Saturday, January 31, 2009

Scare tactics and deflecting blame for city's budget woes

It was bound to happen - Toledo administrators telling us that they may have to cut police and fire in order to balance the budget.

It's not that we want to, but we have to consider it, we're told.

Of course - doom and gloom, fear and scare tactics. Layoffs of personnel across the board instead of elimination of departments and functions that are unnecessary. If we don't threaten police and fire, we won't get the public's support for whatever taxes we may choose to raise...blah, blah, blah.

But here's the scariest part of the commentary on the additional $8.1 million budget deficit (on top of the $8 million they already addressed) from Bob Reinbolt, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's chief of staff:

"He said the city's $6.4 million rainy-day fund would be applied to the 2008 deficit. Because $2 million of that was earmarked for the 2009 general-fund budget, the 2009 plan would need to be revised with more cuts, inflated revenue assumptions, or anticipated savings.

But even using the entire rainy-day fund would leave the city's 2008 budget $1.7 million in the red."
(emphasis added)

I cannot believe they would even consider such a scheme, especially in times of increased unemployment, people leaving the city and business closings. What they're saying is that they may arbitrarily decide to just raise the estimated revenue in order to present a budget that is 'balanced' on paper.

Isn't that part of what got us into our current mess? I raised numerous challenges to the 2008 revenue estimates during the town hall meeting in my district, but despite a promise to 'get back to me,' none of my questions were answered. By June, revenue numbers were less than projected and it was evident the total budgeted income would never be achieved. Now we find our 2008 deficit is, currently, $16.1 million - with not enough reserves to fill the hole.

Similar questions have already been raised about the 2009 projected income - and the logic being considered by the people who lead this city is to just up those projections????

All that will do is put us in a worse condition at the end of this year, postponing the day of reckoning.

Toledo Councilman Joe McNamara is "shocked" over the lack of information to council. Well, I'm not on council and I could tell from the finance reports (public records distributed to council members in advance of finance committee meetings) that things were dire - all the way back in June. I also questioned why council would pass a 2009 budget without having the final numbers for 2008. Apparently, McNamara is a little slow on the uptake:

"Toledo Councilman Joe McNamara said it was deplorable that the mayor had kept council out of the loop. "I am utterly shocked the deficit is as bad as it is because this is something the administration should have told council as soon as they knew," he said. "It's a real crisis and … council should not have heard about it for the first time at a public meeting, and it would have perhaps affected some of the decisions made in the 2009 budget.""

Ya think?

To make matters worse, McNamara tries even harder to blame the mayor for his own lack of attention to the fiscal condition of the city:

"Mr. McNamara added, "It was unconscionable for the administration to allow council to pass the 2009 budget if they knew the 2008 deficit was so high.""

For the record, the administration doesn't 'allow' council to do anything when it comes to passage of legislation - but good try at deflecting blame, Joe.

Council must accept their responsibility in this fiscal debacle and they must be adamant in cutting spending - not by trying to placate everyone with across the board cuts, but by establishing priorities for mandated functions and eliminating non-mandated departments and tasks. I've talked with union leaders who say they're willing to make concessions because they understand the financial situation - but they have a hard time doing so when they see frivolous spending in other areas.

Carty could send a strong statement to everyone if he reduced his own office staff. Since 1993 when we had a city manager form of government, over 20 administrative staff have been added to the payroll. I cannot believe we need that many more people just because we switched to a strong-mayor form of government. Carty criticized 'patronage' hiring when he ran against former mayor Jack Ford. He should reduce his own staff and lead by example. If nothing else, it's a good start for finally bringing the city's expenditures in line with its actual (not hoped-for) revenue.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Toledo's $8 million budget deficit - for last year!

Three weeks ago, Toledo City Council passed a budget for 2009. As I asked at the time, how could they do this properly when they didn't have 2008 year-end figures?

Yesterday, the city's finance director informed council members that they need to come up with $8 million to close out the 2008 budget. Oh - and there's only $6 million in the budget stabilization (rainy day) fund.

The biggest question I have now is this: how in the world didn't the city know three weeks ago that they were this much in the hole????

How could the finance director and administration not realize or understand that the deficit for 2008 was going to be this high? As late as this past Wednesday, just two days ago, Bob Reinbolt, the mayor's chief of staff, said the rainy day fund would be gone in 2009 because of lower than expected revenues.

"Although the mayor said in November that the city would not tap into the rainy-day fund to close out 2008 and balance last year's operating budget, that is now the plan, Mr. Reinbolt said.

"I imagine between the 2008 and 2009 budgets, I am confident there will be nothing left," Mr. Reinbolt said."

Really? between 2008 and 2009 budgets? And then, one day later (24 hours!), the finance director is saying there isn't enough in the fund to even close out 2008? Either Reinbolt didn't have a clue or he was purposefully not being as forthcoming as he should have been.

Don't forget, city council already transferred $8 million in funds from the Capital Improvements budgets and other accounts to cover the hole. And now they need to come up with $8 million more? So our total overspending in 2008 was $16 million??? And that's not even the final figure since December's numbers aren't yet finalized.

Maybe it's time for more severe cuts. Start with the city charter and fund only what's mandated. Take a look at the Toledo Municipal Code that 'requires' (only because council has passed an ordinance) certain boards and commissions and then repeal the ordinances to eliminate them. Eliminate the funding for various projects like pools and solar fields. Eliminate the youth commission and recreation departments. Stop purchasing flowers - especially annuals - and bike paths when roads should be a priority.

Accept the challenge issued by AFSCME Local 2058 president Alan Cox to reduce the Mayor's Office staff back to 1993 levels. That would eliminate 22 positions that have been created solely because of a change to a strong-mayor form of government. Cox raised a good question when he asked why a strong mayor needs 22 more staff to run the city than the city manager needed.

Renegotiate union contracts and insist on payroll deductions and copays for medical insurance that are at the same level as the local private sector. Offer continued employment as the incentive - that's what the private sector who pays for these things has had to do. Require that all workers actually work 8 hours (including our trash collectors). Many areas of government report at 8:30 a.m. and leave at 4:30 p.m. but still get lunches and breaks. If we're paying people for 8 hours, get 8 hours of work out of them. How many people could we do without if the rest of the staff was working another 2.5 - 5 hours a week?

And don't expect that the Democrat stimulus package passed by the House and currently in the Senate will save us from having to make tough decisions!

This budgetary problem has been building for years and the only thing that will solve it is taking an axe to spending.

Quotes of the Day

From economist Adam Smith:

"Every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way, and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with those of any other man or order of men."

"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest."

"The natural effort of every individual to better his own condition, when suffered to exert itself with freedom and security is so powerful a principle that it is alone, and without any assistance, not only capable of carrying on the society to wealth and prosperity, but of surmounting a hundred impertinent obstructions with which the folly of human laws too often incumbers its operations; though the effect of these obstructions is always more or less either to encroach upon its freedom, or to diminish its security."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The 'appearance' of economic growth

This morning on NewsTalk 1370 WSPD, a caller had a question for Rep. Bob Latta who was scheduled to call in to discuss his no vote on the stimulus bill.

The caller wanted to know why Latta would vote no on the bill when there was a sod company in his district that might have benefited by one of the provisions in the bill - to spend $20 million on sod for the National Mall.

Latta explained that the bill as a whole was bad and wouldn't do what was promised - but there's an even better answer that demonstrates the reason why conservatives don't support government spending as 'economic development.' However, given time constraints, Latta probably wouldn't have been able to give it.

Suppose, for instance, that the local sod company decided to go through all the headaches and red tape of doing business with the federal government and then actually got part of the contract for supplying the sod. The owner would have a single large order paid for with tax dollars.

Now, those tax dollars have to come from somewhere, so either the government borrows the money (increasing our debt and subtracting dollars from future projects in order to meet the interest payments) or it taxes us more in order to raise the funds. It could also print up more bills, leading to inflation.

Regardless, the government 'takes' (in one form or another) the money from us. That means that none of us have the funds to replace our own sod. The local company has the single order which probably won't be duplicated. Potential customers in this area are left with less funds so they won't be ordering from him. Government - in spending this way - creates the appearance of economic growth, but no growth has actually occurred.

Now, if the government gave every taxpayer (not every citizen, but everyone who actually pays taxes) a reduction in their tax rates, every taxpayer would have more money. Those taxpayers would then either spend it, invest it or save it. If they spend it, they generate the activity that leads to economic growth, creating a demand for products and services. If they invest it, it provides the equity and funds for companies to do capital projects, like upgrading equipment or facilities. Again, that generates the activity that then leads to economic growth. If they save it, the bank they use has higher assets and can loan more.

And the local sod company would have many potential clients with more disposable income to provide a long-term customer base for their own growth.

And all of this would happen without government spending a dime - all government would have done is change a policy.

So which is the best way to 'stimulate' the economy?

I'd say the tax cuts, but then we're dealing with a Speaker of the House who believes that food stamp handouts "bring a bigger return than the tax cuts." No wonder the stimulus bill passed.

Of course, I'm reminded of the quote from President Ronald Reagan who said:

"The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant: It's just that they know so much that isn't so."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow removal and residency - there is a connection

The Mayor's office issued the following press release Wednesday afternoon:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, January 28, 2009

City of Toledo Reminds Citizens and Businesses To Keep Sidewalks Safe and Clear

Today, Chief of Staff and Public Safety Director Robert Reinbolt released the following statement:

"As Toledo contends with this latest round of heavy snow, both citizens and businesses are reminded that the City requires all sidewalks -- both commercial and residential -- to be shoveled within 24 hours of a snowfall (Toledo Municipal Code #521.01: Removal of snow and ice from walks). Snow-covered sidewalks provide a safety hazard, particularly to our young people, who otherwise may be forced to stand or walk in the street on their way to or from school. Seniors and physically challenged citizens who need their sidewalk shoveled can call the volunteer-based Teens of the Future at 419-870-2468. While this service is free, donations are encouraged to help cover the group's fuel costs. Thank you for helping keep our City safe during these snowy conditions."

Now, the purpose of the press release was two-fold: 1) to give the information about volunteers who were available to help with snow removal (which is a good thing) and 2) to remind citizens that the law requires snow to be removed within 24 hours (otherwise we can fine you and collect tons of money).

I cannot help but find it curious why the mayor feels it necessary to insist that citizens follow the Toledo Municipal Code when he's so prone to ignoring it.

About the same time as the press release was being sent out, AFSCME Local 2058 President Alan Cox was talking with reporters about the mayor's insistence on disciplining (read: firing) employees who don't live in the city limits.

You see, Carty Finkbeiner believes that law, TMC 2101.09 (a) which says "Every employee of the City of Toledo shall be a resident of the City of Toledo...", should be followed.

But he conveniently forgets section (b) of that same code which gives the employees the ability to request a waiver of residency and mandates that "...the Mayor will make a determination ..." on the request. Today's disciplinary hearing was for an employee whose waiver request had not been answered by the mayor, despite his legal requirement to do so.

Of course, it appears that Toledo is the only city in the state continuing to enforce residency rules while awaiting an Ohio Supreme Court challenge on the issue, which means we could be in for some hefty legal bills if the Court says the residency requirements are illegal.

So be sure to shovel your walks - you don't want to give him any excuse for ticketing you and building up a legal defense fund.

Correction: Latta votes no on billion-dollar stimulus

Note - I've deleted my prior post on this issue because I had the vote tally wrong. My thanks to piggyhastheconch for pointing out the mistake and providing the final vote tally link.

Kudos to Representative Bob Latta who voted no on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill. He joined the other Republicans and 11 Democrats in saying no to a huge boondoggle. (One Republican did not vote - see note below.) Final vote totals are here. Rep. Marcy Kaptur voted yes.

I'm proud of the Republicans for sticking together in opposing the huge spending that really won't do much to 'stimulate' the economy - but I'm not surprised by the Democrats whose solution to any problem seems to be to throw money at it, even when it's money they don't have.

Also, I'm concerned about the Democrats who voted no and whether or not they will suffer any consequences of parting with their party on the issue - not in their districts, but in the internal structure of the House. They are: Bobby Bright (AL-2), Parker Griffith (AL-5), Allen Boyd (FL-2), Walter Minnick (ID-1), Brad Ellsworth (IN-8), Frank Kratovil (MD-1), Collin Peterson (MN-7), Gene Taylor (MS-4), Heath Shuler (NC-11), Paul Kanjorski (PA-11) and Jim Cooper (TN-5).

Now it's on to the Senate where, originally, such hasty decisions were supposed to be more carefully deliberated.

We'll see.

NOTE: Americans for Limited Government: "ALG News has confirmed from top Capitol Hill sources that the one Republican who was not present, Ginny Brown Waite (FL-5), had to leave early due to a family emergency. For the record, she would have voted against to the $819 billion debt stimulus."

Toledo Chamber weighs in on proposed county living wage

Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce President Mark V'Soske has sent a letter to Commissioner Ben Konop opposing his proposed living wage requirement for Lucas County.

Yesterday, the Commissioners referred the proposal to the County Prosecutor's office for an opinion on their authority to implement such a plan.

The letter states:

"Your proposed ordinance to adopt a Lucas County Living Wage Policy will be just one more poke in the eye to the efforts for attracting, growing, and expanding businesses – and the jobs they create for our citizens - not just because of the negative economic impact, but also because of the reinforcement of an anti-business attitude. You have been on record complaining about the lack of economic development in the County, yet you will be responsible for setting up one more roadblock to business development and job creation.

So in the future, as you complain about lack of progress, be sure you look in a mirror."

Harsh - but true.

And as we've seen with other proposals from Konop, this one doesn't appear to be well thought out. All the miscellaneous issues, like cost of administration and long-term impact, are never mentioned. But the Chamber, being comprised of business people, certainly believes those items need to be detailed:

"There are so many other problems with this ordinance such as the cost of compliance. Who is going to be employed to insure compliance? Who is going to collect the information? Who is going to inspect? Surely you are not going to pass an ordinance without the appropriate systems in place to enforce? And if you do, then this whole exercise jeopardizes job growth by being nothing more than a political move to look like a hero to some people. This ordinance is not needed and will ultimately hurt the people you are trying to help.

I encourage you to re-think the practicality and the impact of this ill-advised ordinance and withdraw it from consideration."

Business people understand this - why don't the commissioners?

SIDE NOTE: Toledo has a living wage requirement and I cannot help but wonder if anyone has evaluated the cost of contracts under the living wage versus the cost if the living wage requirement had not been present. Is it likely that the city's financial situation would not be so dire if it wasn't paying an artificially high rate for services it receives?

Has anyone thought about the contradiction between 'helping' some workers get more wages when doing business with the government versus 'hurting' the taxpayers who are footing the bill? Why aren't these elected officials more worried about my (and your) dollars going farther than they are about ensuring the paychecks of a limited number of people?

Liberals always like to talk about the 'greater good.' So I ask proponents of a living wage how harming the greater number of people (taxpayers) to benefit a limited number (the employees working at the few companies who actually do business with the government) is the 'greater good'?

Was Charles Lindbergh Sr. a prophet?

On December 22, 1913, the day before President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act, in a speech before the House of Representatives, Charles A. Lindbergh, Sr., (R-MN) said:

"This Act establishes the most gigantic trust on earth. When the President signs this bill, the invisible government by the Monetary Power will be legalized. The people may not know it immediately, but the day of reckoning is only a few years removed. The trusts will soon realize that they have gone too far even for their own good. The people must make a declaration of independence to relieve themselves from the Monetary Power. This they will be able to do by taking control of Congress. Wall Streeters could not cheat us if you Senators and Representatives did not make a humbug of Congress... The greatest crime of Congress is its currency system. The worst legislative crime of the ages is perpetrated by this banking bill. The caucus and the party bosses have again operated and prevented the people from getting the benefit of their own government."

Was he a prophet? Or just wise enough to understand the long-term implications of the decision?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lucas County living wage proposal on hold.

Commissioners have decided to hold a policy creating a living wage requirement for businesses doing business with Lucas County while the Prosecutor's Office reviews the resolution.

As I've stated previously, my understanding from the last time such a proposal was made is that counties have no authority to impose such requirements. Assistant Prosecutor John Borell gave us that decision in 2005.

He is the person to whom this resolution was referred so we'll see if anything has changed since then.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Voinovich votes to confirm Geithner

Timothy Geithner was confirmed today as Secretary of the Treasury. Sen. George Voinovich voted in favor of his confirmation. Sen. Sherrod Brown did not vote.

Complete results of the 60-34 roll call vote are available here. There were 10 Republicans who voted in favor of the confirmation, while 3 Democrats and 1 Independent voted to oppose the selection. Four senators did not vote.

Is this really 'news'?

Today's paper has a long article about a local club raising its fees.

The 120-year-old Toledo Club, long a place for movers and shakers to see and be seen, decided to impose a temporary monthly assessment in addition to the dues/charges already in place.

But many clubs in the area (golf, country clubs and boating) are facing similar circumstances and they don't warrant a mention, much less a 34-paragraph news story.

So, does anyone else find it strange that the financial situation of one of the clubs in Toledo gets this much attention from The Blade? Or was it just a slow news day?

Quote of the Day

Since I'm filling in for the Afternoon Show on WSPD this week, (3-6 p.m. in case you'd like to tune in...) my postings will probably be a bit on the light side.

But here's a quote to consider. I wonder why it is that such simple logic completely escapes most of the people in government.

"You don't make the poor richer by making the rich poorer."

~ Sir Winston Churchill

Of course, this goes along with some maxims that have been attributed to President Abraham Lincoln, but were actually from William Boetcker:

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

I suppose that if federal, state and local governments actually followed these maxims, the politicians would have nothing to offer in exchange for votes. But imagine what our country would be like if we embraced these ideals....

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A prediction for Obama's presidency

Dick Morris, former political advisor to Pres. Bill Clinton, penned a column for The Hill predicting that President Obama will forever change the American political system into socialism.

"Simply put, we enter his administration as free-enterprise, market-dominated, laissez-faire America. We will shortly become like Germany, France, the United Kingdom, or Sweden — a socialist democracy in which the government dominates the economy, determines private-sector priorities and offers a vastly expanded range of services to many more people at much higher taxes.

...

But it is not his spending that will transform our political system, it is his tax and welfare policies. In the name of short-term stimulus, he will give every American family (who makes less than $200,000) a welfare check of $1,000 euphemistically called a refundable tax credit. And he will so sharply cut taxes on the middle class and the poor that the number of Americans who pay no federal income tax will rise from the current one-third of all households to more than half. In the process, he will create a permanent electoral majority that does not pay taxes, but counts on ever-expanding welfare checks from the government. The dependency on the dole, formerly limited in pre-Clinton days to 14 million women and children on Aid to Families with Dependent Children, will now grow to a clear majority of the American population.

Will he raise taxes? Why should he? With a congressional mandate to run the deficit up as high as need be, there is no reason to raise taxes now and risk aggravating the depression. Instead, Obama will follow the opposite of the Reagan strategy. Reagan cut taxes and increased the deficit so that liberals could not increase spending. Obama will raise spending and increase the deficit so that conservatives cannot cut taxes. And, when the economy is restored, he will raise taxes with impunity, since the only people who will have to pay them would be rich Republicans.

...

But none of these changes will cure the depression. It will end when the private sector works through the high debt levels that triggered the collapse in the first place. And, then, the large stimulus package deficits will likely lead to rapid inflation, probably necessitating a second recession to cure it.

So Obama's name will be mud by 2012 and probably by 2010 as well. And the Republican Party will make big gains and regain much of its lost power.

But it will be too late to reverse the socialism of much of the economy, the demographic change in the electorate, the rationing of healthcare by the government, the surge of unionization and the crippling of talk radio."

Do you agree with his predictions?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

LCIC - better late than never

When Commissioner Pete Gerken decided he wanted to 'remake' the Lucas County Improvement Corporation into a county-wide economic development agency, I agreed that it was a good vehicle for coordinated efforts - but disagreed with the way the entity was being structured and the content of the bylaws which gave so much authority to the Toledo mayor and the Lucas County Commissioners.

One of my main objections was the dominance by politicians (and their appointees) on the executive board and the lack of oversight the full board had of the decisions the executive board would make.

This week, the make up of the executive board was changed to all business members - no elected officials - which is what I originally advocated. So while it took several years, it's better late than never.

But there are still issues with the agency over funding. Commissioner Ben Konop continues to oppose allocating any money to the LCIC, despite the 2-1 vote to increase the conveyance tax in Lucas County by $1 in order to fund the agency.

But like any politician, with extra money in the coffers, Konop wants to spend it elsewhere.

"Mr. Konop said he plans to introduce a resolution that instead would allocate the funds for public safety - specifically to hire a class of sheriff's deputies and "to stave off a cut in road patrols."

While funding law enforcement is a statutory authority of the BCC and the LCIC is not, I don't think the additional tax would have been on the agenda or received the votes of Gerken and Comm. Tina Skeldon Wozniak if it was just to increase county revenues for general fund purposes. It also might have received more intense public opposition if that had been the purpose.

So the conflict over the agency continues.

The members of the Executive Committee - which has the ability to make all decisions on behalf of the LCIC - are:

* Keith Burwell, president and chief executive officer, Toledo Community Foundation;
* Joe Rideout, partner, Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick;
* Mary Jo Waldock, special assistant to the president for economic development, University of Toledo;
* Rashmi Agnihotri, director of corporate strategy, The Andersons Inc.;
* Baldemar Velasquez, president, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee;
* Gary Yunker, vice president of real estate development, Timberstone Group Inc.;
* Derick Gant, president, Gant Investment Advisors Inc.;
* Mark Rasmus, president, Tomahawk Development Co.;
* Joseph H. Zerbey IV, president and general manager, The Blade.

Friday, January 23, 2009

What's in the American Recovery and Reinvestment bill

This is from the House version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009:

Purpose:
(1) To preserve and create jobs and promote economic recovery.
(2) To assist those most impacted by the recession.
(3) To provide investments needed to increase economic efficiency by spurring technological advances in science and health.
(4) To invest in transportation, environmental protection, and other infrastructure that will provide long-term economic benefits.
(5) To stabilize State and local government budgets, in order to minimize and avoid reductions in essential services and counterproductive state and local tax increases.

The money allocated must be used by specific time frames - some as early as 30 days following passage of the act, but some as much as two years following passage. Up to .5% of the allocation can be used by the federal government to oversee the administration of the funds/projects. Also, in addition to the money for programs under the act, $208.5 million is designated for the Office of the Inspector General to provide oversight and auditing of the various programs funded. There is an additional $25 million amount to fund "Government Accountability Office—Salaries and Expenses" for oversight activities relating to the Act.

There is a prohibition on the use of the funds. They cannot be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, or swimming pool.

There are transparency requirements which mandate that all information relating to the funds be published on a recovery.gov website, including any reviews by the Inspector General about the usage of the funds, the bimonthly reviews by the Comptroller General. Details about the website begin on page 20 of the linked Act.

In addition to these requirements, the Act creates a 7-member Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency Board. Of course, a board needs a staff, and the authority to hire and set the compensation for such staff is included. Details on the board can be found starting on page 16. And no board is complete without an advisory panel, so a 5-member "Independent Advisory Panel" is also created to make recommendation to prevent waste, fraud or abuse in the spending. They get travel expenses and per diem compensation. Finally, the board gets $14 million to perform the requirements set forth for it in the Act.

The Act incorporates whistleblower protections for anyone reporting inappropriate actions relating to spending by states and local governments with money from the bill.

The rest of the bill is all specific spending for various government departments. I'll be breaking that down in further posts, but in the mean time, you might want to read this Bloomberg article which says that much of the spending in the plan won't be until next year.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

We Demand A Vote - Toledo

The citizen initiative to amend the Toledo Charter is now on line. The website, We Demand Vote - Toledo is linked in my left-hand column and contains downloadable petitions.

We Demand A Vote - Toledo seeks to change the way the city uses red-light and speed cameras. The petitions contain the actual charter language the group hopes to submit to the voters.

Petitions will be available at Delaney's Lounge, 309 W. Alexis, Toledo. You can pick them up to circulate them, or you can sign one to help put the issue on the ballot.

The website includes information about why the group is opposed to the current red-light/speed camera law, and my previous post on the subject explains some of my due process concerns.

Approximately 4,700 signatures are required and need to be submitted to city council by late summer.

Quote of the Day

"If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare,
and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare,
they may take the care of religion into their own hands;
they may appoint teachers in every State, county and parish and pay them out of their public treasury;
they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union;
they may assume the provision of the poor;
they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads;
in short, every thing, from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress....
Were the power of Congress to be established in the latitude contended for,
it would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature of the limited Government established by the people of America
."
~ James Madison
(Source: referring to a bill to subsidize cod fisherman introduced in the first year of the new Congress)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

City ordered to pay attorney fees in convenience store licensing suit

U.S. District Court Judge James Carr has granted a motion for the payment of attorney fees in the lawsuit against the City of Toledo. The amount of the order is $29,999.00

Scott Ciolek is the attorney representing the Midwest Retailers Association who sued the city over the original law. The MWRA was granted a restraining order which prevented the city from implementing the law. Toledo then repealed the law and passed a new one, but has not yet implemented it, pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

The issues in the case are complex, but common sense dictates that this is not a business-friendly action on behalf of the city. Now, it's becoming expensive as well.

Having won the attorney fees for the first portion of the case, is it likely the MWRA will prevail on the amended complaint, especially because the revised law is essentially the same as the repealed one? And, if so, would Toledo and the taxpayers be better off if they didn't fight it?

The amended complaint is in the discovery phase, so stay tuned.

NOTE: I'll add the link for my WSPD Eye On Toledo interview with Scott Ciolek as soon as it's available.

Cheers and jeers to Toledo City Council

Cheers to Toledo City Council for taking the first step to reign in personnel costs by voting in favor of an ordinance to limit 'pick ups' of employee pensions. Jeers to them for spending capital improvement monies to do a design and engineering study for a solar field and for funding CareNet.

Let's start with the cheers:

The ordinance before them last night would prohibit the city from negotiating or implementing a pick-up of the employee portion of the state-mandated pension contribution under the Ohio Public Employees Retirements System (PERS). This does not apply to the unionized workforce - only to exempt employees hired after Dec. 31, 2008. Under this new law, the city cannot offer and/or provide the funds to pay the employee portion in lieu of wages or other compensation.

This is a good move and positions the city well for asking for similar concessions from the unions.

For the jeers:

While $65,000 is less than the originally proposed $200,000 for a design/engineering study, it's still money the city doesn't have to waste - and certainly not on a project that the private sector should be doing. When this was first suggested, I had a conversation with an engineer who specializes in solar fields. He was shocked to hear the $200,000 figure and said that most studies for the size being considering by Toledo (5 acres) should cost only about $50,000. But that's beside the point.

There is no reason for the city to spend this money - and no reason for the city to build a solar field - at least, not for the purposes stated of 'building the city's reputation in the solar industry.' How many businesses do you think are going to decide to move to Toledo because we spend $5 million or so building a solar field? None...not when our tax structure makes other areas more attractive for making a profit.

And then there is the lack of designation of a site for the solar field. Mayor Carty Finkbeiner has suggested it could go near the water treatment plant, but there wouldn't be enough space in that location, unless the city takes over the golf course.

According to proponents of the idea, it would take about 15 years to recoup the investment through savings achieved. That's 15 years to see a return on our investment. But as the solar engineer told me, the technology in the solar area is changing rapidly and technology that today is state of the art will be outdated and obsolete in a few years, much less in 15.

If this is such a good idea, let the private sector do the study and build the field. If no one in the private sector is interested in putting forth their own money for it, that means it isn't worth the cost and the city shouldn't 'invest' our tax dollars either.

Jeers also go to council for funding CareNet. They voted 10-0 (Michael Ashford was not at the meeting and Frank Szollosi did not arrive until after the vote) to allocate $32,500 for the program. What most people do not realize is that the funding does not cover any services for clients. It helps cover the administrative functions of running the program, keeping track of doctors who volunteer their services and making sure they don't get referrals that exceed their agreed-upon numbers.

Last year, District 5 Councilman Tom Waniewski raised the money for this from all private sources. He demonstrated that there was no need for the city to provide this money since the money was available from the private sector. However, it appears that the administration and council don't want to work that hard and just decided that our tax dollars should be used instead.

I wonder how much our city council members have contributed to this cause? If it's worthy of spending other people's money, isn't it worthy of spending your own? Inquiring minds....

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obligatory inauguration post

It seems almost obligatory to do a post today in honor of the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama as our 44th President.

While the post may be obligatory, the sentiments are not. As someone who opposes his policies, I can still celebrate Obama's election and the peaceful transition of power.

As a sailor, I was raised on the Corinthian spirit of sportsmanship. It's not well-defined in writing, but basically calls for competitors to follow the rules of the game, be respectful of your opponent and their equipment, and be a good loser. I endeavor to extend those teachings to activities off the water as well.

It is in such a spirit that I congratulate my new President Obama. And yes, despite the fact that I did not vote for him, he is still 'my' president.

I want him to be a good president. As individuals, we may disagree on the definition of 'good,' but that's what America is all about.

I don't want him to have to face the challenge of an attack on our country or people. I don't want him to have to make the heart-wrenching decision to commit our volunteer military to the risks they've agreed to assume. I don't want him to be forced to make 'damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't' decisions. But I know the likelihood of these wants being met are slim.

I know I will disagree with him on numerous issues - I already do. But my disagreements will be with the policies and proposals - not with the man. I will give him the same benefit I've given President George W. Bush: that he will make decisions based upon all the information he has available (some of which the public may never know) and that he believes he's doing the right thing for the nation as a whole - not because a decision is politically expedient.

I expect I will attack some of his proposals, which are fair game in any free society. But I will respect the office of the President of the United States and will not denigrate the person our nation has selected to sit in that oval room.

I wish my president the best - though that does not mean I wish him success on implementing all of his plans.

I will pray for him and his advisers - and ask that God grant them wisdom as they lead our country.

Congratulations President Obama.

Comments on the proposed recovery act

I've been doing some reading about the proposed "American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009" and want to share with you some of the statements that stood out:

From The Economist:

"The New Deal was introduced into a world of giant organisations—of big businesses and big trade unions that were capable of striking deals with big government. But today’s economy is much more fluid. America’s most successful companies are entrepreneurial outfits like Apple and Google, which thrive on flexibility; even giant companies such as General Electric are breaking themselves up into entrepreneurial divisions. More Americans own their own companies (15%) than belong to trade unions (12%).

Many liberals are determined to bail out Detroit’s carmakers. But is subsidising weak companies really the best way to start a new era of liberal political dominance? They are infatuated with the idea of a Green New Deal. But do they really think that a Washington brains trust is the best way to nudge people to change their habits? Mr. (Peter) Beinart argues that Americans want their government to “keep their 401Ks from going down” and “their health-care premiums from going up”. But can you base a new economic order on such pie-in-the-sky expectations?"

From John Henke, one of the founding editors of TheNextRight:

"This is a crucial point. With the fiscal stimulus legislation, Democrats want to create manufacturing and construction jobs - an attempt to recreate the New Deal. But America is no longer a manufacturing economy. America is an Information Economy. Dragging us back to 1930's-era shovel projects is not economic progress. It is nostalgia."

Investor's Business Daily editorial, "Paving Projects Won't Boost Economy":

"Although it's not popular with his party, Obama might want to rethink his aversion to tax cuts. They'll actually work. How do we know? Because they have in the past. In the '20s, '60s, '80s and again this decade, new presidents also faced grim economic conditions. Each time, the president – be it Coolidge, Kennedy, Reagan or Bush – cut taxes. And each time the economy boomed. … the only stimulus that's been shown to really work is cutting taxes."

From the blog A Taxing Matter:

"But many of the tax provisions are especially worrisome. The expansion of the earned income tax credit and child tax credits probably makes sense--that gets money into the pockets of those who most desperately need help. But making the home buyer provision a subsidy? Hard to justify that on fairness grounds or efficiency grounds, especially to the extent it goes to anyone above the 40% income distribution. Providing another tax cut like the stimulus checks (albeit indirectly this time, through the worker credit) for 95% of American workers doesn't make sense either. Couples with almost $200,000 in income don't need and shouldn't receive a $1000 credit. We should give more tax cuts to people at the bottom and none to people with such high incomes. (In fact, we should be preparing everyone with incomes more than about $50,000 per capita for an inevitable significant tax increase that will be necessary to pay off the huge debts due to the recession and unpaid-for Bush wars.)"

From National Review Online editor-at-large Jonah Goldberg:

"Economist Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute notes that whatever the benefits of the proposed stimulus, they probably don’t outweigh the enormous costs of the debt we would incur. As a result of the stimulus, the deficit this year would equal the total cost of the federal government in 2000. That’s on top of $7.76 trillion in bailouts pledged by the government, according to Bloomberg.com.

The real reason the stimulus package will be gigantic is not that the smartest people with the best ideas say it needs to be. It’s that Obama’s real priority is to get the bill out as quickly as possible, which means every constituency gets something, including Republicans. Indeed, Republicans are a priority because if he can bribe them into supporting the bill, that might prevent them from campaigning against it in 2010 if it proves ineffective or counterproductive. Hence Obama’s proposed billions in tax breaks for corporate welfare addicts and the lobbyists who love them. Democrats are justly skeptical about a tax break for a company that decides not to lay off its workers.

The GOP is right to question this “shovel-ready” infrastructure “investment.” From World War II to the early 1990s, according to economist Bruce Bartlett, not a single stimulus bill succeeded at moderating the recession it was aimed at, while many bills helped invite the next recession. Bartlett supports a stimulus in theory (as do I); he merely notes that the political process tends to be just that — a political process — and it produces political results.

The best stimulus might be to trim — or temporarily eliminate — the payroll tax. That would put money in the hands of the people who need it — and know best how to spend it. But that would be “too ideological” because it rejects the assumption that government knows best, and it would reward taxpayers, not politicians."

Lastly, there is the article "Does Government Spending Bring Prosperity?" from the Foundation for Economic Education's Freeman Magazine. It was written in 1975 by Percy L. Greaves, Jr., but valid today:

"The underlying philosophy behind political spending is not new. Similar ideas have appeared throughout all history. They came to full flower shortly after the economic collapse of 1929, when unbalanced budgets were generally accepted as necessary economic measures for relieving those in distress. You could not let innocent people starve, could you?

People pointed to idle factories, unemployed workers and their unsatisfied wants. All we need to do, they said, is to get the government to start priming the pump. A little government spending would provide the would-be workers with the wherewithal to buy the things they desperately need. This would encourage businessmen to put the unemployed to work in the idle factories. This solution sounded so simple, and its political appeal was apparent. So we tried it.

People just plumb forgot all that economists had ever taught. Many desperate persons reached for whatever share they could get of the apparent prosperity that followed. Until war changed the picture, the price they paid was chronic unemployment by the millions. Are we now asking for a repeat performance?
...
When the government raises the money it spends by borrowing savings or taxing its citizens, it merely transfers spending power from private owners and to political spenders in power. This creates no new wealth. It reduces the amount private citizens can spend while increasing the amount government can spend. With less money in their pockets and bank accounts, private individuals and corporations must reduce the amounts they spend or invest. Assuming prices and wages remain the same, they must buy fewer goods and employ fewer workers on private payrolls producing what people want most.

Money spent by governments cannot create any more jobs or produce any more wealth than it can when spent by private persons. In fact, it creates less, because both the tax collectors and tax spenders must be paid a commission. Their labors add nothing to the wealth of society. The shift of the money from private citizens to political spenders must result in fewer productive jobs, and thus a smaller amount of goods and higher prices than if the money had been left in private hands.
...
Then, too, much government spending is not based on the economic principle of getting the most for the least. This permits political spenders to grant privileges to their friends. Such political plums provide more satisfaction and prosperity for nonproducers at the expense of producers. The net result must always be a reduction in the production of wealth. Any such reduction in the quantity of goods and services available in the market tends to raise all prices and thus reduce the satisfactions and living standards of every buyer in that market. So spending to help one group, laudable as it may seem, does not, and cannot, create general prosperity."

A new blog for you to read

My friend, Trent Seibert, is a journalist with an illustrious background covering local government, war and politics. He's better known for his investigative reporting - and now he has his own blog.

I met Trent through the Sam Adams Alliance and the Samsphere conferences they've hosted. Because of his years doing investigative work, he has a wealth of information about little-known data or public information sources that most would never discover.

Last year, Trent moved to Houston to launch the online news and training center Texas Watchdog. He continues to break stories that uncover politicians’ hypocrisy, that track special interest money and that push for more transparency on government. Already Texas Watchdog has opened up state government by placing legislators’ financial disclosures online and has exposed both Republicans and Democrats‘ conflicts of interest.

I've added him to my list of blog links and hope you'll make his page a regular stop as you cruise the internet.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Konop proposes living wage for Lucas County

Here we go again - another proposal from Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop that commissioners have no authority to do.

This press release was received at 10:11 p.m.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: David Mann, Public Affairs Liaison

ON MLK DAY, KONOP PROPOSES LIVING WAGE RESOLUTION FOR LUCAS COUNTY
Policy would reflect Dr. King's commitment to economic justice, ensure fair wages for working men and women


Today, marking what would have been Dr. King's 80th birthday, County Commissioner Ben Konop will propose a living wage resolution designed to help ensure citizens receive an honest day's wage for an honest day's work. Konop's proposal would cover the wages of workers who are employed by businesses entering into contracts with Lucas County or getting tax incentives or loans through the county.

Under the living wage program, a worker in Lucas County covered by the resolution would have to earn at least $8.38 an hour based on the calculator developed by Dr. Amy Glasmeier and the Pennyslvania State University.

"This initiative is based in fairness and social justice, so I think it's appropriate to propose it on Martin Luther King Day," stated Commissioner Konop. "This is not going to put anyone out of business, but what it will do is help ensure that workers receive decent pay for a day's hard work," added Konop.

Though Dr. King is primarily remembered for his groundbreaking work in the civil rights movement, he focused much of his later career on the pursuit of economic justice for all Americans. In the years before his assassination, he worked tirelessly on the Poor People's Campaign and called for an economic bill of rights. In fact Dr. King was in Memphis supporting a sanitation workers' strike for better wages when he was assassinated in 1968.

Commissioner Konop will be available for this afternoon, after he takes part in the MLK Unity Celebration at Savage Hall. Please contact Lucas County Public Affairs Liaison David Mann at 419-410-4215 to coordinate.

As Comm. Pete Gerken will be able to explain, County Commissioners have no authority under the Ohio Revised Code to implement or set a policy that requires a living wage. One of Gerken's first ideas upon becoming a commissioner was to institute a living wage requirement in Lucas County, as he had supported for the City of Toledo. As I explained to him at the time, commissioners cannot do this. My position was backed up by the County Prosecutor's Office which agreed, and so informed Gerken.

No county in Ohio has the ability to institute a living wage requirement, because the Ohio Revised Code gives counties no such authority.

Being an attorney, you'd think he'd check such things ahead of time. And, considering the public 'smack down' Gerken gave Konop in this letter to the editor (third letter in the link), I'm expecting Gerken to have a bit of fun in the way he 'educates' his fellow commissioner on this topic.

Is there a Stonehenge in Lake Michigan?

I came across this via Twitter...'Stonehenge beneath the waters of Lake Michigan.'

"In a surprisingly under-reported story from 2007, Mark Holley, a professor of underwater archaeology at Northwestern Michigan College, discovered a series of stones – some of them arranged in a circle..."


(Photo Credit)

The find, near Traverse City, includes a stone that may have a prehistoric carving.

"The granite rock has markings that resemble a mastodon - an elephant-like creature that once inhabited parts of North America - with what could be a spear in its side, say divers who have seen it.
...
It was part of a row of stones of varying sizes that might have marked the shoreline 6,000 to 10,000 years ago, Holley said.

Some - although not the boulder - were arranged in a circle. That could indicate human manipulation although it's unclear, said Rob Houston, a geology instructor at the college who has inspected the site."

Of course, further study and research is needed, but I think this is very interesting and wanted to share it.

In honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A bit of historical perspective from Frances Rice, a lawyer, retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and Chairman of the National Black Republican Association. She can be contacted at: www.NBRA.info


Democrats Smeared Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960's

Character assignation. That's the tactic used by Democrats in the 1960's to discredit Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a Republican who was fighting the Democrats and trying to stop them from denying civil rights to blacks.

The relentless disparagement of Dr. King by Democrats led to his being physically assaulted and ultimately to his tragic death. In March of 1968, while referring to Dr. King's leaving Memphis, Tennessee after riots broke out where a teenager was killed, Democrat Senator Robert Byrd, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, called Dr. King a "trouble-maker" who starts trouble, but runs like a coward after trouble is ignited. A few weeks later, Dr. King returned to Memphis and was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

Prior to his death, Democrats bombed Dr. King's home several times. The scurrilous efforts by the Democrats to harm Dr. King included spreading rumors that he was a Communist and accusing him of being a womanizer and a plagiarist.

An egregious act against Dr. King occurred on October 10, 1963. With the approval of Democrat President John F. Kennedy, Democrat Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy – President Kennedy's brother – authorized the wiretapping of Dr. King's telephone by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Wiretaps were placed by the FBI on the telephones in Dr. King's home and office. The FBI also bugged Dr. King's hotel rooms when he traveled around the country.

The trigger for this unsavory wiretapping was apparently Dr. Kings' criticism of the Kennedy Administration, according to the author David Garrow in his book, "Bearing the Cross". The justification given by the Kennedy Administration publicly was that two of Dr. King's associates, including David Levinson, had ended their association with the Communist Party in order to work undercover and influence Dr. King. However, after years of continuous and extensive wiretapping, the FBI found no direct links of Dr. King to the Communist Party.

The unrelenting efforts by Democrats to tarnish Dr. King's reputation continued for years after his death. To his credit, Republican President Ronald Reagan ignored the Democrats' smear campaign and made Dr. King's Birthday a holiday.

Today, while professing to revere Dr. King, Democrats are still trying to tarnish his image by making remarks that diminish his civil rights achievements and continuing to claim that Dr. King embraced Communism – a system that is secularist and socialist.

In reality, Dr. King was a Christian who held deeply religious beliefs and was guided by his faith and his Republican Party principles in his struggle to gain equality for blacks. He did not embrace the type of socialist, secularist agenda that is promoted by the Democrat Party today, which includes fostering dependency on welfare that breaks up families, supporting same-sex marriage and banning God from the public square.

An understanding of who the real Dr. King was can be gained from a glimpse of Dr. King as a young man who participated in an oratorical contest when he was 14 years old. The title of his speech was "The Negro and the Constitution" which had the following sentences: "We cannot have an enlightened democracy with one great group living in ignorance…We cannot be truly Christian people so long as we flout the central teachings of Jesus: brotherly love and the Golden Rule…."

If Dr. King were still alive, he would be slandered by Democrats in the same way that they smeared him in the 1960's and demean all black Republicans today.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Would you donate to your local government?

If you were asked to donate to a fund to pay for a police and fire class for your community, would you do so?

A local businessman in Toledo, Jim Wheeler, wants to raise the $2 million needed to fund a new police and fire class because the city says it doesn't have the money to provide this service. (Note: these are not volunteer forces, like fire departments in some smaller jurisdictions.)

I have my own ideas about this and we discussed the subject last night during Eye On Toledo. But before I go off on a rant, I'd like to know what you think, so please leave a comment with your thoughts on the subject.

Thanks!

Friday, January 16, 2009

A little light reading

Considering how cold it is today (where's global warming when you need it?), I decided I needed something to keep me warm. So I'm reading the 'stimulus' legislation - sure to make your blood boil.

The text of the draft House Democratic economic stimulus bill (spending side, not tax side) is now online. As is the draft committee report.

So far, the most telling line - and perhaps all you need to know - is this, from the draft report:

The aggressive spending, regulatory and monetary reforms of the New Deal revived the economy:

When you start with a false premise, you will make bad decisions. The solution for the economy is not for government to borrow and spend and 'create' temporary jobs that end when the government spending does.

As an aside - could you please explain to me how another $650,000,000 for analog-to-digital converter boxes and education is going to 'stimulate' the economy and provide 'long-term job growth'??? And Democrats say there's no pork in the bill.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Finkbeiner, Block still trying to dictate to United Way

I knew it was too good to be true.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and John Robinson Block, publisher of The Blade, are still trying to interfere in a private property decision.

The Toledo Free Press has the details of their attempt to 'rally then tenants' against the United Way.

A history of the pressure these individuals have tried to exert is available, chronologically here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Yes, I know that's a lot of background to catch up, but that's the way things work in Toledo and with our local paper. The publisher of The Blade spoke and politicians dutifully fell in line to try and preserve a dilapidated, costly building. And despite the fact that the United Way has broken ground on their new building, the fight is not over.

Apparently, Carty, Block or both convinced a local company to develop a renovation plan for the building. However, their plan addressed only two levels of the multi-floor building, was as costly as building new, and was rejected - as were the previous plans to renovate.

I'll say it again - if Carty and Block want the building to stay up, they can purchase it and do with it whatever they please. However, this being Toledo, they are used to bullying, expecting people to ask 'how high' when they say 'jump,' and getting their way when they attempt to dictate to others.

Perhaps the United Way, with the backing of The Stranahan Foundation, will be able to continue to resist this pressure.

For the good of all Toledo, I hope so.

My 1,000th post

It's hard to believe that this is my 1,000th post on Thurber's Thoughts. Let me thank those of you who've been with me from the beginning!

I'm actually taking this post a bit easy...tonight's Eye on Toledo deconstructed the paper's editorial "Say 'no' to COAST," and I've put my notes up on my Eye On Toledo blog. You can read the notes and then listen to the podcast and phone calls. The podcast should be available shortly.

Twisted logic from Toledo politicians

Democratic mayoral candidate Keith Wilkowski has announced that, if elected, he will build a solar field on the old Dura Landfill. Today we learn that Toledo City Council doesn't want to wait for the election before getting started.

Councilman Joe McNamara will present legislation at next Tuesday's council meeting to allocate $200,000 from the city's 2009 Capital Improvements Fund for design and engineering services to make the site 'shovel ready.'

I've already talked about this plan from a 'role of government' perspective, and my position hasn't changed in that regard.

But today's paper has this quote from McNamara that just defies logic:

"He said the city has done nothing to invest in its solar-panel manufacturing companies, yet Toledo claims to be the solar capital of the world."

On September 21, 2008, Wilkowski said:

"I've said for years that we have to stop being just a cheerleader for solar energy and we have to start doing things to actually move that market forward."

So - just to understand. Toledo and Northwest Ohio are already being recognized as a solar hub. We're developing a reputation as a leader in this industry because of the work that the private sector is doing. Our local companies like First Solar and Xunlight are growing - and the city hasn't done anything????

How can this be? How can an industry grow without government? How can we get this far without the city being involved?

It's simple - the companies in this industry are doing what they need to do in order to grow themselves and they haven't needed the city to step in. I'm certain that if they needed a road for better access or if they requested some tax incentives for equipment or new hires, we'd support them - just as we do any other company that makes a similar request.

It is illogical to think that since we've gotten this far without involvement by city government we must now inject city government into the process. In fact, the proper conclusion would be that if we've gotten this far with Toledo doing 'something,' nothing needs to be done by the city.

And the proof of this is in other solar arrays being built on landfills. Most of those projects are being done by private companies which have purchased/leased/been given the landfills, built the structures and paid for the arrays and connection to the power grid.

If it's being done by the private sector in places like North Carolina and Florida, why does the taxpayer have to foot the bill in Toledo? And who do you think would do a better job of evaluating the return on investment of such a project: the city or a private company? Furthermore, if a private company isn't interested in expending the funds to build a solar field on our landfill, why would Toledo do so?

Here's an alternative idea. If you insist on using the Dura Landfill for a solar field, offer it free (or at a low enough price to make it attractive) to a private solar developer and see how many companies would agree to build a field and keep the profits. That is the way to create jobs - with a private company - not by spending limited public capital improvement dollars to 'enhance our reputation' or to be able to say 'me too!'

Carbon footprint for the inauguration

The Institute for Liberty has taken a look at the plans for the swearing-in of Barack Obama and calculated the carbon footprint for the inauguration.

Their estimate is 575 million pounds of CO2, an amount that would take the average U.S. household 57,598 years to produce.

Among their findings:

* Celebrities, politicians, and bigwigs using 600 private jets will produce 25,320,000 pounds of CO2
* Personal vehicles could account for 262,483,200 pounds of CO2
* In the parade, horses alone will produce more than 400 pounds of CO2

The Institute for Liberty emphasizes that they are not criticizing the 'travel or commerce involved.' They're just making the point that "some people want to tax and regulate carbon emissions, and they happen to be the same people pumping out carbon dioxide like it’s going out of style."

You can check out the full report for more details.

Portman's campaign stop in Toledo

Yesterday Rob Portman was in Toledo at Tony Packo's to announce his candidacy for the senate seat currently held by George Voinovich. Voinovich has decided to retire and will not be seeking re-election.

Because of the extremely bad road conditions due to the weather, he was about 15 minutes late in his arrival, but was greeted by a crowd of about 35 - a good number considering the travel conditions.

Upon arrival, he participated in a Tony Packo's tradition of signing a hot dog bun for display.

Because of the weather and hot dog signing, he got a late start on his comments which meant that I was not able to hear his entire presentation. What I did hear was his emphasis on his small business experience and his understanding of what it's like to be a small business owner in Ohio.

Side Note:

When I was little, my parents would take a weekend in November and meet up with friends from Tennessee for a weekend at the Golden Lamb Inn in Lebanon, Ohio. My siblings and I always looked forward to their return because they would bring us a gift of a Christmas ornament. When I moved out of the house, my mother packaged up all the ornaments she'd given me over the years and I still have all but a few of them to decorate my tree. My husband has continued the tradition of giving me a new ornament each year.

If you're wondering why this has anything to do with Portman, it's because I learned, during his kick off, that his family started the Golden Lamb Inn and he and his siblings still own/run it today.

End Side Note

Portman's early entry in the race is clearly designed to discourage others from running and avoiding a primary battle for the seat.

He served Ohio as Congressman for the seven counties of the Second District for 12 years, held two Cabinet-level positions (U.S. Trade Representative and Director of the Office of Management and Budget), and was on the White House staff of the first Bush Administration. He is currently an attorney with Squire, Sanders, and Dempsey.

Portman was well-liked by almost everyone in Washington. A New York Times reporter wrote in 2003 that he couldn't find a single Democrat on Capitol Hill who would say anything unfavorable about the congressman. The closest he came, he said, was an anonymous member of the Ways & Means Committee who whispered that Portman was, despite his nice-guy image, really a conservative.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Finkbeiner's letter to employees asking for concessions

Several news outlets have mentioned the second unfair labor practice charge that was filed by the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association against Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner.

They state that a letter sent to all city employees seeking concessions violates the collective bargaining agreement because it went from the administration directly to the employees, bypassing their negotiating team. In a previous post about Carty versus the unions, commenter toledo1 mentioned this letter.

City Councilman Joe McNamara is also on record about this mailing, questioning the wisdom of expending roughly $2,000 to send out a letter to all city employees, using city letterhead, envelopes, labels and staff time, not to mention postage.

Here is what was so important for Carty to communicate with all city employees:

McNamara is right. Even if this isn't an unfair labor practice violation, it certainly could have been sent via email.

Who is exempt from concessions and cutbacks?

This morning I was listening to the Wall Street Journal's morning program on NewsTalk 1370 WSPD and they were talking about some of the cutbacks private industry is making when it comes to employees and benefits.

They mentioned the lack of pay raises, the elimination of bonuses, the decrease in or elimination of pension contributions, charging employees more of their health care costs, and the elimination of direct or matching charitable contributions.

My husband then wondered aloud why it was that government wasn't taking a cue from these private businesses and making similar cuts. My response was that our local governments were endeavoring to do just that, and that Gov. Ted Strickland had ordered many cuts.

But he was referring to the federal government. And I realized that we've not heard a single news story about the federal government doing any of the things that local and state governments are having to do. In fact, we find the federal government increasing spending (bailouts and loans) and considering requests by states to make up their shortfalls.

So I'm wondering - what is the benefit plan for federal employees? Do they pay a portion of the costs for their medical coverage? Have federal unions been asked to make concessions like our local city unions? Are there opportunities for reducing the cost of the federal government by evaluating and tying federal employee total compensation to the marketplace?

If you know, please share the information or provide links. I can't help but believe that there are things the federal government can and should do in this regard.

Quotes of the Day

On education:


"In 100 years we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to teaching Remedial English in college."
~ Joseph Sobran, Columnist


"The more subsidized it is, the less free it is. What is known as "free education" is the least free of all, for it is a state-owned institution; it is socialized education - just like socialized medicine or the socialized post office - and cannot possibly be separated from political control."
~ Frank Chodorov, American author and publisher


"The first goal and primary function of the U.S. public school is not to educate good people, but good citizens. It is the function which we call - in enemy nations - 'state indoctrination.' "
~ Jonathan Kozol, American writer and educator

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Thank you!

The 2008 Weblog Awards

My thanks to everyone who voted for me in the 2008 Weblog Awards!!!

I considered it an honor to make the finalist list, especially as the only woman and the only 'local' blog in the 'Best Political Coverage' category.

I had no illusion of winning this - and just wanted to be sure not to finish last. Plus, I didn't want to disappoint Tom Blumer at BizzyBlog who thought I was worthy of the nomination.

Your votes helped me to accomplish that goal - and I'm very grateful!

Thanks!!!!

Oh - final results are available here.

Portman to stop in Toledo as part of campaign for Senate

Rob Portman will be in Toledo tomorrow as part of a state-wide announcement that he will seek to replace retiring Sen. George Voinovich.

He will be at Tony Packo's on Front Street at 5 p.m. Wednesday. I do not know how long he plans to stay.

I'd try to get him on Eye On Toledo tomorrow, but we're pre-empted for a UT Basketball game.

Two Toledo initiatives hold their kickoffs with optimistic supporters

Two initiatives for the November ballot kicked off last night with good attendance and hope for success.

Take Back Toledo had about 150 people at their 'recall Carty' meeting at the Erie Street Market. (Details on the door-locking issue are available here.) The first prong of their approach is to recall Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and they distributed petitions for that effort at the meeting.

COAST (Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes) representative Chris Finney was in from Cincinnati to help start the Toledo charter amendment to ban red-light cameras. Finney explained how they were successful in Cincinnati in building a coalition with such groups as COAST, Americans For Prosperity-Ohio Chapter, Cincinnati Chapter NAACP, and the Libertarian, Green and Republican Parties to prohibit Cincinnati from installing any red-light or speed cameras.

As this was an organizing meeting, several leaders were identified and details of the requirements for a charter amendment were provided. Petitions, detailed instructions and talking points will be distributed to attendees by the end of the week.

Take Back Toledo will hold additional kickoffs Wednesday at 5:30 at Dave's Home Cooked Foods on Reynolds Road and at Arnies (Monroe Street) on Thursday at 5:30. They have to gather around 20,000 signatures in a 90-day period.

The red-light charter amendment only requires about 4,700 signatures that must be submitted 75 days prior to a regularly scheduled municipal election. The amendment could appear on either the September primary or November general election, though the consensus appeared to be to place it on the November ballot.

One of the observations from both these meetings was the positive attitude of the attendees. While those present were angry about various issues, (decisions by the mayor or the lack of due process in the camera citations) they were very positive about the options for success.

For quite some time, I've been seeing what I call 'pockets of change' - little groups of people who band together to attempt to do something different to better our community. Those little pockets, however, are isolated and small. These two efforts seem to bring people together in common causes - to merge those pockets into a bigger and more powerful group. As people looked around the room, saw the number of people who were also interested, they developed a optimism that I haven't seen in a long time.

I think the success of getting both these initiatives on the ballot will be the start of better things, as people realize they do have the power to impact and influence their local government.

Buckeye Institute threatens to sue Toledo over school zoning requirements

From the Buckeye Institute:

Proposed Toledo Community Schools Regulation Violates Ohio Constitution

Columbus - The Buckeye Institute's 1851 Center for Constitutional Law today notified the City of Toledo Plan Commission that its proposed Minimum School Facility Requirements (MSFR) zoning regulation violates the Ohio Constitution. The measure is currently before the Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commission. If approved, the Institute's legal center will pursue legal action against the city.

Specifically, the legal center will file suit on behalf of the Maritime Academy, a Toledo community school, and a Toledo family whose child's attendance at the school will be placed in jeopardy as a result of the policy.

"The commission's proposal is an attempt to take away the educational choices given to Ohio parents by the Ohio General Assembly," Buckeye Institute President David Hansen said. "If they do not reconsider this ill-advised regulatory power grab, we will defend the interests of Toledo's parents and children in court."

"The proposed Minimum School Facility Requirements are clearly unconstitutional and run contrary to recently enacted state laws and Ohio Supreme Court decisions," Center for Constitutional Law Director Maurice Thompson said. "If the city of Toledo enacts this proposal, it will unnecessarily waste tax dollars defending an obviously flawed regulation."

The proposed requirements are one-size-fit-all mandates on community schools. They require these schools to provide large outdoor play areas, media centers, separate classrooms for every subject, and extremely large gymnasiums and dining areas. Many Toledo-area community schools have non-traditional student bodies that do not demand these facilities, while others offer many of the same benefits in different forms. For example, many community schools have computers in their classrooms rather than in "media centers," as required by MSFR. Moreover, most community schools do not have the space necessary to comply with the commission's prohibitive regulations.

Thompson advised the city plan commission that these requirements would violate the Ohio Community Schools Act. The act establishes a statewide education policy in favor of choice and innovation. Further, the Ohio Constitution precludes city-by-city regulation of education policy.

Also, Thompson advised that MSFR is a misuse of the city's zoning power. "It seems the proposed regulation is an unconstitutional attempt to use zoning law as a back-door mechanism to regulate, control and hamper statewide education policy," Thompson added.

A copy of the letter sent to the Toledo Plan Commission is available online.

The Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, together with its 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, is a nonpartisan research and educational institute devoted to individual liberty, economic freedom, personal responsibility and limited government in Ohio.

ESM doors locked for Take Back Toledo kickoff

Last night I stopped by the Take Back Toledo kickoff in the Chowder House at the Erie Street Market.

The main entrance doors were locked and I had to go around to the side door to the Chowder House to enter. As I usually do every day at 5:30, I called in to Brian Wilson's radio show for our roundtable discussion. I stepped into the foyer area of the ESM so I could hear better on the phone.

While in this foyer area, several individuals came in from the larger bay and progressed into the Chowder House. But at about 5:40, a security guard came into the foyer area and told my husband, who was waiting with me, that he was shutting and locking the doors and to 'spread the word' that we needed to use the side entrance.

Around 6 p.m., some people had to leave and tried to exit through the foyer doors, but found them locked and one was chained. WSPD morning show host Fred LeFebvre took some photos which are available here.

The Ohio Fire Code details the state rules and requirements for egress from buildings. Chapter 10 of the code addresses the size, shape and number of exits for building. Section 1019 lists the number of exits based upon occupancy and for 1-500 people, two means of exits are mandated.. While the Chowder House complied with this rule, with their south-side exit and their exit into the foyer of the ESM, the doors in the foyer which would allow access to a 'public way' were locked, essentially leaving the Chowder House with only one legal exit.

Now, the Take Back Toledo group is starting with a recall of the mayor. The ESM is Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's 'baby' - a black hole into which he has poured money for years, always insisting that it will, ultimately, be successful. Toledo owns and leases out space in the ESM.

Were the doors locked to make it more inconvenient for people to come and go from the recall meeting? Was this Carty's way of trying to hamper the efforts? Would a mayor really want to risk lives, in the event of an emergency, by having exit doors to a public building locked? Was this intentional, or just a miscommunication?

Sadly, most of the people at the meeting believed this was an intentional act of the mayor, as a type of retaliation for the people attending and the business hosting the meeting. They easily speculated upon Carty's reaction to hearing that the recall was going to kick off in his precious Erie Street Market: "They're going to start a recall of ME in my Erie Street Market??? I'll show them! Lock all the doors!"

While I have no idea if this was planned or just happenstance, any manager of a facility should have ensured that proper legal access was ensured and that fire codes were followed. But I think it says a lot about what people think of the mayor that many in attendance believed he was capable of putting us all at risk by ordering the exit doors locked.

Maybe that's why so many of them were there in the first place.

Monday, January 12, 2009

It's official: Voinovich will not seek third term

Below is a statement from Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-OH):

After prayerful consideration and much thought, my wife Janet and I have decided that I will not seek a third term in the United States Senate.

As I spent time with my family during the holidays and celebrated Janet’s birthday, I reflected on God’s blessings on our family: my wife, our three children, our seven grandchildren and our health.

I also spent time thinking about the health of our country. In my lifetime of public service, I have never seen the country in such perilous circumstances. Not since the Great Depression and the Second World War have we been confronted with such challenges, as a nation and as a world.

Those of us that have been given the honor to serve in these times must step up to the plate and put this country on a course that will see it through these harrowing times and make it strong and viable for the 21st century.

These next two years in office, for me, will be the most important years that I have served in my entire political career.

I must devote my full time, energy and focus to the job I was elected to do, the job in front of me, which seeking a third term – with the money-raising and campaigning that it would require – would not allow me to do.

In addition, Janet and I have concluded that once my second term is complete, we should devote ourselves to our children and grandchildren. We have been blessed with good health, but we’re no spring chickens. In 2010, I will be 74 years old and will have served 44 years in public office, having been elected to more public offices than any other person in Ohio history.

I am grateful for the opportunity that I have had to serve my statehouse district, my county, city, state and nation and feel good about the fact that with the help of some extraordinary people, many of whom are no longer with us, I have made a difference and will, with God’s help and a great team in my Senate office, continue to make a difference during these next two critical years. We intend not to wind down—but to wind up, just like I did in the Mayor’s office as well as the Governor’s office.

We have a great deal to do in this Congress, and I will continue to focus on the areas that matter most: providing the nation a responsible stimulus package; jump-starting our credit markets; re-establishing confidence in the housing market and stemming the tide on mortgage foreclosures; harmonizing our nation’s economic, energy and environmental policies; ensuring safe and stable highways; and continuing to improve the personnel and management of the federal government.

After the next two years, it will be time to give someone else the opportunity to serve our great state in the Senate, someone who can devote full time to organizing their campaign and raising the money necessary to win.

This has not been an easy decision for us. I still have the fire in my belly to do the work of our nation, but after serving the next two years, it will be time to step back and spend the rest of our time with our children and grandchildren, siblings and extended family and friends.

We both are confident that God has a plan for us to use the time, energy and talents that He has given us to make a difference in another way.

The push for electric vehicles

I admit ... I don't get it. The North American International Auto Show in Detroit starts on Saturday, but journalists are getting a preview of what's going to be on display - including Chrysler's two electric vehicles.

Many on the left side of the political spectrum are pushing for electric vehicles - and automakers are responding, primarily because there are tax credits for doing so.

Electric vehicles are touted as being more 'green' and for moving us away from our dependency on foreign oil.

Of course, I have many questions about this, which causes my confusion over why so many think this is a good thing.

1) We are only dependent upon foreign oil because we don't take maximum advantage of our OWN oil. (Naturally, that highlights the point that those using the phrase 'foreign oil' really mean 'oil' ... but that's another argument for another time.) So if we wanted to be free from dependency on other nations, we could open up any available source domestically, but that logic seems to escape most of the people making the argument in the first place.

2) Have you seen the electricity prices in this area? The same politicians who are talking about how great electric vehicles are happen to be the same politicians complaining that we have the highest electric/utility bills in the state. How in the world would any local resident be better off with a vehicle that would INCREASE what they pay for 'fuel'?

3) Do you know how we get electricity? We get it from coal-burning or nuclear plants. While there is clean-coal technology that plants are beginning to incorporate, most of the electricity in this country is produced by methods that electric car supporters happen to oppose. So we're being told to switch to a vehicle whose source of fuel is as bad as oil?

And what about President-elect Barack Obama's promise to bankrupt the coal industry? Where will we get the electricity if he's successful in keeping that promise?

4) Electric vehicles require batteries. Has anyone thought about how those batteries will be disposed of when they are no longer functional? Have you tried lately to replace a regular car battery and then dispose of the old one? What will be the process for the larger batteries used to 'fuel' the electric car - and will there be enough of an aftermarket to make recycling worthwhile? And if so, for how long?

5) How practical are these types of vehicles? Most are good only for short ranges, though the WhiteStar Sedan can get up to 250 miles from a single charge. However, that vehicle was expected to cost between $50-65,000. A bit high for most car buyers. Additionally, it takes six hours to charge it.

George Peterson, president of AutoPacific Inc., an automotive market research firm in Tustin, CA, said of the WhiteStar:

"You will never be able to justify its purchase price based on the fuel savings," Peterson said. "It's almost purely an ego purchase. Driving it will make you feel good."

Now, there may come a time when all these issues are addressed efficiently enough to make an electric vehicle a cost effective choice. But until then, I'm not inclined to own one - at least, not just to 'feel good' - and I won't be lured by all the hype and political correctness.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Voinovich to not seek re-election

Politico is reporting that Sen. George Voinovich will announce Monday that he will not seek another term.

"A Voinovich spokesman would only confirm that he will make an announcement Monday on his future. But a Senate Republican leadership aide said that Voinovich’s planned retirement is “real” and an announcement will come soon."

This rumor has been swirling around for about 10 days now...names suggested as replacements are John Kasich and Rob Portman, with many throwing out Kasich's name as a candidate for governor as well.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery.

On Tuesday, January 6, 2009, I did a blog post comparing Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's campaign promises to his most recent state of the city address. I looked at what he said he was going do to and compared it to the issues he highlighted during his speech.

Today, The Blade catches up by comparing the state of the city speech to previous policy initiatives Carty has espoused.

They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, so I'll be flattered...
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