Sunday, February 24, 2008

Notes From My Knapsack 3-2-08
Jeff Gill

Ohio Gets National Attention, Not Bad News

Ohio has gotten some major national press in the last few months, over home foreclosure, declining property values, job loss (well, second in this one area to Michigan), college grad departure rates, and bankruptcy.


Tuesday will give us a little different coverage with the primary vote, since against all expectations back in Iowa and New Hampshire, the Democratic presidential race is open while the Republicans are busy laughing over Nader’s entry into the race as an Independent (no final word from Ron Paul yet on a third or, uh, fourth party run).

How do the tough economic circumstances impact the decision on who will run for the D’s in November? Some say the proposals of Clinton and Obama are barely distinguishable, and that leaves style – advantage Obama. Others say that the ability to deliver complicated policy maneuvers through Congress takes a skilled and experienced politician – advantage Hillary.

Others say we need a strong international presence which is willing to project force to defend the national interest against global terror blocs – advantage Republicans, already forming up behind McCain. And some say we should treat foreign entanglements like the flu and wash our hands of ‘em, while stripping back the feddle gov’mint as small as we can get it – there’s your Paul/Nader support.

So, which course will Ohioans follow? I wouldn’t betcha a nickel on any of ‘em, but a close vote in November is likely, while in the short run I think Hillary will turn out the most core supporters, whatever early March weather throws at us next Tuesday between 6:30 am and 7:30 pm. Clinton will win Licking County on the D-side, but Obama will make the state as a whole closer than Bill would like.

And on we go to Denver and the convention? Could be . . .

Local races will be all about name recognition, and the best known folk will beat the lesser known names. Levies and bond issues will be the focus of interest and discussion, mainly for schools but Fire/EMS and cemeteries and senior services are way up there this go ‘round.

Full disclosure: I have a part-time job that takes me in and out of the Licking County Court Annex, aka the old Children’s Home, quite often. If I wanted to stay quiet and comfortable, I’d want to stay put there, but in the debate over the Senior Levy a bunch of chatter has focused on that building and its likely demise.

Folks, if this were an historic church building, it would be doomed. If George Washington slept here (a neat trick, given that he died in 1799 and it was built in 1886), it would still be slated for demo. The problem is that to save the building you’d have to start by pulling the slate and cast-iron trusses off the top, and tear down the third floor. Then you’d have to rebuild either a new floor or just rebuild the roofline a story lower, at the cost right there of many millions – at which point you’d still have a rabbit warren of small rooms with heavy masonry walls between them, with little adaptability for any purpose other than offices, which can be provided more cheaply any number of places.

The basement would need to be entirely dug out around the exterior and resealed and properly drained, as mold and damp are endemic in the gloomy depths now. Heating and cooling are currently provided room by room mostly, at major electric cost, while the wiring and phone lines would need a long-overdue upgrade. We’re getting into $13.5 million territory right there. It just isn’t worth it, and it isn’t historic enough for anyone to help pay for it.

I hope people understand I love history and respect greatly the particular history in the walls of this structure, which Jon Emler has done much to keep in the public eye. But I’ve rambled from the bat-filled attic to the depth of the old laundry and kitchen in the basement, and this building can’t be saved.

Designing the new senior center to echo the outline of the Licking County Children’s Home of 1886, and reincorporating some ornamental stonework, is a wonderful and appropriate gesture by the county officials in charge. Add to that the fact that Licking County school districts are across the board spending less per pupil than almost any other neighboring or state-wide comparable districts, and I can say honestly I hope both the seniors’ and the school levies up this Tuesday all pass.

As for the state funding system for education, well, that’s another day.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he’d love to hear your ideas about how to reform the state funding formula at

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