Saturday, October 18, 2014

Election Endorsements - 2014


There are no Senate elections this year.

U. S. Congress, District 11: Marcia Fudge is the incumbent, and has held the office since the death of Stephanie Tubbs Jones in 2008.  She has represented the interests of her district with integrity.  Her opponent is a graphic designer with no experience in public service.  I recommend Fudge’s reelection.


GovernorJohn Kasich has been, by most standards, a mediocre governor – and that’s a generous assessment.  Ohio still lags behind much of the nation in job growth, despite his much touted JobsOhio initiative –the executive board of which is loaded with political cronies.  (It must be noted, the improvements seen in Cleveland over the last two decades happened under the auspices of Democratic County and City administrations.)  While Kasich boasts of a balanced state budget and income tax cuts (aimed at the top income brackets), he avoids mention that it comes at the cost of a sales tax hike and cuts to state aid for cities, which local municipalities have counted on since 1934.  Since cities have had to enact tax increases to make up the shortfall, on balance most Ohioans are paying the same or more taxes than in the past – unless you’re very rich.  This is the same trickle-down economics that have increased the gap between rich and poor and have squeezed the middle class – and it’s hurting places like South Euclid.

Ed FitzGerald has had a rapid rise up the political ladder.  One short year after he moved back to Cleveland from Washington, DC, he was elected to Lakewood City Council, becoming that city’s Mayor in 2008, Cuyahoga County executive in 2010, now running for Governor.  FitzGerald reminds me of all too many co-workers I’ve encountered over the past 30 years; people who are too busy aiming for their next promotion to do their jobs.  Inevitably, people such as these leave a mess in their wake and FitzGerald is no exception.  He has been secretive about his comings and goings as county Executive, used a county employee to vet political donations, and drove for several years without a valid license.

Much has been made of these controversies surrounding FitzGerald, while the media has continually looked away from Kasich’s use of JobsOhio as a holding ground for political cronies.  As a case in point, the media covered with salacious interest an incident when FitzGerald was questioned by police while a woman was in his car.  But no mention has been made of long standing rumors that Kasich, who was divorced from 1980-1997, was in an intimate relationship with his male chief of staff – with whom he also shared a home.  It goes without mentioning that Kasich holds anti-gay political positions.

Even though I agree with many of FitzGerald’s political positions, his foibles continue to nag me.  Ohio does not need another laughingstock politician to replace the recently deceased James Traficant.   Therefore, I am offering NO endorsement for Governor.

Attorney General:  Mike DeWine is the incumbent.  DeWine is a career politician who has been in politics since 1976. He has spent most of his time as Attorney General feathering his own nest and denying marriage rights to same-sex couples.  I endorse his opponent, David Pepper.

Auditor:  David Yost is the incumbent.  For the record, he is a Republican although personally I believe the Auditor’s office and elections should be non-partisan.  Yost has lauded South Euclid’s city government for maintaining its finances despite a challenging economy (and, I might add, his boss’s decision to slash $800,000 in state aid).  Yost is a rarity, a public servant who puts his job before his party, and I urge Yost’s reelection.  

Secretary of State: The primary job of the Secretary of State is to supervise Ohio’s elections and ensure fairness.  Despite the slick ads being run by John Husted’s campaign, the incumbent has spent the last four years making it harder for poor and minority voters to exercise this precious Constitutional right.  I endorse his opponent, Nina Turner.

Treasurer: The incumbent, Josh Mandel, has brought dishonor to Ohio since he ran a mendacious campaign against Senator Sherrod Brown in 2012.  He has also stocked his office staff with political cronies and his fellow frat boys.  It’s time for him to exit public office – permanently.  I endorse his opponent, Connie Pilich.

Cuyahoga County

Executive:  A few days ago, I saw old George Voinovich on TV endorsing his friend Jack Schron, the Republican candidate for county executive.  While the retired career politician droned away, footage of Ed FitzGerald appeared.  It may interest some to know that FitzGerald is not a candidate for county executive, but if you need to tour your candidate by referring to another politician who’s not part of the equation, it brings to mind the relevance of the candidate you’re endorsing.  It would be like Hillary Clinton running against Ronald Reagan.  Schron’s campaign has lacked specifics, instead trying to “feel-good” his way to victory.  But when his own campaign website refers to Natural Gas as an “alternative fuel”, he tips his hand as yet another Republican who will be controlled by big money and corporatism.  Armond Budish is not a partisan, career politician as Voinovich implied.  Until 2006, he worked as an attorney who advocated for the elderly and consumers.  He continued working for ordinary working people in the Ohio House of Representatives, and I am confident he will continue to do so as County Executive.  I encourage Cuyahoga voters to support Budish.

Council, district 11:  Sunny Simon hails from South Euclid and has served her first term on county council with distinction.  Simon is a realist who leads with an eye on the long term benefits to the people of her district and to the planet in general.  As part of that, she was the incorporator of TeMPO – which is aimed at preserving the Telling Mansion after the library leaves.  While a number of local politicians either ignored the Library controversy, or attended a few TeMPO meetings and did nothing concrete, Simon has regularly attended meetings, advised the group on how to move forward in applying for grants to renovate the Mansion, and has helped put together a plan of action for maintaining the Mansion as a viable space going forward.  Simon also pushed for and obtained a domestic partnership for county resident and same-sex domestic partner benefits for county employees.  Even though I am employed by a private company (which just so happens to provide such benefits) and not covered by this legislation, as a gay man I’m very appreciative of the support Simon has shown for our community.

Her opponent, John Currid, hails from New Jersey and moved to South Euclid a few years ago.  He has not served in elected office before.  In fact, I can find nothing Currid has done relating to public service – even volunteer work.  Currid’s lack of experience shows in a number of posts on his campaign website.  For example, he’s called for removing Ohio from Common Core educational standards, railing against them as “anti-American” and “anti-Israel” – one of the Tea Party’s prime talking points.  But the Cuyahoga County council has nothing to do with public education, so how does he propose to stop common core within the Constitutional boundaries of the office he seeks?  Currid has also derided Simon’s proposal to eliminate non-biodegradable plastic bags as “San Francisco liberalism”, which brings to mind what John F. Kennedy said of Liberalism: “If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people-their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties-someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal", then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal.”  The truth is, many forward thinking municipalities have been doing away with these bags and NorthEast Ohio would benefit by getting ahead of the curve – instead of falling behind as usual.

Currid’s main accomplishment in South Euclid has been forming the South Euclid Republican Club.  While I have written of the need for more political diversity in South Euclid, Currid’s brand of Tea-Party Republicanism is the very thing that has degraded the political debate in the United States, and is part of the reason why the Republicans remain doomed to minority status in Cuyahoga County in the foreseeable future.  While there are local Republicans who are worthy of office, and I’ve even endorsed some of them in the past, John Currid does not belong to that select group.     

Simon deserves to be reelected.

Ohio State Senate, District 25: Kenny Yuko has served ably in the Ohio House of Representatives and deserves to be elevated to the State Senate.

Ohio House of Representatives, District 8: Kent Smith is running to succeed Armond Budish and would carry on in his tradition.  His opponent, Mikhail Alterman, is a hard-right Tea-Party type who makes John Currid seem like a moderate.  I urge voters to support Kent Smith.

Ballot issues:

Issue 6: Tax Levy for Cuyahoga County College.  They are really putting property owners to the screws here, because this not only renews the existing 1.2 mill levy, but also tacks on an increase of .9 mills.  It would have been more ethical to ask for the mill increase in a separate ballot issue.  CCC claims this is to improve college education.  But my experience working at a college leads me to believe much of the additional levy will go to administrative overhead.  I reluctantly urge a No vote.

Issue 11: This common sense issue requires a two year residency requirement for County Executive and Council members.  I urge a Yes vote.

Issue 12: This would remove the County Executive and fiscal officer from the audit committee, and replace them with a council member and citizen approved by council.  Since council appropriates money, oversight should be managed by another branch – and the fiscal officer should always remain as the responsible party.  I urge a No vote.

Issue 13: Allows the County Charter Review committee an additional three months to appoint and confirm officers.  I urge a Yes vote.

Issue 14:  Republicans across the country have tried to make it harder for people to vote, all in the name of preventing voter fraud.  They will never admit, and the media has been shamefully lax in reporting, than voter fraud has not been a serious matter in any election over the last 50 years – while voter suppression has reared its ugly head in every election since 2000.  I strongly urge a Yes vote.

South Euclid City CharterPeriodically, city charters require review. This is done by a nine member elected panel.  I am endorsing eight candidates which constitute, in my opinion, a good balance between experienced elected officials and citizens. 
  • Dennis Fiorelli
  • Marty Gelfand
  • David Miller
  • Diane Mullally
  • Moe Romeo
  • Mark Sanderson
  • Robert Schoenewald
  • Georgine Welo

There are several other candidates on the ballot.  Frankly I don’t know most of them well enough to speak to their qualifications, but I caution South Euclidians against voting for Grant McCallum, who is a flat-out Tea-Partier who is merely looking for personal political gain. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Nelson Freire on Columbia Masterworks

Sony has just reissued Nelson Freire's complete Columbia recordings, made when he was a clean shaven young Brazilian. Click here to read my review.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The expansion of Marriage Equality

Today's decision by the Supreme Court to decline hearing appeals in seven marriage cases clears the way for recognition of same sex marriage in eleven more states - meaning there will be a total of 30 states (and the District of Columbia) which honor marriage equality. Here are two maps which detail the current, and rapidly changing situation. The second map, which resizes each state according to population, is particularly illustrative.


But where is Ohio? Arguments were heard in the Sixth Circuit court in August pertaining to several marriage cases. If the court rules in favor of marriage recognition, it's unlikely a stay will be granted. Full marriage equality across all 50 states can't happen too soon.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ken Burns' The Roosevelts

Ken Burns' magnificent 14 hour documentary The Roosevelts has been issued on Blu-ray. Click here to read my review.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Reflections on Gay Games 2014

The Federation of Gay Games took a leap of faith when they chose Cleveland and Akron to host the 2014 Games, bypassing such larger cities as Boston, Washington, DC, and Miami. 

Make no mistake: Ohio is a right-of-center state.  Not extremist like Kansas or Mississippi, but certainly no Massachusetts or California either.  Same-sex marriage remains unrecognized here, and with the exception of a few forward thinking municipalities, you can still be fired from your job for being gay.  I’ve stated it before and will do so again: the thing I like least about our city is that it’s part of Ohio.  At times, I wish the Cleveland-Columbus corridor could secede from Ohio and form our own state; West Connecticut, perhaps.  That said, Ohio’s anti-gay element largely remained at home and vented their homophobia in the comments section, save for one lonely sign-holder, Courtney Hayes of Washington, DC, seen on the corner of East 9th and Lakeside.  

I find it amusing that the Cuyahoga County GOP is portraying itself as open because it did not oppose the Gay Games coming to Cleveland.  In essence, the GOP position is: “Come to Northeast Ohio and spend your money here, but don’t expect your marriage to be recognized and if you move here, it will be legal to fire you from your job for being gay.  Better yet, just come here, spend your money, and leave.”  I hope Northeast Ohio’s LGBT voters will bear that in mind this November.

The people of Cleveland proved that we’re up to the task of hosting the Gay Games with style and a sense of friendliness that would have left the other contenders in the dust.  Attendees from all areas of the country – indeed the world – commented on what a fine city Cleveland is and how friendly the people here are.  One attendee from England summed it up nicely when he told me “Every negative thing I’ve heard about Cleveland over the years is a bloody lie – this is a lovely city”.  I think one of the reasons why the games were so successful here is that Northeast Ohio – and Cleveland in particular – were hungry to prove they could host, with distinction, an event which drew people from the world, and thus demonstrate to the world that the Cleveland of burning rivers, a deserted and deserted downtown, and defeatism are part of a past which has deservedly been buried.  I doubt Boston, Miami, or the District of Columbia would have been so hungry to please.

The welcoming atmosphere was enhanced by the many local organizations that lent their support.  Among these was the Cleveland Orchestra, which performed aconcert at Severance Hall that was attended by many GG9 participants.  This was part of the orchestra’s Summers at Severance series, where they played an abbreviated program (one hour, with no intermission), serving cocktails before, and with a party afterward.  The all-Beethoven program included the Creatures of Prometheus Overture, Symphony No. 4, and the ChoralFantasy.  I was amused by the reaction of the largely out of town audience, which applauded between the Symphony’s movements.  At one point, I overheard a couple from New York, praising the visual and aural beauty of Severance Hall, and commiserating about how poorly the New York Philharmonic sounded compared to the Cleveland Orchestra.  It was all well played, of course, but I was left wondering about the program:  Beethoven is certainly easy to market, but wouldn’t it have been more appropriate to include LGBT composers, like Tchaikovsky and Barber?

There was another area where there was room for improvement: There were no food concessions at the Cleveland Convention Center, despite all-day events there.  Nor were any of Cleveland’s renowned food trucks to be seen.  Since outside food was prohibited at the Center, participants and spectators were compelled to trek to nearby locations – impractical when the weather didn’t cooperate.  Ironically, food trucks and increased food concessions were in evidence at the festival area on Mall C during the closing ceremonies, by which time a number of the participants had left.

It has been reported that the attendance was lighter than at previous Gay Games in Chicago and Cologne.  This is not surprising.  I’d wager that most of the reduction in attendance was not from the athletes, but from those for whom the Gay Games are more of a party and a week-long opportunity to “hook-up.”  Certainly, all the team athletic events we attended appeared to have a full complement of participants.  But there is a certain breed of gay man who exists only to party, and I saw a number of those over this past week.  I spotted one such person as we made our way to the opening ceremony at the Q.  He was wearing a cut-off tank top, flip-flops, and sweat shorts so skimpy I was tempted to ask him if he’d dare dress that way in front of his mother.  Then there were the 40 and 50-somethings who were trying (and failing) to pass for their counterparts of a younger generation.  There’s little in life as tragic as an aging boy-toy.  They reminded me of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, concealing her age with ten inches of makeup.  While such characters as Desmond are regarded as camp icons, let us remember the character herself is delusional, homicidal, and not someone to emulate.  (In similar fashion, it’s amusing to see angry white men post pictures of Howard Beale in “I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore” mode, not realizing the character is a suicidal paranoiac who’s being used as a tool by his corporate masters.)

But I digress.  Let's get back to the subject at hand, the Gay Games.

Dan & I attended a number of the athletic events, particularly volleyball where the Puerto Rico Golden Boys earned the division Gold medal. 
We also saw the wrestling clinic where Hudson Taylor was a special guest.  It was moving to see this straight founder of Athlete Ally speak with simple eloquence about acceptance of gays in the sports world. 

Northeast Ohio’s successful hosting of the Gay Games augers well for the 2016 RepublicanNational Convention.  While I don’t plan on supporting their ticket, I’m delighted they’ve chosen Cleveland; to quote their former party leader, “Bring ‘em on”.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Lazar Berman on DG

Deutsche Grammophone has reissued Lazar Berman's complete recordings with that company. Click here to read my review

Monday, July 28, 2014

Nature versus Music at Blossom

Saturday evening, Dan & I made the journey to Blossom Music Center to hear a mixed concert with the Cleveland Orchestra, their featured soloist Stephen Hough, along with the Kent/Blossom Chamber Orchestra.  It was a memorable concert.

I will confess that, even though Blossom is one of the premiere outdoor locations for concerts, I am not overly fond of the outdoor concert concept – particularly as it pertains to Classical music.  Weather was a distraction at a Blossom concert we attended last year.  This year, the main reason I went was to hear Stephen Hough – one of my favorite living pianists.  This was the fifth time I’ve heard him in person and the third time at Blossom.  I wish the orchestra would bring him to Severance Hall more often.  Before the concert began, I briefly observed Hough consulting with the piano technician about the pedals of the piano – who made several adjustments while Hough tried out various passages.

The concert began earlier than usual, at 7pm, with a performance by the Kent/Blossom orchestra, primarily made of music students.  Led by Brett Mitchell, the performances of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll and Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin were on a high level – only some uncertain string intonation revealed that a student orchestra was playing.  The Siegfried Idyll possessed a remarkable sense of stillness, with expansive phrasing and a slower than usual tempo.  Le tombeau de Couperin bathed the listener in piquant harmonies and the emergence and submergence of orchestral textures. As with many pieces, Ravel wrote both piano and orchestral versions of this memorial to Couperin.  I’ve long held the piano versions of many of Ravel’s piano works in high esteem, but I prefer the orchestral in this piece.

After a brief intermission, the Cleveland Orchestra was onstage to begin the concert with Beethoven’s Overture to Fidelio, in a taut performance led by John Storgårds.  This was the fourth overture Beethoven wrote for his only opera, which was initially called Leonore and had a difficult performance history.  While observing the strings play several intricate passages, it occurred to me that the composer probably worked these sections out on the piano before he orchestrated the piece.  They would sit well under the hand if played on the piano.

There was a bit of musical chairs while the orchestra shifted to accommodate the piano.  Then, Hough strode onstage and began the most memorable part of the concert.  The orchestra began the very brief tutti for Liszt’s Piano Concerto No.1 in E-flat major, followed by Hough’s crisply pedaled rendition of the work's bravura opening passage.  About two minutes into the piece, as Hough was playing a poetic transitional passage, I saw what I thought was a flashbulb to my left.  As I was about to turn my head to glare down the photographer, I heard a tremendous BLAM! – realizing it wasn’t a flashbulb, but a lightning strike just outside the pavilion.  Audience and orchestra were startled, and even Hough reflexively ducked.  A lesser performer might have started over, but Hough never took his hands off the keyboard.  Instead, he preceded to a high trill and held it while the audience calmed down.  The performance then continued while low rumbling thunder served as reminder that, at the end of the day, Mother Nature does what she does.  The Liszt is not an easy concerto to perform.  It seems all too many pianists either turn it into a display for technical trickery, while others drain the life out of it to make it sound “musical” – and then there are those (who shall remain nameless) who can’t play the piece but insist on doing so anyway.  Hough has the chops to dispatch the work’s technical hurdles – wide octave leaps, repeated notes, staccato jumps – while giving poetry to the concerto’s nocturne-like sections.  The discreet pedaling (in a concerto where many pianists bluff through difficult sections by holding the sustaining pedal down) demonstrated why Hough worked with the technician before the concert.  It was thrilling from beginning to end, and the audience rightly rewarded soloist and orchestra with a standing ovation.  This was a performance that gave life to the maxim “the show must go on” and indeed it did as we were favored with an encore.  I’ve long held Hough in high esteem as a pianist and musician, but Saturday night he demonstrated his grace under pressure and nerves of steel.  (Hough has also recorded this concerto, which I heartily recommend.)  

Following intermission, the Kent/Blossom orchestra joined the Cleveland Orchestra for a joint performance of Sibelius’ Second Symphony.  Here’s where I will confess that I am not a huge Sibelius fan – not that I dislike his music, but it simply does not particularly stir me.  Nevertheless, the work’s massive orchestral textures benefited from the “super-sized” orchestra.  While students sat side-by-side with the orchestra’s tenured players, one had a sense of great traditions being passed on.