12 Most Significant Events in
by Joe Frolik
Any list of the 12 top events in Cleveland history is obviously a series of judgments calls that probably reveals more about the person doing the compiling than it does the city. Certainly as I ran down some of the milestones I was considering, my wife’s reaction was immediate and, as usual, probably correct: “Money and politics, money and politics. Is that all you think about?”
I don’t think so, but then again as an editorial writer for Ohio’s largest newspaper, I do spend a lot of my time trying to figure out how Greater Cleveland became the place – politically, economically and socially – that it is today. And much of that evolution involves the interplay of powerful economic, demographic and political forces. Sowith that caveat about the blinders I bring to the task at hand, here is one person’s list of the events that did the most to shape Cleveland’s history, for good and ill.
— Joe Frolik
1) The last Ice Age ends roughly 10,000 years ago, and the retreating Laurentide glacial sheet leaves behind massive basins and plenty of meltwater to fill them: Today we call this gift of nature the Great Lakes. The world’s largest concentration of freshwater made possible both Cleveland’s settlement (Moses Cleaveland) and his party from Connecticut Land Co. sailed east from Buffalo and the mouth of the Cuyahoga River) and its economic boom (without easy access to iron ore from the far end of Lake Superior and waterways to ship out the finished product cheaply, there’s no steel business here). Perhaps the greatest guarantor for Greater Cleveland’s future remains this incredible and increasingly valuable liquid asset.
2) In 1850, Henry Chisholm, a 28-year-old immigrant carpenter and contractor from Scotland arrives in Cleveland to help build a breakwall on the lakefront. Seven years and several major construction projects later, he enters Cleveland’s fledgling iron and steel business by becoming a partner in a plant that re-rolls worn out iron rails. In 1859, Chisholm builds the first blast furnace in Northeast Ohio and in 1868, the first Bessemer converters west of the Alleghenies. His Cleveland Rolling Mill Co. becomes a major integrated producer of iron and steel products and by the 1890s has more than 8,000 employees. Cleveland by then is a major center for making steel and the finished products that use it. It is a transportation center for the ships and railroads that bring in raw materials and take out finished goods. All that also makes it a magnet for tens of thousands of immigrants like Chisholm eager to make their fortune in the New World.
3) Charles Brush is barely 30 years old on April 29, 1879, when he quite literally lights up the town (sorry, LeBron): At 7:55 p.m., Public Square is illuminated by a dozen of the Euclid native’s newly refined arc lights, all mounted on poles significantly higher than traditional gas street lamps and powered by a Brush-patented generator in a building just off the square. Brush’s latest invention proves a sensation: within two years, Brush street lights are in use from Boston to San Francisco. In 1891, his Brush Electric Co. becomes a building block of the new General Electric Co. Brush is not alone in his ability to turn good ideas into useful products. A 1900 Census report ranks Cleveland fifth among U.S. cities in “important patents’’ awarded between 1870 and 1890. This fuels a highly innovative, entrepreneurial – and fast-growing— industrial economy.
4) On April 1, 1901, Cleveland voters elect a new mayor: Tom L. Johnson, the “Great American Paradox,’’ as the New York Times called him, a wealthy businessman who talks like a labor agitator. Over the next eight years, Johnson makes Cleveland a laboratory for Progressive Era civic invention and arguably the best-run city in America. He builds playgrounds, parks and grand public buildings, makes public health the city’s business and holds public meetings in huge circus tents so average citizens can observe and join the deliberations of government. But Johnson’s successes – and those of Newton D. Baker, his like-minded and exceptionally talented protégé who served as mayor from 1911 to 1916 – have one downside: They inspire many communities surrounding Cleveland to embrace the “home rule’’ he and Baker advocate, eventually limiting the city’s potential growth and leading to generations of political Balkanization in Cuyahoga County.
5) In 1917 and 1918, amid the carnage of World War I France field hospitals, four accomplished doctors from Cleveland – Frank E. Bunts, George W. Crile, William E. Lower and John Phillips – begin making plans for a new hospital they will start when they got home, one based on the cooperation across specialty lines that seems to work well in the military. In 1921, they dedicate the first Cleveland Clinic building on Euclid Avenue and East 93rd Street. From the beginning, they set aside part of their revenues and raise additional funds solely for medical research. The result, nine decades later, is not only one of the most highly regarded research hospitals in the world, but the contemporary city’s most important economic engine. With some 40,000 people on its $2 billion annual payroll, the Clinic is far and away Cleveland’s largest employer.
6) On Dec. 11, 1918, the Cleveland Orchestra, under the direction of Russian-born, Yale-educated Nikolai Sokoloff, plays its first concert at Grays Armory on Bolivar Avenue downtown. The 50-plus member ensemble is the brainchild of local impresario Adella Prentiss Hughes, who in 1915 organized the Musical Arts Association and began exhorting the city’s wealthy elites to create a world-class orchestra as a symbol of Cleveland’s rising status. By 1922, Sokoloff and the orchestra are playing Carnegie Hall and establishing a global reputation for themselves and the city they represent. Thanks to a generous gift from industrialist John L. Severance — a memorial to late wife Elizabeth – the orchestra in 1931 gains a permanent and spectacular home in University Circle, an anchor for one of the nation’s premier cultural districts.
7) Cleveland voters go to the polls in a special referendum on Jan. 9, 1919, and agree to a major modification of Daniel Burnham’s Group Plan for downtown. The referendum is orchestrated by the reclusive Van Sweringen brothers, real estate developers Oris and Mantis, who want to include a new central railroad station as part of a massive office complex (Terminal Tower) that they hope to build off Public Square. Burnham’s plan put the depot on the lakefront just below City Hall and Mall C – and voters had ratified it just three years earlier. But the Vans – who want the terminal also to serve as the end point of their Shaker Rapid — mount a massive, modern campaign with heavy use of advertising and carry the day. Terminal Tower becomes a Cleveland icon, but moving the station also turns the city’s back on the lakefront. It will be decades before Cleveland begins to rethink its decision to squander an asset other cities regard as priceless.
8) African Americans, just a generation removed from slavery, begin to move north around 1910, following word that industrial jobs are available. This first Great Migration accelerates when World War I creates a labor shortage and continues until the Depression. Cleveland’s black population, estimated by the Census Bureau at 4,010 in 1900 grows to 70,755 by 1930 with more than half of them arriving during the Roaring ‘20s. Among that decades’ newcomers are Georgians Charles Stokes and Louise Stone. They marry here and by the time Charles, a laundry worker, dies in 1928 have two young sons: Louis and Carl. The Stokes brothers grow up in public housing, go on to law school and as blacks continue to pour into the city – the second wave of the Great Migration includes rabble-rousing Marine veteran from Memphis named George L. Forbes –build a political organization that challenges both white business establishment and the Democratic Party. In 1967, Carl becomes the first black mayor of a major northern city. A year later, Louis becomes Ohio’s black member of Congress.
9) On November 1, 1952, chemicals and other debris floating on Cuyahoga River catch fire and do roughly $1.5 million worth of damage. But the event draws little attention – let alone outrage. There’d been occasional fires on the river since 1868 and as far back as 1881, Mayor Rensselaer R. Herrick had called the Cuyahoga a “sewer that runs through the heart of the city.’’ But in those days, pollution was seen as little more than an unfortunate byproduct of industrial prowess. A very different story unfolds on June 22, 1969, when the Cuyahoga again blazes. Although damage this time is barely $85,000, an angry Mayor Carl Stokes leads a delegation of reporters to the banks of the Cuyahoga the following day and demands help from Washington to clean up the mess. His timing was perfect. With a Time magazine team already in town working on a cover story about pollution’s toll on Lake Erie, this fire becomes a rallying point the nascent environmental movement and leads to passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972 and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.
10) After 140 years of uninterrupted growth, Cleveland’s white population begins to decline in the 1940s, in part because white GI’s can get low-cost federal home loans to move to the suburbs, while black veterans cannot. “White flight’’ continues into the 1960s, accelerating after two major riots –Hough in 1966 and Glenville in 1969. But the last straw for many whites comes on Aug. 31, 1976, when U.S. District Judge Frank J. Battisti signs a 203-page decision that, among other remedies, orders cross-town busing to end racial segregation. However well-meaning Battititi’s decision may have been – other northern districts had been hit with busing orders before Cleveland – the impact here is devastating.. White flight morphs into middle-class flight. In the 1970s, Cleveland’s black population falls, too, with an exodus of 30,000 people, many to suburbs perceived to have better schools. Battisti’s order remains in effect until the 1990s, when the city’s second black mayor, Michael R. White, leads the charge to end it.
11) On Dec. 15, 1978, a year-long battle between Cleveland’s populist “boy mayor,’’ Dennis Kucinich, and a combative business community, led in this case by Cleveland Trust CEO Brock Weir, comes to a head. A consortium of six local banks calls in $14 million in loans, knowing Kucinich cannot come up with the cash because he refuses to sell Cleveland Public Power as they recommend. Cleveland, its finances held together for nearly a decade by chewing gum, baling wire and accounting tricks, becomes the first U.S. city since the Depression to default. The debacle leads to Kucinich’s defeat in 1979 and effectively ices his political ambitions for another 15 years. But default also forces the business community to rethink its relationship with the city. Under Kucinich’s successor, George V. Voinovich, City Hall and the newly engaged corporate sector form a celebrated public-private partnership that produces several major downtown projects and helps burnish Cleveland’s national image as a “comeback city.’’
12) For decades, good-government groups warned that Cuyahoga County government was a relic of agrarian times with power so diffuse that no one could be held accountable for anything. Not even a poorly supervised investment fiasco in 1994 could prompt more than a study of government reform – that was shelved as soon as public angry subsided. All that changes on July 28, 2008, when nearly 200 federal agents descend on the County Administration Building, the homes of the county’s two most powerful Democratic politicians and the offices of numerous county contractors. They fill U-Haul trucks with documents and computers. After a year of stony silence from federal prosecutors, the indictments begin to flow. On Nov. 2, 2009, appalled voters overwhelming fire the entire county government and concentrate responsibility in a powerful new county executive.
This article ran in the Plain Dealer during the Cleveland Bicentennial Year celebration. If you disagree with elements of the list or wish to offer additions, please email us at email@example.com and we can start the discussion.
Courtesy of The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH) – Sunday, July 21, 1996
Author: BRENT LARKIN
To borrow from Shakespeare, some are born with greatness. Others achieve it. Some have it thrust upon them.
Greatness is highly subjective. It’s elusive to define and difficult to measure.
And it also can go unnoticed. Imagine how many tens of thousands who have been a part of this area’s rich past, the deeds of their ordinary lives combining to build a great city. They and their memories are as much a part of this Cleveland’s bicentennial celebration as are the leaders who occupy our history books.
But today, on the eve of the city’s 200th birthday, I have set about the difficult task of attempting to determine and rank the 10 greatest Clevelanders – those whose deeds have had the greatest impact on this city and, in some cases, the nation.
The list that appears below is mine alone. But it was compiled after consultations with some of the foremost experts on Cleveland history: John J. Grabowski, director of planning and research at the Western Reserve Historical Society; David D. Van Tassel, professor of history at Case Western Reserve University; Thomas F. Campbell, history professor at Cleveland State University; and George Condon, retired Plain Dealer columnist and the author of several books on Cleveland’s history.
Singling out only 10 Clevelanders (actually, three of the top 10 include, for reasons that will be obvious, two names) for greatness guarantees that many historic figures be excluded, which is a major reason why the list is followed by an honorable-mention section. Ranking them in order is an invitation to second-guessing.
Nevertheless, what follows is one person’s listing of the 10 greatest Clevelanders.
1. Tom L. Johnson (1854-1911): The mayor against whom all others are measured. Elected in 1901, Johnson left a legacy that includes the mall plan, cheap trolley fares, low taxes and, probably above all, the municipal electric system. Johnson was the central figure in planning the city’s development as an industrial power. A successful businessman, he used town hall forums to bring immigrant masses into the political mainstream by instilling in them hope and inspiration. Upon his death, 200,000 people lined Euclid Ave. for the funeral procession.
2. John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937): His family moved from a farm in upstate New York to Strongsville when he was a teenager. After high school, he took a job as an assistant bookkeeper. At 24, he decided to enter the oil business.
So was born the Standard Oil Co., which made Rockefeller one of the world’s richest and most powerful men. This industrialist and philanthropist gave away millions. He built buildings and bought parks here. Criticized by some for moving to New York City in the 1880s, Rockefeller continued to spend summers at his Forest Hills Park estate.
3. Alfred Kelley (1789-1859): Not nearly as well-known as some of the more legendary Clevelanders, in 1915, Kelley became the first president of the village of Cleveland. Back then, Cleveland wasn’t much bigger than any of the other surrounding lakefront cities, like Lorain, Vermilion, Painesville, and others. But Kelley was a man with a dream – a canal that would link Cleveland with the Ohio River and make his city a major industrial port. As a member of the legislature in the 1820s, Kelley dedicated his life to making the Ohio & Erie Canal a reality. When the canal opened in 1827, it secured Cleveland’s place as Ohio’s dominant lakefront city.
4. O.P (1879-1936) and M.J (1881-1935) Van Sweringen: They developed Shaker Heights and Shaker Square, and when they envisioned a rapid-transit system linking the suburb to downtown, a railroad line stood in their way. So, the brothers bought the Nickel Plate Railroad and eventually accumulated a railroad empire consisting of 30,000 miles of tracks valued at $3 billion. Their monument to Cleveland remains today as the city’s most symbolic building – the Terminal Tower. The 1929 stock market crash almost bankrupted them and they died several years later.
5. Marcus Hanna (1837-1904): He was the nation’s first political boss, a cunning and brilliant political strategist universally credited with engineering the election of William McKinley as president in 1896. Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1898, Hanna became a major advocate of an idea many scoffed at – building a canal across Panama. In Cleveland, Hanna was both a wildly successful businessman and the town’s most dominant political figure. His biggest setback in politics was the election as mayor of his longtime enemy, Tom L. Johnson.
6. Newton D. Baker (1871-1937): A protege of Tom L. Johnson, Baker made his mark as mayor of Cleveland from 1912 to 1916. He was responsible for enactment of the City Charter and for promoting passage of the Home Rule amendment to the Ohio Constitution. He made his mark upon the world a few years later. With the nation’s future threatened from abroad, President Woodrow Wilson needed someone to build and train a force of 2 million men to fight the first world war. The choice of Baker as Secretary of War proved outstanding, as Baker was widely credited with succeeding in the most difficult of tasks. Shortly after the war, Baker returned to the Cleveland law firm that still bears his name.
7. Flora Stone Mather (1852-1909) and Samuel Mather (1851-1931): The Mathers were both born into wealth, and through the formation of the iron-ore company Pikands, Mather & Co., saw their separately inherited fortunes grow to the point where they became Ohio’s richest couple. What set them apart from so many other affluent husband-and-wife teams was the vast sums they donated to worthy charities. Major beneficiaries of the Mather fortune were Old Stone Church, Western Reserve University, University Hospitals, John Carroll University and the Community Chest.
8. George Crile (1864-1943): In 1906, while practicing at St. Alexis Hospital, this surgeon and medical researcher performed the world’s first successful blood transfusion. In the Spanish-American War and World War I, he was a highly decorated war surgeon. But Crile’s major contribution to Cleveland came in 1921 when he joined with three others to form the Cleveland Clinic, which, along with the other first-rate hospitals that already existed, cemented Cleveland’s place as a world-class medical center.
9. Adella Prentiss Hughes (1869-1950): Music was her life and through her efforts she put the music made in Cleveland on the map. A philanthropist and the promotor of scores of musical presentations, Hughes formed the Musical Arts Association in 1915 to fund and promote her projects. Three years later, she was the instrumental figure in the creation of the Cleveland Orchestra.
10. Edward Morley (1838-1923) and Albert Michelson (1852-1931): Morley was a scientist at Western Reserve University, Michelson a physicist at the Case School of Applied Science. Their research on the speed of light, known as the Michelson-Morley experiment (1887), laid the foundation for Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. Michelson became the first American to win a Nobel Prize in science. He finished second in the Nobel Prize balloting for chemistry.
Honorable mentions (alphabetically):
Paul Brown (1909-1991): A football genius and innovator who built one of the greatest franchises in the history of professional sports. So deep runs the loyalty Clevelanders have for the Browns that not even Art Modell could dry up this reservoir of affection.
Charles F. Brush (1849-1929): Developer of the arc light, the forerunner of Thomas Edison’s inventions.
Lorenzo Carter (1767-1814): Cleveland’s first permanent settler and easily its most prominent early citizen.
James A. Garfield (1831-1881): Because he lived in and spent so much time in Mentor, not all historians consider him a Clevelander, which explains why he was not placed in the top 10. Nevertheless, the 20th president of the United States did have some Cleveland connections.
Jane Edna Hunter (1882-1971): Daughter of a sharecropper, Hunter was a nationally known social worker and founder of the Phillis Wheatley Association.
Levi Johnson (1785-1871): A major figure in the growth of Cleveland as a large port, Johnson was a shipbuilder and real estate developer.
Garrett A. Morgan (1877-1963): Credited as the inventor of the gas mask and the traffic light, Morgan was a successful businessman and an early leader in the city’s black community.
Carl B. Stokes (1927-1996): The first black elected mayor of a major American city.
More Great Clevelanders
Florence Allen (1884-1966): Prominent suffragette; first female Chief Judge of a federal court.
Ernest Bohn (1901-1975): The father of U.S. public housing.
Linda Eastman (1867-1963): The first female head of a major library system (1918). She helped make the Cleveland Public Library into one of the nation’s best.
George Forbes (1931- ): One of the most powerful politicians in Cleveland history; as council president, he dominated government under three mayors.
Dorothy Fuldheim (1893-1989): The first female news anchorperson in the United States at WEWS.
Frederick H. Goff (1858-1923): Helped to establish the Cleveland Foundation, the oldest and one of the largest community foundations in America
Max Hayes (1866-1945): Union printer; launched the Cleveland Citizen newspaper in 1891; became a national voice of labor and socialist movements.
Martin A. Marks (1853-1916): Businessman; Developed models for philanthropic fund raising and management that ultimately became the United Way of Cleveland
Bishop Louis Amadeus Rappe (1801-1877): Cleveland’s first Catholic bishop; recruited priests and nuns from Europe and built churches, schools, orphanages and hospitals.
Bishop Joseph Schrembs (1866-1945): Cleveland’s fifth Catholic bishop; expanded charity work; used radio to evangelize.
Amasa Stone (1818-1883): Contentious man who built the first major railroad between Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. He was ruined when a bridge that he built collapsed in Ashtabula. His money helped to move Western Reserve College to University Circle from Hudson. His daughters (particularly Flora) and sons in laws, (John Hay and Samuel Mather) all had highly successful careers.
George Szell (1897-1970): In 34 years as musical director, this stern taskmaster from Vienna cemented the Cleveland Orchestra’s international reputation.
George V. Voinovich (1936- ): Mayor after 1978 default; improved city’s fiscal footing, Went on to become Governor of Ohio and US Senator. A power locally and nationally for over 30 years.
William O. Walker (1986-1981): Editor and publisher of the Call and Post; central figure in the rise of black political power here.
Cyrus Eaton (1883-1979): Highly controversial capitalist who mentored with John D. Rockefeller in Cleveland and then made his mark in the utility and steel industries. He lost it all during the depression, made it back post-depression and then worked on detente with the Soviet Union during the cold war.
William Stinchcomb (1878-1959): Father of the Cleveland Metroparks, today’s Emerald Necklace and one of the nations best free public park systems in a metropolitan area.
Abba Hillel Silver (1893-1963): Influential Jewish and civic leader in Northeast Ohio for nearly 50 years. Worldwide leader in the 1940s in the effort to create the State of Israel
Editorial: Protect integrity of Ohio’s constitution
Columbus Dispatch 4/2/2017
The link is here
Ohio voters should be given the opportunity to ease the process of initiating state laws.
They also should be given the chance, in a separate ballot issue, to decide if initiating constitutional amendments should be more difficult.
Both would require amending the Ohio Constitution, which only voters can do.
For nearly three years, a committee of the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission has studied possible changes in initiated statutes and initiated amendments.
Only 15 state constitutions give voters the right to initiate both laws and amendments. The Ohio Constitution has provided those rights since 1912.
Since then, Ohioans using their constitutional rights to engage in direct democracy overwhelmingly have favored the amendment over the statutory route.
Of 80 attempts to initiate policy, petitioners have chosen to try to amend the constitution 68 times (85 percent). Initiated laws have been adopted only three times, most recently in 2006 to restrict smoking in public places.
Statehouse Democrats and Republicans agree that petitioners usually choose the amendment route for two reasons.
First, the requirements for getting on the ballot are nearly as difficult, and therefore nearly as costly, for a proposed law as for a proposed amendment.
Qualifying a proposed law for the ballot requires petitioners, as a first step, to collect signatures equal to 3 percent of the electorate. The proposal then goes to the General Assembly, which has four months to adopt, reject or modify it.
If the legislature rejects or modifies the proposal in a way unacceptable to petitioners, they must restart the petition drive and collect an additional 3 percent, totaling 6 percent of the electorate.
Second, even if Ohioans proposing an initiated law are successful in the election, nothing prevents the legislature from later repealing or amending the voter-approved statute.
Given these disincentives, petitioners rationally choose the amendment route. Voter-approved amendments, like the rest of the constitution, can only be changed by a public vote.
As a result, over time the Ohio Constitution becomes weighted with ornaments more suited to the Ohio Revised Code, such as livestock-care standards and casinos.
That’s why the modernization commission is considering how to ease the process of initiating state laws, and how to make the amendment process more difficult.
An idea gaining momentum is to create a 5 percent signature requirement for initiated laws, eliminate the supplementary petition requirement, and prohibit the General Assembly from changing any voter-enacted law for five years, except by a two-thirds vote.
Such a proposal has merit standing alone. However, majority Republicans appear intent on marrying it to a proposal requiring proposed amendments to receive 55 percent approval to win passage. Republicans also want to restrict initiated amendments to general elections in even-numbered years.
Some states have supermajority requirements for voter-initiated constitutional amendments. Florida, for example, requires 60 percent approval. Nevada requires a majority vote in two consecutive elections.
There is much to commend efforts to make initiated laws easier and initiated amendments harder.
However, the cleanest way to present these alternatives to voters is in two separate issues, not a combined one. When dealing with proposed changes to fundamental constitutional rights, voters should have an opportunity to judge each on its own merits.
Originally appeared in Columbus Dispatch. Reprinted with permission
Reprinted by permission
Original link is here
Editorial: Ohio Constitution deserves bipartisan review
Columbus Dispatch 3/23/2107
State lawmakers should grant a reprieve to the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission. The 32-member body, diligent but underappreciated, is set to expire prematurely at the end of this year.
The unapologetic executioner is state Rep. Keith Faber, R-Celina, who — as Senate president last session — slipped a poison pill into the state budget to kill the commission.
Now that Faber again is a House freshman, House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger and Senate President Larry Obhof have an opportunity to redress Faber’s petulance, show prudence, and allow the commission to fulfill its original promise.
Under the leadership of former Speaker William G. Batchelder, the commission began in October 2011. It was given a decade to work, to expire July 1, 2021.
The Ohio Constitution deserves a periodic, methodical and bipartisan review, which is what has been occurring since the commission got rolling in 2014.
The late start was largely attributable to Faber’s reluctance to help get commissioners appointed and staff hired.
The constitution, 166 years old, is the nation’s sixth oldest. At nearly 57,000 words, it’s the 10th longest. With such age and length comes obsolete provisions and archaic constructions.
Because the state is not likely to hold another state constitutional convention in the foreseeable future (the last was in 1912), a bipartisan commission of respected individuals should be impaneled once every two decades to examine potential amendments for a public vote.
Since 2014, the commission has performed valuable service. It paved the way for two amendments approved by Ohio voters in November 2015, providing for apportionment reform and anti-monopoly safeguards.
Near the end of last year, the commission sent to the General Assembly proposals to eliminate several obsolete sections of the constitution. If sent to the ballot and approved by voters, they would eliminate:
‒ Courts of conciliation, created in 1851 to allow resolution of disputes outside the traditional legal process. They’ve never been used, and long ago were replaced by modern arbitration proceedings.
‒ The Supreme Court Commission, created in 1875 to relieve backlogs of cases. It has not been used since 1885.
‒ Sections authorizing specific debt and bonding authority for projects long ago accomplished with debts long ago paid off.
‒ Provisions on the Sinking Fund Commission, whose responsibilities long ago were taken over by the state treasurer.
Like the legislature itself, the commission works through standing committees, which hear testimony and compile research. The commission’s body of research, available on its website, is a model of objective, detailed analysis — a treasure for researchers and policymakers.
The commission has not yet dived into the constitution’s sections on the executive branch, the elective franchise, the militia, and a few other areas.
One of its committees is attempting to find compromise on an amendment that would make it easier for voters to enact initiated laws, but more difficult to enact initiated amendments.
This is highly sensitive territory, requiring bipartisan diplomacy and outreach to a broad spectrum of interest groups.
Since 1912, the Ohio Constitution has given voters the power to directly initiate constitutional amendments, bypassing the General Assembly. Ohio is one of only 16 states with that provision, and one of only 11 where enactment requires only a simple majority vote.
The committee has discussed requiring a 55 percent vote to amend the constitution. This deserves patient, extensive review. Pulling the plug on the commission sends the opposite message — one of callous indifference.
The link is here
Less than one in a million.
Those are the chances a noncitizen will be found guilty of illegally voting in a statewide election in Ohio. It’s not because authorities aren’t doing all they can to detect and prosecute voter fraud. It’s because votes cast by noncitizens are extremely rare. And, nearly all result from honest mistakes, not fraud.
Once again, Secretary of State Jon Husted has performed a valuable public service by reporting on efforts to identify cases of potential voter fraud and referring them for possible prosecution.
Husted reported that 82 noncitizens voted in 2016. They were among 385 noncitizens improperly registered to vote. Combined with the numbers from the 2012 and 2014 elections, there have been 821 improper registrations and 126 improperly cast ballots. In those three elections, nearly 14.4 million Ohioans went to the polls.
So, for starters, over three statewide elections, a noncitizen cast an improper ballot for every 114,285 voters going to the polls. And, if Husted’s 2016 referrals follow the same pattern as those for 2012 and 2014, prosecutors will find that fewer than 1 in 5 deserve to be charged, and fewer still will be found guilty.
Following the 2012 and 2014 elections, Husted’s efforts resulted in a total of 44 cases of potential fraud being referred. After prosecutors examined the evidence, eight people were charged. Five were convicted. One went to a diversion program. The other two cases were sealed.
Bottom line: Even if all eight of those prosecuted had been convicted, they represent less than one voter in a million. In the 2012 and 2014 elections, nearly 8.8 million Ohioans went to the polls.
Why are noncitizens referred for investigation and possible prosecution so rarely charged? And so rarely found guilty? According to spokesmen for Husted and Attorney General Mike DeWine, prosecutors are much more likely to find honest mistakes than criminal intent. And those honest mistakes are not always the fault of the noncitizen voter; they sometimes are the mistakes of those who register voters and process voting rolls.
Since 1995, federal law — the so-called Motor Voter Law — has required motor vehicle registrars to offer customers the opportunity to register or re-register to vote.
From 2012 through 2016, Ohio’s deputy registrars have registered 896,601 new voters. Given such volume, it’s not rare for a noncitizen — oftentimes with limited English proficiency — to have a voter registration form placed in front of him. And for a mistake to happen.
Prosecutors frequently determine that a noncitizen who registered to vote never intended to register, said DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney. “Sometimes they fill it out truthfully and it still gets through the system,” he said.
Given the rarity of voter fraud in Ohio, some have criticized Husted for devoting so much time and effort to track and report on it.
The Dispatch believes otherwise. The secretary of state is morally and legally obligated to protect the sanctity of the vote. A periodic examination educates the public, puts citizens and noncitizens on notice, and serves as a deterrent.
Voting rights advocates should welcome the vivid illustration of the rarity of voter fraud in Ohio. The plain facts disprove the wearisome claims about rampant voter fraud, made to justify efforts to enact tougher voter ID laws and other restrictions.
Voter fraud is likely at an all-time low in Ohio. That’s something to cheer.
Meet William Stinchcomb, visionary behind creating the Cleveland Metroparks, video from Cleveland.com 7.20.2017
The Cleveland Metroparks will be celebrating its 100-year anniversary this weekend, so we thought it appropriate to share the history of one of the parks driving forces — William Stinchcomb.
A brief history of the Ohio income tax
by Michael F. Curtin
Gov. John Kasich keeps swinging his ax at Ohio’s state income tax.
When he launched his 2010 campaign, Kasich revealed a dream of abolishing the tax. He won’t accomplish that, but his fourth and final budget proposal represents his fourth consecutive whack at it.
“We’ll march over time to destroy that income tax that has sucked vitality out of this state,” Kasich declared at his 2010 campaign kickoff.
The nexus between Ohio’s income tax and its economic fortunes is questionable. Forty-three states have income taxes. As of 2014, Ohio’s per-capita income-tax burden ranked 34th, says the conservative Tax Foundation.
In the modern era, conservatives argue the tax punishes initiative and slows economic growth. Progressives defend graduated income taxes as essential for reducing the average Joe’s overall tax burden.
This ideological fault line didn’t always exist. In the early 1900s, as the Progressive Era gained steam, federal and state leaders — Democrats and Republicans — simultaneously took interest in the idea of taxing incomes.
In September 1906, Republican Gov. Andrew L. Harris appointed a five-man tax commission “to investigate the tax laws of this state and to make recommendations for their improvement.”
In June 1909, President William Howard Taft, a Republican, proposed a constitutional amendment giving Congress the power to levy income taxes; the amendment was ratified in 1913.
The work of Ohio’s tax commission prompted delegates to the state’s 1912 constitutional convention to consider a state income tax. The question was put to Ohio voters that September. By a 52-48 vote, Ohioans authorized the General Assembly to consider income taxes, with uniform or graduated rates.
The General Assembly was not quick to use this authority. As the 20th century unfolded, the state looked elsewhere for revenues. In response to needs created by the Great Depression, in 1934 Ohio enacted a statewide sales tax of 3 percent. In 1967, it was raised to 4 percent.
However, pressures for an income-tax increased throughout the 1960s. In 1962, Tax Commissioner Stanley J. Bowers predicted Ohio would need an income tax within five years, primarily to relieve excessive burdens placed on real estate and personal property.
In 1968, a tax-study committee led by state Rep. Albert H. Sealy, R-Dayton, held 24 hearings across the state. Business interests, led by the Ohio Farm Bureau, the Ohio Contractors Association and the Ohio Hardware Association, voiced support for an income tax to offset the hated personal-property tax, which bore no relation to profitability.
In December 1971, after a half-century of buildup, Democratic Gov. John J. Gilligan and a Republican legislature adopted a state income tax, with rates ranging from 0.5 to 3.5 percent. The Republican game plan was to give Gilligan just enough votes to pass the tax, then clobber him with it in 1974.
When conservatives led by state Rep. Robert Netzley qualified a repeal for the November 1972 ballot, Ohio Republican Chairman John Andrews worked behind the scenes in opposition. The Ohio GOP platform that year remained silent on the issue. The repeal failed by more than 2 to 1. There were many reasons for Gilligan’s subsequent defeat, but the GOP tax strategy was pivotal.
The 1981-82 recession prompted Republican Gov. James Rhodes — a master of the “temporary tax” — to win approval of a 50 percent increase in the income tax. His successor, Democrat Richard Celeste, solidified it, adding another 40 percent over pre-1982 levels.
Those increases prompted another repeal effort, this time led by conservative state Sen. Thomas Van Meter. The repeal failed, 56-44.In 1984, for the first time, state income-tax collections surpassed sales-tax collections. By 2005, income-tax revenues accounted for nearly half of all state revenues, far outpacing the sales tax.Since then, the tide has run in the other direction. Under Govs. Bob Taft (1999-2007) and Kasich (2011-present), state income-tax rates have been slashed 30 percent. Sales-tax collections now far outpace income-tax revenues.
Kasich hopes to accelerate that trend, proposing a 17 percent reduction in income taxes, offset by increasing the sales tax to 6.25 percent, from 5.75 percent.
But even with Republican supermajorities in the House and Senate, Kasich might find a shortage of fellow ax wielders. Over time, the income tax comes in handy.
This piece originally ran in the Columbus Dispatch on Wednesday February 15, 2017
Columbus native Michael F. Curtin was formerly a Democratic Representative (2012-2016) from the 17th Ohio House District (west and south sides of Columbus). He had a 38-year journalism career with the Columbus Dispatch, most devoted to coverage of local and state government and politics. Mr. Curtin is author of The Ohio Politics Almanac, first and second editions (KSU Press). Finally, he is a licensed umpire, Ohio High School Athletic Association (baseball and fastpitch softball).
1948 photo (CSU)
Jean Murrell Capers by Marian Morton
Jean Murrell Capers (1913-2017) met head-on the challenges of being both female and black by maintaining her outspoken political independence. The daughter of teachers, she went to Western Reserve University on a scholarship, one of the university’s few black students at the time. She earned a degree in education and taught briefly before getting her law degree from Cleveland Law School. She passed the Ohio Bar in 1945 and was appointed assistant police prosecutor by Mayor Thomas A. Burke in 1946. “[A]nother first for Negro women,” the Cleveland Call and Post announced proudly. The newspaper later applauded Capers as the one of several “lady lawyers [who] bring beauty [and] brains” to the local legal community. An accompanying photo shows a stylish Capers, smiling mischievously. 
Capers made her first foray into partisan politics in 1943, staging an unsuccessful write-in campaign for City Council. She also ran unsuccessfully for Council in 1945 and 1947. Like Cermak, she early gained the support of organized women’s groups, and in 1949, she got one of her few political endorsements from the Glenara Temple of Elks, of which she was a member. “[I]t is high time that Negro womanhood took its place in the sun of city politics,” said Republican leader and temple member, Lethia C. Fleming.  In 1949, on her fourth try, Capers became the first black woman to be elected to City Council and the first Democrat to be elected from what had historically been a Republican ward.
Her four subsequent elections to Council reflected her ability to organize her ward and get out her supporters, doubtless impressed by her education, her political skills, and her glamorous appearance. Capers fought for a swimming pool for her ward’s children and offered a prize for the neighborhood’s cleanest yard.
But she also sparked plenty of controversy and made plenty of enemies. She joined forces with Council member Charles V. Carr in an unsuccessful effort to make the possession (as opposed to the sale) of policy slips legal despite police efforts to crack down on the numbers racket.  And despite the opposition from local pastors, she got a license for a local bingo parlor. She criticized Cleveland’s ambitious slum clearance program: “In every instance since urban renewal began, the city has created more problems than it has cured. This is reflected in increased crime and lower sanitation standards.” (Its critics often referred to urban renewal as “Negro removal.”)
Her opponents alleged that she had ties to rackets figures and pointed to her poor attendance record at Council meetings. There were also allegations of voter fraud in her ward in 1952 and 1953. In 1956, she was the only black member of Council to oppose the fluoridation of city water, further estranging her from the Democratic majority. 
Even though it had earlier praised her, Capers’ most outspoken critic became the Cleveland Call and Post, the city’s African-American and Republican newspaper, which accused her of being a lazy Councilman and a “wholly irresponsible person.”  She was a “vicious, skilled campaigner,” the paper claimed, whose sex “protected her from retaliation in kind.” Her sex did not protect her from savage attacks by the paper – for example, for her opposition to the appointment of Charles P. Lucas, a black, to the Cleveland Transit Board in 1958: “the odor of selfish irresponsibility and putrid demagoguery … marked the conduct of Mrs. Jean Murrell Capers,” the paper spluttered.  Everyone wanted her out of office except her constituents.
By 1959, however, although she was chairman of Council’s powerful planning committee, Capers had lost her Council seat to James H. Bell, the candidate endorsed by local Democrats. Bell “ has retired, at least temporarily, one of Cleveland’s most colorful and successful political demagogues …. [who] was possessed of a vibrant sort of feminine attractiveness, an excellent family background, and a razor sharp mind, ” wrote the Call and Post.  Capers unsuccessfully filed suit in Common Pleas Court to set aside Bell’s “fraudulent victory.”  Undiscouraged, she ran unsuccessfully in 1960 in the Democratic primary for state Senate in a large field that included Carl Stokes, and in 1963, she lost a primary race for her old Council seat.
In 1965, Capers and her League of Non-Partisan Voters organized the movement to draft Stokes to run as an independent mayoral candidate, a race which he lost. Only two years later, however, the league supported Republican Seth Taft when he ran against Stokes for mayor. Capers minced no words when she explained league’s about-face: “Mr. Taft has qualities superior to those of his opponent and has the broad personal knowledge necessary to administer the complex affairs of the city. Stokes knows nothing about anything and is far too superficial in our judgement to serve as mayor. Carl Stokes especially lacks the knowledge and understanding necessary to solve this city’s crisis in human relations.”  Capers subsequently acted as the lawyer for Lee-Seville homeowners who fought off Stokes’ plan to locate public housing in their neighborhood. In his embittered autobiography, Stokes called her “one of the brightest politicians ever to come out of Cleveland” but also accused her of being a hustler who supported him in 1965 only to get herself back into politics. 
In March 1971, Capers decided to run as an independent in the mayoral primary. She had joined the new National Organization for Women and hoped to win support from the emerging woman’s movement. In mid-summer, she discovered that she had missed the Board of Elections filing date for independents but persuaded a federal judge to overturn this early filing date. The date became a moot point since she did not get enough valid signatures on her petition and was disqualified from the mayoral race. Thanks to a divided Democratic Party, Republican Ralph Perk was elected mayor.
By 1976, Capers had become a Republican herself, and her former nemesis, the Call and Post, endorsed her candidacy for Juvenile Court Judge. She lost this race, but Republican Governor James A. Rhodes appointed her to a municipal judgeship in 1977, a position she held until her retirement in 1986. Reflecting on her long, difficult political career, Capers pointed to her double handicaps of race and gender, maintaining that her “detractors resented her not just because she was a black woman but because she was an educated black woman. ‘They still had the concept that the only place for a Negro woman was on her knees scrubbing the floors. If I had been a dumb Negro woman, I would have gotten along much better.’”
In recognition of her long, difficult political career, Capers earned many professional honors. These include the Norman S. Minor Bar Association Trailblazer Award and induction into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame.
This essay is part of a longer piece written by Dr. Marian Morton, here