Monday, October 31, 2011

The newspaper that asks no questions

For the record, not one person here in the patch believes the Herald-Standard newspaper (which goes by the fancier-sounding nowadays) is going to endorse incumbent Fayette County commissioner Angela Zimmerlink for re-election on Nov. 8.

Zimmerlink's fate was sealed the day last year when she had the audacity to question the appropriateness of using $60,000 worth of county tourism tax money -- which is supposed to go toward promoting tourism in the county -- to launch Fayette TV. That move threw a financial lifeline to the old HSTV operation, which had turned into the newspaper's own white elephant.

Let us be perfectly honest here, if a bit R-rated: On that day, Zimmerlink earned a spot on the newspaper's shit list, from which we believe she will never recover. How she was treated in print on Friday, Oct. 28 bears out this theory.

On that day, the Herald-Standard ran two stories based on what transpired at the prior day's commission meeting. The story that the newspaper -- and this would include its editors -- judged worthy of the bottom of page B-1 (an inside section) was titled, "Commissioners move toward finalizing amphitheater lease agreement." It dealt with the latest maneuvering surrounding the Great Meadows Amphitheater, which is the county's white elephant equivalent of HSTV.

The other story, which the newspaper and its editors decided to run on A-1 (that would be the front page, where the most important stories go), was headlined, "Official grilled on web postings." It dealt with accusations made during public comment, accusations made against Zimmerllink by one Tanya Cellurale, accusations that Zimmerlink correctly characterized as "pre-election banter." Coming a well-timed 11 days before the election, how could this be anything but that?

In this "story," readers learned the following: Tanya Cellurale claimed that Zimmerlink, during work hours, went on to a local chat room-style web site and posted comments that she found derogatory. Cellurale said she knew this because she had figured out Zimmerlink's "I.P. address," which is computer lingo for Internet Protocol address, which is a means to uniquely identify a person's computer. (Zimmerlink rebutted this claim, noting she "did not do anything on county time on county computers.")

But if you think the name "Cellurale" has a familiar ring to it, you're on to our next point, which is what the "story" conveniently failed to mention: Tanya Cellurale is part of the ongoing Cellurale-Kriss land dispute in Dunbar Township, involving the Meason House owned by the Krisses and any number of businesses owned by the Cellurale family. Tanya Cellurale was/is also related to Marilyn Cellurale, who ran against Zimmerink in this year's Republican primary. (Yes, the same Republican Marilyn Cellurale who received a campaign contribution from Joseph Bezjak, the uncle of incumbent Democrat Commissioner Vincent Zapotosky, whose campaign signs are now doting the landscape in tandem with those of Republican candidate Dave Lohr, whose explanation is a quaint "different people like different candidates.")

It would take a whole blog post to further explain the clashes and entanglements of the Cellurales and Krisses, and of the political and legal machinizations that have become part of that saga. Suffice it to say that no one named Cellurale is about to put a Zimmerlink sign in their yard any time soon.

Back to the Oct. 28 "story": If reporter Amy Revak and her editors at the Herald-Standard found Tanya Cellurale's accusations to be newsworthy, and if they did not feel they were being used on the eve of an election, and even if they decided it was OK to be used and opted to play along just for some Zimmerlink-slapping fun, why didn't they do some basic shoeleather reporting to at least make the effort appear credible?

Why didn't Revak ask, or why didn't her editors make her ask, Tanya Cellurale to provide the I.P. address that she claimed was Zimmerlink's? Why didn't the newspaper then ask Zimmerlink or the county Information Technology folks to provide the I.P. address used by her work computer? After all that would be public information, right?

If the numbers did not match, it would prove that Tanya Cellurale had leveled a false accusation.

Even if the numbers matched, that wouldn't necessarily prove that Zimmerlink had used a county computer to make website postings, or that she had done so on county time. That would take a little more newspaper investigation to corroborate, and we're not sure that anyone on the payroll is up to that task.

But if the numbers indeed matched -- and we're betting they would not -- a pressing immediate question would be: How did Tanya Cellurale get her hands on what should be proprietary county information? Did someone at the county level give her the I.P. address of Zimmerlink's work computer, or was Tanya Cellurale able to find out sensitive county computer information as a regular citizen?

We seriously doubt that anyone outside the courthouse could get their hands on something like an I.P. address, or that someone who wasn't politically motivated would even care to. We'll leave it to you to theorize on who could obtain such information from within (or authorize its release), and who could benefit from its use as a political tool.

Monday, October 24, 2011

When did Lohr turn this corner?

Here in the patch, we decided to take a trip in the time machine (they store it in the fire hall, in front of the new pumper truck) after reading "Candidates running own campaigns," a pre-election story by on Oct. 16.

This supposed "news" of this story was that none of the four candidates for Fayette County commissioner in the Nov. 8 election -- Democrats Al Ambrosini and Vince Zapotosky, and Republicans Angela Zimmerlink and Dave Lohr -- had created a cross-party alliance with any other.

The implication of an Ambrosini-Zimmerlink alliance, which represents dirty politics at its best, dates back to the primary election, when it became readily apparent that Ambrosini's nascent first-time candidacy was going to knock off one of the two Democratic incumbents, Zapotosky or his running mate Vincent Vicites. (In the patch, we always ask ourselves, "Who had the most to gain?" when trying to figure out where political rumors get started.)

After we cruised down Route 119 and the median looked like someone had planted "Lohr" and "Zapotosky" signs instead of trees and flowers, it seemed pretty logical to ask them about the alliance question, too.

All four candidates denied forming any team, but Lohr's explanation in particular caused us to tilt out head sideways and let out a long, "Hmmmmm."

Here's the passage:

While Lohr, a self-employed insurance and investment agent, said there was a recent sign blitz placing his signs with Zapotosky's, that was the decision of the people placing the signs.

"Different people like different candidates," Lohr said.

In the same story, also reported this little tidbit:

Lohr said the three commissioners on the board need to present a united front, even if they despise each other personally.

Let's get this straight: The same Dave Lohr who relentlessly pounded former Republican Commissioner Harry Albert over the voter fraud issue after Albert beat him in 1995 is now preaching that a "united front" is needed in that offfice?

The same Dave Lohr who ran an an independent team for commissioner in 1999, forming a bonafide alliance with rock'em, sock'em incumbent commissioner Sean Cavanagh, now extolls the virtues of a "united front" among the three folks guiding the county?

Our trip in the wayback machine led us to March 26, 2003, when Lohr, then mounting his third unsuccessful candidacy for county commissioner, was saying some quite different things in a Herald-Standard story called, "GOP hopes for political rebound in May primary."

That was the year resident gazilllionaire Joe Hardy came down from the mountain, literally, to run for county commissioner as the odds-on-favorite Republican. Interestingly, Lohr did not have such a doe-eyed view of county politics back then. Here's what he was saying:

... "I'm going to beat him," says Lohr, 46, who ran for commissioner in 1995 and 1999. "He can bring his money to the table all he wants, but this election's going to be won by sweat and hard work by the candidates."

Lohr also believes that Hardy was put in the race to "to knock me out," because back in 1995 he told the county political powers that he wasn't "buyable" as a candidate. Lohr predicts that if Hardy were elected, he would resign shortly thereafter, paving the way for appointment of a "hand-picked puppet" who would do the bidding of the old-guard political establishment.

Lohr also believes that Hardy was inserted into the race as a complement to one of the Democrat challengers, with hopes that electing both of them would return political power to the old guard.

Prognostications aside -- Lohr not only didn't beat Hardy, he didn't beat Zimmerlink, either -- he was at least displaying a keener insight into how things really are done in the county.

At least back then he wasn't mouthing inanities like, "Different people like different candidates."

If you expect us to believe that one, we've got some working beehive coke ovens to sell you.