Dark Satanic Mills
The Rise of Cleveland
Lorain County Jobs
FEATURE ARTICLE from The Morning Journal, 1-5-03, By RON VIDIKA, Morning Journal Writer
[Electric Streetcar History]
``LORAIN -- It all began when Tom Johnson, father of Lorain's steel mill, came to town and bought up all of the horsedrawn streetcars in 1894. He basically unhitched the horse and plugged in electric current.
Lorain's electric streetcar history is a rich and colorful one, as illustrated by Al Doane, who is considered to be one of the best Lorain historians. Doane has assembled a 90-slide presentation of the impact of the interurban electric streetcar in the lifeblood of Lorain County from the turn of the 19th century to 1938, when automobiles and buses became the kings of the mountain.
Streetcars were run by overhead electric lines that fed power to the car through long rods on top of the car that carried the current to its motor. Back then, it was a normal sight to see white and blue sparks shooting out as the streetcar whizzed down the tracks.
''About 90 percent of the population would ride the streetcar, to move most anyplace around town and around the county,'' said Doane.
For example, a ride down 28th Street to Grove Avenue on the Lorain-Elyria line took one to Elyria. The Loop, as it was called, was the area at Broadway and Erie Avenue from where the streetcars would begin and finish a ''loop'' around the city.
''It looped around the main residential section of Lorain,'' said Doane.
''You'd go up Broadway to 21st Street to Washington Avenue to Oberlin Avenue to West Erie and back down again to the Loop. They called it the beltline,'' said Doane.
To show just how pervasive the public reliance was on electric streetcars, Doane discussed a streetcar called ''Dolores,'' known as the ''funeral car.''
''The Cleveland-Southwestern Streetcar Line saw it as a way to make money and help people out by using a streetcar with big double doors on one side. They would rent the car to funeral directors,'' said Doane.
''Back then, funerals were held in homes for showing and then the body was taken to church for a final service. Dolores would set out in front of the church. The casket was then placed in the streetcar. It headed south down Broadway to Penfield Junction, which was at North Ridge Road and South Broadway,'' said Doane.
Dolores would then turn west down North Ridge Road, past Calvary and Elmwood cemeteries.
''Dolores was met by a four-wheeled carriage at the cemetery,'' said Doane. ''The casket was placed into the carriage, which pulled it to the burial plot. In Elmwood Cemetery, they had a chapel made and the casket was placed in the lower part of the chapel in cold, inclement weather. A handcrank elevator would take the casket to the lower part of the chapel in case the winter ground was too hard. It would be stored there until the ground thawed out,'' said Doane.
To this day, evidence still exists that reveals the heyday of the electric streetcar in and around Lorain.
Near Penton's Market on North Ridge Road in Amherst Township, ''there are homes to the north where you can see the remains of a streetcar bridge going over a little stream when the tracks used to run west to Amherst, to Lincoln Street. In the winter when the leaves are gone, there's a little bridge abutment that can still be seen at the stream.''
''The Lorain passenger station used to be located where the Broadway Building is now,'' across from City Hall, said Doane. ''If you look at the blacktop on Erie Avenue just north of Broadway, you can see the curvature of a former streetcar track.''
Traces of streetcar history can also be found out west in Vermilion.
''Across from the Vermilion Boat Club on Liberty Avenue is a brick building that once was the passenger station for the city,'' said Doane.
''You could buy candy, cigars and cigarettes at the station while waiting for your streetcar to come,'' said Doane.
The Vermilion-bound streetcar would make regular summertime stops at the old Crystal Beach Amusement Park and Linwood Park.
Streetcars would often zip along at today's expressway speeds.
''The cars would zoom along at 60 or 70 miles per hour,'' said Doane, ''from Rocky River to Lorain. That streetcar heading westerly had a clear shot to make time and get up to speed to make the trip in about an hour.'' Yet another piece of streetcar history still exists, albeit in the form of a destination.
''Opposite the CEI (electric) plant in Avon Lake, in back of the shopping center, there was the Lakeshore Electric Passenger Station. From there, you walked to Beach Park, where CEI is today. There was a dance hall there and a picnic grove. My dad's friend met his future wife at that dance hall,'' said Doane.
Often, as in Vermilion, the electric motors powering the streetcars would suck up so much power that it affected the city lights.
''When the streetcar went down Liberty Avenue in Vermilion, street lights would go dim from the car drawing on so much power,'' said Doane.
Just west of Vermilion, about 500 feet from the intersection of SR 61 and Lake Road, a site that used to be called Ceylon Junction, there still exists a little block building that once known as the Ceylon Junction Ticket Office, said Doane.
But not all the business was about shuffling people from one destination to another. At a streetcar station in Huron, Doane said a car would pick up iced fish from fish houses and sauerkraut from a plant in Huron.
As the streetcar headed west toward Sandusky, Doane said it would pass by primitive public sleeping quarters made from round whiskey barrels. The car stopped in the center of Sandusky just before the waterfront on Front Street.
Doane said his interest in electric streetcars is something he's had since he was a child.
''We were raised on West Erie Avenue, about five houses west of Oberlin Avenue,'' said Doane. ''Streetcars always ran in front of our house. My grandfather, Clarence Doane, was a passenger agent at the Lorain streetcar station. And my parents, Carlin and Olive Doane, taught me everything about streetcars.''
Looking to the future of mass transit for the city, Doane discussed a proposal by the Lorain Port Authority.
''Their proposal is to have a computer rail service from Vermilion to Lorain to Cleveland, with the transportation hub located at Black River Landing, to bring renewed life to the city,'' said Doane.
For further information on Doane's electric streetcar slide show, call him at 440-244-2156.''
FEATURE ARTICLE from PRESERVATION, 2000, By MICHAEL DIRDA, Senior editor at the Washington Post
"And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills?"
Even now, when I haven't lived in Lorain, Ohio, for more than 30 years, I still think of it not only as home but also as a strangely magical place. Isn't there, after all, a kind of Iron Age romance to deteriorating industrial towns? Eyes closed, I see the puffing smokestacks of National Tube, the slag heaps guarding Black River, those ponderous lake freighters cautiously docking near the jackknife bridge, and of course, Lake View Park, with its antiaircraft guns, rose garden, and giant Easter basket, all on the eroding shores of the blue and polluted Erie.
Even now, I can feel the bumpy B&O railroad tracks crossing Oberlin Avenue, touch the soft accumulation of grit on cars parked along Pearl Avenue, taste the cherry vanilla at the long-gone Home Dairy ice cream company. So many places there linger in the memory - St. Stanislaus Church, where Polish fishermen attended 5 a.m. Mass, the Czech Grill, the Abruzzi Club, the Slovak Hall, Pulaski Park. Who can doubt that I grew up in what sociologists would quickly label "a classic midwestern Rust Belt city"?
Sweet Lorain, as poet Bruce Weigl http://www.lorain.lib.oh.us/localauthors/bruce_weigl.html called it in his recent book of poems. Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison http://www.lorain.lib.oh.us/localauthors/tonimorrison.html was born and educated there, and so was Gen. Johnnie Wilson, the highest-ranking African-American in the U.S. military until his retirement. Comedian Don Novello, a.k.a. Father Guido Sarducci, grew up there.
My high school was named after favorite son Adm. Ernest J. King, commander of the fleet during World War II. It was rumored that Admiral King High School boasted - le mot juste - the highest rate of juvenile delinquency in the state. Might well have been true, since many of my classmates belonged to "clubs" such as Bachelors, Dukes, Barons, Cavaliers, Southerners (denoting South Lorain), Islets, Stylers (for guys with a particular interest in souped-up cars), and Bishops (black kids only). There were girl gangs, too - Emeralds, Rainbows, Junior Gems. And at least a third of AKHS was African-American or Hispanic: Following the Second World War, U.S. Steel had recruited 500 Puerto Ricans to come work at National Tube.
Need I say that we fielded powerhouse football and basketball teams? Go Admirals! "Industrial Empire in Ohio's Vacationland" - so proclaimed a sign as one entered the Lorain city limits. It's not there any more. I suppose the local solons realized how ludicrous it must have seemed after Thew Shovel moved away and American Shipbuilding shut down and Japan's Kobe Steel bought National Tube, reducing a work force of 13,000 to 2,000, and Lake Erie was declared unsafe for bathing, and its perch and white bass dangerous to eat.
But, amazingly, Lorain seems to have survived. As Ohio's "International City," there's still a festival each year, with an international princess and a fair where one can eat kielbasa and piroghi and souvlaki and tacos and cannoli. One year booths sold T-shirts emblazoned with your choice of ethnic heritage: "I'm Polish and Proud," "I'm Italian and Proud," I'm Mexican and Proud." Little wonder that I was at least 12 before it dawned on me that not everyone in the world was Catholic.
Almost everybody's father was a laborer, putting in long, sweaty hours on the line at the Ford Assembly Plant or down at the mill, as National Tube was called. Many men worked turns, seven to three one week, three to 11 the next, 11 to seven following that - and most leaped at the chance to earn time and a half for an extra four or eight hours.
During a couple of summers I suffered through a grinding routine like this, one year as a bricklayer's helper relining vessels and furnaces, another as a laborer in the rolling mill. Everyone knows that steel mills are volcanically hot and perilous, but you have no idea how deafening they are when behemoth machinery is hammering gigantic ingots into long, round pipes. And the air! Sometimes I could see graphite particles gently floating around me, and would wade through half an inch of fine gray dust on a floor that had been swept clean eight hours before.
At other times, I used to work in tunnels underground, in a crepuscular half-light, shoveling up loose slabs of ore - the outside scale that had fallen from cooling ingots - and then upend my loaded wheelbarrow into buckets the size of conversion vans, which would be hauled away by distant, overhead cranes. Laved with sweat trapped inside green asbestos clothing, often wearing a respirator to protect my lungs, I would occasionally stumble across a retarded coworker sitting in the dark behind a mound of slag, talking excitedly to imaginary companions. For one memorable week, in this realm of Moloch, I even debated election and damnation with a young born-again fundamentalist who had dreams of going to Bible college.
To me, it was all overpowering, awesome, even sublime - but I knew I wouldn't be spending my life there, as my father had and his father before him. Yet sometimes, at two or three in the morning, I'd find myself high up in 4-seamless or one of the other sections of the plant, and I'd look out at the stacks with their flaming gases, smell the rotten-egg odor of the pickling vats, and survey the Piranesi-like ramparts and ladders and rusting buildings.
One felt like Satan surveying the immeasurable expanse of hell. What better place, I thought, to argue about free will and the afterlife? For religion was important in Lorain, which had once been called Ohio's "city of churches." In the summer there were church picnics, with Tilt-a-whirls, raffles, and seared pigs or sheep slowly roasting on revolving spits. One day a year the priest would come to bless your house, accept a cup of coffee, and taste your nut roll.
Sad-eyed ladies of the Altar Society would clean and decorate for holy days. Serious children, in ill-fitting suits and pretty, ruffled white dresses, would march in processions to receive their first holy communion, or the Knights of Columbus would parade in uniform and salute with uplifted swords. Someone would always faint during midnight Mass, finally overcome by the incense.
Naturally, there were fish fries on Friday at the K of C hall. On Ash Wednesday half the townspeople sported gray smudges on their foreheads. At Christmas families would gather at the union headquarters - the AFL-CIO - and hear rousing speeches, especially if a strike threatened, then sing carols and line up to receive a special gift from Santa. In the evenings one might go shopping downtown, already starting to decay the mid 1960s, and buy some Faroh's chocolates or stop at the Ohio, Tivoli, or Palace for a movie.
Back in the '20s a tornado had touched down one Saturday afternoon killing 15 moviegoers at the State, as the Palace was then called. Those who survived would talk about it all their lives. Out at the first big shopping center, called O'Neill's after its department store, year after year one could chat with a gigantic talking Christmas tree. Afterward, a father might drive his wife and sleepy children around the town so that they could ooh and ah at all the lights and decorations.
At holidays mothers would cook all morning and take stuffed cabbage or lechvar cookies on afternoon social calls that would sometimes last into the evening. Uncles would drink shots and beers, grow jovial, then start dealing poker around a kitchen table. Little kids would play tag or hide-and-seek, teenagers might flirt, and I, a bookish little boy, would plop down in a corner and read about Tarzan while munching on a ham sandwich with sweet pickles, as happy as I will ever be.
Sometimes my Uncle Henry would take out his battered concertina and we would all dance or pretend to dance in his kitchen. At other enchanted times, an older cousin might show off his new bow or .22 rifle, and even allow a four-eyed pipsqueak to sight down its smooth, black barrel. To wander around Lorain was always an adventure.
A kid could climb on his bike and cover the entire town in a single summer afternoon. You might start by pedaling up to the shanty in Central Park where you could sign out basketballs, checkerboards, and frames for weaving potholders or lanyards. Then you might race up to Hawthorne Junior High, where I once received not one but two black eyes in a street fight with a kid named Andy. Then over to Broadway, past the Music Center, where we all took accordion lessons, and up toward Rusine's cigar store, where you could buy racy paperbacks wrapped in cellophane, and on to Cane's Surplus, where a boy might admire the folding slingshots and stilettos.
By crossing the jackknife bridge to the East Side you could swing by the shipyards and then take the long vertiginous span of the 21st Street bridge and peer down at the inky water of the river or across to the mountains of slag and coke. Afterward you might turn up 28th Street, lined with ethnic bars, tailor and shoe-repair shops, and mom-and-pop eateries.
If you went far enough, traveling under the rail overpass, you'd ride into South Lorain, up to the aging YMCA, a monumental red-brick building. From near there you could sometimes glimpse elephantine Euclid trucks lumbering around inside the mill, but before long you'd probably set out for Pearl Avenue to stop at Clarice's Values, the apotheosis of all possible junk shops, from which Clarice herself would sell you, for a mere 50 cents, all the books you could carry away. Then past St. Vitus Church, where we played on the steps before Saturday catechism class, on to dilapidated Oakwood shopping center, and then, probably, a turn down one of the graveled side roads.
On one lived my Uncle Steve and Aunt Anna, on another Uncle Henry and Aunt Alice. This latter house gloried in a paradise of rusting steel - old cars, broken engines, metal barrels, bundles of wire - and a chicken shed and a park-sized swing set.
In the summers I would visit my slightly older cousin Henry, and we would trudge up to the railroad tracks a quarter mile away and bring back, in wooden wheelbarrows, hunks of coal, scraps of lumber, or even lengths of railroad tie for my uncle's wood-burning furnace. In exchange, he would disburse a nickel pack of BBs for each load - at least until this foolish soul plinked out the street light in front of the house. It was a particularly important light because it helped illuminate the grassy corner lot where half the neighborhood would assemble for softball games on soft summer nights.
Does all this sound idyllic? Well, it should. Bliss was it in Lorain to be alive, but to be young was very heaven. Even adolescence was intermittently endurable. Playing cards on Friday evenings in Lethargy Hall, as we called my friend Ray's basement; cruising up and down Broadway in our friend Tom's 1964 GTO, L'il Blue Tiger; necking ecstatically in Lake View Park with a Saturday night date - how could anyone better spend the confused and angst-ridden years of high school?
All around my friends and me the great world hummed, but Lorain remained its own place, homey and human-scaled, living for football games at George Daniel Field and carnivals at shopping centers and parades on the Fourth of July and long, slow beers, sipped by tired steelworkers, slouching in Adirondack chairs in oak-tree shaded back yards.
Certainly, I mythologize. Perhaps more than a bit. Childhood can be a golden age no matter where it is spent. And yet, Toni Morrison regularly goes back to Lorain and in interviews expresses a similar affection for the place. Fifteen or more years ago, Gloria Emerson contributed an article about the city to Vanity Fair and later told me how much she envied anyone who could grow up in such a sturdy, honest world. And, of course, I return there still, to see my widowed mother and my sisters.
My own children spend part of their summers in Lorain with their cousins, wonderful days of baseball and hide-and-seek and swimming, and at the end of every visit they always say to me, "Dad, why can't we live in Lorain? Why do we have to go back to stupid, dull Washington?" I never quite know what to tell them. Doubtless their parents would go crazy after a couple of weeks, and obviously I have a job and their mother has a job and clearly there are a dozen really good reasons not to be in Lorain. But even now I sometimes wonder. Could I go back home, back to this ardently beloved, industrial Eden? Probably not. But like other exiles from paradise, I can murmur "Et in Arcadia ego " - I too have lived in Arcadia.
Reprinted courtesy of Preservation - the magazine of the national trust for historic preservation, copyright 2000.
The author Michael Dirda is a 1966 graduate of Admiral King High School. He graduated with highest honors in English in 1970 from Oberlin College; was a Fullbright Scholar in France from 1970 to 1971; went to graduate school from 1971 to 1975 at Cornell University, specializing in comparative literature, and received a master's degree in 1975, and a doctorate in 1977.
Dirda is a writer and senior editor at the Washington Post Book World, where he joined the staff in 1978. He and his wife, Marion Peck Dirda, originally of Youngstown, have three sons, Christopher, Michael,and Nathaniel. His mother, Christine Dirda, lives in Lorain. Dirda received the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for criticism.
FEATURE ARTICLE from The Plain Dealer, 1-8-04, By Steve Kurdziel
[The Rise of Cleveland]
``... How, initially, did Cleveland become a great city? The absence of a clear answer to this question profoundly distorts our discussions about whether or how Cleveland could be great again. Our past greatness did have a source. Cleveland became great by deliberately connecting itself to New York City and its master plan to become the greatest commercial city in the world.
The earliest evidence of Cleveland's connection to New York City was the Ohio Canal, but the link was more complex and far reaching. Though now virtually unknown, Alfred Kelley was the Clevelander who understood New York's plan and resources. Kelley almost single-handedly made Cleveland an important city.
Through Kelley's action, the combination of the Erie Canal in New York and the Ohio Canal transformed New York City from a second-tier port into the richest, most powerful city in the world. It also propelled Cleveland into the ranks of the nation's most important cities.
Kelley made Cleveland an indispensable part of New York's plan. For more than a century, Cleveland prospered because, as Kelley intended, it became a major part of New York's commercial empire. It has declined as that connection has weakened.
The first lesson contemporary Clevelanders must take from the story of Kelley and the canal is that Cleveland's past greatness was part of a plan and not random or inevitable.
When Alfred Kelley came to Cleveland in 1810 at age 20, the port of Cleveland handled just $50 worth of goods the entire year. Cleveland had only 57 residents and was one of the smallest places in the Western Reserve, the smallest and poorest section of Ohio.
But Kelley had deliberately picked Cleveland. He knew that New York was going to build a canal to Lake Erie. He also knew that to complete the grand plan, New York would need to build a canal in Ohio from the lake to the Ohio River.
Kelley's father had moved his family from Connecticut to Lowville, New York, as an investor in an early canal project. Through him, Alfred came to know the political and financial figures that were behind New York's canal strategy.
His grandmother's family, the Lords, were financial backers of one of the country's first investment banks. They had also invested in land in Connecticut's Western Reserve.
Alfred Kelley set out for Cleveland determined to help build a canal in Ohio as part of a system connected to New York. He also intended to make a profit on the land the Lords owned near the mouth of the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland. That was an extraordinary vision for Cleveland, which was described at the time as "an unhealthy swamp . . . six miles from Newburgh."
If early Cleveland had no reason to expect success, neither did New York City. In 1800, the port of New York shipped only 8 percent of all American exports. Boston, Philadelphia, Charleston, Norfolk and Baltimore all had major natural advantages over New York as a harbor.
What New York City did have, however, was the beginnings of fortune. As a result of being occupied by the British during much of the Revolution, New Yorkers accumulated British pounds, not worthless colonial dollars. New York banks established relationships with the newly emerging London investment banks -- rela tionships that war precluded in Boston or Philadelphia.
Consequently, when New Yorkers decided to make a bid for economic greatness by creating their own trading route into the center of America, they knew they could finance such an immense project. What they didn't know was how to get a canal built in Ohio.
Alfred Kelley was the linchpin. He got elected to the Ohio legislature and then became the dominant member of a commission formed to explore the idea of a canal.
As a canal commissioner, Kelley convinced Ohioans that construction costs for a canal would be paid for by New York investors, as indeed they were. He also made certain that the Ohio Canal would join Lake Erie in Cleveland, not in one of the larger, rival cities on other possible canal routes.
Kelley also made sure the Ohio Canal ended precisely on the 60-acre parcel of land near the mouth of the Cuyahoga he had purchased for $700 from his grandmother's family in 1814. (He bought that land even before he bought a home in Cleveland.)
The link between Kelley and New York's master plan was never clearer than on July 4, 1826, the day the first shovel of earth was turned in Ohio for the canal. That ceremonial shovel was not held by the governor of Ohio, but by New York governor DeWitt Clinton. Gov. Clinton was the guest of Ohio Canal Commissioner Alfred Kelley.
The second important lesson from the story of Alfred Kelley is that great historical moments such as his are usually not repeatable.
A city can often achieve greatness by devising some special way to prosper from a powerful historic force larger than itself. That is what Kelley did by connecting Cleveland to New York's rise to economic leadership in America.
But it is all too common to find examples of cities that achieved greatness for a moment and then fell back. The potent mixture of a visionary personality, a transformational event and luck that can propel a city to spectacular heights can rarely be repeated like a chemistry experiment.
No current vision of Cleveland's future claims to have found another Alfred Kelley. Nor has any current project claimed to have identified a truly transformational event from which Cleveland can uniquely profit.
Instead, there is much earnest discussion about smaller, more commonplace trends that seem to be present in countless other cities.
Happiness and a measure of success can occur in small ways and need not be unique. But we should not believe that merely duplicating ordinary projects from other cities is the way Cleveland first became great, nor is it the way to greatness in the future ... ''
History of Ohio's Canals
``By 1820 the new state of Ohio had grown to a population of 580,000 residents. The main industry of the state was agricultural. It soon became evident that the state suffered from a severe lack of reliable transportation to move its products to eastern markets. The National Road was completed only from Cumberland to Wheeling and was an expensive method of transportation. The Ohio-Mississippi river route was long and dangerous.
The opportunity to connect Ohio with the prosperous eastern markets became a reality in 1817 when New York broke ground on a canal connecting Lake Erie with the Hudson River and New York City. In 1822, the Ohio state legislature commissioned the first canal feasibility survey in an effort to bring a modern reliable transportation system to the growing state.
In July, 1825, ... work began on the Ohio & Erie Canal from Portage Summit (Akron) to Cleveland. On July 3, 1827, two years after the ground breaking, Governor Trimble and the canal commission boarded a canal boat in Akron and the next day arrived in Cleveland. By 1832 the entire 308 mile route of the Ohio-Erie was open to traffic ...
The canals prospered until 1855, the year revenue receipts were their highest. At its peak, Ohio's canal system consisted of almost 1,000 miles of main line canals, feeders and side cuts. Located in forty-four of Ohio's eighty-eight counties, the canals touched the lives of all the state's citizens. After 1855 the impact of the railroads began to be felt, and by 1903 water sales income from selling canal water to businesses and industries exceeded the income from freight carried on the canal ...''
FEATURE ARTICLE from The Chronicle Telegram, 2-22-04, By Cindy Leise
[Lorain County Jobs]
``ELYRIA -- When it comes to the tough issue of job creation, four candidates running for Lorain County Commissioner, including incumbent Mary Jo Vasi, differ on how much impact commissioners really have.
Ten questions involving jobs, mass transit bus service, the blue bag recycling program, a new recycling proposal and leadership were given to the candidates, who were asked to briefly respond.
The responses from Jeffrey Fogt, Jack Kilroy, Lori Kokoski and Vasi are printed in today's edition.
Fogt is the former Lorain County Human Resources director, now serving in a similar position in Mansfield. Kilroy is an attorney and former Avon councilman, and Kokoski is a Lorain councilwoman. Vasi has been a commissioner for 15 years ...
QUESTION: Tell us specifically what you would do as a commissioner to stem the loss of jobs in the county and to create new jobs?
Lori Kokoski: I would contact our state leaders to see if we need to change some laws at the state level to assist companies who may want to locate here. If I heard that a company was thinking about leaving the area, I would sit down with them to find out why they are leaving and try to accommodate their needs in order to keep them in the county.
Mary Jo Vasi: To counter the pressure of the loss of jobs, the Board of Commissioners has developed incentives to support a variety of economic development incentives throughout the county. The goal is to create 30,000 new jobs by the year 2020.
Jeffrey Fogt: The truth is the county plays a small role in job creation. Our current problems are caused by NAFTA and a poor national economy ...
Jack Kilroy: The county has lost 7,582 jobs in the first 21/2 years of the current Board of Commissioners' term of office. The job loss is unacceptable, and as commissioner, my top priority will be to keep the jobs we have while bringing new living wage jobs to Lorain County.
Specifically, I would work with Lorain County Community College, the labor unions such as the UAW and the AFL-CIO affiliates, the Chamber of Commerce, the North Coast BIA and the local municipal governments to forge a cooperative system of job retention and economic development.
We need an early warning system to prevent job loss. We need to enhance workforce development. We must ensure access to capital for the self-employed and small businesses.
We need to tie county dollars for roads, sewers, drainage and infrastructure to job retention and creation efforts. We need to listen to the workers and their organizations, the labor unions. We need to listen to the employers and their organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce and the North Coast BIA ...
* * *
QUESTION: Do you think the Community Development Department under Ron Twining is doing enough to create and maintain jobs? If not, what else should be done?
Kilroy: With the staggering exodus of jobs from the county, nobody is doing enough. The Community Development Department has professional leadership and a small, dedicated staff. I recommend that the county hire a top-level specialist to work within the Community Development Department with an exclusive focus on jobs. The present staff has too many varied tasks and responsibilities to juggle. At the same time, one entity, such Community Development Department, cannot do it alone.
We need a cooperative system to retain and develop jobs. County governments, Lorain County Community College, Oberlin College, the Chamber of Commerce, the North Coast BIA, the labor unions, the financial institutions and the local news media, all have a role to play.
Kokoski: I think the Community Development Department is functioning properly. As in any department, there is always room for improvement.
Fogt: Yes. Again the county can only compete with other counties for available jobs. The larger problem is we have the first president since Herbert Hoover to lose more jobs than he created ...
Vasi: Yes, I know the Community Development Department under Ron Twining is doing enough to create and maintain jobs.
* * *
QUESTION: Should the county have a closer relationship with LCCC's Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise (GLIDE) job incubator program and its technology park? If so, what sort of relationship should it be?
Vasi: The County has a close relationship with LCCC's GLIDE jobs incubator and its technology park. The county is participating in the funding of GLIDE. We will work closely to assist with funding through the Lorain County Port Authority (the Technology Park).
Fogt: The county should take the role of making sure that groups such as GLIDE and the college don't compete with each other or duplicate efforts ...
Kilroy: I participated in the economic summit hosted by Dr. Roy Church in January. We need to work closely with the college. GLIDE at Lorain County Community College is a well-conceived program to foster small business development and entrepreneurship, which creates jobs. The young program has enjoyed a measure of success, due in part to support from the county.
The county should assure LCCC that long-term support will be provided. GLIDE and LCCC should study its initial success as well as the best programs of its kind across America in order to take it to the next level so that enough jobs are created to have a real impact on the local economy. The GLIDE program is good news; we need to support it and help it grow to make it better news.
Kokoski: The county needs to continue to have a closer relationship with LCCC's GLIDE ...
* * *
QUESTION: Would you seek to reverse the commissioners' decision to take control of Lorain County Transit? If so, why? If not, why not?
Kokoski: I am not in favor of the commissioners controlling the Transit. I believe seven actively involved board members, whose primary focus is public transportation, would be better equipped to run the Transit ... commissioners have enough on their plate. They need to focus on jobs and county finances. We need to create employment in the county, but not more county jobs.
Fogt: I would want to see what type of long-term funding commitment the federal government is willing to make before a final decision can be made. However, given the jobs at stake and the information available, I believe that it was the right decision at this time. I'm just not sure we have all the facts yet that we need to make a final decision.
Kilroy: The county commissioners are not equipped to manage a bus company. Lorain County Transit should be governed by a board of community volunteers. Each board member should bring specific expertise in at least one area, such as transportation, safety, marketing, maintenance or planning.
My experience working with local neighborhood and church groups taught me that boards with passion for an issue and focus on problems do the best job of using resources. Most of the specialized county programs -- such as mental health, children services, workforce development, alcohol and drug addiction, the regional airport and public housing -- are governed by community boards. We need more citizen involvement, not less.
Vasi: ... The board is seeking a firm to aid in developing and improving the service and administrative structure for the system. We want to ensure the Transit is at its best.
* * *
QUESTION: How would you go about assuring that Lorain County Transit operated efficiently, and what limit, if any, would you place on a general fund subsidy for it?
Fogt: I would meet with the employees, unions and management to get their ideas on what can be done to cut existing waste and also get their ideas on increasing the usage. Once I have done that, I can say what general fund commitment I would make, if any.
Kilroy: We need merit, capability and expertise, not politics. A community board with expertise in transit should operate the system. The general fund subsidy should be tied to the effectiveness of the transit system in managing its system and making a contribution to the economic development of the county. Many people cannot get to the jobs that are available without public transportation. If we are serious about jobs, we need to be able to help people get to work.
Vasi: I cannot answer this question until a professional organization, (state or private), study is completed ...
Kokoski: I believe the Lorain County Transit is operating efficiently. To my knowledge they were compliant with their tri-annual reporting. They are providing a much-needed service to our community. With over 700,000 trips, the people who are using our public transportation are contributing to the area economy. The county currently helps fund the Transit. It is already a budgeted item at, I believe, $1 million.
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QUESTION: Would you ask voters for a sales tax or property tax increase to support Lorain County Transit?
Kokoski: I would not support a tax without the vote of the people. I believe it would be a hard sell to those who do not utilize public transportation. I would like to see area businesses that benefit from the use of public transportation contribute to its operations.
Kilroy: The transit system lacks a dedicated source of funding, according to the auditor's report. The leadership of the transit system should be allowed to go to the voters, without obstruction from county commissioners, to make the case for funding public transportation. The commissioners have, in recent years, prevented a vote of the people on this important issue. I trust the voters to make the best decision.
Vasi: If the board can't find (after the study is complete) a way to best operate and serve the public at an efficient level, then it should be brought before the voters.
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QUESTION: Should the county establish and run a recycling center? If so, why? If not, why?
Vasi: Yes. The center would retain, expand, support and create jobs and businesses. The center would offer five-day-a-week collection (drop-off) of recyclable products instead of once-a-year, allowing more products to be recycled. The center would return recycled items back to the residents and create an incentive for people to recycle more items, which in turn would save the life of the landfill for the future.
Fogt: No. There are companies currently providing recycling. They are employing people who live in the county and making a profit doing it ...
Kilroy: Recycling makes sense to make the best use of resources. The more we recycle, the more we extend the useful life of our landfills. The county has a partnership with BFI in the blue bag recycling program. The curbside program is free and convenient. BFI returns money to local communities and the county to promote the program. The county should work to increase participation in the program rather that seek to compete with it.
Kokoski: It is my understanding that they are looking into a collection center. They will not do the actual recycling. The cost of operating a collection center would be the purchase of the building (approximately $4 million) and two employees at $75,000 a year ...
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QUESTION: Should the county try to improve blue-bag programs that recycle paper, plastic or glass, or should it put more emphasis on recycling other things? If you believe other things should be emphasized, which things?
Kilroy: After speaking to the local recycling coordinators, I agree that we can improve the blue bag recycling program by increasing participation. We should establish recycling for cardboard, which would generate income. It is senseless for all the pizza boxes and shipping boxes to end up in the landfill when they can easily and profitably be recycled. The county has programs to dispose of computers, appliances, car batteries and toxic materials that should be expanded and continued.
Kokoski: With a collection center we could accommodate items such as furniture, TVs, computers, carpeting and household hazardous waste.
Vasi: The REC would improve recycling programs for paper, plastic, glass and every other product that is recyclable.
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QUESTION: Assuming the county decides to build a center, where should it be?
Fogt: It should not be built anywhere.
Kilroy: The county should not seek to build a recycling center at a time when one commissioner has proposed cutting essential services such as sheriff's patrols in the townships ...
Kokoski: It would need to be in a centralized location so it would be accessible to all Lorain County residents. My first thought for a location would be the old Builders' Square on state Route 57.
Vasi: A feasibility study is being completed to evaluate the siting, construction and operation of a proposed Reuse, Education and Collection Center. A location is also being studied.
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QUESTION: Why are you better equipped to win the primary and general election and better serve the county as Lorain County Commissioner versus the others in your race?
Fogt: I have five years experience with Lorain County government, including having served as acting county administrator. I have served on the Lorain County Mental Health Board, the Lorain County Community Action Agency Board and the Lorain County Fair Housing Board. Experience is very important in this election, since we may be electing two new commissioners.
Kilroy: If you believe the Board of Commissioners is doing an excellent job and is improving the local economy, you should keep the incumbent. If you are concerned about jobs or access to health care and you want better leadership on issues such as affordable prescription drugs, you should elect Jack Kilroy. I am the only candidate endorsed by a major labor union, SEIU-1999, AFL-CIO.
The Chronicle-Telegram (in a Feb. 15  editorial) wrote: "Kilroy has the best grasp of county issues among the four candidates."
During my six-year tenure on Avon City Council, I chaired the Finance Committee and found ways to make each tax dollar even more. At the same time, I was part of a team that saw 3,700 new jobs come into Avon, including 900 industrial jobs.
While working as executive director of a leadership development, I worked closely with local community groups and church groups to make their neighborhoods better by improving child care, creating after-school programs, building affordable housing and helping people find jobs ...
Kokoski: I believe I am the only chance the Democrats have to retain this seat. I feel my years on Lorain City Council have prepared me for this position. I have run three consecutive contested races in the largest ward in the city. I research information presented to me and make decisions based on common sense. I am a quick study, which will assist me when various issues arise in the county.
Vasi: Think of all the issues county commissioners have dealt with over the past several years: ... spiraling cost of indigent defense, new annexation laws, the Justice Center, 9-11, EMA building the CBCF (state paid, county owned; a new wing is being added for women), Board of Elections building, Jobs and Family Services building ... We know there will be one new commissioner that will fill the seat that Commissioner David Moore is vacating. It takes at least two years to become familiar with the functions of the position ...''
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