Sunday, December 26, 2010

Editorial: Calisolar deal would be a shot in the arm

North central Ohio residents should feel encouraged that Calisolar is considering adding several hundred jobs back into the old General Motors plant.

The company has stopped short of saying it has made a final decision to come to Ontario, but all indications are that the solar industry company has a strong interest in the vacant Ontario plant and is negotiating with local, state and federal officials to make it happen.

With public decisions still pending at the state and federal level on major pieces of proposed incentive programs, a final decision may not come before spring or even summer.

It is heartening now, however, to recognize that a great deal of collaboration has taken place to put Ontario at the top of Calisolar’s list of potential sites. This teamwork, which has not been disrupted by party politics, has stretched from officials in Ontario up to the office of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown.

The administration of Gov. Ted Strickland has played a major role in the negotiations. The hand-off to newly-elected Gov. John Kasich is expected to be seamless.

If the deal is ultimately finalized, production at the plant may not begin until sometime in 2012.
Local residents should certainly feel optimistic about the future economic boost Calisolar could bring, but the potential reopening of the GM plant should not be viewed as the silver bullet that will solve all of our problems.

Mansfield, Ontario and Richland County governmental units all are facing difficult financial issues that can’t wait a year or two to be addressed. Tough decisions must be made now.

We certainly have our issues, but we also have some strengths that attracted outside investors to our community – a workable plant, a capable workforce, a tailored educational system and a community desire to get better.

The Calisolar deal is clearly not finalized.

A fair number of decisions have to be made yet and things can change. But local residents should enter the new year recognizing that others value what we have to offer and are considering joining us in our community.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Editorial: Children Services, county officials must mend their fences

For a group of people focused on repairing families, it baffles us that there is so much disfuntionality between Richland County commissioners, the county prosecutors office, the sheriff’s department and Richland County Children Services.

Last week, after Children Services Director Randy Parker learned that Prosecutor James Mayer wanted changes on Parker’s board, Parker went through the roof.

With his attorney, Parker demanded that Mayer stop meddling with children services.

The tantrum played out in front of county commissioners, and for a time seemed closed to coming to blows.

Mayer’s argument with children services is that there is a lack of law enforcement expertise on the board, and it appears that may be the reason the prosecutor’s office has seen a drop in child abuse and sex abuse cases.

Parker disagrees and said Mayer doesn’t know how to count. He said the system is working.

Meanwhile, the sheriff’s department detective assigned to investigate crimes against juveniles has started working out of the trunk of his car because he claims there is too much discord in the children services office.

A letter by board member Nancy Joyce appears to add weight to that claim. In the letter Joyce reprimands Detective Jeff Shook for a blow-up he had with Parker in front of Parker’s staff at children’s services.

When Assistant Prosecutor Bambi Couch Page tried to read the letter aloud, Parker repeatedly interrupted and ultimately walked out of the meeting.

To Parker’s argument, it certainly would be difficult to run a department knowing the county prosecutor is trying to dismantle a board he has worked hard to develop.

We still don’t understand why Mayer blindsided Parker by taking his complaints to commissioners instead of addressing his issues with Parker first.

Some progress, however, has been made. It appears Mayer may get some of his people on the board without sacrificing Parker’s wishes. Whether they can work together remains to be seen.

This apparent power struggle must stop.

We urge all parties involved to drop their egos and remember that they are directly involved with the families of Richland County.

If the quality of life in Richland County is measured by the strength of our families, then this group — more than any other — can have a profound influence.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Editorial: Kasich rejects feds’ expensive 'gift'

We applaud Gov.-elect John Kasich for standing up for Ohio taxpayers and telling President Obama to take his $400 million and shove it.

Kasich has openly and vocally opposed the 3-C corridor project that one day may have provided passenger rail service between Cincinnati and Cleveland.

It’s not the idea that’s bad. It’s the bang for the buck that has Kasich and others so opposed to the plan. It’s also a federal project disguised as a gift that has huge tax implications for Ohio taxpayers.

So far there has been no way to determine what the passenger rail service would cost the state.

For sure it will cost a lot more than $400 million.

However, there’s still a slim chance that the money could be used to improve Ohio’s freight lines — an idea that would actually improve the state economy.

“I wouldn’t expect it,” Kasich said Thursday. “I made it clear to (the Obama administration) that I want to use the money for freight rail. ... If you’re for flexibility, give us the money and let us solve our problems.”

This is the kind of leadership we need in Columbus. Kasich already has shown that he is willing to work with the feds as long as Ohio benefits.

“So are we going to get it? I don’t think so,” he said. “I’m not real optimistic that we are going to get a lot of flexibility on anything. I hope I’m wrong.”

On a positive note, we also applaud Obama for reaching out to the newly elected governors recently.

It showed a willingness to work with the states and get some real buy-in as we all look for ways to move this country forward again.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Editorial: Westinghouse played key role in Mansfield economy

News last week that the old Westinghouse factory would be torn down drew mixed emotion. But after an initial sigh of reflection passed, there was a general feeling that it’s past time to say farewell to this Mansfield landmark.

There is no word yet on what will take it’s place, but anyone with a sense of value will agree that removing this Goliath makes the acreage far more valuable.

News Journal columnist, Ron Simon, recently described the old factory as a “huge, humpbacked whale of a structure.”

And reporter Lou Whitmire said the building reminded a lot of people of better days, of high employment in the city.

During the 1940s the plant employed more than 8,000 people, and for a time was the largest employer in Mansfield.

The factory finally closed in 1990 after 50 years of producing Westinghouse firsts: the fully automatic electric range, an upright freezer and a frost-free refrigerator.

Thanks to Westinghouse and others, Mansfield became known as a major player in the world economy.

Times changed and one by one the factories closed.

Now, as developers remove these decaying structures, Mansfield once again finds itself with an opportunity to redefine itself in a leaner economy.

As we bid farewell to this landmark that through the years provided a living to so many in Mansfield, we remain hopeful that others will see Mansfield’s value.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Editorial: Mansfield-Miss Ohio breakup averted

One thing is certain, The Miss Ohio Scholarship Program is no stranger to drama.

During the last two months, Mansfield residents waited for the decision on the future of the program.

Would it stay in Mansfield, where it has seen a successful partnership for the last 36 years, or would it be wooed away by a competitive bid from the city of Zanesville?

Community leaders met with the Miss Ohio Scholar-ship Board of Directors on Wednesday and came up with an agreement that would keep the program in Mansfield for at least another three years.

Zanesville Mayor Butch Zwelling has been working hard for the last few years to make his city the new home for the pageant.

He claims he was offering The Miss Ohio Scholarship Program almost $400,000 in in-kind donations and cash during the next three years.

It wasn’t enough.

Lee Tasseff, director of the Mansfield-Richland County Convention and Visitors Bureau, impressed the board by showing how the program would benefit from the city’s partnership.

Tasseff went through the organization’s wish list — which is still top secret — point by point.

“We said they were all doable,” Tasseff said. “If they’re sticking around, we intend for it to be a partnership.”

Going forward, that partnership will be the key to the success of the program in Mansfield.

Like other headline events throughout the year, the program has been used as a way to spotlight our city, bring in visitors and spread the message that Mansfield remains a major player in Ohio’s economy.

The program itself, however, isn’t much of an economic driver, but it would be a serious blow to Mansfield’s psyche to lose the show.

We’re glad to know that we have community leaders who recognize its value and were willing to fight to keep the program in Mansfield.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Editorial: MedCentral gives area bragging rights

Although Richland County has been hit as hard as any community from the economic downturn, we still have plenty to brag about.

Near the top of the list of assets has to be MedCentral.

The announcement this week that MedCentral Health System’s cardiac catheterization laboratory ranked third in Ohio and is in the top 5 percent in the nation for coronary intervention procedures is something the entire community can be proud of.

“We didn’t go about this to achieve awards but to improve health care and heart care,” said Dr. Gregory Eaton, director of cardiovascular medicine.

Eaton went on to describe MedCentral as “a hidden jewel” in the Mansfield area.
He’s right.

There are many factors that determine a community’s livability. The ability to take care of our own is vital to our success and future growth. The men and women who provide MedCentral’s top rated cardiac services take pride in their work and deserve the recognition they receive.

As one of the biggest employers in the county, MedCentral draws many other peripheral businesses to the area. The compounding economic effect would be impossible to measure.

“The bottom line is those facilities that can provide high-quality care at low cost would be an attractive venue to attract new businesses,” Eaton said.

This is the third year MedCentral’s heart surgery program earned a five-star rating by HealthGrades for both coronary bypass and valve replacement surgery.

However, it is the first time the hospital has earned a five-star rating for the treatment of heart failure.

We congratulate MedCentral for its achievement.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Editorial: Canceled leaf pickup frustrates residents

The announcement by Mayor Don Culliver last week that the city would not pick up leaves this year brought out the frustration residents have for city leaders.

The city stands to save somewhere between $100,000 and $250,000 or more by avoiding the leaf collection this year.

The timing of the announcement — just as the first leaves began to fall — was far too late in the year to decide that an expected city service would no longer be available.

“Stick it to the taxpayer, they must see that we have to cut back,” the city fathers seem to be saying.

The city is scraping the bottom of its barrel to come up with some way to save costs as it enters the first year of its fiscal emergency.

Is this the best way to do it?

Let’s put this into perspective.

When the city had the chance to renegotiate union contracts for city workers last week, it didn’t.

When the city had the chance to save on its health insurance costs in August, it didn’t.

We wonder if Mayor Culliver and City Council really understand what kind of financial situation we are in.

When the city collects tax dollars, we expect something in return. Police and fire protection are at the top of the list. Beyond that we expect any number of things we’ve been promised — potholes filled, working sewers, streets cleared of snow.

An announcement late in the year that there will be no leaf pickup might appear to be a wise move to save some money, but long-term it could end up costing the city a lot more — especially if major work is required to fix sewers clogged with leaves.

For sure it has cost the city any credibility it had with its already frustrated residents.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Editorial: Schools must choose right board member

Mansfield City Schools should move quickly to find a quality school board member to take over for George Rusiska, who resigned last month.

It appears the current board plans to do just that.

Eligible applicants will be interviewed Sept. 28, after which, finalists for a second round of interviews will be selected.

Board members hope to have a new member in October.

For whatever reason, Rusiska kept his board seat until the beginning of the school year. This makes it imperative that the district find an effective leader to finish his term, which ends Dec. 31, 2011.

As the new board works to put the right person in place, we urge members to do everything in their power to build unity on the board, but also to select an individual who will represent the values we demand in our school.

Mansfield City Schools draws its students from a largely urban area. The board must recognize this as it interviews possible board members.

Schools Superintendent Dan Freund said recently, “All children are capable of learning if we give them what they need.”

He’s also set some common sense goals that include 100 percent of students reading and computing math by the end of third grade, 100 percent of eighth-graders passing algebra and 100 percent of high school graduates career- or college-ready.

This is all possible if we have the right people in place.

A quick look at the power players in Mansfield City Schools includes five school board members, one treasurer and one district administrator.

Four of those seven key members are new within the last year, and a fifth is expected to be appointed quickly.

This major change in leadership brings with it great promise for our local schools, but it also carries the risk of confusion, chaos and distrust.

As the district enters this unique new era, we urge leaders to put behind them the bad feelings fostered during the last decade of ineffective leadership.

Setting high, achievable standards should be a top priority of our elected leaders. It appears the stage is being set to do that.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Editorial: Fiscal emergency announcement was badly handled

The timing of the state’s announcement that Mansfield is in Fiscal Emergency seemed to have more to do with individual politics than with what is best for the city.

State Auditor Mary Taylor made the official announcement in Mansfield on Thursday, but local media outlets were told of the plan a couple of days before that.

When passing the word to the media, the public relations representative for the auditor made no request for the news to be held until Thursday.

Reporters, including one from the News Journal, began to make telephone calls and ask questions of city officials about the pending declaration. A News Journal reporter discovered no one at City Hall had been informed the Thursday announcement had been scheduled.

Mary Taylor is running for lieutenant governor, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why she wanted the spotlight to herself.

A spokesperson for Taylor said the auditor’s office had made it abundantly clear in recent weeks that Mansfield was about to move from the classification of fiscal watch to the more serious fiscal emergency.

Obviously, no one in Mansfield who has followed the city’s financial crisis was shocked by the imposition of this new classification. It has been painfully clear that members of Don Culliver’s administration and City Council are unable to come up with a comprehensive solution.

But, just because the announcement was obviously coming is no excuse for not giving a heads-up to the city officials most affected by the declaration. Professional courtesy seems to have gotten trumped by political desire.

Taylor should take responsibility for this error even if it was committed by someone on her staff.

What is most important here is the positive working relationship that will be necessary between the city and the auditor to get this issue resolved.

Anyone who runs for public office should understand you should never appear to put your interests ahead of the interests of those you serve.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Editorial: Union scare tactics not appropriate in Madison

Union bullying is the wrong way to influence an election.

We take issue with the position of “hire local bricklayers or else.”

We are in agreement that local building projects should go to local workers. It’s the “or else” insinuation that gives us such a slimy feeling.

On Tuesday, Madison Local School District voters will decide whether to support a $35 million bond issue for a desperately needed new junior high school. The old building is 86 years old, filled with asbestos issues and generates ridiculous energy bills and maintenance costs.

But last week, unionized bricklayers said skilled tradesmen and their voting-age relatives living in Madison Township would have second thoughts about supporting the bond unless the district entered into a project labor agreement with the union.

The bond issue failed in May by 42 votes, and this will be the last chance the district has to pass the issue and capitalize on millions coming from the state.

An organized effort by the union to defeat the bond is a very real possibility.

Madison school officials should recognize their role as well.

Board President Jeff Meyers said the district won’t commit to the agreement before the election.

Meyers hasn’t even entertained the idea, and that’s what got the bricklayers so steamed.

It would make sense to at least open a dialogue when the margin of victory or loss is so close.
“Our goal is to get the best deal for Madison, and we don’t want to limit ourselves to any one group,” Meyers said. “What if a local company bids three times higher than one 40 miles away?

Lowest price and best quality are what will be taken into account.”

We agree, and we urge the district to be frugal with taxpayer dollars. But the district should not look just at the bottom line. There’s a strong argument for hiring local labor.

Union members know that just as well as school district officials do. But to hold an election hostage over this issue is wrong.

The future of our children, and providing a quality education in a safe learning environment, is a much bigger issue than a squabble over local union contracts.

We urge both parties to see the value of working together to benefit our children and our local workers.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Editorial: Act now to stop VOA expansion in Mansfield

The city of Mansfield should do everything in its power to halt the planned expansion of a downtown halfway house.

Volunteers of America said earlier this month the state is providing $700,000 to add 30 more beds to the 71-bed facility, which houses sex offenders from across the state.

Money for the project is coming from funds available because of the the closure of Crossroads, another local half-way house that recently shut its doors.

The additional space would be primarily for serious drug and alcohol offenders, and not for sex offenders, according to the Ohio Department of Corrections.

No matter. We do not want this downtown, and we must act now to prevent this kind of project from going forward.

Proponents will sell this as service the community should support.

But this is exactly the opposite of what Mansfield needs.

The whole purpose of this facility is to take convicted offenders who have served their time and ease them back into society while working to minimize the likelihood of a return to crimes.

This program brings in offenders from around the state with no guarantee that those “eased back into society” will not settle in Mansfield.

Already, Richland County tracks nearly 400 registered sex offenders, and according to the sheriff department website, the population of offenders is growing. It is estimated that 80 percent of all addresses have at least one offender within a mile.

In fact, Richland County already tops the list of Ohio counties in number of felony sex offenders.

This includes Tier II and Tier III sex offenders, who were convicted of crimes including soliciting prostitution, sexual battery, sexual contact with a minor, kidnap-ping, forcible rape and murder with sexual motivations.

Increased capacity in Mansfield only increases the possibilities that we’ll see more offenders in our area.

Former Mansfield police chief and interim Service-Safety Director Phil Messer is among the facility’s harshest critics.

“It’s like having a nuclear power plant at your back door,” he said. “You know the government is doing everything possible, but there’s always the risk that something horrific could occur.”

Local State Rep. Jay Goyal has voiced his concern about the facility.

It’s time for all of us to demand our local elected leaders halt this project.

Mansfield has allowed itself to be branded a prison town with two major prisons. But we can no longer allow our tolerance for our prisons to be taken advantage of with the expansion of this halfway house.

We’ve said it before. Enough is enough. The Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio and the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction need to find somewhere else to build their center.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Editorial: City dress code more than a fashion faux pas

Mr. T could never work for the City of Mansfield. Neither could celeb Victoria Beckham or “American Idol” hopeful Crystal Bowersox. Host Ryan Seacrist could, though, but not judge Randy Jackson.

The city’s new dress code for munici-pal workers prohibits extreme styles such as too much jewelry, wild hair and sloppy clothing.

The new dress code is virtually unenforceable, a waste of time and a waste of money.

We’ve already spent too much energy just preparing the legislation that would require dress and grooming conformity city wide.

The code prohibits:

z Obscene tattoos.

z Wearing hats indoors.

z Flip-flops.

z More than two earrings per lobe.

z Excessive jewelry. Jewelry is limited to one ring on each hand for males or two rings on each hand for females, one watch on either wrist and medical alert or medical treatment bracelet.

According to the new rules, hair simply must be controlled.

For example:
z Employees are permitted to change the color of their hair only within the “natural hair color spectrum.”

z Employees hair will present a neat, groomed appearance “not exceeding 11/4 inches in bulk, regardless of length.”

z Hair will not fall within 1 inch of the eyebrows.

z Women may wear conservative hair clasps or barrettes. Women wearing city-issued head gear may not allow their hair to be visible on the forehead.

z Men’s hair may not cover the outside surface of the ear. Sideburns must be neatly trimmed with the flare not more than 1 inch wide. Mustaches must be neatly trimmed, not extending more than half an inch beyond the side of the mouth, or below the bottom of the upper lip. Goatees and beards must be trimmed to not longer than 1 inch.

We are not making this up.

But our argument is not with the dress code, per se. Rather, we are appalled at the timing of such a move.

After reading about the code, one of our online commenters expressed a clear opinion that many share.

“Are you serious? Is this all our city government has to worry about? We are in a crisis; this city is in danger of turning into a lawless stink hole with more empty store fronts than full ones. Before long there won’t be anything to worry about other than tripping over a tumble weed blowing down Park Ave.

“Let’s spend our time a little more constructively. There are plenty of other problems going on in this town to worry about what somebody is wearing or what they look like. They said they have been looking into this for about a year. I hope they were not getting paid for it. Just think of all of the money they could have saved.”

Or this one from Mansfield Finance Director Kelly Blankenship, who said she has more important issues to worry about.

“I am not about to start dictating and micromanaging my employees’ grooming habits. My employees haven’t had one cent of a raise since I took office,” she said. “We have lost eight staff members. Morale is low. Our chief concern is finding ways to increase revenues and cut costs.”

Already we have union reps looking at legal action over contracts the new rules may violate. If an employee passed muster when they were hired, they ought to pass inspection now.

Our opinion is instead of measuring the length of hair on a man’s face, the city should take a ruler out and measure the length of grass and noxious weeds on any number of lots in Mansfield? Talk about code violations.

A handful of people may see a scruffy beard and wonder what kind of standards we have, but when thousands of people drive by the run-down, overgrown vacant or deserted properties in our city, they get a clear message.

Let’s stop worrying about tattoos and mullets and begin working on standards that really make a difference.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Our Opinion: We’ve seen progress in community development

The Richland Community Development Group deserves praise for its ability to quickly mobilize a small army of energized people in a positive direction.

While there is lots of heavy lifting that needs to take place in the coming months, it appears those associated with this newly formed grassroots association have the energy to carry the goals that will help Mansfield and Richland County pick itself up economically.

The spirit felt Thursday night during the first sector report is evidence that Mansfield has the talent and ability required to solve the seemingly daunting problems highlighted by the demise of the local GM plant.

This make-up call came too late.

We applaud the entrepreneurial efforts of local leaders, but this effort should have begun years ago. Instead of trying to revive our lagging local economy, we should have positioned ourselves to leverage the assets that we now recognize are our best hope for the future.

Now as we move forward it is our hope that business leaders see the value of working together to lift ourselves out of the rut we have made.

Thursday’s report from the community to the community was an eye-opener for many who may not have been aware of the real talent we have locally.

From agriculture to social services, there are experts in our community that are making real change.

The manufacturing sectors are retraining and refitting themselves to seek new opportunities.

The beautification sector also wasted no time in getting things rolling this spring with 40 new planters downtown.

The transportation sector is busy trying to determine which thoroughfares should be made more bicycle-friendly and how neighborhoods can be better connected.

We encourage those involved in the various sectors of the new development group to continue to work to accomplish the visions they have laid out.

With a busy summer season in front of us, now is the time to follow through with the instant actions that can be achieved while the sun is shining.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Editorial: Ohio must keep after predatory lenders

Ohio legislators should pass House Bill 486 to prevent predatory lenders from skirting the law and preying on the most economically vulnerable members of our community.

Voters and lawmakers already have told lending companies that payday loans that charge exorbitant interest rates are not welcome in our state.

In 2008, Ohio legislators overwhelmingly passed the Short Term Lender Law, which places a 28 percent interest rate cap on short- term loans.

The idea was to halt payday lending that sent consumers into a long-term cycle of debt.

Before the law changed the typical customer borrowed 11 to 12 loans per year, which trapped them in high-interest loans for up t o 24 months.

After the governor signed the bill into law, lenders took the issue to the voters in the form of a referendum, which failed by a margin of nearly two to one.

Since then, lenders have found loopholes to continue their predatory practice in the form of the Mortgage Loan Act, the Small Loan Act and statutes governing credit service organizations in ways that were never intended.

The new bill, which will likely be voted on in the coming days, will protect legitimate forms of lending. At the same time, it bans huge check-cashing fees charged to the borrower.

It curbs the cycle of debt and limits the origination and credit check fees for loans of less than $1,000 to once during a 90-day period.

In prohibits brokering and Internet scams that send loan rates as high as 670 percent.
Gov. Ted Strickland supports the bipartisan legislation.

“In 2008, Ohio voters sent a strong message that they wanted to see greater consumer protections against predatory lending practices,” Strickland said. “Since then, my administration has been using the regulatory and rule-making tools available to the Ohio Department of Commerce to strictly enforce the letter and spirit of the law. This legislation is the practical next step to strengthen the laws on the books and close loopholes to enact safeguards for Ohio families.”

This move is not unique to Ohio. In fact, 16 states and the District of Columbia have capped payday loan interest rates or banned the practice.

House Bill 486 is a law that absolutely makes sense at this time in our state. It stops the economic predators who have found a way to take advantage of those who are the most vulnerable.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Our Opinion: Take advantage of your right to vote

On Tuesday, voters will have the chance to participate in a truly American activity.
Polling places will be open for the primary election, where we will be allowed to vote for issues that could have a great affect on our lives.

In the last few weeks we’ve told you how we would vote to best help our community, but here is a recap.

z Issue 1 authorizes the state to spend $1 billion in five years, through bonds, to fund the Third Frontier Program. Voting for this will help high-tech companies increase jobs. While Richland County has seen only limited dollars from previous Third Frontier funding this provides much needed incentives that could benefit our workers in the future.

z Issue 2 is a minor issue that if approved will allow a proposed Columbus casino to move from a site in the Arena District to a site once occupied by a former auto parts plant. We can see no reason not to approve this issue.

z Electric aggregation is a win-win for everyone. It provides grants for cities and other local governments and it lowers consumer power bills at little to no risk. A vote for this issue makes sense.

z Voters should approve all school levies and bonds on the ballot. Those of note include a bond issue and permanent improvement levy to allow for school construction in Shelby, and a bond issue for Madison Local Schools for a building to replace the crumbling junior high school building.

Depending on where you live, you also may find a long list of names of people running unopposed.

Voting for these people are mostly procedural, but it is part of the election process.

We fear that because there are no major issues or contested races, that few people will go to the polls. This is tragic, especially when there are so many people who say they are dissatisfied with everything from taxes to politics. This is a chance to speak out

Voting also allows every citizen to show their support for our democratic form of government. A democracy works only when its citizenry participates.

Find polling places online at

Monday, April 26, 2010

Our Opinion: Lexington fails test on village property use

We are very concerned that the Village of Lexington is taking so lightly the case of its police chief spending village money on non-village business.

While the circumstances Brett Pauley put himself in certainly are salacious, they illustrate the lack of any standard to protect the village from those who are willing to take advantage of village resources.

Mayor Gene Parkinson’s statement about the matter is very troubling.

“While we don’t like it, we didn’t find anything criminal,” Parkison said in response to findings from a News Journal investigation of Pauley’s relationship with a woman who worked for the village.

Cell phone and e-mail records dating to May 2005 show Pauley exchanged thousands of communiques while on duty. The relationship ended in October 2009.

Pauley used his computer and cell phone to carry on his conversations at taxpayer expense.

Granted, any employer expects his employees to use company equipment for some personal use once in a while. Kids call their dads at work, company cars are taken home on the weekend, etc.

But Pauley’s actions clearly crossed the line and the village seems reluctant to examine this situation and make changes to its policy.

Additionally, this isn’t a private company. It is a local government that is put in place by voters who expect a level of service and professionalism in return for the taxes they pay.

At the very least, the village should investigate its policy on the personal use of village equipment.

To the village’s credit, the situation does seem to have brought a raised level of consciousness.

“I’ve spent more sleepless nights with this (situation) than almost anything in the last 30 years,” Parkinson said. “I just don’t have a black-and-white issue here. What I have is very gray.”

Simply feeling bad is not enough. We urge the city to re-examine its personnel policies to ensure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.

We urge village leaders to step up, take responsibility, get in front of this issue and restore confidence to the residents of Lexington.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

From the Editor: News Journal will look different next week

David Kennard
News Journal

Newspaper newsrooms are typically pretty chaotic places, but in the past week our folks have been especially anxious.

Today’s paper will be the last of its kind — of sorts.
Remodeling a newspaper is a little like remodeling a house — design, demolition and then reconstruction.

The design and demolition phases went pretty well, but it’s the reconstruction phase that takes the longest.

Next Sunday we hope to bring you a thicker paper with more features and news.

Sunday has always been our biggest effort, so this is a project that we hope will follow that model. And for the first time in a long time, your paper will actually grow bigger. That is virtually unheard of in this era of vanishing newspapers.

When you first open the paper, you will immediately notice a bigger A section. This will be filled with local news, opinions and a new feature we are calling our Issue One Page.

From week to week this will contain important news of a national scope, but with local impact.
That will be followed immediately by the Community Conversation section that has become such a popular part of the paper over the last few years.

We are leaving the Sports section alone, although with additional pages, we hope to have an opportunity to bring you more of it.

In the Lifestyles section, you’ll find all the same features you’ve told us you enjoy. Additionally you find some other features that we’ve been working on — some brand new and some we’ve dug from our archives.

That’s a quick overview of what you’ll see in coming weeks. And as we move into this period of slow economic growth, we hope to tweak things even more to make your paper a better value.

David Kennard is managing editor of the News Journal. You can contact him at or 419-521-7204.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Column: Our economic future is what we make it

By David Kennard
News Journal

Success is relative.

It is odd that local businesses consider 2009 a good year based on the fact that they didn’t have to lay anyone off. But these are the times we live in.

In today’s paper you’ll find four sections of VisionQuest that paint an honest and mostly positive picture of the challenges we face.

Mansfield is not alone in its climb out of the economic mire we’ve been thrust into.

Crawford County faces similar challenges.

While both counties are looking at rough years of recovery ahead, each will likely take different approaches.

Richland County’s diverse job base will help in its recovery. And unless a white knight comes to the rescue to fill the chasm left by a mostly gone GM, we can expect that recovery to take years.

Crawford County, on the other hand, has an economy based largely around agriculture.

Agriculture, while seasonal, provides stability year after year. Farmers spend — or invest money — to keep producing annually. Much of that money goes to support other businesses all around the area. Growers also tend to be a relatively stable bunch that like to spend money locally.

The ag industry, however, has been hurt largely by tighter regulations that cut into profit margins. This will force producers to look at new technologies and creative methods.

In Richland County, manufacturing will continue to be a strong part of the local economy, but manufacturers will likely never carry as much weight as they have in the past, not as long as the global economy continues to reward cheap labor and substandard merchandise.

Instead we will see successes on a smaller scale. Those manufacturers who will succeed will be those that capitalize on local assets and adapt quickly to customer demands.

In a roundtable discussion here at the News Journal a couple of weeks ago, Gorman-Rupp president Jeff Gorman showed real insight when he said our community must focus on building on our greatest assets.

“There’s a tremendous amount of positive assets here that other communities would kill for,” he said. “(L)ook at our infrastructure, you look at our logistics location, our low cost of living and housing, our local higher education, our numerous recreation, arts and cultural attractions, water, regional health care center, etc. — the list goes on and on.”

Without question, some of our greatest assets are our workers. We can only hope that in the months and years ahead, employers will find ways to judge their success not in jobs saved, but in jobs created.

David Kennard is managing editor of the News Journal. Call him at 419-521-7204 or e-mail

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

(Editorial) MedCentral setting a healthy example

MedCentral Health System took a positive step last week when it announced it would no longer hire smokers.

At first it may seem odd that an employer would issue such an edict, but after thinking it through, it makes sense that some businesses — especially health care providers — closely regulate the unhealthy habits of their workers.

Employers in highly skilled industries, such as health care services, rely on high functioning employees. These companies depend on employees that meet the physical demands required.

Sick days are reduced. Insurance coverage costs less. And customers are happier knowing health care providers walk the walk.

Plain and simple, hospitals are places of healing, and tobacco does not belong there.

New job applicants at Med- Central Health Systems will submit a urine test for nicotine use as well as drug use.

The 12 percent of the hospitals’ 2,600 employees who admitted to using tobacco will be required to smoke off of hospital grounds, but their employment will not be terminated.

The initiative is part of a wellness plan that began forming in July.

“Tobacco use was not our only focus,” said Brady Groves, co-chair of the wellness committee and manager of the health and fitness center. “There are health benefits to not smoking and we want to show this to other businesses and our patients.”

This move is not unprecedented.

Hospitals around the country have taken similar action. In fact in 2004, Bucyrus Community Hospital became the first hospital in Ohio to establish a tobacco-free campus.

There, anyone who wishes to use tobacco products must step off hospital property. This includes tobacco use in personal vehicles.

At Ashland Samaritan Hospital, employees cannot smoke while on duty, and hospital officials said they are watching the MedCentral policy to see if it is something they would initiate in the future.

Around the state, the policy exists at a handful of hospitals included the Akron-based Summa Health Systems the Cleveland Clinic and Medical Mutual of Ohio.

The main purpose of the policy is to ensure a healthy environment, but the policy brings a host of other benefits that just make sense.

Monday, February 8, 2010

(Editorial) Development group must make an impact

The best thing the newly formed Richland Community Development Corp. can do to quickly gain strength and credibility is to make something noticeable happen.

It doesn’t have to be a new employer coming to town with hundreds of jobs or anything close to that level of accomplishment, but it does have to be something residents can see and understand.

The new group announced its formation last week on the day before formal production ended at the Ontario General Motors plant. It is the closure of that plant and the dissolution of the Richland Economic Development Corp. that sparked the formation of this new group.

Instead of focusing on job creation through the recruitment of new businesses, the community development organization is going to attack quality of life issues here. The theory is that it will be easier to create new jobs if we make the community a place where people want to live.

We like the approach, particularly the idea of building upon our strengths. The group, which was put together by eight local business operators, is now doing an asset inventory to determine an attack strategy.

We are supportive of this entire venture and recognize that it will take time to put a plan together and begin execution of that plan. We encourage the group to keep the community posted on its findings, plans and achievements.

We also recognize, however, that a great deal of skepticism exists about the ability of any organization to reverse the downward force that seems to be in control.

Getting something tangible at least started quickly seems critical to arresting the skepticism.

Grant Milliron, one of the founding organizers, believes a beautification project that tears down blighted homes and commercial structures could quickly create a more positive view of Mansfield. He suggests that effort start with entrances to the city.

We like Milliron’s idea. It may not get at the root causes of decline, but it would be noticeable and could quickly change perceptions.

Chances for success of the overall community development effort will improve with the involvement of more people and businesses. Everyone should lend a hand at this critical juncture in the history of our community.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

(Editorial) Our Opinion: GM was good for Richland County

The end of operations at the General Motors Corp. Mansfield/Ontario Metal Center also was the end of a way of life for workers and their families around Richland County.

On Friday, production ceased and the “top-of-the-line” machines used for stamping GM auto parts fell silent for the first time in more than 50 years.

The news of its construction in 1955 brought mixed emotion for many residents. Greeted with open arms by city planners, GM promised jobs, growth and economic stability. Others saw the plant as yet another factory that sped urban sprawl in northern Ohio.

But for good or ill, GM did bring growth.

By 1956 production at the new factory was under way, a new rail line addition was completed in 1964, and the factory continued to expand through 2005.

For those 50 years, our community benefited from all that GM brought to the area. Schools saw new facilities, homes were built in new neighborhoods and business came to town, bringing with it a diversified economy that led to better job stability.

But in 2006 things began to unravel financially for GM. That year the company sold off 51 percent of its stake in GMAC Financial Services.

In 2007, the company reported losses of $38.7 billion.

When gas prices topped $4 per gallon in 2008, the company said it would close four pickup and sport utility vehicle factories, shed 8,350 jobs and sell its Hummer brand. Later that year, executives sought help from the government. In December the company received $13.4 billion, but posted a $30.9 billion annual loss.

In March of last year, when President Barack Obama told the company it had not done enough to restructure, it was apparent that the Ontario plant was doomed.

United Auto Workers shop chairman Ron Willis described the situation best Thursday.
“We’re on the Titanic,” Willis said. “We’re just trying to find a lifeboat.”

GM filed for bankruptcy in June and announced the eminent closure of the Ontario plant.
To the credit of GM, it did what it could to retain as many jobs as possible. Unfortunately, it meant relocation for families that had built lives here.

What the future brings is uncertain. It isn’t likely that we will see another GM-type of operation soon, but as local leaders work to attract more jobs we remind them of the reasons GM located here in the first place. At the top of that list is the people.

Life for our residents will continue and we will look back at the GM days as a good time in our community’s long history.

Friday, February 5, 2010

(Editorial) Opinion Shapers: When your world falls apart, there are ways to heal

Mansfield residents responded with a strong voice this week when Adultmart unveiled its 80-foot sign Monday.

With no warning, neighbors and nearby business owners learned about the store that would sell lingerie, adult toys and pornographic videos and magazines at the site once occupied by Big Boy and Joe’s Restaurant.

Some customers who patronize businesses in the area already have said they will shop elsewhere.

How could this have happened?

Why didn’t somebody ask a few more questions?

Why did the city approve a sign without even knowing what it was going to say?

These are all good questions that damage the faith we put in our city leaders.

They also are questions with answers that may or may not have made any difference as to whether the store opened.

When the sign went up, residents immediately began pointing fingers at the City of Mansfield, but in actuality it seems Adultmart jumped through all the appropriate hoops.

So the outrage really comes from the lack of any warning that such a business would be opening. This is something that Adultmart owners planned very strategically.

When Dave Remy, the city’s law director, began investigating the situation, he didn’t find many red flags — which perhaps was a red flag in itself.

“The file was absolutely blank as to what was going to go in there, except as a mercantile establishment,” Remy said this week.

But, again, even if the file were full of information, it may not have mattered.

In the world of retail business, the old mantra “location, location, location” holds a lot of weight. Retail business comes and goes based primarily on how much profit can be made in any particular location.

City leaders, however, have lots of tools at their discretion that can help determine how a business operates — the size of signs, the shape and orientation of buildings, parking lot locations, even the colors used on the exterior.

In the case of Adultmart, the city has admitted to having the wool pulled over its eyes and is now scrambling to see if any “deception — for lack of a better word” occurred when the store obtained permits.

Whether or not the city can do anything procedurally to shutter this eyesore at the southern entrance to our city is yet to be determined.

But there is plenty the general public can do.

Remember retail businesses live and die by the amount of money that comes through the door and into cash registers. If Adultmart is unprofitable it will not last.

The strongest voice of all is the voice we use when we speak with our wallets.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

(Editorial) Our Opinion: Ohio Third Frontier program a winner

A college professor once overheard a graduating senior fretting about the lack of jobs in the real world.

“How many jobs are you planning to have?” he asked. “All you need is one.”

That simple point remains true today, even if it doesn’t carry the same power it once did with our national, state and local unemployment rates hovering around 10 percent.

Mansfield and Richland County rank near the top of the list of Ohio communities hit hardest by job losses.

More people lost their jobs last month, bringing the current jobless rate to 13 percent of the work force out of work.

Not only is it far more difficult to find one job, it’s also quite possible one job won’t pay every bill or provide health insurance.

That’s why President Obama mentioned jobs an astounding 29 times in his State of the Union address, while fellow Democrat and Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland focused almost exclusively on jobs in his State of the State address.

They know voter perception of who’s creating jobs will go a long way to deciding who holds political jobs after the mid-term Congressional and gubernatorial elections in November.

Thus, the age-old debate over creating jobs through government programs and incentives versus lowering taxes and regulation continues.

This can be seen in the current stalemate in the Ohio General Assembly over extending Ohio’s Third Frontier program. It provides capital to “build world-class research programs, nurture early-stage companies, and foster technology development that makes existing industries more productive ... .”

Independent research shows the eight-year-old program has created 41,000 jobs worth $2.4 billion in wages and benefits, providing taxpayers with a very impressive 10-to-1 return on their investment.

Voters need to extend the program, but lawmakers are squabbling over money as they prepare a May ballot issue, with the Senate approving $500 million and the House approving $950 million in a bipartisan vote. Given the results to date, why the Senate wants to reduce funding makes little sense.

Strickland, who is fighting to continue a program proposed by former Republican Gov. Bob Taft, wants Ohio to be a leader in the advanced energy sector, claiming the state was first in 2009 for creating new green jobs and renewable energy projects. He also suggests Ohio may be turning a corner, thanks to 2005 tax reforms that make Ohio’s business taxes the lowest in the Midwest. And he notes Ohio is the only state to grow exports every year since 1998.

In this sense, we believe Strickland might be correct, despite the pain and despair so many feel today. The state has made many wise moves in recent years to address the jobs issue on many fronts, realizing that any one program or concept carries a small punch.

Likewise, in a county such as ours where so much emphasis has been placed on manufacturing, the idea of bringing more diversity to our economic mix in the way of higher technology should be welcomed.

Attracting new jobs requires good communities with trained workers and a solid business environment, the complete package of opportunities for success. Even that’s not enough every time any more with technology and trade issues dominating the global economy.

Thus, it would seem quite wise for the Ohio General Assembly to keep the state’s momentum going by renewing the Third Frontier at its existing funding levels. After all, voters in need of jobs get the final say.

From the editor: The best letters are written by real people

BY David Kennard
News Journal

A few weeks ago, the News Journal received a letter to the editor written by a woman who claimed to live in Mansfield.

It was a nice letter heaping praise upon President Obama. Nothing too out of the ordinary.

Like we do with all letters, we called the woman to confirm that she was the author. Everything checked out and the letter ran on the opinion page, where all letters run.

A few days later we saw the same letter begin to pop up in papers around the country, all written by the same woman. Problem was, she claimed to have a home in each area where her letter ran.

We were duped.

Besides providing news coverage of the local community, newspapers have historically been a place to foster conversation and develop public opinion and debate.

We take that role seriously, and letters to the editor are welcome in the News Journal.

We enjoy giving a voice to our readers. And we run nearly all the letters we receive.

Those that don’t make print are rejected for any number of reasons — like if the letter is from an anonymous writer.

When a letter to the editor arrives in the newsroom, my staff immediately logs it in, places it in a folder and carries the folder to my desk for review.

I spend a few minutes each day reading letters that have come in and giving them a thumbs up for publication.

The letter then goes to a clerk who checks it for egregious errors and other criteria, such as length.

Letters longer than 350 words are always sent back to the author for editing. To give you an idea of length, this column is about 415 words.

Regarding the fake letter to the editor, we eventually found out the woman writer was really a 51-year-old man from Frazier Park, Calif. What is the saying? “Fool me once?”

While we love to get letters, we also love to know who is sending them to us. My thinking is that if you really value your opinion, you ought to let others know who you are.

David Kennard is the managing editor of the Mansfield News Journal. You can contact him at 419-521-7204.