Aggressive driver often dead wrong

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 1

State Trooper Greg Rayot sat in his patrol car in a driveway in rural Fulton County. He had a clear view of one of the more dangerous intersections in the county – State Rt. 64 and County Road K.

Late for class, a 24-year-old University of Toledo student driving a red convertible roared up to the stop sign at about 8:35 a.m. He tapped his brakes and shot straight through. There was a flash of red from his brake lights, and he was gone.

“Ah, here’s one,” Trooper Rayot said. The chase was on.

It took more than a mile and a lot of accelerator to catch up with the Chrysler LeBaron. When the trooper finally reached the car the student had a line of defense: “I yielded a little bit, didn’t I?”

Luckily, the only thing the car ran into was the line of sight of a state trooper. It’ll likely mean a $70 fine and a jump in his car insurance premium.

This year, many people like the UT student haven’t been as lucky. More drivers are gambling that they can roll through a stop sign, beat a train at a crossing, or accelerate quickly enough to turn from a side street into busy traffic.

This kind of aggressive driving is grouped under the term “failure to yield” – the biggest new problem on rural Ohio’s roads.

In northwest Ohio, rural fatal accidents are up 22 per cent this year over last. And fatal accidents caused by a failure-to-yield violation are up more than 40 per cent.

In the most recent accident, a father and two sons died Friday night on U.S. 24 in Defiance County when an Indianapolis-bound Greyhound bus slammed into the truck they were in. The truck was trying to make a quick left turn onto The Bend Road around 6:10 p.m., troopers said, and drove in front of the bus.

James Unger, 32; Cody Unger, 9; and Dustin Ungar, 15 months, were killed on impact. The driver of the truck, 21-year-old Dawn Unger, and passenger Jason Unger, 11, were in Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne, Ind., last night. Dawn was in serious condition and Jason was listed in fair condition.

The Ohio Highway Patrol has classified the cause of the accident as a failure to yield.

Drivers in northwest Ohio are becoming more aggressive and more likely to take a gamble.

“In some ways, this is the new drunken driving,” said Lt. Dan Kolcum of the Ohio Highway Patrol. “Failure-to-yield accidents are where drunken driving accidents were 10, 15 years ago.”

For more than a decade, traffic safety advocates have had clear battles to fight – drunken driving and seat belt usage. After millions of dollars for education and countless volunteer hours, those efforts are starting to pay off.

In 1982, 57 per cent of America’s 45,800 fatal crashes were alcohol-related, and only 11 per cent of drivers and passengers used seat belts. By last year, alcohol-related crashes made up 41 per cent of fatal accidents, and 68 per cent of Americans were strapping on seat belts. Traffic fatalities nationwide dropped steadily throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Then in 1993 the trend reversed. Deaths on American roads started to increase again, with the numbers creeping skyward ever since. Last year, more than 41,000 Americans died on the road. In Ohio, 1,395 people died on the road last year. In Michigan, 1,505 died.

With alcohol-related crashes down and people wearing their seat belts, with the introduction of air bags and anti-lock brakes, why was the death count moving up?

The answer, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is aggressive driving.

An agency study earlier this year found that two-thirds of all traffic deaths could be blamed on aggression: drivers swerving through traffic to gain position, passing on the shoulder of interstates at 70 mph, or even intentionally crashing into other cars.

An April Gallup poll asked motorists what worried them most about driving on America’s roads. The traditional winner, drunken drivers, fell to second place behind aggressive drivers.

The problem has been crippling in northwest Ohio. Failure-to-yield crashes have accounted for about 23 per cent of fatal accidents in Ohio so far this year. In the state patrol’s district 1 – which covers a 12-county area from extreme northwest Ohio east to Toledo and south to Hardin County – that number is 44 per cent.

Consider three crashes on U.S. 20 in rural Fulton County in August:

* On Aug. 3, a northbound pickup truck failed to yield at the intersection at State Rt. 295 and U.S. 20 and slammed into a tractor-trailer rig. The driver of the pickup, Rory Williams, 27, of Belleview, Fla., was killed and six others were injured.

* At the same intersection on Aug. 18, a Toledo woman stopped at a stop sign, then pulled into traffic before she should have. She collided with a sport utility vehicle. The woman, Amanda Schehr, 20, and two others were injured, Ms. Schehr critically. She spent a week in St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.

* On Aug. 14, a Bryan man turned left onto State Rt. 109 from U.S. 20 but didn’t turn fast enough and a tractor-trailer hit him. The man, Theodore Kirkpatrick, 48, was critically injured and spent 11 days in Medical College Hospital.

In each accident, the driver guessed he or she could make it in a tight spot and each time was wrong.

August followed an especially bloody July in northwest Ohio. In July, 1996, the state patrol handled only one traffic fatality in northwest Ohio. This July, 14 people died in accidents investigated by the state patrol.

Lieutenant Kolcum said the main cause of failure-to-yield accidents is simple – people in a hurry who take risks.

“The biggest key is driver impatience,” he said. “People are in a hurry to get from point A to point B, and a lot of people don’t realize the hazards.”

In Fulton County, for example, most failure-to-yield violators are local residents who know the often-empty roads well and may underestimate the possibility that they might be sharing the road that day, troopers said.

“They live here and they get overconfident. They think, ‘I know there’s not much traffic on this road,'” Trooper Rayot said.

Driver frustration also sometimes boils over and makes drivers do things they normally wouldn’t. The trigger can be anything from being cut off to sharing the road with a large truck.

“There’s a lot of simple rudeness involved in these accidents,” Lieutenant Kolcum said.

In some ways, northwest Ohio is the worst of all worlds when it comes to traffic safety. It includes Toledo, with its population of 322,550 and the stressful rush-hour traffic that comes with a big city. It has hundreds of miles of sparsely traveled rural roads that can make drivers complacent.

Interstates like I-80, I-90, and I-75 – moving traffic from Seattle to Boston, San Francisco to New York, and Detroit to Miami – crisscross the region. And then there are U.S. 24, State Rt. 2, and U.S. 6 that carry ever-increasing truck traffic to industrial plants throughout the area.

“Anywhere you go in the United States, you go through here,” Toledo Post Commander Lt. Fred Greive said. “That can increase the chance for trouble.”

In the 1980s, Americans heard that traffic on Los Angeles freeways was so bad, and drivers were so angry, that some of them were shooting at one another. Back then, it was news.

Now, it’s a national trend with a catchy name – “road rage.” News reports nationwide are splattered with tales of drivers chasing each other for miles as revenge for being cut off, or a honk of the horn being answered with a gunshot. It’s the angrier cousin of failure-to-yield collisions – drivers who are not only careless and anxious, but vengeful.

According to AAA, incidents of road rage have increased by about 7 per cent every year in the 1990s. And, since that study only included incidents where one driver did intentional harm to another, the totals for dangerously aggressive driving are likely much higher.

Those numbers hit close to home. In June, Ohio Patrol Sgt. James Kertesz got an early morning call to head to I-475, where a man had, at full speed, repeatedly rammed his vehicle into the rear of the car in front of him.

The reason?

He said a girl in the back seat of the car had given him the finger.

The man, Lawrence Liedell, 55, of Toledo, was arrested and charged with DUI and assault. The charges are pending.

Troopers at the Toledo post said there has been at least one other case of a vehicle ramming another this year in northwest Ohio. And on the night of July 12, troopers were called to Airport Highway where a man told them another motorist had taken a shot at him.

The man told troopers he had cut the other driver off in traffic on I-475. The man said the motorist then chased him and shot at him. No arrests have been made.

“That sort of thing used to happen very, very rarely. Now it happens more frequently,” Lieutenant Grieve said.

An increase in road rage goes hand-in-hand with increased failure-to-yield violations, Lieutenant Kolcum said. “Both are aggressive driving, aggressive, discourteous driving.”

There is a temptation to blame the increase in driver aggression on the values of society, to say that people are just getting meaner. But the rise of road rage comes at the same time that violent crime rates are dropping nationwide.

A more likely culprit, officials said, is that roads are just getting too crowded. In the last eight years, the number of highway miles driven each year in Ohio has increased 27 per cent. The number of cars on the road is up 15 per cent.

“The interstates are packed,” Lieutenant Kolcum said. “The number of licensed drivers and registered vehicles in Ohio has increased greatly, but we’re still using the infrastructure we designed years ago.” More crowded roads mean drivers are more likely to take risks – and more likely to react angrily if they don’t succeed.

“You’ve been at a stop sign for a few minutes, and the guys behind you are honking their horn,” Lieutenant Kolcum said. “So you say, ‘I don’t care, I’m going.’ You go, and boom.”

Combine less knowledgeable drivers, more crowded roadways, and an arguably more hectic society, and the results are clear: more screeching tires, more crashes, and more dead drivers.

“It’s a reflection of society,” Lieutenant Kolcum said. “People are pressed for time, and they’re saying, ‘I don’t care – I’m going now.'”

Recent history has shown that when the highway patrol cracks down on specific traffic problems, it can have some success.

Last year, U.S. 24 gained attention as a deadly trap after 10 people died on the highway between I-475 and the Indiana line.

In January, the state patrol, along with sheriff deputies and local police officers, began a special program to target dangerous drivers on U.S. 24, assigning troopers and officers to target speeders and stopping trucks suspected of violations.

Six months into the project, crashes on U.S. 24 dropped 21 per cent. Fatal accidents were cut in half. By the end of August, more than 5,000 tickets had been written as part of the effort.

District 1 is attempting to do the same with failure-to-yield violations. Every state patrol post in the district has been asked to determine the most dangerous intersections in its area and to put troopers on stationary patrol there during peak trouble times.

Starting Sept. 1, troopers were assigned at 13 of the most dangerous intersections in Fulton County every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday morning and afternoon – the times the patrol has identified as the worst for failure-to-yield violations.

Trooper Rayot was at one of those intersections when he caught the UT student running a stop sign. Along with catching violators, he hopes the added visibility of troopers will make a difference. “Maybe if they see us, they’ll watch their P’s and Q’s a little more closely,” he said.

Commercial trucks bring added danger to Ohio’s highways

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 6

They bring oranges from Florida, oil from Louisiana, and potatoes from Idaho.

But commercial trucks also bring added danger to northwest Ohio’s roads.

Crisscrossed by I-75, I-80, and I-90, Toledo gets truck traffic from across the country. And when trucks get into accidents, the results can be deadly.

In 1995, the last year for which complete statistics are available, commercial trucks were involved in 24 per cent of rural interstate crashes in Ohio. And in 63.8 per cent of those crashes, the truck driver was found at fault.

Indications are that the situation is not improving. Last year, 29 people died in rural accidents involving trucks. By the middle of last month, 25 people had already died this year, according to the Ohio Highway Patrol.

“I’ve seen truck drivers do some unbelievable things on the road,” said David Cooke, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Public Safety. “But I’ve also seen car drivers do unbelievably dangerous things around those trucks.”

With construction and rising fares on the Ohio Turnpike, more and more truckers are using state highways, sometimes two-lane roads through small towns.

In Fulton County, for example, truck traffic to and from the North Star BHP Steel plant near Delta has increased on State Routes 2 and 109, said Lt. Fred Greive, commander of the state patrol’s Toledo post.

Michael Webber, commander of the patrol’s Findlay post, said that while trucks make up 3 per cent of Ohio’s registered vehicles and 7 per cent of all miles traveled on Ohio roads, they are involved in 11 per cent of fatal crashes.

The enormous weight difference between trucks and cars makes accidents much more likely to turn deadly, especially for people in the cars. Nationwide in 1995, 98 per cent of people killed in car/truck accidents were in the cars.

“If you’re in an accident with a truck, it’s going to be bad,” Lieutenant Greive said. “If you’ve got a 70,000-pound truck colliding with a 3,000-pound car, things aren’t going to be good for the car.”

With size comes momentum and a much tougher time stopping quick ly. An average car moving at 65 miles an hour can stop in 162 feet. For an average tractor-trailer, it takes 420 feet – almost a football field and a half – to come to a stop.

That’s what happened, investigators believe, in an Aug. 19 accident on State Rt. 2 near Port Clinton when a Michigan truck driver failed to stop in time, rear-ending another tractor-trailer. The trucker veered left into oncoming traffic, hitting a van filled with teenagers from Detroit head-on. Six people in the van died. The truck driver, George Croom, 59, of Cleveland, spent a day in the hospital.

Inexperience puts teens at risk; Car crashes are the leading cause of death for young

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 7

Last year, 293 teenagers were the drivers in fatal traffic accidents in Ohio.

“A big part of it is inexperience,” said Ohio Highway Patrol Lt. Fred Greive. “Teens drive a little more aggressively and put themselves in situations they can’t get out of.”

In Ohio, teenagers make up only 7 per cent of drivers but are involved as drivers in 14 per cent of all fatal crashes.

Among drivers who get into an accident, those 20 years old and younger were 51 per cent more likely to have been at fault than were drivers in their 30s and 40s, according to a 1996 Ohio study.

And nationwide, car crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds – almost twice as many as those who die of suicide, drug overdoses, and AIDS combined.

Officials and safety advocates blame the statistics on teens’ inexperience. Young drivers are less likely than ever to be trained in what, exactly, to do behind the wheel.

Driver’s education was once as big a part of teenaged lives as first dates and acne; in the 1970s, more than 90 per cent of new drivers took driver’s ed, according to the American Driver and Traffic Safety Association. Now, that number is around 35 per cent.

As a possible solution, the state legislature is considering a bill that would make it tougher for inexperienced teens to make it onto the road.

Senate Bill 35, sponsored by Sen. Bruce Johnson (R., Columbus), would make it more difficult for teens to get their licenses, which are available to anyone over 16 who can pass a driver’s test. Under the proposal, teens could get a learner’s permit at age 15 1/2, but would have to log at least 50 hours of driving with a parent or guardian and wait at least six months before applying for a license.

Even then, the license would be probationary and could be more easily revoked or suspended than an adult’s.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Lieutenant Greive said. “If a teen goes through that process, he’ll come out of it with some experience under his belt.”

The bill has been passed in different forms by the House and Senate, and is under discussion by a conference committee. A previous conference committee’s suggested version of the bill was rejected by the House on July 24.

Last month, AAA Northwest Ohio began a campaign asking citizens to write to their representatives in Columbus to call for passage of the bill.

“You just can’t learn to drive in only a couple of weeks behind the wheel,” said Martha Everhart, director of public affairs for AAA Northwest Ohio. “It’s a life and death matter.”

Michigan authorities are in part tackling the problem legislatively.

A three-tier driver’s license program started in April restricts teenage motorists and requires them to take a road test.

Sixteen-year-old drivers cannot be behind the wheel after midnight unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. At 17, teens who have not caused an accident or received a moving violation will receive an unrestricted license.

The goal is to reduce the number of accidents involving young motorists, state leaders said.

Teens at Hudson High School in Michigan hope a monument to a 17-year-old boy who died this summer in an accident will remind classmates to slow down.

The monument at the entrance of the football field will be in honor of James McDonough, who died July 8, and other students who have been killed in automobile accidents.

“It’s for Jim’s memory, but hopefully other students will see it and slow down,” said Bridget Beal, one of the teens who helped plan the memorial.

Blade staff writer Kelly Lecker contributed to this report.

3 die in U.S. 24 crash near Defiance

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 1

DEFIANCE — A father and two of his sons were killed last night when the pickup truck they were riding in was crushed by a Greyhound bus on U.S. 24, about five miles west of here, according to the Ohio Highway Patrol.

James Unger, 32, and his sons, Cody, 9, and Dustin, 15 months, all of Paulding, who were passengers in the pickup, were pronounced dead at the scene, troopers at the patrol’s Defiance post said.

Mr. Unger’s wife, Dawn, 21, the driver of the pickup, and another of Mr. Unger’s sons, Jason, 11, were airlifted to Parkview Hospital, Fort Wayne, Ind.

Mrs. Unger and Jason were listed as critical last night.

The bus, en route from Detroit to Indianapolis, had stopped in Toledo, Napoleon, and Defiance before the crash. It was westbound on U.S. 24 at 6:10 p.m. when Mrs. Unger, driving east, attempted to turn left on to The Bend Road and pulled in front of the bus.

The bus driver, James Blake, 52, of Belleville, Mich., told troopers he swerved right in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid the pickup.

The bus slammed into the passenger side of the truck, and both vehicles came to rest in a ditch at the northwest corner of the intersection.

The bus carried 32 people, including the driver. Five passengers were treated in Defiance Hospital.

Troopers said that nobody in the pickup was using seat belts or child restraints.

The collision created pandemonium inside the bus.

One passenger, Mary McGee, of Detroit, escaped by jumping through a window, injuring her hand in the process.

“I was looking down and then I heard everyone screaming ‘The bus is going off the road.'” Ms. McGee was traveling to Fort Wayne to visit her sisters.

The Rev. John Hess, of First Presbyterian Church in Defiance, who is chaplain to a variety of Defiance County law enforcement and fire departments, arrived at the scene to counsel the bus passengers, many of whom had a clear view of the impact.

Mr. Hess said two bus passengers gave him cash to purchase flowers for the funerals of the victims.

U.S. 24 between Waterville and the Indiana line has a reputation as a narrow, twisting, and dangerous road.

Last year, 10 people lost their lives on the road.

Before yesterday’s accident, two people had died on the road this year, and law enforcement authorities said those fatalities were not the fault of the highway.

One victim was believed to have suffered a heart attack, and the other to have fallen asleep at the wheel.

The highway patrol credits an enforcement campaign with reducing the number accidents by more than 20 per cent this year.

Through August, state troopers, sheriff’s deputies, and local police wrote 5,448 tickets and issued 4,775 warnings during the campaign, and worked more than 1,000 hours of overtime.

The Ohio Department of Transportation has made safety upgrades on U.S. 24 between Napoleon and Waterville, one of the road’s most dangerous segments.

A shoulder widening and resurfacing project begun in July is to be done by the end of the month.

A group called the Fort to Port Improvement Organization, composed of representatives from Ohio and Indiana, would like to see a U.S. 24 freeway replace the old road between Waterville and Fort Wayne. Higher tolls on the Ohio Turnpike have been blamed for much of the increased traffic on U.S. 24.

Several area school boards and Toledo city council have adopted resolutions demanding that turnpike tolls be lowered.

Glenn gives memorabilia to Ohio State

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page 1

COLUMBUS — Sen. John Glenn (D., O.) has donated the work of his life – ranging from the pith helmet he wore in World War II to a copy of his first Senate speech – to Ohio State University, he announced yesterday.

The gift includes more than 1,800 boxes of documents, dating to his days as a pioneer astronaut, and more than 300 cubic feet of awards, spaceship parts, and other artifacts of his legendary life.

“I’m very excited it will find a permanent home at Ohio State,” the 77-year-old senator said.

Some of those artifacts will end up in Toledo’s COSI, as part of the gift agreement. COSI’s Columbus and Toledo museums and Muskingum College in New Concord will share the Glenn collection with Ohio State.

“I am happy beyond words,” said Kathy Sullivan, president of COSI and a former NASA astronaut.

Muskingum College is Mr. Glenn’s alma mater.

As part of the gift, Mr. Glenn will teach honors seminars at Ohio State and be available to students and faculty for discussion. He has been appointed to three positions at the school: university honors distinguished fellow, adjunct professor in the school of public policy and management, and adjunct professor in the department of political science.

The positions are effective Nov. 1, but Mr. Glenn will not become actively involved in the university until his Senate term ends in January, 1999. He will not be reimbursed.

Mr. Glenn said he hopes the gift will make students excited about public service.

“A lot of young people have developed such a cynicism towards government and politics,” Mr. Glenn said. “We have a duty to dispel that. You get the kids in there and generate their curiosity.

“I think it’s extremely important.”

The papers will be available to students, faculty, and scholars for research.

The senator displayed a few of the items to be donated – “things I call junk,” he said – including a Stetson hat last adjusted by Lyndon Johnson, the failed thruster from his Friendship 7 spaceflight, and the battle helmet worn by his father in World War I.

“It’s just some things from my basement I threw into a box yesterday afternoon,” he said. “I’m very excited all this will find a permanent home at Ohio State.”

Mr. Glenn said his retirement from the Senate is not a signal that he plans to slow down.

“The decision not to run again was a difficult one, but I think it was the right one,” he said. “There’s just no cure for the common birthday.”

After the announcement, he spoke excitedly about his desire to return to space after his term ends to help scientists examine the problems of aging in zero gravity.

“The possibility of going back into space is very interesting to me,” he said. “I’ve wanted to go back up for 30 years.”

He said he will have enough time during breaks in the Senate’s session next year to train for liftoff shortly after his term ends. NASA officials are investigating the possibility of such a voyage.

The senator’s gift joins similar collections at Ohio State on writer James Thurber, explorer Richard Byrd, and dancer Twyla Tharp.

“This is clearly the right stuff,” said Alex Shumate, head of the board of trustees. “Senator Glenn is a true American hero.”

It will likely be 1999 before any COSI site gets any of Mr. Glenn’s possessions, Ms. Sullivan of COSI said. It will take that long to catalog enough of the material to begin displaying some parts of the gift, she said.

Librarians estimate that it could take five or six years to catalogue Mr. Glenn’s papers.

Owens, Ohio legislators say decentralization doubtful

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page 1

COLUMBUS — Massive decentralization of state government is “ridiculous on its face,” according to one co-chairman of Ohio’s legislative committee on the subject.

And northwest Ohio will likely have to settle for only a few “surgical” shifts in state job location, the committee’s other co-chairman said.

The two, Sen. Bruce Johnson (R., Westerville) and Rep. Lynn Olman (R., Maumee), presided over a meeting of the committee yesterday, featuring testimony from officials of two state agencies who oppose further decentralization.

“I am from the Other Ohio, I support the Other Ohio, and I do everything I possibly can to spread our services across Ohio,” said Donna Owens, the former Toledo mayor and current director of the state Department of Commerce. “But it’s very difficult to move these sorts of jobs from Columbus and Franklin County.”

Ms. Owens said more than a third of the department’s employees are already based outside Columbus, but moving more would needlessly increase costs, require additional hiring, and displace loyal employees.

“I’m a firm believer that you can do whatever you want to do, but does it make sense?” she said. “Does it make sense to move these people?”

As an example of the benefits of centralized offices, Ms. Owens pointed to One Government Center in downtown Toledo, which houses agencies of state, county, and city government.

“It was built for that purpose, to create a one-stop shop for the customer,” she said.

Were she running the department as a private, profit-driven operation, she said she would keep employees where they are.

In the job market, she said, qualified technical personnel are difficult to find, and relocating offices might cause state government to lose many of its current employees.

“Change is something we all live with, but some people deal with it better than others,” she said.

Deputy Tax Commissioner Clare Long said the technology is available to make the Department of Taxation’s work movable, but she said the cost of that technology is nearly prohibitive.

For example, creating a communications backbone to transfer the computerized data the department shares with other state agencies would cost $50,000 a month, she said.

She said that, because the temporary employees the department hires around tax time are based in the capital, moving the agency could delay tax-refund checks by up to a month each year.

In their closing remarks, committee members debated whether or not moving jobs across the state would make economic sense.

Rep. Ed Jerse (D., Euclid) said that, while the department heads had expressed “no great enthusiasm” for moving their employees across the state, such a move could help the economy outside Columbus.

“There’s a lot to be said for dispersing jobs, stable jobs that will remain stable through economic hard times,” he said. “That case needs to be made.”

In contrast, Rep. Pat Tiberi, a Columbus Republican, said he is surprised by the number of government jobs already based outside the capital, and said moving more jobs is unnecessary.

“There are some people who want to move state jobs to northwest Ohio just to move state jobs to northwest Ohio,” Mr. Tiberi said. “Agencies are already moving out of Columbus if it works for them.”

Mr. Olman said state agencies dealing with natural resources like Lake Erie or coal might move to be closer to their subject matter – to the Lake Erie shore or southeast Ohio.

Mr. Johnson said any moves must be motivated by economics and efficiency, not political motivations.

“Decentralization for services’ sake makes sense. But saying, ‘Let’s yank people out of Columbus and send them somewhere to a different location for the same of sending them somewhere’ doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Mr. Olman said advocates of decentralization were not calling for such a radical shift.

“A mass exodus doesn’t make sense,” Mr. Olman said. “I’m not suggesting moving departments unless it makes good economic sense.”

“Some look at decentralization and ask, ‘Why?’ I look at decentralization and ask, ‘Why not?'”

Yesterday’s meeting was the committee’s last before it draws up a draft of its report to present to the legislature and the governor.

Members have until Oct. 23 to submit their remarks about the committee hearings.

Those comments will be fashioned into a report, the first draft of which should be ready by mid-November, members said.

The final report will be ready before the end of the year, Mr. Johnson said.

Obituary: Kent B. McGough

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page 17

COLUMBUS — Kent B. McGough, a Lima, O., native and former state Republican Party chairman who helped the GOP gain some rare political victories in the wake of Watergate, died of a stroke Wednesday at Riverside Methodist Hospital here. He was 80.

“He was very, very brilliant politically,” said former Gov. James A. Rhodes, who won his third term in 1974, when Mr. McGough was party chairman. “He helped my political career significantly, and he was one of the finest gentlemen I knew.”

Mr. McGough led the state GOP from 1973 to 1977. When his term began, the Republican Party was in a nationwide slump. With President Nixon embroiled in the Watergate scandal, the party’s candidates were reeling.

In the 1974 congressional elections, Democrats gained 49 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and five seats in the Senate.

But under Mr. McGough, Ohio bucked the trend.

Mr. Rhodes defeated incumbent John J. Gilligan in the gubernatorial race, making Ohio the only state that year to defeat a Democratic governor. Ohio’s congressional delegation added a Republican in 1974 elections, making Ohio the only state to do so.

“That’s a tribute to his leadership, when he was faced with incredible unpopularity at the national level,” said Brett Buerck, director of communications for the Ohio Republican Party.

Mr. McGough was born in Harrod, O., and attended Miami University in Oxford, O. He graduated in 1939 with a degree in political science and economics.

He served in the army in Alaska during World War II, then returned to Lima to open an insurance agency with his brother, William.

He became active in local politics, first as a precinct chairman in 1950, then as Allen County party chairman in 1954. He held that post until 1974.

Mr. McGough was elected state party treasurer in 1968 and 1972, then won a battle with Cuyahoga County party chairman Robert Hughes for the state leadership post in 1973. He replaced John Andrews of Toledo. Mr. McGough was the last GOP state chairman from northwest Ohio.

Mr. Buerck credited Mr. Mc Gough with adapting to a political process that, during his time in charge of the party, moved from traditional backroom politics to an emphasis on television and media exposure.

“He had to face the stark reality that fund-raising for that television time would take up a large part of his efforts,” Mr. Buerck said.

Mr. McGough was not pleased with the new politics, however. Upon his resignation, he said he was saddened that, unlike his predecessors, he had to spend half of his time raising money and not enough time building a grassroots organization.

Mr. Buerck said Mr. McGough was a successful organizer, starting campaign schools for prospective candidates and reaching out to groups usually considered Democratic strongholds.

In 1977, Mr. McGough ran for chairman of the national Republican Party and finished third. He was the top moderate vote-getter, losing to a conservative, former Sen. William Brock of Tennessee.

After quitting as state party chairman, Mr. McGough formed a consulting firm, McGough and Associates, and moved to Columbus. He advised the re-election campaigns of Presidents Reagan and Bush, and retired in 1992.

Mr. McGough is survived by his wife, Wilda; son, John; daughters, Sandra M. Shelar, Debra M. Halliday, and Cindy Long, and 11 grandchildren.

Services will be at 3:30 p.m. today in Trinity United Methodist Church, Columbus. Arrangements are by Schoedinger Northwest Chapel, Columbus.

The family requests tributes to any local chapter of the American Red Cross or to Miami University.

Abused may get phony addresses; Bill seeks to hide whereabouts

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page 3

COLUMBUS — Victims of domestic abuse would be able to hide their whereabouts from their abusers under a bill to be introduced in the Ohio Senate next week.

The bill, which is sponsored by state Sen. Nancy Chiles Dix (R., Hebron), would create a false address on all government documents for abuse victims to use instead of their real one. Ms. Dix said that sort of safeguard is needed to prevent abusers from tracking down their victims.

“We should give victims of abuse the peace of mind that abusers cannot find them through government records,” she said.

In Ohio, many records are open to the public, meaning that anyone trying to locate an abuse victim can, through a simple records request, find an address. Under the proposed legislation, victims will have the option of using a post office box owned by the state that will forward any correspondence to their real addresses.

The P.O. box could be used on any state government form, including a driver’s license application or voter re gistration forms. The victim’s true address could be released only at the request of a law enforcement agency or on the order of a court.

Secretary of State Bob Taft called the bill “a narrowly crafted exception” to Ohio’s open records law, which he said he supports.

A similar program in Washington state protects the addresses of 962 victims of abuse, at an annual cost of about $190,000, Mr. Taft said.

Petro wants to stay auditor; he leaves race for federal post

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page 3

COLUMBUS — State Auditor Jim Petro will run for re-election next year and not hold out for a coveted federal post, he announced yesterday.

“There is a lot to be done in Ohio, and a lot still to be done in the auditor’s office,” Mr. Petro, a Republican elected in 1994, said.

Mr. Petro had been a candidate for the position of U.S. Comptroller General, which he called the federal equivalent of his current job, but he formally withdrew his name from consideration in a letter to U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson (R., Tenn.), chairman of the governmental affairs committee.

“My friends in Congress were telling me I’m the leading contender for the job,” Mr. Petro said.

Mr. Petro also had been considered a possible 1998 gubernatorial candidate, but he repeated his support for Secretary of State Bob Taft in that race yesterday, calling him innovative and a good manager.

“He’s someone we’ve always trusted,” he said.

Mr. Petro and his family recently moved to Columbus from Rocky River, O., and he said that settling down in the capital influenced his decision.

The move helps Republicans in their attempt to keep their hold on the State Apportionment Board, which determines the boundaries of legislative districts and can give considerable clout to the party controlling it.

The board is made up of Ohio’s governor, secretary of state, and auditor, along with one Democrat and one Republican from the General Assembly.

The Republicans hold a 4-1 edge on the board now, but all three statewide offices are up for grabs next year.

Pact reached on state aid for Valentine

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

Page 1

COLUMBUS — The Valentine Theatre has cleared the last hurdle to put its renovation for bid, theater backers say.

Attorneys for the Ohio Arts and Sports Facilities Commission yesterday reached an “agreement in principle” with Toledo Cultural Arts Center, Inc., on what its chairman called the final point of contention in the group’s quest for state funding.

“This was the last outstanding issue,” Carroll Ashley, arts center chairman, said.

The renovation, which is the centerpiece of Toledo’s efforts to revitalize downtown, will go up for bid around Oct. 15, he said. Construction contracts must be approved by the commission before $15 million in state money is released for the project.

At issue yesterday was how much of the return from the theater’s $5 million endowment will be put toward the Valentine’s operating expenses each year.

The state had requested that part of its agreement with theater backers require them to put 6 per cent of the endowment, or about $300,000, toward annual operations.

Mr. Ashley said he opposed the requirement because it did not take into account fluctuations in the economy, which could affect the endowment’s earning potential.

“I’m sure that most years, we’ll be able to put 6 per cent of the earnings into operations, but some years, we might not,” he said.

Mr. Ashley said the two sides have reached an agreement that does not include the fixed endowment spending requirement.

“In the endowment’s more profitable years, we’ll spend more to make up for any leaner years,” he said.

Jennifer Detwiler, a state attorney general’s office spokesman, confirmed that an agreement in concept has been reached, but she did not give details.

State attorneys will meet with representatives of the Ohio Arts and Sports Facilities Commission tomorrow to iron out the language of the agreement, she said.

The General Assembly has committed $15 million to the renovation of the 102-year-old theater at 409 North St. Clair St. The theater hosted productions featuring luminaries such as Sarah Bernhardt before closing in 1976.