Fingerhut's Fable

No need to embellish Ohio's education record. The truth is bad enough.

Dogville Cedar Lee Theater
If you're looking for proof that our leaders in Columbus don't give a rat's ass about higher education, the numbers tell the story. Governor Bob Taft (R-Wussyville) used his executive powers in 2001 to slash state spending on higher education by $121 million. Two years later, the state legislature cut another $80 million.

Incoming freshmen at Ohio State saw tuition soar by 19 percent in 2003. This fall they're likely to face another 13-percent jump. At CSU, which has lost almost $9 million in state aid since 2001, students will see increases of 12 percent this year.

The news is already plenty bad. So why is state Senator Eric Fingerhut making stuff up? The Shaker Heights Democrat is waging a David vs. Goliath battle to dislodge George Voinovich from his U.S. Senate seat. In a recent press release, Fingerhut blamed Ohio's chronic underfunding of education on Voinovich, who blazed the trail of education cuts when he was slumming it in the governor's mansion.

Voinovich "has failed to recognize the critical link between higher education and economic growth," Fingerhut said. He further noted that "it is actually cheaper for students to go elsewhere and pay out-of-state tuition than to stay in Ohio to receive their education."

It's a great line. Too bad it's false.

A staffer in Fingerhut's office said the release compares Ohio State tuition with the tabs at the University of Kentucky and the University of West Virginia. But OSU's tuition for Ohio residents is $5,664 this year. Out-of-state students at Kentucky pay $11,944, and out-of-staters at West Virginia pay $12,060. In fact, in the five states that border Ohio, there is not a single public university that's cheaper for Ohio students than OSU. The closest is Indiana University, where an Ohio resident pays $8,899 per year.

In contempt

David Palmer, founder, president, and sole member of the Committee to Expose Dishonest and Incompetent Attorneys and Judges, has been dogging guys in robes for years.

In 2001, the Columbus-area man filed theft charges against nine Ohio visiting judges, accusing them of overbilling for expenses by more than $50,000. The charges were eventually tossed (big surprise), but some judges admitted Palmer had a point and returned about $7,000 ("Bench Warmers," October 22, 2003).

Now Palmer's gunning for the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court. In February, he accused Thomas Moyer of illegally accepting $2,000 last year from the U.S. State Department, which sent him to South America as part of an educational program. In his complaint, Palmer scolds: "One would have thought that Moyer would have been satisfied with the $530 per day in wages he received from Ohio taxpayers while he was vacationing in Argentina and Chile."

Moyer claims the $2,000 was to offset travel expenses. But Palmer notes that Moyer's 2003 financial disclosure statement included more than $6,500 in travel expenses from the State Department, "which means he 'pocketed' the entire $2,000 in unlawful compensation." So now he's accusing Moyer of "dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, and conduct involving moral turpitude" (which, for those of you who don't speak lawyer, means "lying piece of shit").

To follow the blow-by-blow action, check out

More for the haves

Last week, Timken Co. announced that it would shut down three Canton bearings factories and lay off 1,300 workers. The company claimed it hadn't gotten needed cost reductions from the United Steelworkers of America.

Yet company chairman W.R. Timken had no problem raising $600,000 last year to keep one of his most valued employees -- George W. Bush -- from losing his job. The fund-raising earned Timken the coveted "Ranger" status among Bush's sugar daddies.

It was certainly a good investment. Timken reportedly made $2.62 million in 2003, placing him among the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. The average savings under Bush's tax cut plan for that elite group is $662,569 over 10 years.

Yet the smarter move might have been keeping his factory workers. With Ohio shaping up as the swing state of the 2004 election, the layoffs could produce about 1,300 new John Kerry supporters.

Pork futures

Congress has been showing all the fiscal restraint of Paris Hilton lately, as the $500 billion federal deficit demonstrates. But at least our representatives are pillaging with the best of them.

Ohio made a strong showing in the 2004 Pig Book, the annual report from Citizens Against Government Waste. State politicians smuggled more than $268 million out of Washington for their pet projects last year. In the 50-state ranking, we're 33rd with a bullet -- up eight slots from 2003's report. Go team!

Oops, wrong guy

Any day now, Judge Nancy Fuerst will decide whether Darryl Houston will get a new trial. Thirteen years ago, he was found guilty of killing an East Cleveland convenience-store clerk. Thing is, Houston was convicted on the testimony of a witness who has repeatedly recanted.

In September 1991, James Pope was restocking beer in Said Ali's convenience store when he heard a gunshot. He found his boss shot in the head and a gold-toothed thug cleaning out the cash register.

That night Pope gave police a thorough description, but immediately changed his mind. He was afraid the real killer would seek revenge, possibly on his family. So instead he led cops to his buddy, Darryl Houston.

Houston looks nothing like the guy Pope originally described, yet Pope insisted Houston was the shooter. He recanted in court, but the jury found Houston -- who had served time on weapons charges -- guilty anyway.

Pope has an extensive rap sheet, and today he's back in the pen. He's such a liar that it's impossible to say what is true. But if you throw out his testimony, certain facts would appear to support Houston's innocence. For one thing, there was little forensic evidence: The traces of blood on Houston's jacket didn't match Ali's. None of the fingerprints lifted from the scene were Houston's either.

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