Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ken Lanci shows me his homework

Ken Lanci walked into the conference room looking very stern. He carried two bulky binders and few sheets of paper. He showed no sign of the smile he’s replicated on 75 buses. No diplomacy, just business.

Lanci set the binders and papers on the table in front of him. I recognized my blog’s logo on the top sheet and saw a single paragraph marked. I knew which one.

I first interviewed Lanci in January, a week after he announced his run for county executive. I slammed him on my blog for not knowing the county government well. I’d asked him to critique the county’s economic development department and he gave a maddening non-answer.

“There are a lot of things I can’t comment on without getting in the belly of the beast,” he said then. “I’m not promising anything until I get inside.”

I wrote: “This sounds too much like, Trust me, I'll figure it out. Before voters can trust him as a turnaround expert, Lanci needs to show that his business turnaround experience is relevant to county government.”

Now, in our second interview, Lanci wanted to confront what I’d written. He turned one of my questions around and read my “Trust me” paragraph back to me.

“The challenge, I consider legitimate, a great question,” Lanci told me. “I answer it the way I’ve always done business. I look at the county as if I’m buying it.”

I don’t know if I’d nudged him to dig deeper, or if he’d meant to do it all along. But the guy had done his research.

“I’ve had about 60 agency visits, meeting with directors and with staff,” he said. “And as a result of that, I’ve put together my plan. Now, I’m not going to share the details with you because —

“There’s 60 of them,” I said.

“That wouldn’t be prudent at this time either, to lay out the plans for everyone else to take a look at.” (Meaning the other candidates, I assumed.)

He opened a binder. “I have each budget for each agency I reviewed. I have the director, a bio of the agency, as well as photos of directors.”

Lanci said he thought some county departments were working just fine, including Developmental Disability and, surprisingly, Children And Family Services. He defended Deborah Forkas, CFS’s embattled director, as a “professional of the highest standard,” unfairly blamed for abuse of kids in families the agency monitored. The law prefers that kids be reunited with their parents, Lanci noted. “It’s easy to say it’s the director’s fault. It’s not the director’s fault.”

He promised to reorganize the auditor’s and recorder’s offices, but wouldn’t tell me which other offices he thought needed improvement.

“The last thing you want to be perceived [as] is a bull in a china shop before you get there,” he said. “That’s not what I am. I don’t want people to anticipate things that aren’t real, just because I say, this department has issues.”

I suggested he was passing up a chance to show voters what sort of change he’d deliver.

“I’m schooled on the business of the county,” he replied. “They can trust that if I spent the time getting that information, I know which [agencies] are the tough ones, and the ones I need to deal with. … This is that part where you said ‘Trust me.’ I ask you to trust me not based on my statement, ‘Trust me.’ Trust me based on the work that I’ve done.”

I left full of conflicting thoughts about Lanci. By the interview’s end, he’d reinforced my feeling that he’d have trouble getting along with other elected officials. He told me he’d press Northeast Ohio’s congressional delegation to bring home more federal spending.

“Every one of these people are going to be called in and are going to be required to be part of the solution,” he declared: “Every other senator, every other [U.S.] representative, the governor, treasurer, everybody, has got to work for Cuyahoga County.”

To the best of my knowledge, county officials don’t “call in” governors, senators or congressmen. They have to ask them for help. Politely.

But addressing my criticism showed his willingness to tackle a challenge. And he proved this much: He’s worked hard to figure out county government in case voters choose him on Tuesday.


Anonymous said...

I'm very happy Lanci chose to get his name on the ballot. He's not a perfect candidate, but he's generally qualified and deserves fair consideration.

I just wish he had more "eye of the tiger." He's trailing in the polls and hasn't done enough to put doubt in voters' minds about Dolan and Fitzgerald -- each of whom have plenty of questionable marks on their records. Money is no object, why hasn't Lanci launched any intelligent and sustained attacks?

Right now, he's on the path to electoral defeat. When he rolls out of bed on the morning after election day, and the writing is on wall, I wonder how he'll feel about having blown hundreds of thousands of dollars, only to have finished in a distant third place.

If he's a man of his word, he'll fund a non-profit county government watchdog group. If not, he'll go back to his sun tan machine and $400,000 Maybach, never to be heard from again.

Anonymous said...

If one pays attention to the fact that Lanci has not attacked the other candidates, particularly the inexperienced and probably corrupt blue and obviously biased in favor of the family business red, you will find character and charisma. He is letting the dems shoot at the republicans and vice versa, standing in the crossfire and holding up the flag of common sense and experience. He's obviouly qualified, and for all intensive purposes unable to be bought... He's built a legacy of success of endurance in the business world that stands apart from 100% of the candidates for this post. He stands for siezing time and opportunity and making the best of it.
Cuyahoga County however has deadlocked itself in a cycle of repeated bad mistakes.
Think of it this way:

Fitzgerald claims strength in his experience as an FBI agent and uses justice as a major platform. If that was a reasonable truth, why is there still such a large ammount of violent gay bashing in Lakewood. With the largest gay community in Ohio, wouldn't protecting his main demographic be number one on his list at his dayjob and with his experience in Justice wouldn't he be successful?

And Dolan, his family owns one of the LARGEST businesses in the state let alone the county. Do you really think he will advocate for the county over personal interest. I'm an honest man, and I wouldn't be able to do that. His character speaks for itself, he's quit every elected job he's had for the next one down the line with a larger amount of power... the guy even moved to Cuyahoga County to run for this job, which means in essence he is trying to take away a job that can goto a resident of the county, solely because he can afford to move around.

Even the girl who wanted to put a Disney World in the Ameritrust Tower had more common sence than that.

If you stand all three in a row, Lanci, Fitzgerald and Dolan, what you would find is to spoiled chilrden being scolded by a far wiser man.

If common sense applies, and it should, then there really isn't a race at all.

Anonymous said...

"If common sense applies, and it should, then there really isn't a race at all."

I agree, however, commonsense doesn't apply to the largely uninformed and apathetic electorate. The majority of voting age residents in Cuyahoga County won't even cast a ballot! They'll stay at home, uninspired by any of the candidates. Think about that.

Lanci's people never took the gloves off and captivated the populace -- EVEN THOUGH THEY HAD THE PROPER FUNDING. It's inexplicable. What are they playing for? Second or third place?

Lanci's best chance at redemption would be to start a non-profit county watchdog. The first of its kind in the state, maybe even the nation. It would satisfy his ego, take advantage of the considerable amount of information he's learned, and would be a legitimate achievement of consequence.

Anonymous said...

Finally we have a man that is demanding that our county get it's fair share from the state and feds and you begrudge him for it.

"To the best of my knowledge, county officials don’t “call in” governors, senators or congressmen. They have to ask them for help. Politely."

Do your research - to the best of my knowledge Cuyahoga County is the largest county in the state with the largest budget, making the executive the second most powerful position in the state. If he decides to "call in" others I'm sure he will do it politely but you can damn well bet that they are going to come and I commend him for that. That is called confidence, having confidence in yourself and your abilities. We have lost confidence in our elected officials, but with Ken Lanci we can gain some of that confidence back.

I am personally sick and tired of all the “getting along” in our county politics, the politicians have been “getting along” with all of our money for far too long. So if the only fault you now have with Ken Lanci is that he might not get along then I say GOOD, let’s all stand behind him and help him fight for what this county deserves. Finally someone that has the will, knowledge and confidence to get something done around here!

Ken Lanci has my vote!

Anonymous said...

this guy wont accept anything larger than a $250 cont. for his cause. that says it all right there.

if u want what u got got....dont vote for him

wake up people