CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Any minute I expect to pick up a map saying Cleveland and Toledo are on the Ohio River and Cincinnati is built upon the shores of Lake Erie. Because something is plumb topsy-turvy about the state. Its north shore -- the liberal Democratic heartland -- seems aflame with reports of Free Speech oppression.
Tom Suddes, my old colleague from the newspaper business, always contended the "mouthbreathers," his word for the crowd most uncomfortable with people who liked to exercise their constitutional rights, infested downstate Ohio. They were generally Republicans who had gun racks in every pick up truck spotted south of Interstate 80.
Could be he was wrong. Could be that NEO is now SWOhio. Could be the heat. Something is out of sort with Ohio's political map because anti-taxers managed to collect enough signatures in Hamilton County (ground zero of Suddes' mouthbreathers) for a ballot measure aimed at repealing a proposed sales tax hike for a new jail -- and NOBODY was arrested or pushed around by the authorities who imposed the tax. Contrast that to what's happened in the liberal Up North these past few days.
The anti-tax crowd is being hassled when they try to circulate petitions against a sales tax increase in Cuyahoga County. This follows a Kent anti-war protester being ticketed for sticking an "Impeach Bush" sign in a public garden last month. And it fits right alongside Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's Aug. 12, 2007 order that closed a public park so anti-Nazi protesters from the University of Toledo could not raise cane about the fascists in our midst.
There's more. Gloria Ferris had a difficult time trying to collect names on anti-tax petitions near Jacobs Field, where a cop and security guard tried to keep her at bay. Gloria said:
"We weren't there ten minutes when we were told that we would have to move along by a security guard. I asked where we could stand, and he said I will get my supervisor if yo want. I said no don't bother I will ask that Cleveland Policeman over there. The security guard very politely kept insisting I should speak to the head of security at Jacobs Field. Probably because the police officer said he didn't know what was public or private.
"By that time, someone else in our group had talked to the head security guy who told him that three feed from the street was public . . . Of course, the cop told us that the three foot stretch would be too dangerous for people so our best bet would to be on the other side of the street. These locations were simply feeds into the main area and were not efficient for gaining large amounts of signatures."
And this is what the Toledo Blade reported today about the decision to close the park to the University of Toledo students who wanted to express concern about the Iraq War and supporters of Hitlerism. Sadly, they were prohibited.
By comparison, the land of the mouthbreathers has been pretty tame. People can complain about taxes, abortion (Cincinnati-based judges have been dismissing cases against abortion protesters) and, one supposes, even Nazis. Nobody in power seems to get their nose out of joint. Of course, they don't breath through their nostrils.