Friday, May 11, 2012


Up until April, 2007 and the arrival of GateHouse Media, Inc on the local newspaper scene in its purchase of The Repository, Stark Countians had first rate coverage of the political machinations going on in the Ohio Statehouse in the personage of the then-Repository Columbus Bureau Chief Paul Kostyu (now Statehouse reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer).

However, as part of GateHouse's cost cutting paradigm (which continues to this day with its common stock selling 6 cents a share and its annual report saying that a bankruptcy could be in its future ), Kostyu's position was eliminated.

Ever since, it seems to the SCPR, the The Repository has endeavored to cover the Stark County delegation to the Ohio General Assembly via press releases issued by delegation members.

As election time approaches, the likes of Christina Hagan (Republican - Marlboro), Kirk Schuring (Republican - Jackson), Scott Oelslager (Republican - Plain) and Stephen Slesnick (Democrat - Canton) crank up the press release machine and inundate any media outlet with their political propaganda.

Of course, Slesnick has/had two problems in this regard.  First, he is in the minority in the Ohio House and therefore is not allowed by Republicans to getting anywhere with legislation that he proposes and, secondly, he is by virtue of his personality so laid back that even when the Democrats had a majority in the House for two years, he demonstrated that he wasn't particularly adept at using the press release propaganda mechanism.

But the Republicans have proven to be highly accomplished at this art and they appear to have a willing accomplice in the powers that be who run The Repository.

Accordingly, Stark Countians do not get a clear picture of what their representatives are doing in Columbus.  It seems to the SCPR that The Rep pretty much publishes the varnished press releases verbatim.  Very few if any critically framed questions are asked as a follow up to the releases.  And The Rep's editorial board provides very little in thoroughgoing analysis of the import/significance/deficiencies of the public relations-eque nature of the bills being championed.

Of course, the likes of Hagan, Schuring and Oelslager do not press release out votes that might prove embarrassing in front of the folks back home.

An example of "mum is the word" is the shenanigans revealed in the droppings along the legislative trail of House Bill 194 original passage of which was supported by Stark's three Republican representatives.

As far as the SCPR can determine, The Repository (being without the likes of Kostyu) did not provide its Stark County readership with any meaningful insight into the processes of passing HB 194 and collateral efforts to salvage "important to Republicans" in a presidential election year (Obama and Romney are neck-and-neck in recent polls) in HB 224 and in the sham repeal legislation passed earlier this week (HB 295).

Republicans claim that HB 194 was overall designed to protect the integrity of elections and to simply the voting process and specifically instituted the following reforms:
  • eliminating provisions whereby citizens could register and vote in one a to z process,
  • eliminating provisions allowing citizens to vote "absentee" during the the weekend days immediately preceding election day,
  • the beefing up of requirement of voters to ensure they were entitled to vote, and
  • the shoring up of standards on absentee and provisional ballots so as to make their eligibility for being counted more stringent.
Democratic politicians aided by some non-partisan types called "foul ball," saying that the bill:
  • reduced access to voting (especially for minorities),
    • (e.g. in eliminating early voting during the weekend preceding an election),
  • made it more difficult for voters (who do not have Ohio drivers licenses or valid ones) to produce "qualifying to vote" identification,
  • reduced the scope and depth of help that poll workers can provide voters having difficulty in voting, and
  • increasing the barriers which absentee and provisional ballots must surmount in order to qualify to be counted
The Ohio General Assembly passed HB 194 (June 29, 2011) and Stark's Republican legislators all supported it.  As they did the passage of HB 224 (see vote tally below) and HB 295 (see vote tally below).

In reaction to HB 194 passing, a coalition formed under the banner of Fair Elections Ohio.  The organization successfully circulated a referendum petition to put the matter of HB 194 before the voters of Ohio coming this November as to whether or not it should stand as the law of Ohio.

Much like with Senate Bill 5 (the bill which would have adversely impacted collective bargaining rights of fire, police and teacher public employees along with a few other categories of such), when it became apparent that the referendum was going to pass, the Republicans began rethinking the abrogation of voters' rights.

On SB 5, Governor Kasich tried to negotiate a deal to salvage the bill.  But he proved to be "a day late and a dollar short" and voters overwhelmingly defeated the bill (Tate Issue #2 on the ballot).

On HB 194, the Republicans (including Stark Countians Hagan, Schuring and Oelslager) did two things.

First, they passed HB 224 as emergency legislation and got a supermajority of votes (making it referendum proof), which proves how stupid the Democratic minority in the Ohio General Assembly is (i.e. by voting with the Republicans they undermined the referendum on HB 194).

In HB 224, which was primarily designed to affect military and overseas voting, some provisions of HB 194 were incorporated thereby getting these provisions into law through the backdoor and referendum proof.  To repeat, Stark Countians Hagan, Schuring and Oelslager all supported this "sleight of hand" legislation.

Then in HB 295 which was advertised by the Republican Ohio General Assembly leadership as "repealing" HB 194 did nothing of the sort.

Left in HB 295 was the elimination of the weekend before an election voting opportunity.

In all the Machiavellian political twists and turns involving HB 194, HB 224 and HB 295, the Republicans believe that they have mooted the Fair Elections Ohio referendum on HB 194.

And they could be determined to be correct.

So in addition to curtailing access to the ballot box they have conspired to deprive you and I (the political base of Ohio in a democratic republic) the right to overturn decisions of those that a majority of Ohioans elected in the first place.

Part and parcel of these anti-democratic-republican political maneuvers were guess who?

You've got it:  Hagan, Schuring and Oelslager.

Of course there was no press release on it.

And, of course, no Repository scrutiny of their unpublicized partisan politics coup.

After all, Paul Kosytu is gone.

But GateHouse and derivatively The Rep did save money.

So what that Stark Countians would have been, but for the SCPR, uninformed about the backroom politics of our local representatives to the Ohio General Assembly.

And The Rep is an award winning newspaper?

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