Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Troy needs to stay put in job as commissioner

I have been watching the Lake County commissioners since 1950. That goes back to my first days as a reporter here.

Some of those years I covered meetings of the three-member body. At other times I read about them, talked with them, and in other ways did my best to keep a critical eye on what they were up to.

My opinion of the many commissioners who held the office over the years was that some were outstanding, some were so-so, a few were terrible, and some merely occupied the office without accomplishing anything in the realm of leadership.

The latter bunch did little to distinguish themselves, but at least they didn’t go the route of Jimmy Dimora, the former Cuyahoga County commissioner waiting sentencing for a string of criminal acts he couldn’t possibly have thought he was going to get away with.

Many moons ago, I wrote a column in which I offered the opinion that three Lake County commissioners stood above the rest. I said the three greatest commissioners of all time were Bill Stanton, Jack Platz, and a third I didn’t name because he was still in office and I didn’t want my words of praise to go to his head. A couple others came close to greatness.

I am now prepared to name that third “great” commissioner — for a very specific reason.

The reason is, I want him to remain in office, because in the coming two years Lake County needs him more than Ohio needs him.

His name is Dan Troy, and he has two years to go in his current four-year term. But he filed for a different office, and will be on the ballot in November as a candidate for state representative.

He would probably win that contest because it’s an office he held for many years before he ran for commissioner, and he is well known to the voters of the district.

I also say he would probably win because the Republican-controlled legislature apportioned Lake County’s two districts in the Ohio House to make them “bullet proof,” that is, so that a Democrat cannot win in the East district (61st) and a Republican cannot win in the West (60th).

That has nothing do to with the quality of any of the present candidates. It has only to do with numbers of voters along party lines and setting boundaries in the right places.

The Apportionment Board worked its boundary magic to protect Republican Ron Young in the 61st and whoever succeeds Democrat Lorraine Fende in the 60th.

She cannot run again because of the dreaded term limits, so the two candidates there are the Democrat Troy and Republican Lori DiNallo, a member of Painesville City Council.

In the East end, Republican Young, who is not term limited, is opposed by Democrat Susan McGuinness. She is a fine candidate, but the numbers have been rigged in Young’s favor, as they have been tilted in the Democrat’s favor in the West end, even though DiNallo is a good candidate.

So, with an itch to return to Columbus (the scene of much satisfaction during his legislative service in his previous tenure there), Troy decided to run for the Ohio House again, even though he has two years remaining in his term as a commissioner.

I have given the matter a lot of thought. My advice to Dan Troy is this: Forget about Columbus. Take your name off the ballot and let your party pick someone to replace you there. Serve another two years as commissioner and, in 2014, consider running for yet another term as commissioner.

We need Troy here. We don’t need him in Columbus. He would accomplish nothing as a freshman legislator in the political party that is guaranteed to be in the minority. He would be a small fish in a very large pond.

In Lake County, he would be the dominant commissioner — as he has been for many years — on a board with only three members.

With veteran Commissioner Ray Sines retiring, a “rookie” will be elected to take his place on the board. Even though Republican Dave Fiebig and Democrat Judy Moran are both veterans of city council service in their own cities, that is a lot different than being a commissioner.

Furthermore, should Troy be elected to the House, his commissioner seat would be filled for two years by appointment by the Democratic Party. Frankly, I am not enthralled by some of the names that are being bandied about.

Troy has not been an ordinary commissioner. He has been an outstanding commissioner. Let’s keep him where he belongs. Join me in telling him to take his name off the November ballot, stay in Painesville and forget about Columbus.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hard to understand court’s inane medal ruling

You may have thought that the U.S. Supreme Court would be smarter than, say, a songwriter.

But you would be wrong about that.

A songwriter long ago wrote that it’s a sin to tell a lie.

Not so, says the Supreme Court. In a recent decision, it opined that you can lie about anything you wish, because no matter what you say, it’s free speech.

Thankfully for the political process, this dopey decision came along just in time for the current election season. Office seekers can now make up whoppers, every day. Probably nothing new about that. Just don’t try to correct them. Lying is free speech.

Now, I am a confirmed believer in free speech.

But I always thought there were certain things you shouldn’t do in the name of free speech, like lying, or hollering “fire” in a crowded theater.

Unless, of course, there happened to be a real fire in the theater. At that point it would be OK to holler “Fire.”

Not any longer. Hollering “Fire” when there is no fire may be a lie, but it is free speech.

The individual we have to thank for this nonsense is one Xavier Alvarez, a 54-year-old California man who was convicted of falsely claiming he had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

It is the nation’s highest award for valor. Lower courts that heard arguments on Xavier’s unwarranted attempts at bravado thought he was nuts. But not six ninnies on the Supreme Court. (Ninnie, just by way of explanation, is short for nincompoop.)

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who led this exercise in lunacy, was willing to forgive Xavier because lying is part of his lifestyle, and if it were something he was accustomed to doing, that would make it all right.

“Lying was his habit,” Kennedy proclaimed in writing the opinion that led five fellow justices over the edge of the cliff of logic into the murky waters of stupidity.

Kennedy pointed out that Xavier also lied when he claimed he played hockey for the Detroit Red Wings, and that he had once married a starlet from Mexico. The guy obviously had a way with words.

Just so you’ll know who Kennedy’s partners were in failing to have a rudimentary grasp of reality in this matter, their names are John Roberts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Steven Breyer and Elena Kagan.

The latter two liked the decision so much they even went to the trouble of writing a concurring opinion.

Three justices saw the obvious, that it isn’t OK to lie about being a Medal of Honor winner and making such a ridiculous claim is not free speech. They were Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, without question the clearest thinker on the court, and Clarence Thomas.

Joining the three dissenters in proclaiming the decision a farce were such patriots as the founders of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Congressional Medal of Honor Society — plus me and all of my friends and, I presume, yourself, because I know you are not dim-witted or you would be doing something else at the moment other that reading this piece.

In his majority opinion, Kennedy came to the stunning conclusion that “fundamental constitutional principles require that laws enacted to honor the brave must be consistent with the precepts of the Constitution for which they fought.”

Scalia must have groaned when he read that.

If anyone should understand “the precepts of the Constitution” you would think it would be a Supreme Court justice.

Apparently not.

Audie Murphy would be turning over in his grave. So would be Gordie Howe, the greatest of the Detroit Red Wings.

Not to mention every Mexican starlet who thinks Xavier is a head case.

Next time you tweet the six pinheads on the nation’s highest court, tell them they better watch out,  because your uncle is a hit man for The Mob, and he doesn’t like people who put on black robes and don’t have the common sense to go along with it.

By the way, did I ever tell you that my father invented a refreshing soft drink he called Eight Up but it never caught on. Maybe if he’d called it Six Up...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How does he do it?: So much fun for so little

It’s like I was saying...

That, as you probably noted, is a grammatical inexactitude. I should have written, “It’s as I was saying.”

However, it’s a novel way of getting started. But I’m not writing a novel.

I am writing a follow-up to last week’s piece about the reunion we attended for people who attended school in Chester Township, which I did for five years before we adjusted our sights, or is it sites, and moved to Wickliffe.
This week it’s about the ex
travaganza that Ed Glavac puts on for people who attended Willoughby Union High School, which I did for four years.

Ed once had a fairly large committee working on the dinner-dance, held each year at the Patrician Party Center at 33150 Lakeland Boulevard in Eastlake.

But nobody has graduated from the former school in Downtown Wiloughby since 1957, so he is valiantly carrying on alone, with the only help I am aware of coming from his wife, LaVerne.

Because of the scarcity of graduates, Ed has thrown the doors open to anyone who is interested in attending. A factor that should attract the interest of non-WHS grads is the bargain price for the evening.

Here is what you get: A fine, family-style dinner in the tradition made noteworthy by the party center.

Open (meaning “free”) bar all evening. More door prizes than you can shake a baton at. A 50-50 raffle that is guaranteed to send at least one guest home smiling. An opportunity to dance the night away on the polished ballroom floor.

And speaking of shaking a baton, the bandleader for the festivities is the popular Joey Tomsick, who plays romantic dancing numbers and just enough polkas to keep the folks prancing on the floor.

And yes, I believe the maestro is the same Joe Tomsick who is the newly installed CEO of the Lake County Council on Aging. If not, I will stand corrected. But if it’s the same guy, he must have checked the average age of the people on Ed’s invitation list and figured there was a logical tie-in between WHS grads and the COA.

I mean, the reason the event is held from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. is so some of the rapidly aging WHS boosters can get home before dark.

The early starting hour is the reason we are late in arriving every year, because we don’t feed the dogs until 5:30. But once that is accomplished,  we head down Vine Street with precipitancy so that we don’t miss any of the marvelous dinner.

For us, that is the only drawback – the early starting time. But since everyone else approves, who am I to be a stick-in-the-mud (one of my Grandmother Sherman’s favorite expressions).

The date is Saturday, Aug. 4. The best news I have saved for last. It is the price. The cost of the entire evening is a mere $20 per person! I don’t know how Ed does it. All that food, drink, a live band, door prizes and everything else that goes into the evening! I maintain you can’t accomplish all that for $20 a head.

I know Ed was a great football player in high school, but I don’t think he majored in accounting.

If you are interested in going, here’s what you have to do: Make out a check for $20 per person to “WUH Reunion” and send it to Ed Glavac, 7465 Harding St., Mentor OH 44060. The deadline is July 25. And be sure to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. At these prices, you can’t expect Ed to pay for a stamp.

If you attended Union High, include your class year. List the names and maiden names of all attendees. Tickets must be paid for in advance. None will be sold at the door.

And if you want to sit with someone in particular, Ed will have to know by July 22. His number is 440-953-0510.

Dress is casual. See you there! This is the 16th year for the reunion. Will there be a 17th? I hope so.
A footnote: On the day of the dinner-dance, Aug. 4, the Union High Sports Hall of Fame will be open on the first floor, Room 107, of the school, from 10 a.m. until noon. It is worth a visit.

The handsome brick school building is one of those local treasures that hasn’t been torn down. It is now the Tech Center in the Downtown Willoughby triangle.