For STRS Board, Support Rita Walters for Retired Seat

If you are an Ohio teacher, or if you care about someone who is, this post may be of interest. If not, feel free to move on to cat videos or what passes for political discourse these days.

Members of STRS–the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio–are currently electing three members of the STRS Board: two active seats and one retired seat. The election has attracted candidates, and those candidates have attracted a lot of attention.

A number of friends and acquaintances have honored me by asking for my view of these elections. I cast my ballot for Rita Walters today.

For Ohio educators–particularly career educators–STRS plays the role that Social Security plays for others. When Social Security was set up in 1935, public employees in many states were excluded from the program. Nationally, 6.6 million public employees nationally derive their retirement benefits from plans like STRS.

For decades, these plans chugged along pretty well. However, as Baby Boomers aged, the number of benefit recipients ballooned, largely due to increases in life expectancy. In 2012, the Ohio General Assembly ordered changes to Ohio’s public pension plans that resulted in changes that have affected both active and retired public employees. 1

The financial picture has improved: some of those 2012 austerity measures are being eased, and the fiscal position of STRS is better than it has been in a very long time.

That hasn’t prevented the injection of a fair amount of demagoguery into the STRS elections. Rival candidates have been attacking incumbents, implying that they have solutions that elude the incumbents. The fact is that there are no magic bullets. STRS Board members have fiduciary responsibilities, and a Board member elected with a predetermined agenda has already breached those responsibilities.

The platform statement of Rita’s challenger makes it clear that she has such an agenda, and it demonstrates a dangerous misunderstanding of the role of STRS Board members. The challenger appears to promise what she can’t deliver, and she confuses the role of legislators with that of the Board.

Rita Walters has the training and experience needed to continue to make sound decisions for Ohio’s retired teachers; she’s been doing that. The fund is doing better than it has for years, the COLA has started back, and for actives, the age 60 requirement for retirement has been eliminated.

My advice to my friends and colleagues is to vote to re-elect the incumbents. For retirees, that’s Rita Walters. For actives, those are Jeff Rhodes and Rob McFee.

Votes are due Monday, May 2.


  1. As a young teacher, I assumed that my retirement, like Social Security, was supported by the full faith and credit of my fellow citizens. Turns out that wasn’t true: the 2012 legislation sent the message that teachers would have to figure out, and pay for, the solution.

Busy Night at the Open Mic

My last post about the Twinsburg Public Library Open Mic Nights mentioned the irony that in February, with bad weather expected, we actually had a big turnout. It was even busier in March, with 21 participants.

We had a bit more audience as well as more performers, and with each of us performing two numbers, audience members were there for three hours. Still, all seemed to enjoy the evening. (Or if not, they left.)

We had a flutist join us, performing a Bach air and a folk song, which added quite a variety to the performances.

Lately, I have been scheduled last (at my request) in the interest of reducing setup time. But now that I’m using my own mic and amp separate from the guitars, setup time isn’t an issue. I’m being encouraged to go back to taking my regular spot in the order we sign in at. I won’t mind that, and it will permit Tom Honsa to finish up the evening, which is fitting.

For my own numbers, I selected the challenge calling for the “Worst or Best Song for a Father-Daughter wedding dance,” and actually offered one of each.

  • For my first number, I chose “Unforgettable.” Nat King Cole recorded the classic version in 1951. I figure that the “virtual duet” released forty years later by his daughter Natalie qualifies it as among the best songs for a father-daughter wedding dance.
  • Since my second number would be the last of the night, I wanted something more lively. I offered “When I’m Not Near the Girl I Love,” from the 1947 musical Finian’s Rainbow, which is both uptempo AND thoroughly inappropriate as a father-daughter dance number. (You’ll have to listen to find out why.)

The challenges for April 6 are:

  • Teen Idol (Laura says, “anyone from Frank Sinatra to Leif Garrett! I’ll even allow a Backstreet Boys Cover!”);
  • Songs about rain-or rain in the title; and
  • Neil Diamond.

In case you missed it, the library has published this short video about Open Mic Nights, which gives a good idea what they’re like and also explores the origins of the event at TPL.

‘Bye for now.

TPL Open Mic Surprises

February’s Open Mic Night at the Twinsburg Public Library was held on the eve of an expected storm. T’burg schools had already been closed for the following day, but so far it was just raining: the weather wasn’t expected to get serious until overnight.

So the February 2 Open Mic Night went on as planned, with an announcement that we would omit the usual round of encores and get everyone out by 8:30. As we started, it seemed we had a small group; but somewhere in the evening we “snowballed” to 15 performers, and even without encores we ran a bit past 8:30.

We welcomed two new performers: Bob, who appears to have a way to use his guitar as the front end for a synthesizer; and Larny, who plays ukelele and harmonica (not at the same time.) Larny took down the house with a performance of Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is” on the harmonica.

This month the quality of all the performances really seemed to have gone up a notch. All three of the challenges (love songs, Rod Stewart, and folk songs) were represented, and it seems that the sharing is helping us all to improve. One of the remarkable things about Open Mic is the encouraging, supportive culture; in a real sense, we become a circle of friends.

I have a wonderful Roland FP-60 keyboard, and I brought it last month. But it’s hard to rationalize that much setup when there’s a fairly good keyboard there at the library, so this month I just brought my amp and hooked it to their keyboard.

Balance between my voice and the piano has been a problem. I think I got a bit closer, but it’s still not right. Next month I think I’ll use my own mic hooked into the amp, so that I can work out the balance in practice rather than rely on a quick mic setup between sets.

Among this month’s challenges, you just know I had to go with love songs, although I did hear some nice Rod Stewart numbers I hadn’t thought of. I had a third love song ready, but it can be saved for a future opportunity. Recordings of my selections for this month:

  • “Night and Day” (because there’s always room for more Cole Porter); started a bit shaky, but ended up OK;
  • “The Twelfth of Never” (an interesting backstory, told in the recording; actually based on a 15th-century folk song).

The challenges for March 2 sound pretty exotic: Original Song; Worst or Best Song for a Father-Daughter wedding dance; and “Yacht Rock,” otherwise known as soft rock. Not in my wheelhouse, but we’ll see.