Monday, March 31, 2008

Akron-Canton News bumped by late Tribe finish

I'm just back from my day-long reporting stint at Progressive Field and I've got a few emails from folks wondering what happened to the 6:30 p.m. Akron-Canton Newscast.

It's simple. Blame Joe Borowski.

Had the Indians closer sent down the White Sox 1-2-3 in the ninth, the game would have ended in enough time to broadcast a condensed version of the Channel 3 News at 6 and would have allowed the technical folks at WKYC enough time to make the necessary adjustments to then broadcast the ACN at 6:30 p.m. as scheduled.

But noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo .... Jo-Bo had to give up a homer and then let another guy get on base .. before finally ending the game around 6:25 p.m. There just wasn't enough time to even try to do a Channel 3 broadcast before Nightly News began at 6:30 .. nor was there enough time to make the technical switches to air the ACN either.

Just so you know, the ACN was written, edited, and ready to go with Vic Gideon filling in on the anchor desk ... but again, for technical reason, we were in worse shape than Victor Martinez' hamstring.

My day at the park actually went pretty well. My most memorable moment was entering the stadium at noon -- before the park opened for the general public -- and being the only person on the home run porch as the Indians were taking batting practice. At one point, Martinez ripped one over my head and after taking one big bounce, the ball cracked into the side of one of our TV news competitor's live trucks. Made a pretty good whack too.

Anyway, a fun assignment today .. but tomorrow it's back to Akron news .. and what I'm told will be a neat announcement about downtown.

Go tribe!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tribe memories ... and a request for fan stories!

I'm getting ready for my opening day assignment. I'll be live outside of Progressive Field talking about a U of A student whose been hired as one of the Tribe's stadium announcers. Pretty good gig for a kid whose only 21.

After that, I'm looking to do a story on a fan or fans .. anyone going to the game or know someone who is who would be a good story? Someone going to their 25th consecutive home opener? A couple who met at a home opener and then got married maybe? Just brainstorming.

If you've got a story idea, email me at emansfield@wkyc.gannett.com and tell me their story and how to contact them .. would love to tell a fresh story about some great fans ...

By the way, our staff gave us each the assignment of posting our thoughts on previous home openers. So you can read my favorite memories at wkyc.com. There's also a spot there now for you to share your own tribe memories.

My actual favorite memory came in 1989 when I caught a foul ball on the fly at the old stadium and received an "honorary contract" from the Indians. I still have the ball and the contract.

Go Tribe!

Akron Police collaboration mirrors military operations in Iraq ..

As I watch tape of this morning's press conference held by Mayor Plusquellic and Summit Sheriff Drew Alexander, I'm trying to just let it soak in .. but my first response is that this mirrors relationships I went through during my tour in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

First, today's announcement ... let me map it this way:

a) Deputy Mayor for Public Safety George Romanoski leaves his official post to work full-time overseeing the 9-1-1 center to include the long-term planning and development of regional 9-1-1 operations.

That makes sense given his expertise in that area ..

b) Former Akron Police Chief Larry Givens takes Romanoski's job as Deputy Mayor for Public Safety.

Wow .. never thought I'd see Givens at City Hall again .. or Plusquellic hire a Republican as Deputy Mayor ... but ok .. i'm certainly listening now ..

c) Givens will focus solely on the Akron Police Department while Fire and EMS will now report directly to the Mayor.

okkaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay ... what does that mean to the current ..

d) Givens will be loaned out to work with the Sheriff's Office (a place he used to work as Deputy Sheriff) for a period of 18 months to study ways for the two police agencies to work together to police Akron, share resources, save money, and while Akron officers won't be policing outside the city limits, deputies might be used to patrol Akron streets.

Wow ... okay ... so then what does that mean to ...

e) Summit County Sheriff Drew Alexander is now at the top of the chain of command for the Akron Police Department ...

Go, whoa, hold it! Who is doing what, where, and with whom?

f) Changes to take effect April 14th ...


sighhhhhhhhhhhh ... deep breath ..................... let me get this straight ....


Like most folks, this is taking me a few minutes to absorb.

Sharing resources in a way that saves money and deploys officers in a way that catches more bad guys and keeps us safer makes a lot of sense .. and if anybody has the experience and relationship to make that work it's Larry Givens and Drew Alexander. Both are former APD officer (Givens was chief from 1992-96) and both know the Sheriff's office inside and out (Alexander is Sheriff and Givens was his deputy sheriff for several years). I don't think anyone will argue that those goals involving these experienced officers is worth exploring.

Givens will report to Alexander every day but Givens doesn't work for Alexander. Givens will be an appointed city employee and therefor ultimately works for the citizens of Akron and Mayor Plusquellic.

When I was deployed in the war, we did this all the time. All the time.

The technical term was Opcon which stood for Operational Control. For a period of time, troops from different units and even different branches (Army, Air Force, Marines, etc...) would be opcon to different leaders who became their operational chain of command for a period of time.

In some cases, our troops were opcon to other units for the duration of their tours in the combat zone. For example, a lieutenant colonel under my unit's command spent all of his training time preparing to run our unit's intelligence section ... but once we got to the war zone, he was sent to Bagdad to assume a different role with our higher command because he could be better utilized in that role. He reported to a different boss every day and took his marching orders. Still, even though he was opcon to another commander, he was always on my unit's books .. and always in touch with my unit commander. We always held the ultimate responsibility for his well being and could have pulled him back . . just as Plusquellic can do here with Givens.

Sharing resources was a must to succeed in the dessert. There were times that we had units from other countries opcon to our US commanders for periods of time. I could give a great many examples of specific operations, but trust me, it's how business got done .. and as long as leaders didn't abuse their power, it worked well. US forces always had a US commander at the top of their chain of command.

I see the same thing here involving APD and the Sheriff's Office as it's presented. Givens will be opcon to Alexander. Givens will report to him daily to talk about police operations, and Alexander will have the burden of making operational decisions in the best interest of both agencies. At any time, Givens' official commander -- Plusquellic -- can call off the relationship.

What I don't see is how Akron's Police Chief fits in to the equation. Regardless of whether current Chief Michael Matulavich is in that role after his contract expires at the end of the year, the chief will no longer be king of his castle. He or she will no longer have full say in how Akron's officers are utilized and deployed. While on paper, the Chief has always reported to the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, this new relationship -- where the deputy mayor now is more active in managing the Chief's officers -- is going to take time to massage.

Still, I'm trying to take it all in .. and wondering how it will be received by Akron's finest who are sure to make an issue of county officers possibly helping to patrol the city streets, when city officers still can't live elsewhere in the county.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wednesday webchat

Akron textbooks could be risky investment, factually speaking ..

Here's the deal.

The Akron Schools agreed Monday night to spend $750K on new history/social studies textbooks for thousands of 6th-9th graders. Considering the district last ordered new books in this area in 1996-97, the purchase was probably overdue.

Each of the new textbooks has an issue date of either 2008 or 2009, and they range in price from $60-$75. A bit more than the books of my day, but hey, they're new!

But are they worth the money?

There are several research companies that review school textbooks for errors. These groups usually make some of the best science and history books on the market look pretty lousy.

I sent a list of the new Akron textbooks to Neal Frey, who is the Senior textbook analyst at Educational Research Analysts in Longview, Texas. I asked him if he was familiar with any of the previous editions of the books and here's his response.



"Dear Mr. Mansfield:

"Of the texts you list, we are familiar only with American Journey. But the 2006 California edition of that 8th grade text that we most recently reviewed covered to WWI, not just 'The Early Years' like your 2008 Ohio version, so our page number citations of factual errors would not match your book. Plus Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, having seen this our list of errors in its 2006 text, should have corrected them by 2008. In case you are interested, attached is our full review of the 2006 California
edition.

While it's not the exact same edition, I still wondered what kind of errors had been found in the same company's prior history books for 8th graders. After all, APS had just purchased 2391 copies of American Journey, The Early Years at a cool $69.99 each.

So I opened the .pdf file that Neal sent reviewing the 2006 edition of American Journey and the 71 errors the group found are pretty blatant.

Here's what they look like:



Book: Map showing the U.S. boundary with Mexico in 1840 as an irregular line extending northwest from the 42nd parallel — p. 56
Fact: wrong boundary Established by the 1819 Adams–Onis Treaty, once this boundary reached the 42nd parallel it followed it to the Pacific. The text itself admits this on p. 365, col. 1, par. 3.

Book: "The Framers of the Constitution extended citizenship rights only to white male landowners." — p. 215, right margin, "Cultural Perspectives," lines 1-4, Teacher's Edition
Fact: wrong determiner The Constitution's qualifications for federal officeholders say nothing of race, sex, or class. The original Constitution allowed states – not the federal government – to set suffrage requirements. The text itself admits this on p. 650, col. 2, par. 2, lines 3-5.

Other mistakes the Glencoe/McGraw-Hill Authors made include:


  • Citing the Judiciary Act of 1789 for establishing the Supreme Court when it was actually the Constitution.
  • Multiple incorrect paragraphs about the Cherokee Indians and the Supreme Court.
  • Wrong jurisdiction and significance of the Marbury vs. Madison decision.
  • Claiming the Senate is the Focus of Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution when it's actually the House of Representatives.
None of these will keep you from joining the Army, but they'd probably cost you some points on Jeopardy. My favorite error is a sentence that claims the U.S. won the War of 1812 when in reality the Treaty of Ghent restored the status quo.

The list goes on and on .. and I'm happy to forward a copy of the errors to anyone who emails me at ericmansfield@wkyc.com.

The APS on-line info about the purchase shows that multiple teachers were involved in reviewing new textbooks before making the recommendations to buy the books that were eventually approved for purchase. I have no doubt they worked very hard to choose the best text available for our students.

I'm just hopeful that they were able to scan the book for errors like these and hold the authors feet to the fire to fix any problems before they print copies for Akron's students. Considering the requirements of the 9th grade proficiency tests, providing factually-correct texts seems to be mandated .. so why buy a text book from a company whose most recent versions have been littered with mistakes? Am I wrong here?

Last thing we need is a student believing that President Washington helped add the Bill of Rights to the Constitution when he didn't .. even though the text that was reviewed incorrectly gave him credit for it. Whoops!

The new books APS and other districts are buying will be reviewed later this year, but in the meantime, anyone else concerned about the accuracy of the new books?

Trying to keep up ..

Sorry for being so negligent in writing over the last week ... I've been working on a number of different stories outside the office while trying to keep up with my sons' busy schedules .. and it hasn't left much writing time.

Here's a few notes to pass along:

LeBron James' bike-a-thon in June will include a military theme this year. I'm told he'll have a group of veterans holding different flags standing shoulder-to-shoulder at the finish line and has some other events planned involving our service members. Details on the way but it's a neat way to add some more depth to his annual fundraiser.

By the way, the folks who are criticizing the Vogue cover photo featuring LeBron as racist need to grow up. If you've watched the Cavs play, you've seen LeBron make that roaring face after a big basket so it's already within his character as a player. I hate when the media, me included, read stories that say "some are saying that this photo is racist ...." but we never say who the some are. I think the author quoted on the Today Show who compared LeBron to King Kong made a serious feux pas. In the end, if LeBron wasn't offended by the shot, I don't see that we should be making controversy where there isn't any. That's my two cents.

A second "healing field" is on the way, but for a different cause. Last year, the giant field of American Flags was created at Goodyear Metro Park as a fundraiser for the All-American Soap Box Derby. This year, a similar event with Old Glories for sale is being planned for early July to help generate funds to repair and restore local monuments and also to raise funds for a new Veterans Service Commission building near the Arlington-Waterloo Road intersection.

The City of Akron's decision to forgive some debt for the downtown Raddison hotel points to a bigger issue. While yes the hotel has kept its word on renovations and running the business on the up-and-up, the bigger issue is keeping the Raddison afloat in the wake of decreasing downtown bed spaces period. Remember, the U of A's purchase of the Quaker took half of the hotel's beds away, and we don't yet have a player (at least an announced one) to replace those spaces. City and county leaders are keenly aware that a lack of beds hurts opportunities for bringing conventions and other events to town, so it's definitely something they'll continue to research.

Do you have a favorite Tribe Home Opener memory? If so, we want to hear from you at wkyc.com. I should have the specific details by Friday of how to submit your story, but start jotting down your memories and digging out those old photos and I'll let you know how to submit them. It can be from the old stadium or Jacobs Field as long as it's your story. Details coming soon.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Well I'll be ....

OK .. I was "wrong."

Maybe a better phrase is "incorrect." "Right" or "wrong" will ultimately play out in the coming weeks as the Republican Party looks to solidify a chairman.

Instead of the visible front-runner of Don Varian (see post below) the New Summit Republicans announced a short time ago that they plan to push Carol Klinger as their nominee for party chair.

In the words of Clark Griswold, "if I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised than I am now."

I'm told that NSR's spiritual advisor, State Senator Kevin Coughlin, was not at the announcement .. even though he's been spearheading this group for months. Instead, Varian .. also known as the-man-who-would-be-the-NSR-nominee did the speaking and introduced Klinger to the group at the John S. Knight Center.

So who is Carol Klinger? She's an at-large councilwoman from Cuyahoga Falls who works on the city's finance committee. Beyond that, many outside the party will be researching her credentials beyond the club she runs in her civilian world in Cuyahoga Falls.

So will Klinger be heir apparent to Alex Arshinkoff as party boss?

I'm not sure .. but I need to do some source checking to see how I got my wires crossed last night.

Monday, March 24, 2008

No surprise ... It's Varian.

Expect the Kevin Coughlin-led "New Summit Republicans" to go with plan-A Tuesday and name local attorney Don Varian as their nominee for County GOP Chairman. The announcement will be made Tuesday at 2 p.m. at the John S. Knight Center in what the NSRs are pushing as a major political announcement.

Through a soap opera of "Dallas" proportions, Varian already scored current GOP Boss Alex Arshinkoff's seat on the Board of Elections .. so why not his seat with the party as well?

The odd thing here is that both the Coughlin and the Arshinkoff camps believe -- make that are certain -- they have the votes to put their candidate in charge of the party.

This kind of feels like a tribal council in "Survivor" when tribe members sit around the fire confident that everyone close to them has been telling the truth about how they'll vote, but when it comes to actually writing down a name, a big surprise is coming.

Think we could get Jeff Probst to come to town and snuff out the torch of the loser? Now THAT would be political TV worth watching.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Opening Day contingencies ..

We're making plans in the newsroom for our Opening Day coverage, and I've got to admit it's a whole lot of praying for good weather.

Since the game airs on 3 p.m. on WKYC, we're planning a fairly lengthy pre-game special based on the game starting on time. We learned our lesson last year when the home opener was delayed by snow and eventually canceled. My role is to put together a feature story on a 21-year-old U of Akron student who is now living the dream as one of the tribe's stadium broadcasters.

The problem we fear is that if Mother Nature decides to delay the first pitch again, we broadcast folks have to think of some way to kill time. If it's 10 minutes, no biggie. If it's a two-hour delay, then ohhhhhhhhhhh boy.

There's only so many times we can interview fans in the stands or toss to Jim Donovan to tap dance about the team.

I still have to finish editing my contribution to the pre-game show ... along with continued reporting on other stories ... so the pressure will mount each day as the week goes on. Still, I realize it's a good gig to have .. so I'm not complaining. I'd just feel better about our plan if I knew it would be 50 degrees outside and partly sunny instead of watching the skies and hoping we're not making snowmen outside the Tribe's dugouts again.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Busy Thursday

Hi all ... I've had a week so busy I can't keep my head on straight ... so here's a sample of what I'm seeing, hearing, and feeling tonight.



Nice to see police have finally charged the adults and older teens who were having sex with a group of 12-year-old girls in Massillon. We've been following this investigation for months and I was wondering why it took this long to bring charges. For months I've heard from frustrated Massillon residents who say the investigation was delayed and stalled because Massillon's star running back, DeVoe Torrence, was involved. That's a tough allegation, but considering Torrence was indeed charged today, those who've screamed "conspiracy to delay" will have more fuel for their beliefs.. I'd like to see the dates of the incidents versus the dates the cases were reported. I'd also like to see how many other teens and/or adults were interviewed as potential suspects. This story is completely disturbing and I hope the girls get counseling.

I'm finding that the health and housing issues related to our "Forgotten Families" (see my posts below) aren't unique to Akron. A report this weekend in the Republican American paints a grim picture of a similar group of immigrants placed in Connecticut. The Waterbury International Institute is coming under fire for not taking care of 64 Karen refugees; Akron's International Institute has brought five times that many to Akron.

I can tell you that after visiting Findley Academy yesterday, there are certainly some strong people who are stepping up to help these families. The principal and several teachers are reaching out to dozens of kids in the Karen families through tangible support. Findley has 32 Karen kids and more than 80 immigrant students from 10 different countries. That in itself is a success story, but considering the refugees will be expected to take the same state-mandated tests (in English no less) as the local kids, the school's overall scores are bound to drop, even though they're challenged like no other school in the area. Doesn't seem fair.

I spent part of today in Cleveland working on a story for Opening Day -- just 11 days away! A former student of mine at the UA is now one of the stadium voices of the Tribe. His name is Ryan Pritt and he's but 21 years old! How nice to barely be an adult and be living the dream that so many adults practice in their homes while watching the games on TV! After Cutts, the primary elections, and the Forgotten Families, I was thrilled to sink my teeth into something like a positive tribe story.

After reading through the Brunner deposition and then watching some on videotape, I just keep shaking my head. If this is what we know of the way local politics works, how much is still going on behind the scenes? More snip-its when I can digest them ...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

No Webchat tonight ..

I spoke too soon ... I'm getting deployed on several nightside stories so I won't be able to do normal Wednesday Webchat ..

I was looking forward to hearing from everyone on the anniversary of the war .. but I'll try to write some thoughts late night tonight ..

Stay warm everyone .. Eric

Webchat tonight ... 8:30ish

Hope to have you along tonight for webchat .. I should be ready at 8:30 p.m. or a few minutes after.

I've been out of the office and away from the computer the last few days .. working on several stories on totally different topics. I'll catch up with a few posts later tonight and tomorrow ..

Eric

Monday, March 17, 2008

Odds & Ends on a Monday

Our newsroom is kinda quiet today .. which doesn't happen often ... so I'm playing catch-up with a lot of unfinished business today. A few notes to pass along:

I'm waiting on a videotape copy of Jennifer Brunner's deposition in the Arshinkoff case. I'll have it in the next hour and use it in a story on tonight's late newscasts. If it sounds anything like it reads, I'll expect a lot of bickering.

There's more to come on Akron's "Forgotten Families." I've acquired the housing department citations issued to the building's landlord. In addition to cleaning up the roaches, rats, poor lighting, and overcrowding that our story documented, the landlord was also ordered to fix issues with mold, wiring, ventilation and a half-dozen more issues. He's also being fined $100 for failing to accurately fix a previous lead paint problem in which a child received medical treatment.

What's most troubling to me is that a third grader from this same group of immigrants was bitten by a rat while she was sleeping. I'm told this happened in a nearby house on Blaine Avenue. The girl was treated by a school nurse and other medical professionals and will be O.K. I'm still trying to pinpoint a few specific details -- to include whether the same landlord owns that property -- but I do have confirmation that the girl was bitten by the rat at home.

The trial of two Tallmadge athletes for rape and hazing began today, and I can't help but roll my eyes that something like this is in front of a judge. The two teens reportedly used a straw on a 15-year-old boy for their dumb prank, but their attorneys argued today that there was no rape because there was no penetration. Considering we're dealing with immature teens here, I can't help but wonder how this whole thing got out of control and what impact this experience will have long-term on the alleged victim.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Rock-em, Sock-em politics

I've made it to page 149 .. through the cross examination and direct.

Oddly enough, my 2006 news series on WKYC-TV about Alex Arshinkoff's threatening phone call to a Hudson city leader was labeled as "exhibit 17" and was part of the packet of information that Jennifer Brunner used in her decision not to reappoint AA to the board of elections. I didn't know that.

Another WKYC-TV story is labeled "exhibit 20"; it's from 2004 and was our newsroom's account of AA's threat to revoke the Federal Exempt status of the local United Way office.

Brunner also reviewed a series of articles from the Akron Beacon Journal and Scene Magazine in developing her reasons for saying AA wasn't competent.

During re-cross, Brunner was challenged about reading other news articles that supported her denial of Brian Dailey, AA's ally, who was the last-minute selection to replace AA on the board.

Here's an interesting exchange between Brunner and Grendell, who is also a State Senator:




BRUNNER: "I was only required to state reasons why I believed that Mr. Daley would not be a competent member of the board."

GRENDELL: "So you're only required to get negative information; you have no requirement to get positive information about a recommended appointee to the board of elections; is that Correct?"

BRUNNER: "Well, that is correct. And since you're in the Senate, maybe you can remedy that."

GRENDELL: "I'll take it in the spirit that it was offered."
Can you sense how frustrated both sides are at this point in the deposition?

The subsequent pages seem to support the challenge that Brunner already had her mind made up about Dailey before she knew very much about him. If so, she'd be pre-judging someone and that's a serious no-no.

More to come ..

Brunner deposition reads like playground sniping

I'm still fighting through the transcript of Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's deposition yesterday in the Summit County GOP BOE mess. It's tedious reading, but if you like local politics, it's a soap opera for sure.

I'll have better details once I digest it all, but here's a passage from pages 83-85 that shows the tone of the one-act play.

Cast of Characters:
Tim Grendell: Attorney for GOP/Alex Arshinkoff
Richard Coglianese: Attorney for Secretary of state

MR. COGLIANESE: Mr. Grendell, as you said, this is your deposition. We're still on the record. You haven't asked to go off.

Q. Great. Here we go. We'll make this part of record. It's Exhibit 9. Madam Secretary, Exhibit 9.

MR. COGLIANESE: Let the record reflect that Mr. Grendell just threw -- just marked an original government document with an exhibit sticker and then threw the exhibits at the Secretary of State.


MR. GRENDELL: Let the record reflect that counsel refused to make a copy. We were already sitting here going into the late evening. If you want to make the copy, we'll put the sticker on there. If not, we'll use that document.

MR. COGLIANESE: Mr. Grendell, this is -- as you said, this is your deposition. Are we on the record or off the record?

MR. GRENDELL: Counsel, we're still on the record. So you know for the record, we produced a copy of everything you requested from Mr. Arshinkoff duces tecum in a copy form, which is the normal procedure. You chose to produce the originals. If you want the originals to be part of the record, you brought that on yourself. If you would have given us a copy of those, we would have been glad to accommodate and use the copy.

MR. COGLIANESE: Again, I'm going to ask, I will be happy to get a copy made. What do you want to do?

MR. GRENDELL: We'll wait until you make the copy.

MR. COGLIANESE: Great. We're off the record while we make a copy.


Nothing like one side wanting the record to say that the other "threw" something at the Secretary of State .. and the other side making accusations that they refuse to stop and make a copy.

With 80+ pages to go, I'm convinced someone will say "your momma" before it's all over.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"Beauty and the Beast" .. yeah, but which one am I?

I've never really seen myself as a stage performer, but I was offered a part I couldn't refuse in Barberton High School's version of "Beauty and the Beast." The performance opens tonight (Thursday) and runs through this weekend. Click here for show information.

You won't actually see me ... you'll hear me. The director needed someone with a deep voice as the narrator to open the performance, so that's where I came in. Earlier this week, I went to the high school where they recorded me reading phrases like ... "There once was a prince ... who turned an old woman away .... and later she cast a spell .. and if he couldn't learn to love again .. he would forever be a BEAST!" .... something to that effect. Very, very cool!

Anyway .. it's a great show with a great cast. It'll certainly be a great experience for you and your family.

I just thought I'd fess up on-line for those who do go .. so that you don't go crazy if you hear a voice that you-know-that-you-know but you just can't place.

Enjoy the show!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Forgotten Families ... work continues behind the scenes

A number of local agencies are now working behind-the-scenes to help the Karen immigrants in North Hill. I'll be reporting on their efforts after they assess what they can do and begin their operations.

I've also received quite a few nice emails from people wanting to donate food, clothes, and funds to help. When an organization tells me they're ready to receive those donations, I'll put out the info ASAP for those wishing to help.

The housing department has now finished its initial assessment of the property. Here's my followup story on the inspection for those who missed it: click here.

I'm looking forward to airing some additional stories about who these people really are, other challenges and roadblocks in their way, as well as the efforts to help them.

Wednesday Webchat

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My pal Carole ...

A short video of my trip north to WKYC today .. and a few moments with one of my favorite reporters. Carole and I go way back to WAKC, the "old Channel 23" here in Akron. As an intern, I knew Carole had the right stuff .. and I still think she could take over the Today Show whenever she wants!

Anyway .. I had my pocket video camera with me .. and after learning that Carole will likely leave on maternity next week, I asked her for an interview .. enjoy.


video

Monday, March 10, 2008

Viewers weigh in on "Forgotten Families"

My email and voice messages are full today from many who saw last night's stories highlighting the poor living conditions of immigrants in North Akron. Here's: Part 1 and Part 2. See post below for background on this story.

Not all of the messages that came in were supportive of our investigation:

Stephanie writes, "The report on Thai immigrants was prefaced with the question 'Who is responsible?' For them being here, whosoever brought them here in the first place. For the overcrowding and roaches, whosoever agrees to live that way. But for their eventual state of homelessness once the housing department finds their conditions unfit? That would be you. Bravo. I can't wait for the follow up report on how WKYC has helped dozens of southeast Asian immigrants find adequate housing."

A woman who rented a different apartment from the same landlord as the North Hill immigrants says "We met the same conditions that the Karen family met. Roaches, mice and rats were common. We complained to the office but they did not send an exterminator. They simply told us to spray and set traps ourselves. We reported Thomas Keith to the Health Department. We were given an eviction notice in response. "

Susan tells me, "This is somewhat of a double-edged sword. I have a great concern hat once the authorities become aware of the existing conditions, they may uproot these families, yet again. That would be devastating to many."

A friend of mine writes, "your story creeped me out. You’d be shocked to know how often I had roaches crawling over me when I was a kid."

Cindy tells me, "It's good to know you're out there making things happen and helping people. May God bless those families. I hope the Institute comes forward and makes things right for them. Thanks for going above and beyond as a reporter and a human being."



Akron's Housing Inspectors spent several hours at the apartments today, checking out the living conditions. They found serious rat and roach problems .. as well as low light in the hallways .. and serious overcrowding in some areas. They're citing the landlord, Tom Keith, and ordering him to make immediate corrections.

I also spoke to the head of one of the area's largest social service agencies. He tells me that the Federal Government should take some of the blame here. He says that the State Dept. drops these large groups of immigrants into America's cities without enough resources for a successful transition and then the local agencies have to pick up the pieces when it all goes to heck.

Without saying as much on the record, I think community leaders would like to see some additional area support groups step up to help with the short-term needs of these families, especially those living in overcrowded apartments.

One of the immigrants told me that the reason some of the units have too many people is because the Karen can't find jobs (remember that only a few speak English) and in a short amount of time, they run out of funds and can't pay their rent. The result is two or three families moving in together and pooling their money.

These nice people just broke my heart.

We'll have an update on the inspection tonight at 6:30 on Akron-Canton News and at 11 p.m. on Channel 3 News.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Akron's "Forgotten Families"

Sorry to have fallen off the cyber grid since election night. I've been consumed by tracking down a disturbing story in North Akron. More than 200 Burmese refugees brought to Akron via the International Institute last summer are living in poor conditions.

My two-part story airs Sunday at 6 and 11 on Channel 3 News ... here's a preview.

I was floored by the number of refugees living in some of these apartments and adjacent homes. We found 8 people, including a baby, in a two-room apartment. Not two "bedroom," I mean just two rooms. Their mattresses are up against the wall during the day, and then placed on the floor at night.

We also toured an adjecent home where 15 refugees, including several infants, live with one bathroom. They keep all of their toothbrushes in one bucket and divide up the rooms with sheets as make-shift walls.

There's also serious bug and rodent issues .. and the hallways are so dark, even during the day, that we nearly stepped on two infants crawling in the hallway.

This is North Hill!!! I grew up a few blocks away from where these people live and I just couldn't believe my eyes.

The immigrants came from refugee camps in Thailand, so even with bugs and overcrowding, this is still better than the conditions from which they were rescued. Many have a limited education when it comes to personal hygiene and cooking skills.

A spokesman for the International Institute tells me that his group is only responsible for the immigrants for the first six months. Most of these folks have been here eight months now so it's up to them to find jobs, pay their bills, and make a new life. Still, why did our community bring this many refugees to Akron, if the system was only in place to support them for a short time before saying they're on their own?

When I called the Housing Division of the Akron Health Department to get a background of the apartment building, the director told me he's not going to wait for my story to air .. and he scheduled inspectors to look at each apartment for health and overcrowding. That should happen this week.

The International Institute blames the building's landlord. I spoke with him at length, and he says he's happy to provide insect and rodent help when the refugees report problems, but that most of these folks don't come forward to complain. He also told me he thinks my story is going to "destroy the International Institute."

A woman from a local church who volunteers to help the immigrants says they don't complain because so few speak English. She told me horror stories of finding dead rats in the refugees' apartments and futility of getting them help.

Watch if you can .. and I'll welcome your feedback.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

School levies split, Summit County BOE delivers

Summit County's count went smooth tonight .. with 100 percent counted in a reasonable amount of time. I'm so glad I was covering this BOE instead of the Cuyahoga County mess tonight.

Senator Clinton's speech has eaten up much of our planned 11 p.m. newscast. I was able to do one live-shot with news of our school levies. Three levies (Barberton, Coventry, Manchester) passed .. while three others (Nordonia, Stow-Munroe Falls, and Tallmadge) all failed. Summit voters approved Issue 8 (RTA) while Stark voters are shooting down Issue 22 (MRDD).

So it's pretty much a split of a night .. about what I expected.

Moments before Senator John McCain went on the air, his campaign blasted out his speech embargoed until it was read. It was odd to sit here in Akron reading along with the words as he became the official party nominee.

Tomorrow's headlines will center on the Cuyahoga County vote .. and the overall count for the Buckeye State. Of course, who knows where we'll be as far as the Texas vote either. It's 11:30 p.m. and Hillary ended right on time for the Ohio stations to dump out to the late-night shows without leaving time for Barack Obama to say anything of his own. Don't for a minute ever think the candidates aren't watching the clocks and thinking of the local evening news cycle.

Of course, for all the positive energy at the Summit County Board of Elections tonight with a job well done, tomorrow morning .. a mere 9 hours from now .. the Board will look to add a new member Don Varian as a GOP representative. That move was approved after the Supreme Court shot down a challenge by Alex Arshinkoff to stay that decision. The supremes did however order the Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to expedite a hearing for AA to make his case on why Brian Daley (AA's choice) should be the GOP representative instead of Varian (Brunner's choice). I'm not sure if AA will be at the hearing to try and chain himself to a door to stop it, but the way this issue has gone, I'm not sure that anything is out of bounds any more.

Miller and Schurring still dueling for Congressional Primary

It's 10:30 p.m. I've just finished my first liveshot for TV3 ... and the results for Summit and Stark are coming in smoothly. Summit's actually at 78 percent.

What's sticking out to me is the close race between Matt Miller and Kirk Schurring for the GOP nomination in the 16th Congressional District, which is the seat that Ralph Regula is vacating after several decades in Washington. Miller is an Ashland County Commissioner while Schurring, the more well-known name in this area, is a State Senator. This one could keep us guessing until after midnight. The winner will go against State Senator John Boccieri, who won the Dems primary over Canton City Council woman Mary Cirelli.

I'm surprised that Issue 8 is passing in Summit County. I'm not debating the need, but considering county voters approved monies for both CSB and the ADM Board just four months ago, I was surprised another issue asking for money would go through. Still, this is a sale tax increase versus a property tax, but more $$ is still a tough task these days. Certainly those behind the issue did their homework and sold the idea.

Still having plenty of folks calling with trees down and icy roads .. a lot of what we can't cover tonight because of our election coverage.

The Cuyahoga County issues could keep us on the air well past midnight.

Eric

Summit Results rolling in

Like clockwork, Summit BOE started posted results around 9:09 p.m. and has already updated. You can take a look here for the BOE page or view a complete wrap of Summit County and elsewhere at wkyc.com.

With 29 percent of the vote counted in Summit County, Pry's defeating Finley so far for County Executive ... Issue 8 (RTA) is passing 60-40 ... while school issues in Barberton, Nordonia, Stow and Tallmadge are failing. Coventry and Manchester are passing. Still a lot of votes to count.

Oh .. and by the way, the fire's out on Copley Road. Doesn't sound like there were any injuries. Police tracking the suspect to another location ....

Stay tuned .. Eric

Local polls dealing with serious issues

I'm literally by myself right now in the Akron-Canton newsroom. Our lone evening producer and photographer are bouncing between the Issue 8 gathering and the Summit County Dems party in downtown Akron ... they'll get some reaction on tape that I can use during the 10 p.m. broadcast. I'm monitoring results, answering phones, blogging, and preparing to do cut-ins for WKYC on a moment's notice.

Here's what we're hearing around town ..

More Stark County folks have called me complaining about getting the wrong ballot, usually an Independent ballot when they'd asked for a Democratic ballot.

Several thousand folks remain without power in Stark County, which has affected the polls. One polling place in Atwater Township was using flashlights for the main voting floor while fire fighters used a generator with just enough power for a few touch-screen voting machines.

Lots of trees down around Summit County from the ice storm, but Peggy at the Summit BOE tells me there have been no problems. She also tells me that as of 8:45 p.m., the absentee ballots still had not been completely counted and that not all of the precinct ballots have even been brought back to the Board Offices yet.

With Obama's folks filing suit over the lack of enough ballots in Cuyahoga County and other technical issues in Sandusky, the Secretary of State has mandated that the polls in some places be kept open until at least 9 p.m. and no counties can release results until after then.

If you're watching our coverage on Channel 3, no you're not dreaming. That's really Jim Donovan reading the news and election results. Anchor Tim White lost his voice mid-day because of a cold and couldn't go at 100 percent. Our bosses made the call to the bullpen around 5:30 p.m. JD covers sports for a living, but he also follows politics and local news so he was on his "A game." Knowing Tim, they had to carry him out of there kicking and screaming because Tim loves election night.

OK .. some idiot just used gasoline to set an apartment building on fire on Copley Road ... police and fire fighters are evacuating the building .. and looking for the suspect on foot. This appears to have been a domestic dispute that got out of hand ... just what we need on election night .. breaking news.

It's 9 p.m. ... Texas polls closing ... stay tuned .. Eric

Local voting experiences vary ...

Did your trips to the local polling places go smoothly today? What did you notice? Were any political supporters too close for comfort?

The Secretary of State believes we may top the 4 million mark for voter turnout .. so this will certainly be a day we remember for a while.

Our phones have rung throughout the day with complaints about the process (no one would ever call to say they had a good experience at the polls anyway). One lady just called yelling at me that Kucinich and Edwards still had their names on the ballots. I tried to explain to her that the ballots are printed ahead of time and re-printing at the last minute is costly but she didn't really seem to care that I have no power in that arena.

Anyway, I'd love to hear how your experience went today .. so please share your experiences with a comment below ...

(By the way .. several bloggers including Jill Zimon of Writes Likes She Talks will be blogging from our news at WKYC later this evening. If you're following politics tonight, Jill's blog will be a good one to visit... )

Local voters denied chance to support Hillary?

I love election day ... I just do. I love the feel of the campaign train that's been picking up steam in the distance and now it's finally pulling into the station. The 2000 Presidential snafu into the late-night hours was enough to hook a lot of journalists.

A few notes to share from mid-afternoon in the newsroom:

Some voters in Stark County are complaining that they were denied a chance to vote for Hillary Clinton. They told their poll worker that they were Independents, so they were given a ballot with just issues on it. Looks like they filled out that ballot before they complained that they would rather have had one with the Democratic primary contestants so they could vote for Senator Clinton; it's too late at that point. Other Independents are making the same claim. Not sure where the confusion lies because it's obvious there are party primaries today ... but the Independent ballot complaints have happened more than once today.

Speaking of Clinton, a group of her supporters claim they were physically assaulted last night outside Hillary's Akron headquarters. 26-year-old William Bonner allegedly grabbed at the signs and tried to go all Howard Dean on their butts. Police say Bonner also punched a 61-year-old man in the head. Bonner has been charged with assault, carrying a concealed weapon, and a host of other charges. I don't know if Bonner voted absentee, but I doubt anyone was making arrangements at the Summit County lock-up for him to fill in the dots on his ballot today.

The folks in Cuyahoga County are getting a lot of national airtime today as they use a warehouse to tally all of the ballots via 15 vote counting machines. We also got word that some voters feared their votes wouldn't count because they'd torn off their stubs when they shouldn't have. The official word we have in the newsroom is that poll workers were instructed to tell folks to leave the stubs attached, but if they were torn off, the ballots would still be counted.

Still waiting on the Supreme Court to rule on Alex Arshinkoff's request for a stay at the Board of Elections. Don Varian is set to become a board member tomorrow but AA still believes that the party's recommendation of Brian Daley should stand.

Some Stark County voters claim that their ballots said "replacement card" on them. The poll worker reportedly explained these replacements were being used because the original ballots did not pass a 6 a.m. test. We're still checking on that one.

More in a bit .. Eric

Monday, March 3, 2008

Odds and Ends on a Monday

Busy news day as we get ready for election day on Tuesday ... so I'm working on more things at once than I can control. A few notes to pass along.

The local chapter of the Red Cross picked the worst night possible to honor some special people. Their annual "Acts of Courage" Awards are set for Tuesday night at a time when all local media will be chasing political stories and election results. The people the RC honors are all top-notch, but the available news crews to cover the awards will be slim to none.

Speaking of election night, I found out today that I won't be anchoring the 10 p.m. broadcast. Instead, Channel 3 is planning a special election broadcast beginning at 10 p.m. covering all of the local results along with the Presidential primaries. Since we share resources with Channel 3, there's no way to do two newscasts at once tomorrow night. Instead, I will be part of WKYC's broadcast with Akron-Canton area results.

The U of A now has three active web cams trained on the site of the new stadium. Check it out here. It should be a fun way to watch the construction progress as this project gets underway. The first kick-off is scheduled for the 09' season .. or about 18 months from now. Just how fast can we build a stadium anyway?

My apologies to those of you who endured part of my chuckle on the air last week. Not sure how "Cuyahoga" County became "Cuya-hoagie" County ... like it's a new sandwich or something. That's the beauty of live TV: once it's out of your mouth, there's no going back.

Yes .. Betsy Kling is pregnant. She announced it on the air a little over a week ago and is due this summer. A month ago I hinted that I had some exciting personal news but couldn't write about it yet because it wasn't my news to tell the public. I'm very happy for Betsy and her husband, Paul Thomas, who is a fellow reporter with WKYC.

I've been out of the office so much on the Cutts trial that I spent much of the day catching up on the zillion emails sitting here. Some of the notes I received contained great stories, but unfortunately I didn't open them in time because I was away at the courthouse. If you have a story for our Akron newsroom, make sure you copy your email to our assignment desk at akroncantonnews@wkyc.com so that someone other than me also gets it.

I think last week's Prince Harry story showed a positive side of the media that few ever acknowledge. Seems the major news organizations in Great Britain have known for months that the Harry was serving in Afghanistan but agreed not to report it. Some of the major US organizations also knew but were keeping silent. Obviously some Internet group failed to see the same benefit and published the information leading to Harry's return to his homeland. Still, the fact that so many others in the media were willing to put their country and a military unit's safety above their own drive for headlines is admirable .. but then again, who would ever report it?

Email from Jim in Hinckley: "Comet Rd buzzards are back! Flew over our house about 4P." The birds must not have gotten the word about this being a leap year :)