Thursday, August 2, 2012

Yes, bipartisanship created the Cuyahoga Valley National Park

REP. STEVE LATOURETTE'S decision to not seek reelection was a reminder of an earlier day  when non-partisan cooperation created one of Northern  Ohio's prized public amenities - now called the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  It's a stretch of pristine beauty reaching border to border from Akron to Cleveland that is drawing more than 3 million visitors each year.

LaTourette indicated he was fed up with the stalemate in Congress,  much of it generated by the arrival of the Tea Party hordes that descended on Capitol Hill from the  2010 elections.But there was a time when good things could come our way from a collegial attempt to serve the public good.  So it was in December 1974 when the federal parkland was set aside by Congress and signed into law by President Ford.

Even then, it was a close call - but it did end on a positive note.(Yes, it can happen!)   The three Northern Ohio congressmen who sought the protected acreage were John Seiberling of Akron, a liberal Democrat, and Ralph Regula, a centrist Republican from Navarre in Stark County.  They got a helping hand from another Democratic representative, Charles Vanik of Cleveland.

But as it began to appear that resistance was growing in Congress that would allow the law to die without Ford's signature, 11th hour calls were exchanged among the congressmen, Sens. Robert A. Taft (R)  and Howard Metzenbaum (D that led to a clinching call from Akron's Ray Bliss , the former Republican chairman,  to Ford, who was vacationing in Vail, Col., over the Christmas holiday.  "Get it done," Bliss told the president, or you'll lose the election in 1976. Pure political pragmatism. the sort of influence that made Bliss a towering figure in his party with a lot of folks except Nixon.

It was a textbook example of how government can work for the common good.  Unfortunately, LaTourette doesn't think it is working now.  And we can understand why.

(For my dissection of the resulting political scramble  from LaTourette's impending departure, you might read my overview column in

1 comment:

David Hess said...

As one who covered the long, tangled struggle to authorize and then provide funding for the CVNP in the 1970s and later covered Congress until recently, I can say without a doubt that such a project would never emerge from a congressional committee in this era of polarization and Tea Party anarchism. The departure of LaTourette from Congress is symptomatic of the hijacking of the Republican Party by anti-government conservatives bent on reducing government at all levels to a bystander status and clearing the way for a corporatist nation run by a handful of super-wealthy oligarchs.