Public Art At The Ohio Statehouse (III)

For many Ohioans — me included — our favorite statue at the Ohio Statehouse is “These Are My Jewels.”  That statement is carved on the large circular monument underneath a female figure representing Ohio, and refers to the Buckeye State’s pride in the enormous contribution that the seven Ohioans depicted on the monument made to the Union cause during the Civil War.

Who were these Ohioans?  Foremost is Ulysses Grant, the hard-headed, unflappable, relentless commander who initially achieved great successes in the War’s western theater.  Grant was the “hero of Fort Donelson” who advised the Confederate forces defending the fort that “no terms except unconditional and immediate surrender” would be acceptable, and who later led Union troops to victories at Shiloh and Vicksburg.  Grant then was brought East by President Lincoln to lead the Army of the Potomac — a position at which many before him had miserably failed.  Grant, however, led the Army of the Potomac to bloody but ultimate victory, graciously accepted the surrender of the Confederate forces led by Robert E. Lee, and crafted the generous surrender terms that some historians believe accelerated the nation’s eventual recovery from the deep wounds of the War.

To Grant’s right — appropriately — is William Tecumseh Sherman, Grant’s trusted lieutenant and resolute supporter.  High-strung, mercurial, and gifted, Sherman often is credited with being the father of modern warfare.  He engineered the fall of Atlanta, cut loose from his supply lines, and then led his army on a cruel swath through the south, from Atlanta to the sea and then up the Carolina coast.  His drive through the South crippled the Confederacy and helped to crush popular support for the war and demonstrate the inevitability of the Union’s victory.  Like Grant, Sherman also had a knack for coining a memorable phrase.  When he was mentioned as a potential presidential candidate after the War he famously responded “If nominated, I will not accept; if drafted, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve.”

To Grant’s left is Philip Sheridan.  Sheridan proved to be a formidable commander in battles in the western theater, where his record included participating in the charge up Missionary Ridge in the battle of Chattanooga.  Grant then tapped him to command the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac, and Sheridan filled that role with enormous distinction.  He led the cavalry on an extended campaign through the Confederate stronghold of the Shenandoah Valley that destroyed the ability of the Valley and its residents to feed and support Lee’s Confederate army.  Later, Sheridan’s cavalry relentlessly chased and harried Lee’s retreating forces, helping to bring about Lee’s surrender at Appomatox Court House.

The other “jewels” on the monument were not quite as important to the Union effort.  They include Salmon Chase, who served as Treasury Secretary and was one of Lincoln’s “Cabinet of Rivals,” Edwin Stanton, Lincoln’s second Secretary of War, James Garfield, one of Ohio’s Presidents, and Rutherford Hayes, another of Ohio’s Presidents.

Of these remaining four “jewels,” my favorite is Stanton.  A brilliant lawyer, Stanton was a prickly personality who also was indefatigable and incorruptible as Secretary of War.  He also was present at Lincoln’s deathbed and stated, at Lincoln’s death, “Now he belongs to the ages.” (I also freely admit to liking Stanton’s statue because he is shown wearing glasses.)

Interestingly, Hayes was an afterthought, added to the “These Are My Jewels” monument only after it was first displayed at the World Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893.  When the monument was then erected on the Statehouse grounds, near the northwest corner of the Statehouse, then-Governor William McKinley pushed for adding Hayes, McKinley’s former commanding officer, as the seventh “jewel.”

“These Are My Jewels” should make any Ohioan proud about the Buckeye State.  It shows, in well-rendered granite and bronze, why Ohio does not take a back seat to any other northern state in its central contribution to the Union’s victory in the most important war in  American history.

Public Art At The Ohio Statehouse (II)

Public Art At The Ohio Statehouse (I)

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U, V, Or W (Cont.)

The most recent economic news is pretty darn grim.  The number of people filing new claims for unemployment benefits has increased, the housing market in America is depressed, and the stock market has just experienced its worst quarter in some time, with the Dow down more than 10 percent.  When you combine that with the sharp drop in consumer confidence, you get a recipe for the dreaded “W”, or double-dip recession.

Let’s hope that the current bleak outlook doesn’t continue; we don’t need the 401(k) plans and net worths of Americans to take yet another hit.  The tenuousness of the American economy, however, just indicates how important it is that our political leaders focus on getting our economy out of the dumper and back to serving as an engine of job creation.  We shouldn’t be concerned with “cap and trade,” or “green jobs,” or new tax burdens to finance other policy initiatives right now.  Bill Clinton’s reminder has never been truer than it is now:  “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Our Tax Dollars (Not) At Work (Cont.)

I posted recently on the decision of the New Albany-Plain Local Board of Education’s decision to accept the resignation of the Superintendent of Schools, pay him his six-figure salary for a year (or slightly less if he finds another job during that time period), and then hire an interim replacement at additional cost.  During this recessionary period when money is tight, this doesn’t seem like a very prudent use of tax dollars.

Now our school board is talking about hiring a consulting firm, at yet more cost, to help them hire a new superintendent.  Two consulting firms seem to be the finalists for the job.  One would charge somewhere between $25,000 and $30,000 to help the school board members do the job they were elected to do, and the other would charge 30 percent of the newly hired superintendent’s salary, plus travel expenses — a calculation that is expected to result in a fee of around $50,000.  Both consultants would do some “focus groups” in the area and prepare a “profile” of what the school district should be looking for in its superintendent, which would then be used in recruiting and interviewing candidates.

Seriously, do our school board members really need focus groups and consultants to figure out what we want in a new superintendent?  How about this for a job description:  we need an intelligent individual who has experience in managing a school district, knows how to prepare and stick to a budget and spend tax dollars wisely, and has proven to be capable in hiring and managing school principals and in motivating administrators and teachers to achieve academic excellence.  And how about having the school board members do the jobs they were elected to do and exercise some independent judgment, instead of seeking political cover by hiring consulting firms at still more cost to beleaguered taxpayers?

Let “Cuts” Be Cuts

How often have we seen this kind of story?  Congress needs to pass an important measure by a deadline.  As it becomes clear that the bill will pass, somehow, new provisions, unrelated to the purpose of the original bill, get added in hopes that they also can ride the train to enactment.  And when the additions involve new spending, as they often do, and deficit hawks insist that the new spending be paid for by offsetting “cuts,” Congress somehow finds precisely the amount of “cuts” that are necessary to make up the difference.

So it is with an Afghan war spending bill now working its way through Congress.  Democrats in the House have added $10 billion in new spending to help local school districts avoid teacher layoffs.  According to the linked article, the $10 billion would be “funded” through multiple “cuts” in prior spending bills, including last year’s dismally unsuccessful “stimulus” bill.  Other “cuts” would come from defense spending, community development, and rural internet projects.

As a matter of policy, I don’t think the federal government should concern itself with local teacher layoffs.  Those matters should be reserved for local government entities, which are best positioned to decide whether to seek additional tax revenues and, if such efforts fail, to make judgments on how to respond in accordance with their budgets.  Teacher layoffs are not necessarily a bad thing, particularly in districts where the growth in teacher hiring has been disproportionate to the growth in student population, and are certainly not a matter of federal concern.

More fundamentally, I’d like to see the $10 billion in “cuts” that would “finance” the new spending under this proposal be implemented as real cuts.  If there is $10 billion in savings to be had, let’s just actually save that money, rather than dreaming up new ways to spend it.