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.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Are Libertarian's views mainstream enough to win election?

You’d think that after sitting before the TV cameras for 32 years and recording interviews with political candidates of all denominations, I would get it right.

Well, I do my best. And so do my cohorts from The News-Herald who sit alongside me on the firing line and join in asking questions of officeholders and wannabes who seek to replace them.

It’s just that it is so simple when we are facing only two candidates (an R and a D) and so much more complicated when an L is added to the mixture.

The latter is a Libertarian. You are all familiar with the designations R and D, so I won’t have to go over that familiar ground.

This year, we have three candidates running for Congress in the 14th District, and because I become easily confused, I have a hard time remembering whose turn it is to respond to a question and whose turn it is to ask the next question when we are faced by, not two, but three candidates.

It is easy to keep the R and the D straight in my mind. Dave Joyce, the incumbent, an R, is a traditional Conservative.

He has all the Conservative values and his answers are easy to follow.

His main challenger, Michael Wager, a D, I would classify as a traditional Liberal. His answers are equally as easy to follow. They don’t happen to fit very well into my particular set of values, but that is just me, and when I pose questions I am totally non-partisan, or should I say, un-partisan.

In other words, I don’t allow my sentiments enter into the discussion. That is for the candidates to do.

But then along comes David Macko. He is a Libertarian, and may I say, a hard-line Libertarian.

We invited David this year. He has a solid background. But I am not certain his views are congruent with a majority of those I hear on the street.

I could be wrong. There is a Libertarian I hear often on TV who articulates his positions in a manner I find quite appealing. Maybe it’s that I can’t take a full load of them in one sitting.

Some years ago, there was a third party candidate I wouldn’t allow on the program. He insisted. He said he had a First Amendment right to state his views. I told him I was not denying his First Amendment right to speak. I was merely telling him that he was not invited to be on our program. He could go outside, stand in front of the Clocktower at Lakeland, and speak for as long as he wished.

He filed suit. Lakeland’s attorney, Jim Hackenberg, filed a very persuasive brief. We prevailed.

In recent years, several third party candidates have accepted our invitation to participate. So this year I invited David Macko.

He is a nice man. He made all of his points quite forcefully.

But David has as much chance of winning as I have, and I am not on the ballot.

(Please do not call me, David. I know what I am talking about.)

I will acquaint you with some of his views. First, he wants to impeach Barack Obama. (So does Sarah Palin, but never mind that.)

I am sure there are millions of Americans who agree with David’s distaste for Obama. David says of him, “like all communist and other socialist would-be dictators, Obama seeks to destroy our God-given rights...”

A few other quotes from David’s literature:

“Macko proposes to end the police state.” I wasn’t aware we lived in one.

“Macko wants to stop World War III.” There are a lot of problems in the world, but I have not heard them defined as WWIII.

“End the Federal Reserve System.” Easier said than done.

“Repeal Obamacare.” He would have a lot of company on that one.

“Equal rights for everyone, even white people.” That kind of talk will get him branded as a racist.

His other proposals are too lengthy and too complicated to get into here.

David, obviously, has done a lot of homework. I learned some things from his literature about the Oathkeepers Oath, Jury Nullification and the Skull and Bones Class of 1895.

But at bottom, his is not a mainstream campaign. But who knows? Maybe the mainstream is not where we want to be this year.

We will find out in November.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How accurately are criminal statistics reported in our schools?

It’s not that I don’t trust numbers. Gosh, we couldn’t live without them.
I mean, how would we know what time it is, or how far it is to Erie, Pa., or what Ted Williams batted in 1941 if it were not for numbers?
We couldn’t even place 1941 in time if it weren’t for numbers.
No, it’s just that I have what borders on an aversion to, perhaps even a fear of, statistics. And statistics are nothing but numbers.
Some statistics are varnished and some are unvarnished, but at bottom they are all numbers.
Notice I did not use the word “dread.” I do not dread statistics. I am merely unsettled by them. And who wants to be unsettled when it is more comfortable to settled.
Remember, when the Connecticut Western Reserve, where we live, was settled, the newcomers were not unsettled. Far from it.
I am not sure what all that has to do with what I am about to tell you, but then, I am not quite sure what it is that I was about to tell you anyway.
Oh yes, it was about statistics. Or, if I may use the term, “crime statistics.” Or even if the incidents I was about to relate are actually crimes.
It boils down to this. Last Monday morning, I was sitting in the Wayne Rodehorst Auditorium at Lakeland Community College.
The occasion was the president’s annual State of the Campus address, and the president, Dr. Morris Beverage Jr., was on stage presenting his views of the campus in regard to student success, academic progress and other matters of more than passing interest.
He had armed himself with a couple of highly regarded Lake County citizens – Kim Fraser, head of the ADAHMS Board (having to do with drugs and alcohol) and Jack Thompson, superintendent of Perry Schools.
They are both high quality people. Morris wouldn’t surround himself with anything less. But it was some of the statistics Thompson projected on the screen that brought me up short.
And believe me, when I am brought up short, it is hard for me to catch my breath.
Since we were in a large auditorium, and I was without benefit of pencil or paper, I cannot report with any degree of accuracy exactly what the statistics were that he reported.
But this observation is indelible in my mind: Perry Schools rank very high in the county, as well as in the state, in categories that I will call (my term) “anti-social behavior.”
Put another way, there is more unruly behavior than I could ever have imagined on the campuses of the Perry Schools.
I speak of fist fights, bullying and other sorts of conduct that one would not expect to find in Perry.
But I have a theory, which I formulated sitting in the darkened auditorium. Morris asked for questions at the end, but I did not volunteer because I did not want to appear to be a show-off, or even spend a lengthy amount of time framing my question.
But here is the essence of it: I think the Perry social-behavior statistics are skewered simply because Perry does a better job of reporting them than do other school systems.
Let me illustrate with an example with which I am familiar. Every year Cleveland Magazine publishes a “Rating the Suburbs” edition.
Every suburb wants to have a very low rating among the crime statistics. I mean, who wants to be first in murders, armed robberies, burglaries and the like?
So a lot of places simply do not tell the whole story when the magazine calls.
It is easy to do. And the magazine does not know the difference.
Thus the “safest” suburbs may be the ones that soft-pedal the crime numbers.
And what does that have to do with the Perry Schools?
Well, I have no way of knowing if this is true, but isn’t it possible that Perry does a superior job of reporting fist-fights, bullying and all that?
There are a lot of school districts in Ohio. I remember when there were 616, but some may have consolidated by now.
But isn’t it possible that some of them are less, shall we say, conscientious than Perry in reporting unruly behavior to the pollsters?
Of course, this is only a theory and I could be wrong. If I am, I hope Jack Thompson calls and demands an apology, which I will certainly accommodate.
But isn’t that why Perry has a nuclear power plant, so it  has enough tax money that it can have a first-class school district without the distractions of bullying and fist fights?

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Quality material exists in the midst of mounds of junk mail

Not all mail is junk, just 99 percent of it.
In our tidy home, we get so much worthless mail each day that a couple of forests, very large forests, could be preserved if the trees were left intact to grow and mature rather than being cut down just to print junk mail.
But there is also a very large amount of other stuff in the mail – almost every day – that is interesting reading but tends to accumulate. I don’t dare let it pile too high.
Much of the good mail consists of newsletters and bulletins that deliver sage advice, pithy news and other matters of interest that are too valuable to throw out without reading then.
So I diligently read a stack every day. It is not only interesting, but I am afraid of missing something if I pass over it lightly.
Here are a few examples of good stuff that comes in the mail on a regular basis:
* The monthly bulletin of the Lake County Chapter of the Kent State Alumni Association. It is packed with news, but the greatest attraction is the ongoing recounting of the history of the school as researched and written by Larry Disbro, a true blue (and gold) graduate of Kent and a loyal alum if ever there were one.
I don’t know how he does it! It never ends. He must spend untold hours every month working on the bulletin.
And dues are only $10 a year. At that bargain price, how can anyone be without it?
* The Ridge Acres Civic Association newsletter. Ever since I spoke at a meeting several years ago, Renee has kept me on the mailing list. It is a great source of information about a vital area of Willoughby. It is chock-full of tidbits worth knowing.
I hope she never takes me off the list. Maybe someday I should send her a check to help pay for the postage.
* Best of Health. It arrives from Lake Health. Great stories and equally great pictures on the latest advancements in the field of health and staying well. The stories are timely, and sometimes I even see pictures of people I know. I hope the folks who get it free in the mail read it as diligently as I do.
* Lake Legal News. Everything you need to know about the county bar association. Many matters of interest here. Of special interest in the last publication I read was “Judge’s Article,” written by Judge Harry E. Field of the Willoughby Municipal Court.
Harry minces no words and he calls ‘em as he sees ‘em. For example, he contemplated that in his first year of law school at Case Western Reserve, the class began with about 135 law students, of which only about 12 were women.
“Now, a first year law class averages about 127 students, of which 50 percent are women. Much progress has been made and the profession has benefited thereby.”
He noted, however, that when he began the practice of law, there were not only fewer women in the practice of law, there were fewer attorneys as well.
It was not difficult to know all the lawyers in the community, he pointed out, because their numbers were small.
The he got right to the point: “When I started in 1972 there were 143 members in the Lake County Bar Association. Now there are 428. I am not so sure, however, that the explosion in the number of lawyers has benefited the profession today.”
My, my! Well stated, Harry. Too many lawyers? There are some who might agree. I’m not saying what I think. But this I know: Harry Field is a very bright guy.
* Consumer Reports on Health. This is an ancillary publication of Consumer Reports. Obviously it deals only with health matters. The subjects it touches on are timely and things we all really need to know.
From a “Checklist if you go to a walk-in clinic” to “Just say no to whole-body scans,” to “Drug labels ... decoded,” there is one eye-opener after another in this compact and priceless publication.
* Lake County History Center News. The historical society is one of the county’s finest non-profit organizations, well-run and well-administered. It puts on a lot of programs of interest to the public, and this bulletin puts them on display so that anyone who is interested can make plans to attend well in advance.
The LCHS maintains that its clambakes are the greatest in the Western Hemisphere. Who knows? They may be right. You can find out for yourself on Sept. 28. For $31 ($28 for members), it’s a good deal.
I have barely scratched the surface on the reading material I get in the mail on a regular, mostly monthly, basis.
There is much, much more. But you get the idea. For all I know, you may get as much of it as I do.
Happy, adventuresome reading!
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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Unionville Tavern is a treasure that should stand for decades

I am a preservationist at heart. I hate it when valuable things disappear for no good reason.
Many of the finest buildings in Europe are 200, 800 or 1,000 years old. (Don’t ask me for examples because I would have to look it up, and I hate to look things up).
But trust me on this – some of the buildings in Europe go back to the Stone Age, when they were built of stones.
There is a beautiful building on the campus at Lakeland Community College called the Mooreland Mansion. It was saved from the wrecking ball, or as former City Editor Ed Bell used to call it, the “headache ball,” because a group of concerned citizens got together, pledged money as well as time and in-kind gifts, and returned the stately building to its former glory.
It now serves as a community showplace. Just last Thursday it was the scene for the induction of five new members into the Lakeland Hall of Fame.
Contrast that with Camelot. It was another beautiful building on the campus. It was exquisite. But a former administration (certainly not the current one) ordered it torn down.
What a shame! What a pity! It is difficult to find forgiveness in my heart for that shameful act of destruction.
Many such edifices are worth saving, if only for the acts of preservation that make the deeds worthwhile.
Well, don’t look now, but the tearer-dowers, the no-goodniks who have no sense of history and even less sense of decency, have their collective eyes on another treasure.
I refer to the tattered, once-magnificent lady called the Unionville Tavern in Madison Township.
I am sure you know what I am talking about. There have been at least two news stories about the stately tavern within the past few weeks, plus an editorial just days ago pointing out the “Unionville Tavern has big potential.”
Indeed it does. I will not attempt, in this limited space, to go into the remarkable history of the tavern. I will merely offer a few remembrances of the place that are of a personal nature. They are things I think about when I sit back in my easy chair, close my eyes, and reflect upon the pleasant times I have enjoyed there.
One of them was an evening decades ago (I’m not sure how many decades it was) when Bette Rock called and asked me to speak at a dinner for retirees of Ohio Bell.
Bette, you will recall, was the “Voice of the Fair” in Lake County for a long time. She also served the same function at the Cuyahoga County Fair in Berea. She worked for the phone company for years.
The Ohio Bell retirees made me feel right at home, even though Bette was the only person there I knew. I regaled them for the better part of an hour with stories about the county, and they showed their appreciation by giving me a very nice Ohio Bell jacket – blue, with yellow stripes.
Well, I still have the jacket. As you may know, I very seldom throw anything away. And it’s hard to get good jackets these days. But I digress.
It was a chicken dinner, with the ever-present corn fritters. Couldn’t have a meal there without corn fritters.
We once had a general manager here who had a fetish for joining chambers of commerce. Seven of them, as a matter of fact.
Some of them have now combined forces. But the earlier Madison group met at the old Tavern. We would take a leisurely drive out Route 84, enjoy lunch with the very nice Madison folks, have a couple of corn fritters, then talk on the way back to the office about what a nice bunch of people we had met.
Well, they are still nice. Alice Cable (her real name, not Time Warner) is a worthy successor to Cindy Girdler running the Chamber, and the current members have joined in the effort to save the Tavern
But they don’t meet at the Tavern any longer. Nobody does.
Also a few years ago, Sandy O’Brien was auditor of Ashtabula County. When we wanted to have lunch, we met halfway – at the Unionville Tavern.
They were joyous occasions. Just me and Sandy and the corn fritters – plus a few other loyal customers.
Sandy lived on a huge “estate” in eastern Ashtabula County, not far from the Pennsylvania Line. She and her husband, Pat, had a massive lake on the property.
A friend of mine used to fish there a lot. He wrote about it in the paper. He thought the lake was his secret, but I knew about it. But I never let on.
I really miss his outdoors columns. But not as much as I will miss the Unionville Tavern if anything bad happens to it.
So here is a profound and earnest wish for success on the part of the Tavern Preservation Society.
May its members save it forever – or at least a few hundred more years.
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