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Sunday, September 21, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 10/21/2007

The governor listens

WHAT was an irrational race to demolish the Seneca County courthouse has been slowed or maybe even forestalled with the intervention of Gov. Ted Strickland, and that is welcome news for the cause of historic preservation, both in Tiffin and across Ohio.

Mr. Strickland's pointed suggestion this past week that the county hold off on tearing down the 123-year-old structure until the prospect of state funding for renovation can be explored has pro-demolition commissioners Ben Nutter and David Sauber singing a distinctly different tune. Now they're talking about "exploring options." Too bad they haven't been that flexible in the past.

No one should accuse the governor of butting into a local issue where he's not welcome. Mr. Strickland's admonition to the commissioners is a classic example of what a governor should do - exercise the power of state office to fill a void created by failure of leadership on the local scene.

And that's precisely what happened in Seneca County, where two of the three commissioners were so hell-bent on destroying the landmark courthouse that they exaggerated the cost of renovation by misrepresenting to the public information in taxpayer-funded consultants' reports.

They might have succeeded with this ploy were it not for the decision of Kendall Cable, a former reporter for the Tiffin Advertiser-Tribune, to come forward and relate how the commissioners violated state open-meetings law by rubber-stamping without public discussion a demolition plan they hatched in private.

This disclosure was an heroic step by Ms. Cable, who now works for a newspaper in the state of Oregon, an example of professionalism that should be emulated by journalists everywhere.

Indeed, Roy Peter Clark, of the Poynter Institute, a respected arbiter of journalistic ethics, called Ms. Cable's selfless action "courageous and enterprising." The best journalists, Mr. Clark pointed out, see their primary duty as disclosing information that serves the public interest, even when their own editors may not agree.

In this case, Seneca County residents were ill-served by the effort to conceal the fact that the commissioners' private deliberations were very different from what they said - or didn't say - in public.

While The Blade has been criticized for inserting itself into this local issue, the residents of the Tiffin area have every right to wonder whose interests are being served in the rush to tear down the historic courthouse.

We applaud Governor Strickland's intervention to help save the courthouse, which should be part of a broader, statewide effort aimed at preserving public buildings.

In an Oct. 10 editorial, we asked if anyone in Columbus was listening on this crucial issue, and the governor answered in a forthright manner.

This is the essence of leadership.



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