Friday, August 31, 2007

This is NOT business-friendly!

I awoke this morning to a discussion on WSPD 1370 AM about licensing and regulating convenience stores in Toledo. (click for Blade story or NBC 24 news story.)

There are 275 convenience and grocery stores in Toledo and, according to some people, many of these are nuisance businesses. "Nuisance" businesses? A job provider and someone who is offering needed products is now a nuisance?

In the paper, Beth Lewandowski, president of Lagrange Village Council, said, "...we have a glut of these predatory convenience stores."

Predatory convenience stores? Are they stalking neighborhoods, now?

And in the NBC24 story, she said, "They're not a grocery store. They're not serving what a grocery store should serve. They're just serving convenience. Chips and pop and things like that."

Um...duh...hence the name! And you're probably paying more for 'chips and pop and things like that' in such stores because you're paying for ...wait for it...the convenience.

The scary part of all this is that our City Council is actually considering making it more difficult for such business owners. And why, you might ask, would a city so desperate for business consider adding new restrictions and licensing fees? NBC24 has the answer:

"City council members say many of these stores are drawing thugs, gang members and drug dealers. They say controlling the number of these stores is a matter of public safety."

Ah, yes, the public safety factor. Because, you see, they sell small plastic bags and some - note some - people might use those bags to hold powered drugs. This public safety factor is invoked too many times as an excuse to expand government regulation and increase government coffers.

But in this case - as in many others (smoking or gun bans, anyone?) - they're focusing their efforts in the wrong place.

If convenience stores are not abiding by the rules, then remove their liquor licenses. Council has done this in the past and it works to penalize those who violate the law rather than everyone within a specific industry.

If people are loitering at such locations, arrest them or cite them for violating that law.

But understand this: if you've got crime in the neighborhoods, it's not because you have a store down the street. The solution to crime in the neighborhoods is increased police patrols to deter such activity and swift response when a crime does occur. It also means a commitment to the criminal justice system to fully prosecute and hold accountable those who commit crimes - and that may mean spending money for more jail space and prosecutors - and not flowers, lights on trees, nature education or secret shoppers.

But in Toledo, it's so much easier to regulate business than it is to address the true problems in the neighborhoods and city as a whole. And it gets better headlines, too.

Even Councilman Michael Ashford admits that these stores exist because there is a need for them:

"Ashford admits there's obviously a demand for these types of stores because otherwise they'd go out of business, but he's more concerned about the type of people they draw."

The "type of people they draw?" The people they draw are your residents and citizens. If people are doing illegal things, they're not going to stop because the local convenience store has been taxed and regulated out of business. And without another local employer, you'll have more unemployment...doesn't that lead to crime and deteriorating neighborhoods???? And I'm sure that a boarded up building in your neighborhood is a much more attractive spot for criminal activity than a successful business. Talk about a 'nuisance.'

If YOU don't want this type of store in your neighborhood, then open up the type of store you DO want. It's still a semi-free country.

However, this being Toledo, more regulation and taxes will probably be the outcome - along with less employers, fewer jobs, and a strongly negative message to other job providers who are already here or considering Toledo as a location.

And the issues of "crime, alcoholism, prostitution, drug use, and other unsavory elements" will still exist.

Proper planning for school construction

Why didn't our local school board and administration understand that building a new school today to meet the needs of 10 years from now might result in problems upon the opening of the school this year?

From today's Blade:

"You start the program with a crystal ball trying to predict what the population is going to be in eight or nine years when you finish," Mr. (Michael) Shoemaker said yesterday from his office in Columbus. "That's the case of [Keyser Elementary] where now you have too many kids going to the new school, and that's a problem throughout the state."

Didn't anyone understand that you design a building to meet population demands of today AND the future? Obviously not - otherwise, we wouldn't have brand new buildings that are overcrowded.

Why didn't they look at creative ways to construct buildings to accommodate today's school population with the ability to reduce or close off portions of the buildings as enrollment declines?

And, with all the promises and rosy outlooks being presented by our local elected officials, why are they building for declining enrollment and population anyway? Aren't all these wonderful economic development programs and 'marketing the good story about our TPS schools' supposed to increase population and enrollment?

It just boggles my mind.

Disregard for rules and procedures

Well, it's official. Toledo city council members did not follow the proper procedures in naming a new president of city council. (Story on the legal ruling is available from The Blade and background on the issue is available here and here.)

You see, there's actually a need to have a vacancy in the office of president of council before members can select someone new to fill the position. Which seems to make sense - you can't 'fill' a vacancy if none exists. And, according to the city charter and the law director, you have to remove the sitting president in order to create a vacancy.

But that little procedure was obviously too complicated for the partisan efforts to put a Democrat into the position, especially after the Democrat State Party Chairman came to town to lay down the law to "either elect a Democratic council president or stop bickering."

And to make things even more ridiculous, they didn't bother to swear in the new president prior to him accepting the gavel. If this is the type of leadership we can expect from the new 'working majority,' please go back to being divided before you do more harm.

However, I'm not surprised. My experience in office often showed that Democrats were fond of the idea that rules and procedures are things to be ignored or disregarded in the effort to 'accomplish good for the citizens.' Too often, the concept of the 'ends justifying the means' was paramount and anyone who raised procedural issues was an obstructionist.

As it stands today, it appears that Rob Ludeman is still the president and that council has some motions to make if they really want to have a new one. The question now is this: will the new "working majority" be able to keep their alliance together in order to cast 7 votes to remove Ludeman?

As this is Toledo - who knows?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Quote of the day

Considering the actions of Toledo and Lucas County officials, I thought this was rather pertinent.


"Rather than deal with the expensive and difficult task of retrofitting the sinews of commerce and communication -- bridges, tunnels, roads, rail lines, ports, sewers, and drainage systems -- America's urban powers focus on the ephemeral and the glitzy. They emphasize not brick and mortar, but sports stadia, convention centers, arts palaces, dubiously effective new light-rail lines, hotels and condo projects. "

- Wall Street Journal columnist Joel Kotkin

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Of Carnivals and Reunions

I graduated from high school in 1982, so this week's Carnival of Ohio Politics, as it enters the 80's, really brought back memories - as well as some great blog posts. Scott was really creative in his '80s theme as he lists the various submissions. And whoever has Carnival duty next week is going to have fun trying to top this one.

Of course, I find this extremely appropriate this week because my 25th reunion is this weekend...and I've been going through songs and trivia from the early '80s as well.

Despite all the reunion planning, however, I'm certain that I'm not old enough to be going to a 25th year high school

Enjoy the Carnival!

Lucas County (anti) logic

According to today's Blade story, the County Commissioners have decided to increase the dog license fee by $5 to a total of $25. While much will be said about this increase, I'd like to focus on their next item, which is to reopen a dog park in Lucas County.

The reasoning for the increase is because the Dog Warden operations are supposed to be, under Ohio law, self-sufficient. While some counties voluntarily support this department with general fund dollars, many do not - including Lucas County. With this perspective, and because the Lucas County Dog Warden's office is spending more than it's taking in, the Commissioners decided to increase the license fee, which will generate around $311,000 of additional revenue.

However, they've also said they're going to spend County general fund dollars to reopen a dog park.

From the article:

"As sort of an apology for the jump in fees, the commissioners said they would move forward with plans to reopen a dog park in Lucas County.

Tina Skeldon Wozniak, the commissioners' president, said she believed two acres are available at the Lucas County Recreation Center for a dog park "at very little cost to the community."

A dog park previously was operated at the county's recreation center, but it closed in 2002, officials said.

Mr. Gerken said a dog park was a way to say thank you to those who follow the law and obtain licenses for their dogs.

Mr. Skeldon said his office issues or renews one dog license for every seven Lucas County residents annually, or more than 60,000 licenses.

"This is a way to show all our legitimate dog owners that we respect them," Mr. Gerken said.

So, if the dog park is way to say thanks to those who get a license, are they going to hire someone to check licenses prior to allowing any dog to enter the park? And is it only going to be open to Lucas County residents? And did anyone think to ask why the old dog park was closed in the first place? Was it because of lack of interest or utilization? Was it because of costs? And what, exactly, is a 'legitimate' dog owner? Are you no longer the legitimate owner of a dog if you don't get a license for your pet?

(I know, I know ... there I go asking all those questions that no one ever wants to answer...)

Now, I don't know about you, but it seems pretty silly to me to say that they're increasing the license fees so they don't spend money from the general fund - only to say they'll spend monies from the general fund to make up for the increase in fees.

Does anyone else have a problem with this kind of logic - or lack thereof?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

City Council "united" in the status quo

For all of Carty Finkbeiner's term as mayor, the A-Team Democrats on city council have been complaining that they're not involved in making decisions that impact the city. Everything from the budget to capital improvements, at least one of the A-Teamers has said they didn't get the information, or they weren't included in discussions, ... you name it.

However, the A/B-Teamers have suddenly found "unity" and they've managed to come together long enough for an outward showing of agreement. (You can read the details here and here.)

But along comes a major issue for the city - their antiquated financial computer system which prevents council members from knowing where the city stands in terms of spending. This has been a major complaint of many, to the point where the council authorized more than $100,000 for a consultant to develop a plan for taking bids on a new system.

Yesterday, city council's information services committee heard an hour-long presentation about the old system, four potential new systems and the estimated costs. Unfortunately, despite having a new 'working majority,' none of the A-Teamers were at the meeting.

According to today's Blade, neither Frank Szollosi and Mike Craig (members of the committee), nor their alternates, Michael Ashford (newly elected council president) and Joe McNamara, were at the presentation. Although all four of them managed to be at the Lucas County Democrat "unity event" that began about the same time that the committee meeting was ending.

And then comes this portion of the article:

"Mr. Ashford, the new council president, was not familiar with the software accounting issue but waved off the absence of A-team Democrats who now constitute what he has called a "working majority" of council.

"You can say we missed a lot, but it will come back to us. We'll have an opportunity to hear the finalized plans," Mr. Ashford said

So, one of the two biggest complainers about lack of input into decisions now thinks it's not important to be informed ahead of time because he'll get to "hear the finalized plans."

And that's not even mentioning the fact that he said he 'was not familiar with the software accounting issue.' I'm sorry, but how can you NOT know about the fact that you can't get current financial data about city spending?

Anyway...I'm sure when the 'finalized plans' are presented, there will be the same political posturing about lack of involvement in the decision. But I'll remember who passed up the opportunity for early involvement in favor of a partisan 'unity' event. Will you?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Storm Photos

As yesterday's storm moved over Point Place and across Maumee Bay, we were outside taking pictures. Enjoy!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Why people leave Toledo - one man's story

I want to tell you about my friend, Mike.

Mike is an engineer. He's got a good technical job in a local manufacturing plant. He's married and the father of three terrific - but very energetic - boys. His wife, now that their kids are older, has gone back to school to become a nurse. Two of the boys attend a good TPS elementary school and they're happy with the education the boys are getting. The youngest can't wait to go to school with his brothers.

Mike and his wife are involved in the school and with Boy Scouts. In their free time, they race sailboats (which is how we know them). They're a good family - young professionals - the type of family Toledo needs.


Mike told us the other day that they're looking to move out of Toledo. Not because of the schools - at least, not yet. Not because of a lack of job opportunities or because of an out-of-town job opportunity. Not even because of the taxes, although they're not happy about those.

No - Mike and his family are looking at leaving because of something so simple, yet so offensive, that they just can't get past it.

You see, they had a garage sale last weekend. They put their stuff on their driveway and in their yard, put up their signs and began that summer ritual of getting rid of things they no longer need. And, for this sale, that included an old van. They put the van on their grass, as the driveway was filled, and put a 'for sale' sign on it.

At some point on Saturday, a police office was looking at the van. They didn't think anything of it - except to hope that maybe he'd be interested enough to make an offer. However, when they went to move it after the sale was over, they found a ticket on the windshield.

Yes, a ticket. For parking the vehicle on the lawn. Because, according to Toledo Municipal Code 351.07(a)33, you cannot:

(33) Stand or park a vehicle upon any unpaved portion of a front lot or side lot in any residence district, or upon any unpaved portion of a vacant lot in any residence district, except as otherwise permitted under the local Zoning Ordinance, Part Eleven of the Toledo Municipal Code.

Now, Mike didn't know this. But the officer did and, instead of mentioning this law to Mike during the garage sale, he just issued the ticket.

So, it isn't a major issue, but it's the final straw. It's the thought that the police/city is more interested in the fines they can collect than in helping citizens to follow the law. It's the thought that, instead of just mentioning the law to Mike and asking him to move his van, the mindset is to ticket/fine someone.

And then there is the whole purpose of the law, which was to prevent 'junk' vehicles from cluttering up a neighborhood. Clearly, this was not case in this instance, as the van was only on the 'unpaved portion' during the daytime hours of the garage sale - along with other items for sale.

Mike did consider contesting the ticket...he's still not sure. But knowing Mike, he'll probably just pay it - and then move. And I can't help but wonder how many other young, professional families make the same decision when they come across the straw that broke the camel's back.

Is it possible that Toledo will learn from this? Some will, but those who really need the lesson - those ensconced in the Ivory Tower known as 1 Government Center - won't. And, as a result, people will continue to leave while those in power will continue to scratch their heads...

Fiscal Wake Up Tour

Another in the 'things I found en route to other destinations' ...

I came across The Concord Coalition, a nationwide, non-partisan, grassroots organization advocating generationally responsible fiscal policy. Their goal is to educate the public about the causes and consequences of federal budget deficits, the long-term challenges facing America's unsustainable entitlement programs, and how to build a sound economy for future generations.

Accordingly, they've started the "Fiscal Wake Up Tour" - featuring a series of public forums around the country designed to focus attention on the country's long-term fiscal challenges. The closest one to us will be December 6th at Michigan State University.

Speakers at their forums include representatives from such diverse ideological organizations as The Brookings Institution and The Heritage Foundation.

Good people on both sides of the political aisle can disagree about the best way to address such fiscal problems, but before we can have meaningful discussion about the solution, we must make sure that all of us understand the scope and impact of the problem. If we, the people, really want our elected representatives to address the tough issues, we must have an understanding of fiscal issues that we face today - and our children will face tomorrow.

Robert Bixby, Executive Director of The Concord Coalition, puts it this way:

An unprecedented demographic transformation is taking hold against the backdrop of steadily rising health care costs and steadily falling national savings. This is a dangerous combination for the future health of the economy. It may seem that there is no immediate crisis, yet according to a broad bipartisan consensus current fiscal policy is on an unsustainable path.

The baby boomers' imminent retirement is ushering in a permanent shift to an older population -- and a permanent rise in the cost of programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which already comprise 40 percent of the federal budget. There is no plan to pay for it all other than running up the national debt.

No one can say when a crisis will hit, but by the time it does the economy will likely be burdened with a debilitating amount of debt; leaving painful benefit cuts and steep tax increases as the only options. Doing nothing to avoid such a gut-wrenching outcome would be an act of fiscal and generational irresponsibility

Since it looks like we're going to have another rainy weekend, you can use your time indoors to check out these two websites and read the information presented. And then share what you've learned with others, because ignoring the problem won't make it go away.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The 'rest of the story'...

Today's Blade has the 'behind the scenes' story of the change in council president and, as I said yesterday, it's all about politics - and not the city of Toledo.

According to the reporting today, Democrat Party State Chairman Chris Redfern did, indeed, meet with the Dems on council prior to their vote and
"emphasized that he and the governor wanted a strong Lucas County Democratic Party in place for the 2008 presidential election."
Strong - as in, in control in both numbers and appearance. So certainly, they can't have a Republican president of council when they hold a majority in that body - how could they explain that awkward situation to presidential campaigns?!?

And the paper also verifies that this is all about the appearance of unity.

“By having a working majority and opening up the lines of communication, we’ll decrease the amount of public disagreements that we have,” Mr. Ashford said.

There's that term, again...'working majority'...because now, since we're trying to give the appearance of unity, we're not going to disagree in public anymore...after all - there's too much at stake in 2008 for us to have public disagreements.

All sarcasm aside, what they're really saying is that they're still going to disagree, but because word has come down from 'on high' (or rather from south of here) we're going to look like we're all working together because our party's interests far outweigh the public's interests in this regard.

Personally, I like the public discourse. I've truly appreciated Frank Szollosi's (and his colleague's) position on the garbage tax that Carty and the Republicans supported. With this new "unity" I can't help but wonder if such policy disagreements will now be hidden behind closed doors until some deal is worked out and presented to the public. That would be very bad for Toledo, Toledoans and taxpayers - but it sure will be better for the Democrat Party, locally and statewide.

It's sad that the priorities of the political party have taken precedence, but living in Toledo, that's what we've come to expect. And the result of such misplaced priorities are all around us - declining population, loss of businesses, budget deficits - all because it's more important to do what the party wants than what the people want.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The story behind the story...

Today's Blade has the story of the change in Toledo City Council president from Republican Rob Ludeman to Democrat Michael Ashford. But here's the story behind the story....

Ludeman was elected president with the support of the Republicans and a couple of B-Team Democrats, as well as the support of Democrat Mayor Carty Finkbeiner. The A-Team/B-Team split in the Democrat Party has deep roots and is the source of much embarrassment to the local and state parties. The fact that the two teams couldn't come together to elect a president of council when they hold the majority became a major sticking point and a further indication of the extent of their differences.

"The 7-4 vote came after almost two weeks of public jockeying for the job among Democrats who were embarrassed that Democrats held an 8-4 majority, but that a Republican ran the agenda and appointed the committee chairmen."

Yes, embarrassment was the reason for the change - not that Rob was doing a poor job in the role. But the political need for a Dem president far outweighed the actual skills and performance of the person in the position.

"He (Ashford) said it made sense for council's majority party to be a "working majority," and that he would work with Mayor Carty Finkbeiner.

"My job is to work with the mayor to make the mayor successful on all his initiatives. At the same time, my job is to serve as a voice for the citizens," he said."

The Dems already had a working majority - they just couldn't get themselves to work toward the same goal...and the stickler was the A-Teamers (Ashford included) who routinely opposed the B-Teamer mayor. Some might say that this was because there were no Republicans to oppose - but that's another story for another day.

And now, those who've positioned themselves against the mayor now say that their job is to 'make the mayor successful on all his initiatives'???? They could have done this without the presidency of council, as Ludeman was actually doing a better job in this role than Ashford and his A-Team colleagues. But now all is rosy...

""To replace him for no reason whatsoever, with but four months left in his term, underscores the pettiness, bitter partisanship, and ongoing political gamesmanship of this council," the mayor said."

Yes, the mayor gets it right...this was more about partisanship and political power than it was about any policy or public need.

"The change in leadership will give the A-team Democrats more power to make a difference in city policy, said Mr. (Frank) Szollosi, who led the effort to overturn the GOP leadership.

"We wanted to move into a period of greater cooperation and respect," Mr. Szollosi said."

Now, how 'having the presidency' will move them toward greater cooperation and respect is beyond me - especially considering than the leading spokesman against that mayor has been Szollosi, sometimes rightly so.

Szollosi opposed certain taxes and spending, gaining much support from both Republican and Democrat voters. But he never missed an opportunity to slam the mayor and others opposed to his own positions. If there was a true interest in moving toward greater cooperation and respect, it certainly didn't take a change in the council president to do so. This 'excuse' is a smokescreen for the real reason - that it embarrassed the Dems locally and state-wide for them to have a majority on council with a Republican as president.

Considering the past disagreements between the A/B teams, I'm sure some of the seven who voted for Ashford had to be persuaded. Lisa Renee at Glass City Jungle (who reported the story before the local media outlets - congrats!) wrote that State Party Chairman Chris Redfern met with the Dems yesterday morning before their council meeting. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall in that room!

But that raises all kinds of questions - like why a state party chairman is meddling in our local city council presidency in the first place. Especially when it's extremely obvious that this vote to elect Ashford was more about Democrat Party unity (or the appearance of such) than it was about what is good for the city...and even more so when you remember that city council is a non-partisan office and race!

But, image is more important than substance these days. And the story behind the story is that now the Dems can brag that they've 'defeated' the Republicans and are 'standing together.' However, as I've said in the past, those A-Team/B-Team wounds are very deep and not likely to be healed by a thinly-veiled show of unity.

The sad part is that even Ashford, in his morning interview on WSPD, couldn't give a valid reason for why this change needed to take place. He tried to make the point that it was about 'policy' but his meager response to the question only demonstrated that the real reason is politics - he just couldn't say it honestly without looking even more foolish than he - and his cohorts - already look.

And that's the story behind the story...

What would the founders think?

From The Patriot Post:

Founders' Quote Daily

"Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding and should, therefore, be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense. Their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subtleties which may make anything mean everything or nothing at pleasure."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to William Johnson, 12 June 1823)

Can't help but wonder what our founders, and particularly Jefferson, would say about our tax code - or any other laws that are passed these days...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Don't need no education - I got gummit

In catching up with several of my favorite bloggers, as well as the news, I came across an interesting article linked by Brian at One Oar in the Water. This article on "Infantile America," coupled with a proposed law on land contracts, got me thinking about the lack of knowledge and understanding needed to be independent AND responsible members of society.

The article postulates that, today, many believe "it is their right to indulge to any extent and rely upon the Federal government to bail them out." The newly proposed law carries the 'bail out' to another extreme, requiring inspections and 'minimum levels of habitability' and fines if such conditions are not met. It's described as 'consumer protection,' conveniently forgetting that some people choose to buy a less-than-habitable home and fix it up, using their own sweat to build equity.

What society seems to be saying is that I don't need to have the ability to take care of myself because the 'gummit' will do it for me. We've seen this mentality for years in the old welfare system: I don't need to understand that having a child is expensive and that I should be able to support said child before engaging in actions designed to produce offspring. After all - if I have a kid I can't support, I can turn to the 'gummit' for pre-natal care, food, cribs, you name it...

With terms like sub-prime lending, adjustable rate mortgages, interest-only loans and predatory lending, I no longer need to have the finances to own a home. I can buy a house I can't afford, pay interest only - or a low adjustable rate - and not have to worry if interest rates go up or if I have a balloon payment due sometime in the future. And if I get into trouble with this kind of financing, I'll just turn to the 'gummit' to make me whole.

And I don't need to read the fine print and understand what it means - the 'gummit' will just make more laws to protect me from my ignorance. I don't need to understand budgeting - the 'gummit' will bail me out by giving me subsidies for my car, my gas, my home if I can't afford it on my own.

With this new law, I don't need to be responsible for inspecting any home I'm about to buy - the 'gummit' will just create a law for those 'evil predators' who are going to take advantage of my stupidity.

And in all of this, it won't be my fault for any failure or shortcoming - I'm a victim of others. Caveat emptor? Is that some kind of foreign language?

Sadly, the skills that are necessary for successful survival in today's world seem to be lacking in so many. And our 'gummit' seems all too ready to step in and 'provide' or solve all the problems. Those of us who scrimp and save to be able to afford minor luxuries - or even necessities - are finding that others who don't have the knowledge or the willpower are benefiting at our expense. Remember - any 'gummit' bailout of the sub-prime industry means that you and I are paying for those mortgages - in addition to our own. Eventually, some will wonder why they bother, figuring that if others can be irresponsible, they can too.

And then those of us "with" will be criticized as being greedy, selfish, or worse, for not wanting to "help" our fellow man...because certainly we should sacrifice our wants and needs for those who don't share our values of thrift, savings, budgeting or planning.

The solution to this problem is not 'gummit.' It's education and individual responsibility. Education so that individuals can understand the complicated dealings and contracts - or know enough to know what they don't know and hire someone who can help. Individual responsibility so that if they make a bad decision, they accept the consequences and don't expect to place blame anywhere other than upon themselves - "fool me once, shame on you...fool me twice, shame on me."

And therein lies the problem. If we're smart, or educated, enough to take care of ourselves - and we're able to assume responsibility for our own actions - what will all those 'gummit' officials do? They won't have anyone to take care of...and their campaign promises will fall on deaf ears. We can't have that, now can we?

They need dependency upon government, so they can promise more programs and services, creating more dependency, resulting in the need for more programs and services. It's a vicious and never-ending cycle, counting on the ignorance of the masses for perpetuation.

John Adams said, "Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people..." But Lord Acton said, "Liberty is the prevention of control by others. This requires self-control and, therefore, religious and spiritual influences; education, knowledge, well-being."

As 'gummit' continues to expand their benevolence toward us, I can't help but wonder if we're headed in the wrong direction.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Quotes of the day

If the rain spoils our picnic, but saves a farmer's crop, who are we to say it shouldn't rain?
~ Tom Barrett

The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Welcome to the Carnival!

The Carnival of Ohio Politics, #78, is up and a special welcome to fellow NWO blogger, Roland Hansen, who has his first entry this week!

Cruise over for a good look at what's hot in Ohio Politics.

Eminent Domain?

From The Patriot Post:

Founders' Quote Daily

"The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If `Thou shalt not covet' and `Thou shalt not steal' were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free."

-- John Adams (A Defense of the American Constitutions, 1787)

I thought this quote particularly timely in light of Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's comments in this Blade article.

For years, politicians have been promising to do something about the failing Southwyck Mall - despite the fact that the owners of the mall have expressed little or no interest in doing so. Upon Finkbeiner's election, he brought in local developer Larry Dillin and, together, they've made numerous announcements about renovations, redevelopment, etc. However, neither the city nor Dillin have any ownership in the property.

"Plans to redevelop the aging Southwyck mall as a mixed-use Village at Southwyck have been stuck in park with the refusal of mall part-owner Bill Dillard to either sell his share or join a redevelopment effort with Perrysburg real-estate developer Larry Dillin.

Mr. Finkbeiner said the possibility of using the city's eminent domain power to take control of the mall has not been ruled out. He said he intends to give the current owners 30 days to consider Mr. Dillin's proposal before taking any action."

I realize that the U.S. Supreme Court has said that a community may take private property from one owner and transfer it to another private owner if the benefit to the community is greater. However the Ohio Supreme Court, in a 2006 unanimous decision, ruled:

"Although economic factors may be considered in determining whether private property may be appropriated, the fact that the appropriation would provide an economic benefit to the government and community, standing alone, does not justify the taking of the property under a provision of the Ohio Constitution that requires eminent domain be for “public-use” (Section 19, Article I)."

The area doesn't currently qualify as blighted. And if the city wants to say that the area is 'deteriorating' in order to justify the taking, the Supreme Court weighed in with this:

"The use of the term “deteriorating area” as a standard for a taking is unconstitutional because the term inherently incorporates speculation as to the future condition of the property to be appropriated rather than the condition of the property at the time of the taking."

Carty's used to ignoring the laws (see story on 'Prior Restraint?') but this time he's not dealing with a bunch of college students. He's dealing with a national corporation with the resources to defend what is rightfully theirs and not be intimidated by the political posturing of a local city mayor.

Aside from the terrible message this action sends to business owners in Toledo (if we don't like what you're doing with your company, we'll turn it over to someone who we think has a 'better' idea), I don't believe that Carty can legally force the owners to kowtow to his wishes. And what happens if and when the Southwyck Mall owners say 'no thanks' to Dillin's offer? Will Carty, ever the one to fight defiance of his ideas, invest city resources to take them to court?

Because of the shaky legal footing regarding eminent domain, setting a 30-day deadline to 'finish negotiations' places Carty and the city in the wrong position. However, this appears to be what we've come to expect from our mayor.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

More Police? How statistics can say what you want them to

It's that silly season, when candidates try to out-do each other in promises and ideas. But many of them, as is usual, are calling for more police.

In today's Blade, the Mayor "scolded" those who say we need more police officers in Toledo.

"Mr. Finkbeiner suggested some media and some political candidates overemphasize crime. "Every wannabe politician is out there waving the flag, easy flag to wave, 'We need more police,'" Mr. Finkbeiner said."

Never mind the fact that Carty Finkbeiner did the same thing when he was a candidate for mayor, calling for a force of 700 sworn officers within 16 months of taking office...another case of 'do as I say - not as I do'?

What I found interesting was this quote: "...the mayor said reported crime in Toledo for the first four months of 2007 was down by 14.4 percent compared to the same period last year..." - the key being reported crime. Of course, the reporter points out further down in the story that reported crimes against persons and property as of April 30th was actually up by 1,164 over 2006, which means that other crimes must have been down in order to give the 14.4% figure the mayor quoted.

But I go back to that key word - reported. There have been many stories and complaints that, for minor crimes, police are not responding to the scene, but are asking citizens to come into a precinct to file a report. Unfortunately, I fear that many, when faced with being told to 'come down and file a report' will perceive the effort to be futile and not bother.

Since we only know of the reports that are actually filed, we really don't have a good handle on the amount of crime that is occurring. We don't know if the number of people who fail to file a report is large or small, nor the impact that number would have on our crime statistics.

Since this reporting policy has been in place for a number of years, the crime statistics should at least be comparable year to year. But if we made it easier for people to report crimes - or had enough officers to actually respond when a crime is discovered - I can't help but wonder what our crime statistics would be...and whether or not citizens would think we need more police, no matter what the mayor says.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Prior Restraint?

According to this article, "Park shut down by mayor to thwart rally," in today's Blade, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner ordered a local park to be closed to prevent a group of 8-10 people from holding a rally. The article says the "police received word of a rally with potential for confrontation...."

Potential... no actual confrontation or other inappropriate behavior...

Has the mayor ever heard the term "freedom of assembly" and does anyone think he consulted with his law department before taking such action?

For more blogging on this topic, please visit Hooda Thunkit, History Mike, Glass City Jungle, Jay Ott's Questions and Toledo Talk.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Tax on 3000 sq.ft. homes?

Did anyone else hear about Rep. John Dingell's (D-Dearborn) brilliant idea to remove the mortgage tax deduction for people who own homes larger than 3,000 square feet?

According to this press release, Dingell plans to introduce such legislation on September 1.

NOVI, Mich., Aug. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Longtime builders of country estates in Oakland County say U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, is ill informed and misguided in his call to eliminate mortgage tax deductions on homes larger than 3,000 square feet.

At an August 7th town hall meeting in Ann Arbor, in an effort to combat global warming, Dingell called for a 50-cents-a-gallon tax on gasoline and elimination of mortgage tax deductions on what he called "McMansions." Dingell plans to introduce the measures September 1.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find any reference in Census Bureau data to say how many homes in Lucas County this might impact. In 1973, the average square footage of a new home in the Midwest was 1,615 sq. ft. By 2006, it had increased to 2,290 sq. ft. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the size of the average home has increased over the past 35 years - but is expected to be between 2,300-2,500 by 2015 as baby boomers look for smaller homes, but with different styles.

The Association predicts the elmination of living rooms in favor of larger dens, kitchens and baths...higher ceilings and accessibility are also among the growing trends.

But the backlash against larger homes is not new. According to this article from MSN Real Estate, "more governments have started imposing stricter building limits and even temporarily halted new construction while they try to get a handle on the explosion of these 4,000- to-10,000-square-foot homes, sometimes sneeringly called "garage mahals," "Hummer houses" or "starter castles.""

As someone who lives in a 3,130 sq.ft. home, I can tell you that bigger is not always better. But, we didn't pick the house, built in the 1950's, because of it's size - in fact, the size was a considerable 'con' in our evaluation. We picked it because of it's location and view - sacrificing our desire for a right-sized home for our needs in favor of the location and our expansive view of the Maumee Bay and Lake Erie.

However, what's right for me and my family might not be right for others. I believe that the market demands will make many of these "McMansions" undesireable in the future - and the housing market is certainly quick to respond to market demands. I don't see the need for government to try and influence the market by means of taxation.

Further, I resent the government trying to tax things it believes may contribute to global warming. Aside from the fact that it is still a matter of contention whether or not humans have anything more than a minor influence on the global temperature of the earth (versus the normal heating and cooling cycles of the planet along with the impact of solar cycles and sunspots), such a taxation theory will do little to impact the temperatures while giving the government more money to spend (they certainly don't save it, after all!)

If, however, you are one who believes in such a process, I'd have to ask - isn't it better to offer tax INCENTIVES for doing something else, rather than tax DIS-incentives to try and stop the natural desire people have for more space? (It seems to be working for ethanol production.)

I'm interested in your thoughts on this...

Words of wisdom for the college-bound

Well, it's going to be sunny and 85 in Toledo today and tomorrow the same with only a 30% chance of a thunderstorm in the afternoon.

(One of the things that I've noticed about the weather forecasts is that they only mention the 'chance' of rain, if it's estimated to be 30% or more...and they estimate percentages by increments of 10. So if it's only a 20% chance of rain, it doesn't make it into the forecast.)

And considering the numerous days we didn't get rain when there was a 30%chance of it, I'm expecting a beautiful weekend!

And why, you may be wondering, do I find the weather for this particular weekend worthy of a blog post? It's because of my niece, Ashley, who is having her graduation/off-to-college party today...and I'm so very glad she'll have a good day for it.

In many ways, Ashley is a typical teenager - her favorite music, the things she likes to do, the clothes she likes to wear, her penchant for sarcasm. But in many ways, she is not. She strikes me as more thoughtful of others and more patient than many of her contemporaries, except - of course - when it comes to her brother. :)

Ashley loves to read - everything! She enjoys Harry Potter as much her uncle and grandmother, but she also likes the classics and books many would look at and ask "why are you reading that?" She is inquisitive and courageous (try something new? sure!) But blessed with sound judgment so she doesn't take unnecessary risks.

I think these traits will serve her well in college.

Many families are sending their children off to college at this time of the year. They won't be "children" by the time they come home for winter break. So in honor of the incoming freshmen (anxious to be out on their own) and their families (anxious about everything else), both filled with excitement and fear, and especially to Ashley, I offer the following quotations for reflection as you embark upon this next stage:

The college undergraduate is a lot of things--many of them as familiar, predictable and responsible as the bounce of a basketball, and others as startling (and occasionally disastrous) as the bounce of a football.
- John Sloan Dickey

You can lead a boy to college, but you can't make him think.
- Elbert Hubbard

The purpose of the university is to make students safe for ideas -- not ideas safe for students.
- Clark Kerr

A college education is not a quantitative body of knowledge salted away in a card file. It is a taste for knowledge, a taste for philosophy, if you will; a capacity to explore, to question, to perceive relationships, between fields of knowledge and experience.
- A. Whitney Griswold

I have never let schooling interfere with my education.- Mark Twain

I learned three important things in college - to use a library, to memorize quickly and visually, to drop asleep at any time given a horizontal surface and fifteen minutes.
~Agnes DeMille, Dance to the Piper, 1952

The things taught in schools and colleges are not an education, but the means to an education.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing worth knowing can be taught.
~Oscar Wilde, "The Critic as Artist," 1890

Where we love is home,
Home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.

~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., Homesick in Heaven

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
You're on your own.
And you know what you know.
You are the guy who'll decide where to go.

~Dr. Seuss

Friday, August 10, 2007

Four Tidbits too short for their own posting

* Today's Blade has an editorial properly chastising our mayor for leaving his dog in his car and parking in a handicapped spot. They say: " is worth remembering that Mr. Finkbeiner has a long and well-documented history of behaving as if society’s rules don’t apply to him. It’s his version of a tragic flaw." But then they go on to excuse this same behavior by saying it's okay for him to take his dog to work with him, when he doesn't allow his employees the same privilege. Wonder how many dogs are allowed in the Blade building???

* What do Britain, France, Germany, Bangladesh and China all have in common? According to the Heritage Foundation, they all have a lower corporate tax rate than the United States. "In fact, the global average corporate tax rate is 27 percent, while America’s remains at 40 percent. This leaves America at a tremendous competitive disadvantage." Of course, the basic theories of economics are lost on those in Congress who think that the solution is always more corporate taxes, not recognizing that the higher rates encourage job providers to go elsewhere while tacking on the additional taxes to the price of goods that we pay.

* In the "things I learned enroute to other destinations" category, it seems that members of Congress have their own gym. According to The Hill, Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) is chairman of the House gym committee. (Yes, they even have a committee for said gym!) But the real kicker is that Abercrombie is seeking $8 Million - yes, $8 Million - to renovate the gym. It appears that others in his party are afraid of the political ramifications of such an expenditure, but that isn't stopping Abercrombie.

In fact, Abercrombie thinks the Congressional gym should be equal or better than the 'staffer's gym,' where "each elliptical machine and treadmill has its own flat-screen TV hooked up to cable." Yes, a gym for Hill staffers...your tax dollars hard at work.

But, according to one congressional wife (families, evidently have access to the gyms as well), "Taxpayers would be furious if they knew we were spending their money on gym renovations." What arrogance - as a taxpayer, I'm furious that we're paying for a gym in the first place. Don't we pay these people enough that they can afford a gym membership paid for out of their own pockets??? Priorities, priorities...

* And finally, the Club For Growth has released a 2007 rePORK card for members of Congress. "Taxpayers have a right to know which congressmen stand up for them and which stand up for the special interests," said Club for Growth President Pat Toomey. "Unfortunately, the Club for Growth RePORK Card shows that most congressmen care more about lining their buddies' pockets than they care about protecting American taxpayers." The rePORK card scores reflect the percentage of YES votes on 50 anti-pork amendments. Our own Representative Marcy Kaptur (D OH-9) scored 0%.

- UPDATE: Matthew at Right Angle Blog looks at the rePORK card scores of the Ohio Congressional Delegation - you might be surprised by some of the Republican scores.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Is this the job of a Commissioner?

According to a Blade article today, Lucas County Commission President Tina Skeldon Wozniak asked a non-profit organization to offer free admission to their event for all Lucas County residents.

I'm sure that the fact that this organization is using county property didn't influence their answer in any way...

As you'll see from the article, the non-profit had offered Maumee residents free admission for some of the time on Sunday of their Rib-Off event - they explained that this was because of the people and amount of traffic they're bringing into the city - sort of a good-neighbor gesture. And it's certainly their prerogative to do so.

However, it's also noted in the article that Comm. Wozniak didn't come up with this idea on her own - rather that the idea came from Toledo City Council President Rob Ludeman who was hoping for a me-too arrangement, despite the fact that the City of Toledo, in response to this event moving to the Maumee due to a lack of space in their previous location of downtown Toledo, decided to create their own 'rib event' the weekend BEFORE the annual Rib-Off.

What many don't know, however, is that last year, after the announcement that the Rib-Off was moving, two county commissioners threatened to shut down the event in retaliation for them leaving downtown Toledo - threatening to prohibit use of the parking areas and extra entrances. (The Ag Society has control of the fairgrounds property so the Commissioners couldn't do anything about their desire to allow the event on that portion of the property.)

Eventually, the Commissioners realized that they really didn't have legal standing and that the publicity about their efforts could be rather negative. The Rib-Off went forward - and the new location was liked by 'all.'

But along comes Toledo who sees that another city is getting something they're not...and like a spoiled child, demands the same...with a county commissioner only too happy to oblige...

Which leads to the question of whether or not it is proper for a county commissioner to ask a non-profit organization to waive their entrance fee to an event for county residents - especially when said commissioner can restrict usage of public property if she doesn't get an answer she likes.

Oh - and for the record, the logic for the request is that all municipalities in the county should be treated the same...too bad our commissioners don't apply this logic in their other decisions.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Finkbeiner breaking the law?

According to an Attorney General Opinion, #2006-048, a "county sheriff and deputy sheriffs are prohibited from using county law enforcement vehicles to run personal errands, or otherwise using county vehicles for their personal use and benefit."

The opinion states:

"This conclusion is consistent with common law principles prohibiting county sheriffs and other public servants from using the resources of their public office for personal gain or benefit." (emphasis added)

How, then, can it not be a violation of law for the Mayor of the City of Toledo to use city employees to walk his dog and take said dog on 'potty breaks'?

Such a task is certainly not relevant to the operation of the city and, since they are doing this during normal working hours, it's clear that they are being paid with city funds for performing this 'duty.' Additionally, it is a personal benefit to the mayor who is relieved of having to perform such a task.

Further, the Ohio Ethics Commission, in an advisory opinion #96-004, said:

"A public official’s or employee’s duty is to the exercise of the public trust by performing the tasks assigned to him by the public agency with which he serves. Advisory Op. No. 89-010. A public agency provides resources to its officials and employees for the performance of these tasks and not for the official's or employee's personal financial gain or benefit."

Not being an attorney, I do not know if utilizing city employees to walk your dog constitutes a 'personal financial gain or benefit.' However, one could speculate that the use of public employees eliminates the need for the mayor to hire someone to perform these tasks, thus resulting in a financial gain.

And then there is the issue of the mayor using his city vehicle to go to the doctor's office, which is clearly not a city purpose. Following the 2003 incident of former County Treasurer Ray Kest's DUI conviction while in a county-owned car, the City of Toledo modified their vehicle use policy.

However, according to this Blade article, Clerk of Council "Mr. Dendinger said the mayor is viewed differently than other city employees because he is not taxed for taking a city vehicle home overnight.

Mr. Dendinger said Mr. Finkbeiner is assigned a vehicle for use 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is not violating any laws by driving the car around Toledo for personal use."

Is this still another instance of 'do as I say, not as I do'? And where's an auditor or attorney general when you need one?


"There are 500 bridges around the country similar to the Minneapolis span, and ... these are potential deathtraps. ... We have to, as a Congress, grasp this problem. And yes, I would even suggest, fund this problem with a tax."

~ Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), former chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

And this from one of the sponsors of Alaska's 'bridge to nowhere.'

The Cost of Money

"At the current specifications for these coins, it costs the government 1.7 cents to make a penny, and 10 cents to make a nickel."

- Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Illinois)

So...for some time now, the U.S. Government has been losing money every time it creates money? Only in America...

Carnival #77

The Carnival of Ohio Politics is up and running - filled with more links to interesting stories than I had time to read at one sitting.

I again have some links, as does Lisa over at Glass City Jungle. And welcome to Craig at Idea Treks!!

One interesting post worth reading right away is from The Virtuous Republic about Hamilton County Commissioners deciding to increase their sales tax after voters rejected the measure at the ballot...a referendum on the increase is in the works. There are so many lessons here for Lucas County...

The biggest irony of SCHIP - UPDATED

There are many ironies in the proposed expansion of SCHIP...but the biggest one of all is the fact that many families who are "too poor" and will thus qualify for enrollment in SCHIP, are also "too rich" and will have to pay the alternative minimum tax.

Guess the government has devised way to have OUR cake and eat it too.

***special thanks to Hooda Thunkit who pointed out that it's "our" cake...

Monday, August 06, 2007

Animals in government - part 2 - UPDATED

In December, I posted about the mayor bringing his new dog to work (click here for complete article), and I said that I didn't think the proper place for a pet was in the mayor's office. But here it is eight months later, and he's still bringing the pet to work with him.

But not just to work ... he apparently takes Scout everywhere and leaves him in the car. Craig, over at Idea Treks, has a good perspective on the first instance of this. But according to what's being reported on several local blogs, Carty also brought Scout to a press event at the University of Toledo this morning - and left him in the car again. WSPD ran audio from the press conference this afternoon and you can hear Scout barking during many of the speakers' presentations. (audio available here)

I'm not going to go into the insanity of leaving your pet in a car during this kind of heat - that's been covered in enough places already. But I have to wonder just what's gotten into the mayor that he thinks it's professional or acceptable to have his pet accompany him everywhere he goes, especially when his barking disrupts the activity. Scout's barking, that is...

(Which is not to even get into the subject of who walks Scout or takes him outside to do his business during working hours, as it's been reported numerous times that it isn't the mayor.)

Is Carty so insecure that he must have Scout with him in all his activities? Is Scout supposed to provide some type of calming therapy for Carty? If so, it's not working.

And if Scout is so dependent upon human interaction that the excuse for bringing him to Government Center and press events is that he needs the constant contact, perhaps Carty should have thought about a different selection when looking for a pet.

Whatever excuse the mayor may come up with, the fact remains that having a pet in the mayor's office is unprofessional and sends the wrong message to subordinates who aren't allowed such a priviledge. But then - Carty's known for 'do as I say - not as I do.' Having a barking pet at someone else's press event is beyond unprofessional - it's amateurish and inconsiderate, at best.

If you have an opinion about this, you can always call the Mayor's office and share your thoughts. His number is 419-245-1001.

Why do we demonize wealth?

In response to a blog post and a similar article in the Toledo Free Press about levy fatigue, a friend sent me an email that nicely joined together several factors impacting Toledo.

For background, she refers to several items in the news:

*The Blade published an article lamenting the loss of area executives.

*There was the announcement of low interest loans to encourage those who can't afford to purchase art to do so (see articles here and here).

*COSI is asking for another levy for operational funds - after their request last year failed.

She wrote:

"If we have truly lost the upper middle to upper levels of wealth in this area we are probably finished. These are the people who underwrite art and music and culture to which the less affluent get access usually at no cost. They are the ones who need a place to network to generate the deals that make a city/region work both literally and figuratively.

Without this layer of people we are reduced to asking poor people to go into debt to support art. We have to get excited about the numbers of people in poverty because there is money to hand out rather than jobs. We put the burden of keeping non-profits operational on the backs of low wage earners through levies rather than the fundraising efforts of people who do not have to worry about the price of gas.

I think the loss of labor jobs is regrettable but the previously unnoticed loss of management jobs is far worse because the ripples are farther reaching. When will Toledo/Lucas County get over its hypocritical view of wealth and the wealthy who really are the answer to many of our area's problems?"

And I think that she's raised a very valid point - that we discourage or penalize those who attain wealth. We tax them, we take from them to give to others, we call their companies 'evil corporations,' we criticize them when they spend their own money on themselves, we blame them for excessiveness - especially when it appears that they contribute to 'global warming' ... But you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who'd say they don't want more money than they have right now.

It used to be that the American Dream was to rely upon oneself to achieve whatever goal one set. We used to admire those who achieved wealth by working hard, creating something new or even playing the stock market well.

But today, class envy has become the norm. The normal response to someone who has wealth is to say they got it at someone else's expense. Many politicians and opinion-makers promote the idea of a limited pie - that if someone has wealth, it's because some else doesn't. They look for more ways to 'tax the wealthy' to provide benefits for the 'poor.' And they promise such programs in exchange for votes, relying upon income from those they claim shouldn't have wealth in the first place.

Locally, we subsidize the creation of market rate housing...but many who'd be able to afford such housing are not the ones buying memberships to country clubs, becoming patrons of the arts or sponsoring major initiatives of non-profits. Can you imagine the outcry if local leaders said they were going to subsidize the creation of luxury housing - perhaps in the planned Marina District - in order to attract those with enough disposable income to generously contribute to the economic revitalization of the downtown area?

We say we want a knowledge-based economy, but we demonize those who would lead such an economy. We say we want good jobs, but make it nearly impossible, cost-wise, for job-providers to locate here. And heaven forbid if such job-providers happen to be non-union... We say we want to encourage success, but then tax and criticize those who succeed.

We can't have it both ways - and I'm reminded of the "10 Cannots" by Rev. William J. H. Boetcker, 1916:

* You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
* You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
* You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
* You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
* You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
* You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatreds.
* You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
* You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
* You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man's initiative and independence.
* You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.

Would Toledo be better if we had more "wealthy" people? Would our community and economy benefit by such a population? You decide.

Friday, August 03, 2007

More unnecessary spending

Well, the Mayor is at it again...secret shoppers to test our local hotels...and a public press conference to tell our hotel workers that they need to be "professional in their attitude and conduct."

And this cost taxpayers another $2500 - which has been added to my running total of unnecessary city spending.

Are secret shoppers the duty of government? Carty Finkbeiner tries to make the argument that visitors to Toledo judge our city by the hotels in which they stay. Personally, I've never judged a city by a hotel. I've judged the hotel, and if it was less than I was expecting, figured that I'd picked poorly. In fact, in talking with friends who travel often for business, they all said that their perspective of the city was NOT tied to their hotel experience.

So do visitors judge our city by the hotel they pick? Or do they judge the city by the roads, the cleanliness of the public spaces, the safety/police presence, good directional signs and ease of parking, whatever event/activity they came for and their overall experience? I think most people are smart enough to distinguish between a city and a single hotel.

And then there is the concept that our mayor is spending tax dollars to evaluate local businesses. To further add insult to injury, he publicly chastizes them because they don't 'measure up.' If I were a prospective visitor who'd just read this article, I'd be looking for a hotel in Perrysburg, as the mayor certainly didn't cast our hotels in a positive light.

I can't help but wonder - after he's finished with the hotels, what will be next? Will he turn his attention to local restaurants? retail outlets? movie theaters?

Perhaps everyone would be better served if he turned those secret shoppers on the city departments and agencies...especially since he has direct authority over those entities - and that's what he was elected to do.

If I believed that evaluating hotels was a good idea, I'd approach the local hotel owners association and ask for their help and support. I'd suggest that such a 'secret shopper' program would benefit them, as owners, and their guests. I'd ask them to pay for the program and use it to their advantage as a marketing or sales tool. This would be a good business decision for them and, together, they could improve their local industry.

Such an approach would accomplish the same results - the improvement of our local hotels - but it would be a voluntary, cooperative way of doing so...instead of a public humiliation at public expense.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Sometimes I wish I were a Democrat because Democrats seem to have more fun. At other times I wish I were a Libertarian because Republicans are too much like Democrats. What I actually am is a right-wing independent who is registered Republican because there isn't any place else to go."

- Lyn Nofziger
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