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.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Problems with Time Warner Cable linger on

A lot of readers have let me know they agree wholeheartedly with my feeling about Time Warner Cable and how it has gotten rid of dozens of channels for families that don’t have digital TV reception.
Yes, I know. You can get a free converter box by calling the number on the screen, waiting for the box with its multitude of wires to arrive in the mail and then assembling them to convert from analog reception to digital.
Some readers have assured me it’s a snap to assemble. One reader said it was so simple for his wife to assemble that he was willing to send her over to do the job for me.
I appreciate the offer, but there is one small problem. If his wife turns out to be a good-looking blonde, that will make two good-looking blondes in the house.
I will not even go there, nor will I try to explain the lady of the house what the other blonde is doing there. That is a problem I do not wish to deal with, even if that sentence does end with a preposition.
Here is how a good friend of mine dealt with the assembly problem. Bill Crosier, the retired police/fire/deputy chief, went in to the Time Warner office on Plaza Boulevard in Mentor, just a short walk from Giant Eagle, and told them he needed nine, count ‘em, nine, converter boxes for the many small TV sets he has all over the place.
Not only that, but would they mind sending someone over to assemble them? The person behind the counter said yes, it would be done.
Good enough for me. I am going to make the same request. We have only seven or eight small TVs all over the place.
A lady from Willowick even wrote me that they took Turner Classic Movies off her TV. I never heard of such a thing.
But I have an entirely different reason for being upset that dozens of channels have been arbitrarily swept out, leaving only a “so sorry” message on the screen.
One of the channels they obliterated was 95. It may have a different number in your area. But that is the Lakeland Community College TV channel in Willoughby, where I live, and I have a special reason for being upset that it is now blank.
Since 1982, my colleagues and I have been doing TV interviews with candidates for public office. That year, we did them in a conference room at The News-Herald.
Starting in 1984, and every year since, we have conducted the interviews in the TV studio at the college. It is a professional setting, the technicians, Phil and Sam, are adept at their jobs, and the result is excellent interviews have gone out over the air, giving viewers a chance to take a first-hand at the people who will be on their ballots, see how they respond to questions we ask and perhaps make up their minds which ones will get their votes. We will be doing the interviews again later this month.
I would say that the interviews, in the past, have been a success. We have received great feedback on them. I could almost write a book on interview highlights over the past 30 years. The questioners have been me with one of the editors from The News-Herald.
Well, guess what? If you don’t have a TV with digital reception, and you don’t have a converter box yet, you won’t be able to watch the people who are seeking office in the area where you live.
To me, removing this channel is a serious abdication of civic duty by Time Warner.
I was under the impression that cable companies were required by law to offer a certain amount of public service programming. There was at one time a Congressional committee with authority to make sure cable companies did not fudge on this obligation.
Maybe Congress has given up enforcing this civic duty. With all the other problems government has these days, it may have forgotten this responsibility.
Well, I haven’t forgotten it. And if Congress won’t do anything about it, perhaps we should just appeal to Time Warner to set the profit motive aside momentarily and think about civic responsibility.
It wouldn’t take much to turn Channel 95 back on. There is a little box down on Tyler Boulevard in Mentor that one of the people there can open up and flip the switch on for Channel 95.
I will be watching and waiting. But it probably won’t do much good.
Civic responsibility often takes a back seat in the corporate world, even it if means making a difference in choosing good candidates over bad ones.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Talented musicians, including Willoughby mayor, bring people together

I always knew Dave Anderson was a multi-talented guy. He does a great job as mayor of Willoughby, he’s a great musician and a great family man.
I never knew until a little over a week ago, though, how great a guitar player he really is.
I was sitting near the gazebo in front of the former Willoughby Union High School with my brother-in-law, Larry Whinnery. It was the Thursday night concert in the park, and we were listening to Dave play the guitar.
Dave said his three favorite guitar players of all-time are Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed and Tommy Emmanual. Larry nodded his approval.
I whispered that my three favorite guitar players are Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel and Mundell Lowe. But what do I know? Dave and Larry are the real guitar players.
Many years ago, Larry’s band, Three’s Company, played Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at the Beachcomber in Grand River. Dave’s band, Heads and Tails, played at the same place on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Larry and my sister, Molly, moved to Nashville 33 years ago to be closer to the music business. After all, it is called “Music City.” They “come home” once or twice a year. This year, Larry especially wanted to hear Dave play solo guitar at the Thursday concert.
Seated on the stage, Dave explained how he was going to use a Chet Atkins technique. He was going to play the bass notes with his left thumb and the melody line with his left fingers.
I was waiting to hear how he could do it. Larry was captivated. “There are few, very few, guitar players who can do that,” he said.
“Can you do it?” I asked. “No, I can’t,” Larry replied.
Dave began to demonstrate the Atkins technique by playing a couple of songs. It was outstanding! I was impressed. Larry was more than impressed. He was captivated. He talked about it all night, including a couple of hours later at my brother’s birthday party at Pranzo in Downtown Willoughby.
Dave and Larry have both come a long way since those days of their flaming youth, when music was not only their passion, it was their obsession.
So I asked them a little bit about their bands. It’s not as if I hadn’t heard them play a zillion times. But some of the names escaped me.
Dave had Rudy Kastelic on organ, Mike Sulkey on drums, and (pause here for a deep breath) the lovely Kathy Williams on vocals.
As Dave has told me so many times, when she walked in to Anderson music on Vine Street to audition for the job, he took one look at her, lifted his eyes toward the sky, and said: “Please, Lord, let her be able to sing on key.”
Well, she could and she did. I have a couple of their CDs. And Heads and Tails played every bar along Route 20 from Euclid to Ashtabula and a few places farther out, including Sandusky and Warren.
I will take only a moment to tell you how much Dave has meant to Willoughby at its mayor. I do not want to make any invidious comparisons, because one of the former mayors was my closest friend.
I will say this, however, without fear of contradiction: Willoughby has never, ever, had a better mayor than Dave Anderson. Of course, I only go back to Cec Todd. But that gives you some perspective, and tells you of the high regard I have for the city’s current top administrator.
In Larry’s band, Three’s Company, Larry played guitar, Dave Temple played the keyboad, Wayne Major played bass and sang and Dave Powalski, the famed one-armed drummer, held his own on drums.
The group didn’t travel afar as did Heads and Tails, playing mostly at the aforementioned Beachcomber in Grand River, the Wine Press in Downtown Painesville and at Lake Shore Sands in Euclid.
Larry and Dave also have this in common: Both have two sons.
Dave’s two “boys,” Eric and Dan, look as if they could play defensive tackle in the National Football League. In other words, they are young giants, not to be confused with the New York Giants. I don’t know that either of them has even taken up music.
Larry’s two boys, Colin and Jason, are musicians, but for Colin it is a career, while for Jason it is merely a pastime.
Colin tours the nation with well-known country music bands. I have seen him a couple of times at the House of Blues in Cleveland.
All four of the Anderson and Whinnery lads are extremely good looking.
And fortunately for them, they have exceptional families. Donna Anderson’s father, Arnie Southall, was one of he nicest guys I ever met. Dave’s father, Earl, consistently beat me shooting pool in high school. And what can I say about Molly Whinnery? We had the same mother and father.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Getting back your TV isn't as easy as it seems

I promised myself – and especially I promised lady of the house – that I would never again become angry when I turned on a TV channel while sitting at the dining room table and no picture came on.
I railed about this subject in print a few weeks ago. I have grown accustomed to the nefarious situation by now. I realize that Time Warner was financially motivated to cut down dramatically on the number of channels that homeowners can receive unless they have digital capacity and not just analog reception.
So I decided to take action – something I often do when backed into a corner with no escape in sight.
On the TV screen it said: “Get Your TV Back.”
Below that it said: “This channel is only available in digital format. (It was available before without digital, but no more.) Order your digital adapter today. 1-855-286-1736.”
So I dialed that number. Before long a man answered. He wanted to know my area code and my phone number. I told him.
After a brief pause, he said, “Hello, Mr. CAW LINZ.
I knew immediately I was talking to someone from Bombay or possibly Rangoon.
I have nothing against people from India. I have dealt with them before on matters having to do with the computer. They are polite and very nice. But they always call me Mr. CAW LINZ. The way they pronounce my name is a dead giveaway.
I told him, in the words of Time Warner, I want my TV back. I said we have one big TV that is digital on which I can watch golf, Cubs games, the Mayor’s Report from Dave Anderson or almost anything I wish, but we have a bunch of smaller TVs all over the house and they, unfortunately, are not digital.
He told me he could send only four converters. I said that would be a good start.
“Are they easy to hook-up?” I asked.
“Oh yes, Mr. CAW LINZ,” he fibbed. “Anyone can hook them up. All you have to do is connect a wire.”
I promised I would give it a try.
If he had said, “Any idiot can hook them up,” at least I would have felt he was being more straightforward
A few days later, Dave the mailman brought a single cardboard box. It was 9 inches by 6 inches and 3 inches deep. “There can’t possibly be four converters in there,” I thought.
I was right. I dumped the contents on the dining room table. Among the tangle of plastic packages there was what appeared to be a converter box. It is tiny – 4 1/2 inches by 3 inches and an inch thick. Comparing it in size to the converter on the big set in the living room, I would guess it is – well, I can’t even guess. The big one is enormous, the new one is miniscule.
And they still owe me three more converters. But I haven’t wired the new one to the dining room TV yet.
Here is my inventory of what I found: A converter box (very small), one large white cable, one small black cable that looks like it plugs in somewhere, one much larger black cable that also looks like it plugs in somewhere, one black gadget with one end that looks like it plugs into the AC outlet on the wall, one remote control (we must have three dozen of them, maybe this one will open the garage door), two of the tiniest batteries I have ever seen, and, finally, two small Velcro pads.
There is also a book that says, “Say hello to your TV’s new best friend.”
It is a 14-page book of instructions on how to hook up my new adapter. On Page 3 there are pictures of eight things that are included in the package.
Some of the objects I couldn’t figure out included a coax cable, an HDMI (?) cable, a power cord, a receiver and the other stuff. Plus the “adhesive fasteners.”
I immediately recognized the remote control, which we call “clickers” at our house. We are constantly misplacing clickers. Thank goodness the clickers that open the garage door are set firmly in place.
The only thing I couldn’t find in the package was my IBEW card. I figured I might have to be a member of the electricians’ union to assemble the kit, but apparently that is not a requirement.
The booklet advised me: “You’re about to step up to a world of even better picture and sound, and this Easy Setup Guide is here to help every step of the way.”
“Just follow the simple installation instructions...”
If I can make it as far as the page called “Activation” I should  be all set. I figure if I can get this project set up by Labor Day, I should be able to get the other three activated by Christmas – that is, if they ever arrive in the mail.
And by the way, there is no charge for these easy-to-assemble kits. They are free until September 2015. After that they are $1.50 each.
Maybe by then I can go to Radio Shack, buy all the converter parts I need and build my own digital adapters.
That is, if I get my IBEW card by then.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Roger Sustar is a superb pick to the Lakeland Community College board

I’d like to underscore two starkly different ways of conducting the government’s business. Example No. 1 comes from Washington, D.C. Example No. 2 comes from Painesville, Ohio, the seat of government for Lake County.
The subject is cooperation and the ability of the two parties to get along with each other, even when there may be disagreement, because mere stubbornness and unwillingness to get along is ugly, unwholesome and totally unproductive.
Example No. 1, the Washington Way, is easily dismissed, because there is virtually no cooperation between the parties. Zero. Nada. They agree on almost nothing – unless you believe that the time to begin the cocktail hour is a vital issue facing the country. That, I am sure, they do agree on.
Now let me take you to Painesville, where an issue of some importance was resolved the other day even though it involved political disparity.
At issue was the appointment of a trustee to the board of Lakeland Community College, where the term of Ray McGuinness had expired.
Ray, who didn’t seek reappointment, was a fine and dependable trustee for many years. He was also a lifelong Democrat. The county commissioners, Dan Troy, Bob Aufuldish and Judy Moran are all Democrats.
Naturally, they would appoint a Democrat to replace Ray. There is no shortage of qualified Democrats for the position. So let’s find one, right?
But there was also a candidate who was so highly qualified that his appointment virtually cried out for consideration.
His name is Roger Sustar, and he is the CEO of Fredon Corp. in Mentor. Fredon is part and parcel of the kind of cooperation that should exist between the college and a local business.
Fredon hires exactly the kind of students who graduate from Lakeland with two-year degrees. Roger knows precisely what a technical education is all about.
Matter of fact, Roger was a Lakeland trustee several years ago, but was not reappointed when his term was up. Blame that on a previous board of commissioners.
This time the commissioners took a closer look at Roger, and especially his credentials. They found a man who, along with his wife and two children, are pillars of the community (his daughter, Alyson, is president of Fredon). Roger spends most of his waking hours thinking about manufacturing on a local as well as a global basis.
I know. I get his emails. A day does not pass that he doesn’t have something to say about manufacturing in America. He is, in a word, a promoter – a relentless promoter.
He is exactly the kind of promoter of the American Dream that can make a vital and important contribution to the college. His appointment to the board was a slam dunk, if you care to suffer yet another sports analogy that is somewhat tired from overuse.
He has been accorded a multitude of honors for his community involvement, including Distinguished Citizen awards in both Mentor and Willoughby.
If you look him up on the internet, you will find more honors and accolades than most good citizens are accorded in a dozen lifetimes.
But Roger is a Republican, and the three appointing commissioners are all Democrats. How could he possibly even be considered, let alone chosen?
But in the immortal words of the late Edward Kennedy Ellington, things ain’t what they used to be. I can remember a time when the commissioners made some abominable appointments purely on the basis of political affiliation and because of fund-raising efforts by those who sought the non-paying office.
There was a time when a good friend of mine was named to the board simply because he supplied so many baseball tickets to a commissioner.
When he was not reappointed, he called me and said, “Jim, that’s nothing but politics.” I said to him, (I won’t mention his name because he is the only trustee who had that first name), “That is exactly how you got appointed in the first place.”
I won’t say that political party affiliation will never be a consideration again when appointments are made, but in this instance I would like to thank Dan Troy for the leadership he showed and Bob Aufuldish and Judy Moran for their willingness to set politics aside and join together in making a superb appointment to the Lakeland board.
I once wrote that Dan (along with Bill Stanton and Jack Platz) were the three best county commissioners of all time.
That is still true. And Bob and Judy took a large step forward on my personal Hall of Fame list for recognizing that there are considerations for appointment that outrank political affiliation.
For choosing Roger Sustar, all three commissioners get gold stars in my book.
My book may not be the most important one in the world, but it’s all mine, so I am the only one who says what goes into it.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Jerry Osborne built a legacy that will live on

One thing I know for sure – there will never again be anyone exactly like Jerry Osborne.

The man they called “Ace” passed away June 21 after living a remarkable life, creating a legacy which will endure for all time in the history of Mentor and Lake County.

In his 92 years, after a most humble beginning, he built one corporation after another, amassed a fortune, gave much of his wealth to charity and non-profits, raised a family rooted in devotion to him and to each other, and received a multitude of tributes the like of which I have never seen around here.

It is impossible to summarize his achievements without writing at least a volume or two.

All I can do in this meager space is to say that I knew him virtually since I was a kid, I always found him to be a remarkable person as well as a good friend, and never met anyone with his great sense of business judgment, clarity of thinking or singularity of purpose.

For more than two hours, family and friends poured out their thoughts in a memorial service at Andrews Osborne Academy on June 28, that said so very much about the man who left such a large imprint on the area.

And yet, the dozen or so speakers barely scratched the surface of his unique life as they regaled the packed auditorium with anecdotes, words of remembrance and expressions of love.

His obituary in the paper was so beautifully written that I immediately guessed it was created by his youngest daughter, Jackie. I asked her at the memorial service if it was her handiwork. She gave the credit to her two daughters. Well, it’s all in the DNA.

Jerry’s empire included 19 corporations in the concrete and building supply industry. The program listed 22 organizations near and dear to his heart.

So many institutions bear the Osborne name. We already mentioned the exquisite academy on Mentor Avenue in Willoughby. If Ace hadn’t poured $12 million into the school, because of his love of education, learning and kids, today the former Andrews School would be a shopping center or a housing development.

Trust me. I was on the Andrews board of trustees when it merged with Phillips-Osborne Academy in Painesville. Without Jerry’s input, Andrews would no longer be a school.

You will also find the family’s name on the Jerome T. Osborne Sr. football stadium in Mentor, the new fitness center at Lake Erie College in Painesville, one of the buildings at Breckenridge Village in Willoughby and other facilities that do not come to mind.

It was a thrill for me to speak on the memorial program. I think it was Jackie and Rick Osborne Sr. who suggested I be included in the program. I can’t thank them enough for the honor.

One of the things I pointed out was the role of Jerry in the banking community. The award-winning Lake National Bank in Mentor is Jerry’s bank. He started it. He built it. It is an important part of his legacy.

And, as I noted in my comments, you can judge Ace by the quality of people he hired to run his endeavors.

I specifically mentioned Dick Flenner, the original president of the bank, and Andy Meinhold, the current president. They are superstars in the local banking industry.

Another example of Jerry’s skill in picking winners: As soon as Andrews Osborne Academy was created, Ace placed Chuck Roman in charge as head of school. An inspired move? Absolutely!

There are so many great stories about Jerry, but I would like to repeat one I told at the memorial service to illustrate Jerry the Common Man.

When Clodus Smith was president of Lake Erie College, he liked to pack his board of trustees with titans of industry, for example, Bob Evans – yes, the Bob Evans.

He also brought on board Jerry Osborne and Harry Figgie of the Figgie empire. If you never met Harry, he always wore a navy blue suit, a starched white shirt and a power necktie.

When Clodus introduced them, Jerry was wearing blue jeans and a flannel shirt, which was his customary attire. As they shook hands, Jerry said, “We have something in common.”

“And what’s that?” Harry asked, looking Jerry over and not being able to think of anything at the moment that they had in common. Jerry responded: “Neither of us can get into Kirtland Country Club.”

I’m sure Jerry had a twinkle in his eye. I doubt if Harry did.