Wednesday, October 31, 2007

School Board question

According to today's Blade, the Toledo Public Schools are projecting a deficit by 2010.

This is the part that got me wondering:

"Furthermore, the amount received from general property tax from real estate is predicted to decrease from an estimated $82.39 million for the 2009 fiscal year to $68.85 million the following year."

Nothing in the article explains why TPS is projecting a $13.54 million REDUCTION in real estate taxes.

Is it because a levy is expiring? Is it because of some change in the law? Is it because they expect the value of properties to decrease which would lower the amount they collect through the inside millage?

Inquiring minds want to know...

Begging for money - or trying to shame businesses into donating?

Yes, the mayor is at it again when it comes to the LivCom award. First he announced the application and selection to the finalist round. Then he announced he was seeking contributions to pay for the trip to London to make Toledo's presentation. Then he held a press conference and said they need $40,000!

Of course, they're not getting the funds they wanted, so he submitted an op-ed piece to the Toledo Free Press that, in my opinion, attempts to shame the business community into giving - even if it's done is a semi-subtle manner.

The problem I have is with Carty's thinking. He uses the example of Mayor Lloyd Roulet, 1952, trying to build an airport. Interestingly, Roulet had been working on this for 8 years ... perhaps there's something genetic or in our water that takes this city so long to accomplish a goal???

Anyway, Roulet was having difficulty getting the community to agree on a location, as several sites were rejected by neighbors. To overcome the public issue, he turned to the business community. Finkbeiner writes:

Roulet called the presidents and CEOs of Toledo's largest companies. His plan, he told them, was to have each company buy a small parcel of land on the border between Monclova Township and Swanton Township. He knew that any large land purchase by the city would tip off land speculators and send real estate prices soaring and cost the city more money. Small purchases by the private sector would go unnoticed. Each of these corporate titans agreed to invest their firm's money and time in helping Mayor Roulet and the City of Toledo.

Later, the City would purchase all of the lots to assemble the parcel where Toledo Express Airport is located today. Mayor Roulet's dream of having a major, international airport in Toledo would have been substantially delayed, if not destroyed, had the private sector not stepped in to help the city in its time of need.

To me, this seems intentionally deceptive on the part of the mayor. Deceptive in that the excuse is to save the city money, but, considering the public opposition, I wonder if the idea wasn't to keep the location a secret so there wouldn't be any opposition.

Today, there are non-profit organizations designed, under Ohio law (our local LCIC), to enter into such purchases for a public entity specifically so that the municipality can purchase for a fair market price rather than an inflated one if news of their purchase were to get out.

But I cannot help the concern I felt at reading this example and seeing that our current mayor thinks this is a good example to follow.

The mayor goes on to say:

We Toledoans of today need to reinvigorate that spirit of cooperation between the business sector and the government sector. We have an opportunity for our city's business leaders to step forward and help the city for our mutual benefit.

While I would not compare competing for this prestigious award to a project as immense as building an airport, strengthening the cooperative and symbiotic relationship between the city's government and the city's business community is of paramount importance.

There are some corporations who have decided to help out - Owens Corning, Fifth Third Bank and Larry Dillin - but the total is only $5,000, far short of Carty's goal of $40,000.

But the bigger problem is that Carty wrongly thinks putting money toward a trip in an effort to win an award represents a 'strengthening of the cooperative and symbiotic relationship' between businesses and government. Sadly, he's missed the point that giving money to a pet project of the mayor doesn't constitute a good relationship (unless he's following the pressure/extortion route so prevalent in Lucas County politics).

A good relationship between local businesses and local government exists when the government helps create an environment conducive to job growth and success. It doesn't exist when government continually raises taxes while reducing services (payroll and garbage), takes over functions being performed by private industry (towing and ambulance service), restricts new businesses because of a misplaced concept that they contribute to deteriorating neighborhoods (convenience stores - whose problems are more a result of a lack of police), or creates a business advisory council and then promptly refuses to let them examine an issue (article).

A good relationship is also dependent upon each entity doing what they're supposed to do - which means businesses provide good products for the cost, treat their employees appropriately, earn profit for their investors/owners and follow the law. It also means that government performs its mandated functions efficiently, placing priority upon those mandated functions (like roads, police, fire, etc...) and not spending money on the 'niceties' until the necessities are taken care of.

But sadly, our mayor is more about style than substance. He's a great cheerleader for Toledo, but cheering doesn't always cut it. While he chases after awards, we continue to lose population while having a high unemployment rate.

To win this LivCom award would be nice. But no award, no matter how it's marketed, will overcome the problems we have in this city which are clearly evident when you drive down a road that jars your teeth.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Quotes of the Day

From the Patriot Post - two pertinent quotes to remember, both from Thomas Jefferson:

"They are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose. To consider the latter phrase not as describing the purpose of the first, but as giving a distinct and independent power to do any act they please which may be good for the Union, would render all the preceding and subsequent enumerations of power completely useless."

"History by apprising [citizens] of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Because we let them

Shortly after Pete Gerken was elected as a Lucas County Commissioner, we were all at a meeting with other elected officials and members of the private sector. Comm. Gerken made a comment that was a blatant lie. I objected, stating that what he said was not true and we shouldn't base our decision on the false statement. The body decided otherwise.

A few days later I had a conversation with one of the private sector members of the group. I asked why they'd all voted to support a lie - didn't they realize it was lie? The response was that of course they all knew it was a lie - that "Pete Gerken lies a lot which is why he had the nickname of 'Pinocchio Pete.'" In disbelief, I asked why, if everyone knows he lies, they allow him to get away with it. The response was that 'he controls two votes' (meaning his and Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak's on the BCC).

This exchange was something I've always remembered, and it came back to me in startling clarity with the recent events of the LCIC (background here and here), in which Executive Director Shawn Ferguson resigned following a Blade article about a questionable contract with Rictor International and what was, imho, unfounded criticism by Comm. Ben Konop. That Ferguson was only doing as his board had directed (through a unanimous vote with no comment or discussion) and considering the fact that Gerken had supported Ferguson's performance up until this point, it's clear that the issue wasn't with Ferguson but with 'protecting' Gerken.

A caller to Eye on Toledo last week asked if, in light of Gerken's culpability, I thought he should step down. I said no. But not because I think he's innocent in all this - but because he's not solely to blame. His fellow commissioners and LCIC board members are as much at fault, if not more so, because they have allowed Gerken to get away with such acts for a long time now.

Gerken pushed an $18,000 contract with a company of questionable credentials. And shame on him for doing so in the first place and for thinking his act of patronage would go unnoticed or that he wouldn't be held accountable for it. But the reason he was able to get away with such patronage was because everyone let him. According to the minutes of the LCIC executive committee, there was no discussion about the company or the contract. No one questioned their qualifications, expected outcome, performance measurements or even if any other company might be more qualified considering the subject area. In fact, there was no discussion whether or not such 'contacts' fit into the overall plan for recruitment and retention of companies.

The failure of these fellow LCIC executive members - and the failure of fellow BCC members Ben Konop and Tina Skeldon Wozniak to read their minutes and ask pertinent questions - is what allowed this patronage contract to go through.

The Blade is to be commended for following up on this news story, but I can't help but wonder if they, too, have contributed to the web of deceit by allowing the focus to be on getting rid of Ferguson rather on the actual process and assumptions which allowed such a contract in the first place. And the Blade, with its recent fascination with all things China, would certainly have reason to 'object' to Ferguson's philosophy about trade delegations from China (see the letter on this issue from Ferguson's brother, Kevin, here).

So why is it that Gerken was allowed to push through a patronage contract without any evaluation? Are there other instances where this has happened - perhaps in other agencies? Why is it that we're building a downtown arena without documented sources of revenue to support the construction and the operation? Why is it that Gerken, and other elected officials, continue to do these kinds of things?

The answer is because we let them. We object to the priorities they set for our community and then we re-elect them anyway. We object when they hire family, friends and campaign workers outside the normal vetting processes and then we re-elect them anyway. We learn that they're threatening the withdrawal of public contracts if a company publicly disagrees with a decision they make and we re-elect them anyway.

Companies get pressured all the time to go along with decisions in exchange for not being black-listed but they refuse, sometimes for valid business reasons, to publicly announce such pressure - and in doing so fail to realize that shining the light on such tactics makes them impossible to implement.

Rumors abound about a group a private investors who wanted to do an ice arena and I've talked with two individuals personally involved - but they won't speak in public for fear of retaliation, despite my pleas otherwise. According to them, their companies were threatened with loss of current or no future public contracts. Even explaining to them that announcing such a threat would negate the ability of elected officials to follow through, wasn't enough to overcome the fear, especially when they believe that 1) no one would cover any such announcement, 2) any loss of business would be blamed on other factors not attributable to this issue and 3) that considering 1 and 2, the elected officials would get away with it.

Numerous times throughout my four years as a commissioner, people would come to me and say, 'you need to know what's going on.' But when I explained that 'knowing' didn't do any good without 'proof' or without them standing with me because of their personal knowledge of the facts, they'd suddenly develop amnesia, citing potential loss of a job, an income, a contract, or other such 'retaliation.'

The point is this ... such activities will continue - to the detriment of our community - only for as long as we let them.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Why must Southwyck stay a mall?

That's the title of my column this week in the Toledo Free Press. Rather than repeat it on my blog, here's a link to the column.

There's also a guest opinion by Mayor Finkbeiner on the LivCom award as well as several articles about suite sales at sports facilities.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Do recalls equate to fascism?

The Sam Adams Alliance has a daily email of their feature called "Common Sense" written by Paul Jacob. Today's column features a quote by an op-ed writer, Jack Lessenberry (who is also the ombudsman for our Toledo Blade newspaper) about the petition drive to recall Michigan legislators who voted for the recent tax hike in that state.

Recalling Mussolini!

October 26, 2007

Leon Drolet and the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance are not very popular . . . with politicians and Lansing insiders.

But they were clear. Michigan taxpayers told legislators they would launch recalls against those who voted to push big tax increases against citizens.

So, after legislators did hike taxes, what could they expect?

The Michigan Taxpayers Alliance is now working with local leaders on recall petitions against those who voted to raise taxes. Recalls have already been filed against six legislators, and MTA promises that ten — five Democrats and five Republicans — will face recall in what the group calls the “first round.”

Citizen action sure can make a difference.

I love seeing voters hold elected officials accountable. Some folks? Not so much. Remember all the moaning by insiders over the recall of California Governor Gray Davis? Today, in Michigan, there’s even more hysteria.

In Detroit’s Metro Times, Jack Lessenberry impugns the recalls as “a form of fascism.” He compares recall to “When Benito Mussolini . . . [and] his Blackshirts used to intimidate and kill members of Parliament. . . .”

Amazing! Petitioning one’s government for a vote of the people to determine who will represent those people gets equated with political death squads murdering their opponents in cold blood. Who’d think that?

Someone without a good argument. Get a grip, Mr. Lessenberry.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Here is Lessenberry's original column with the second item, "Political terrorism, Michigan-style:", featuring the quote.

Also, in my search for Lessenberry's original column, I came across this commentary on the issue. While it has some interesting email exchanges between the author and Lessenberry, I find myself agreeing with the following two statements:

"While I have mixed-feelings about recalls generally, there is no question in my mind of the People's right to use them at will..."

"Whether a recall is right should only be judged by whether enough people sign petitions asking for one."

'This is NOT business friendly' post #3

Boy - I really wish this weren't my third posting on this topic, but it is ... I'll probably have to start a new label for these kinds of stories if they continue, and that makes me very sad.

Today's Blade carries this article on the Ohio Civil Rights Commission's vote for mandated maternity leave.

"The Ohio Civil Rights Commission voted 4-1 yesterday to require companies with four or more employees to allow women 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave.

The policy change now goes to a legislative rule review committee that generally approves measures without issue.

But the Ohio Chamber of Commerce said it will argue that the commission overstepped its authority with the change, which should be debated by the state legislature.

With the requirement, Ohio would join at least 18 other states that provide more generous maternity benefits than required in federal mandates."

Perhaps it's just my lack of knowledge about the structure of this commission, but I guess I didn't think that having a child was a "right."

And why does any state commission get to take a vote that mandates what is, basically, a new law - and then have this new 'law' go into effect through a legislative rule review committee (JCARR?) without ever having been debated in the legislature?

I realize that some state agencies are tasked with developing the rules to implement laws that are passed, but this mandated maternity leave for companies with as few as 4 employees seems to go beyond anything the legislature intended. And that appears to be the position the Ohio Chamber of Commerce is taking.

When you consider this post about Ohio's bottom ranking in business-friendly states, this one about mandated paid sick days, and this latest from the OCRC, the environment in Ohio isn't looking good for our job providers.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Preview of tonight's show

I've added a note in the side column in my blog, featuring each day's Eye on Toledo topic. Additionally, I plan to do a daily post that will highlight any background information that listeners may find helpful.

Tonight's topic will be a follow-up of the LCIC situation and we'll be looking at today's Blade article on the subject. We'll also bring in an aspect that hasn't been covered yet - the impact all this has on our local Workforce Investment Board, another non-profit organization who has a contract with the LCIC.

We'll also discuss the recent comments Commissioner Pete Gerken made about potential funding sources for the new downtown arena. I've long had financial concerns about this project and the recent comments do nothing to allay them. For perspective, please read this post from last August.

Looking forward to discussing these with you tonight!

Interesting tidbits

Here they are, global, national and local:

*** "House Democrats, convinced that President Bush blundered by vetoing an expansion of a children's health care program, plan to approve a very similar bill this week even as the administration offered new concessions Tuesday," reports the Associated Press. "The Democrats' revised bill would reduce the number of adults and higher-income families potentially eligible for the health insurance subsidies, presumably making it easier for Republicans to back it while saving face. But on the key issue of spending, Democrats say they will not budge from the original $35 billion pricetag." (emphasis added) do you reduce the number of adults and the number of higher-income families and still need the same amount of increase???? Anti-logic!

*** House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., announced today some proposed changes in tax law. Among them:

- a repeal of the alternative minimum tax starting Jan. 1, 2008 - Good!
- a 4% surtax on incomes above $150,000 for a single earner or incomes above $200,000 for a married couple - bad, because it contributes to the philosophy that the 'rich,' defined by income rather than assets, should pay more.
- an increase in the value of the child tax credit for those earning too little to owe federal income taxes - questionable, because I don't understand why people who don't owe federal income taxes in the first place need more of a federal tax break.
- extension of the research-and-development tax credit, tax breaks for teachers buying schools supplies and a deduction for state and local sales taxes - Good!

Rangel doesn't expect this to come to a vote this year, so we can watch and see how his plan works out in terms of specific legislation. As they say, the devil is in the details.

*** California wildfires are thought to be the work of an arsonist...SICK!

*** China has surged ahead of Germany for the first time to become the world's top exporter. They vaulted past the US at the beginning of this year. Machinery, equipment and cars now make up 46% of their total exports, while textiles are fading from the picture.

But in a related story, Palm Bay, Fla., may ban the purchase of products made in China. Residents would still be free to purchase whatever goods they want, but the city itself would face restrictions. Mayor John Mazziotti cites the questionable quality and safety of the goods, China's rights abuses, its record of pollution and the fact that American manufacturing jobs have been lost to China as reasons for proposing the ban.

*** Toledo's Westgate Mall is adding The Fresh Market ... woo hoo! Westgate owner Liz Holland said Fresh Market signed a lease last week. According to Holland, surveys of residents in the Westgate area showed the first preference was a gourmet grocer. Their stores feature a meat department with a butcher on duty, a European-style delicatessen, a bakery, a produce department, and fresh seafood flown into stores six times per week.

*** Toledo's ABLE plans to transform a downtown landmark that's been mostly vacant since the 1970s into a Center for Equal Justice. They want to raise $5 million over the next year to turn the former Western Union building their new headquarters for the work they do in 32 Ohio counties. Legal Aid of Western Ohio will join in the fundraising efforts.

They're offering naming rights for certain levels of donations and plan to raise half the amount from the legal community and the other half from the general public. And, so far, they've not asked for any tax dollars - how refreshing!

*** On a personal note, I had a pleasant conversation with my former colleague and current president of the Board of County Commissioners, Tina Skeldon Wozniak. She reminded me of a comment she made last year, predicting that I'd end up in radio at some point in the future. Yes, Tina, turns out you were right. And we both had a good laugh over how many times I've said that to her...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Conspiracy or coincidence with the LCIC?

The executive director of the Lucas County Improvement Corporation (LCIC), Shawn Ferguson, resigned yesterday to 'head off being fired,' according to today's Blade.

In my previous post about the County Commissioners' issues with this organization, I said that there was a 'story behind the story' and this is certainly true.

Considering Comm. Pete Gerken's 'blame' of Shawn Ferguson for a signing a contract that Gerken pushed, I can't help but wonder if Ferguson is the pawn being sacrificed. And then I look at Comm. Ben Konop's criticism of Ferguson (most not his responsibility and really the fault of the LCIC's executive committee dominated by Pete Gerken) and my political instinct sends up huge red flags.

I have nothing other than instinct on which to base my speculations, but after 15 years in Toledo-Lucas County politics, I've learned to trust such instincts. And what are they telling me?

That we should not be surprised if we learn that Ferguson did only as he was told and Konop's sudden concerns were part of a carefully orchestrated plan designed to force the resignation (or firing) of Ferguson in order to protect Gerken from legitimate criticism over how he's manipulating the LCIC.

Some of you may say that they're just not smart enough to come up with such a plan and that it's probably just coincidence or convergence of events. But having watched them all and the extents they go to in order to maintain their power and control, I wouldn't put it past them. Time will tell.

In the meantime, Ferguson has 'fallen upon the sword,' giving both the LCIC and Gerken a scapegoat. I predict Gerken and Konop will have a 'unity meeting' over the subject of the LCIC and all will be sunny again in Lucas County. And things will then proceed as they always have - with Lucas County having the highest unemployment of all Ohio's urban areas, population continuing to decline, taxes going up, etc., etc., etc.

Tell me again why government - instead of the private sector - is supposed to lead economic development????

NOTE: For discussion on this and other details which will help you connect the dots, tune in tonight at 6 p.m. on Eye On Toledo.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ohio senators demonstrate their priorities

The Senate voted 68 to 26 today to kill the "The Children's Health Care First Act" today. This amendment would have required Congress to prioritize providing health care to children rather than pork projects for politicians. Senate Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Harkin has stated that the Labor-HHS-Education bill would 'demonstrate to the American people what our priorities are.'

Ohio Senators Brown and Voinovich both voted to table this amendment, effectively killing it for now.

Guess we know what their priorities are...

Toledo School Board debate

I was going to make a post about the Toledo School Board debate Thursday at DeVeaux Jr. High, as I met several of the coordinators at last night's school board forum at the library.

However, Lisa Renee at Glass City Jungle beat me to it, so I'll just link to her post. Thanks, Lisa.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Another "this is NOT business friendly" post

In an earlier post, I mentioned how the 2008 State Business Tax Climate Index ranked Ohio in the bottom five of "business friendly" states. Curtis Dubay, a co-author of the study said, "States need to constantly be on the lookout for ways to improve their business tax climates."

Unfortunately, it seems that such advice is falling on deaf ears in Ohio as the "Sick Days Ohio" group would rather focus on creating a 'family-friendly' state.

Sick Days Ohio is the website for Ohioans for Healthy Families who identifies themselves as:

"Ohioans for Healthy Families is a growing statewide coalition of citizens and organizations who are leading the effort to make Ohio the most family-friendly state in America.

Working together, religious, community, labor, health care, professional and family groups are advocating for Ohio employees to earn paid sick days so they can take care of themselves or their family members when illness hits.

The partner groups and leaders who make up Ohioans for Healthy Families come from diverse backgrounds and different parts of the state, but they share one thing in common: They value Ohio families and believe our citizens shouldn't have to choose between taking care of a sick child or spouse and their paycheck."

They have proposed and are supporting a new law, the Ohio Healthy Families Act, that would require employers with 25 or more employees to provide up to 7 paid sick days each year. They state that the Act, "would ensure middle-class workers — the backbone of Ohio's economy — have the opportunity to earn paid sick days." Of course, the sick days would actually apply to ALL employees, not just middle-class workers, and the definition of 'full-time' in order to qualify for the 7 paid days is 30 hours/week. Oh - and having the state mandate, though law, those days does NOT equate to "earning" them.

The group has gathered around 140,000 signatures but plans to continue to gather more before submitting the proposal to the legislature in January, according to campaign manager Brian Dunn. The issue needs at least 120,683 valid signatures. After submission of the petitions, the legislature has four months to enact the bill. If it fails to do so, the Ohioans for Healthy Families coalition has 90 days to collect the same amount of additional valid signatures to place the measure on the fall 2008 ballot for a vote by Ohioans.

Some interesting components of the proposed Act:

* people who work part-time would get pro-rated days

* the sick leave would accumulate monthly and accrual would start immediately, even if a new employee might not be able to access said days until after being employed 90 days (probationary period)

* you could carry over days, but employers wouldn't be required to permit the accumulation of more than 7 per year (meaning employers could allow them to accumulate to whatever level they choose above the 7 days)

* you can accumulate and use the sick time in hourly increments

* an employer may only require an employee to provide certification from a health professional if the absence covers more than three consecutive work days, and the employee would then have to provide the employer with such certification within thirty days

* employers could be fined for not properly posting the notice of this law

* employers may not eliminate or reduce existing leave policies to comply with the provisions of the proposed law and should not be discouraged from providing a more generous leave policy

* unions could still bargain for more leave

* employers cannot use paid sick leave taken pursuant to this Act as a negative factor in an employment action, such as hiring, promotion, or a disciplinary action; or count the use of paid sick leave under a no-fault attendance policy

Wow - and those are just the highlights that do not include the record-keeping and auditing requirements. I wonder if anyone's bothered to calculate the cost such a mandate would impose upon companies.

This is NOT a business-friendly act - though it certainly sounds good on the surface. But while it may appear to be family-friendly in the short term, it has significant potential for long-term negative consequences.

I've got news for you, Ohioans for Healthy Families: If you want a family-friendly state, you need a state that first has JOBS for those families - not laws that drive businesses - and eventually families - away.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Steyn on SCHIP: Ponzi scheme?

I've long been a fan of Mark Steyn, a Canadian columnist and author, and his unique perspective on American politics. It was my husband who, after reading several of his columns online, introduced me to Steyn's witty and informative commentary.

As a Canadian, he often comments about the good things in America, especially compared to the more socialistic tendencies of European nations. His most recent analysis of SCHIP is no exception, making light of the 'for the children' catch phrase in contrast to what he describes as the real 'war on children.'

Last Thursday, Nancy Pelosi, as is the fashion, used the phrase "the children" like some twitchy verbal tic, a kind of Democrat Tourette's syndrome: "This is a discussion about America's children … We could establish ourselves as the children's Congress … Come forward on behalf of the children ... I tried to do that when I was sworn in as speaker surrounded by children. It was a spontaneous moment, but it was one that was clear in its message: we are gaveling this House to order on behalf of the children."

Etc. So what is the best thing America could do "for the children"? Well, it could try not to make the same mistake as most of the rest of the Western world and avoid bequeathing the next generation a system of unsustainable entitlements that turns the entire nation into a giant Ponzi scheme.

Steyn is always a thought-provoking read - but this column goes a step further and asks us to think not just about the short-term impact of a SCHIP expansion, but the cumulative effect it - and other entitlement programs - have ... especially on 'the children.'

UPDATED: Turns out Taxmanblog, Porkopolis and Wizbang blogs have posts on this article as well...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

My new job in radio

After taking a well-deserved rest from politics, I've accepted a job that deals primarily with ... politics. Actually, my new position as host of WSPD's Eye on Toledo show (6-7 p.m. Mon-Fri) brings me full circle back to my college major.

I majored in communication at The University of Toledo, writing for the Collegian for four years. While I never did radio at school, I've been an ocassional guest host for Eye on Toledo over the last 10 months. As much as I enjoyed writing for the Collegian, I find that I relish the interaction with callers that a talk radio show provides.

My intent with the show is to provide information, education and interaction, but in an entertaining way ... focusing mainly on local news from Toledo and the surrounding area. When relevant, we'll also touch on state and national items of interest.

In case you're wondering, the reason an opening exists for Eye on Toledo is because my predecessor, Kevin Milliken, will be taking over the position of morning show news anchor. As Fred Lefebvre's morning show is the #1 rated morning talk show in Toledo, this is a nice assignment for Kevin and congrats are certainly in order.

I hope you'll tune in (1370 AM) or listen live via the Internet if you're outside the range of the station. And please call in - it is a 'talk' show, after all.

Additionally, The Toledo Free Press has asked me to do an op-ed column for them. My first column, which I will link to here, will be in the Oct. 27/28 weekend edition.

I will continue to blog, but I'm not sure how much my new responsibilities might impact the frequency of my posts. But between Eye on Toledo, the Free Press and my blog, you'll be able to find plenty of Thurber's Thoughts.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ohio senators vote for Rangel's 'Monument to Me'

Amanda Carpenter, National Political Reporter for, included this interesting item in her column today:

Sen. Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.) tried to persuade his fellow Senators to remove a project sponsored by New York Rep. Charles Rangel (D.) that would give $2 million in federal money to the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Policy, the Rangel Conference Center, and the Charles Rangel Library at the City College of New York.

Freshman Rep. John Campbell (R.-Calif.) has sarcastically called the earmark Rangel’s “Monument to Me.”

Promotional literature describes the project as “kind of like a presidential library, but without the president.”

Final vote on the earmark was 61-34 with 13 Republicans voting to keep it in the bill. The wording was to "provide a limitation on funds with respect to the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service" so a NAY vote was a vote to keep the $2 million earmark...Ohio's Senators Brown and Voinovich both voted nay. Perhaps they have plans for their own personal monuments at some point in the future?

I just hope they both remember this when they complain about a lack of funds for their own pet projects - remember the Corp of Engineers, Sen. Voinovich?

Minimum Wage for some - but not poll workers

Just passing along two posts about the issue of whether or not poll workers qualify for minimum wage.

Right Angle Blog wonders why Attorney General Marc Dann doesn't want poll workers to be treated like everyone else.

Crabby Fat Guy (love the name, btw!) has a link to the opinion and this comment:

"In further poll work news the Board of Elections is short poll workers for the upcoming elections. I wonder why? Duh!"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Do they even know the definition of a recession in order to be polled?

I came across this latest story by CNN about their polling of American's perspective of the state of the economy.

"WASHINGTON (CNN) — Nearly half of Americans feel the U.S. economy is in a recession, marked by a significant decline in economic activity, according to a survey released Thursday.

The poll by the CNN-Opinion Research Corporation found that while 46 percent of Americans hold that belief, 51 percent don't."

The article does define what constitutes a recession, but offers no explanation of whether or not such definition was read to those polled prior to asking their opinion. offers the following defintion which is a bit easier to understand:

"A period of general economic decline; specifically, a decline in GDP for two or more consecutive quarters."

Interestingly, 2007 second quarter GDP growth was 3.8%, which is an increase over the first quarter growth of .6% (source). Obviously, with an increase between first and second quarters of 2007, we do not have a decline 'for two or more consecutive quarters.' In fact, according to this chart from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (did you even know it existed?), GDP has shown growth in every quarter since the third quarter of 2001 (based on chained 2000 dollars).

About two weeks ago, there was a interesting discussion on Swamp Bubbles about the economic figures that had just been released. The question I asked, which remains unanswered, was 'if these are bad numbers, what do they have to be to indicate a 'good' economy?' Most people judge an economy by their own personal perspectives often attributing the overall economy to be indicative of their personal situation. Some believe that they're doing okay, but based upon stories and news reports, think their neighbors are having a tough time, contributing to the subjective perspective of the economy as a whole.

And that discussion, combined with this poll, makes me wonder why we even bother to conduct such polls. It's clear that if 46% of those polled think we're in a recession, they do not understand how a recession is defined and are thus 'unqualified' to offer an opinion. If we polled economists, those who are supposed to be 'experts' or at least authoritative on the issue, would they say the same thing as the "public"?

So what is the purpose of such polls? And why is that no one asks qualifying questions before asking one's opinion and then extrapolating that into what 'America' thinks?

UPDATE: a rather succinct perspective on WHY 46% think it's a recession is available here.

This is how the mayor makes decisions???

According to today's Blade, a city council candidate made a suggestion during a public directors' meeting that Toledo water meter readers should look for housing code violations when they're out reading meters.

Now, I'm sure many can question why we're turning all our public employees into enforcement officers - after all, the city is facing a huge deficit next year because they don't know how to reduce spending...

And I'm sure that others will question how close we're getting to George Orwell's "1984" as we monitor all activities of our citizens.

But I'm more interested in focusing on the decision-making process that led the mayor to decree 'make it so.' Turns out, there wasn't one. This is yet another example of Carty Finkbeiner exercising his ready-shoot-aim philosophy.

"Public Utilities Director Bob Williams initially objected, saying meter readers' work could be made more difficult if they are viewed as "intruders." He said meter readers already are expected to report unsafe situations involving children or senior citizens.

He was quickly overruled by the mayor, who said, "that is a great suggestion. Do it. All they have to do is write an address down. I don't even want any debate about it. Just do it.""

Notice that potential issues or concerns were not even permitted to be discussed, with the mayor stating "I don't even want any debate about it."

So, here are the questions the mayor should have asked:

* are there any legal provisions that would enhance or detract from our ability to implement such a policy?

* are the meter readers knowledgeable about housing violations that they can accurately report potential problems?

* would there need to be any sort of training to bring meter readers up to speed on the housing code?

* is there any cost the city would incur to proceed with such a policy?

* are there union contract terms that would have to be consulted or negotiated if we do this?

* is it likely that the union may ask for more money as a result of the increased duties?

* since all the meter readers would be doing is forwarding addresses, do we have the staff to perform the necessary follow-up?

* as housing violations are citeable into court, do we need to be concerned about any inaccuracies in the meter readers referrals?

* what obstacles or challenges would we face in implementing such a policy?

* who would oppose such a policy and what valid arguments might any opponents make?

* would the public embrace it or see it as further intrusion of government into their lives?

* if it turns out that we CAN implement such a policy, SHOULD we?

And these are just the questions I've come up with off the top of my head. There could easily be many more based upon the answers these questions generate.

But, sadly, the Mayor has spoken and now, despite any legitimate issue or concern, he's already started down the path to turning water meter readers into 'enforcement' agents. And, as we've seen in so many other instances, there is likely to be unintended consequences that usually result in additional cost to taxpayers, one way or the other.

"A man who does not think and plan long ahead will find trouble right at his door." ~ Confucius

Screeners missed fake bombs, but can we learn from history?

According to this story in USA Today, security screeners failed to find fake bombs hidden on undercover agents.

"Security screeners at two of the nation's busiest airports failed to find fake bombs hidden on undercover agents posing as passengers in more than 60% of tests last year, according to a classified report obtained by USA TODAY.

Screeners at Los Angeles International Airport missed about 75% of simulated explosives and bomb parts that Transportation Security Administration testers hid under their clothes or in carry-on bags at checkpoints, the TSA report shows.

At Chicago O'Hare International Airport, screeners missed about 60% of hidden bomb materials that were packed in everyday carry-ons — including toiletry kits, briefcases and CD players. San Francisco International Airport screeners, who work for a private company instead of the TSA, missed about 20% of the bombs, the report shows. The TSA ran about 70 tests at Los Angeles, 75 at Chicago and 145 at San Francisco."

Interestingly, the private company only missed about 20% of the bombs while TSA agents at LAX missed about 75%.

Perhaps they're just more focused on whether or not we take off our shoes and ensuring that all those selected for 'individual screening' match the general demographics of the nation.

And then there was this statement further down in the article:

"The failure rates at Los Angeles and Chicago are "somewhat misleading" because they don't reflect screeners' improved ability to find bombs,..."

Super - so their failure rate is actually an improvement.

More and more, I think the Isrealis have the right idea about such security issues in that they screen for behavior rather than objects.

And then I came across this interesting column by Becky Akers from the Foundation for Economic Education in which she compares the bandits who robbed trains to the terrorists of today and the need to keep both forms of transportation safe for passengers.

"The railroads, like the airlines, might have turned to government for protection; they certainly never hesitated to demand the State’s help in acquiring land, financing their operations, or enforcing a cartel to squash competitors. But aside from the rewards some states posted and the lawmen they paid for capturing criminals “dead or alive,” the railroads assumed most of this responsibility themselves. That left them free to protect their passengers and equipment in ways prohibited to the airlines.

First, rather than relying on bureaucrats and hacks for security, the railroads hired the best companies available. Their agents concentrated on pursuing—literally—the culprits. They would have laughed at the idea that they should harass, search, and delay passengers at depots while waiting for the outlaws to come to them."

And she goes on to explain that, like so many 'solutions' today, it's easier to establish new bureaucracies with the appearance of solving the problem rather than take the more difficult steps to actually solve the problem.

"It’s far safer and easier to search law-abiding passengers than to track criminals, but it’s also useless: during the TSA’s four-and-a-half years of existence, not one of its employees has caught a terrorist. In lieu of bad guys, then, the TSA protects us from each other, from flyers who break the agency’s whimsical and ever-changing rules, from men named David Nelson (this name has unexplicably earned passengers close scrutiny) and Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf Islam), and from women wielding lipsticks. The list of mistakes and misdeeds that turn travelers into terrorists will continue to expand as the TSA tries to justify its existence and its $5 billion yearly budget—and as the government reaps revenue from the fines “terrorists” pay.

The railroads also confronted a real enemy. They neither lied nor exaggerated the risks because that would cost them customers. Contrast that with the bureaucrats at the TSA and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security. They depend on taxpayers’ fears of ubiquitous, magically lethal terrorists for their jobs and cushy offices. (The TSA’s headquarters boasts $500,000 worth of silk plants and artwork, a 4,200-square-foot fitness center, and seven kitchens.) So does their army of 45,000 airport screeners. Indeed, the government’s incentives are not only perverse but directly opposite the railroads’: the bigger the threat, the more government passengers “need” and the more eagerly they cede their freedom."

Akers doesn't believe that privatizing security is the cure-all. But she does suggest, and I agree, that "weaning the airlines from taxpayer-funded, politically driven “security”—and from the federal straitjacket accompanying it—would result in the same no-nonsense approach the railroads took. Jets worth billions guarantee the airlines’ scrupulous attention to providing their own foolproof protection. And repeat business comes only from living customers who reach their destinations in one piece."

I fear, however, that we've come too far down the road of dependence upon government for everything to every believe that a solution not government initiated would be a viable alternative.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Happy 231st Birthday, United States Navy!

Anchors Aweigh

Stand Navy out to sea, Fight our Battle Cry;
We'll never change our course, So vicious foe steer shy-y-y-y.
Roll out the TNT, Anchors Aweigh. Sail on to Victory
And sink their bones to Davy Jones, Hooray!

Anchors Away, my boys, Anchors Aweigh.
Farewell to foreign shores,
We sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay.
Through our last night on shore, Drink to the foam,
Until we meet once more.
Here's wishing you a happy voyage home.

Blue of the Mighty Deep; Gold of God's Sun
Let these colors be till all of time be done, done, done,
On seven seas we learn Navy's stern call:
Faith, Courage, Service true, with Honor, Over Honor, Over All.

-Words by CAPT Alfred H. Miles, USN, 1906.
Anchors Aweigh is not an official Navy song.

More on SCHIP

For a further update on the debacle that is SCHIP, cruise over to BizzyBlog for this informative post...where Tom defends the blogosphere's research...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Not good news for Ohio

The newly released 2008 State Business Tax Climate Index ranks how "business friendly" the 50 state tax systems are, providing a roadmap for state lawmakers concerned with keeping their states tax-competitive, says the Tax Foundation.

According to the Foundation:

* The five most business friendly states are Wyoming, South Dakota, Nevada, Alaska and Florida.
* Next on the list are Montana, New Hampshire, Texas, Delaware and Oregon.
* At the opposite end of the spectrum are Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, California and Ohio, the least business friendly states.
* Following those are Iowa, Vermont, Nebraska, Minnesota and Maine.

"There's no question that states are competing with one another for companies, jobs and people," said study co-author Curtis Dubay. "Taxes matter to businesses and the states with better business tax climates will reap the rewards."

Dubay added, "States need to constantly be on the lookout for ways to improve their business tax climates. If they're standing still, they're losing ground to states actively improving their climates."

Source: "Which States Are Best for Business? The 2008 State Business Tax Climate Index," Tax Foundation, October 10, 2007.

Quote of the Day

"If by the liberty of the press were understood merely the liberty of discussing the propriety of public measures and political opinions, let us have as much of it as you please: But if it means the liberty of affronting, calumniating and defaming one another, I, for my part, own myself willing to part with my share of it, whenever our legislators shall please so to alter the law and shall chearfully consent to exchange my liberty of abusing others for the privilege of not being abused myself."

-- Benjamin Franklin (An Account of the Supremest Court of
Judicature in Pennsylvania, viz. The Court of the Press, 12
September 1789)

The Patriot Post

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Family weddings

I love weddings!!!!

I love the pomp, and seeing people I haven't seen, and sharing in the joy as two people become one...

So, if postings are a bit slim over the next several days, it's because I'm helping out with a family wedding. My cousin Mandy and her fiance Jarrod will exchange vows on Saturday, so I'm helping with trips to the airport to pick up arriving guests, food preparation and anything else that needs to be done at the last minute.

But check back, because I'll certainly be commenting on the goings-on around town. And thanks for reading my blog - you've set a record for page views over the last several days!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Kudos to John Johnson and Andrew Kennedy

From the Regional Growth Partnership:

Northwest Ohio received more positive news recently when it was learned that two local apprentices won a national competition, recognizing them as the best in their fields.

Both apprentices, John Johnson and Andrew Kennedy, came through the Mechanical Contractor’s Association of Northwestern Ohio training program. They both won local and regional competitions before winning national titles – one in HVAC and the other in plumbing. For perspective, there are some 39,000 apprentices in the United States, and our region has two of the best in their respective specialties.

There will be an awards program recognizing the two winners on Monday, October 15th, that will include representatives from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office as well as state workforce development.

Congrats John and Andrew!!! What great representatives you are!

Begging for $40,000 for LivCom????

Well, the mayor held his press conference yesterday announcing his plea for donations for the LivCom award (more background here)

I wasn't able to attend the event, but today's Blade has some of the details I was hoping for - specifically, how much the Carty wants to raise...and the number is staggering: $40,000.

"Dr. Richard Ruppert, who will lead the fund drive, said the goal is to send 15 to 20 people, at about $2,000 each. "That would be my guess," he said.

He said the fund drive would pay for those who can't pay their own way."

Okay - why in the world do we need to send 15-20 people to this thing when only three people are allowed to make the presentation? Do we think that sheer numbers will impress? And what are 15-20 people going to do for three days in London, other than have a nice vacation paid for by donations?

"Mr. Finkbeiner said he would pay for travel and accommodations for himself and his wife, Amy. He vowed that no city funds would be used in the process, including in preparing the presentation.

"We'd like to take a good, strong delegation," he said. He said some funds, about $10,000, will be needed to pay for a 12-minute video presentation."

I'm very glad that Carty is paying the costs of his, and Amy's, trip. But I question $10,000 for a 12-minute video. With today's technology, does it really cost $10,000 to get a good video? And who will be in charge of shooting the video and determining what gets included? Will one of Carty's contributors get this 'plum' of a contract?

Does Toledo - or one of the numerous economic development organizations - already have a video that highlights the livability of the city? Could such a video be used or modified for less than $10,000? And if we don't, would that be a prudent use of operational costs that one, or all, of our economic development entities could pay?

Or does Carty think that 1) such a video wouldn't be specifically tied to the application and 2) that 'having the community support' might impress the judges and lead to a win? I know, I know...there I go asking all those pesky questions again.

"Toledo's application essay for the liveable city award covered a series of topics, such as enhancement of the landscape, heritage management, environmentally sensitive practices, community sustainability, healthy lifestyles, and planning for the future."

Duh - that's because the award is based upon such criteria ... we'd look pretty stupid if we applied for an award and then emphasized things not included in the criteria...

And then there were these two comments:

"The mayor said a liveability award carries weight when companies decide where to locate because of the importance of quality of life to their employees."

"City Councilman Mark Sobczak said, "The recognition tells Toledoans we are on the right track.""

First, I live in Toledo and I think there are many positive aspects of living here - and I wouldn't stay if I didn't believe that. But I'm not blind to the negatives nor do I dismiss those who point out the negatives with the hope of eliminating them or changing them into positives.

I'm also not delusional enough to think that having some 'award' will mean the difference between whether or not a company chooses to locate here. Having a 'liveable city' designation might get us a visit instead of another city - all things being equal, but when the glowing comments and awards are balanced by an actual visit, reality sets in. We can have tons of flowers (to pick a favorite topic) along the entryways to the city, but if you lose a tire because of the pot holes, those flowers don't mean much.

Likewise, winning such an award won't tell Toledoans anything when they, too, balance the "style" with the lack of "substance" on our infrastructure and basic services. Carty even took a swipe at those of us who questioned the spending on such style issues, failing to recognize that it wasn't the flowers per se, but the spending on a 'luxury' while the 'necessities' are lacking.

Sadly, Carty loves these kinds of things. He loves awards and titles...and usually there wouldn't be anything wrong with that. But when the awards and titles and 'appearances' come before the core services and infrastructure, something is wrong with his priorities.

Quote of the Day

How right he was:

"I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground that 'all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people.' To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, not longer susceptible of any definition."

-- Thomas Jefferson (Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National
Bank, 15 February 1791)

From The Patriot Post

Monday, October 08, 2007

5th Congressional race is hotter than today is!

Fellow SOBer Scott Pullins has posted on his blog the elections complaint that he, as the elections attorney for the Latta for Congress campaign, has filed against Steve Beuhrer and the Club for Growth PAC over statements contained in the Club for Growth endorsement.

Additional info, including link to the complaint, is available here.

Two tidbits from Cato Institute

The first one is particularly interesting to me because a while back I got an email from the ORP about what the priorities for the upcoming state legislature should be and 'de-regulation' was one of the options.

Market Fix Rests on Bright Ideas

"Texas power rates have increased 56 percent since 2000, and the state's electricity is among the most expensive in the country despite promises prices would go down when the state opened electric power to competition," reports The Houston Chronicle. "Many in the industry say the market is working, particularly for customers willing to shop for the best rates. Two of the state's top three political leaders, House Speaker Tom Craddick and Gov. Rick Perry, share that view."

In "Short-Circuited," Jerry Taylor, Cato senior fellow, and Peter Van Doren, editor of Cato's regulation magazine, write:

"After a pretty good 30-year run, deregulation is on the political ropes. Although loosening the shackles on banking, trucking and airlines delivered lower prices, robust competition and political applause, it hasn't worked for electricity. ... So did free market reformers take deregulation too far? Yes and no. Yes, because they promised rate reductions they had no business promising. No, because deregulation of some parts of the system was offset by more ambitious regulations elsewhere. The end result is even more economically artificial than the one we started with. ... True deregulation involves allowing market actors to run their businesses in whatever manner they like, price what the market will bear, and discover for themselves how best to deliver goods and services without government influencing those decisions with carrots and sticks. The faux deregulation we have in the electricity market unfortunately falls short on most of those counts. And that -- rather than the rate increases -- is the real problem.

And then there was this one, particularly interesting considering the upcoming political discussion on SCHIP:

Democrats See Wedge Issue in Health Bill

"Representative John R. Kuhl Jr. of New York received just his second telephone call ever from his state's Democratic governor, Eliot Spitzer, last week and was not surprised at the topic: children's health insurance," reports The New York Times. "'He said, 'I am calling you to come over to the dark side,' 'said Mr. Kuhl, who was urged by the governor to drop his opposition to health care legislation and join the effort to override President Bush's veto of the bill. Mr. Kuhl, a Republican who narrowly survived the Democratic sweep of 2006, said he was unlikely to budge. As a result, voters in his district will also be getting calls -- from Democrats and advocacy groups who are planning a telephone, radio, television and even text-message barrage against Republicans over what is shaping up as a defining domestic policy issue of the 2008 campaign."

In "Sink this SCHIP," Michael F. Cannon, director of Cato's health-policy studies and co-author of Healthy Competition: What's Holding Back Health Care and How to Free It, writes:

"SCHIP is senseless. Like its much larger sibling, Medicaid ... both programs force taxpayers to subsidize people who don't need help, discourage low-income families from climbing the economic ladder - and make private insurance more expensive for everyone else. ... All told, SCHIP is a very costly way of helping targeted families obtain health coverage...Some will complain that scrapping SCHIP would leave dependent families in the lurch. As a transitional step, Congress could convert federal Medicaid and SCHIP funding into a smaller, lump-sum payment to each state. That would serve as a halfway point toward eliminating these payments and simultaneously cutting taxes. States that want to maintain their current spending levels could raise the tax revenue themselves.

Whatever your position on the current legislation, I think the whole issue of the Federal government doing this - especially when it's called STATE Children's Health Insurance Plan - just adds more to the bureaucracy, and that's money which could be spent, instead, on direct services.

Toledo Mayor begging for money

Today Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner is scheduled to hold a press conference today to beg for money for the LivCom awards (Blade story here and previous blog post here.)

Now, it doesn't say how much he's trying to raise other than "thousands of dollars to send a presentation team to London from Nov. 22 to 26."

In a quick check, I found a round-trip ticket for $733. Figure three nights in a hotel at around $500 (including taxes, etc...) with each person covering their own meals, and it shouldn't cost too much.

Oh - yeah - the rules of LivCom say that only THREE (3) people can make the presentation...

4. Final Presentations: If, following the Interim Judging process, your community is selected as a Finalist in The LivCom Awards, there are some key points to bear in mind:

• A maximum of three representatives from your community will be able to make the Presentation, plus an interpreter if required.
• Presentations must be made in English.
• Presentations must not exceed 40 minutes and may include a digital video disk (dvd), also in English, of no longer than 12 minutes duration. Appropriate equipment will be provided.

... so there's no need for more than three to go...unless they want to AND will pay their own way - not expect the community, through donations, to foot the bill.

On one hand, I'm very glad that Carty is not expecting to pay for this with tax dollars. On the other hand, I'm wondering about what this award really means. In 2004, Honolulu won this award for cities their size. While their presentation was good, it didn't tell the whole story. This article does. I was particularly struck by the last paragraph and the similarity to Toledo. What do you think?

UPDATE: Some other bloggers who are covering this subject include Uncommon Squalor and Chad Quigley's WannaBeMayor. Then there is Hooda_Thunkit's post which, while not mentioning LivCom, details many of the infrastructure concerns versus the 'appearance' of the city.

Also, there are other U.S. cities who also made the finalist list, contrary to Carty's comments. They're just in other 'size' categories.

October Heat

You know it's going to be a hot day when your sunrise looks like this:

Sunday, October 07, 2007

UT Homecoming and Chuck Ealey

The University of Toledo's Homecoming this year will probably go down as one of the warmest ever. It was a beautiful day, if hot, and the crowds were terrific.

As a proud graduate from UT's College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Communication, I was particularly looking forward to seeing their new studio in Rocket Hall. And I was not disappointed. During the Communication event, Department Chairman, Dr. Benjamin and new Dean of A&S, Dr. Lee gave brief remarks and then introduced guest speaker Michael Miller, editor-in-chief of the Toledo Free Press and fellow graduate (pictured left to right, standing in front of one studio set). It was nice to see several of my favorite professors and talk with both alum and students.

Then it was off to the parade...

Not being a 'dignitary' anymore, I was originally a bit sad about not being in the parade - until the Alumni Office sent out a request for convertibles and drivers. So I volunteered our 1970 Ford Galaxie XL - a 'survivor' with everything original - and bigger than Chevy Suburban.

Imagine my surprise and excitement to discover my 'dignitary' was Chuck Ealey and his wife, Sherri! Chuck, class of '71, was this year's Blue "T" Award winner. But he's better known for still holding the record for longest undefeated record as a college quarterback, going 35-0 from 1969-71 when he was at UT. He also won three consecutive Orange Bowls those years, with his 35th victory a defeat of Lou Holtz's William & Mary team by a score of 40-12. He was a 3-time MAC player of the year and was inducted into the MAC Hall of Fame.

However deserving, because of a quirk in the rules, he is not currently in the College Football Hall of Fame. But many fans, friends and alumni are working to change that. Please visit and sign the petition to help him get this well-earned honor.

And then it was on to the game...

Which we won!!! It was a good game with suspense (not so good) to the end, made better, obviously, by the 35-34 final score. Congrats to Jalen Parmele for his 169 yards in 30 carries and his four touchdowns - three runs and pass!

All in all, a good day at The University of Toledo 2007 Homecoming.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Same story - two perspectives

Thursday, Eye on the Statehouse had an entry about Attorney General Marc Dann's 'scramble' to respond to an Associated Press public records request regarding contributions to his campaign from lawyers who have contracts with his office. (Link on their website to the article no longer works so the article is reprinted below.)

And then today, The Blade had this article about the subject, taking a local angle approach to the reporting. Both stories mention the same Sandusky attorney.

What struck me was the difference between these two articles and the impression I was left with after reading each of them.

I'm curious and so my questions to you:

1) What is your impression after reading both of the stories?

2) Did reading these two stories bring you to different conclusions about the AG's office?

3) Do you see bias - or spin - in either, or both, of them?

Please let me know.

Lawyers' paperwork on limiting campaign contributions arrives late
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Julie Carr Smyth
Associated Press

Columbus- Well over half the lawyers required to limit their campaign contributions to Attorney General Marc Dann in order to qualify for state work didn't fill out the required paperwork until this month, long after the office began doling out contracts, according to a review by The Associated Press.

The cap on donations to Dann, the state's top lawyer, stemmed from a law he championed as a state senator and later used as a centerpiece of his 2006 campaign that sought to curb the role of donations in the awarding of state contracts.

Fifty of the affidavits by outside lawyers who have landed state legal work came in on a single day, Sept. 12, after Dann's office faced scrutiny from lawmakers over two of the contracts. Twenty-nine others were submitted after a records request was made by The Associated Press, many bearing the marks of fax machines from around the country.

Ben Espy, an executive attorney general who oversees outside legal contracts for Dann, conceded that the office went out and collected the affidavits after public interest arose.

"The agreement they must sign advising them of the rules for outside counsel contains everything that's in the affidavit. So there is some overlap there," Espy said. "But after we got these requests we just decided we should have them on file."

Altogether, 126 of the 194 affidavits clearing attorneys to do special-counsel work were filed in September, and 97 came over five days surrounding the most recent meeting of the contract-approving State Controlling Board, documents show. A staff member for the board had also requested copies of the affidavits, said Dann spokeswoman Michelle Gatchell.

In the affidavit, a lawyer agrees that no legal partner, spouse or child of the firm will give more than $1,000 to the Dann for Ohio campaign over two years. Beginning Jan. 1, all those firm associates plus their political action committees will be limited to $2,000 collectively over two years.

In at least three cases, lawyers signing the affidavit made changes. Kevin Zuheir of Erie County inserted a parenthetical statement in bold: "On November 1, 2006 I donated a total of $2,500.00 to Dann for Ohio in my name and in the name of my spouse, Cathy Grespin Zeiher."

Another lawyer, Richard J. Erickson of Frost, Brown & Todd in Cincinnati crossed out the phrase "within the two previous calendar years."

The contract of a third law firm, Beveridge & Diamond, was put on hold by the Controlling Board because it had crossed out a section of its contract

Problem corrected...

My apologies to anyone who commented on my posts over the past several days. Due to a problem in the comment moderation, some of the comments may have been lost. I think I've fixed it, so feel free to resubmit your comments. Thanks!

Friday, October 05, 2007

A question on the Marina District - what about Riverfront Park?

In response to a comment from Tim Higgins on my earlier blog post about the funding for the Marina District, I came across this press release on the city of Toledo's website.

It's the original announcement from March of this year that highlighted the details of the agreement between Toledo and developer Larry Dillin. What I found interesting were the following statements:

"After Dillin solidifies private funds $50M* for vertical buildings and $15M* to fund the balance of the Riverfront Park area, the City will deed the land to Dillin Corp and invest $10M* in the Riverfront Drive and Park area.
Dillin is currently in negotiations with users on several parts of the site both commercial and residential. “When the Waterfront Park is delivered, there are several other interested developers for other areas of the land,” stated Sarah Penner, Project Manager of the Marina District for Dillin Corp. “The backbone of this agreement is the Riverfront Park.” The Riverfront Park would typically be funded as a “Public Works” project. In this case, the City, State and Dillin will all participate in the expenses.
To jumpstart the vertical development and Riverfront park, Dillin will provide the following by October 1, 2007**:
• Leadership for the entire development/master-planning process
• $50M* in private investment for building structures
• Financing for the gap in funding to complete the Waterfront Park ($15 M*)
• Vertical Development to begin before December 31, 2007

The press release also details the city's commitment, including "$10M* for the Riverfront Park which includes monies available from the State or Federal government."

So it appears from the agreement that Dillin is supposed to have not only the $50 million for the development, but financing for any gap in funding for the park as well. Because of the way the press release is worded, it's unclear if Dillin's commitment is for $15 million - or if the total cost of the park is $15 million. Either way, Dillin needs to come up with the funds to add to the city's $10 million that is apparently dedicated to the park.

But nothing I've seen in any of the news coverage or council ordinances specifies that the city's portion is going to the park. Now, this doesn't mean it isn't, but I will be watching to see whether or not gap financing for the park is part of the public announcement now scheduled for October 11th - and how the city's $10 million will be allocated.

This is what good economic development looks like

Last night I stopped by the Regional Growth Partnership's 'Tech Connect' program, which they sponsored in conjunction with the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce and the University of Toledo.

Billed as "enhancing opportunities for local entrepreneurial businesses," Tech Connect is a quarterly event to provide entrepreneurs and small technology companies an opportunity to network and interact with each other, investors, and the business and academic communities. Their first event had about 40 participants. Last night, there were about 150.

This event is an on-going component of the RGP's Launch program, which provides, at no cost, comprehensive business assistance services to accelerate tech-based business growth.

Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, President of the University of Toledo, was the featured speaker, explaining how UT's Science and Technology Corridor is helping to grow tech businesses in the region. Interestingly, UT has added a second business incubator on their Health Sciences Campus and they hope they'll need another one in the future as they continue to assist in the commercialization of research.

Dr. Jacobs explained his vision, shared by the UT Board of Trustees, for how a university should be a part of the community. He even included a history lesson about how universities used to be separate from their cities, building walls and moats around their campuses and acting as a 'city within a city' with their own laws and jurisdictions.

But that is not how Dr. Jacobs sees UT, and the Science and Technology Corridor, while a physical connection between the three campuses, is also a 'spiritual' connection between researchers, entrepreneurs, banks, economic development professionals, jobs and the community as a whole.

Dr. Jacobs, always an entertaining speaker, expressed the University's continuing support for programs like Tech Connect, Launch and Rocket Ventures. And if you're not familiar with Rocket Ventures, you should be.

Rocket Ventures is the name of the corporation that administers the RGP's venture capital fund, consisting of a $15 million state grant from the Ohio Department of Development and matched by $7.5 million of private sector monies. This pre-seed, early-stage venture fund provides - for the first time in Northwest Ohio - the capital and management services necessary to help entrepreneurs, researchers and start-up companies with the opportunity to commercialize their technology.

It was encouraging to see so many people participating in this event, especially companies like First Solar and Xunlight who were featured in a recent Newsweek article. While there were staff from several city and county economic development departments, the evening was driven and led by the private sector, in conjunction with banks and universities - the way successful economic development should be.

Toledo shoots for LivCom award

According to this article in The Blade, Toledo is the only U.S. city to be a finalist for the LivCom Award which is endorsed by the U.N. Environment Programme. It's an international award honoring liveable communities.

And when I started reading the article, I thought - 'that's nice.' However, near the bottom of the article was this:

"The judging criteria includes enhancement of the landscape, heritage management, environmentally sensitive practices, community sustainability, healthy lifestyles, and planning for the future.

An international panel of judges includes environmental and landscape management professionals."

Call me cynical, but now I understand why Carty was so insistent on planting flowers, building bikepaths and pushing his "Get Fit Toledo" campaign...

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Follow the money...

Yes, such a powerful phrase that can apply to just about any subject or topic. But especially pertinent in government.

The City of Toledo has been working to develop its waterfront...something that should have been done quite some time ago, but at least it's getting done. Several grants and loans have allowed for the clean-up of this former industrial site and developer Larry Dillin has agreed to take on the project.

The agreement for the Marina District was for Dillin to come up with $50 million in private funds and the city of Toledo to contribute $10 million for infrastructure, etc.

Dillin has met his commitment and plans to make an announcement on Oct. 10th. And the city has its $10 million - but that's where the problem comes in.

Originally, Toledo was short. And then they got a $5 million loan from the state's Infrastructure Bank. According to this June article in The Blade, the loan brought the amount the city had to $9 million, leaving them short only $1 million.

"The loan is guaranteed by funds from the city’s capital improvements budget over the next 10 years, the administration said. The administration has said it hopes to obtain a $5 million grant from the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission that would offset the loan."

Okay, follow the money ... we'll apply for and accept a $5 million loan, and we won't have to use it when we get our expected grant from the Cultural Facilities Commission.

But, just to reiterate the point, there is this Blade article from earlier in June which said:

"In a memo distributed to city council members over the weekend, the administration said it would ask council to vote today for authorization to borrow up to $5 million against an expected $5 million grant from the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission.
Todd Davies, commissioner of development for Mr. Finkbeiner, said the $5 million loan from the State Infrastructure Bank would temporarily fill the place of a $5 million grant the city hopes to obtain from the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission. He said the city is highly confident that the grant will be approved, but confirmation may not come until August."

But the city was still short $1 million, prompting this comment from Davies:

"As things stand we're $1 million short. The idea is not to borrow that money," Mr. Davies said. "We want to make sure we're covering all our bases. This is a backstop."

Except, the city couldn't come up with another $1 million and yesterday decided to approve accessing part of the Infrastructure Bank loan.

According to today's article, council voted 11-1 to tap into the $5 million loan to reach their $10 million commitment.

"The $1.1 million loan from the Ohio Department of Transportation's State Infrastructure Bank would be paid back over 10 years at 3 percent interest, with zero interest the first year, and with payback deferred for 30 months, according to the legislation.

Councilman Betty Shultz cast the no vote, saying she objected to pledging the city's gasoline tax revenue as collateral.

Fran Song, the city's debt management officer, said gas tax revenue would be pledged for legal reasons, but the loan likely would be repaid from capital improvements funds."

(Note: we've got 10 years to pay back the loan and we don't have to pay interest for the first year. However, the loan terms say we don't have to make a payment for 30 months - meaning that we'll incur 3% interest for 18 months before we ever have to make the first payment. That's $33,000 - and how much does a new police car cost?)

However, in looking at the original ordinance (378-07) passed June 12th, you find the following explanation of how the loan will be repaid:

"As of the date of this ordinance the City has applied for several multi-million dollar grants from Federal and State agencies, including a $5 million reappropriation of a grant already awarded from the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission. However, in order to ensure timely construction the City intends to borrow from the State Infrastructure Bank pending receipt of grant monies. This loan will have a 10-year term with a 30-month deferment. It is the intention of the City to repay the loan through any one of the above-mentioned sources prior to the expiration of the 30-month deferment."

Here's my concern: we have the flexibility in the CIP fund to pay interest and principle on this loan, but we don't have the flexibility to just use the CIP to come up with the $1.1 million that we're short for this project? Long-term, is it better to just use existing CIP funds or to take out a loan and pay interest?

The answer to that question would depend upon our priorities and whether or not we, as a city, are willing to forgo something else in order to meet an obligation made to the developer of this project.

The only good aspect of this is that the loan is more like a line of credit and, according to mayoral spokesman Brian Schwartz, the city will only request $1.1 million - and not the full $5 million that is available. But that means that the remainder is available to be accessed for other expenses.

I understand the decision that's been made, but I don't like it. City Council and Mayor are spending money - some of it necessary, some not - with little prioritization or anticipation of future needs. Knowing that the city needed to come up with $10 million to meet our obligation to this project, shouldn't council and mayor have NOT spent other monies previously? That's what you and I would have done ... but with a loan readily available, they didn't have to prioritize or pick and choose among spending. And that's the problem.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Interesting votes on SCHIP

I came across this blurb - I believe the original source was MSNBC - and wanted to share it with you:

"The clash over the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) is being fought largely between members of Congress from high-income states, such as Maryland, versus members from low-income states, such as South Dakota and Mississippi, which rank near the bottom in median household income, says MSNBC.


* On the decisive Senate vote to push ahead with expansion of the S-CHIP program -- where both senators from a state voted for S-CHIP expansion -- they came from states with an average household income of nearly $50,000.

* But where both senators from a state voted against S-CHIP expansion, they came from states with an average household income of under $42,000, including the lowest-income states such as Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Mississippi."

Perhaps the senators actually realize, despite all the political rhetoric, that the planned expansion of SCHIP to the middle and upper classes is rather detrimental to those it's intended to help?

Toledo makes Newsweek Magazine

...and in a positive way!

This from the Regional Growth Partnership:

The Regional Growth Partnership is thrilled to share with you a story which ran in Newsweek magazine, focusing on Northwest Ohio's growing place in renewable energies. Local companies First Solar and Xunlight were prominently featured, as was the University of Toledo.

This story was the result of a visit to our region by Newsweek reporter Dan McGinn September 24, made possible through our editorial marketing program. We encourage you to share this story with your employees, clients, customers - anyone who has an interest in our region.

Congrats to the companies and the RGP for the positive story!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

More anti-logic - this time on SCHIP

Congress has chosen a source to pay for the bulk of their proposed $35 billion increase in the State Children's Health Insurance Program - cigarette taxes.

According to numerous reports, expansion of the program (which would allow families with income up to $82,000 to qualify) would be financed with a 156 percent increase in the federal cigarette tax, taking it to $1 per pack from the current 39 cents.

And this tax will impact recipients of the SCHIP program more than others. Low-income people smoke more heavily than do wealthier people in the United States, making cigarette taxes a regressive form of revenue. Nearly one-third of all U.S. adults living in poverty are smokers, compared with 23.5 percent of those above the poverty level, according to government statistics.

So we allow expansion of the program to those who are not 'low income' or in poverty by imposing a tax that impacts low income and the poor more than others. Where's the logic in that?

But the biggest anti-logic of this expansion is the lack of any discussion or debate about basic demographics and their impact on this bill - maybe because there is little sympathy, in Congress or the nation as a whole, for taxing such a vice.

So consider this: you've got the U.S. Department of Education, the Centers for Disease Control, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) all providing grants and funding for anti-smoking campaigns. There are numerous opportunities at the state level for anti-smoking funds as well. Everyone, it seems, is spending money to get people to stop smoking - or to prevent them from starting in the first place.

And then you have this quote from Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who said, during the House debate,
"And in order to get enough money to pay for this, it would require 22 million new smokers."

Spend money over here to get people to not smoke while spending money over there counting on an increase in smokers...Anti-logic!

Calculating impact of levies on the ballot

Kudos to the Lucas County Auditor's office and Anita Lopez for the two new tools on the AREIS online website. One shows your current property taxes, percentages and dollar amounts, and where they go. The other calculates how much in taxes you will pay if property tax levies that are on the upcoming ballot all pass.

This Blade article gives more detail as well as how to obtain the information if you don't have a computer.

To see your information, go here and enter either your name or address. After selecting your property, the DATA tab has the two new tools highlighted.

This is a terrific tool and great information for every property owner in Lucas County.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Update on 'baby bonds'

According to this post at The Opinionator, a New York Times blog by two staff editors of their Op-Ed page, Rasmussen has done a quick poll on the issue of the 'baby bonds.'

Roughly 60% oppose Sen. Hillary Clinton's idea to give each baby born in the U.S. a $5,000 payment in the form of a 'baby bond.'

Further, as I said in my earlier post on the subject, this idea appeared to be more of an 'off-the-cuff' comment by Clinton, rather than a planned policy. Turns out, both University of Virginia Professor Larry Sabato and Philip Klein at The American Spectator, agree.

(As an aside, this author never expected to be quoted in any New York Times article, much less, The Opinionator...)

Baby Bonds and the anti-logic

According to the Associated Press reports, Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton suggested, during a forum hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus, that every child born in the United States should get a $5,000 "baby bond" from the government to help pay for future costs of college or buying a home.

First, this appears to have been an off-the-cuff comment because the Clinton campaign had no numbers on the estimated cost or potential funding sources. But that didn't stop others from warmly embracing the idea.

Ohio Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D - OH 11th District) thought it was a "wonderful idea." She went on to explain that "every child born in the United States today owes $27,000 on the national debt, why not let them come get $5,000 to grow until they're 18?"

Yes, this is what passes for intelligence in Congress. It's anti-logic. You're born owing $27,000 toward the national debt so let's just 'borrow' more money and give it to you, ignoring the idea that you might be getting $5,000 now, but that $5,000 just gets added to the $27,000 you already owe. The problem is that so many have such little understanding of how this works, that they'll think they're getting a 'reduction' of some sort in the debt. While it's sad that the public will misunderstand this, it's atrocious that our elected representatives are perpetuating the anti-logic of the idea - not to mention the media which failed to understand the implications of the comment and clarify it further.

And then there is the concept in general. Nowhere does the Constitution give Congress the authority to take from people in general in order to give a $5,000 handout to babies born in the U.S. But then, constitutional restrictions on authority went down the drain quite some time ago.

Even if this were constitutional, there are a host of unintended consequences and questions which I'm sure weren't thought through.

For instance, what about couples who cannot have children. They'll be paying taxes which will be spent on other peoples' kids...I'm sure there's some sort of discrimination here based upon their inability to have children. After all, we can't discriminate against those who, through no fault of their own, don't have kids. So that means some sort of equal payment to them, as well.

And what about the abortion lobby? If you start paying people who have kids (in this case, in the form of a bond for the baby), you might have less abortions. Talk about unintended consequences.

And if the parent is on public assistance, does the 'baby bond' encourage more children who are then raised in, what has become for many (but not all), a 'welfare mentality' of entitlement?

What if a child is given up for adoption? Does the 'baby bond' go with the kid or stay under control of the parents? Logic says it'd go with the child, but this being the government, anything is possible and anti-logic is more common.

However, knowing the penchant of government to control, I anticipate such a program being more like Social Security. We'll just create an account in your name, dear baby, and when you're 18, the money will be there for you. Yes, we'll put it in a lock box that can never be touched. Yeah - right - we've seen how well THAT works...

Then there is the concept which led to the idea...Clinton said such a program will "help Americans get back to the tradition of savings that she remembers as a child." As Glenn Beck says, get out the duck tape so your head doesn't explode....

Giving people money doesn't help them learn how to save. All it does is teach them that the government will give them something for nothing - failing to recognize that someone - meaning you and me and even the recipients - will always end up paying the bill. Government has only what it takes from each of us ... but that never stopped them from being so generous with other people's money.

The best way to teach the need for savings - and so many other lessons - is to give individuals the freedom to fail. It was Henry Ford who said, "Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently." It's just that individual responsibility contradicts so much of what government is about, further contributing to the anti-logic we see so much of today.
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