A simple idea


VineGardenBigToo often we think about economic growth only in terms of new jobs. Jobs are, of course, the ultimate goal, but a real understanding of how places grow tells us that we first need to make our community the kind of place people want to live. We have to identify trends and whenever possible, take advantage of them to make Warren a more desirable place to live.

One such trend is that an increasing number of communities are organizing themselves around farms and farm-like landscapes; we have plenty of golf course and shopping mall communities, but a home with a view of hay bales and colorful produce are very desirable to some other people. One fairly well-known example, Serenbe (near Atlanta), was also the subject of a CBS Sunday Morning segment today.

It so happens we have perfect locations for mini-farms inside the Warren city limits: wherever your old elementary school once stood. Today several of these sites (e.g., Garfield and Roosevelt) are home to community gardens in which neighbors may have a plot of their own on which to grow vegetables.

In the main, they are underutilized. The concept of community gardening is popular with far more people than the number who will actually do the hard work required to prepare, plant, weed, fertilize and harvest even a small plot. The results is a few well-tended plots surrounded by a few sadly under-worked plots, and lots of open space. I don’t mean to criticize the community garden effort; it is valuable but has limitations.

What if, instead, we leased the entire open space to local professional farmers at $1 per year, and allowed them to reap the benefits of their work, to be sold at local farmer’s markets or on site. These new lots would be more efficient farms, more esthetically pleasing and might become community gathering places. After a little development they might be attractive features of their neighborhoods, and exert a positive influence on property values and crime rates.

The Board of Education owns these sites today, and not only receives no revenue, but has to spend money to maintain them. All we need to do is find a farmer who is willing to give it a try. How does McKinley Farms sound? What do we have to lose?

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An email to the Tribune


This should also be in the public record. It is the text of an email I sent to the publisher (Charles Jarvis), the editor (Brenda Linert) and a reporter (Raymond Smith) at the Tribune on November 16th. I have received no reply:

“The article “Focus Forward” on Sunday’s front page was a great disservice to the city. Doug Franklin made claims of fact which were untrue. The Tribune did not demand (or at least did not print) substantiation for any of them. The Tribune did not seek (or at least did not print) comments from me or anyone else who might have offered a dissenting point of view. In fact, no one other than the mayor was quoted in the article. It was essentially an un-fact-checked press release, and you put it on the front page.
What is worse, both the reporter and the editor know that some of the statements made by the mayor were untrue, or at minimum, highly debatable. I’d be happy to point those examples out if you need me to do so.
The election is over and the only thing I’m campaigning for is a better Warren. Unfortunately the mayor isn’t satisfied with his victory, he now wants to rewrite history and you are giving him his own crayon and paper. This is certainly not journalism by any standard of which I am familiar.”
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My emails with Doug


I believe the following should be public information. This is the text of a November 5th email from me to Doug Franklin:

Dear Doug,
Congratulations on your victory Tuesday and best of luck in the next four years. I’ve still remembered something you said in your first inaugrural speech along the lines of, “We can’t succeed as a city unless we have the participation of ALL of our citizens.” I believe those are very true words, and hope that you will not exclude the 45% of the voters who voted for me.
I’d like our supporters to continue to be a positive force in Warren, and am hoping that, while we clearly disagree about some things, there are areas where we can agree and work together. I think a private conversation to explore those areas could be productive and am inviting you to lunch, or a beer, or whatever is convenient for you to have a candid, private conversation.
I gather from comments you’ve made that you feel we treated you unfairly in the campaign, and I feel similarly about some of the things said about me. But I can definately put any hard feelings behind me and am hoping you can, as well. I believe we both want what is best for Warren. Please let me know if you’d like to meet and suggest a day and time.
Best regards,
Doug’s reply to me the next day:

Thanks Dennis and congratulations for a well run campaign yourself.  We can meet privately in the future, but right now I am taking some time off to spend with my family.

Quote from Doug Franklin in the November 15th Tribune:

Franklin said there was nothing brought up by independent candidate Dennis Blank that he is considering adopting during his next four years. “What was his plan?” Franklin said. “There is nothing he brought to the table. He says we should remember the 45 percent of the vote that he earned in this election. Well, what about the 55 percent of the voters that voted for me?”

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How history gets written


sheepChurchill said, “History is written by the victors.” Sunday we saw how that works on the local level. Recently reelected Mayor Doug Franklin gave an interview to the Tribune, which ran it on the front page of Sunday’s paper along with a nice photo.

The mayor makes a number of statements in the interview which the Tribune published without any substantiation. Nor did they seek comments from me or any other person who might have challenged the statements. They appear to have done no fact checking.

What’s worse, both the reporter and Tribune editor knew that at least a couple of the assertions made by the mayor were either false or highly debatable. And yet they printed and distributed them to their subscribers as if Moses himself had delivered them from the mountaintop.

I’d be very happy to move on from the election, but the mayor seems unable to do so. If we allow these lies to stand unchallenged then we are sheep — sheep who happily allow ourselves to be fleeced and left to stand in the cold reality of the city-with-no-future the mayor is creating for us.

Following below are some selected quotes from the article which appear in italics, followed by the comments I would have given the Tribune had they asked.

“There were some disappointments in terms of people who benefited from my tenure, from this administration’s accomplishments, who went the other way for no good reason,” he said.

“During my first term, I was able to accomplish the most that I have as a public official,” Franklin said. “This election should have been a cake walk.”

I covered this in yesterday’s post. In other words, if you voted for Blank you are either stupid or ungrateful.

Doug went on to list the accomplishments of his first term:

“The privatization of the management of Packard Music Hall, which is reducing the subsidy paid by the city by $50,000 a year”

He is referring to the contract he made that gave away one on the city’s greatest assets while receiving nothing in return. Most of you know the truth here. The city saved nothing — it actually costs the city more now than before the contract. If you are not familiar with the terms you can read them here.

“The privatization of the operation of the city-owned Old Avalon golf course, saving another $90,000 a year”

This is a gross exaggeration of any possible “savings” but even one dollar of “savings” can only be calculated from the cost the city was burdened with as a result of Doug and Enzo’s complete mismanagement of the previous Old Avalon contract, which left it unused and requiring maintenance by the city for two seasons. Ask any golfer you know how the new management is working out there.

“Having three city departments (community development, income tax and health) move out of 418 Main St. and into the Gibson Building”

At last, a true statement. Unfortunately the move took place two years after buying the building. Meanwhile we’ve been paying the bond interest on the Gibson Building plus utilities and maintenance on the old building all that time. And, oh yeah, the move had to be postponed once because the city forgot to book the movers.

Doug then turned his attention to me:

“Franklin said there was nothing brought up by independent candidate Dennis Blank that he is considering adopting during his next four years. “What was his plan?” Franklin said. “There is nothing he brought to the table.”” 

Unlike the mayor, I brought something to the table at every meeting, debate, doorstep and telephone call. This link will take you to a list of a dozen or so specific ideas I proposed during the campaign. Can anyone think of a single thing Doug promised to do the next four years? I cannot, but now that the election is over he does name some things he plans to do.

sheep1bThese include developing the East Market Street Medical Corridor and marketing the downtown Peninsula area into a mixed use opportunity for growth. Wow. These two items were suggested to the mayor as priority projects more than three years ago by the Resident Advisory Committee, of which I was a member.

After years of trying, we were unable to get the mayor to do anything to move these projects forward, and the committee disbanded earlier this year in frustration over Doug’s unwillingness to act. On Sunday I heard from two other former RAC members who are furious that Doug would claim these ideas as his own.

Meanwhile, while Doug did nothing, Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership got the Kent State School of Architecture to give us some ideas for developing the Peninsula. The Robins Project students from New York’s New School did something similar. Both outcomes were presented to the city in detail at formal events that drew hundred of local residents. Doug couldn’t be bothered to attend. The Peninsula project in particular is something I wrote and talked about repeatedly, but there seems to be nothing Doug won’t take credit for when he thinks he won’t be challenged.

Doug closed by promising to do everything he can to reduce violent crime, even though during the campaign he claimed to have already reduced it by 80% during his time in office; a claim that the Vindicator proved was the biggest lie of all.

I plan to challenge these public lies whenever I hear them, for which I’m sure I’ll be accused, by some, of being a poor loser or worse; but it has to be done.

I had the privilege to get to know many you these past months. You are not sheep. Don’t be fleeced. Speak out at city council. Call your councilperson and tell them you want progress. Write to the Tribune and demand better.

We can do better.

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Are you stupid or just ungrateful?


stupid-boyApparently the Franklin election campaign has not ended. As an observer said to me recently, “What a bunch of poor winners. They can’t believe 45% of people voted against them, so now they are going to pretend those voters don’t matter.”

First, John Robertson, one of the mayor’s political cronies writes a letter to the Tribune for publication fives days after the election, in which he claims without substantiation of his own that I made:

“…unsubstantiated statements from the sidelines. Statements that stem from inexperience that feed to the lack of knowledge of his followers.” 

In other words, Dr. John thinks that if you voted for me you are stupid. Now this morning, in a front page interview, Mayor Franklin states:

“There were some disappointments in terms of people who benefited from my tenure…who went the other way for no good reason. This election should have been a cake walk.”

So, if you didn’t vote for Doug and Enzo’s unique form of civic governance, you failed to recognize what was in your own best interest (you are stupid) or you are just plain ungrateful. Get with the program people. This is Warren. You aren’t permitted to have you own opinion on how the city is run. I’ll have plenty more to say about the mayor’s interview later.

Below is my letter in response to Dr. John. An edited version of it appears in today’s Tribune; they apparently felt it necessary to remove my observation that his PhD is in neither mathematics nor economics and that he is a self-professed partisan supporter of Mayor Franklin, as he stated in his letter.

Dear Editor,

In response to John Robertson’s letter which appeared last Sunday, it should be noted the Dr. Robertson did not receive his PhD in either mathematics or economics, and that he is a self-professed partisan supporter of Mayor Franklin.

Dr. Robertson made a number of incorrect and misleading statements in his letter. Like so many politicians, he tries to convince us that two plus two doesn’t really equal four, and that those of us outside government aren’t sophisticated enough to understand the complexity of government accounting.

Here is what I actually said during the campaign, which are easily verified facts: When Mayor Hank Angelo left office at the end of 2003 he left the city with a $3.5 million surplus in the General Fund, from which most city services, including police and fire, are paid. The budget doesn’t label this surplus a “rainy day fund” — I called it that during the mayoral debate because it is a term in common use which most people understand for what it is.

During Mayor O’Brien’s eight years in office the surplus was depleted by more than half to $1.6 million. During Mr. Franklin’s first three years in office he spent the remaining surplus down to just $48,000, and he has continued spending. By August of this year the General Fund had a negative operating cash balance, which is still the case.

The Mayor kept the city solvent through the election by not paying its bills. This is common knowledge in the Warren business community; a number of local business have stopped extending credit to the city, and one had to appeal to City Council members to get more than $80,000 paid to them, which was six months overdue.

This situation has been a slow motion train wreck; it has been developing for more than a decade and is common knowledge. But inside Warren’s one-party echo chamber they have pretended it isn’t so. And now Dr. Robertson is trying to persuade you to close your eyes and believe along with them.

Unfortunately reality has a way of asserting itself in the end. 

Dennis Blank


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