Monday, August 31, 2015

Is Cleanliness next to Godliness for UA prez?

One of the intriguing questions about the unfolding horrors  at the University of Akron is not whether President Scott Scarborough's  confident predictions that the sun will again shine but rather how did a personal email conversation between Scarborough and Ted Curtis, the powerful veep of capital planning & facilities management, mysteriously  turn up on a PDF on your computer.

The chummy insider tete-a-tete dealt exclusively with Scarborough's wish list for new UA projects in the midst of the school's $60 million debt. It also again  revealed the president's obsession  with tidiness as a critical path to rebranding.   You may recall that he lectured the  faculty that the profs couldn't possibly expect passing grades as educators if they didn't pick up trash.  Disciplined behavior also is one of the beauty marks for the newly created student Corps of Cadets, which  will even have a glee club.

Much as ex-president Luis Proenza placed high priority  on bricks and mortar  to recruit students, red ink notwithstanding, the current CEO  advises Curtis that after driving around the campus, there are 30 items on his list that he would like to "cost"  from the Grand Entrance - a rebirth of the Arc de Triomphe - to the campus that traverses  the now-teamless baseball field;  power washing the Polsky building and E.J.  Thomas Hall;   removal of the trees in the center of the circular drive at Buchtel Hall and adding plants; demolition of several big unused buildings;  more signage everywhere.

Oh, how about painting the roof of the E.J.,  moving  the  track to Exchange and Spicer and adding lights on the tops of many buildings.

Did I mention power washing E.J. and Central Hower?

All of these things, of course, would sound good in better times.  But these are not better times for UA.

Scarborough wrote:   "Would you put a price tag on each of these projects and send it back to me when done?  I realize that will  be easier to price than  others,  I also  realize that some (like resurfacing parking lots and resurfacing  university roads)will need to be costed at greater levels of detail".

The confab goes on and on, but the question remains:  How did it get on line?  Who was the canary?

The best explanation I've heard is that is was a distressed former member of the hulled-out information services offices. He or she would have had access because with today's technology, every email can be easily accessed.

"Why didn't they know that?"  my source asked.  Well, maybe they should ask anybody they can still reach in information services.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

At least they didn't ask about the candidates' favorite newspaper

Although I recall interviewing a politician or two over these many years, I don't remember ever asking any candidate to identify his or her choice of a quarterback on a college football team.  That distinction, however,  appeared in the Beacon Journal today. It  was a vibrant clue to Ohio State University's dominance over the minds of Ohio sports fans to the dismay of the Akron U Zippies and other grid mediocrities..

So the question to Akron Democratic mayoral candidates Dan Horrigan and Mike Williams, if I'm keeping you breathless,  was their choice of an OSU quarterback this year.   It's one of the few things they agree on:  Cardale Jones.  Who knew?

I learned to be indifferent to college football as the alum of the University of Illinois and earlier, Pitt, as both made a habit of losing.

Want to know how bad it is with the Illini?  Within days of the team's season opener with Kent State,  the front office fired the head coach this week.  Why?  Sorry, I didn't read past the first paragraph.

The olive jar saga now explained

The full back channel story on that pricey olive jar in the UA president's house may now be told.  This marketing scrap reportedly was found in the center of the devalued UA baseball diamond.
There are several theories about its mission.  But my hunch is that President Scarborough had hoped to move it to the proposed pearly entrance to the campus  as a profitable scheme selling olives to help reduce the school's debt.   We don't see that it  is a perfect fit for a polytechnical U, but  a lot of strange things are happening under the new regime.

Don't laugh.  I have the original on my desk and hope to cash in the business-like sales pitch  myself with a forceful proposal to the board of trustees.    As Carmine Sabatini defended his business style in The Freshman:

"Scam?...Scam!? This is an ugly word - this scam.  This is business.  If you want to be in business.  This is what you do."

Saturday, August 29, 2015

For Best and Scarborough, the two who tangoed

 Randy Best is a mega-rich entrepreneur who has become the big man on the University of Akron campus, if only in the offices of President Scott Scarborough and his servile board of trustees.   Best was just awarded a lucrative contract for an online nursing program in which  his Texas-based company, Academic Partnerships, will receive half of the tuition from students who sign on. Half?  Nice work if you can get it.   And Best knows how to get a lot of it.

But the subplot to Best's huge success story, insofar as he embraces UA, is that he and Scarborough have had intersecting careers for years  in which the latter  has had Best's business model coursing through his grand plan  to rebrand UA, relieve some of the school's debt and apply whatever other strategies that leave academia in the distant past. That not only includes Scarborough's passion for online courses but also his promotion of hired off-campus "coaches" for students.

 As Forbes magazine  once described Best's  M.O. to profit from a university's  treasury, his  three R's are  "recruitment, retention and revenue".  It quoted his bottom line judgment on academic matters: : "The Stanfords, the Harvards, of my gosh, those schools are remarkable.  But they're irrelevant to the market."

A think-alike Texan yoked with Scarborough, Best  is also active in national politics, having raised millions of dollars for former President George W. Bush. And Jeb Bush is an investor in Best' s enterprises.

Scarborough, of course, will deny the linkage defined in a growing number of media reports.  He prefers to call it nothing more than just another day at the office in his heroic effort to cut UA's debt.   But don't believe it.  He's already cashed in  his credibility as the CEO on the reeling downtown campus even though he's admitted his mistakes in ramping up his grand designs on the ailments of  higher education. The paper trail is simply too persuasive .

Some tell-tale evidence:  As the chief financial officer at DePaul University in  Chicago,  Scarborough recommended the sale of Barat College, a tiny  Catholic school, to Best's company in 2005 and that would include accreditation, land and buildings.  You can only believe that the transaction would have had a lengthy get-acquainted period as the details fell into place.

Eureka!  As part of the deal,  Scarborough  landed a  seat on the new owner's  board.
There he remained, the Plain Dealer reported, until  2007, when he became chief financial officer at the University of Toledo, giving up his board seat on Higher Ed Holdings, the company's new name.

He became Best's go-between to the  provost in which Best offered an online master's degree in an education program for  teachers.  Sorry, the College of Education said,  and turned it down. Undaunted, Best came back with  an online nursing program with Scarborough serving as his greeter.  Again he was rejected.

Academic Partnerships then scored with Ohio University in 2008 for the nursing program.  But OU has since cancelled it.  Randy Leite, dean of the College of Health Sciences,  told the PD:  "We found over time that the quality and level our students expected was not being met." Meantime, Best had collected 50 pct.  of the tuition.

And so the ship has now come in at the UA, with Scarborough saying he only  had been contacted  by Academic Partnerships and turned over its proposals to the trustees for them to decide.   He said he was surprised that it was accepted by a "consensus".  Really?  With this board?

You may have noticed that  Scarborough has met the critics by saying that rather than  enhancing  his friend Randy Best's business opportunities, he simply  made a few introductions.

And at the University of Akron, based on their  feathery track record how could the trustees  possibly resist?  By the looks of things, Team Scarborough ain't done yet.


Friday, August 28, 2015

Life among the Trumpeters

Cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz via Daily Kos.  Looks right to me!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bobblehead giveaways for UA football fans?

Having had no experience in building crowds at college football games, I am eminently qualified to offer you today's sermon.  The idea came to me as I read an expert's advice on the Beacon Journal's op-ed page to seduce people to attend University of Akron football games.

What didn't work, I should begin, is the school's attempt to pulsate  its  30,000 seat stadium on  those hapless afternoons when the team was doing its pantomine before   more than 20,000 empty seats. The $61.6 million structure,   which opened in 2009, hosted a team that won three games  that year.  (The following year 1-11, followed by a lot of etc's)  Its grand opening, however, was celebrated with so many exclamation points that  the school's  administration under President Luis Proenza could have been penalized for demonstrating in the end zone after  a game-winning touchdown.

About the crowd-building expert:  Katie Swartz, who runs a sports management consulting firm, prescribed an enhanced  "game day experience" with one option being a LeBron James event tied to ticket sales.   She also recommended aggressive ticket hustling with corporations,  local businesses and donors;  raffles, and changing the game time. I would suggest a moment when the game didn't conflict with a Trump TV speech.

Inasmuch  as so many decisions by the Team Scarborough  front office have been scrapped  to the extent that the school has become a national joke, I have a crowd-pleasing suggestion offered by the  other person who shares our home:  Why not offer every patron on game day a Scarborough bobblehead doll?, she asks.  I would add a free tee shirt with the names of the trustees printed upside down in school colors.

Well, why not? It won't win any games, but it would certainly add some joy to a game-day experience.



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Trump's color-coded attack on illegals

Can we all agree that the Republican battle cry, as shouted by the gang of impostors running for the White House, has upstaged gay marriage, abortion, religious liberty  and President Obama's birth certificate as the key to success?

As wildly as Donald Trump wails of undocumented immigrants who are rapists, gang leaders, criminals  and the parents of anchor babies, it has the same effect as Paul Revere's "the British are coming."

Historically, the melodrama at the Mexican border is another ugly chapter in America's blurred reaction to a color-coded phenomenon that it doesn't understand.  There was the "Yellow Peril'  advancing to the 20th Century with fear of Oriental invasions, the "Red Scare "  sold by fear mongering Sen. Joe McCarthy of commies under your bed in the 1950s and now the "Brownish Peril' exploited by the GOP candidates trying to out-Trump Trump.

And some, like Jeb!, aren't doing it with much panache.  When he was challenged for bringing  up the nasty term,  "anchor babies,"  he said, gosh,  he only used it in reference to "Asian people."   Holy God! And this frequently misspeaking guy wants to be your president?

And Trump,  circuit-riding as  face-twisting comedian Lewis Black,  was at it again in
Iowa with Ann Coulter, who brandished her wicked witchcraft before a curse-thirsty audience.  She said Trump's arrival was evidence that "God hasn't given up".

So now  and probably well into the future, we are witnessing what the New York Times accurately called a "revoltingly xenophobic Republican campaign".

Is this how The Donald plans to "make America great again"?

In the days before the internet , President Andrew Jackson came up with the Indian Removal policy that drove the hapless Cherokees west from  the south on the Trail of Tears. But these mistreated  Indians  were a handful compared to the 11 million illegals that Trump wants to ship back to Mexico, a multi-billion dollar impossibility that would take years to accomplish if they ever find their human quarry at all.

But in his Iowa harangue, Trump set his audience on edge by huffing  that illegals slip over our borders and instantly produce a child, whom America will pay  for over the next 80 years. Voters can rid America of Trump much sooner than that.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

UA woes now in national spotlight

As I have been saying...

The incalculable mess at the University of Akron has now painfully gone national.  The Huffington Post, a leading national online site, has published a column referring to the video produced  by an anonymous  group that mockingly titled the piece "Graduates over Greed". Many on-liners have seen it.

 The story is told by puppets  with bags over their heads, which in my view  precisely describes Team Scarborough and his imported cronies as well as  the  Board of Trustees.

And yes, in ridiculing the free spenders on President Scarborough's newly renovated house, the video specifically notes the $556 olive jar and a $838 makeup chair. It even posted a photo, shown here, of the school's "Fear the Roo" whimper.

Folks, it is 2015 and the internet, which has crowded the wilting mainstream media for readers, has little mercy for screw-ups on the scale of the widely, widely, widely reported  saga at UA.   There was a time when these unsightly events could have been contained to the home turf by a friendly hometown paper, but no more.

So for the foreseeable future, UA's attempt to rebrand itself into - what? - must settle for being a magnet for ridicule. And  we're not limiting that to the football team.  It is usually hard for an institution to gain respect, but ever so easy to lose it. Not much that  Scarborough, said to be a religious man enjoying the prosperity Gospel,  can do about damage control now.

Monday, August 24, 2015

On restored UA president house, olive jars and Mike Williams

Inspired by the nearly $1 million makeover of  University of Akron  President Scott Scarborough & Family's new digs, I spent some time over the week end  making my office more presentable by emptying files and wastebaskets.

Among the old clippings that turned up was a Beacon Journal piece dated July 19,  2014 reporting the projected cost of the renovation as $375,000. Ted Curtis, UA vice president of  capital planning and facilities management, made it all seem worthwhile by saying "it's a great house in a wonderful neighborhood.  Very solidly built."  Not as solidly built was the rollout of the Team Scarborough's plan to cut UA debt.

Also quoted was Board of Trustees chairman Jonathan Pavloff , who noted that the trustees were "in agreement that the house is an appropriate piece of the presidential package". It was a reminder that the trustees were as useless then as they are now.

As we have come to learn, Curtis  missed the mark by a cool half-million dollars, even if you leave out that notorious olive jar...

* * * * *

Speaking of that jar, it could be reinstated with respect if it were offered as a trophy to the winner of the annual KSU-UA  football game, much like the Michigan-Minnesota Little Brown Jug trophy.  I know.  UA and KSU already have a wagon wheel trophy.    But who wants to reach for a wagon wheel to garnish a martini?

* * * * *

At last week's Akron mayoral debate Democratic candidate Mike Williams, a longtime foe of former Mayor Don Plusquellic,   talked of the improvements  in downtown Akron  over the past decade, sounding self-congratulatory as a city councilman.  But he forgot to mention that most of these improvements were produced during the Plusquellic administration.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

John Kasich, the centrist ...not

Sandy Theis, the executive director of ProgressOhio, sent along a perfect cameo  of Gov. Kasich's Orwellian newspeak that captures his  huge reliance on cognitive dissonance in responding to the delicate issues of the day. Campaigning in New Hampshire, he described Roe v. Wade as the law of the land that we must live with. But the day before in Iowa,  he returned to his pro-life mode in a conversation with a woman:
Woman questioner: "In Ohio, I know half of the abortion centers closed.   Can you do that in the country if I vote for you?"
Kasich:  "We'll do our best, okay."

Not okay, guv.  It 's going to be a tough uphill presidential campaign anyway so you might as well come clean on your dedicated pro-life  position.  After all,  cheerleaders  who know you best, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and Ohio Right to Life boss Mike Gonidakis  have already called you the greatest pro-life governor  in America, boasting  that some of the state's toughest abortion restrictions have been signed into law by you. It has been, and will continue to be, in all of the papers as myth collides with reality.

And I didn't even mention your opposition to Planned Parenthood.

All of this leads me to a comment by Kent State University political science professor Danielle Sarver Coombs, in a speech this week at Akron Roundtable in which she referred to Kasich as a "centrist"  who could be the "last man standing".  Good grief.    A centrist who is in born-again lockstep with the Republican presidential field on most issues, calls for boots on the ground in Syria, opposed the stimulus package and auto bailout, is a charter school loyalist, ridicules public school  teachers and waffles mightily  on climate change.

On the latter, he says he  believes there is a problem but  doesn't think we should "overreact" to it, whatever the hell that means.  At the same time, he is part of a the group taking legal action against the EPA.

But as an "on the other hand" candidate, it has earned him plaudits from the gallery that on some hazy days  may be hard pressed to figure out what he really is at any given moment and settles for "centrist".

Friday, August 21, 2015

At UA, expertise is just a brain trust away

As a notorious slow learner in the ways of higher education these days,  I was pleased to note that the  University of Akron has at least four all-star business executives "in residence"  as the brain trust  advising students in various departments.  The Beacon Journal said they are Tony Alexander, former FirstEnergy  president and CEO;  Steve Myers, former CEO and president of Myers Industries, Inc.; Andy Platt, vice president of enterprise analytics and insights (!) at the J. M. Smucker Co., and Sandy  Pianalto, former  president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

With these experts along with Trust Navigator sharing their expertise with students, what could possibly go wrong?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Louis Stokes: A remarkably good man

The year 1968 could fill volumes citing  the troubled life on our seismic planet.  The war in Vietnam was going badly.  Lyndon Johnson dismissed himself as a candidate for reelection.  Alabama Gov. George Wallace's wife Lurleen died.   She had been chosen as the interim governor when her uber-segregationist husband was limited by law  to two successive terms. (He returned later.)

America's cities erupted in riotous protests when two icons of the civil-rights movement, Martin Luther King, and a few months later, Robert Kennedy, were assassinated.

It also was the year that a gentle African-American lawyer, Louis Stokes, from Cleveland's tattered East Side,   became the first  black  in Ohio history to be elected to Congress.  Only a year earlier, his picture-perfect cool younger  brother Carl had been elected as the first big-city black mayor in America.  Working as an Akron  political reporter in Cleveland, I witnessed  a frenzied past-midnight experience that burned into my memory.

Two brothers - one of them Hollywood flashy with a blinding smile, the other with a shy grin, reflective, and modest in any crowd - had secured a place in the history books in the troubled progress of civil rights.

Lou passed on at 90 this week after  calling Brent Larkin of the Plain Dealer with a polite request for Brent to write his obituary.  The congressman did not presume to ask many favors of his friends and steadfastly carried out his responsibilities to his constituents for 30 years on Capitol Hill.

He co-founded the Congressional Black Caucus and later became chairman of the group that steadily gained influence in a chamber long dominated by white guys. He retired from  Congress in 1998.  A year later, he joined the faculty of the Case Western Reserve Faculty University's Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.

Back in Ohio, the Democratic Party was, as usual,  at war with itself during the 70s. The headlines  bore the names of such combatants as  Howard Metzenbaum, John Glenn, Jack Gilligan and Frank King - the latter a hot-headed but influential labor leader who was president of the Ohio-AFL-CIO and the Democratic Party's senate leader in Columbus. (Gilligan  once remarked with graveyard humor  that his party was happy to hurl dead cats at each other! Nothing much has since changed.)

King was strictly old-school politics and never forgave the others for not rewarding him as a clear choice to run for governor.   His temperamental behavior  came to a head in a meeting of prominent  party members and officehoders in Cleveland.  The topic of the agenda: changes in the party's delegate selection plan that would, among other things, provide more opportunities for blacks.

I happened to be seated next to Lou Stokes and as King buzzed on from the rostrum and I could feel the congressman's arm tense up.  In the only moment that I ever witnessed  him bursting out of character, Stokes leapt of his feet, pointing his finger and shouting to King.  He profanely called him a racist, and in the silence of the next moment, returned to his chair and sat down, quivering. That blistering instance was evidence that even this civil public man of many courtesies could be provoked beyond restraint.

Given the malignancy in the  U.S. Congress as the uncivil Republican caucus often crosses the line in ugly assaults on a black president, it would be quite a departure from their reputation as rowdies  if Lou Stokes, a good and self-effacing man,  could still be there.

(P.S. A revolt within the Ohio AFL-CIO  threw Frank King out of office in 1974 at the union's  raucus convention in Cleveland in which his opponents paraded past the stage  with upraised arms and middle fingers as their  stone-faced dethroned leader looked on.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Scarborough catches up with 'vital' UA Press.

  If you are having as much trouble as I am  following the bouncing ball at the U of Akron, it's not getting any easier.

Just today, for example, Scott Scarborough, the school's relatively new prez, expressed his delight in informing us that the UA Press and all of its moving parts will be reinstated in its  original profile.

In a prepared statement quoted by the BJ, Scarborough said , "The University of Akron Press has been and will continue to be a vital part of the academic mission  of this institution."

As you are doubtless aware by now, the Press' tiny  staff  was axed and it's work was transferred to the understaffed University library as a victim of the  hunt-and-peck budget cuts to eliminate  millions in debt.

But Scarborough now describes the UA Press as a a "vital part" of the school  - which, of course, it was before it was stripped and shipped to other campus quarters.

In another sloppy  initiative during the front office's on-the-job training, the leadership must have learned that in its new venue, the downgraded UA Press  lacked the basic vital requirements to be a valid university press.

So in the clouds of higher education, it seems fair to ask why Team Scarborough, which includes the politically appointed servile  Board of Trustees, wasn't  sensitive to the fallout from what it was doing to the "vital part,"  which my dictionary defines as"essential; indispensable; very important".

Considering the numerous times that UA's deep thinkers have now retreated on their  batch of mindless moves,  would it  be asking too much to keep all of them after school for remedial studies  until further notice?

Monday, August 17, 2015

A cameo self-portrait of Spencer Scarborough

University of Akron President Scott Scarborough's son Spencer is a UA student and should you want to know a little more about him, here is how he describes himself on  Twitter:
"Lifetime learner.  Higher Education Enthusiast.  Lover of Jesus, fitness, and athletics.  Believer in GREAT PUBLIC education for ALL people."  

Sunday, August 16, 2015

At UA, the week that was - and will be

The past week has been the week that was - and will continue to get worse  as the  University of Akron leaders, past and present, grope for damage control.

Former President Luis Proenza returned to the front page of the Beacon Journal  like Jacob Marley's ghost with his  version of why it was so utterly important to make the campus more suitable for students, regardless of the debt.  He defended a $650 million makeover of the school  on his watch for his inviting new "Landscape for Learning".  Will  those who come later be tempted to affix his name to one of the buildings?

Next up was a rope-a-dope statement in Sunday's  Beacon Journal from the collegial  Board of Trustees, with apologies for its ineptitude in rolling out its debt strategy from the assembly line.  It said it must find better ways to communicate  its effort to meet the challenge  for more efficiency and economy on the campus.

And, of course, there  was the forever upbeat President Scott Scarborough, for whom the trustees chipped in nearly a milion dollars for a This-Old-House update  that included an expensive olive jar and the addition of a neat suite for his relatives. He, too, agreed that mistakes were made and promised that Team Scarborough would do better.

Folks, when you're paying a chief executive $450,000 plus endless  princely perks, he'd damn well try to do better. On the job training couldn't have been in his contract.

OK,  we can all agree that indebtedness is a big problem, even if doesn't impact on a new palace for the CEO.

Still, with a school with little walking-around money,  a published report the past week told of the trustees hiring a retired colonel at $100,000  (cheap by UA standards for its executive corps) to direct a newly-created Corps of Cadets.  From the Plain Dealer we learned that the new commandant, Bradley Harvey, will preside over a mission "designed  to instill discipline, honor and respect and to teach life skills, including personal decorum and time management."

The part of about "personal decorum" is a perfect though worrisome fit for   Scarborough's apparent obsession with fashionable dress codes and behavior.   You'll recall he had earlier warned the faculty kiddies that those who don't pick up trash don't deserve respect as educators.  It's scary stuff from a schoolmaster.

What's going on here?  Add the Corps of Cadets to another newly posted entity,  Trust Navigator, an outfit inexperienced in its new jackpot role, that will be paid $843,000   for coaching students that were already being coached..

At week's end, staffs at the UA Press and EJ. Thomas Hall were still poking around in uncertainties about their own future despite word from the top that the administration working on it.

At the athletics  department, now managed by the vice president of finance, three potential candidates for athletics director backed away from the job  because of  the chaos.  For now, the eight trustees  who seemingly dozed  through the debt flood and  the subsequent cascading mistakes ought to be shamed for nonfeasance and incompetence.

Guy Bordo, the widely respected conductor of the UA symphony  orchestra,   called for the resignations of all of the trustees and the guy they hired, Scott Scarborough.    But at their clubby level, unfortunately, it's not likely to happen.  Loss of credibility is not part of the equation.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Renacci on cutting edge of women's equality?

Rep. Jim Renacci, the Wadsworth Republican, is  making a gallant effort to reach the cutting edge of the  professional woman's  movement.  He's hosting  an event  at the Strongsville Holiday Inn on Oct. 20 to inform the guests on how to be successful in conquering the "challenges facing professional women."

His keynote speaker will be a right-wing, anti-Obamacare, anti-abortion, anti-tax  Republican congresswoman from South Dakota - Kristi  Noem (Right - I couldn't place the name, either), who will be there to tell the guests how to crack the glass ceiling. He describes the affair as an "open exchange from influential  women".

 Noem conquered the challenge as her family farm received $3 million in evil federal subsidies.  Way to go, Jim.  Will you include that in her resume?

Warning: Space is limited.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Latest from the Front: Team Scarborough to the parapets! .

There was good news and bad news from President Scott Scarborough  surrounding  Wednesday's closely monitored meeting of the University of Akron's Board of Trustees.   Yes, he said, to his many detractors who already knew it, mistakes were made during the turbulent rollout of the new regime's ill-conceived plan to erase the school's debt.

But as he told Akron Roundtable a year ago, he wanted his audience to know there was good news in the Bible.  Quoting Psalm 30:5,  he had said:

"Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning."

He said he was confident "the sun will rise on our great university" - a reprise of Reagan's Morning in America, right?  Well, so far, it hasn't.

Biblical or not, that won't be of much consolation to all of the folks who were cut from  the ledgers and are now out of work.  But a lot of people at Scarborough's pampered level don't seem to connect to those who are left behind when  the Top Loaders come calling with big ideas.

When, as in Scarborough's case, you are being paid a half-million dollars with princely perks in the noble cause of debt reduction,  you reduce humanity to winners and losers.  I mean, when he spoke to the Akron Roundtable shortly after his arrival from Toledo  last year, he smoothly rose to the podium with the sternest of advice to his newly acquired faculty with a demand that if they wanted to  earn respect as serious-minded educators  they must pick up trash.

Although not quite ready for Bartlett's,  he explained his odd trash pickup philosophy:

"A person who is too important to pick up trash is probably too important to help a student who is struggling to understand an important concept or practice."

That struck me at  the time as the broadest  consideration  of what higher education is all about with all of those messy career professors on the loose.

In this dark moment of UA history,  however, he can rest assured that he has all eight trustees who hired him on his side.  From Board Chairman Jonathan Pavloff came a salute that the Board remains solidly behind its hire, and despite those embarrassing mistakes,  "We'll do a better job in the future."  (Remember, this in the context of higher education, not reform school.)

Still,  the focus  remains on  the board's disengagement during the entire process.  Where were  these bright lights of the community - six Republicans and two Democrats -political appointees supposedly chosen for their ability to serve as thoughtful gatekeepers rather than ego-serving lines in their resumes.  Where have they been for so long during the systemic free-spending spree that embraced the Proenza years, too?  And did any of them wonder about the public relations breakdown of half-prepared initiatives that were reversed in a publicity rout?  Ask them.

How much confidence should any of us have in their ability to be accountable jurors since they silently ratified the notion that university presidents are also gods, even those with questionable track records? (You won't find that in Psalms.)

The wounds to the school's reputation are deep from this clumsy bush league  performance and neither Psalms nor triage will  help.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

From Kasich, to Comunale, to UA

From the Weekly Reader:
Gov. Kasich turned up on the Fox News Hannity show for a reunion  among relatives who are still talking to  each other.  It was so family-ish as Kasich and Hannity engaged in chatty cordiality. .

From Kasich we learned that he was gleefully running for president only because he loves America. Spare me.  Guv,  you've been running for something for decades because your over-active ego won't let you do otherwise.

But Kasich is different this time as a born-again with a road map from God while pretending that he is a moderate.  Really.  A hawkish boots-on-the-ground moderate who spent years working for a Wall Street company that tanked, and for Fox News with a show called "Heartland with John Kasich."

Didn't know that Fox made space for moderates. So much for the new Sunny Kasich with standard photos of outstretched arms and an expression of ecstasy ready at every turn to help the less fortunate.  It is getting tiresome to hear the governor, a millionaire many times over, begin so many  responses to so many questions with the fact that his father was a mailman

But as Oscar Wilde once told us:  No man is rich enough to buy back his past.  

* * * *

When Frank Comunale summarily pulled out of the Akron Mayor's race with a resounding endorsement of Dan Horrigan, his action vibrated among the political class, including his own people who worked on his campaign the day before.    It was an  element of surprise - maybe even to him - with Comunale pleading campaign poverty and physical exhaustion.  Good grief.   The October surprise in August? Whatever.

* * * * *

Speaking of surprise, the aftershock of the incomprehensible misfirings at the University of Akron has driven off a potential new athletics  director.  Brian Wickstrom, the athletics director at the University of Louisiana at Monroe  reportedly declined an invitation  to accept the job, saying uncertainty from the sweeping changes underway at UA discouraged him from coming to the Akron campus. Grapevine news travels fast.

The vacancy is being filled by Nathan Mortimer, the school's top finance man,  following the resignation of  Tim Wistrcill.

Is this any way to rebrand the value of  a university?  

Monday, August 10, 2015

Comunale out - mayor's race a twosome

The in-and-out Akron mayor's race took still another turn Monday:  Summit County Councilman Frank Comunale  withdrew from the Democratic primary, shrinking the field  to a twosome.   And that couldn't make supporters of Summit County Clerk of Courts  Dan Horrigan happier.  Or his lone remaining  Democratic opponent, Mike Williams,  more at a loss.

Once upon a time there might have been four candidates as State Sen.  Tom Sawyer teased his party with the prospect that he would  run, too.  Didn't happen, and there's nothing to be gained by revisiting that bit of Kabuki politics.

So on Sept 8, Democratic primary voters will  be choosing  Horrigan or Williams and be done with it.  The Republican candidate in the general election is Atty.  Eddie Sippien, but the political reality in  a Democratic city is that his name on the ballot is little more than a formality.

For now all of the behind the scenes pushing and shoving has produced little interest around town.  Much of the campaign narrative has been awash in intrigue - as well as it should have been. The departure of Mayor Don Plusquellic left a huge vacancy at City Hall after 28 years and Council chairman  Jeff Fusco has bravely served as an interim mayor in the office that he isn't seeking (He wants to retain his council-at-large seat)

Still there was this thing about a contentious council faction that opposed Plusquellic and was now carrying Williams banner to haul the city off into a murky direction. Besides, Williams, an Afican American who was hostile to Plusquellic, worried not only his Democratic opponents but some business interests who saw him as little more than an opportunist banking his future on the race card.

 Horrigan, who is white, does have support from some black leaders , but a three-way  primary could open the door to City Hall to Williams.  Horrigan's backers rightly  tried to remove the racial factor  and define the race on the ability of either candidate to serve the city well.

Comunale's departure will make that point more clearly.

New Poll: Kasich still a haystack needle

Latest post-debate NBC poll:  

  • Donald Trump, 23 percent (up 1 point)
  • Ted Cruz, 13 percent (up 7 points)
  • Ben Carson, 11 percent (up 3 points)
  • Carly Fiorina, 8 percent (up 6 points)
  • Marco Rubio, 8 percent (no change)
  • Jeb Bush, 7 percent (down 3 points)
  • Scott Walker, 7 percent (down 3 points)
  • Mike Huckabee, 5 percent (up 1 point)
  • Rand Paul, 5 percent (down 1 point)
  • Rick Perry, 2 percent (no change)
  • John Kasich, 2 percent (down 1 point)
  • Lindsey Graham, 1 percent (no change)
  • Bobby Jindal, 1 percent (no change)
  • Chris Christie, 1 percent (down 2 points)
  • George Pataki, 0 percent (no change)
  • Rick Santorum, 0 percent (down 1 point)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Having trouble navigating trust at UA

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that a university, hard-pressed for cash and students, decided to hire  "coaches" to help more than 4,000 freshmen meet with success.

And let's say that in their wisdom, the university president and trustees hired a Cleveland company that just started up for the task.

And let's say that the coaches will fill in for student success faculty who had already been doing the job but were laid off in the school's crackdown on debts.

And let's say that even the company bosses conceded that their outfit had no experience in the role that they will be assigned.

And let's say the university folks have had a helluva time explaining why they chose the  company named, oh... Trust Navigator, to do the work...for $840,000!

Would such fiction be too much for you to swallow, even as a joke?

Sorry, it isn't fiction.  Trust me. I couldn't make it up

With debates, enough already!

Have they gone yet?

I mean the ten-some who appeared on Project Runway Thursday to assure us that they  had all of the critical answers for the planet.

Adulthood has never failed its pretenders more.   They talked of the future with the cliches of the  past.  Tax cuts.  Border controls. Nuclear holocaust.  Miracle work.  Resumes filled with self-glorifying hype.  Guidance from God to lead America out of Plato's cave.  Gravitas,  an earlier presidential standard, has yet to surface.

Exception:  Donald Trump, who has demonstrated by his  mugging force field  how a  once major political party has lost its immune system from hellish billionaire  invaders. He stands smugly in the center ring with all of the others consulting  their Ouija boards for adequate responses.  Until they do, which may be never, Trump remains the towering Republican experience through whom all  talk show  blessings flow.

Still, can you possibly imagine how many hours, days, weeks this crowd  spent rehearsing for their prime time show?   It appeared they all sat in the same  classroom learning to say how much they despised Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Iran,  the IRS, Obamacare, abortion, gay marriage,  job-killing other stuff.  At some point in the encounter staged by Fox News , they could have changed places before the rostrums and you would have been hard-pressed to know the difference.

Finally, holiness has a a lot to do with this sanctified group just as the fire-and-brimstoners have been  wielding threats of eternal damnation against political dissenters for decades.  Indeed, the Republican Party, intimidated by the preachers,  is now on its  knees pandering on social issues.. But Marco Rubio reproted that the GOP candidates have God's blessing.

In the end Thursday night, it was left to the national pundits to decide who was the least craziest, the current barometer that has given John Kasich a slight upward bump.   So there he was camera-wise telling us how much he cared about the less fortunate among us by supporting medicaid in another  rehearsal for his moment at the Pearly Gates.  Kasich , who has long boasted of his Ohio Miracle, stood up forthrightly and described America as "miracle" country and he wanted everybody to have a piece of that action.  The Guv already has witnessed enough miracles to qualify for sainthood.

Have they all gone yet?  Good.


Friday, August 7, 2015

A museum guide to debate

This Plain Dealer photo  nicely depicts the bar graph that will record the advance or retreat of the Republican presidential candidates over the next 15 months or so.  Art  historians in 2075 or later will refer to the lineup as isocephalic, which referred to portrayed figures of approximately the same height (outlook), if not the same intelligence. Puzzled museum patrons will study it and say, "Really?"

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Runnerup debate: some badly thrown walkoff wild pitches

Having just suffered  the  hyped Fox "presidential 'debate" from Cleveland for the Republican candidates who didn't make the cut, I  would say it didn't quite rise above the walkoff wild pitch that cost the Indians another game the day before.  So where was the debate?

UA Trustees: Take a walk instead of striking out

The absolute ruie in baseball is, three strikes and you're out. Unfortunately, university governance is not baseball and the current regime at the University of Akron may well already be at four or five strikes.  But the umpires, which include the Board of Trustees and local editorial pages,  forever tilt in favor of the ones who fouled off several pitches before an out call, which may never arrive anyway.

Even the former regime of Luis Proenza is  getting a half-million dollar salary after leading the school into a swamp of red ink.  And his succssor, Scott Scarborough, another near-half-million dollar man, laid  down a sacred text that made matters worse. All the while the gatekeepers for  many millions in public money, the Board of Trustees, might just as well have phoned in their approving votes.

As a journalist for more than a half century, I never thought I would be driven to write  such acidic words about a university where people are usually taught to think.    But, folks, it's your money, too, that was so scandalously ignored (Did you read that a painter told the BJ  that the crew was told to lower  speakers two inches in the million-dollar makeover of the new president's home, tearing up walls that had to be repainted? The painter was among those who lost his job in the budget cuts.)

Did I say three strikes?   In launching its hunt-and-peck "plan"  to  reduce UA's  $60 million debt., the front office  (1) first announced that it would not change the school's name, and then proceeded to do so; (2) moved to add a $50 levy on every upper range credit hour before rescinding it after a campus uproar; (3)declared that it would all but close E. J. Thomas Hall by ending all non-academic performances there, and then say never mind, it will be business as usual  at the area's finest culture center.

We await word from the regime's  hall of smoke and mirrors regarding  the shutdown of the UA Press and transferral of its now- director-less operation to the campus library.  In an letter  from the UA Press Board (Published by Grumpy Abe) a spokesperson noted  that the  Association of American University Presses requires a  fulltime director and three employes to earn recognition as a "legitimate academic publisher." _It is protesting the closure at the deep-thinking Board of Trustees next meeting on Aug. 12.

C'mon gatekeepers. It's not that unrealistic to expect you to read the fine print. Instead of striking out, it might be better instead  if you simply took a walk.

As I've asked before:  When does a university stop being a university?

Kasich linked nationally as in charter school scandal

With Gov. Kasich beginning to levitate in the stretch before the "debate", the national media are finally taking a closer look at his dark side back in Columbus.  Until now they have offered the short course of the governor's overwhelming reelection without mentioning his phantom opponent. .

But  the  Huff Post Blog, as well as the Washington Post,   riddled his image with a piece exposing to the rest of the nation  what we have been talking about for a long time - his deference  to major Republican contributors in Ohio's messy billion-dollar charter school industry.    

 Kasich's total lack of honesty  in his promises to bring more accountability and rein in charter schools is being described as "scandalous".   Indeed, despite the wretched charter  record  in Ohio, Team Kasich actually increased its state funding.

The Huffington Post article's  author,  John A. Tures, a political science professor at LaGrange College in Georgia,  pointed to the heavy influence by leading Republican donors.

"During the 2014 election, three of Kasich's top donors were charter school operator David Brennan and his wife, Ann, and Brennan's company CEO, all of whom donated thousands of dollars," Tures writes.

For those of us back home, that comes as no surprise.  Brennan not only has emerged as the biggest Republican donor in the state, he has even reminded  by personal letter the Republican  legislature of their need to satisfy his grip on the charter school system.  Brennan has built his company  White Hat Management into a commanding political behemoth.  

Tures also drew upon the Washington Post reference to Kasich's generosity in pleasing donors, slashing public school  funding by a half billion  dollars,  so that the state now pays more for each charter student than it does for  a public school student.

It gets even stickier.  How much will our governor  have to say about the husband of Beth Hansen, his former chief of staff and current campaign manager?  Hubby David, former agency director of school choice, resigned after  it was discovered that he was omitting charter test scores  for the poorest students so they didn't weigh on the total score of the school.

I can see  Kasich's opponents in the race taking ample notes on the Wunderkind space shot from Buckeyeland.  Clip and save.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Time to go to bat for the UA Press

From the mailbag  by UA  Press Board member Kevin Kern: 

Dear Mr. Zaidan,

            As you may have heard, the President and Board of Trustees at the University of Akron have chosen to lay off the director and staff of the University of Akron Press. They later claimed that they were not closing the Press, and that Press operations were going to be transferred to an already understaffed library. But because the Association of American University Presses requires that its member presses all have a director and at least three employees, this policy would mean the end of the University of Akron Press as a legitimate academic publisher, compromising any titles that might be published by it.
            We, the members of the UA Press Board, believe this decision ought to be reversed. To do so, we are asking for your help. As an author published by the UA Press, you can speak from a unique position in advocating for the restoration of the Press. This would include—but is not limited to—sharing the Save The UA Press Facebook page with your friends and social media, letters to the editor, op-eds, comments on stories online, and especially letters to the president, letters to the trustees, and a willingness to come to events. We believe that the President and the Board of Trustees did not fully understand the significance of the Press or the potential ramifications of their actions when they made their decision. We would like your help in explaining to them and to the public about why reversing it is in the best interest the University, the community, and the wider academic publishing world.
    There will be a protest in front of the Board of Trustees meeting on August 12. The more media attention, letters, and editorials that we can generate by then, the stronger the argument will be for them to restore the Press. 
    If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. Thank you for your time and any efforts you may be able to spare on behalf of the UA Press.


The University of Akron Press Board

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

President house rebranded into catbird seat

About that house: The University of Akron's obsession to rebrand itself  leads me   to rename the president's home as the Catbird Seat. It is a dream of wish fulfillment accorded more and more to university presidents these days.   With so much money - nearly a million dollars -  spent on  renovating the UA property,   you'd think the president of the United States  was moving in with his family.  UA President Scott Scarborough walked away from his job interview with a colossal deal, from spiffy quarters for his inlaws to a  $556.40 olive jar while the UA leaders were pleading poverty.

Along with other questionable payouts, the school's spending spree exposed the servile Board  of Trustees not only as rubbery stamps but also as a a useless cancelled  postage stamp, serving at the will of a president that it somehow decided to hire, despite a rickety track record .

Some faculty people say it was either Scarborough or Jim  Tressel,  so there really wasn't an option   But it does raise another question as to how a campus that was so free to offer a new president  $450,000 and endless perks failed to draw a standing- room-only  crowd of applicants from academia.  Was it because UA ranked so low  on the collegiate scale that folks simply wanted to enhance  their careers elsewhere?

So Scarborough got what he wanted, even if the generous trustees  with a  top-heavy Republican majority blindly acted as if their school's destiny lay solely in his hands.

You don't hear that very much  from the brain trusts on the Beacon Journal's editorial page  It has become an apologist for the new regime and its latest editorial to that effect appeared under a  pleading headline:  UA has a good plan.  It really does.    The "really does" part weakly suggested that it needed a bracing modifier to support the "good plan".

Although some articles in the paper, along with Bob Dyer's column, have pointed out   the gaps in the regime's armor back at the catbird seat, the ed page  advises the readers that there are good things going to happen now that Team Scarborough is on the scene with a plan  for the "university moving forward in a credible and promising way."

It's unkind and nitpicking, I know, but I keep thinking of that olive vase adorning the House of Scarborough.  Good luck on that, campus.  But first you must behave yourself.


The GOP debates: Martians land in Cleveland

Lock your doors.  There will be a Martian landing in Cleveland Thursday night. In clown capsules.    It must be the real thing this time because Orson Welles  has been dead for nearly 30 years.

I refer to the arrival of the hysterically heralded Fox "debate" of  the people's choices for the Republican presidential nomination.  These  things used to be so simple.  Lincoln vs. Douglas.  Kennedy vs. Nixon.  Obama vs. McCain.  Blah blah blah.    Today, anyone with a Photo ID can run in a Republican primary.  Unfortunately, many do.

They'll be at The Q., the great hall where LeBron James, who needs no Photo ID, holds forth on many nights. The opening bell will ring on the sold-out on-stage gathering of mostly eager white guys in black suits who will appear as a lengthy bar graph. Each has already carefully prepared the zingers for not only the others in the phalanx but also for Barack Obama, whom they have yet to discover isn't running.

For Cleveland,  and the media, the public attention couldn't have come at a better time and the city is making the most of its newly found existence. After all, the Indians have already clogged their season and reside in last place. And the Browns are consumed by turning a quarterback into a wide receiver while the coach assures us that Terrelle Pryior has a good work ethic.  (Some in the high command say it might even work.)  And then,  of course, there is the algae curse, the debate notwithstanding.

The media have been exercising their own work ethic with extraordinary attention to an election that is more than 15 months away.  There was even some published advice to the candidates on what they must do to help their cause in the debate. Filler material, we used to call it in the biz,  to assure  the reader that we're payng attention.

C'mon. Can you imagine Donald Trump and John Kasich bowing gratefully for the concern for their future,  particularly with Trump running like Sea Biscuit with a flowing mane, and Kasich now all the way up  to 3 pct popular approval?  Besides, Kasich  insists that he never reads newspapers anyway.

So what this all tells us is that the 2016 presidential race will be 97 pct. of media-kneaded speculation on the contest and a three percent evaluation of Terrelle Pryor.

You may want to  find something to do on Friday because most of the pundits will be eager to tell us who "won".  Won?

Monday, August 3, 2015

A UA president's house can become his castle

The cost of  house renovations is going up. That's particularly true when it's the University of Akron president's house, as you are about to see.

Karen Farkas of the Northeast Ohio Media Group reported today that the bill has come to $950,000 so far.

University sources say some of the cost was covered by private donations.  Oh?  OK, let's have it.  Who are they?  Or in the  effort to rebrand, has the leadership forgotten that UA is a public entity.

As Farkas noted, UA officials said the repairs were much needed, having been neglected for 15 years.  Somehow, it's hard to believe that former president Luis Proenza, a fellow who always sought the very best, could have suffered such neglect  for so long.  But he didn't require the conversion of two bedrooms into a master suite for Scott Scarborough's  inlaws.

Farkas reported that Taylor Construction and Stathos construction "were paid a total of $375,000 for electrical, heating,  plumbing  and renovations including the conversion of two bedrooms into a master suite".

Lawrence Burns, the new UA vice president of advancement who, like Scarborough, came from the University of Toledo, attempted to justify the expenditures when  the university's internals were awash in debt..   Burns said the work was a 20-year investment.  In that case, perhaps the next' president's inlaws would also enjoy the updates without further investment .

Trustees chairman Jonathan Pavloff also approved the heavy spending, saying it would enhance  "university fund-raising and relationship building."

Relationship building?  Why do I feel that I'm  falling well behind in understanding such institutional terms?  My world turns  on leaky faucets and flickering light bulbs.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Are UA brass really listening to the outcry?

 Seems like a lot of outraged people are having their say about the decline and pall of the University of Akron.  Any carefully orchestrated effort to contain the damage by the UA leadership has already failed as the bush league plan to eliminate the school's debt has already gone coastal  through the academic grapevine and published  out-of-town reports.  Never thought that I would  hear the two TV guys  doing the Cleveland Indians games grumbling about the loss of the school's baseball team.

Team Scarborough badly muffed the situation with a series of sophomoric  revisions to campus and city life, not the least of which was the summary execution of E. J. Thomas Hall, a community treasure that belonged as much to the public as it did to UA.  Imported hired guns like Scott Scarborough, or course,  could not have shared the same hometown  attachment to the hall  as the arts denizens  from all around. But didn't he consider the name on the building, Eddie Thomas, the Goodyear chairman who put up $1.25 million, and John S.Knight, who added $500,000 and later, the Knight Foundation, another million.  No, I fear that he didn't. (InfoCision, by the way, will remain the name of the football stadium.)

The thudding blitz on the University turned out to make matters  much worse for the new regime that wss rebranding the campus to...what?

The institutional excuse was that the school is in debt - as it has been for more than a decade - and that had priority over all  other matters.   (Haven't heard anybody denying that it was in debt.)  But the various hunt-and-peck responses revealed the costs of the stadium as a metaphor for the hefty UA  payrolls at the top. In February, the school hired three administrators - two from Scarborough's former University of Toledo  for a total of more than $800,000.

So far, Scarborough has doubtless enjoyed the benefit of Winsocki  pep talks from insiders  who never seem to relate to human fallout.   That would include the editorial page of the Beacon Journal,  which credited a quick strike on the debt as the means  to avoid "lingering morale problems".    Once again the local Ivory Tower resorted to cognitive  dissonance, as it does too often with its  political endorsements so many times.

The paper declared UA " fumbled the handling in too many ways" - wothout naming names.  And it described the building of a new football stadium as a "mistake"..  Anybody remember the rockets' glare when the stadium was born, including breathless "WOW's' by former President Luis Proenza and seconded by the town's only daily newspaper.  The BJ's brain trust shamefully  stressed that the brass  did what it had to do.  Columnist Bob Dyer showed us the upside of competent journalism.

Finally, about the trustees.  They are political appointees, many simply to upgrade their resumes,  who have had an "in" with county chairmen who recommend them.   They have been eerily silent since they approved of the un-fail-safe plan.   If you know any of them, or bump into one  at the town's better restaurants, you might ask them about the mess they helped create.   Their names appear on the Board's homepage.  But I'll save you the trouble of looking them up:

Jonathan Pavloff, chair; Jennifer Blickle, vice chair; Alfred V. Ciraldo; Ralph Palmisano; Roland Bauer, vice chair;  Olivia Demas, Warren Woolford, Richard Pogue, advisor to the powerhouse Cleveland firm of Jones Day.

They would prefer not to hear from you.  But that doesn't really matter, does it?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Ready for a coaching job? No, not Tressel's

For any of you who enjoys reading fine print,  this  is from Trust Navigator's proposal to UA  on successg coaches.  God knows, I couldn't have written it..  It's exciting campus life ,possibly with Zip football tickets included.    

14. Describe how the project will be implemented and the timeframe met as described herein.
See the enclosed one‐page Success Coach Implementation timeline, Appendix Exhibit B. The biggest challenge is staffing, training and process integration from July through December. Hiring criteria has yet to be finalized with the University as well as many processes that simply cannot be determined without cooperative discussion and some trial and error. The short runway before orientation emphasizes prioritization that cannot be determined without more discovery. While not knowing exact budget considerations, the potential of limited resources and limited preparation means more focused measurements and timelines need to be agreed to and accelerated in this partnership. Accountable and ongoing expectations are the TrustNavigator objective in Success Coaching and the more global program that can be developed at the University of Akron with this initiative. Much further discovery, cooperation and integration of resources are the next steps to satisfy an honest implementation plan.
15. Cost
TrustNavigator expects to pay each Success Coach $28,000 plus an approximate 30% benefit allowance. Based on a 40 hour week and other responsibilities the average Success Coach can work with 150‐225 students if meeting with them monthly for a half hour. This is defined by hours available to allow for 50‐60 appointments per week. This is a heavy workload and most probably stretching the limit of burnout risk. Student Ambassadors to help with scheduling and organizing logistics and other activities is a way to make this potentially feasible. Getting to 20 coaches with a full time commitment of an HR staff member and a great deal of University assistance and cooperation takes a minimum budget with some supervisory allocation to approximately $70,000 a month but more likely higher as the full staff is assembled. We will work with the University to understand how any additional expenses can be shared as well as equipment, technology and soft costs.

Plusquellic's back, and good for that!

"I'm back!" the animated man in a loose-fitting patterned shirt and jaunty hat exclaimed with a broad smile.   As I  approached him on the sidewalk outside the  Uncorked Wine Bar downtown,  he repeated:  "I"m back in my city."

Well, yes.  Deeply tanned, apparently well-rested  from his tortured exit  and no longer in his dark mayoral suit, Don Plusquellic  was mingling with others ,  one of whom asked him to take off his hat.  When he did, it revealed a brush cut that had replaced his carefully groomed white hair that was a trademark of his Hollywood persona at City Hall. It was then that you came to realize that now out of the office he had occupied for 28 years, he was indeed tailoring hmself for a new life in the city.

Inside the noisy bar, a large crowd had  come to the reception for Pete Nischt, the   rising young Democratic party executive director who announced his candidacy for the Akron school board. The event was hosted by County Executive Russ Pry, who sat unobtrusively at the rear of the long narrow room to observe the  festivities..

Nischt will need all of the support that he can muster in a three-way race involving Debbie Walsh, Alex Arshinkoff's executive director at county Republican headquarters and Ernie Tarle, Plusquellic's nemesis. Need I say more?

Although the former mayor said he might take some time to work for Hillary Clinton in Iowa,  his political presence doubtless will be felt in his hometown as well as the University of Akron campus.  More than one person remarked that  Team Scarborough might have had second thoughts about an amateurish rollout of  job cuts  that  downsized the school's academic credibility  had Plusquellic, a feisty soul, been in its face.

No fault of interim Mayor Jeff Fusco, nor interim Democratic chairman  Sandra Kurt, both temporary caretakers of city or party business, the dominoes fell quickly in the post-Plusquellic scramble.  So  the party will need an infusion of kinetic energy for the forthcoming mayoral primary race pitting Dan Horrigan against Mike Williams and Frank Comunale.  I'm told Williams, an African American and perennial candidate, is already trying to fashion the contest into a racially acute  contest. If he persists, it will create two ugly camps that will divide a city with a progressive reputation in race relations.

The voters need to know the stakes as Akron approaches a critical decision for its future. So welcome back, Mr. Plusquellic.  Is there anything you can do about the city that you have long voiced with pride?