Archive for February, 2014

The News Making The News

February 27, 2014

            “Gannett moving Advocate printing to Columbus, eliminating 74 jobs”, Feb. 27, 2014, The Newark Advocate, written by Staff reports. (any relation to Staph infection?) The headline seems to say it all. The very paper that advocates resuscitating downtown Newark with businesses and development lays off a large number of employees, and shutters its own plant. Not a good sign. Analysis anticipates the “to be expected” snide remarks and cynicism regarding Gannett’s “purely for profit” business move and sure enough, the first online commentaries are in that direction. Of course, in their criticisms no one will consider the public/private partnerships funded specifically to rectify this, like the Chamber of Commerce’s Grow Licking County or the Newark Development Partners Community Development Corporation. As Nerk Aggrivate would put it, they’ve already gotten their money. (and received their accolades in The Newark Advocate as well!) Why not just give the Wolfe’s the rest and subscribe to The Dispatch as well? Analysis finds it not to be so clear cut and straight forward.

 

            More sad (and troubling) was the article’s inclusion of ““The Advocate is very much focused on driving its long-term, successful transformation,” said Executive Editor Michael Shearer. “We are committed to pursuing great journalism, effectively serving our advertisers and working for the greater good of our communities while at the same time positioning ourselves for an increasingly digital and mobile world. We remain deeply committed to serving the vital Newark community.”” Indeed, this was the only quoted (interviewee) statement, a mini “non-editorial” editorial by the newspaper’s, well, editor. It was sad (and troubling) because it was such remarkably wonderful “corporate speak”. Here’s a guy who has been actively advocating for improvements or causes beneficial to the community, who chooses to say that what he signs off on everyday “is very much focused on driving its long-term, successful transformation.” Into what? A frog, a prince, or maybe even Lady Gaga? His official editorials are written to make it sound like he is one of us, passionately engaged in what concerns us (excellent journalistic approach to writing, following in the footsteps of the greats), and yet this mini, “non-editorial”, editorial can only express a non-specific, specifically “corporate speak” agenda (“We are committed to pursuing great journalism, effectively serving our advertisers and working for the greater good of our communities while at the same time positioning ourselves for an increasingly digital and mobile world. We remain deeply committed to serving the vital Newark community.”) Is this how one speaks to one’s neighbors, those with whom one has shared conversations over the back fence? Is this what commitment looks like in our economy obsessed culture?

 

            As mentioned previously, it is not so clear cut and straight forward. If the cynics prevail, and we become informed through the big city Dispatch or national USA Today, then what becomes of our local? What identifies and defines our neighbors? We will be uninformed, and unfamiliar, with our neighbors and our neighborhood. The unfamiliar part is the more disturbing. Both culturally and politically we may find ourselves identifying with the likes of a Howard Dean or a Grover Norquist – some outside, well-funded power broker utilizing our allegiance, our “Likes” to further their own agendas (with no regard for any local concern, let alone involvement). Or we may become completely isolated by having no connection or interaction with the greater good, totally engrossed in our own personal everyday struggle to survive – regressing into a third world outlook, mentality and identity. No, there’s value in having local reporters, educated journalists capable of bridging the neighborhood with the global. Newark Ohio News Analysis originated almost exactly a year ago precisely because there is such a lack of insight, conversation and sharing of the local, by the local, for the local. (!) If the cynics have their way, and The Newark Advocate goes the way of its printing presses, we will have even less.

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This Week

February 22, 2014

            “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” was liked, opening to good reviews for the Licking County Players. Performance tonight 2-22-14

 

            “How Do We Change A Small Town?” will be an open conversation with Newark’s well liked business owner Chris Ramsey and Denison’s newly well liked President Adam Weinberg in Granville at DU, 2-23-14.

 

            “A lot of the people who created this culture are kids, or were kids when they created it, so it does actually reflect a teenage zeitgeist. It’s not the adult advertisers versus the, you know, supplicant teens of yore. It’s now, like, the teenagers are creating this architecture. They grow up and they become, you know, super-rich Silicon Valley types. And then there’s this giant underclass of people forced to go “Like, like, like, like, like,” and who are probably around their age, you know?” (ALISSA QUART, Author, Republic of Outsiders from WGBH’s PBS Frontline investigative report “Generation Like” which aired 2-18-14. Must see TV!)

 

            Lots of Likes to go around with the impending demolition of the Chilcote and Jones building (20-22 N. Fourth St., directly behind City Hall). Big chunk of the funding for the creation of Newark’s newest parking lot  will be coming from Moving Ohio Forward (Liked by jobs creators from Mayor Hall to Manuel Vela). Not clicking on “Like” will be the taxpayers who are footing almost the entire bill for the reinvention of Mr. Manuel Vela’s original investment Like.

 

            “Winning” coach and Reverend Dave Daubenmire did not receive enough Likes from the Lakewood School Board. His followers still Like Coach Dave.

 

            Big Like (and lots) to Shiloh Baptist Church and the Shiloh Holistic Opportunity Program Corp. for their productive persistence and patience in finally realizing zoning legitimation with their investment in the Matthews House. The US has the largest percentage of incarcerated people of any country in the world. Upon release, these folks don’t just disappear, magically becoming assimilated. Kudos to Shiloh Baptist Church for making that re-entry not only a virtual “Like”, but a concrete reality.

 

            “There is right now a huge, huge, commercial push or corporate push to collect as much data as possible. When you hit “Like,” when you retweet, when you make any expression on line, you’re creating data. You’re creating a demographic profile of yourself.” (CHARLES DUHIGG, Author, The Power of Habit from WGBH’s PBS Frontline investigative report “Generation Like”)

 

            Push the Like button now, won’t you?

 

 

The Buck Stops Here

February 16, 2014

            One of the more egregious news stories coming out of Newark Ohio last week had quite an interesting online commentary – former political office holders as well as long time city council attendees (City budget worries lead to union fire staffing concerns City, union: Report has wrong number of firefighters Kent Mallet, Newark Advocate, Feb. 15, 2014). The City of Newark has just recently agreed to a 3 year contract with its firefighters. Much of the negotiations, on both sides, relied on information submitted by a “fact finder”, who worked with information submitted to him (primarily by the city). Turns out he got it wrong, badly. This has all erupted into a he says, she says as well as the high school rivalry of our school/your school (Democrats are to blame, Republicans are to blame). The online commentaries carried this even further by linking it all with the budget now being even more out of whack (since it was based on total miscalculations). One commenter (Nerk Agrivate) got it right by stating that the fact finder has already been “paid for substandard work and faulty recommendations.” As Alfred E. Newman so eloquently put it “What me worry?”  

 

            That same day the online Motley Fool posted an article by John Maxfield entitled “The Supreme Court May Soon Take Away This Important Right On March 5, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in a case that could take away a 30-year-old right that Americans have come to rely on.” The case concerns the acquisition of Dresser Industries by Halliburton and statements made in 2001 by the company’s CEO David Lesar regarding its newly acquired liability for Dresser’s outstanding asbestos claims. The claims turned out to be many times more than Lesar’s oft repeated public reassurances that the liability was no biggie. The value of stock plunged and investors filed a class action lawsuit claiming beaucoup financial loss because of the CEO’s misleading statements. Why does this matter? Why is the court being asked to reconsider “the ability to file class-action lawsuits under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.”?

 

            “The answer is that it makes a huge difference. This is because Halliburton is asking the court to overturn a legal doctrine known as the “fraud on the market” theory, which creates a rebuttable presumption that investors rely on statements of material fact made publicly by corporate executives. Without this presumption, securities fraud cases would be far too complicated to litigate as class actions, leaving individual investors to fend for themselves against deep-pocketed corporations. The implications of this would be considerable. Most importantly, for nearly three decades, the securities laws have been predicated on both public and private enforcement — the former by the SEC and Justice Department and the latter by private class-action lawsuits. Without the latter, in turn, the market would lose a critical overseer and, one can only assume, be far more susceptible to deceit.” The connection to Newark is found in “investors rely on statements of material fact made publicly by corporate executives.” Should the Supreme Court rule in Halliburton’s favor, corporate executives would no longer be liable for misleading the public (today’s lingo – a person’s “followers”) (with Citizens United the Supreme’s determined corporations as “persons”). Execs could say what they liked to get a product sold, and be held liable for any individual wrong this may cause, but not for any group or “public” error (like yelling “fire” in a theater affects the entire theater, but only individual wrongs would be recognized). The current hegemony within our political economy is that public takes a back seat to the economy – fiscal responsibility, balancing budgets, creating jobs etc. Business is esteemed as exemplary when it comes to doing this and government should follow its lead (if not totally abdicate to business running public affairs). If it doesn’t move, Ohio’s governor will “privatize” it (i.e. JobsOhio or the recent push to get business running education). Not wishing to be out of step, Licking County’s leaders follow this national “ready made” solution. The hegemony of serving “the economy” takes precedence to serving the public (the totality that constitutes membership for a class action). Mallet ends his report with “The mayor, asked if the fact-finder had a clear picture of the city’s financial health, responded: “From our standpoint, he did,” Hall said. “That’s why we scratch our head on how the fact-finder comes up with how there’s money to increase wages.”” Utilizing far fewer words when asked about finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, our former president, George W, replied simply “So what?” (OK so it’s not “What me worry?” But it’s close.)

Reality For Sale

February 13, 2014

            Yahoo News (who knew?) has something online called “Power Players” which interviewed public/private investigator Terry Lenzner who recently came out with a new book “The Investigator: 50 Years of Uncovering the Truth.” (‘Reality is not available for sale’: An investigator’s mission to protect the truth By David Kerley, Jordyn Phelps, and Alexandra Dukakis February 12, 2014 Power Players). Mr. Lenzner was hired by Mohamed Al Fayed to dispute the official determination for the death of his son Dodi and Princess Diana. ““When I called him up to give my final report, I said ‘There’s no way in the world I can tell you that we are solving this incident as being anybody’s fault except the driver and the drinking,’ and Mohamed Fayed said to me ‘That’s your conclusion?’ [and] I said, ‘Yes it is, sir,’ and he said ‘You’re fired,’” Lenzner recalled.” Lenzner accounts for this by saying ““This is a phenomenon now … in investigations, where people will spend a lot of money to buy reality, which in fact is not available for sale,””.

 

            “[Bud] Konheim, CEO and co-founder of luxury-fashion company Nicole Miller, said on CNBC’s ” Squawk Box ” on Wednesday that Americans not in the top 1 percent would be considered wealthy in most of the world. He said the 99ers should stop complaining and understand how lucky they are.” (The poor should stop whining, says luxury CEO CNBC By Robert Frank 2-12-14). “”We’ve got a country that the poverty level is wealth in 99 percent of the rest of the world,” he said.” Robert Frank critiques this with “But he happens to be correct–at least if you look at only the income numbers. In the U.S., you need around $500,000 in annual income to be in the top 1 percent. Globally, income of $34,000 a year gets you in the top 1 percent, according Branko Milanovic, a World Bank economist.”

 

            The VW UAW representation vote has been in the news lately and starts today at the VW plant in Chattanooga, TN. If you’ve been following that story at all you know it is about the union and management being on the same page but the powers that be (the Tennessee politicos and power brokers) along with several outside the state PACs have been vehemently opposed to any kind of union representation of workers. This all is one of the phenomena that has flown under the radar of the Citizen United revocation amendment folks. The Supreme Court’s C U ruling essentially made money speech, with all the first amendment requirements. In this private company/worker agreement (one promoted and favored by VW as part of their managerial approach worldwide), big bucks are flowing in from out of state sources to negate the endeavor. Recently many TN politicos have threatened elimination of the previous generous state incentives and perks used to “lure” VW to this production facility. VW is interested in expanding, and requires the people on the factory floor to take part in the running of the operation (through what is called the workers council. What a concept!). This is all becoming more medieval than the occupations in Kiev (business owners wanting workers represented and the business itself not being adverse to having a union, with the pro-business Republican dominated TN government, in conjunction with various outside big money PACs, being vehemently and actively opposed to how VW runs its own business!). Today, TN’s Senator ‘Bob’ Corker employed the nuclear option by intimating that VW would pull up stakes and head somewhere else if the UAW was voted in. “U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said on Wednesday he has been “assured” that if workers at the Volkswagen AG plant in his hometown of Chattanooga reject United Auto Worker representation, the company will reward the plant with a new product to build.” (US senator drops bombshell during VW plant union vote Reuters By Bernie Woodall 2-13-14) Roll Call listed Senator Corker as the 14th richest US congressman in 2011 with a conservatively figured net worth of 21 million dollars American. Corker fell to 22nd place in 2013 with only a net worth of $16.6 million. Hard times!

 

            Analysis reveals this is about identity, not wealth. Corker intimates VW will relocate to Mexico where they ostensibly can produce their anticipated new SUV model cheaper. According to Konheim the VW workers there would be better off. Following Corker’s and Konheim’s logic, US workers should move to Mexico in order to be better off. Of course they’d have to learn Spanish, and it would be a bit of a commute. Even more, the unspoken implication is that the folks from there would come here to work at the jobs left here (for there) in order to be better off here than they were there (by coming to live here). But they would be willing to do it for less. The logic really enters the middle ages when you find that the folks footing the bill to keep the UAW out also want to build massive barriers (physical and legal) to keep the outside workers, well, out (or in, depending on whether it is really better there than here for US workers as Bud claims it is) (but he’s here, not there. So how would he know?). No, it’s not about wealth. Income disparity continues no matter which zany and convoluted Abbot and Costello choreography is imagined. This is about identity, the identity of the 99%. Following the thinking and actions (contrary to what the US Supreme Court and Siri may say, speech is still a human action) of Al Fayed, Corker, Konheim, the Koch’s, etc. the identity of the 99% is to be determined by the 1% through whatever mediation proves to be effective. Eliminating any kind of worker/employee solidarity is effective. Eliminating any income disparity comprehension and discussion (through obfuscation, concealment, or misinformation) also works. Political party affiliation is a most excellent means (Democrats and Republicans are found on Roll Call’s top 50 wealthiest US legislators list). The mediated message (by the 1% who own that mediation, that media) is that America need always think of itself as individuals, standing shoulder to shoulder with their corporate counterparts. Group identity, group affiliation and organization, is for sporting events and fashion, not for self-governance.  

Where’s Waldo, Er, ALEC?

February 7, 2014

            With “Kasich sees need to deregulate schools” Joe Vardon of the Columbus Dispatch  gives John Kasich’s latest (1-6-14). At the Ohio Newspaper Association convention Vardon quotes Ohio’s Governor as saying “I’ve talked to (Ohio schools superintendent) Dick Ross about the need to bring about some deregulation. We have deregulation in some ways of rules that are connected to business, (we need to) figure out how we can bring more common sense to the rules and more trust to the people in the local communities who are running our schools.” “We need to have a flexible education system so that people in our communities can adopt these schools and adopt these children,” Kasich said. “We have got to develop a mechanism to enable this to happen.” What could the governor be suggesting? What does he have in mind? Vardon proffers “Kasich could propose a host of ways to deregulate schools, according to education insiders, such as removing state rules for class sizes and personnel and leaving those to the discretion of local boards. Kasich could propose easing licensing requirements for teachers to make it easier for business professionals to come into classrooms and teach, or establish some sort of formal tie between the state Board of Education and the business community so that business leaders could have a more direct influence on curriculum.” What could this be about?

 

            The same state legislature which has been heaping regulations, mandates, standards and requirements on Ohio’s underfunded public schools now will be asked to “deregulate” those schools? What would this look like? Central Ohioans might think “Great! Park National Bank, State Farm and United Health Group will be investing in Newark City Schools, North Fork schools, etc. and folks like Dan DeLawder, Susan Krieger and Steve layman will be leading regularly scheduled seminars at Newark High School, Watkins, etc. Peachy!” The finest minds honed by real world accomplishment and coupled with beaucoup funding is a definite recipe for success. Praise the lord! The cavalry has finally arrived. Vardon ends his article with “During a campaign speech in Zanesville last night, he urged local businesses – along with civic and faith-based organizations – to adopt local schools and mentor children. “We can no longer sit on the sideline and wait on someone else to do it,” he said.”

 

            But when Kasich’s governorship expires, what then? Legislative action with regard our schools extends over the span of multiple executives, as witnessed by the reluctance to adequately meet the Ohio Supreme Court ruling that public education in Ohio does not abide by its constitutional requirements. Business “investment” is never a gift. It is made with the expectation of leverage on input, policy decisions, and on anticipated return. What if a potential outcome of “deregulation” would be the west end of Newark, east side of Granville, and adjoining parts of Heath separating off as an indivisible entity or “Educational Development District” (kind of like a JEDD or JEDZ)? A new set of schools, a new campus could be formed catering to the expectations of the business investors who have “adopted” this venture with taxes collected on the workers, residents and customers of this district (again, akin to a JEDD or JEDZ) along with state per pupil reimbursement. This campus could be located in the environs of Cherry Valley Road with its soon to be built interchange with State Route 16. This could facilitate drawing the brightest and best STEM students and future entrepreneurs from all over the central Ohio area with publicly funded school transportation thanks to open enrollment regulations (or de-regulations, depends on how you look at it). A separate school district that siphons off all districts would certainly be one materialization of John the governator’s “deregulation” anticipation (which has not been spelled out at all, ever). Far-fetched you say?

 

            Exactly that is currently taking place in many southern states previously affected by Federal Court ordered bussing and desegregation requirements (“regulations”). “In East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, middle-class and wealthy neighborhoods want an educational divorce from a neighboring community where four out of 10 families live in poverty. Saying they want local control, they’re trying to leave the 42,000-pupil public-education system. They envision their own district funded by property taxes from their higher-value homes, which would take money from schools in poorer parts of state-capital Baton Rouge, home of Louisiana State University. They even want their own city.” So reports Bloomberg’s Margaret Newkirk in “Baton Rouge’s Rich Want New Town to Keep Poor Pupils Out: Taxes” published on the same day as Vardon’s report (1-6-14). Further along she writes:

“In Alabama, which makes it relatively easy to create districts, two Birmingham suburbs left the countywide system in the past two years. Jefferson County, which encompasses the city, now has 13 systems to serve its population of about 660,000. In Tennessee, the majority-black Memphis schools last year merged with the majority-white county district. In response, the Republican-dominated legislature lifted a decades-old ban on new systems and six suburbs seceded, approving sales-tax increases to pay for their plans. In the Atlanta area, new districts have been proposed by Dunwoody, which is part of the DeKalb County schools. In Georgia, new districts require a constitutional amendment, and Dunwoody legislators want to get one on the ballot. A city study showed a new district would immediately have a $30 million annual surplus. And, in Dallas, a move to create a district emerged last year. Parents are proposing a system called White Rock in an affluent area east of the city.” Newkirk closes with “If approved by voters, St. George, as it would be called, would be Louisiana’s fifth-largest city. Prospective residents hope its existence would provide political momentum for separate schools. St. George would have about 100,000 residents, or a quarter of the population now governed by the combined city-parish government of Baton Rouge. It also would include much of the area’s retail and commercial development, including the Mall of Louisiana, which has more than 150 shops, among them department stores of Macy’s Inc. and Dillard’s Inc.”

 

            All of this is quite unexceptional, historically, for Ohio, central Ohio, and Newark itself. With previous “deregulation” we have had the growth and investment in boutique health clinics and hospitals, without emergency room capability, and located in areas where most residents are expected to be more than adequately insured. Newark witnessed this on a massive scale with the move of its hospital from the heavily populated east side to the “newly developing” west side. A constitutional amendment was required to get gambling casinos legal in Ohio (a primary selling point was the promised funding bonanza to local education). Deregulation in Ohio has also resulted in the almost absolute non- existence of any form of public transit between Columbus and its outlying small cities, or between those cities, or within those municipalities themselves. “Deregulation” is not always defined as progress. It does not always equate with improvement.

 

            Where is all this coming from? Why is this occurring? Analysis would encourage readers to find ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), membership to which is maintained by most of Ohio’s ruling state representatives and senators.

 

Perpetuating The Myth

February 2, 2014

            Ground Hog Day! Come ‘round again (with or without Bill Murray). Buckeye Chuck reported not having seen his shadow; everyone looking to spring. Kent Mallet headlined The Newark Advocate with just such pronouncement. “Licking County Economy Bounces Back” (2-2-14) Home sales up! Home sale prices up! New car sales up! Commercial building up! Residential building up! On the down side foreclosures are down, bankruptcy down. Analysis can almost smell the flowers.

 

            The headlines and stats are great news if you are a banker (are you?). More homes, construction, and car sales are being financed at higher prices while losses are being trimmed with a decline in bankruptcies and foreclosures; also good news for real estate agents. Both bankers and agents were the primo spring prognosticators interviewed by Kent Mallet. He did throw in a shadow, though, and that is “Cathy Virgallito, spokeswoman for Apprisen, a national nonprofit credit counseling organization based in Columbus, said the economy continues to recover, but the effects of the recession remain. “We do see some improvement,” she said. “People were losing jobs all over the place. Now, they’re working but getting paid less, and it continues to be a struggle to balance their budget.””

 

            Join with John Lennon and me (and Bill Murray) won’t you, for a virtual karaoke rendition of “Imagine” —  a busy grocery store parking lot that is, outside Kroger or Walmart, (number one and two grocery retailers in the world!). The parking lot is jammed. Folks cruising for a place to park “their” cars while dodging meandering cart pushers. But that car they are driving doesn’t necessarily belong to them. Indeed, a large percentage of the cars in the lot are not “owned” by the folks that drove them there. As a matter of fact, a large number are rented, leased. The non-owner occupant rate of residential real estate in Newark is over 43%. And yet Mallet continues to perpetuate the myth of all must be coming up tulips and daffodils because the bankers and real estate agents are doing well (real estate agents likewise act as property managers of rentals. Analysis won’t go into the intricacies of how the previous high foreclosures contributed to the growth in demand and availability of residential rental). The article is definitely not false (the stats back Mallet up), only the picture portrays you as a banker. Are you?

 

            ““People were losing jobs all over the place. Now, they’re working but getting paid less…””

 

 

If You Like It So Much You Ought To Try It Some Time

February 1, 2014

            “Recognizing his commitment to the city [of Newark], the Licking County Chamber of Commerce presented [Jerry] McClain with the 2014 John Alford Community Service Award during the 58th Annual Groundhog Breakfast.” (Jerry McClain honored with John Alford Community Service Award 1-31-14, Emily Maddern, The Newark Advocate).

 

            That same day the online Advocate, which featured various Groundhog Breakfast articles, included a USA Today editorial entitled “50th anniversaries shame today’s leaders”. It is a look back (sigh) as well as a look at today (yikes). Comparisons are made, differences of process, then and now, delineated. “Those were clearly different times. The political leaders were products of the Great Depression and World War II.” No mention is made in the article of our incredibly shrinking world and the influence that global economics and interconnectivity, globalism, has on today’s politics. Students of America’s involvement with Viet Nam will recognize that it itself was a continuation of what had been the French war over its Asian colony, recently regained after losing it to the Japanese. Within these post WWII years, Britain had lost its prime money making colony, India. Again, the French anticipated our “Viet Nam” with the loss of their immediate neighboring colony, Algeria, during the Eisenhower years. 50 years ago saw the end of colonialism, an economic system that made those “clearly different times.”  

 

Emily Maddern begins her report by writing “If there is anyone who has a passion for the city of Newark, it’s Jerry McClain.” Analysis could not find Mr. McClain’s place of residence within the city limits of Newark. Many folks have a passion for sports, hobbies or creative art projects. Could “the city of Newark” be something like that? In reading contemporary accounts of colonialism from fifty plus years ago, by the likes of thinkers such as Franz Fanon or Albert Memmi, people who lived within their native countries as the colonized, one is struck by the description of the  indignation of colonized people with having celebrations, monuments, buildings and streets named in honor of British, French, Dutch, etc. “leaders” who had a passion, commitment and involvement in the native regions without the “leaders” themselves being native or residing there (Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing” begins to express some of this sense of outrage and  indignation). These “leaders” eventually returned to their private estates in the mother country while receiving recognition for their dedicated colonizing service. America’s ideological policy, then as now, was to press for and promote democracy. In a democracy, local government is run by the folks who live there and by the citizens who are its everyday residents. Maddern ends her coverage by quoting McClain as saying ““Newark is a great place, it’s a special place to raise a family…”” But not mine.