Glenn gives memorabilia to Ohio State

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

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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

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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.

Abused may get phony addresses; Bill seeks to hide whereabouts

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

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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

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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.

Bill aims at drug dealers’ profits

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

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COLUMBUS — A bill to be introduced in the Ohio Senate Tuesday would make illegal-drug dealers accountable for the damage done by the narcotics they sell.

The Drug Dealer Liability Act, sponsored by state Sen. Bruce Johnson (R., Columbus), would allow anyone harmed by an individual’s drug problem to sue the suppliers and manufacturers of the drug. Mr. Johnson said the bill targets what dealers cherish most: their bank accounts, flashy cars, and expensive mansions.

“There’s an economic reality that, in too many cases, crime pays, and drug trafficking pays,” he said. “We want to remove the economic incentive in drug trafficking.”

The bill would benefit parents, insurance companies, hospitals, or anyone else harmed by an individual’s drug abuse. For example, the bill would let parents of a drug addict sue a dealer for the cost of a drug-rehabilitation program. State hospitals could recover costs in treating babies born addicted to cocaine.

And if an addict overdosed and died, anyone involved in the manufacture, distribution, or sale of the lethal drug could face a multi-million dollar judgment against them.

Similar bills have been passed in 10 other states, including Indiana, Mr. Johnson said.

The bill is important because the threat of jail time isn’t enough to stop most dealers, the senator said. “For many of these traffickers, that price, that risk, may be something they’re willing to take.”

The most famous national proponent of such laws is actor Carroll O’Connor, who played Archie Bunker on television’s Mr. O’Connor’s son, Hugh, committed suicide in 1995 after battling a cocaine addiction.

Soon after his son’s death, Mr. O’Connor accused Harry Perzigian, a California songwriter, of being “a partner in murder.” Mr. Perzigian sued Mr. O’Connor for slander; he lost his case in July.

Death row murderer tries to forgo appeals

By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau

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COLUMBUS — Murderer Wilford Berry wants to be the first man since 1963 to die in Ohio’s electric chair, and state attorneys told the Ohio Supreme Court yesterday his wish should be granted.

Public defenders, however, said Berry, 35, is mentally ill and appeals on his behalf should continue.

Berry, who killed a Cleveland bakery owner in 1989, is trying to forgo the years of appeals that are required in all death-penalty cases. At issue yesterday before the high court was his mental competence to make such a decision.

“He is saying, ‘I am guilty, I accept my punishment, I know what I’m doing, I know what I want to do,'” said Simon Karas, who argued the case for the attorney general’s office.

J. Joseph Bodine, Jr., who represented the public defender’s office, said three doctors who have examined Berry – two under court order – have agreed that he suffers from a severe mental disorder that makes his thought process rigid.

“He is unable to take in important information and unable to process it,” Mr. Bodine said. “In this case, it gives him a death wish.”

Justice Evelyn Stratton pointed out that Berry had an average IQ, had no hallucinations or suicidal thoughts, and was on no psychotropic medication. The two court-ordered evaluations, despite finding mental disorders, said Berry was competent.

“Where is the clinical evidence?” Justice Stratton asked.

Mr. Bodine said a defense psychologist has found Berry incompetent to withdraw further appeals.

Some justices questioned the efficiency of the legal system if appeals could not be voluntarily avoided. “The whole process begins to look really foolish if that can’t be done,” Justice Paul Pfeifer said.

But defense attorneys said Berry was in no position to determine the course of his appeals.

“The man is sick,” said Greg Meyers, chief counsel of the death penalty unit in the public defender’s office. “You can’t just let a sick man determine his punishment.”

Even mentally competent people should not be allowed to skip the appeals process, Mr. Meyers argued.

“We owe it, before we execute somebody, to check everything out,” he said.

Ohio has not executed anyone since March 15, 1963, when 29-year-old Donald Reinbolt went to the electric chair. The death penalty was reinstated in 1981, but “Old Sparky,” the state’s chair, has not been used since.

“People don’t believe we have a death penalty in Ohio,” Mr. Karas said. “In an appropriate case, it should be used.”

Berry was injured on Sept. 5 when death-row inmates rioted at the Mansfield Correctional Institute. Prison officials said that the riot was inspired in part by the inmates’ anger at Berry’s wishes to end his appeals and be executed.

The court gave no indication when it will rule in the case. Attorneys for both sides said the outcome will be appealed.

Kaptur calls for Ohio campaign finance reform

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

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CLEVELAND — U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) yesterday attacked the campaign finance system she says puts government in the hands of a few wealthy donors, and issued a challenge to Ohio politicians to abandon millions of dollars worth of fund-raising.

Her remarks were made at the City Club of Cleveland, which for decades has counted among its members many of the area’s richest and most powerful citizens.

“I don’t think real reform will come from the federal level,” she said. “But in Ohio, we have a chance to do it ourselves.”

“This wasn’t for the tea and crumpets crowd,” Miss Kaptur said after her speech. She repeatedly challenged what she sees as Ohio’s political power base – the state’s wealthy and the voters of metro Cleveland – to push for political change.

“Clevelanders, listen! Clevelanders, listen! Use your considerable influence as the state’s most populous region to force change,” she said.

In a fiery, statistics-filled half-hour, Miss Kaptur lambasted the campaign finance system and the ongoing attempts to reform it. She called the U.S. Senate campaign finance hearings “an illusion” and said they’ve produced no real action.

“Nothing has happened. Only hot air has happened.”

Political campaigns revolve around the cycles of fund-raising, she said, tying politicians to the interests of lobbyists and the wealthy and distancing them from constituents. And, she argued, the problem is just as severe in Ohio as it is in the federal government.

She pointed to Cincinnati, where she said campaign spending for eight city council seats – each of them a $46,000-per-year job – topped $2.3 million in 1995. A single family gave more than $300,000 to candidates during a four-year stretch in the 1990s.

Saying she doesn’t expect any substantial action from Congress, Miss Kaptur challenged all statewide candidates in Ohio to limit their spending levels voluntarily. “Individual candidates can lead the way by promising to abide by reasonable limits,” she said. “Unrealistic? No. It’s called leadership.”

She specifically targeted Cleveland’s native son, Governor Voinovich, who is expected to be the Republican candidate for Democrat John Glenn’s U.S. Senate seat in 1998. Mr. Glenn has announced he will not seek re-election.

“Governor Voinovich already has $3 million banked for his Senate race,” Miss Kaptur said. “Why doesn’t he stop there and challenge statewide candidates to limit spending to no more than $3 million?

“His motto has been doing more with less. So why not try it himself?”

Governor Voinovich raised more than $8.2 million for his 1990 run for governor, she said, $1.9 million of it from only 42 contributors.

Too many members of Congress are too wealthy to relate to their constituents, Miss Kaptur said. About 30 per cent of senators and a similar number of representatives are millionaires.

“The Congress is a human institution, and the laws we write embody the life experience and knowledge of our members,” Miss Kaptur said. “So, when average citizens question whether Congress can identify with their plight, they might well ask themselves: ‘Which members of Congress have walked in my shoes?'”

She suggested electing more people of more modest means to Congress as a way to increase trust in the federal government, and such talk led some in the audience to believe Miss Kaptur – the daughter of a small grocer and a factory worker – might be considering a run for the Senate.

Some Ohio Democrats have asked Miss Kaptur to run, and high-profile appearances like this one in Cleveland would be crucial to such a campaign.

In the prepared text of her speech, Miss Kaptur did not include former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Mary Boyle, a Democrat, in a list of Ohio women elected to high office. Ms. Boyle has announced her candidacy for the Senate seat.

But she added Ms. Boyle to her remarks, calling her a “very able officeholder in Cuyahoga County.”

Afterwards, Miss Kaptur said she will not run for the Senate and will seek re-election to her Ninth District House seat.

State workers stage 1-day protest strike

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 11

In the first organized strike of state employees in Ohio history, more than 2,000 workers took yesterday off.

Service Employees International Union District 1199 officials called the one-day strike to protest what they consider the state’s attempt to reduce their salaries. Union members are working without a contract, and state negotiators have proposed lowering the rate at which salaries increase with experience.

“It is ludicrous that they want to cut our pay when the state has a $900 million budget surplus,” said David Regan, the union’s president.

At daybreak, picketers gathered at 11 prisons across the state, including three in Lima – the Allen, Lima, and Oakwood Correctional Institutions.

In Toledo, officials said most state offices absorbed the loss of manpower without much difficulty. At least five offices at One Government Center were affected by the strike, but none reported an inability to provide services.

At the Toledo office of the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation, for example, only 12 of the 92 employees are members of District 1199, 10 of whom went on strike. According to spokesman Jim Samuel, their jobs – as nurses and rehabilitation specialists – were done mostly by supervisors and coworkers.

Some work was pushed back to today, when the employees return to work, he said.

The union represents 4,500 state employees in a wide range of fields, from doctors to parole officers, chaplains to nursing home inspectors. Of those, about 500 are in the Toledo area, union spokesman Pat Glynn said.

In Toledo’s adult parole authority offices, 20 of 22 unionized parole officers walked out, leaving supervisors to check on the city’s felons, said Joe Andrews, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.

“We are continuing to provide services to anyone who needs them,” he said. “There’s nobody left out.”

Management and union officials gave different estimates on the turnout for the strike. Stephen Gulyassy, head of the state’s collective bargaining office, said only about 50 per cent of union members stayed home. Mr. Regan called that “completely inaccurate” and said about three-quarters of workers honored the strike.

The union held a noon rally at the state capitol in Columbus, which Mr. Regan said attracted almost 1,500 workers and supporters. Mr. Gulyassy put the number at only “a few hundred.”

The Associated Press estimated the number at 800 to 1,000.

Mr. Gulyassy said the state wants to reduce the bonus pay received by veteran state employees.

For example, a parole worker with 20 years of experience receives a 20 per cent annual bonus to account for his or her seniority. For other state employees, he said, that number is 10 per cent.

Mr. Regan said the union would be happy with the same contract they’ve had the last three years.

The strike was the beginning of an unusual labor tactic. Union officials said that, until they get a contract, they will call one-day strikes once every two weeks.

Mr. Gulyassy said he believes the move was a poor decision. “With only one day out, the most you can say is it’s inconvenient,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a very good tactic.”

Union officials disagreed, saying it maximizes the effects of a strike while minimizing the cost to the rank and file.

“It’s a nontraditional, strategic method of striking. It’s designed to get the most bang for our buck on any given day,” Mr. Glynn said.

No further negotiations are scheduled.