind Cuyahoga County officials such as Jimmy Dimora will have to explain in court.

There's a fine line between special consideration and abusing privilege. All said, there's an issue which bears just as deep a thought: Chief Nice, just like others who work so hard to keep us safe, deserves more than cursory treatment. And Akron is right to make sure he gets it.

Some will argue public officials are just like the rest of us. That is true -- to a point. We elect them because we see ourselves in them. The American model has citizens elected by popular vote to work for the greater good, neighbors shouldering the burden, especially on the local municipal level.

But we don't have a right to expect public officials and workers to put their lives on the line for us, exposing themselves and their families to danger at home or off-the-job, because of the very job we expect them to do for us. Not without our taking reasonable and appropriate steps to safeguard them, as they safeguard us.

You have to take Jim Nice at his word when he believes prior undercover work targeting gangs in Akron may put him at risk. It's no understatement to suggest law enforcement officers, those working on and with gangs in particular, have every reason to fear retaliation. One doesn't need a sledgehammer through a bedroom window to figure that out.

Whether Chief Nice lives in or out of Akron is beside the point. Whether a few hours of city time is spent trying to find those responsible isn't the point, other than making sure it is done legally and doesn't stray across the line of what's right.

The point? Nice is deserving of a safe and secure place to live and spend time with his family, with efforts taken to assure his safety. It isn't asking too much that reasonable efforts be taken to protect and serve the safety of those who protect and serve us. Asking detectives from Summit County's largest police department to investigate whether their Chief is the target of violence because of work he did in Akron while with the F.B.I. is appropriate and reasonable. The offer to "sit on" his house for a night or so to see if the knuckleheads who tossed a sledgehammer and broke windows in his home isn't a waste of time or city resources when it's one of our top law enforcement officials. In fact, it's appropriate and reasonable whenever the brave men and women who carry a badge, just like Jim Nice, are at risk for doing the people's business to keep us safe.

Being a police chief -- being a police officer -- isn't the same work as the job you and I may have. Unless, of course, your job is to stop people from doing wrong and, when you can't stop them, catch those who are a menace or hurt others and make them pay the price of justice.

You don't always make friends with bad people when you put them behind bars, or cost them money, or administer a dose of living-with-others in harmony lessons. Sometimes you piss them off, and they come after you.

When they do, we need to return the favor and protect our own.
UPDATED 9-1-1 audio, letter from Nice he feared someone was trying to kill him in B&E attempt. http://ping.fm/JpxFt
NEW listen to 9-1-1 call from Akron PD Chief Nice following attempted B&E at his home. http://ping.fm/eJOQT

Monday, July 11, 2011

West Nile mosquito netted in Tallmadge; skeeter spray scheduled for tonight in one-mile radius, includes some of Goodyear Heights.
Developing: Plusquellic wants Council vote on sewers without final decision from federal judge.
Reports of power outages in Stark County as the storms move through, downed lines should be treated as live and dangerous.
Big thunder, lightning, rain hitting Akron but worst of storm south of Canton. http://ping.fm/DMiEq
Heavy weather on the way, now hitting Toledo. LIVE radar here: http://ping.fm/94zRf

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Cavalcade of Casey

Webster's defines "cavalcade" as the following: "a : a procession of riders or carriages b : a procession of vehicles or ships. 2. : a dramatic sequence or procession."

We've certainly seen that the past few weeks.
You couldn't get away from it, other than turning every device off. Ignoring every newspaper display. Fast-forwarding beyond every news break on television. Switching radio stations on the dial to iPod or CD play only.

The Casey Anthony trial, like the O.J. Simpson trial, gathered fever pitch to the point where people stopped what they were doing when the verdict came down. A friend tells me she was at the Magic Kingdom outside Orlando, and even at Disney World things ground to a halt as workers and visitors alike were glued to cellphones.

In the aftermath, it's providing a thought-provoking picture of the state of the news media.

It wasn't too long ago when "capital J" journalism newsrooms would have steered clear of stories with such public obsession. But on the day Casey Anthony is sentenced, NPR online's most-commented story is "Casey Anthony Found Not Guilty of Killing Her Daughter." The New York Times featured a full-color photo , at left, of Anthony in the courtroom as the verdict was read, front and center, just below the masthead.

Can Bill Moyers Journal be far behind?

This isn't a seismic shift among the media on how to use social media, or whether the newsroom web wunderkind got the bulletin on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc. etc. etc. It's a fascinating look at the continuing evolution of what's news, the diminishing power editors have in determining what's on the front page, and the growing power the consumer appetite for stories has in determining the editorial decisions publishing, broadcasting and web newsrooms must make.

Those institutions that wouldn't have spent ten seconds on stories such as Casey Anthony not so long ago now belly up to the pop news culture bar, albeit without the gusto and off-the-charts performance we're seeing on the television cable talk channels. Or the network talk shows (radio and television) for that matter.

Here in northeast Ohio, for example, the ongoing trial of Anthony Sowell for the murders of eleven women continues. Coverage has been above the norm, led by all four commercial television stations and of particular note the Plain Dealer. The work by the newspaper team and Cleveland.com is evident in this index of their coverage, providing a comprehensive view of the case from many angles. It was enough to merit a full hour of in-depth discussion on WCPN's Sound of Ideas program, not your usual public radio fare. But then, finding eleven bodies isn't your usual fare, period.

But we haven't been subjected to the shrieking guest list exhibited on Nancy, Dr. Drew and Jane.

Our local reporting has been thoughtful, audience-respectful coverage. It's what I suspect most local news organizations provide their respective audiences during the "big story" although the crush of media mob-style coverage can be a difficult thing to remain independent from. Locally, we saw the same in the case of Jessie Marie Davis and resulting trial of her boyfriend, Bobby Cutts, Jr., for her slaying.

Full disclosure: I was one of the on-camera folks on the Grace program during the trial, as was former reporter/anchor Tina Kaufmann and the Akron Beacon Journal's Phil Trexler.

When the circus comes to town, it's tough to not act like a clown.

The Nancy Grace types of the broadcast news/entertainment world don't purport to be journalists; there's no "capital J" in what they do, and what they do has an audience. A strong audience.

The Associated Press reports HLN (the network serving up Grace, Velez-Mitchell and others) scored high when it came to "capital R" with their coverage of the case. The highest number of viewers since CNN put "Headline News" on the bird in 1982, more than four and a half million people -- more than double the usual. On the day Anthony was found to be not guilty of murder and manslaughter, The Nancy Grace Show scored it's highest audience ever at nearly three million people.

Is it good journalism? I'd say not, especially watching the un-credible punditry leading up to the verdict and the howling afterward. But the changing face of the media means it isn't my decision. It's yours. You hold the power in determining accuracy and credibility when you hit the on button and pick a channel.

Is it good television or radio? If the metric for "good" means the number of people watching and listening, then the Casey Anthony coverage hit a home run for those organizations that went all-in and didn't mind going over the top.

There was a time when media organizations were a reflection on their society. It was reasonable in the 60s, 70s and 80s to picture the BBC as quintessential stiff-collar Britain, or the Guardian as liberal English. The same could be said for Japanese, French, German, and Italian media: if you really wanted a taste of those nations, watch their television. Even reading, watching or listening to state-controlled media such as Pravda, Radio Moscow, or CCTV in China would help form a picture of what life was like in those countries.

From the 60s on, we had people like Chet & David, Uncle Walter, Peter, Dan and Barbara to show the kind of stuff we were made of. 60 Minutes carried forward the Murrow standard. All (then) three networks had outreach beyond America's borders through radio and television. CNN added to the mix, then MSNBC, then Fox.

Was our society a reflection of them, or were they the reflection of us? If the latter, watching HLN this week is like looking into a national mirror.

How's that looking for us?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Fred Quigley's Independence Lesson

It took a Vietnam War veteran -- and a slew of really, really bad publicity -- to remind a northeast Ohio homeowners association and the former politician who runs the place just what Independence Day means.

The story of Fred Quigley's fight with the "Villas of Taramina" is textbook Americana: one man's war waged to honor why he went to war to begin with.

It's a story that seems to play itself out annually across the country, and in 2011 it was right here at home. As a matter of fact, right down the road from where I live.

The "Villas" is a collection of cluster homes just off Ohio Route 82 in Macedonia, which likes to bill itself as the "Crossroads of Ohio." It's a nice enough place, so nice in fact that Coblentz Homes points with pride to the awards for design for their development aimed at "active adults" looking for the kind of "exclusive community" so attractive to "discriminating buyers."

That's all well and good, and more power to 'em. But the problem was one discriminating buyer who felt he was being discriminated against because he put up a flagpole to actively fly his flag. You know, that flag he fought for. That flag some of his friends died for. That flag that covers some of the caskets of the sons and daughters returning home from their generation's wars.

Yes, that flag.

The Homeowners Association first played hardball, expressed by the former Mayor of Macedonia and former Director of Development for Summit County, Joe Migliorini. Threats of lawsuits because the flagpole doesn't meet those "exclusive" rules and regulations. Besides, neighbors didn't like it. Exclusive to them apparently meant you couldn't put up the flag of the nation you live in, the nation you work in, the nation you retired in, because it seemed to be against the rules of the community you lived in.

But Fred Quigley understood what the flag meant, and why blood continues to be spilled for it.

America is different than other countries, what our flag represents is different from what other flags may represent.

This is a place where all of us are free, to an extent not found in many other corners of the world, to express ourselves openly without the threat of government retribution. Whether that government is the one we elect or the one put in place when a developer hands things over to a homeowners association.

Frankly, I'm surprised it took the Association as long as it did to cave and write Quigley telling him the fight was over before it wound up in court. I'm surprised former Mayor and county official Migliorini didn't step in earlier and publicly defuse the issue before it got to the point where veterans groups joined Quigley in defense of the Stars and Stripes.

Lawyers and managers of Associations will shake their heads because the rules weren't followed to the letter, ignoring a bigger picture: are the rules more important than the issue of your display? These issues include the flying of the flag, but also the display of Christmas lights during the holiday season -- and yes, I mean Christmas lights, not "holiday lighting displays." Or talk of religion in a public place, like a school.

The U.S. Supreme Court rules a cadre of small-minded wackos from the a small church in the Midwest has the right to protest, even when their words are hateful and cause pain to the families of our war dead who grieve past signs declaring it's God's punishment. And a homeowners association wants to stop a veteran from putting a flagpole on his property to fly the flag?

It's a true WTF moment.

The Constitution we honor this weekend says the government shall make no law infringing on our free speech. We accept you can't yell fire in a crowded theater; we allow laws on the books against inciting to riot. Fred Quigley's case is neither of those examples, unless you are afraid to call out the twisted rationale that so easily hands over our rights to those who would paint "the rules" as more important.

Fred Quigley wasn't inciting violence. He wasn't yelling "fire" by flying Red, White and Blue. But he was providing us a very basic lesson we should all take to heart: one person, in America, still makes a difference. Individual freedoms are worth fighting for, whether with associations of neighbors or those who hold the power. Because it's still the power we give them. And it's always ours to take back.

Thanks, Mr. Quigley, for the timely reminder that the long July 4th holiday isn't just for cooking out, laying back and chillin' out.

It's Independence Day.