Monday, May 5, 1997
Sounding off at the sound
of the tone


BY CLIFF RADEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Be careful when you open your voice mail. It might take till lunch just to get through it.

Reaction to my column about Steven Von Bargen - I thought he should go to jail for the deaths of three teens - drew strong reaction and plenty of it.

''You're being too hard on the kid. He didn't do it on purpose.'' - Sam Esterling, East End.

''Who are you to judge him?'' - Wanda James, Montgomery.

''I hate to agree with you. But he killed three kids.'' - P.J. Lau, West Chester.

''I agree with you,'' said Joan Anderson of Highland Heights. ''But how often do you speed on the way to work?''

''Thanks for having the guts to write what needed to be said. Hope they don't skewer you too much.'' - Colleen Armstrong, Hamilton.

''I'm going to use my influence to get you out of the paper,'' said a caller who was so powerful she had no name.

''Community service, yes. Jail, no.'' - Alf Baker, Bridgetown.

''Let him go to schools and talk to other kids about the wreck,'' said Patty Poore of Price Hill. ''Maybe he'll save a whole lot of lives.''

''The judge could give him no jail time and thousands of hours of community service,'' argued Jack Martin of Kenwood. ''But what message does that give to school kids? They'll think: 'I can kill three people and just get community service.'''

''Don't send him to jail,'' said Ed Monahan of Ludlow. ''Correction facilities are just training grounds for evil.''

''There's no remorse on this kid's part,'' said Doug Ferguson of Mason. ''And the family is still acting like he did nothing wrong. He should go to jail. He could be let out on shock probation. But he should still go to jail.''

''This is the sickest article I've ever read in The Cincinnati Enquirer,'' said Betsy Saal of Mount Washington. ''I don't even know if you're human.''

''Good for you for writing that he should go to jail,'' said Jo Ann Barry of Mount Washington. ''He deserves the same justice a poor kid would get.''

''This is not about Steven Von Bargen having suffered enough or not feeling sorry for him or wanting to see him punished,'' said Barbara Knochelmann of Taylor Mill. ''It's about him knowing that he's responsible for his actions. The only way he'll know that is by going to jail.'''

Mount Healthy vs. Woodward

The friendly post-game handshake turned into a violent fist fight. Woodward High School's baseball team lost to Mount Healthy and then beat up the winners, shattering a jaw, breaking a nose, chipping teeth and inflicting a concussion. Six Woodward players were charged and face expulsion from school.

My column suggested counseling these kids as well. Some talented coaches I called said the winless team needed help with basic baseball skills to give them a chance on the field and in life.

''What is going to happen to the boys who are expelled?'' asked Kim Perin of Kenwood. ''Will they slip into crime? Can we expel these boys for something we see every weekend in adult sports?''

''Your answer to this sordid display only poses more difficult questions,'' Beverly Bodin faxed from Loveland. ''Do we place entirely too much emphasis on sports ... and not near enough time emphasizing a good education, moral behavior and personal responsibility?''

Northern exposure

Newport's Millennium Freedom Tower 2000 and its world's largest bell set up another column.

While not wild about the 1,083-foot tower on the south side of the river, I was impressed with Northern Kentucky's driving spirit of cooperation.

''Impressed'' does not describe development on the north shore. While Northern Kentucky acts, Cincinnati dithers. Readers agreed.

''In Cincinnati there is no spirit of cooperation,'' said Aaron Wilkerson of Green Township. ''The bigwigs look at a project and ask: 'How much can I make from it?' They don't care about what's good for the city.''

Ernie Pretot of Southgate sees the tower as a symbol and Cincinnati's debating society as a joke.

''What do Cincinnatians and the ancient Israelites have in common?'' he asked.

''They both climb a hill, look across a river and see the promised land.''

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Available to speak to groups. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.