Sunday, June 29, 2008

'Stuck on stupid' Toledo dictionary

My friend and fellow blogger, Tim Higgins, who posts at Just Blowing Smoke, has started a new series called the "Stuck On Stupid" Toledo Dictionary.

It's a take on my regular 'stuck on stupid' rants on Eye On Toledo, where I point out all the idiotic and ridiculous decisions, laws and regulations of local elected officials and government in general.

In his first post, he defines the term "emergency," as in the immediate passage of Toledo City Council ordinances on their first appearance on the agenda.

His second post focuses on the definitions of 'TARTA' and 'business friendly.' Unfortunately, the two terms appear to be opposites.

Surf over and read them - perhaps you'll even have additions to the dictionary, based upon your own experiences.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Fireworks tonight!!!

Tonight, if the weather holds, is one of the best fireworks displays in all the area - the Point/Shoreland/Washington Township Fireworks sponsored by the Washington Township Volunteer Fire Department and made possible by the donations of many individuals and businesses in the area.

They close off the Summit Street Bridge over the Ottawa River and begin the festivities at dusk. There are multiple viewing points in the Ottawa River (if you have a boat) or at any of the public access sites along Ottawa River Road, Shoreland Avenue or Summit Street. The newly renamed Harry Kessler Park at the corner of Ottawa River and 290th Street is a good location with parking and plenty of grassy areas for seating. Many people park in the Merchants Landing parking lot (Summit & Jasik Dr. just before the state line) as this gives an unobstructed view of the fireworks in probably the closest, safe vantage point.

If you plan on coming out to the Point for the yearly extravaganza, leave early for a good spot and ... Enjoy!

"Fireworks are an art form that uses the night sky as the canvas."
-Larry Crump

"You can look up at the stars and every night they're going to be in the same place, but you can launch a six inch shell and you don't really know what it's going to look like until it actually performs."
- James Sousa

"We anoint their fuses with a tiny amount of fire, and they come alive, playing out their life span in a matter or seconds. In those few seconds a crack in the universe is opened, giving us a glimpse of the energy locked within all matter."
-Bob Weaver

"I often use the word "joy" when describing fireworks. It is a considered word, deliberate in choice. Not just amusement, entertainment, astonishment, but joy. Our art makes us all into children again for a while. We become one in our experience for the moment; lost in the sound and color and light. We see large forces, stronger than we could ever be, yet beautiful in their effects. Sometimes violent, sometimes restrained. Delicate beyond imagination at times, coarse and rude at others."
-Bill Withrow

Friday, June 27, 2008

Stainbrook doesn't get it when it comes to the GOP elections board members

Yes, we all knew this was part of the plan, but now it's official. New Lucas County Republican Party Chairman Jon Stainbrook has asked the two Republican members of the Lucas County Board of Elections to resign.

He says he's unhappy with the 'behind the scenes' support some BOE staffers gave to his opponents in the quest for the chairmanship. However, this quote from the Blade says it all:

"It is very important that a chairman have faith that the board members represent the best interests of the party's candidates, elected officials, and the election process as a whole, and that is why we need to make a change. Rest assured your adherence to the tradition of allowing the Chairman to name his own Board Members is truly appreciated," Mr. Stainbrook said in his letter.

The problem is that there is NO SUCH TRADITION!

As I've previously posted, the BOE board members are screened by the executive committee of the LCRP. The recommended name(s) are submitted to the Secretary of State who then makes the appointment. Never in my memory has a new chairman asked existing BOE board members to resign. Yes, upon expiration of their terms new members have been appointed - on occasion. But it is hardly a given nor an expectation. That Stainbrook, with all his claimed extensive involvement in the party, doesn't understand this makes me wonder just what else he doesn't understand when it comes to the responsibilities of chairman.

Of course, if he's getting his information from The Blade, that could be why he doesn't understand. The Blade reporter writes:

Board members are appointed by the secretary of state to four-year terms based on the local party chairman's recommendation, with two from each major party.

There's no reason for the reporter to understand that it isn't the recommendation of the chairman, but of the Executive Committee - at least in the LCRP, but you'd think he'd do his homework to find out for sure...unless he wants people to think otherwise. But Tom Troy is usually a very responsible reporter, so I hope such is not the case.

To drive home the point, Patrick Kriner, BOE board member and former party chairman said, "there is no tradition of elections board members being replaced by a new party chairman." And he should know.

But the last paragraphs of the story get to the real point - the money board members get paid. All BOE board members in Ohio are compensated for the job. They get a salary, PERS contributions (as mandated under law), health insurance and life insurance. While the dollar amounts of these various items vary county to county, it is a standard package all BOE board members get. The total package for Lucas County is $31,691. Considering the amount of time these board members put in on a yearly basis, it's certainly not a 'living wage.'

But, you see, Stainbrook says our GOP board members don't need the money. And I have to ask - since when do Republicans base a person's pay on what that person needs, rather than the value that person brings to the position? Stainbrook needs to be careful or he'll start sounding like Democrats when it comes to wages.

The GOP chairman said it is ridiculous that taxpayers are paying Mr. Olman and Mr. Kriner a salary and providing them with health insurance and public pensions.

"Both of these guys are businessmen and have many other things to do. Whoever is on that board has to make county elections their main priority," said Mr. Stainbrook. "Lynn Olman doesn't need $18,000 and the taxpayers shouldn't be paying for his health insurance."

Why not? If the wages and benefits are part of the job and he's doing the job, shouldn't he be treated equally???? And there is no evidence whatsoever to indicate that Olman and Kriner are not making the BOE their priority.

The point of all of this is that Stainbrook wants these positions to hand out to his own people - or maybe himself - providing a nice income, health benefits and, perhaps even more valuable, PERS. If I'm wrong about this, it's easy for Stainbrook to prove it by stating that any new board appointees agree to forego all wages and benefits of the position. If it's wrong for Kriner and Olman to get this package, it is equally wrong for any new board member to get them as well. But Stainbrook also needs to know that if the employment package is waived, the money goes back into the county treasury - not to anyone else.

For a final thought, starting a drive to get rid of these two GOP board members is not a way to foster unity following a contentious campaign for chairman. Both these men have served the party well in their many years of involvement - including in elective office - and both are serving the BOE and voters well. Stainbrook's inappropriate call for their resignations sounds more like sour grapes and a money grab than it does an example of leadership and unity building for the party.

Even if Stainbrook has valid reasons for his resignation demand (and I seriously doubt that), his manner of addressing his concerns does not give Republicans cause for confidence in his leadership abilities - and that's very sad for the local Republican Party

FOIA Friday - May 27, 2008

I missed my FOIA Friday last week as we celebrated the wedding of Cindy and Patrick. It was a very good reason to miss a FOIA post, but I'm back this week with a story about a friend who just wanted something simple.

My friend Twila sent an email to Commissioner Ben Konop to request a listing of all boards and commissions, the members, their terms and mission statements. As she stated in her email, she knew she was not required to provide a reason for the request, but she did so anyway. She chose Comm. Konop, as she explained, because of his "attempt to bring honest and open government to Toledo." She sent this email on June 11 and followed up with his assistant on the 13th to make sure he had gotten the email. He had.

On June 20, she sent a follow-up email because she hadn't heard anything at all in terms of a response. She even included this statement, which is so correct:
"Please respond with either the information or the reason why the information can not be provided, because silence is just not the appropriate answer."

What Twila didn't know is that the County Commissioners have a book that lists all the boards and commissions to which they appoint members. That book, a large three-ring binder, includes the names and addresses of all appointees, their terms, their 'category' if they represent a particular group or fulfill a particular legal requirement, and the pertinent Ohio Revised Code reference for the board or commission. If there are specific requirements for the board, those requirements are listed in the book as well.

It's a pretty thick book, but it's easy to go through. It should have only taken a few minutes to send a reply email that the book was available for inspection in the Commissioner's Office.

Twila also didn't have the County's public records policy when she sent the email, but she does now. That policy says that replies need to be prompt - and I can't help but believe that two weeks is less than prompt.

I know all this because she copied me on her public records request (which is a public record in and of itself), and I gave her some advice on how to proceed. I told her that if she's just interested in the information, she could contact the specific individual who was (and, I believe, still is) in charge of keeping the book current and make arrangements to view the information. If she wants to teach elected officials a lesson, she could file the mandamus action in Common Pleas Court, asking the court to compel the production of the data.

I also told her about Ohio's special little clause that allows individuals to be compensated for the lack of timely response to public records requests. Under Ohio law, individuals can get $100 a day - it's not a penalty, but an 'incentive' for elected officials to respond appropriately. However, individuals are only eligible for this fee if they have hand-delivered their written request or sent it via certified mail, return receipt requested - in order to prove that the request was actually received on a particular date to start the tolling of the days.

I haven't yet heard what Twila plans to do, but knowing the tenacity of my friend, heaven help anyone who stands in her way of accessing public information. And shame on any elected official who doesn't promptly respond to a request for information!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

And there was great rejoicing!

from The Wall Street Journal

June 26, 2008

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Americans have a right to own guns for self-defense and hunting, the justices' first definitive pronouncement on gun rights in U.S. history. The court's 5-4 ruling strikes down the District of Columbia's 32-year-old ban on handguns as incompatible with gun rights under the Second Amendment.

The decision goes further than even the Bush administration wanted, but probably leaves most firearms laws intact.

Why is the sale of public land an 'emergency'?

Toledo city council has an 'emergency' ordinance on the agenda for Tuesday - this one is to sell two parcels of city-owned land. According to the ordinance,

"The reason for the emergency lies in the fact that same is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, safety and property, and for the further reason that this Ordinance must be immediately effective to facilitate conveyance of this property to VIVA South Toledo CDC for community re-use."

I think most people would question why this is an emergency. It's not like a first and second reading is really going to have a detrimental impact on the agreement. And the city has owned this property for a long-enough time that a couple more weeks to discuss the proposal and give the public time to weigh in on it won't really have a negative impact.

But perhaps that's the point. If this is given proper review, citizens might start questioning other things about the agreement - like the price:

The City of Toledo, through reverter interest, presently holds title to the former South Branch Library at 1638 Broadway. VIVA South Toledo CDC wishes to acquire this property from the City for the purpose of establishing the Ohio Latino Community Credit Union (OLCCU) who will also provide other economic and justice related programs such as personal finance, mortgage counseling and legal aid. VIVA South will move their offices to this facility and they anticipate that the Toledo Police will relocate their field office to this location. They will be looking to fill any remaining available space with other community oriented service providers. The sale price for this property will be $10,000.

According to the County Auditor's website, the current value of this property is $213,500. Why is the city selling this property for less than 5% of its stated value????

What is the cost of relocating the Toledo Police field office into this facility? Will TPD then have to pay rent to VIVA South? Was this property offered on the open market or listed with a realtor in order to see if we could get more for it? If the city got more than $10,000 for the property, could that help offset the increased prices we've been paying for gas for our police vehicles? Will any council member bother to even think of these questions when this ordinance comes before them?

City elected officials are supposed to be the custodians of our tax dollars and our public assets. That means they don't make sweetheart deals with special interest groups for their own personal reasons. In today's market, this property may not truly be worth $213,500. But I can assure you it's worth more than the $10,000 proposed sale price and city council members should insist on getting fair market value for any public property it sells.

Another thought: since the proposed business on this property is a new credit union, it will be in direct competition with existing credit unions and banks. This means that the city, by offering the land at a fraction of the value, is subsidizing with tax dollars a new competitor to existing businesses already paying taxes. This is NOT business friendly!

Not 'business friendly' - Post #13: no more day cares

We've seen the fiasco that the convenience store licensing law has created with a federal judge ruling that Toledo cannot enforce the law until the settlement of the lawsuit over its constitutionality. Now, District 1 Councilwoman Wilma Brown wants that same type of regulations for day cares in private homes.

In order to 'research' the issue, she's got an emergency ordinance on the agenda for next Tuesday's council meeting.

Declaring a 180-day Moratorium on the authority of the Division of Building Inspection to accept applications for Special Use Permits for Type A day cares; and declaring an emergency.

Toledo City Council has seen a large increase in applications for Special Use Permits for Type A day cares. Historically it has been understood that homeowners have chosen to stay home and watch children within their home. It is becoming more prevalent to have the applicant not be the person who is living in the home and to run these businesses 24 hours round the clock with three shifts and increased staff. It is not known just what effects these types of establishments have on the neighborhoods. There is a great concern that to allow a 24-hour business to operate in a residential neighborhood may be detrimental. Businesses that are located in commercial districts but abut residential have hour limitations put on them in order to preserve our neighborhoods. Therefore allowing these businesses to operate these hours seems to be adverse to previous decisions in our zoning plans.

City Council is requesting the Plan Commission to look into and research and present to Council a text amendment change that would greater restrict Type A day cares to assure greater protection to the neighborhoods. This moratorium will prevent the establishment of additional Type A day cares while this research is being undertaken. NOW, THEREFORE,

Be it ordained by the Council of the City of Toledo:

SECTION 1. That the authority of the Division of Building Inspection to accept applications for Special Use Permits for Type A day care is hereby suspended for a period of 180 days from the effective date of this Ordinance.

SECTION 2. That this Ordinance hereby is declared to be an emergency measure and shall be in force and effect from and after its passage. The reason for the emergency lies in the fact that same is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, safety and property, and for the further reason being that a moratorium is necessary to allow the City time to review its Special Use Permit regulations for Type A day care.

Yes, this seems like an emergency to me ... and that the public peace, health and safety are certainly at risk.

According to previous statements, Councilwoman Brown doesn't like the fact that some of these day cares operate 24-hours a day. So if council regulates them out of business, where are second- and third-shift workers going to find care for their kids? Maybe they'll just have to quit their job so their neighbors aren't disturbed by their work hours.

Toledo isn't exactly a hotbed of job growth. If a family can open a business, be licensed by the state (as all day cares are) and provide an income by caring for other people's kids, isn't that the type of entrepreneurship we're desperate for? Isn't it possible that success as a neighborhood day care might lead to a growing or expanding operation? And if you've got a demand, might you also hire some friends or neighbors to help you, thus creating jobs????

I guess these council members are just overlooking these types of questions and potential outcomes. They're too busy being disturbed by the noise of some who cater to people working around the clock.

This is NOT business friendly, nor is it worker friendly. Our council members are so quick to use the phrase 'working families' in their political rhetoric. These 'working families' need day care for all three shifts and it's best if they have that option within their neighborhoods.

Council should reject this moratorium - and reject further restrictions on businesses in Toledo. If you agree, call council and let them know: 419-245-1050.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Opposition to county monies going into Rocket Ventures?

The Lucas County Commissioners voted yesterday to give $125,000 to the Lucas County Improvement Corporation. The LCIC is supposed to then give the money to Rocket Ventures, a venture capital fund. Commissioner Ben Konop abstained, saying he didn't have enough information. (background here)

But this may not be the final word on the issue. Sylvania Township Trustee DeeDee Liedel has raised legal questions about the transaction. Here is her email to Rob Robinson, the chairman of the LCIC:

Rob – I have looked into the possibility of Sylvania Township ‘investing’ in Rocket Ventures via the LCIC as was brought up by Pete Gerken at the board meeting earlier this week. What I have found out concerns me greatly when it comes to the role of the LCIC and its member entities.

Point blank, townships are not allowed to make an investment in a venture capital fund. We are restricted to ‘safe’ investments, so that the taxpayers’ money is not put at risk. Further review of the rules regarding townships and CICs indicate that townships are allowed to make financial contributions to CICs to help defray administrative expenses, but we are not allowed to give additional monies.

Basically, Pete’s suggestion that the township’s use the LCIC to side-step our restrictions on ‘safe’ investments is not allowed under the Ohio Revised Code. This attempt to invest in a venture capital fund by way of the LCIC is illegal and will not be supported by me.

I have also talked to several people regarding the county’s ability to make such an investment. Per my conversations, the county is under similar restrictions regarding their investments and therefore a direct investment in Rocket Ventures would not be allowed under the ORC. Sidestepping those laws by using the LCIC is, in my opinion, highly suspect as well.

It is my opinion that the LCIC should not be used to by-pass the laws established for the safekeeping of taxpayer funds. If our member entities cannot directly make this investment, we should not allow the LCIC to be used as a middleman. In basic criminal law, the middleman is often just as guilty of a crime as the primary characters.

We have enough bad press and people questioning our activities and productivity. We certainly don’t need to bring in to question whether or not we are acting with regard to the law. I am opposed to the LCIC making an investment in Rocket Ventures on behalf of member entities. If member entities have the ability to make the investment (or believe they have the ability to make the investment) they should do so directly and not drag the LCIC into this issue.

DeeDee Liedel

Sylvania Township Trustee

The LCIC executive committee (which meets July 15) can refuse to accept the funds if the contribution and pass-through are not in compliance with the law. I think Trustee Liedel makes a good point: if the county can legally make such an investment, let them do so directly.

Quotes of the Day

From The Patriot Post

"[H]owever weak our country may be, I hope we shall never sacrifice our liberties." ~ Alexander Hamilton (Report on a National Bank, 13 December 1790)

"The most sacred of the duties of a government [is] to do equal and impartial justice to all citizens.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

'For the children' - your tax dollars hard at work

I got the following press release from the City of Toledo:

Mayor Finkbeiner and City leaders will be discussing the Youth Commission's Summer Jobs and Internship Programs for Summer 2008, in a press conference Tuesday, June 24, 2008 at 1:00 p.m. in the Mayor's Office of One Government Center.

The City of Toledo is partnering with the University of Toledo to provide 12 interns the opportunity to work with City of Toledo staff in 12 different departments. In addition to internships, The City of Toledo is also employing 40 youth for five-weeks this summer, with some donations making this program possible. These experiences will allow young Toledoans gain work experience, as well as mentorship.

You don't need those dollars for yourself or your family. You don't need those dollars so you can hire someone to do work around your house or for any home expense. You don't need those dollars to help cover the increased costs of gasoline, food or utilities - or even the trash tax. And you certainly don't need those tax dollars spent on roads or other essential city services.

Nope - the government needs those tax dollars so they can hire kids to work in city departments, even if some of the costs are covered by donations. And it's absolutely the role of local municipal government to provide children with work experiences. But let's not forget about the mentorships - after all, it's not like there are any other programs that provide mentors to kids...

But despite all these logical issues, don't you just feel sooo good about our elected officials for doing this magnanimous act on behalf of our children?

Lucas County buying into a venture fund?

Lucas County Commissioners have an expenditure on their agenda today to take $125,000 out of the Economic Development Fund and give it to the Lucas County Improvement Corporation so they can give it to Rocket Ventures, a venture capital fund run by the Regional Growth Partnership.

Venture capital funds are not considered 'safe' investments for public funds and are not one of the authorized vehicles for county investments. Perhaps that's why they want to funnel the money through the LCIC. But, according to news coverage of the proposal, it appears that the Commissioners, not the LCIC, will be getting the vote in the venture capital fund and will be getting any profits from the investments.

So, whether they funnel the money through the LCIC or not, this is a county investment and is intended as such.

So how can they do this when it's not authorized by the Ohio Revised Code?

And why would the RGP want to interject politics into their venture capital fund? Because that's exactly what will happen if you let local politicians participate in the funding decisions. Already Comm. Tina Skeldon-Wozniak is asking how companies are selected for funding. Knowing local politicians, they will insist upon all kinds of irrelevant criteria (green policies, living wages, etc...) when it comes to disbursing funds, as they've done in the past. And other members of the group may be intimidated by the appearance of power such politicians possess. It's happened before, so I see no reason to expect anything different with this decision-making group.

I'm a big fan of Rocket Ventures, as I believe it's a needed and well-managed fund that is contributing to the success of local entrepreneurs. I do not want it 'tainted' by local politicians who are too used to providing funds as a means of controlling decisions. And our local politicians have certainly not demonstrated any level of expertise when it comes to economic development, so I do not trust their 'decisions' when it comes to allocating any of the venture capital.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Third anniversary of Kelo

"Today marks the third anniversary of one of the most outrageous decisions in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court. In Kelo v. City of New London, five black-robed despots ruled that New London, Connecticut, could seize the homes of Suzette Kelo and her neighbors and hand them over to big developers. The decision was a triumph for collectivism, government tyranny, and the capacity of the rich and well-connected to trample the rights of middle-American families."

More of this post from Leslie Carbone

Sick Days Ohio, aka: The Healthy Families Act

Local firms voice fear on sick-leave act


There is nothing 'family-friendly' about a proposition that drives employers and jobs out of the state! How friendly will such legislation be if the family no longer has a job because of the costs of this act?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Quote of the Day

from The Patriot Post
Founders' Quote Daily

"The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have past at home in the bosom of my family." ~ Thomas Jefferson (letter to Francis Willis Jr., 18 April 1790)

I thought this particularly appropriate as my husband and I celebrate the wedding of our best friends' daughter. Light posting, if any, for the weekend because, family is more important that anything - and these dear friends are 'family.'

Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Board of Elections director quits

I'm sad to learn that Dan Pilrose, the current director of the Lucas County Board of Elections, is resigning due to health reasons. I worked with Dan when he was a prosecutor and I was Clerk of Court and I always found him to be capable, knowledgeable and professional in all his dealings. I think he and Jill Kelly, the current deputy director, made a good pair when it came to running the local BOE.

I'm also sad to see that the article about his resignation has more to do with the new Republican party chairman than anything else.

First, the local party chairman does NOT control who sits on the BOE. The executive committee of the party votes to make a recommendation to the secretary of state. The secretary of state makes the appointments, which are for four-year terms. A change in the local party's chairmanship does not mean that the appointed BOE members also change. Patrick Kriner was just re-appointed to the position, so he's got four years in front of him. Lynn Olman, the other GOP member of the board, has two years left on his term.

Both Kriner and Olman are well-respected members of the local party. They've served in elective office, fulfilling their duties responsibly. Kriner is also a former party chairman and very familiar with the challenges and issues our local party faces. At the BOE, they have focused on following the law governing elections. They, with their fellow Democratic board members, have guided the BOE off of administrative oversight and worked to remove much of the partisanship that previously existed - focusing instead on conducting elections properly rather than on advancing particular party positions.

And this has been good for Lucas County.

I'm not saying there isn't still room for improvement at the BOE, but the fact that the new LCRP chairman doesn't like the two Republicans who serve there isn't justification for making a change.

"Yesterday, Mr. Stainbrook said he has no confidence in the two Republican members of the four-person board, Lynn Olman and Patrick Kriner, who also were viewed as allied with Mr. Reichert.

"I don't think that Pat Kriner or Lynn Olman have the best interests of the Lucas County Republican Party or the voters of Lucas County at heart. Any suggestion they make regarding Jill Kelly does not have the support of the Lucas County Republican Party chairman or its newest members," Mr. Stainbrook said."

Fortunately for the BOE, Stainbrook doesn't hire or fire employees in that office and his 'opinion' about said employees is pretty irrelevant.

Sadly for Lucas County Republicans and voters, Stainbrook would rather smear Kriner and Olman because they didn't support his quest for the chairmanship than admit they are actually doing a good job at the BOE while they happened to disagree on the best leader for the party.

Hopefully, this is not an example of the type of 'leadership' Stainbrook brings to the party.

Contradictions abound - UPDATED

Update: I made a mistake in my calculations and have corrected this post accordingly.

Our local newspaper, The Blade, has an interesting editorial board. Unfortunately, they just can't stop contradicting themselves.

In this editorial about COSI, and in previous ones regarding their levy requests, The Blade makes the point that the cost of COSI is a "paltry $5.21 a year" for the owner of $100,000 home.

They've also supported just about every other levy that's ever been on the ballot.

However, in this editorial about dog licenses, they think $25 for a yearly licenses is too high:

Dog ownership should not be a privilege only of the well-to-do. People from every strata of life benefit from pet ownership, not to mention that for many, our first lessons in responsibility were learned feeding, watering, grooming, walking, and playing with a pet, often a dog. But excessive fees, such as Lucas County's highest-in-Ohio $25, encourage people, especially those of modest means, not to license their pets.

Reducing the annual fee, giving low-income families a discount, and offering on-the-spot licensing instead of a citation are ideas that might lead to more people obtaining tags for their canine friends.

So how can $25 be too much for people to pay, but they can urge voters to increase their property tax bills when they endorsed every levy on the ballot last November?

If you can afford all the other costs of a dog, shouldn't you also be capable of affording the $25 license?

If you can't afford a $25 dog license, wouldn't it be reasonable to assume that you can't afford any additional property taxes for a science museum, public transportation or the zoo?

Does anyone else see the contradiction in these two positions, or is it just me?

Not 'business friendly' - Post #12: deeds requiring union workers forever

Councilman Frank Szollosi introduced an ordinance at last night's city council meeting that would require all work done at the Marina District to be performed by union workers - FOREVER. And to ensure the union labor, he formulated it into a restrictive covenant on the deed to transfer the property so that it applies to Larry Dillin, the developer, and all successors, heirs and assigns.

Here's the actual language:

ORD. 376-08

Authorizing and directing the Mayor to add a Restrictive Covenant to the deed conveying City owned property concerning the Marina District project to Dillin Riverfront Properties, Inc. requiring the use of unionized workforce for any and all construction and development on this property forever by Dillin Riverfront Properties, Inc. and any successors; and declaring an emergency.

Ord. 307-08, passed by City Council on May 20, 2008, authorizes the City to convey title to its property in the area along the Maumee River between Marina Drive and Main Street to Dillin Riverfront Properties, Inc. to be improved in accordance with the Master Plan. The Marina District project will have a beneficial effect on the economy of the City of Toledo in terms of jobs, investment, revitalization of a former brownfield and other positive effects.

City Council desires to add a Restrictive Covenant to the deed requiring Dillin Riverfront Properties, Inc. and any successors to use unionized workforce for any and all construction and development on this property forever. NOW, THEREFORE,

Be it ordained by the Council of the City of Toledo:

SECTION 1. That the Mayor is hereby authorized and directed to add a Restrictive Covenant to the deed conveying City owned property to Dillin Riverfront Properties, Inc. for the revitalization of the area along the Maumee River between Marina Drive and Main Street with respect to the development of the Marina District project.

SECTION 2. That the Restrictive Covenant shall require Dillin Riverfront Properties, Inc. to promise to use unionized workforce for any and all construction, reconstruction, enlargement, alteration, renovation, or development of or on all or any part of the land covered by this deed. This Restrictive Covenant shall apply to Dillin Riverfront Properties, Inc., heirs, successors, and assigns forever.

As we discussed on Eye On Toledo last night, (podcast of June 16 show), only 15% of Ohio's 2007 wage and salary workers are represented by a union, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even if - and it's a big if - Toledo has triple the state numbers, union workers are less than half of the workers in the city. When you deduct all the public employees who are unionized, I'm certain that the union workers in Toledo are a small minority of the Toledo workforce.

If Councilman Szollosi really wants to "protect the local workforce," as he stated during the meeting, he'd be as interested in protecting ALL workers and not just a small number of them.

Larry Dillin is ready to start construction on the Marina District and this requirement comes way past the 'last minute.' Dillin says it will kill the project - and he is someone who has used, and continues to use, local union labor on his projects. Mayor Carty Finkbeiner says that same thing. And they're right.

Are our elected officials so stuck on stupid that they will finally be able to kill a project that has taken years to actually come to fruition? Can they not stand the thought of actually being successful with something that they must come up with a deal-breaker just before the construction actually begins? Are they that self-destructive or afraid of success that they do not realize the seriously negative impact this will have?

Oh - and according to the Clerk of Council, Council has never passed a deed restriction like this one, so it will be a first, if approved.

But it doesn't just impact the Marina District. It sends a very strong negative message to all businesses in the area - and to those that might be considering starting or re-locating a business here. During my search yesterday for the numbers of union workers in Toledo, I had a discussion with several economic development officials. All of them said that the issue of unions is one of the top five issues business representatives ask about this area. We have a reputation for being a 'strong union town' and many business owners have a concern that they will be targeted for unionization if they come here. Legislation and laws like this one just reinforce that image and drive job providers away.

This ordinance had its first reading last night. It was not referred to committee. It will be on the next council meeting agenda for either a second reading and/or vote.

Call City Council and tell them this is a terrible idea and shouldn't get their support: 419-245-1050.

Not 'business friendly' - Post #11: too many day cares?

First it was convenience stores, now it's day care businesses. We have too many of them, according to District 1 Councilwoman Wilma Brown.

Yes, that's correct. According to Brown, there are too many people providing day care in their homes and the city needs a moratorium on them until council can come up with some regulations to limit them.

Apparently, the NEED for such places completely escapes this council member - for if there wasn't a NEED, they'd be out of business. Of course, the fact that this is a way for individuals with limited work skills to actually earn money and support their families must have been overlooked as well.

I'm certain that, in addition to creating zoning regulations to try and limit the numbers of these types of businesses, there will also be some kind of registration fee to increase the revenues to the city of Toledo. After all, you can't have some types of regulation without a corresponding fee - and there are soooo many things the city wants to spend money on.

It's stuck on stupid ideas like this that continue to drive people and businesses away from our city.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Fractured Fairy Tale that's too close to the truth

Tim Higgins at Just Blowing Smoke has a terrific post on the history (and future?) of COSI's levy attempts.

It's a must read!

Fractured Fairy Tales - The 3 Little Pigs

Unfair credit card practices and terms?

Okay - so maybe I just don't get it, but I fail to understand several things about the Lucas County Commissioner's resolution regarding credit card terms.

First of all, since when did Ohio's county commissioners gain the authority to tell the Federal Reserve what to do? And, other than placating a special interest group that is advocating for changes in the law, is this just a way to pile on publicity for them and for State Treasurer Richard Cordray who is running this year for Attorney General following Marc Dann's resignation?

As for the 'substance' of the resolution, how are credit card terms unfair? If a credit card has a term or rule or fee you don't like, you don't have to continue with that card. If you don't like a change in fees, stop using the card. There are so many credit cards available these days - and many are willing to negotiate their terms or interest rates - so it's not like you have only limited choices.

And if you continue using your card despite your dissatisfaction with the fees or terms, how is that 'unfair'????

Or are they saying that most people who use credit cards are too stupid to understand the terms and impact of the fees or how they work? If that is the case, then the solution isn't more regulation and restrictions on the market, it's to better educate children so they can handle such complicated transactions in the future. But that would require admitting that our public schools (and parents?) aren't educating our kids well enough for them to function in today's world - and we couldn't have that, now, could we?

And if the populace is so dumb as to not be able to understand credit cards, the solution isn't to have government step in with more regulation - maybe, instead, government can ban stupid people from applying for such cards. Or maybe we can just ban stupidity in general?

These kinds of meaningless resolutions have always irritated me and I opposed many such pointless votes when I served as a Commissioner. But with the current makeup of the Lucas County BCC, don't expect such reason and common sense any time soon. Instead, we'll get 'feel-good' actions that do nothing to really help the economic environment in the county.

Midwest Retailers lawsuit against Toledo continues

The lawsuit over the 'convenience store licensing law' (which applies to all kinds of businesses and not just convenience stores) is getting more interesting as the City and the Midwest Retailers Association (MWRA) make their various filings.

MWRA requested an injunction. The city responded in opposition to the injunction and now, Scott Ciolek, MWRA's attorney, has filed their reply.

Now, I'm not an attorney so I'm not qualified to judge the merits of the various claims and defenses. However, a small dose of common sense is all that is needed to appreciate the position of the MWRA.

MWRA claims the ordinance is vague. The city says it isn't.

"Because Ordinance 797-07 lacks any discernible standards, a reasonable business owner is left without guidance as to what conduct is required to achieve compliance. Defendant responds that the City, on request by a business owner, will provide “suggestions of what actions to take to comply with the Ordinance.”2 If “appropriate actions” is not vague terminology, Defendant should be able to do better than merely offer “suggestions” as to what conduct may or may not comply with the ordinance. Moreover, the undefined “appropriate actions” requirement sets the stage for arbitrary and erratic enforcement. With no fixed standards in place, the City is free to set a different standard of “appropriate actions” for each store owner."

Furthermore, Ciolek argues, the city readily admits that they sent letters only to certain businesses who are affected by the law, thus demonstrating that the city is engaging in 'selective and arbitrary' enforcement. Seems pretty much like common sense to me...

MWRA, as I've said previously, makes an interesting argument regarding involuntary servitude and the city denies this point. The city says that owners have 'alternatives' if they don't want to follow the ordinance. One 'alternative' is to expand the size of their business to more than 5,000 square feet so the ordinance won't apply to them.

"As an initial matter, it is far from clear how merely expanding the size of a convenience store “alters the nature” of the business. Apparently, an increase in square footage is sufficient to ameliorate the Cityʼs concerns about crime and public safety. But more importantly, it is simply not accurate to say that a convenience store can simply “choose” to expand the size of their business. Many affected businesses do not have available room to expand due to location. Others lack the financial resources required for substantial remodeling. And, at any rate, a business owner cannot expand the size of their business without obtaining applicable permits from the City. In short, Defendant cannot argue that a business owner my freely choose to expand their business when, in fact, such an expansion cannot take place without permission from Defendant.(emphasis added)"


The city gives several examples of undesirable consequences to laws or rules that they present as legal arguments for the constitutionality of this law, including a scholarship recipient not performing their agreed-upon service following graduation or an inmate 'choosing' to stay in jail rather than participating in a work-release program.

"As for defendantʼs other examples, MWRA members have not entered any sort of contract with the City, nor are MWRA members prisoners of the state.

As the Third Circuit observed in Steirer, “the critical factor in every case finding involuntary servitude is that the victim's only choice is between performing the labor on one hand and physical/and or legal sanctions on the other.” 987 F.2d at 999 (3rd. Cir. 1993). This is precisely the choice presented to MWRA members by Ordinance 797-07."

Even this non-lawyer could have told you that.

Then there is the issue of ex post facto laws and their prohibition. The law says that existing business owners must have a criminal background check and they may not be granted a license to operate if they have convictions in their past. The city says they are not penalizing such owners for their previous history - only for their current actions. MWRA responds:

"As Defendant readily concedes, under Ordinance 797-07 “[a] conviction may prevent a person from obtaining a license to operate a convenience store.”8 However, Ordinance 797-07 also permits Defendant to revoke the license of a store owner with a business already in operation, or deny renewal of a license. Under the plain language of Ordinance 797-07, any affected store owner with any type of criminal conviction within five years of the application date may be denied a license to operate. Continuing to operate a convenience store without this license is a criminal offense. This outcome is not, as Defendant claims, based on “a personʼs current actions,” but rather makes a person vulnerable to fines, criminal penalties, and loss of business for no reason other than a past conviction. This is the very essence of an ex post facto law."

Again, not being an attorney, even I understand this point and am simply amazed that either the city didn't see it, or that they are grasping at straws to make arguments in defense of this law.

And these arguments are only about the temporary restraining order. Can you imagine what the actual trial on the merits will be like?

Stay tuned...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Weekend round-up

The editors of The Blade think that we, the voters of Lucas County, just don't understand tax levies. In this editorial, they say "(t)he third time should be a charm for COSI Toledo."

Yes, two failed levies and they think it needs to be on the ballot again.

"COSI may ask voters again to help fund the museum with a 0.167-mill levy, the same amount as last year. That would be a good move, provided it is backed up with an adequate campaign to educate the public about what's at stake."

You see, we just didn't understand what was at stake when we defeated the two previous levies.

I guess we didn't understand that OUR priorities for spending were more important than theirs - and COSI's. I guess we didn't understand that the management of the facility was lacking in sound financial practices. I guess we didn't understand that the attraction didn't continue to attract attendees because they didn't keep their exhibits current. I guess we didn't understand that such a museum needed to do more to be self-sufficient rather than rely upon eventually turning to taxpayers for support. I guess we didn't understand that Toledo tax dollars were already subsidizing the facility through the payment of utilities. I guess we didn't understand that the financials for the facility showed that it was not sustainable when it was first built. I guess we just don't 'get it.'

But when you consider all these points, I'm of the opinion that the voters are actually smarter than the Blade editors because they chose NOT to give their tax dollars to a non-profit organization that shouldn't ever be on the ballot in the first place.

In the end, The Blade thinks "COSI should give Toledo voters another chance to reconsider the folly of previous levy failures. Maybe a third time will be lucky." COSI should give US another chance??? COSI hasn't done anything to earn another chance from us - and hopefully the Board of County Commissioners will, for a change, heed the will of the voters and tell COSI no when when they ask to put another levy on the November ballot.


The Lucas County Republican Party has a new chairman - Jon Stainbrook. He was elected by the Central Committee during their meeting Saturday. Of course, winning the chairmanship is the easy step. Raising the money and following through with all the promises is where the real work begins - and it's much harder to do than it is to say.


The City of Toledo, in an anti-business move, took over providing ambulance services and is now getting ready to make their first lease payment on the vehicles. They're saying that they've billed about $1.4 million - as they planned in their original budget. What they don't say is how much they've actually collected. Hopefully city council members will ask about the money actually received as part of the discussion on the payment.

The Fire Department also says that response times have improved. That's because they dispatch an ambulance with the rescue squad, ensuring that the ambulance and rescue squad arrive at almost the same time. Of course, when the private ambulance companies suggested this very same dispatching protocol, the Fire Department objected. You see, if an ambulance with a paramedic arrived before a rescue squad, that paramedic could begin to provide treatment and care - and wouldn't have to turn over the patient to the Fire Department upon arrival. And that just wasn't acceptable to the Fire Department and their union members.

Now that the union members are providing the ambulance services, it's okay to dispatch at the same time, so it's clear that this wasn't really about 'patient care' because they could have accomplished the same 'reduced transport times' by changing their dispatching protocol.

In the mean time, private ambulance companies have laid off employees, reducing the amount of payroll taxes the City collects. I wonder if any council members will think to ask about how much tax revenue the city's lost when they evaluate the 'success' of the ambulance program.

Friday, June 13, 2008

FOIA Friday - June 13, 2008

In Point Place, we have a couple of roads that have boulevards and one of them is 119th Street - just a few streets from me. It's a beautiful road with trees and flowering bushes in the median - maintained nicely by the neighbors. At the end of the street is a public access to Maumee Bay. The neighbors have put a bench out there so you can sit and enjoy the view.

This idyllic street is in need of repairs. It's a concrete street that was put down about 57 years ago, so I guess it's time. In order to do the repairs and to provide clear passage for fire and garbage trucks around the vehicles which park in the street, the city is reducing the size of the median and is cutting down the trees.

The neighbors learned of the project and the plans at the last minute, primarily prompted by phone calls to ask why the trees were getting marked by the city. A series of miscommunications and a public meeting to explain the project still didn't produce answers to the questions.

One couple, Mr. & Mrs. Nearhood, wanted some specific data regarding the process by which the city made the decision to use a black top instead of replace the concrete. They sent an email to their district council rep, Lindsay Webb, asking rather specific questions about the cost of blacktop versus concrete, the life expectancy of the two products, long-term maintenance of each surface option and the life expectancy of the entire street.

Councilwoman Webb forwarded the email to Don Moline, Commissioner of the Dept. of Public Utilities, who responded with an email explaining the difference between reconstruction, resurfacing and preventive maintenance on streets. This response did not answer the questions and so Mr. & Mrs. Nearhood made the request again.

"These are not the questions that we presented to Miss Webb. Since the one gentleman at the meeting in May brought up that 119th was set in concrete 57 years ago, we asked to see the studies that the City of Toledo has done for cost, effectiveness; repairs; trends, etc. What we are trying to understand is how the City made the decisions do this project. We are keenly aware that current cost tends seem to weigh heavily in making the decisions but, in respect of financial responsibility to the taxpayers, we would like to see more data than that. When we make decisions to purchase something or change something at our home, we look at many factors i.e. quality; cost; potential for replacement, shot term value vs. long term value.

With that in mind, what we asked Miss Webb for, and we can scan a copy of the original e-mail if you would like is; what are the studies that the City has done on repair costs for concrete street vs. asphalt over the last 50 years; what is the projected repair costs for concrete vs. asphalt; with asphalt being a crude oil product (and with respect that asphalt can be recycled) what is the projected cost trends for repair for both products. Now, we did hear at the meeting that the City was projecting the asphalt to last 20 to 40 years and if we understand this statement, that is the potential life of the street as a whole. As anyone who deals with asphalt knows the trend to repair, replace, re-seal is no where near that mark. We would think 7 years would be a high mark for that. What are the City's projected budget for those trends? One has to be cautious in what information is presented and given and this is an area wherein the City needs to clarify as we all need to be good stewards, especially if the City is to grow. We have read the potential for what asphalt vs. concrete will cost in the real time, but we have grave concerns that in the long run, it will cost much more to the City (taxpayers) to perform this task in asphalt. Another point is potential for the trends of time frame and inconvenience for the residents for each of these projects including current and long term potential. We would also like to see studies that the City has done as to the cost of heating and cooling homes when asphalt vs. concrete is used, especially since many trees are being removed."

While the Nearhoods may not think of it this way, they're making a request for public records. Ohio law and city policy govern the time frame in which a response should be made, but Mr. Moline is usually pretty responsive to requests.

The problem I fear the Nearhoods face is that such analysis has not been done - or, if it was, it was such a long time ago as to be irrelevant. That they are asking for the information which guided the decision is a problem for the city, if they cannot produce documents or analysis which show that their decision was based on long-term savings rather than short-term costs.

The Nearhoods and their neighbors on 119th Street are holding their local government accountable - and are using access to public information to do so. I hope they get the answers they are seeking. However, if it turns out that the city hasn't done their homework on the questions, I hope the residents of 119th Street will use their public information requests and lack of analysis to influence the choices for restructuring this road.

Other FOIA Friday posts:
Freedom of Information suits CAN win

Thursday, June 12, 2008

'Not business friendly' Post #10 - if you don't like the law, close your business

The Convenience Store Licensing Law just keeps more onerous the more it gets explained.

As pointed out earlier, the law applies to more than just convenience stores. Coffee shops, ice cream parlors, health food stores - any retail business that sells food or beverages for home consumption and is smaller than 5,000 square feet are required to obtain a license to operate, install 24/7 cameras (of a certain quality), and monitor and prevent criminal activity on their property.

The law was 'intended' to help the city when they have trouble at places that sell alcohol when the state liquor control board allows them to keep their liquor license over objections from neighbors. That the state board might be following the law when making such decisions is completely beside the point. Some of the community development corporations (CDCs) don't like convenience stores and they think that if the store goes away, so will the people who do illegal things on or near the property. Yes, if you take away their source of alcohol, such people will no longer drink. If you close down the corner store, a prostitute will not longer offer her body for sale. You get the point.

As this was the whole point of the ordinance, why does it apply to ice cream parlors, gas stations, coffee shops and all the other types of businesses? Either it was intentional in order to get more money for the city, or it was extremely incompetent in that council didn't understand the ramifications of what they were doing. Both explanations are bad.

But that's not the worst of this. I thought that sending letters to convenience stores telling them they had to follow the law despite an agreement to not start enforcing the ordinance during the settlement phase of the lawsuit was pretty awful. But they sent the letters to stores over 5,000 square feet - so that was pretty bad as well. But their response to the temporary restraining order takes the cake.

The Midwest Retailers Association makes a claim of 'involuntary servitude' as one of their objections to the law. It's an interesting claim. Midwest explains that the law creates this condition “by transferring to selected business owners duties and responsibilities traditionally reserved for law enforcement personnel.” The law requires owners to 'stop' certain criminal activities that are happening on their property and if, despite their best efforts, the activity continues, they lose their license. Seems pretty clear that this is the job of the police.

The city, in their response, says that "not every situation in which an individual faces a choice between labor or legal sanction constitutes involuntary servitude." In fact, they liken the outcome of this law to certain scholarship recipients who do not perform their agreed upon public service upon completion of their schooling. That this was a contract willingly entered into by both parties - and is now being breached by one of them - must have completely escaped those fine legal minds in Government Center.

But it gets worse. Here is the city's conclusion on the claim of involuntary servitude:

Moreover, Midwest’s members have alternatives to performing the actions that the Ordinance requires. Midwest’s members can choose not to operate a convenience store to avoid the Ordinance. Midwest’s members can choose to alter the nature of their business by expanding to more than 5000 square feet or discontinue selling food and beverages for home consumption. Although these choices may not be appealing to Midwest’s members, this fact does not make the actions required under the Ordinance voluntary servitude.

Yep...the city says if you don't like the law, don't have such a business...or expand until it no longer applies to you. Like any business being faced with such a choice is going to even want to expand in this city!

When it comes to the cameras, the 'logic' is the same:

"Midwest’s members are free to use the cameras in any manner. If a member removes an installed high-resolution camera and he wants to continue operating the convenience store, he must replace the subject high-resolution camera with another. However, if a member does not want to continue operating the convenience store, no replacement is necessary."

Yep ... if you don't want to comply with the law, go out of business.

The arrogance and anti-business nature of these pleadings is astounding. Toledo is a city that is losing population and businesses and is raising fees and taxes. It's creating licensing laws and registration fees that drive businesses - and their owners - out of the city. What a wonderful environment!

To expect that a viable option to an onerous and disgusting law is to close up a business - just boggles my mind. Whatever happened to the concept of small businesses being the backbone of our economy? These convenience stores are primarily owned by families in the area and they've hired some non-family members to help with the operations. Aren't these the types of companies we want??? Why would the only other solution to a costly, and maybe unconstitutional, law be to suggest that they go out of business? Some would say that convenience stores are not the 'right' type of business to have in the city. But, considering the current economic condition of the city, can we really afford to drive anyone away? And just because some people don't like the businesses doesn't mean that everyone wants them gone. They obviously have a good customer base or they wouldn't still be in business!

This is certainly not business-friendly and I do hope that the Midwest Retailers Association prevails in their lawsuit as it would be the best thing for the Toledo. And it might finally send a message to our elected officials that they need to get out of being 'stuck on stupid.'

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Toledo prefers amnesty over agressive collections

In another of the 'stuck on stupid' actions our city takes, the latest idea is to offer an amnesty for the amount owed on nuisance work in the hopes of getting people to pay.

According to this article in our local newspaper, about $4.1 million is owed by current and former property owners to cover the city's cost of razing nuisance buildings, cutting grass or cleaning up debris. However, the city has only collected about $35,000 over the past two years.

Kattie Bond, the city's director of neighborhoods, said the new "code enforcement amnesty program" might forgive a portion of a bill - perhaps as much as half what is owed. She said the city has a hard time finding property owners.

When I read this, I wondered how they expect to get the amnesty offer to the property owners if they can't find them...

And I also wondered why the first response to unpaid bills is an amnesty program rather than hiring a collection agency to go after the money owed...

The city has money owned to it and it doesn't do everything possible to collect it, but it continues to add fees and regulations in the hopes of generating income (trash tax, 'convenience store' licensing). The logic completely escapes me.

The paper doesn't report the questions city council members asked about this program, but I know several callers to NewsTalk 1370 WSPD made a point of telling how to find people who own property - and of pointing out how many collection agencies exist in the city of Toledo.

Hopefully city council will reject the amnesty program - at least until they've used collection agencies to collect as much as possible.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

City law applies to more than just convenience stores

This just in from Scott Ciolek, the attorney for the Midwest Retailers Association, regarding the city of Toledo's response to their lawsuit over the 'convenience store licensing law.'

Today, the City of Toledo responded to the Midwest Retailers Association request for a preliminary injunction on the Toledo "Convenience Store" Ordinance. In its response, the City of Toledo explains to the "Convenience Store" Ordinance actually governs all Food and Beverage retail stores smaller than 5000 sq ft. of floor space and that only a portion of the establishments governed by the law have received their applications. The vast majority of these establishment are unaware of their impending obligations.

City of Toledo wrote... (page 8)

....the Ordinance defines "convenience stores" as a retail seller "of food and beverages for home consumption***with a floor area less than 5000 sq. ft." This definition is not vague. Midwest, however, assumes that this definition applies to some undefined subset of businesses that meet the definition of convenience store. Midwest bases its erroneous assumption on the fact that the City sent written notices and applications to less than all of the businesses to which the definition would apply. Midwest [wrongfully] concludes that only the businesses that received the written notice and application are subject to the Ordinance...

By the city's definition, a "Convenience Store" would include all restaurants, health-food stores, gas stations, fast-food shops, coffee shops, tea shops, state liquor stores, ice cream parlors, etc [less than 5000sq ft. of floor space]. This means that the owners of each business falling within the scope of the definition would have to purchase, install, and maintain high resolution video camera systems, record themselves at work, and provide the tapes to any city official upon request without a warrant. Moreover these owners would have to take on additional liabilities as outlined in the ordinance.


The city's response.

Another COSI levy?

WSPD News is reporting that the city is considering spending tax dollars to mothball the COSI building ($6,900 per month) ... and that COSI wants to put another levy on the ballot in November.

I guess their defeat last year wasn't enough of a notice that residents in Lucas County just don't have the money to be taxed for a science museum.

The only way they can get on the ballot is if the Board of County Commissioners votes to put their levy on the ballot. Considering all their complaining about how bad county residents have it, I can't imagine that the three commissioners will vote yes ... but this is Lucas County where elected officials never met a tax they didn't like.

Stay tuned...I'm sure it will get much more interesting.

Monday, June 09, 2008

A must-read: Payday Post-Mortem

This article from the Buckeye Institute says much of what I was thinking in terms of the payday lending legislation recently passed by Ohio:

A Payday Post-Mortem
By Marc Kilmer, posted June 2, 2008

In Biblical times, the people of Israel symbolically placed their sins on a goat and sent it into the wilderness. The modern idea of a scapegoat - an innocent person who takes the blame for the sins of others - comes from this historic practice. This notion is appropriate in light of the recent banishment of payday lenders from Ohio. The politicians who are presiding over a tax and regulatory structure which is killing the state's economy found a scapegoat in payday lenders. They placed the blame for Ohioans' financial woes on the backs of these businessmen and sent them away. Just as in ancient Israel, however, the sins of these politicians will not go away with the departure of these modern scapegoats.

The practice of providing high-interest, short-term loans to people should not be controversial. If people want or need these loans, and businesses think they can make a profit providing them, then there is no reason for a third party (or the government) to stop them. After all, people take a variety of different loans, from mortgages to car payments, and generally the government presumes that the borrower and lender are the best people to judge the merits of such financial arrangements.

But in this spring of economic discontent, with Presidential candidates crisscrossing the state highlighting the state's financial difficulties, the picture of Ohioans struggling to pay their bills played across both local and national media. Slow job creation, manufacturing plants moving across the border, and people being kicked out of their homes illustrated the poor economy Ohio has been saddled with this entire decade.

Of course, other states are having a much better time than Ohio. When manufacturing plants leave the state, the border they may cross is just as likely to be a state border rather than the national border. There are many businessmen who choose to locate in, say, Texas or Florida, states that offer a better tax rate and less government regulation.

Ohio, in fact, has one of the worst tax climates for business in the nation. Only two states come in ahead of it in this race to the bottom. Its regulatory burden is also far from ideal, with many other states doing better attracting investment and business. And, of course, the idea that workers do not have the freedom to choose whether or not they belong to a union is a huge incentive to look elsewhere when a business is looking to expand or move.

Are Ohio's elected officials looking at changing any of these things? No, they spent days debating whether or not a financial transaction between two willing people should be criminalized. Instead of trying to improve the conditions that have led businesses to go out-of-state and leave workers in Ohio with fewer job opportunities, they decided to shut down businesses that employ thousands across the state.

And, in perhaps the ultimate irony, they looked into the TV cameras and wailed about the "cycle of debt" as they continued to spend your money at a rate which is unsustainable given the revenue coming into the state�s coffers.

The idea that payday lending is the cause of the financial troubles of even a small fraction of Ohioans is contradicted by a variety of scholarly studies. The real source of many Ohio workers� economic problems is the state's onerous tax and regulatory structure. But payday lending has a bad reputation, so it was easier for them to legislate based on appearance, not on substance.

Now with payday lending banished from the state�s borders, what can we expect? Ohio will still continue to lag behind other states in terms of job creation and economic growth. Those who used payday loans will not magically have their financial picture improve. The only real effect is that those who were employed by payday lenders will now join the ranks of Ohio�s unemployed and those who used payday loans will, if scholarly data is correct, bounce more checks and pay more late fees.

The payday loan ban will not solve Ohio�s problems. To do that, legislators need to look at fundamental tax, regulatory, and labor reforms. Without taking steps like cutting taxes, streamlining regulations, and opening up the labor market, the state�s workers will have fewer and fewer options. Ohio's politicians used payday lenders as the scapegoat this time. What industry will they target when they fail to do their duty in the future?

Marc Kilmer is a policy analyst with the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, a research and educational institute located in Columbus, Ohio.

No politics today

This is one of those rare days when I don't have a lot of things to take care of.

So, instead of spending the free time on a blog post about global warming, Obama v. McCain, drilling in America as a solution to our dependence on foreign oil, the 'crisis' in the auto industry (every other economic down is a crisis, so why can't this be one as well?), or the latest idiotic thing our mayor has done (and there's soooo much to choose from in that topic), I'm going out to work in the garden and the yard.

Some days, getting your hands dirty with good soil, breathing in the scent of flowers, letting the wind cool your brow as it blows across the sweat, and then looking back with satisfaction at the accomplishment of your hard work is the best thing for a mind inundated with 'stuck on stupid' actions of politicians.

So that's what I'm going to do. But I'll be back tomorrow with my usual commentary ...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Too many inaccuracies for a blog post

This Blade article about the two people vying to be chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party is so filled with distortions and inaccuracies about the Board of Elections, I don't know where to begin!

And it would take an extremely long post to even cover a portion of them, so you'll have to tune in tomorrow to Eye On Toledo at 6 p.m. to hear the FACTS about how the BOE works and get some context for what actually goes on there - rather than the spin the paper wants you to believe.

I may even compare and contrast the descriptors they use for the two 'candidates,' if there is time ... or you can go through the article yourself and pay particular attention to those words and you'll see what I mean.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Point Place Days

Point Place Days starts today, kicked off by the annual parade. This is always a fun time in the Point-Shoreland Community, ending with one of the best fireworks displays in the entire area.

Here's the schedule - I hope you'll join us in the Point for some summer fun!

9-3 Placer's Car and Truck Show; Rummage Sale and Food by Seniors - Friendship Park on 131st St.
10 - Bike and Dress Your Pet Contest - Ottawa River Automotive on Summit St.
Noon - 18th Annual Parade
1-9 - Festival/Rides - Merchants Landing on Summit St.
2-5 - Bicycle Repair Workshop - Crosspoint Church
2-midnight - St. John's Church Mini Festival and Dinner

1-8 Festival/Rides - Merchants Landing on Summit St.

June 10th:
7 - North Coast Theatre play inside the Library (suitable for all ages)
7:30 - Library Concert on the lawn with Chuck Taylor and the Dixie Squids (Rain location: St. John's School gym)

June 12th:
6-8 - Placer's Cruise-In at Merchants Landing
Throughout the day, Community Garage and Yard Sales

June 13th:
4-10 - Festival/Rides - Kroger on Suder
Throughout the day, Community Garage and Yard Sales

June 14th:
9-3 - Craft Show/Yard Sale/free BBQ - Crosspoint Church
10 - Flag Raising - Point Place Lighthouse
11-10 - Festival/Rides - Kroger on Suder
Noon-4 - Kid's Day at Kroger - Kroger on Suder
9 p.m. - Lantern Star Gazing Walk to the Lighthouse (Bring your own lantern) - Cullen Park

June 15th:
1-6 - Festival/Rides - Krogers on Suder

June 18th:
8 p.m. - Parade Theme Award Ceremony - Friendship Park

June 19th:
6-8 - Placer's Cruise-In at Merchants Landing

June 21st:
9 - 4th Annual Mile Walk for Mustard Seed - Start at Cullen Park, finish at Friendship Park

June 24th:
6:30 p.m. - Pie & Cake Contest at Friendship Park Center

June 25th at Cullen Park:
4-8 - Chicken and Ribs Barbecue
6 - Canoe Race

June 26th:
6-8 - Placer's Cruise-In at Merchants Landing

June 27th:
6-midnight - Washington Township Firefighters Summerfest at Shoreland Park

June 28th:
2-midnight - Washington Township Firefighters Summerfest at Shoreland Park
Dusk/10 p.m. - Fireworks!!! (my favorite of the summer) Set off from the Fred Young Bridge over the Ottawa River (Summit St) and visible from most places around the length of the river from Suder to Lost Peninsula

Friday, June 06, 2008

FOIA Friday - June 6, 2008

Whenever you're about to embark into the morass that is government in order to gain information (which shouldn't be hard, but often is), it's nice to have some hints or guidelines to help along the way.

In my FOIA Friday posts, I've tried to give some examples of public records requests and also some assistance to those who want information. Today, I want to list several websites that either cover the issue of public access or provide information about how to get the data you're seeking.

Wikifoia is a website that gives the same type of information as Wikipedia about all things having to do with public access. It's allows users to add content, has 'how to' guides, interviews, blog links and links to other FOIA groups and resources.

If you're new to such requests, this is the place to start.

Sunlight Foundation is a non-profit using the Internet and new information technology to enable citizens to learn more about what Congress and their elected representatives are doing.

"Sunlight’s work is committed to helping citizens, journalists and bloggers be their own best watchdogs, both by improving access to existing information and digitizing new information, and by creating new tools and websites to enable all of us to pool our intelligence in new, and yet to be imagined, ways."

Two of their current projects are Fortune 535 which is tracking the wealth of members of Congress, and Public Markup, where they seek online, public review of pending legislation.

Then there is the John E. Moss Foundation. In case you're wondering, Moss represented the Third Congressional District of California in the U.S. House of Representatives for 13 terms from 1953 until he retired in 1978. He died in San Francisco, California on December 5, 1997. He is the author and sponsor of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and their Freedom of Information Page details the original law, comments from legislators at the time and some commentary through the history of the law.

The National Freedom on Information Coalition protects the public's right to oversee its government, offers grants to help foster the creation and growth of state FOI coalitions and assists with projects furthering public access to government records and meetings. One of their goals is to "start up and support citizen-driven state FOI and First Amendment organizations."

These links should provide plenty of reading for one day and a lifetime of resources for anyone willing to take advantage of their information to help hold elected officials accountable for what they do. So exercise your rights and file a FOIA request today - and then share with us your experience!

Kudos to Toledo Powertrain, Toledo Jeep and Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance

From today's Blade, congrats to three Toledo-area auto plants:

In an unprecedented, near-sweep reminiscent of a blockbuster movie at the Academy Awards, Toledo-area auto workers yesterday won three of four much-coveted annual awards for productivity from a highly respected industry observer.

For the first time, three Toledo-area automotive plants were labeled best in North America, beating out all Detroit Three, Japanese, and European rivals for how long it takes to make their products, according to the 2008 Harbour Report.

Chrysler LLC's Toledo Supplier Park, which builds the iconic Jeep Wrangler, was the most productive vehicle assembly plant, using 13.57 man-hours to build a vehicle. It was the first time the supplier park, which was built in 2004, won its category.
General Motors Corp.'s Toledo Powertrain plant won in the transmission factory category for the second year in a row.
Also making its debut atop the annual Harbour list is the Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance engine plant in Dundee, Mich., which is co-owned by Chrysler, Hyundai, and Mitsubishi. Workers there used just 1.84 hours to build an engine, which are used in vehicles around the world.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Inter Modal Proposal - a public meeting

WSPD has arranged for a public meeting to show the Inter Modal Power Point Presentation that developer Brian McMahon has prepared for his Airport Highway project.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 12th on the Health Science Campus of The University of Toledo. (Map with parking instructions for Lot #3.) The presentation will be in Room 100 of the Health Education Building.

All the 'movers and shakers' who have been interviewed by WSPD over the past several weeks have been invited to attend, including Jim Hartung - President of the Toledo Lucas County Port Authority, Jason Lowery and Todd Audet of Midwest Terminals of Toledo, Lee Dunn - Chairman of the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, Tony Plath - Executive Vice President of the Home Builders Association and, of course, Brian McMahan. (Pod casts are available under the 'features' section on the home page of

I hope you will be able to join us!

Quotes of the Day

From The Patriot Post

"The best service that can be rendered to a Country, next to that of giving it liberty, is in diffusing the mental improvement equally essential to the preservation, and the enjoyment of the blessing." ~ James Madison (letter to Littleton Dennis Teackle, 29 March 1826)

"No one more sincerely wishes the spread of information among mankind than I do, and none has greater confidence in its effect towards supporting free and good government." ~ Thomas Jefferson (letter to Trustees for the Lottery of East Tennessee College, 6 May 1810)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Black man vs. white woman

I've heard various comments by women over the course of the Democratic primary that led me to believe they are concerned about Sen. Barack Obama being the nominee - not because of skill or experience, but because he's a man.

Now that it appears he has the delegates, I can't help but wonder if many of the feminists - whether they say so publicly or not - see the race for president as another glass ceiling they cannot break.

Think about it, with racism and sexism as strong undertones throughout the primary, the Democrats have chosen, again, a man, even if it is a man of 'color.' The woman was not the choice despite what many would say is her longer list of relevant experiences for the job.

As a registered Republican, I don't support either of the two (and I have reservations about McCain as well), so this isn't about my personal preferences. But the Democrats are always classifying people into groups (minority, gender, sexual preference) and focusing on those identifiers in their speeches and legislation.

When faced with a competition between representatives of two such groups the results indicate, to this casual observer, that race differences are not as important as gender differences, as many chose the man over the woman. Even if there were other, legitimate, reasons for the votes cast, I have to believe this is of serious to concern to the feminists in the party who finally felt "their time" had come.

Of course, being a Republican, a casual observer and not a supporter of either candidate, I could be all wrong. But I don't think so...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Conservatives are more honest than liberals

I'm always amused by the various polls and conclusions about Conservatives and Liberals. You know the ones I'm talking about - conservatives are more generous, liberals are smarter, conservatives are happier, etc...

Well, here's another one to add to the list, Conservatives are more honest than Liberals, from author Peter Schweizer (“Makers and Takers: Why Conservatives Work Harder, Feel Happier, Have Closer Families, Take Fewer Drugs, Give More Generously, Value Honesty More, Are Less Materialistic and Envious, Whine Less ... And Even Hug Their Children More Than Liberals”):
Yet there is a striking gap between the manner in which liberals and conservatives address the issue of honesty.

Consider these results:

Is it OK to cheat on your taxes? A total of 57 percent of those who described themselves as “very liberal” said yes in response to the World Values Survey, compared with only 20 percent of those who are “very conservative.” When Pew Research asked whether it was “morally wrong” to cheat Uncle Sam, 86 percent of conservatives agreed, compared with only 68 percent of liberals.

Ponder this scenario, offered by the National Cultural Values Survey: “You lose your job. Your friend’s company is looking for someone to do temporary work. They are willing to pay the person in cash to avoid taxes and allow the person to still collect unemployment. What would you do?”

Almost half, or 49 percent, of self-described progressives would go along with the scheme, but only 21 percent of conservatives said they would.

When the World Values Survey asked a similar question, the results were largely the same: Those who were very liberal were much more likely to say it was all right to get welfare benefits you didn’t deserve.

The World Values Survey found that those on the left were also much more likely to say it is OK to buy goods that you know are stolen. Studies have also found that those on the left were more likely to say it was OK to drink a can of soda in a store without paying for it and to avoid the truth while negotiating the price of a car.

Another survey by Barna Research found that political liberals were two and a half times more likely to say that they illegally download or trade music for free on the Internet.

A study by professors published in the American Taxation Association’s Journal of Legal Tax Research found conservative students took the issue of accounting scandals and tax evasion more seriously than their fellow liberal students. Those with a “liberal outlook” who “reject the idea of absolute truth” were more accepting of cheating at school, according to another study, involving 291 students and published in the Journal of Education for Business.

A study in the Journal of Business Ethics involving 392 college students found that stronger beliefs toward “conservatism” translated into “higher levels of ethical values.” And academics concluded in the Journal of Psychology that there was a link between “political liberalism” and “lying in your own self-interest,” based on a study involving 156 adults.

Liberals were more willing to “let others take the blame” for their own ethical lapses, “copy a published article” and pass it off as their own, and were more accepting of “cheating on an exam,” according to still another study in the Journal of Business Ethics.

Now, I’m not suggesting that all conservatives are honest and all liberals are untrustworthy. But clearly a gap exists in the data. Why?

He speculates about a possible explanation for the poll results:

The honesty gap is also not a result of “bad people” becoming liberals and “good people” becoming conservatives. In my mind, a more likely explanation is bad ideas. Modern liberalism is infused with idea that truth is relative. Surveys consistently show this. And if truth is relative, it also must follow that honesty is subjective.

He may have a point.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Sweatshop? Or economic development in emerging industrial countries?

Here is the link to the proposed Lucas County sweatshop policy and note that it does not include the budget impact nor the statutory authority/Ohio Revised Code reference that details where the Commissioners get the authority to implement such a rule.

And be sure to read the whole thing. It is outrageous to expect that a local vendor can certify that their wholesaler's foreign factories will be available for inspection by independent monitors of the sweatshop policy.

Further, this is just a backdoor way to implement 'living wages' in certain county contracts - a provision that they have no authority to do outright. Is it any wonder that this initiative's primary supporters are unions?

And since when do Ohio county commissioners have the ability to dictate employment provisions like vacation, holidays, work hours and overtime provisions in foreign countries???

John Stossel has some interesting things to say about sweatshops, indicating that 'sweatshop' to American unions and union-backed student protesters are 'economic development' to emerging industrial countries:

We caught up with an economist and several policy analysts on their way to the World Trade Organization Meeting in Cancun. Bibek DeBroy, an economist who lives in India, said he wishes the protesters would "think with their brains rather than with their hearts." DeBroy said, "I don't understand the expression sweatshops. There's nothing wrong with sweat. Sweat is good. Sweat is what people in the developing world, including India, do all the time."

Doesn't the United States have the responsibility to stop companies from exploiting people in countries like India?

Kenya's June Arunga, who studies trade policy, doesn't think so. She said nobody in her country thinks about companies exploiting them. "When there's a new company opening a factory people are excited about it," she said.

Arunga and DeBroy point out that in poor countries, the Nike factories that rich American students call sweatshops routinely pay twice what local factories pay, and more than triple what people earn doing much harder and more dangerous work in the fields. Arunga says people in Kenya would volunteer to work in sweatshops for free, just to have access to clean running water and electricity without carrying firewood. "I wish we would have more sweatshops, quote unquote, in my country," Arunga told me.

Most economists agree that "sweatshops" are what allowed people in now-thriving places like South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore to work their way out of poverty.

Arunga said, "People get jobs in these places, their generation lives better than their parents lived. Most of them work for these companies for a while, go off and start their own businesses, it's a win-win situation for everyone," she said.

And that, she says, is why the students who protest are ignorant and clueless.

"They're comparing that to what they have in their rich homes," she said, "They're people who are very wealthy. They have no idea what they're talking about."
But Bibek DeBroy said if these students get their way, it won't help people in the developing world. "It would mean fewer jobs, lower incomes, more people in poverty," he said. Arunga agreed, saying, "By passing laws trying to improve the jobs by force, they will get rid of the jobs."

So when the Lucas County Commissioners pass their resolution tomorrow (which I'm sure they'll do even if they don't have any legal authority to do so - after all, who but me is questioning THAT point?) what impact will it really have? Vendors who are unsure about their subcontractors or wholesalers won't bid anymore. Vendors who don't want the hassle of agreeing to be 'inspected' won't bid anymore. If the County gets any vendors at all, they certainly won't get the lowest possible prices for the goods. And other businesses will be concerned that if they can get away with such a policy for clothes, what other product will be next?

This is not business (or taxpayer) friendly ... and the moral superiority they're invoking with this policy can have serious negative and 'immoral' unintended consequences for the people they claim they're trying to help.

Besides, absent clear authority to implement such a policy, it shouldn't even be under consideration. But this is Lucas County, so don't expect such common sense. It will certainly be overruled by emotions and 'feel-good' intentions.

Afterthought: Any speculation as to why this new policy was announced today with a vote scheduled for tomorrow? Is it possible (or probable) that the timing was intentional in order to prevent any opposition? Or am I just being a cynical constituent?

Does Lucas County need a 'sweatshop apparel' policy?

According to today's paper, our commissioners have nothing better to do than to outlaw the purchase of products made in sweatshop conditions with taxpayer money.

Is the County actually purchasing products made under such conditions? Well, they don't know for sure.

Lucas County spent $40,000 on prisoner uniforms, socks, and slippers in the last five years, much of it bought from contractors suspected of using sweatshop labor, Mr. Konop said.

Don't you think you'd find out for sure if you were so concerned with the possibility?

Corrections Administrator Jim O'Neal said he hadn't heard any concerns about the labor practices of the jail's contractors until plans for Mr. Konop's policy were brought to his attention.

He said he's concerned about a possible increase in the cost of corrections system apparel.

"As long as we can find another supplier, and as long as [the commissioners] give us the funds to pay the extra cost, it will have no impact on us," Mr. O'Neal said.

"Ultimately, the effect will be on the county budget," he said.

But the actual cost of the goods won't be the only cost taxpayers will incur:

As a member of the consortium, the county eventually would have to pay 1 percent of its annual apparel budget to the coalition for its enforcement costs.

Although Mr. Konop said he didn't know exactly how much the county would need to spend in future years, he estimated that the enforcement payment wouldn't amount to more than a few hundred dollars a year.

Konop doesn't know ... don't you think he should? Isn't it prudent to know how much a new policy is going to cost the taxpayers before you even suggest it?

There are a lot of problems with this policy, but here's the biggest one:

Under Ohio law, counties have limited authority. If state law says a county must do something, it must. If state law says a county may do something, there is an ability for a county to decide yes or no. If state law is silent on an issue, counties have no authority and are prohibited from acting. This is because counties are, technically, an arm of state government and not subject to 'home rule authority' like cities and villages in Ohio.

Because of this limited authority, counties cannot embark upon 'set-aside' policies for minority contractors, they cannot order the dog warden to address feral cats and they can't create laws. Additionally, the bidding and procurement process is clearly defined and doesn't allow for 'social engineering' as a criteria.

With this mind, I sent an email to John Borell, an assistant county prosecutor in the civil division who often handles commissioner issues, to ask where in the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) the commissioners get the authority for such a prohibition.

I presume, perhaps mistakenly, that if they are to the point of introducing such a resolution and saying publicly that they support it, they've already checked to be sure they have the legal authority to do it. And that legal authority will be clearly identified in the ORC.

When I was a commissioner, I got tired of asking where, in the ORC, we got the authority for many things and asked that our resolutions include the applicable ORC reference. If the commissioners put their agenda on line more than one day prior to the meeting, I'd be able to check to see if this resolution had such a citation. However, in checking resolutions over the past several months, it appears this line is often left blank. So even if the resolution is listed on the agenda when it is finally published, it may not include the ORC reference, so I sent the email to Mr. Borell.

I'll keep you posted as to the answer, when received. In the meantime, share your thoughts with the commissioners:

Tina Skeldon Wozniak:
Pete Gerken:
Ben Konop:
Phone number: 419-213-4500
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