Stuart Blog 2: 2004

Saturday, November 20, 2004

blog | Reviews index

blog | Reviews index

I should never leave my apartment. I was in Minneapolis for a short vacation/long weekend, and when I returned I was greeted with toppling piles of packages and an inbox it will take me weeks to catch up with. But the good thing about returning was the final additions to my Thanksgiving magazine collection waiting in my mailbox.

So today debuts a new series on the blog, a look at what's good and what's freakishly bad in magazines. This month is on the Thanksgiving issues of cooking magazines. I have to say, I was disappointed. Usually Cook's Illustrated has an outstanding issue, but their "The Last Word on Roast Turkey" was pretty much replicated in every other cooking magazine. And their turkey recipe -- pretty much "brine, then rub with butter and shove in oven" -- left much to be desired. Eating Well on the other hand decided to ignore Thanksgiving all together.

Gourmet Magazine

Geared towards: Rich housewives with a personal chef and kitchen assistants.

Number of Thanksgiving menus offered: 1

Vegetarian options: 1

Levels of difficulty: 10. One side dish instructs you to make twenty “purses” of sausage wrapped in Swiss chard leaves. They even demand you make your own “Parmesan cloaks” for your poached pears with quince paste. Gourmet doesn’t even bother to help out with a detailed timeline or a pull out grocery list. And if you’re planning on making their menu, be prepared to shell out some money. You’ll need a lot of specialty items and expensive ingredients.

The vegetarian option is not much more approachable, with its main dish of Roasted Delicata Squash and Mushrooms with Thyme. They do not, by the way, offer a substitution for those who have never heard of Delicata squash.

Recipes I might consider using: Roasted Beet Risotto

Most helpful feature: The taste test of chicken stocks.

Most unreasonable request: Gourmet does love to complicate the simple. Their two page spread on mashed potatoes managed to make the most simple dish on the menu a lot more time consuming. Don’t boil the potatoes, they instruct. Wrap them in foil and bake them. Do not just add butter, milk or chicken stock. Anything you add to the potatoes must be preheated. And don’t even read the gravy article unless you want to spend a week perfecting your browning technique.

Recipes for leftovers: none

Wine coverage: Pairing advice for both traditional menu and vegetarian menu, price ranging from $9 to $32.

Other items they think you need: a $200 tablecloth from France.

Overall: As usual, the photography is top-notch and the writing is a delight – including Ruth Reichl’s remembrances of a mother who couldn’t cook a turkey to save her life. But the food seems about as cozy as a roped off room in a museum. This is an issue to sigh over and look at, but not cook from.

Cooking Light

Geared towards: People who can watch Rachel Ray’s shows on the Food Network without wanting to punch her in the face. Also, people really into yoga.

Number of Thanksgiving menus offered: 2

Vegetarian options: 1

Levels of difficulty: 6. Cooking Light tends to be more reasonable than the other cooking magazines. The recipes are straightforward, with little mention of garnish and no superfluous flourishes. The recipes are also conscious of time issues, calling for canned beans instead of dried and mentioning when dishes can be made in the microwave to save valuable oven and stovetop space.

In contrast, the vegetarian option sounds a little crazy. The main dish is Phyllo Purses with Roasted Squash, Peppers, and Artichokes. Until you have mastered phyllo, it will make you want to die. The dessert -- instead of pumpkin pie, which is vegetarian last I heard -- is a Chile-Lime Pineapple with Cardamom-Lime Ice Cream, possibly the least autumnal dessert in all of the magazines.

Wine coverage: No wine information other than perpetuating the myth that really expensive wine glasses will make wine taste even better.

Recipes I might consider using: Herbed Bread Stuffing with Mushrooms and Sausage

Most helpful feature: Interview with Rick Rogers, author of Thanksgiving 101.

Most unreasonable request: That I cook for family not only on Thanksgiving, but also have dinner for them on Wednesday night and leftovers prepared on Friday, a “casual dinner” of three courses on Saturday, and brunch on Sunday. And that I do yoga.

Recipes for leftovers: If you once used chicken in a recipe, why not just use turkey now?

Other items they think you need: yoga

Overall: Once you get to the recipes, they’re usually very good. But Cooking Light is more of a lifestyle magazine, and it can be frustrating to flip through a hundred pages of yoga, herbal nonsense, finding the perfect “green” bed for your dog, and “I’m sad. Is it my snack choice?” articles to get to the food.

Bon Appetit

Geared towards: People intimidated by Gourmet and frightened by Cooking Light’s intended audience.

Number of Thanksgiving menus offered: 5

Vegetarian options: 1 (Surprisingly, it’s positioned right up front, not hidden in the back like most of the other magazines.)

Levels of difficulty: 5 – 8. The large number of menus and the wide range of styles means you can mix and match to find the perfect menu for you. You can either go super fancy, small scale, or family-oriented.

The vegetarian option is the best I’ve seen this year. Simple, but well rounded, and not so obsessed with being arty that it no longer sounds like a Thanksgiving meal. It even suggests pumpkin pie as dessert.

Wine coverage: Suggests a range of Rieslings, none of them over $15.

Recipes I might consider using: Potato and Wild Mushroom Gratin, Thyme-Roasted Turkey with Fresh Thyme Gravy

Most helpful feature: Cranberry Daiquiri recipe. I’ll need about ten before the family gets here.

Most unreasonable request: A coconut dessert on Thanksgiving?

Recipes for leftovers: Making me look forward to the day after.

Other items they think you need: $90 mushrooms

Overall: The Thanksgiving issue is always their best, but Bon Appetit really outdid themselves this year. They have significantly cleaned up their designs, their recipes are enticing, and the variety is excellent. The magazine’s writing could be better, but when I want to flip through back issues to find something for dinner, I always reach for Bon Appetit before Gourmet or Cooking Light.

Everyday Food

Geared towards: People who have never cooked in their lives. Ever.

Number of Thanksgiving menus offered: 1

Vegetarian options: none.

Levels of difficulty: 2. They have turned their promise of “simple steps to a delicious (and doable) holiday” into “we’re going to talk to you like you’re five.” Their tips include “store [butter] in the refrigerator” and “check temperature periodically” to determine when the turkey is done. They don’t even take into consideration that you might not own a food processor, and their piecrust recipe (so simple!) does not include alternate instructions for making it by hand.

Wine coverage: Revelations like, “Before serving [white wine], chill for about an hour in the refrigerator.” No specifics on pairings.

Recipes I might consider using: none.

Most helpful feature: Detailed shopping list and timeline.

Most unreasonable request: That I be an idiot.

Recipes for leftovers: two

Other items they think you need: For a magazine for people who can’t cook, they sure do expect you to have every appliance known to man.

Overall: I know this is Martha Stewart’s magazine for people who are scared of cooking, but you could get better recipes off the backs of condensed soup cans. There has to be some middle ground between this and Stewart telling us how to make Christmas decorations out of our Thanksgiving turkey bones. Find some middle ground. Please.

Food & Wine

Geared towards: California residents with very large wine cellars

Number of Thanksgiving menus offered: 4

Vegetarian options: none

Levels of difficulty: 8. While F&W do provide a nice range of options for Thanksgiving dinner, each recipe seems like someone asked, “Yes, but can we just add one more step?” There are side dishes that call for making your own herbed butter, desserts with more than one ingredient that explains “Recipe follows.”

Wine coverage: A defense of chardonnay as a Thanksgiving wine, also a wine pairing for almost every dish.

Recipes I might consider using: Spicy kale chowder with Andouille Sausage

Most helpful feature: The division of the dishes. Each dish is categorized as a starter, side dish, turkey, or dessert, and then each of those categories is broken into “Five Days Ahead,” “Two Days Ahead,” and “Thanksgiving Day,” allowing the reader to plan out their menu based on how much advance work they want to do, or how much time they’ll have on Thanksgiving.

Most unreasonable request: The dessert options are Pumpkin Pudding with Candied Ginger Whipped Cream, White Chocolate Cake with Orange Marmalade Filling, and Frozen Hazelnut Mousse Cakes with Armagnac. No thanks.

Recipes for leftovers: none.

Other items they think you need: a brand new, redesigned kitchen

Overall: Food & Wine tries too hard to be Gourmet without having the quality writers when it should be aspiring to have quality recipes like Bon Appetit. However, they do offer the smartest information on pairing wine with your food, but manage to do it in an unsnobby way. Their series on the makings of an oenophile has been very good, and highlights their approach: less guy-from-Sideways, more the nicest guy who has ever worked at your neighborhood wine shop. If only the Food half of their magazine was like that.
Posted by Jessa Crispin | link

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Dine Original 2004

Blue Point: 1) Blue cheese, pecan, arugala salad.

2) Scallops, butternut squash
3)Creme brulee

Flying fig: 1)Duck quesadilla or calimari
2)Local greens salad
3)Chicken or hangar steak or halibut
My father and I have reservation here for friday

Johnny's Downtown: Different menu each day

Matsu: You can look at the pictures that I took to see
what I ate. They have two other options. One is a
sushi dinner : seaweed salad, sushi appetizer, sushi
entree. The other is steak and lobster.

Nighttown: 1)Duck breast with poached eggs or Caesar
2)Salmon or chicken
3)Apple crisp or home-made eclaire

One Walnut: 1)Butternut squash flan or mushroom bisque
2)Salmon or duck or pork tenderloin
3)Cheese course or rasberry swirl cheesecake or
flourless chocolate tort.

Sergios: 1)Butternut squash soup or mussels or shrimp,
mushroom wonton
2)Skirt steak pomidoro(?) or thai angel pasta with
scallop or tilapia with ginger scallion sauce.
3)Guava tart or chocolate terrine or apple berry crisp

That Place on Bellflower: 1)onion soup or shrimp or
walnut, blue cheese salad 2) beef Wellington or
seafood lasagna 3) chocolate or cheesecake

This is a complete list of restaurants participating in Dine Original week, annotated with interesting bits of information that I gleaned from menus or reviews. This map of six of them may also be helpful.

Beach Club Bistro ,

Blue Point Grille They have a Caesar salad with white anchovies in addition to the steak and bouillabase.

,Boulevard Blue , Kobe burger. With 4 yr old cheddar. Truffle chicken breast.

Cabin Club They make their own mozzarela for a steak dish.

Delmonico’s. A $50 antepasto salad "tower"

Fire ,

Flying Fig review Sweetbreads. Mozzarela/tomato salad.

GameKeeper’s Taverne ,Gavi’s ,Grovewood Tavern ,J. Pistone Market & Gathering Place ,John Q. Steakhouse ,Johnny's Bar,Johnny’s Downtown ,

Matsu Japanese Restaurant , I talked to the host/owner person about Dine Originals so I'd feel guilty if I didn't show up. Besides the scallop/potato thing sounds very good.

Molinari's Everybody's got Kobe, I guess

Mom's, Moxie ,

Night Town , The bangers and mash here is excellent

Noggin’s Raw Bar & Pub ,

One Walnut One of Cleveland's finest and most highly regarded. Braised short ribs.

Pearl of the Orient ,Players on Madison ,

Sage Bistro Examining their menu just put them at the top of my list. Charcuterie plate!

Salmon Dave’s Pacific Grill Lobster rangoon. Probably sounds better than it tastes. Along with Cabin Club, Delmonico's and Thirsty Parrot this restaurant is associated with Blue Point.

,Sergio’s in Univ. Circle Brazillian food

That Place I remember being very impressed on a number of previous visits. The restaurant has gone through a lot of changes and I think it's time to see if they've recovered to the quality that I remember. They actually have a couple of salads that I'm interested in trying. Salmon. Russian egg.

Theory Appetizers:sweetbreads, rare olive oil poached tuna, butter poached lobster. Entrees: Kobe burger. Braised short ribs. Scene's best new restaurant of 2004.

Yours Truly

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Pages 1--3 from Untitled

Pages 1--3 from Untitled

CLEVELAND 1 ­ 800 ­ Gourmet
Adelphia Almond Roca
Almondina/ YZ Enterprises American Culinary Concepts ­ Ohio Proud Pavilion
American Express Financial Advisors Ashly Enterprises
Aunt Gussie' s Cookies & Crackers B. A. Sweetie Candy Company
Ballreich Potato Chips ­ Ohio Proud Pavilion Bamix ( Ocean Sales Ltd. )
Bertolli/ Tops Markets Bickford Flavors ­ Ohio Proud Pavilion
Bon Appétit ­ The Plain Dealer/ Bon Appétit Stage Bottega Del Vino
Bubba' s Q Catering & Sauces ­ Ohio Proud Pavilion Bumble Bar, Inc.
Cabot Cheese CaJohns Fiery Foods ­ Ohio Proud Pavilion
Cake Decors Chalet DeBonne' Vineyards
Chef Pascal Corp. The Cherry STOP ( Orchards' Harvest, Inc. )
Claire' s Folly Classic Wines of California
Clearwater Systems Cleveland Magazine
Cleveland Originals, Council of Independent Restaurants of America Cleveland Wine School
Colorado Prime Foods Cook' s Warehouse
Cooper' s Mill Cork and Grape
Cucina Pitrelli ­ Ohio Proud Pavilion Culinaire Pavane ­ Ohio Proud Pavilion
Dacor ­ The Plain Dealer/ Bon Appétit Stage DeLallo Italian Foods
Dennison Pies Diageo Chateau & Estate Winery
d' marie Dr. Dan' s BBQ Products ­ Ohio Proud Pavilion
En Masse Marketing Corp. Epic Roots/ Mache Salad Blends
European Gourmet Almonds Executive Sweets
E ­ Z Breathe Fancy' s Candy' s, Inc.
Fisher Paykel Appliances Flavour Creations ( NSI, Inc. )
Food Masters Inc. 1
Food Network Fowlers Milling Company
Froehlichs Inc. Frog Ranch Foods ­ Ohio Proud Pavilion
Gallucci' s Italian Foods Gecko Garys
Gertrude Lee Candies Giant Eagle
Great Big Food Show Retail Store Great Lakes Brewing Company
Health Craft Cooking Show Henkel Consumer Adhesives, Inc,
Herbal Delights Herold' s Salads
The Honeybaked Ham Co. I & K Distributor' s Inc.
Ian' s Natural Foods Integrated Marketing Services ( Bertolli/ Tops Markets)
James Tea Company ­ Ohio Proud Pavilion Keystone Fruit Marketing
Kitchen Basics Kitchen Craft International
KitchenAid Laurel Run Cooking School
Leeners Lee' s Mustard ­ Ohio Proud Pavilion
Lelolai Bakery & Café Lifeway Foods, Inc.
Lola Bistro & Wine Bar Loretta Paganini School of Cooking
Los Tios/ Tex ­ Mex Gourmet MAC Knife
Mahas Falafil Marzetti
Melting Pot, The Menches Brothers Foods LLC
Metropolitan Market Mid' s Pasta Sauce
Miles Farmers Market Milo' s Whole World Gourmet ­ Ohio Proud Pavilion
Minerva Cheese Factory, featuring AMISH GOURMET CHEESES Mrs. DeVaney' s Gourmet Foods
Mustard Seed Market & Café My House Seasonings
Narrin' s Spice & Sauce Nature Isle Tropical Gourmet LLC
Nature' s Path News Channel 5
Ohio Apple Marketing Program ­ Ohio Proud Pavilion Ohio Beef Council
Ohio Department of Agriculture ­ Ohio Proud Pavillion 2
Ohio Pork Producers Council Olympia Candies
Original Juan Specialty Foods Orlando Baking Company ­ Ohio Proud Pavilion
Orlando Food/ Academia Orrefors Kosta Boda
The Pampered Chef Peanut Better
Peppered Palatte, Inc. The Plain Dealer ­ The Plain Dealer/ Bon Appétit Stage
PM Companies Quaker Steak & Lube
Queen Jeanne' s Very Original Nuts Reinecker' s Bakery Ltd.
Robert Rothschild Farm S. S. Kemp
Seryrell' s Food Products ­ Ohio Proud Pavilion Shearer' s Foods Inc.
Snow Brothers Appliance Soda Club USA
Specialty Food Marketplace/ West Point Market Splenda
Stancato' s Italian Restaurant Starbucks
Sur La Table Tastefully Simple
TNT Promotions TNT Promotions
Tone Brothers Inc. Tre Sorella
Vegetarian Times Viking Culinary Arts Center
The Virginia Diner, Inc. West Point Market/ Specialty Food Marketplace
West Side Market Tenants Association WNWV 107. 3 FM Radio
World Wide Promotions Zevro
ZIO Products ­ Ohio Proud Pavilion 3

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

School funding: Textbook failure

School funding: Textbook failure

School funding: Textbook failure
Court edicts, genuine efforts have not solved Ohio's problem
Sunday, October 17, 2004
Scott Stephens
Plain Dealer Reporter
Blame it on Harmon Stidger.

The Canton lawmaker, a farmer and physician, was chairman of the Ohio legislature's education committee in 1850 when he submitted a proposal to the state's second Constitution calling for a "thorough and efficient system of common schools."

More than 150 years later, Ohio still is trying to figure out what Stidger meant.
Eleven years of litigation produced four Ohio Supreme Court rulings, all calling for a complete overhaul of the way the state pays for public education.

Those rulings produced extra money for districts especially for the construction of schools. But state lawmakers and two governors largely ignored the real thrust of the rulings: Ohio's system relies too heavily on local property taxes, inviting huge funding disparities and making the quality of a child's education largely an accident of birth.

"Ohio is, perhaps, the most shameful example in the nation," said Jonathan Kozol, a teacher and social activist whose writings have chronicled the effect of funding inequities on children. "The entire system is archaic, undemocratic and ultimately unfixable."

That has not stopped the state from trying. Members of a 35-person task force appointed a year ago by Gov. Bob Taft a bipartisan mix that includes educators, business leaders, elected officials and union leaders generally agree they have made some progress.

The task force is expected to push a plan that would allow modest revenue growth for local school districts, meaning they would not have to constantly seek tax increases from voters.

The plan would also take aim at "phantom revenue" the shortfall between the rising property values the state uses to calculate how much money it gives a district and the actual revenue the districts collect.

The plan might include redistribution of the business tax on tangible personal property such as equipment, inventory, machinery and fixtures. It would also offer expanded tax relief for low-income elderly residents.

The group's most important consensus was philosophical rather than financial: the acknowledgment that poor children need more money than affluent children to reach the same academic benchmarks. That's significant in a state that suffers from one of the most pronounced gaps in achievement between white students and black and Latino children, many of them attending the state's poorest districts.

But the task force, which could issue its final recommendations as early as next month, has missed at least two deadlines and remains sharply divided on the fundamental question of adequacy that is, what constitutes a good education, and how much should it cost?

In fact, the failure of the task force to commission a study on that question could result in some members issuing a minority report in protest.

"We never did an adequacy study, so we're just kind of flying blind," said Sen. C.J. Prentiss, a Cleveland Democrat who sits on the task force.

Even if plan is approved, change probably far off

Political and economic realities also threaten reform efforts. The task force's proposal to tinker with the state funding formula, for example, would require both legislative approval and a voter-approved constitutional amendment.

"Even if everyone approves of what we're doing, it's going to take a while to phase it in," said Paul Marshall, the task force's executive director, adding the process could take six to eight years. "And not everyone thinks this is a good idea."

Already, several Republican legislators have vowed to fight any "Robin Hood" approach that would force wealthy districts to share revenue with poor districts.

"Taking from Peter to pay Paul is not a sensible school funding measure," said Rep. Jim Trakas, Republican of Independence.

But given the chances of finding new money, that might be a likely route. Taft's goal to include the task force's recommendations in his two-year budget proposal early next year is clouded by the prospect of a projected $4 billion budget shortfall.

Already, state funding cuts and voter rejection of property tax issues have resulted in the layoff of at least 2,000 teachers statewide and deep cuts in everything from transportation to extracurricular activities. At the same time, $344 million in base funding is expected to be deducted from public school coffers this school year and sent to charter schools one-third of them managed by for-profit companies.

Soaring costs for special education, health care, fuel, textbooks and compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind law have pushed strained school district budgets to the breaking point.

Once viewed as a potential savior, lottery profits for education continue to drop like a stone, falling from a peak of $714 million in 1996 to about $600 million this year or less than $1 million per school district. Analysts blame the drop on competition from other states.

And there is little hope legislators will extend the temporary, two-year, 1-cent sales tax increase, which is to expire in July.

"We aren't really very close to school funding reform at all in Ohio," lamented Jan Resseger, an education activist with the United Church of Christ. "It says something about us and it says something about our children."

Resseger is part of a growing grass-roots movement trying to push elected officials into action. Last spring, the Ohio Fair Schools Campaign drew more than 1,200 people to seven school-funding hearings across the state. The campaign is now trying to collect 100,000 signatures on a petition calling on the governor and legislature to reform school funding.

Likewise, the Ohio Education Association sponsored 33 public meetings around the state to discuss school funding.

Modern funding saga began with 1976 lawsuit

While Ohio has been struggling with school funding for most of its history, the modern chapter of the story began in 1976. That was the year the Cincinnati Board of Education filed a lawsuit asking the Ohio Supreme Court to recognize education as a fundamental right and to declare the state's funding system unconstitutional.

The effort failed, but the interest it sparked eventually led to the formation in 1991 of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, an alliance of 275 school districts, many of them poor and rural. In December of that year, the coalition filed DeRolph vs. State of Ohio, a lawsuit named for schoolboy Nathan DeRolph.

DeRolph, now married and with a child of his own, attended school in Perry County, a Central Ohio county with five small school districts scattered along miles of rolling farmland and abandoned strip mines. To many, the county embodied the state's school-funding crisis.

In the Perry County village of Thornville, Somerset Elementary School was condemned in 1993 because bricks were falling from the sides of the building and the walls were bulging outward.

In 1998, Thornville Elementary School's third-floor hallway ceiling started to collapse under the weight of bat feces that had collected on the attic floor.

The schools in Thornville were part of the Northern Local School District, which ranked near the bottom of the state in most economic measures, including income, value of taxable property and per-pupil spending.

By any legal measure, the DeRolph lawsuit was a stunning success. In 1994, Perry County Common Pleas Judge Linton Lewis Jr. ruled in the coalition's favor and ordered the state to eliminate funding disparities. Appeals went up to the Ohio Supreme Court, which in 1997 agreed with Lewis and ordered a "complete system overhaul."

The court would rule three more times that, while some progress had been made, the funding system was still unconstitutional. But in its final ruling, the state high court dropped its jurisdiction over the case, leaving the victorious plaintiffs no way to enforce the order. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from the coalition.

"This is just unthinkable in a nation of laws," said William Phillis, the coalition's executive director. "They shut the courthouse doors on us."

Despite court rulings, disparities still exist

After more than a decade of litigation, reliance on local property taxes actually has increased, and disparities continue.

Schools in the affluent Cleveland suburb of Beachwood, for example, spent $17,735 per pupil in 2003, the highest in the state. The Pleasant schools in Marion County, a rural district 50 miles from the Statehouse steps, spent $5,856 per pupil that year, the least in Ohio.

Both districts get nearly the same base funding from the state, but Beachwood's rich tax base allows it to spend more than three times as much per pupil.

Still, even the wealthiest districts are forced to beg voters to raise taxes just to keep pace with inflation. Since this year's senior class entered kindergarten, Ohio's school and vocational districts have gone to voters with 5,471 tax requests, an average of eight each. In August, voters approved just 26 percent of the 103 school issues on their ballots.

More than one-third of the state's 613 school districts forecast deficits within three years.

The culprit, to many, is House Bill 920, a tax-relief law passed by the legislature in 1976 two years before California's infamous Proposition 13 property tax revolt.

In some states, such as New York and Pennsylvania, elected officials set the tax rates that generate money for schools. In Ohio, that's the job of voters, who must approve tax hikes to pay for their schools.

Homeowners and businesses pay annual property taxes based on the assessed value of their property. Property taxes generally increase every three years when new values are set. Before 1976, revenue to schools increased if real estate in a community appreciated.

House Bill 920 froze that revenue at the amount generated the first year a new tax was collected. So, if property values went up, the tax rate was rolled back to keep revenue constant.

It is a formula that hurts districts such as Sheffield-Sheffield Lake, a Lorain County school system of 2,000 students that is struggling to avoid fiscal calamity. Unless the community passes an emergency tax increase next month, the district will face a deficit of $1.5 million and a state takeover of its finances by next summer.

The district's revenue has failed to keep pace with the soaring costs of health care, fuel and books and supplies, Superintendent Will Folger said, and voters have continually defeated tax requests. It has been a decade since voters approved new revenue for the district, he said.

"A large part of our population worked in steel mills, on the docks or in the car industry, and this area has been hard hit," Folger said. "We're asking people to give up more of their money for the good of the schools. For a lot of people, that's a difficult decision."

Likewise, the funding formula penalizes the Berea School District, which includes the industrialized and retail-rich communities of Brook Park and Middleburg Heights.

The state guarantees every school district a base per-pupil amount, which is $5,169 this school year. That money comes from a mix of local property taxes and state general fund dollars. Districts with rich tax bases pay a larger share of that base amount; for districts with poor tax bases, the state picks up a larger share.

Berea, for example, gets about $950 about 18 percent of its base allocation from the state. Akron, by contrast, gets more than $3,100 about 61 percent of its $5,169 base.

In theory, that's a split that industrialized districts such as Berea should be able to afford. But tax abatement and other deals to attract and keep business can quickly dilute a rich tax base.

"I think the biggest issue is what businesses are paying in taxes," said Berea schools Treasurer Randy Scherf. "I think they need to pay their fair share to do business in Ohio."

Suburban districts with more-affluent residents have grumbled for years that they get a lot less back from state coffers than they put in. Residents in Orange, for example, paid nearly $62 million in state income tax for the 2001 tax year but received only $5.3 million back in state education money. East Cleveland residents paid in about $5.7 million, but got back $35.5 million.

"I live in a suburban school district, and we basically self-fund ourselves," said Rep. Larry Wolpert, Republican of Hilliard.

Wolpert, Independence Republican Rep. Trakas and two other GOP lawmakers are pushing their own reform package in the House. One bill would allow a simple majority of school districts in a county to seek a countywide tax issue and distribute the money proportionally. Another would allow communities to voluntarily lift H.B. 920. A third would eliminate phantom revenue, and a fourth would give fast-growing suburbs quicker access to state building money.

The lawmakers are not the only ones working on their own initiatives. Former State Rep. Bryan Flannery is asking voters to sign petitions to put his school finance plan on the state ballot in 2005. He would reduce reliance on local property taxes and make up the difference from a blend of sales, income and corporate taxes. His plan would also establish a committee that would decide an amount of money needed to fund an adequate education, and the state would be required to stick to that amount.

Not everyone has given up on the DeRolph ruling. School funding is an issue in three Ohio Supreme Court races, and at least two challengers pledge to reopen the case.

Phillis, the executive director of the school district coalition, said, "Conditions may have degenerated enough in Ohio where people will choose a new court."

© 2004 The Plain Dealer.

Sheffield schools bill state for 'phantom' funds Search

Sheffield schools bill state for 'phantom' funds
Sheffield schools say state shorts it cash
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Carl Matzelle
Plain Dealer Reporter
Sheffield Lake- In an attempt to convince state officials that school funding methods aren't working, the Sheffield-Sheffield Lake school board is billing Ohio's governor for money the district figures it was shorted by the state's funding formula.

Calling the district's approach "unique," a state funding expert said that other districts might follow Sheffield's lead, especially if education issues are defeated in November.

"Five other districts have sent bills to the state, but Sheffield is the first district to challenge state policy," said Bill Phillis, executive director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding in Columbus.

The bill was for $1.6 million - the amount Sheffield figures it was shorted for the last four years.

Sheffield schools Treasurer David Chambers said the district is challenging what some see as a flaw in the formula that deals with so-called phantom revenue.

The state believes that each district should collect 23 mills from taxpayers and deducts that much from the district's state aid.

But many districts, including Sheffield-Sheffield Lake, can collect only 20 mills locally. Voters have approved more, but the millage is automatically reduced by law to make up for growth in the tax base.

The difference between the state's calculation and the actual amount taxed is called "phantom revenue." Some lawmakers in Columbus have proposed eliminating it from the system.

Voters in the school district have rejected the last six attempts to pass a tax.

If residents don't approve a five-year, 8.95-mill emergency operating levy in November and a five-year, 7.81-mill renewal in next May's election, the district could be placed in state receivership before the end of fiscal year 2006.

More bad news arrived Oct. 12 from the state auditor's office, informing officials that the district's performance audit would not be completed before the November election.

"It's disappointing," said Chambers, who was counting on the audit to convince voters "sitting on the fence" that the district is really hurting financially.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 216-999-4744

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Neel Life Stories

Neel Life Stories

Neel Life Stories
Alice Neel's portraits stripped her subjects bare -- often literally -- and expertly revealed their inner lives. On the eve of a Whitney retrospective, Neel's subjects reflect on sitting for a modern master.

By Edith Newhall

Probably no other twentieth-century American figurative painter developed as singular a style as Alice Neel. Her provocative portraits of art-world celebrities like Andy Warhol and Allen Ginsberg -- along with dozens of other people who caught her fancy -- made her the quintessential artist's artist. But broad public recognition of Neel's work was anything but immediate. Her portraits and dark social commentaries seemed hopelessly out of date during the mid-century decades of Abstract Expressionism; it wasn't until the seventies that Neel, who died in 1984, really began to enjoy success. Now, 26 years after her first Whitney retrospective, figurative painting is the artistic style of the moment and Neel, its most uncompromising proponent, is about to be fêted again. "The Art of Alice Neel," a traveling exhibit organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and opening at the Whitney on June 29, stands to reveal the painter not just as an idiosyncratic voice but an influential one.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

A Picture Share!

A Picture Share!
Originally uploaded by stu_spivack.
Cleveland. Little Italy.

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