Monday, April 30, 2007

Tracking City Spending (UPDATED)

There's been a lot of discussion in our area and on line about City of Toledo spending - specially in light of the new garbage tax (which is going into the general fund and not dedicated solely to garbage service) and the comment by many city council members, including the Republicans, that there wasn't any where else to cut the budget.

Originally, the city was going to start collecting the tax on May 1st, with an estimated revenue of $2,916,000 for the year. However, our mayor decided to start collecting the tax the date it was approved by council - April 2nd - which means that the city is going to get an estimated $364,500 MORE revenue than originally projected.

Of course, that means another $364,500 of spending that the city can make...

So, since the City is getting more of our money than anticipated and because they said there was no unnecessary spending in the budget, I thought I'd start tracking their spending. (See list on left column.)

I will be listing all expenditures that are, in my opinion, UNNECESSARY. The tracking of such spending is not a reflection on any group or organization that is the recipient of such funding - merely a reflection of how far our local government has come away from fulfilling its statutory duties and how costly such spending can be. And many people will say that such recipients deserve such funding ... my point is that council should be prioritizing the spending and not raising our taxes so that government can do 'nice' things to the detriment of doing 'statutory' things.

My source for these expenditures will be the Toledo City Journal which is the official city record of ordinances approved by City Council.

To start off:
* City Council spent $25,000 to the LCIC (Lucas County Improvement Corporation) despite the mayor's position that the city already has an economic development department and is providing staff support for the organization.
* $15,000 to the MetroParks to provide educational nature programs at the Ottawa Park Nature Education Center.

Or these which are on the agenda for today: (note - corrected as previous post wrongly indicated that the $43,000 had already been voted on)
* $43,000 for the design, hosting and maintenance of the city's website. (Now, the city needs a website and hosting for it, but already has a person on staff who's supposed to be working on design.)
* $39,900 for gateway beautification - meaning flowers at the entranceways to our city.
UPDATE: The $39,900 was approved by City Council and has been added to the running total in the left column.

If you are aware of any general fund spending that should be included, please let me know and I'll add it to the list.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Burning question

If there's as much popular support for withdrawing troops from Iraq as is claimed by the Democrats in Congress, why did it take so much pork to buy their votes?

Government's proper role?

In reading about the Employee Free Choice Act, which would eliminate the secret ballots for employees considering a union, I had pretty much decided that this was a clearly mis-named bill and was detrimental to employees.

But a recent article has gotten me thinking about the overall issue of how government interfers in what should be a free market. I offer this article from the Foundation for Economic Education for your consideration as you look at this bill - and the bigger picture of freedom of choice.

As background, the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), one of the oldest free-market organizations in the United States, was founded in 1946 by Leonard E. Read to study and advance the freedom philosophy. FEE's mission is to offer the most consistent case for the "first principles" of freedom: the sanctity of private property, individual liberty, the rule of law, the free market, and the moral superiority of individual choice and responsibility over coercion.

The article raises the following point: "As might be expected, in a corporatist mixed economy such questions aren't as clear-cut as they appear on the surface. Of course, the pro-business side opposes the EFCA, while the pro-labor side supports it. Both say they want to protect workers from intimidation. But looking deeper we see that the conflict is over how a government agency, the NLRB, should manage labor relations."

I encourage you to read the article - perhaps it will stimulate your thinking as it did mine.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

NOAA seeks public input on Ohio's Coastal Program

Press release from ODNR:


SANDUSKY, OH – The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will hold a public meeting on Wednesday, May 16, to gather comments on the Ohio Coastal Management Program, which is administered by the state’s Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Erie County Commissioners’ Office, 247 Columbus Ave., Room 301, in Sandusky.

NOAA officials will conduct the public meeting as part of a five-day federal site visit designed to evaluate the Ohio program’s overall effectiveness and scope of operation. National coastal management procedures require evaluation site visits every three years in order for the program to remain eligible for NOAA grants. A majority of Ohio Coastal Management Program funding comes from NOAA.

People living and working along the Lake Erie coastline or within the lake’s watershed are encouraged to attend the May 16 public meeting and provide written or oral comments on the coastal management program. Additional information about the program and the upcoming public meeting is available by calling the ODNR Office of Coastal Management at 419-626-7980.

For additional news online, check out the ODNR Press Room at

Monday, April 23, 2007

On A Clear Day...

On a clear day
Rise and look around you
And you'll see who you are
On a clear day
How it will astound you
That the glow of your being
Outshines every star
You’ll feel part of every mountain sea and shore
You can hear
From far and near
A word you’ve never, never heard before...
And on a clear day...On a clear day...
You can see forever...
And ever...
And ever...
And ever more. . .

While I cannot agree with Barbra Streisand's politics, I've long been a fan of her early musicals. With weekends like the one we've just had, I couldn't help but be reminded of her song, "On A Clear Day," especially when I realized that we could easily see West Sister Island from our house.

West Sister is about 18 miles from our house and usually isn't visible with the naked eye. If you look at the far right side of the island, you can see a white vertical structure (looks like a break in the trees) which is the old lighthouse on the island. Additionally, we could pick out Middle Sister and East Sister (roughly 25 and 31 miles, respectively), even though they didn't show up well in the pictures.

In my time growing up on Maumee Bay, I can remember 4 times that atmospheric conditions were just right for seeing West Sister. However, I do not recall ever being able to see Middle and I guess that it's true - on a clear day, you can see forever.


But being able to see clearly isn't always a good thing...considering some recent local items in the news.

The Mayor wants to spend $39,000 for flowers to plant in the gateways of the city and two of our local Republicans (Ludeman and Sarantou) think this is a good idea. Of course, these are two of our council members who also said there was no where left in the budget for cuts which is why we have a brand new trash tax.

And then there was the news that the Mud Hens are in discussions for an Arena 2 Football league and, perhaps, an NBA development team. Good for the Mud Hens - except that in both these stories, the price of the arena is being quoted as $85 million, $5 million more than originally estimated. Of course, the publicized funding streams identified for the arena only total $80 million - but is anyone asking where this additional $5 million is going to come from?

And so I was reminded of Robert Kennedy's quote...

"It is not enough to understand, or to see clearly. The future will be shaped in the arena of human activity, by those willing to commit their minds and their bodies to the task."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Selling public land and shafting the taxpayers

When is it appropriate for government to sell public lands? Governments of all kinds routinely sell land, but they keep the proceeds from such sales in the public treasury, and most people are okay with this arrangement.

Except in Lucas County, where our Board of Commissioners thinks it's okay to sell public lands to a non-profit entity with the clear expectation that the non-profit will re-sell the property to a developer and make a ton money.

According to Comm. Tina Skeldon Wozniak, quoted in this article in The Blade, the non-profit agency, "deserves to have it." Comm. Pete Gerken said it "was a reward to the recreation district for taking care of the site for more than a decade."

The BCC has been leasing the Centennial Terrace to a non-profit group for years. Under the lease agreement, they're supposed to run the recreational area and not ask for any more funds from the County...but they did ask, and routinely received, funds or improvements over the years. And they've done a good job of managing the Centennial Terrace - but that's not the point. We're not supposed to reward non-profit agencies with public lands without due compensation to the public which owns them. And why does a non-profit organization deserve the property more than the taxpayers?

The value of the land is only what someone is willing to pay for it. And if there is a developer who is willing to pay $1.5 million for 1.78 of the 19 acres in the property, then that sale should be done by the commissioners with the proceeds going into the County treasury.

This was an issue last year when I was still a commissioner - and it's taken this long for them to come up with a spin to put on the sale. The way to sell this deal is to call it "local control." As Comm. Gerken says, "We know putting the property in local hands is the right thing to do." But a non-profit agency is not 'local control,' especially when everyone knows that a developer will soon have 'control' of at least a portion of that property.

In this case, the commissioners are abdicating their obligation to do what's in the best interest of the public they serve - instead choosing to do what's in the best interest of a non-profit agency. And this at a time when they're not meeting their revenue projections...

So instead of you, me and all county residents getting $1.5 million for a portion of the land at Centennial Terrace, we're getting $1. What's wrong with this picture?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Arena fiscal shell game

Well, the Mud Hens are purchasing a controlling interest in The Storm Hockey Team - and good for them! (see Blade article for details)

The Mud Hens organization is terrific and I believe they bring much-needed credibility to any Arena project. But, in any transaction, the devil is in the details.

According to the article, the Mud Hens have formed Toledo Arena Sports, Inc., a non-profit, to own the team. The Mud Hens will give the County the money to actually make the purchase.

The article continues: "“Once the hockey team is up and running, it will reimburse the Mud Hens for the purchase price,” Mr. Napoli said.

The net proceeds of the hockey team will be used to run the franchise, with any profit used to whittle down the mortgage on the new arena."

Sound familiar? It should - because this was the same deal for 5/3 Field...except that the additional proceeds from operations at 5/3 Field did NOT go to reduce the mortgage/bonds. They were - and continue to be - used to balance the general fund budget of the County. Oh, the County makes its scheduled payments, but that additional income has not been applied as originally stated.

Do we think it's possible the same may hold true for a new arena? I, for one, do. Which is why I hope that the Mud Hens have learned their lesson from 5/3 Field and get an airtight agreement with the County for how any additional income/profits are to be expended.

And, since the Mud Hens have to come up with cash for the actual purchase, do we think that their additional profits from this past season might be the source? And what will the County do if that additional income (usually around $1 million) goes to purchasing The Storm instead of directly into the general fund for day-to-day operations? Have they budgeted for this lack of income in 2007?

The devil is in the details...

Tax Day and who is "rich"

Well, it's tax day and I thought you'd be interested in some quick facts...

Gregory Mankiw, an economist at Harvard, conducted a study about the 'cost' of a tax decrease. If his figures are looked at from another perspective, you can also get the 'cost' of a tax increase...

According to his figures, if Congress would forego 50 cents of revenue, the economy would grow and people would have $2 more income. I think we'd all like the extra $2 and isn't that a small price for the government to pay?

Additionally, the cost of providing the government with an extra $1 tax increase on dividends only nets the Treasury 50 cents, but costs you and me $2 in lost incomee - in addition to the 50 cents in tax. Again - who would be better off with this money - the government or you and me?

And then there was this wonderful study by the Congressional Budget Office which details who is paying what in terms of taxes.

Did you know that people who make more than $43,200 fall into the top 40% of earners and pay 99.1% of all income taxes?

Did you know that people who made more than $87,300 in 2004 (which is easy to do in Toledo with a 2-income household and a decent union wage), are in the top 10% of earners? Did you know that they paid 70.8% of all income taxes and that this was an increase over the 48.1% that such earners paid in 1979?

The 'super rich' (top 1% of earners) in 2004 made 16.3% of the country's income but they pay 36.7% of the income tax. The middle class makes 13.9% of the country's income but pays 4.7% of the income tax. In 1979, the 'super rich' paid 18.3% and the middle class paid 10.7% of the country's income tax.

Basically, because of our form of government, 60% of the people (those who don't pay taxes) can force 40% to pay all the bills. And remember that that 40% starts with earnings of $43,200!

It's redistribution of wealth - the main premise of socialism - in America. What's wrong with this picture?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Congressman Cooper (D-TN) gets it right

In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, "The Incumbent Party," (may require subscription) Democrat Congressman Jim Cooper points out the fundamental principles that guide the 'incumbent' party.

He lists 10 points that both parties adhere to when in the majority - and they are sobering points, indeed.

From "pretend to budget for the next five years while offering instead a one-year political fix," to "shamelessly exempt the federal government from normal Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), making it the only large entity in America - private or public - able to flout the rules," he points out the fallacies of our federal fiscal policies.

And he even touches on that 'third rail' by saying the Social Security and Medicare trust funds do not exist and that future benefits in these systems are not 'vested' but are, instead, 'scheduled' which means that they can be rescheduled or eliminated, at any time, by Congress. He adds, "Rescheduling is even easier to do when Congress refuses to record today's benefit levels on any federal balance sheet."

Unfortunately, these issues don't get anywhere near the media coverage as Anna Nicole Smith's baby or Don Imus' stupidity. And they are infinitely more important - especially when you consider that Cooper reports our true share of the national debt is $170,000 each, or $440,000 per household - and that's in addition to our current taxes.

Sadly, the reality of these fiscal problems don't make a difference when the majority of our Congressmen start loading up bills with pork. As Cooper says, "neither wing of the Incumbent Party offers any lasting solutions, only budgetary gimmicks."

I encourage you to read his column and remember these sobering facts when you file your income tax forms - and when you vote.

(The 2006 Financial Report of the U.S. Government, on which Cooper bases his comments, is available here.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

TPS School Board update

As part of the grass-roots effort to support two qualified school board candidates, our un-named group sent questionnaires to all individuals known to have an interest in running for TPS school board. (click here for background information)

We had seven people respond to the questionnaire and we expect to interview all of them over the next several weeks. I wanted to point out that the candidates are Republican, Democrat and Independent - and all will be given full and fair consideration.

I'm grateful to these individuals who are willing to meet with us and share their ideas and goals for the Toledo Public Schools. Our community is better served by having all of them participate in the political process.

Also, don't forget that the first fundraiser for our endorsed candidates is Friday, from 6-9 p.m., at The Distillery on Heatherdowns. The suggested donation is $20. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

To Toledo's elected officials:

Excessive taxation... will carry reason and reflection to every man’s door, and particularly in the hour of election.” —Thomas Jefferson

(hat tip to The Patriot Post)

Monday, April 09, 2007

Random Thoughts

* Will anyone make an issue about Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's trip to Syria and the Logan Act?

* A recent Toledo Blade article featured City Council President Rob Ludeman's comment on the trash tax going into effect EARLIER than anticipated...that it was a good thing because the government "needs the money." And we, the taxpayers, don't????

* The mayor wants us to donate time, equipment and materials to plant gardens on public property...great idea, except for the fact that our taxes already pay for this to be done. Perhaps if the mayor had cut this out of his budget, more citizens might be willing to step up to the plate. But considering that 'there's no where else to cut,' who knows?

* Gov. Strickland's plan to eliminate the voucher system will force children back into failing schools...I just don't understand why eliminating parental choice is a good thing.

* And why is that all those opposed to charter schools or vouchers make a point of saying that charter schools who don't measure up should be closed, but that public schools that don't measure up need more money?

* And why do the same people who advocate for 'choice' when it comes to sexual orientation and abortion, oppose 'choice' when it comes to education?

* Considering the management position at the Blade regarding their unions, isn't it odd that they've not covered a decertification vote for the union representing the nurses at St. Vincent Medical Center?

* Overall government spending in FY 2004 came to $3.75 bil­lion, or $32,706 per household across the entire U.S. population, according to a study by The Heritage Foundation. How much will you have paid in taxes on April 15th?

* Oil company earnings are about 10% of the cost of a gallon of gas. Taxes are about 17% of the cost of a gallon of gas. Before government officials start complaining about the greed of 'big oil,' shouldn't they maybe look at themselves, first?

* The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is a pending bill that will remove the right of employees to have a secret ballot when voting on union representation. In an Aug. 2001 letter to Mexican labor authorities, EFCA sponsor George Miller (D-CA), said: "We feel that the secret ballot is absolutely necessary in order to ensure that workers are not intimidated into voting for a union they might not otherwise choose." Yet Miller's legislation enables the very intimidation he warns against. Will anyone in the mainstream point out the hypocrisy or even ask Rep. Miller to explain?

* Why do so many believe that climate change is something humans can control? The Earth warms and cools - this area once had glaciers. Are we so arrogant to believe that we can or should stop the formation of glaciers? I know - the earth is warming...but if we can't or shouldn't stop the cooling, can we or should we stop the warming?

* And what is the optimum temperature of the Earth, anyway? Shouldn't that be the FIRST question we ask and answer?

* As I heard on tv the other night...If you had to choose between saving a tree or feeding your child, what would you decide?

* William Pitt said, “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants.” Perhaps we should remember this anytime someone looks to government to provide money because something is 'needed.'

Monday, April 02, 2007

A Job Description for Board of Education

One of the most frustrating things for me, as an elected official, was when people would call me up and tell me how much they agreed with the position I'd taken, how much they supported my efforts on an issue and how they thought I was on the right path. However, being in the minority, I would always ask if they'd be willing to stand with me on the issue. Invariably, the answer was no. They were willing for me to take a stand, and willing to let me know they agreed with me, but they weren't willing to offer themselves - or their support - in public.

I understand why many took such a position, but always felt that until such individuals were willing to make public their private convictions, the area would not move forward.

About three months ago, I was approached by several individuals who were frustrated with the Toledo Public Schools and the Board of Education. Some of these people had been 'fighting the good fight' with the school system for a long time...others only recently reached a level of frustration that sparked their involvement. What was different about these people was their willingness to publicly pronounce their dissatisfaction and to take the next step to become politically involved in electing individuals who would be more accountable to the taxpayers, parents and children.

They asked me if I would join them in their efforts, lending my successful campaigning experiences to their group. I was impressed with the dedication they showed, their willingness to step forward and their commitment to a good school board member and not to any special interests. So I said yes.

This group doesn't have a name, it doesn't have a leader, but it does have a mission: to elect two new school board members this fall. The group has people from all walks of life - business, community groups, teachers, parents. It has no political bent - there are Republicans, Democrats and Independents. Who we are, or what party we belong to, is not important within this group because we share a common goal of excellence in our school board and we're all willing to set aside our partisan or social or philosophical differences in order to achieve this objective.

Lisa Renee of Glass City Jungle is also a member and has her own post...asked to join because of her extensive experience in blogging and internet outreach. Together, today we are announcing our reasons for joining our fellow citizens in this endeavor and are inviting those of you who may share in this goal to join us.

The most critical thing that any group can do is to define what they are trying to accomplish. While this citizen group has many interests, we wanted to all be on the same page when it came to supporting individuals for the school board. So we developed a job description for TPS School Board Member.

Interestingly, there wasn't one available, despite the many responsibilities. We enhanced the job description by creating a list of characteristics or attributes we all believed would be ideal in a candidate. We realize that one person may not have everything on our list or all the qualifications we seek, but creating the list and the job description gives us the starting point for making a good decision about whom we should back in the upcoming election. The job description and list are available here.

To have any group of 30-40 agree on a job description may seem unlikely, but we did. We approached this from the perspective of hiring a person to do a job for us and before we got into the hiring aspect, we had to clearly define the job to ensure the candidate would meet the needs. We want you to look at the job description and see if you agree.

We've invited all the known candidates for school board to answer a simple questionnaire and to interview with several individuals for an endorsement. With our endorsement comes volunteers, fundraising, campaign strategy, coordinated p.r., introductions within our various realms of participation (clubs/organizations/etc) and other campaign support, including research on the various issues facing TPS.

Our first public event is a fundraiser Friday, April 13, 2007 from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at the The Distillery - 4311 Heatherdowns Blvd. The suggested donation of $20 includes: a coupon for a 16 oz draft beer, unlimited soft drinks, wings, pizza, veggies, and other snack foods. Additional draft beer is $1; imported or domestic beer and mixed drinks will be available at regular prices.

If you'd like to know more about this unique group, or see who's involved, please join us on the 13th...and stay turned to ThurbersThoughts and GlassCityJungle for updates.

Mobile Meals Chili Cookoff


Saturday was the annual Mobile Meals Chili Cookoff and my niece, Ashley, and I thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful variety of tastes present at this event.

We methodically moved up and down the various aisles obtaining the small containers of chili and noting any uniqueness in presentation or special items. Many had cheese, sour cream and onions. A couple included small cornbread muffins...Nick & Jimmy's had bread with Texas butter.

We were impressed by Penta Vocational Schools' offerings...The seniors (pictured) did an Oriental Spicy Chili and the juniors called theirs "Ugly Duckling Chili." Even though they didn't end up as one of our favorites, they were very tasty and very unique.

Of our top three picks, we agreed on two. My niece loves the very spicy, but I don't, which is why WXKR 94.5's "Highway to Hell" chili ended up as her #2 choice. Our #3 choice was Mature Living Magazine, which we felt had an excellent consistency and a taste that everyone could enjoy. Ashley's #1 was my #3...The Toledo Zoo Catering's offering which was very different from all the others, we think because the chili was topped with sour cream and cilantro. The cilantro really added a uniqueness to the flavors and we both decided that the next time I make chili, we'll try that as a topping.

My #1 choice was Level 3 chili from the Toledo Neighborhood Block Watch. Their recipe was very traditional, not too spicy, and a bit thinner than some of the others, which made it perfect for adding sour cream, cheese and crackers. Additionally, they made Apple Crisp to help 'cleanse the pallet' and topped it with whipped cream. The Apple Crisp was loaded with pecans and was the perfect end to a long selection of chilis. Aside from their great chili, these Block Watch members were having a terrific time, and you couldn't help but smile and laugh as they plied their offerings...

Mobile Meals is a terrific organization that my husband and I have supported for a number of years. If you'd like more information about Mobile Meals, would like to volunteer to help or participate in this event or their Wine Gala (which will celebrate its 20th year this November), or would be willing to help individuals within our community maintain their independence by delivering meals, click here.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Where have all the Republicans gone?

To say that I'm disappointed with my fellow Republicans on City Council is an understatement. Angry, irate, annoyed, irritated, livid, incensed, outraged...these are better words to use.

Our Republican Party used to stand for less government and lower taxes. I realize that, on a national level, many of those elected with our Party's designation have ignored these core principles for a long time. Even on a state level, there are many who've forgotten that standing by these core principles and reflecting them in votes was what those who'd cast ballots expected.

Because of my frustration with these national leaders, I've told the National Republican Party and the National Senatorial Campaign Committee that I was not going to make donations to them until they stopped focusing on incumbency and got back to focusing on the principles that define us and our Party. I would tell the callers that I was going to give my money to local candidates where I'd have more say in how they voted and more opportunities to ensure true conservative principles in government.

And then our four elected Republicans on Toledo City Council decide to vote for a 'trash fee' ... which isn't really a trash fee. It's a tax for the general fund budget, which has grown considerably over that last several years, despite a decrease in population.

Even Joe Birmingham, who'd publicly taken the principled stand and said he wouldn't vote for it, changed his mind and did so.

They've said that there wasn't anywhere else they could cut without impacting police - but I see that they didn't eliminate temps and interns. Their excuse for this was something about three-year contracts for such services. My position? Every contract has an out - and if our city law department was so stupid as to not build an 'out' into the contract, Council still could have reduced the mayor's budget by these line item amounts and told him that he could find the money for these two services elsewhere in his office budget. And Council didn't reduce the marketing or advertising budgets that I could see - so there was still 'fat' to eliminate prior to imposing a new tax.

Perhaps our Republicans are Council aren't knowledgeable enough about budgets to be able to analyze them and find the fat...Perhaps they trusted either the president of council or the finance chairman (both Republicans) when it came to the decision...Perhaps they're more interested in maintaining their positions (as president and on committees), thus continuing their alliance with the mayor and B-Team Dems to the detriment of our Party's core principles...Perhaps they weren't really Republicans to begin with...I don't know.

Regardless of the excuses they may offer for this decision, they missed a wonderful opportunity to stand for less government and lower taxes. We will suffer the consequences of this decision by having higher taxes. My only consolation is the fact that they, too, will suffer the consequences of this decision at election time.
Google Analytics Alternative