Monday, March 30, 2009


Stark County has really fallen on hard "journalistic times" these days.

For today's blog, the STARK COUNTY POLITICAL REPORT (The Report) has to draw from the Akron Beacon Journal not Stark County's "The Repository."

Dennis Willard, the Columbus Bureau Chief, yesterday wrote an outstanding political analysis on Governor Ted Strickland's turn toward secrecy as his administration move forward on revamping Ohio's public education.

Readers of The Report will recall that The Rep no longer has a Columbus Bureau Chief since The Rep's parent company let Paul Kostyu go about a year ago.

In addition, Stark County has at least two members of the Ohio General Assembly who refuse to answer questions about their activities in Columbus; namely, Representative Stephen Slesnick (Democrat - 52nd) and to a slightly lesser degree Representative Scott Oelslager (Republican - 51st).

Back to Willard.

The theme of the Willard's piece is that Strickland administration policymakers "appear" to be attentive to input, while in reality disdaining it. In other words, the Stricklanders have their minds made up already and are merely playing to egos of those appearing before them to testify.

Another grievous action spelled out by Willard as being done by the Strickland folks was to take public information private, to wit:
Last week, the Associated Press reported that the governor steered an end run around the state's open records law by relying on a private consulting firm [Discoll & Fleeter] to work on the nuts and bolts of his new funding formula rather than his own budget office or the Ohio Department of Education.
To The Report, what Ohio and Stark Countians are witnessing is a frittering away of the goodwill many of us felt toward for Strickland when he first took office. On April 1, 2007, yours truly wrote this in a letter to the editor of The Rep:
Gov. Strickland demonstrates new promise of breaking with old-school politics. But his recently announced "creative accounting" is a reversion to the shell game politicians typically play. Strickland needs to nip in the bud "doing what politicians have always done." The governor has high credibility and good will now. Does he really want to squander these assets on quick-fix nostrums?
Willard goes on to describe how the Stricklanders "got hoisted by their own petard." By going secret, the Governor's education plan was not thoroughly vetted. Consequently, his plan is in real political trouble. It has a number of problems that Strickland's policymakers and senior legislators are in a desperate race with time to fix.

A "desperate race with time."


The 2010 gubernatorial campaigns already underway. Strickland set the bar high for himself when in his Inaugural address (paraphrasing) that he would be a failed governor if he failed to fix the unconstitutional funding of public education during his first term.

If the appearance of failure persists, you can be sure that the Republicans will be all over him over the next 20 months.

The Report believes that the likes of Stark County Democratic Party chairman Johnnie A. Maier, Jr., have given Strickland a bum steer. Johnnie is an openly avowed disciple of storied political strongman Verne Riffe. Maier/Riffe types both in terms of political advisers and policy advisers appear to be carrying the day with Strickland presently.

Strickland feels indebted to Maier because Maier was the first county party chairman in Ohio to endorse Strickland when he ran in the Democratic primary in 2006.

Strickland is likely at a crossroads of his future political career. The current national economic crisis has bought him some cover for not having "Turn[ed] Around Ohio" as promised in the run up to his election. But the cover is not likely to last through November, 2010.

Willard has some good advice for the governor in his column.

To Willard' advice, The Report adds the following:

Go back to being "proud of Duck Run Road and ... proud of that little school [you] attended" and the innocence and sincerity it instilled you.

Do not let the hard-boiled, cynical political power types change who Ohioans perceive who you are.

The question now may well be: Can Ted Strickland "turnaround" himself; let alone Ohio?

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