Sunday, July 28, 2013

The saga of the Akron's sewage problem remains a fiasco

 And so, dear reader, we are witnessing still another bizarre  episode in the years-long attempt to discredit the Plusquellic Administration of Akron by a Republican federal judge.  It arrived by way of a compelling article in the Sunday Beacon Journal that told us of Judge John Adams' decision to hire a friendly environmental law professor from Oregon at $450 an hour to examine the city's ongoing plan to clean up a serious sewage drainage problem.

I don't question the expertise of  the hire, Craig N. Johnston, from the Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland , Ore., although I do have to wonder why Adams  had to go all the way to the West Coast to hire an expert when there surely must be one in Ohio as qualified as Adams' notion of his own expertise in the long and  costly saga that continues to run up a huge bill for the city.

Indeed, the BJ reported that the U.S. Justice Department for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Ohio Attorney General's office for the Ohio EPA described  Adams'  move as "unneeded and unwarranted". The paper  said that the three parties - city, federal and state - objected to the hourly rate as excessive.  Adams, of course,  disagreed.

Adams emerged as a severe critic of the mayor when the city supported a plan by a private contractor to put up  an office building  next to the downtown federal building.  He insisted that it would endanger judges with a possible terrorist  act.   The controversy began more than  six years ago and the building was never erected.   Meantime, Adams protested that the city was, of all things, dragging its feet in acting on the problem!

What is the court's obsessive determination to block the city's sewer plan?

There are building blocks in the back story that have pointed to Adams' personal enmity toward Plusquellic. And one of the arteries that has pumped  poison and passion into the Plusquellic tenure is Summit County Republican Chairman Alex Arshinkoff, who years ago was whispering to folks that the mayor would be indicted for  some mythical federal crime. (Before that, it was Hillary Clinton who would be indicted. )  It was the height of the chairman's frustration that he couldn't come close to defeating the long-serving Plusquellic on election Day. Nor will he ever.

Dave Lieberth was Akron's deputy mayor at the time and today he scoffs at the original fear of terrorists.  "It's a stupid argument," Lieberth says, arguing there are other ways terrorists could attack even without access to a nearby building.

And Max Rothal, the former city law director who had an upfront view of the case,  recalls that when the U.S. Attorney's office  filed  suit to have the city "accelerate a remedy for the sewage problem," Adams promptly set a date for a status hearing before the deadline for the city to choose its own outside  lawyer.

"When I complained that we hadn't had enough time  to choose our lawyer,  I was told  the court thought we would hire somebody from Roetzel and Andress," Rothal said.    That's  the big Akron law firm that has long been targeted by Arshinkoff as a Democratic beehive. A laughable notion, to say the least.  Arshinkoff complained that Democratic Chairman Wayne Jones' was with the firm.  But so was Jones' friend and colleague, Atty. Pete Kostoff, the former Republican mayor of Fairlawn.

Arshinkoff  played a strong role  in Adams' appointment by President George W. Bush to the Federal bench in 2003. So his  political scheme is  paying off.

If all of this sounds a tad harsh, I'm merely connecting the dots in the linkage between the court, Johnston and the mayor.  Under different  circumstances Arshinkoff would have called it an "epic of Biblical proportions".

I'm merely calling it a court-inspired fiasco.


Howard Tolley said...

The decision of Judge Adams to hire an out-of-state consultant to review Akron's well
conceived plans to remedy its storm water runoff problem as mandated by the EPA
is a travesty. It's a sad day when a federal judge willingly becomes a tool of a local
Republican Party chairman out to undermine Mayor Plusquellic at every turn. Thanks,
Abe for shining much needed light on what is really going on behind this unfortunate
judicial charade!

Anonymous said...

Hi Abe, Its good to see that you are still alive and kicking... and writing. I'm not so sure about the Arshinkoff connection to Judge Adams extreme environmentalism.
Nevertheless, Judge Adams has been whimsical in his decision making IMHO, and he has hired an "expert" inspector, Craig Johnston - all the way from the West Coast to add his 2 cents, or rather 2 billion dollars worth of input. Mr Johnston, I have learned according to one of his bios, is a "tenacious" defender of environmental conditions and has done work for the Sierra Club and many other pro environmental concerns. He has also been part of an organization that trains lawyers to pursue environmental justice throughout the country (OMG!!!) To say that Judge Adams hiring this fellow might be a bit biased is a most severe understatement. Adams and Johnston are going to slam bang Akron, maybe, even more than we think. PS I think it rarer that a Republican appointed judge would be such an advocate for EPA when compared to liberal judges. One interesting anecdote: A representative of the Friends of the Crooked River (enemies of the hoi polloi Akron taxpayers)has said that the river is a bit cleaner because she, "Is not getting infections under her finger nails any more when canoeing the Cuhyahoga River." We can't win unless there is some kind of miracle or a change in Federal administrations which could restrain the ever anxious and always overly zealous EPA. Sincerely, jc Akron