Friday, February 27, 2009

Quotes of the Day

"Since when have we Americans been expected to bow submissively to authority and speak with awe and reverence to those who represent us?" ~ Justice William O. Douglas

"If Big Brother (of Orwell's 1984) comes to America, he will not be a fearsome, foreboding figure with a heart-chilling, omnipresent glare as in 1984. He will come with a smile on his face, a quip on his lips, a wave to the crowd, and a press that (a) dutifully reports the suppressive measures he is taking to save the nation from internal chaos and foreign threat; and (b) gingerly questions whether he will be able to succeed." ~ Michael Parenti

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What the bailouts cost you

Are you even remotely curious as to exactly how much the corporate bailouts have cost you? (Remember - they were signed and passed by Presidents Bush and Obama and the last and current Congress.)

It's a significant amount, especially in light of the tough economic times.

Over at Right.Org you can precisely calculate your 'donation' to the those who were irresponsible with the money they had. Let me warn you though, it’s not pretty.

The median household income (half make more and half make less) for Lucas County is $43,527 per According to the calculator, the total cost for each Lucas County household is $53,337.

Think 4 Chevy Aveos. Two college degrees. A Toledo police officer. Or this 2007 27-foot Sportcraft 272 Express fishing boat.

Currently the total the U.S. has committed to failed corporations is $8,439,120,000,000. That's nearly three times the size of Congress' total budget last year and nearly two-thirds of what the entire U.S. economy produced last year.

Scary, isn't it?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Quote of the Day

A quote to 'stimulate' your thinking as I prepare for filling in for three hours today for Brian Wilson and the Afternoon Drive on NewsTalk 1370 WSPD.

"The worst evils which mankind has ever had to endure were inflicted by bad governments. The state can be and has often been in the course of history the main source of mischief and disaster." ~ Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) Economist and social philosopher

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lucas County's legal opinion on living wage mandate

Earlier this afternoon, I spoke with David Mann, Lucas County's Public Affairs Liaison. In light of The Blade's reference to what was written in the legal opinion regarding the authority of the Commissioners to pass a resolution regarding living wages, I requested a copy.

Mann gave me the appropriate response: that the opinion was a matter of attorney-client privilege and was not a public record. I asked if a commissioner might be willing to waive the confidentiality and release the record, considering that another media source had obviously received such a waiver.

I'm grateful to Commissioner Pete Gerken who instructed Mann to share the legal opinion with me. It starts with a description of the policy desired to be enacted, and says that "there are no statutes which expressly grant a county board of commissioners the authority to adopt a living wage resolution. Thus, the authority of a board of county commissioners to adopt a living wage policy exists only if it can be implied from a statute."

The prosecutor's office then 'implies' that since the Ohio Revised Code is silent on certain requirements for economic development incentives, the Commissioners can impose living wage mandates.

This is exactly opposite to, and in contradiction with, what every county commissioner is told by other commissioners and the County Commissioners Association of Ohio. The rule of thumb is that, as creatures of statute, if the ORC is silent on an issue commissioners have no authority.

However, with the County Prosecutor saying the authority is 'implied,' our Board of County Commissioners has legal protection for voting to impose a living wage requirement for any company receiving the specific economic development incentives discussed in the opinion.

It should also be noted that the commissioners did NOT amend the resolution to reflect their inability to mandate a living wage for companies doing business with the county. According to Mann, the resolution was passed as publicized in this link.

Finally, while the opinion says the commissioners can request a certification of payment of living wages as part of a bid package, they cannot use payment of living wages in determining the winning bidder. However, why you'd request certification of a factor that cannot be considered in making a decision is beyond me. Does anyone really believe that companies not paying a 'living wage' and who clearly state such in their bid package will actually be considered fairly against companies who do pay the living wage?

The opinion portion is as follows, my emphasis in bold:

"Any analysis of the authority of a board of county commissioners must begin with the well established principle that, as a creature of statute, a board of county commissioners has only the authority expressly conferred by statute and the authority that may be implied therefrom as reasonably necessary to make the express powers effective. Shriver v. Board of Commissioners (1947), 148 Ohio St. 277, 74 N.E.2d 248; State ex rel. A. Bentley & Sons Co. v. Pierce(1917), 96 Ohio St. 44, 117 N.E. 6. Thus, whether the board of county commissioners has the power to adopt a living wage resolution depends upon the authority expressly and impliedly granted to thye board by statute. 1992 Ohio Op. Atty Gen. 96.

We note that there are no statutes which expressly grant a county board of commissioners the authority to adopt a living wage resolution. Thus, the authority of a board of county commissioners to adopt a living wage policy exists only if it can be implied from a statute. The proposed resolution is, generally, not authorized by Ohio law and unenforceable. There are, however, two areas covered by the proposed resolution--tax increment financing (TIF) and economic development loan and grants--in which a board of county commissioners is granted broad authority by statute. While these statutes do not expressly grant a county board of commissioners the authority to adopt a living wage resolution, the grant of authority is broad enough that the authority to adopt a living wage policy can be implied.

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is a discretionary, economic development mechanism available to local governments in Ohio to finance public infrastructure improvements and, in certain circumstances, residential rehabilitation. A TIF allows local governments to invest in infrastructure and other improvements and pay for them by capturing the increase in property tax revenues. The increase in taxes generated by the enhancements, also known as increment, is used to pay the public debt incurred while making these improvements. Payments derived from the increased assessed value of any improvement to real property beyond that amount are directed towards a separate fund to finance the construction of public infrastructure defined within the TIF legislation. R.C. 5709.77-81.

There are many technical, statutory requirements that must be met to establish a TIF; such as the improvement must be for a public purpose and the real property tax exemption cannot exceed ten years. R.C. 5709.78(A). There are, however, no statutory guidelines relating to the factors that a board of county commissioners should consider when evaluating a proposed TIF.

Both the Ohio Department of Development and the Council of Development Finance Agencies recommend that a broad range of factors be considered when evaluating a proposed TIF. This broad grant of statutory authority, as well as the discretionary nature of TIFs, implies that County Commissioners are authorized to consider the proposed use of the tax exempt property, including employee compensation issues.

Therefore, when evaluating and granting tax increment financing, the Commissioners have the authority to adopt and enforce the proposed living wage policy as it relates to the proposed use of the property that is receiving the tax exemption.

A board of county commissioners also has broad statutory authority to grant economic loans and grants. County Commissioners, through an economic development director, have the discretionary authority to make loans or grants and provide other forms of financial assistance for the purpose of economic development. R.C. 307.07(B)(5). There are no statutory restrictions or conditions, except that the purpose of the loan or grant must be for economic development, nor is the term economic development defined.

This broad grant of statutory authority, as well as the discretionary nature of economic development loans and grants, implies that County Commissioners are authorized to approve a loan or grant with conditions and/or restrictions, including employee compensation issues.

Therefore, when evaluating and granting and economic development loans or grants pursuant to R.C. 307.07(B)(5), the Commissioners have the authority to adopt and enforce the proposed living wage policy as a condition of granting the loan or grant.

Lastly, the proposed resolution also requires a business to provide a compliance affidavit related to the living wage policy and any additional documents requested by the Board to verify that a living wage is paid to any and all employees covered before an award of any public incentive or contract of $10,000 or greater. County commissioners may, under Ohio law, seek whatever information they determine is necessary to carry out their statutory functions.

However, except in the area of tax increment financing and economic development loans and grants, Ohio law does not authorize the commissioners to impose any type of penalty or disqualification for failing to submit a living wage compliance affidavit or documentation. In addition, under Ohio law, compliance or non-compliance with the proposed living wage policy cannot be used for purpose of determining the ‘lowest and best’ bid.

Research from a variety of sources indicates that living wage laws make positive differences in the lives of low wage workers, can help improve efficiency among government contractors, have a low cost to local governments, and improve economic development policies made at the local level. However, under current Ohio law, County Commissioners are not authorized to fully adopt such a policy until the General Assembly enacts significant changes in state law.

This office is willing to assist the Board in developing proposed amendments to the Ohio Revised Code that would authorize County Commissioners to fully adopt, and take advantage of the benefits of, a living wage policy.
We are also encourage the Board to seek assistance and advice from the County Commissioners Association in the effort to enact this necessary legislation."

Living wages hurt those they are supposed to help

The Lucas County Board of Commissioners has a living wage resolution on their agenda for today. Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop introduced the idea in January and the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce opposes the measure.

A living wage is defined by this resolution as at least $11.66 per hour. For those employers who do not provide adequate healthcare coverage, a living wage is defined by this resolution as at least $13.78 per hour. Because these figures are defined by Department of Health and Human Services guidelines which change yearly, these wage numbers merely apply for 2009.

Here are some of the components of the resolution:

Section 1. The Board hereby adopts a policy which requires that all businesses that: 1) request public incentives from the Board, and/or 2) receive a contract from the Board of $10,000 or more pay all employees a living wage and provide adequate healthcare coverage. This living wage policy will not apply to small businesses, non-profit employers, seasonal employees, or interns.

Section 2. The Board defines a living wage as a wage equivalent to at least 110% of the most recent federal povery guidelines for a family of four, as defined by the Department of Health and Human Services. The Board defines adequate healthcare coverage as single-person health benefits available to employees at less that 15% of the employees’ monthly wages. If no healthcare coverage is provided, the living wage is hereby defined as a wage equivalent to at least 130% of the most recent federal poverty guidelines for a family of four, as defined by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Section 3. The Board defines public incentive as including but not limited to tax abatements, economic development loans or grants, tax increment financing, or other forms of taxpayer funding including CDBG funds.

Section 4. The Board defines a small business as an employer with 25 employees or less for the purposes of contract with the Board of $10,000 or more, and as an employer with 50 employees or less for the purposes of the award of public incentives.

(Side note: this is copied directly from the resolution - spelling errors and all)

They justify this action by saying:

Lucas County has an interest in ensuring that businesses that receive contracts or other benefits from our taxpayers are meeting minimum compensation levels for their employees. Such minimum compensation levels should allow citizens to support themselves and their families with dignity. (emphasis added)

Actually, the 'county' has no such interest but, more importantly, they have no such authority. The Lucas County Prosecutor has previously told the Board (with different members including me) that county commissioners have no authority to implement such a policy. The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor told the Cuyahoga Commissioners the same thing. A phone call to the County Commissioners Association of Ohio will get you the same answer: no such authority.

Konop, having requested a legal opinion as to the authority and receiving it, has refused to release it citing 'attorney-client confidentiality.' In checking, this is a valid exemption under the public records law of Ohio. However, as Konop is the client, he could waive that confidentiality and release the opinion if he wanted.

So why doesn't he?

Well, obviously because to release it will prove that he has no statutory authority to implement his planned action. So why are the commissioners so intent on doing this? Well, it's all out their personal intentions and desires to help the poor. According to the resolution:

"Sub-poverty level wages do not serve the public interest and place an undue burden on taxpayers and the community, who must further subsidize employers who pay inadequate wages by providing their employees social services such as health care, housing, nutrition, and energy assistance."

There are so many questionable statements in this - from the concept of 'inadequate' wages, to 'sub-poverty' wages (which were and are NEVER intended to be able to support a family of four), to 'public interest' (which ignores the public's interest in having the lowest best prices for government contracted services), to the the idea that employers are somehow responsible for ensuring that their employees get housing and nutrition.

But let's just focus on the stated goal of the Commissioners: to reduce poverty.

Here are some facts and their sources when it comes to living wages and their impact:

"Living wages may at first seem a natural way to fight poverty, but there are two reasons why such mandates may not help to achieve this goal, aside from the fact that they do not cover many workers. First, economic theory predicts that because a mandated wage increase operates essentially as a tax on the use of low-skilled labor, living wages will discourage the use of such labor. Thus, whatever wage gains accrue to workers who retain their jobs (and do not have their hours produced) may have to be offset against potential job and income losses for other workers.

Second, living wages may ineffectively target low-income families.
Laws that extend only to city contractors cover very few workers...However, for the broader living wage laws that also apply to employers receiving business assistance from the city, we do detect evidence that living wage laws raise wages but lower employment of low-wage, low-skilled individuals."

So Konop's "desire" to help may end up hurting the intended recipients.

"...the living wage in Santa Fe significantly increased unemployment and decreased hours worked for those who were able to keep their job. Even more troubling, this research found that almost the entire negative effect of the living wage was concentrated on the city’s least-skilled and least-educated employees. These are the very individuals the living wage is purportedly helping.

" wage advocates point to an increase in overall employment in Santa Fe since the ordinance as “evidence” of success. This a faulty analysis that fails to control for factors such as overall economic growth in the state or a growing population. The importance of controlling for these factors is the very basis of credible economic analysis and one of the first things taught in any rudimentary statistics course.
For those that do keep their jobs, Dr. Yelowitz found that they end up working fewer hours than before. On the whole, the living wage ordinance reduced hours worked by 1.6 hours per week. Similar to the unemployment results, these hours reductions were felt most by the least-educated employees. Those with 12 years or fewer of education saw their hours reduced by 3.5 hours per week."

There is also this op-ed piece that appeared in The American Spectator:

"The activists say that requiring businesses to pay wages based on local cost-of-living expenses lifts low-income families out of poverty.

Has that actually happened in the 145 cities and counties that already have a living wage on the books? The data suggest "no." In fact, the living wage has turned out not only to be a terribly ineffective anti-poverty tool, but to actually hurt poor, low-skilled workers by cutting into other forms of compensation or -- in more than a few cases -- getting them fired.

And most of the people it helps don't really need the help at all. Research from Mark Turner of Georgetown University and Burt Barnow of Johns Hopkins University indicates that over 70 percent of families benefiting from living wages have family incomes almost double the poverty level, and that as high as 64 percent of families affected by living wages have "incomes above the 20th percentile."

After studying the economic climates of over 100 jurisdictions around the country (both with and without living wage laws), economists David Neumark of the University of California and Scott Adams of the University of Wisconsin concluded that living wage laws "reduce employment among the least-skilled, especially when the laws... are accompanied by similar laws in nearby cities." "

There are numerous articles and studies that detail the negative impact of such laws, like this one from Cato which concludes:

"Decades of research have shown that the minimum wage harms the least-skilled workers from poor families while heavily benefiting young workers from middle-income households. Several studies critical of the living wage come to similar conclusions. The main beneficiaries of the living wage are public-sector unionized employees because of the reduced incentives for local governments to contract out work. Instead of exploiting grievances of the marginally employed against "greedy" employers, advocates for the poor should focus their energies on building the skills of the poor."

It's also important to know who supports these living wage initiatives:

ACORN has a website devoted to the subject in the ACORN Living Wage Resource Center.

United for a Fair Economy, which envisions "communities and nations without disparities of income, wages, wealth, health, safety, respect, and opportunities for recreation and personal growth," has their Responsible Wealth Living Wage Covenant, which includes a statement that "no one working full time should live in poverty."

Let Justice Roll, which supports a $10 in 2010 federal minimum wage, has a downloadable "Resources for Living Wage Worship Services and Community Events" to celebrate the Living Wage Days campaign.

The problem is that these organizations focus on getting more money to people without a corresponding increase in the skills or experience which would normally accompany such an increase in wages. Additionally, under the Lucas County resolution, all these groups, being non-profit, would be exempt from having to pay the wages they're advocating.

Interestingly, quite a significant number of social service organizations who are contracted to provide services to the clients of the county's Job and Family Services department are non-profit and would also be exempt.

The worst part of the action scheduled for this morning in the Commissioners meeting room is that no public hearings have been held on the issue. Despite the protestations of Konop, the business meetings of the Board of County Commissioners (unlike city councils) do not include an opportunity for public comment. Commissioners, in taking public comment, have to set a public hearing and publicize the event. That was not done, so such pros and cons of the living wage proposal have not been heard and debated.

And then there is that legal opinion which is conveniently being hidden from public view.

My hope is that Commissioners Pete Gerken and Tina Skeldon Wozniak will not vote in favor of the resolution having learned they have no authority to implement such a requirement, despite their publicly-stated support of the issue.

But if they vote along with Konop and pass this mandate, will there be anyone who will challenge it?

*** If you're a fan of tongue-in-cheek, check out the latest addition to the Stuck-on-Stupid dictionary.

Quotes of the Day

"If you think of yourselves as helpless and ineffectual, it is certain that you will create a despotic government to be your master. The wise despot, therefore, maintains among his subjects a popular sense that they are helpless and ineffectual." ~ Frank Herbert

"The greatest danger to liberty today comes from the men who are most needed and most powerful in modern government, namely, the efficient expert administrators exclusively concerned with what they regard as the public good." ~ Fredrich August von Hayek

Port Authority to get new member

Among other things on the agenda of the Lucas County Commissioners is the appointment to fill a vacancy on the Toledo Lucas County Port Authority.

The resolution names Richard Gabel as the replacement for Daniel Smith. Smith is with the American Maritime Officers. Richard Gabel, in addition to being an elected member of the Oregon City School Board, is the vice president of the International Longshoremen's Union and of the ILA Great Lakes District Council.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Random Thoughts

* Today, President Obama will be hosting a fiscal summit to address fiscal discipline and how to reduce the nation's debt by half over the next four years.

I think he should have done this PRIOR to signing a bill that increased the debt by $1.2 trillion dollars, don't you?

* If people think something similar to the Fairness Doctrine needs to be re-instituted because liberal talk radio isn't as successful and conservative talk needs to be 'balanced,' I would ask them how widespread conservative talk radio was when it was only a few years old.

Conservative talk radio has been around for about 30 years now - why would anyone expect that a product be at the same place after only about 5 years as its competitor is after 30?

Liberal talk radio is in its infancy as a product. As people learn about the availability, they'll 'purchase' it more (by tuning in and advertising). It will then expand and grow.

And if it doesn't, it just means that liberals need to come up with something better - not eliminate their competition or insist that the customers of conservative talk be forced to 'purchase' something they don't want.

* If one of the problems with talk radio is the licenses, why is further regulation of the license holders the solution? Why isn't elimination of the need for a license even considered? You don't need a license to start a newspaper, and that's seemed to work okay. Would there be some challenges to address? Of course, but eliminating the government control of licensing is as viable an idea as the alternative.

* There's been some talk about insisting that states hold special elections whenever they need to replace a senator. Instead of creating further laws about the election of this particular public office, let's just repeal the 17th Amendment and go back to letting the state legislature pick. Maybe, if our senators were beholden to the state, we wouldn't have a federal government that was so intent on eroding states' rights.

* Last Tuesday - a full week ago - Toledo City Council approved funds to assist in a study for a planned intermodal facility. Today the paper has a story on this action. Is it just me - or is this old news?

* If the government 'acquires' a 40% state in Citigroup, will they then mandate more of the types of loans that caused banks to have such problems with their balances sheets in the first place? Will political considerations trump fiscal ones?

* As I asked in numerous forums when the auto bailout was being debated in Congress: what happens if, after getting the federal money, they can't get things under control and move back toward profitability? Will the government give them even more money? Or will they be forced into a bankruptcy, which is what many experts were suggesting was the right course to begin with?

* It's getting closer to spring and that makes me happy. Our bedroom has a window that faces south and one that faces east. Today, there was more brightness from the rising sun through the east window than from the south window. Always a reason to rejoice!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Now comes the editorial on Fairness Doctrine

As I predicted, a couple of stories and then an editorial. The Blade's standard operating procedure when they get stuck on an issue is probably well-known to most by now, but that doesn't stop them.

The issue de jour is the so-called 'Fairness Doctrine.' You see, unlike just about every other medium, conservatives dominate talk radio. The Blade (and many liberals) think it's because of some sort of concerted effort to keep liberals off the air. The reality, despite their protestations to the contrary, has to do with profit. Radio stations are for profit corporations and if it sells, or makes the owners money, it gets on the air.

Liberal talk radio just isn't profitable - at least not yet. There are some areas, like Portland and Los Angeles, where liberal talk show hosts are successful. That fact alone proves the point about profitability and completely defeats The Blade's argument, but never let logic interfere with your editorial perspective.

Most of the public isn't really in support of a 'Fairness Doctrine' so the problem is how to present regulation of free speech in a way that will garner the support needed to shove it through. I know - we won't say we're trying to control what YOU say - just trying to provide an opportunity for others to say what they want, as well! Voila! Enter 'balance' as the prevalent term, closely followed by 'local control' and 'public good.'

Radio frequencies and their use are controlled by the government under a licensing scheme. Once government 'owns' something on behalf of the public, it controls it and gets to dictate how it is used. Could you imagine the outrage if such licensing laws were directed at public newspapers? Of course, that would never happen - nor should it. But before you can dictate content, you have to establish control - and that's just what we've got with radio. And then we're back to the argument about 'who' gets to make the decisions.

So government, by fiat, declares something to be 'publicly owned' and then begins regulating its use.

(Side note: I'm sure there's a separate post on public versus private ownership and the push by many to eliminate private property rights - but it will have to wait for another day.)

By claiming that they have to ensure certain rights on behalf of the public, they gain control over not only the method of speech, but also the content. I guess we've forgotten that government doesn't grant us our rights, but is supposed to protect them - and regulating what people can say or telling them that their opinions have to be 'balanced' with opposing ones is certainly not protecting a right to free speech.

This concept then leads us into the situation where you may have a right to speak, but I don't have to listen. Certainly liberals have the OPPORTUNITY to be on the air - Bill Press and Stephanie Miller can be heard on WNWT-AM 1520. So, if liberal talk radio is present in Toledo, what's the problem?

Well, as with most liberals, it's not about ensuring equal opportunity. It's all about ensuring equal OUTCOME. While Press and Miller are on the air, they're not the dominate voice in the Toledo market. And since this area elects primarily Democrats, it must mean that Toledoans are victims of evil conservatives, so those evil conservatives must be restricted and/or stopped.

Never mind that Press and Miller haven't been on the air anywhere near as long as others and are just beginning to develop their audience and advertisers - something WSPD has been doing for decades. Never mind that their ratings are not very high. If they're not doing well, it cannot be because of anything they, themselves, are doing. It must be because WSPD is too big... or isn't being 'fair'... or isn't 'balanced'... or isn't locally owned... or any number of excuses that are used to protect those who, through their own failings, don't succeed in an open market.

Of course, that brings up the so-called liberal logic - the market isn't 'open' if someone else controls it, therefore government must control it in order to make it 'balanced' or 'fair' or 'open.' But that argument, too, rejects reality in that a government-regulated market is, by the very act of government regulation, not open. So if a semi-regulated market doesn't ensure our side with the success we want, it must be because there isn't enough regulation, so let's add more! By the time government finishes with its regulations to create 'balance' of outcomes, it completely controls everything and our free speech rights are dead.

So, having failed, and rightly so, when it comes to regulating the content of talk radio, they're taking a new approach - regulate the owners. That 'evil' Clear Channel owns soooo many radio stations and all they feature are - gasp! - conservatives. We must regulate them more if we're going to ensure the public has access to our perspective - after all, government must ensure the 'public trust.'

It is this concentration of ownership that is really at the center of the problem. He who controls the broadcast licenses controls the content of what goes out over the air, and any notion of a "public trust" be damned.

What could be more characteristic of a totalitarian state than limiting information to a narrow range of options? Democracy's very survival depends on a public that is well-informed, sometimes whether they wish to be or not.

(Of course, this statement, "He who controls the broadcast licenses controls the content of what goes out over the air, and any notion of a "public trust" be damned." applies to government as well, but I guess to The Blade editors, that's not really a problem. Additionally, they seem to have no issue whatsoever with other media 'limiting information to a narrow range of options,' only talk radio. Here's a thought: if a narrow range of options is to be avoided, how about if they start with their own paper???)

Having a private company decide what to broadcast does not lead to a "totalitarian state" which is defined:

1. of or pertaining to a centralized government that does not tolerate parties of differing opinion and that exercises dictatorial control over many aspects of life.
2. exercising control over the freedom, will, or thought of others; authoritarian; autocratic.

In fact, if government gets to decide what goes out over the airwaves, that is, indeed, exactly what The Blade is so afraid of. But again, let's not let facts and logic get in the way of our editorial...

And let me emphasize their last point: the public has to be informed of liberal ideas "whether they wish to be or not." If you don't want to listen to our liberal perspectives, we must force you to hear us. Talk about totalitarian!

Information is certainly not limited in today's world. With newspapers, television (don't forget the massive spending of our limited tax dollars to ensure that everyone will get the new digital signal mandated by government, as if watching TV is some sort of 'right'), radio, Internet, and magazines, people have access to more information than they know what to do with. Radio is the one place left that isn't dominated by liberal opinions. And our local Blade is just the closest example of how the liberal perspective permeates not only their editorial pages - where is certainly belongs - but their 'news' stories as well.

Talk radio is the equivalent of a newspaper's editorial pages. It is the opinion of author/speaker and, as opinion, doesn't require an 'opposing view.' Callers to talk radio are the equivalent to writers of letters to the editor.

Just like The Blade, which has rules about their letters to editor, talk shows have rules about callers. The Blade requires a real name and address and verifies you are the author. Callers to Eye On Toledo (and WSPD in general) can remain anonymous. Letter writers are limited in the number of words they can use. Callers are limited only to time in terms of breaks and how long they can stay on the line. Interesting calls have often be carried over the breaks in order to continue the discussion.

Unlike The Blade which gets to see the entire content of your letter prior to publishing, callers can tell us they're going to talk about one thing and then change the subject. While that might end up in them being let go, it's after the fact - not prior restraint.

Once you've written your letter to editor, there is no assurance it will be printed. Unless there's an unusually high volume of callers, you're pretty much assured of getting on the air on WSPD if you've got the time to wait on the line.

Furthermore, unlike the one-way action in which a paper prints an editorial and then you submit a letter to the editor, talk radio is a discussion. The caller makes a point, I respond. I ask a question, the caller responds. The back and forth of caller and then host gives the listener a more in-depth understanding of both sides of the issue and often leads to points or perspectives not previously mentioned.

How is that not a good thing - and better than the lack of interaction you get from a newspaper? Should a newspaper be mandated to publish all letters to the editor? Or is it okay for them to pick and choose what opinions will be heard?

(Side note: Today's Letters to the Editor section includes one that says "Progressives are, by definition, more open-minded than conservatives" and 'want to expand their knowledge.' Really? If that's the case, then why are they so insistent that the last - and only - vestige of conservative opinion be eliminated???)

In the end, The Blade calls for hearings - as if Congress doesn't have more important issues like, say, trillions of dollars of debt to address:

It's time for Congress to ask why the AM airwaves continue to be dominated by a narrow viewpoint and what effect that has on issues of public concern. And if broadcasters do not willingly provide listeners the range of opinions they need to figure out where they stand on these issues, perhaps it is time for the FCC to require that they fulfill the public trust.

See - there's that totalitarian mandate again: 'the range of opinions you need so you can figure out where you stand on issues' ... because without the government mandating what opinions you NEED, you might actually form an opinion all on your own and we certainly can't have that.

Other perspectives:

Tim Higgins has an interesting take on the editorial The Blade's push for 'balance."

Toledo Blade: Return of Fairness Doctrine Just Silly Conspiracy Theory...But We Want It Back

The Un-Fairness Doctrine

Toledo Blade Resorts To Cry Baby Censorship As It Ignores Its Own Bias

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Porkulus protest

Fellow Samsphere blogger, Kansas Meadowlark, has a great photo essay of today's 'porkulus protest' in Overland Park, KS.

I think my favorite sign from the event was the one which said:

"We pay our Reps to read bills before voting."


I just love stories like this...

I saw this the other day and twittered about it, but didn't do a blog post.

Some guy, just playing around with Google Earth, comes across a grid of criss-crossing lines on the ocean floor covering an area about the size of Wales. The patterns look too organized to have occurred naturally and the location is about right for Plato's description of the site of the sunken city.

Upon seeing the article, I went out to Google Earth (which I had previously downloaded for free) and saw the exact same scene.

It makes me wonder just what else might be discoverable by the 'average' person with some of the new tools that are available... And I'll watch for the National Geographic Special when they send down the ROVs to examine the sight!

Isn't this just amazing?

LCRP has bigger problem than lack of trust in Stainbrook

You can read about it in The Blade, at Glass City Jungle and at Swamp Bubbles.

I was going to talk about it last night on Eye On Toledo, but callers kept me busy on other matters during the Friday Free-For-All.

Here's the situation: The Lucas County Board of Elections decided to restructure the office and, in the process, a Republican employee was let go when her position was eliminated. She received a letter of recommendation in her file.

At some point, BOE member Lynn Olman had a conversation with GOP party chairman Jon Stainbrook. The conversation was recorded without Lynn's knowledge and parts of it were shared by Stainbrook with The Blade.

During the conversation, Olman explains that the employee 'was under performing.'

Stainbrook uses this statement as 'proof' that Olman has lied, which is supposed to support Stainbrook's continuing effort to get rid of Olman and his fellow Republican BOE member, Patrick Kriner.

Clear? (as mud, I'm sure...)

First, let me state the the conversation between Olman and Stainbrook was not over the phone. It was in person at the party headquarters. As stated elsewhere, Olman did not know he was being recorded, which is not against the law in Ohio, since the other party obviously was aware of the recording.

Party chairmen have unique relationships with their elected officials, candidates and representatives on boards. As a necessity, chairmen are often informed of facts and points that are not generally made public. This is to provide the chairman with details that may be relevant in other circumstances and to support the party's representatives in public statements, comments, etc.

Personnel issues of public bodies are not public. There are often details or concerns expressed during the executive sessions that would never be discussed publicly by the members of the body, but which might be shared in private/confidential discussions with a party chairman or another public official.

Olman, in treating Stainbrook as he has other party chairman, was not out of line in sharing aspects of the discussion which might have influenced the decision on restructuring. Stainbrook, however, was certainly out of line by making that private discussion a public matter.

As a result, numerous people have been harmed by this.

The former employee has now had a question raised about her performance, even though any official inquiry would show that her position was eliminated and she received a recommendation from the BOE.

Olman has been harmed by being called a liar, something that just about everyone who knows him would find hard to believe.

The Lucas County Republican Party has suffered. Despite his well-known penchant for recording conversations, Stainbrook has usually reserved such action for his personal situations. That he would extend such activity to the LCRP should come as no surprise, but it does - especially to people who would never even consider such behavior.

The Party has a chairman who, in order to advance his own personal grudge, has publicly embarrassed a former Republican BOE employee, a well-respected board member and himself. And he did so in the pages of the daily newspaper, certainly a media not known for its objectivity when it comes to the local party or Republicans in general.

And why did all this happen? Because Stainbrook wants a seat on the BOE and he wants to get rid of all the Republicans at the BOE. He has a grudge against them for offenses (real or imagined - it doesn't matter) and he never lets go of a grudge - ever.

Interestingly, the former BOE employee is one that Stainbrook has previously identified as being one of the people he'd like to get rid of. You'd think, considering his previous position on her employment, that he wouldn't be so upset by the reorganization. But he saw this as an opportunity to pursue his personal agenda against Olman - so that's what he did.

The most important thing for a chairman is the ability to earn trust. While many suspected the chairman could not be trusted, some were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. No candidate, elected official, board member, donor, volunteer, etc... can be assured of any degree of confidentiality with this man. While many would say you didn't have such confidence prior to this incident, the proof is now front and center on the pages of The Blade.

As a result, we have a chairman who is isolated from the Party, isolated from information and details that would help him do a better job, isolated from donations because people won't give to someone they don't trust, and probably isolated from state and national support as well.

But Stainbrook and his actions are not the biggest problem. The biggest problem the LCRP faces is this: who is willing and able to replace him?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Chicago Tea Party and re-default rates

Yesterday I posted a link to Rick Santelli's rant on the Chicago trading floor.

Today, CNBC has a poll asking, Would you want to join Rick Santelli's "Chicago Tea Party?" With over 164,000 votes as of the time writing, 93% say 'yes.' Only 5.2% say 'no' and 1.6% are 'not sure.'

I think people are tired of working hard to meet their own obligations while watching the government take nearly half their earnings to pay for others who can't, or won't, do the same.

Don't misunderstand - Americans are a generous people and we are more than happy to help others when they are in need. But more and more, we believe the best way to help others is 1) to do it ourselves and not abdicate that responsibility to a monolithic bureaucracy, and 2) insist that those being helped are doing the utmost to help themselves first.

When we see the President offering a gift to people - $1,000 per year for simply paying their mortgage on time - while we've cut down our own expenses to do just that, all the while using our tax dollars to fund the program, isn't our anger justified? As Rep. John Boehner asked, what about the 90% of us who don't have mortgage problems?

When you reward bad behavior, you just get more of it. That's what's going to happen. Responsible homeowners are wondering why they should pay their mortgages if, by not paying, they might qualify for a reduction in principle, cash assistance and monetary rewards.

And if you're a renter and don't own a home, how much righteous indignation do you have? You're probably living within your means - maybe saving money to buy a home - and your tax dollars are going toward 'incentives' to get people to actually pay the obligations they owe.

I guess our elected officials no longer believe that the best 'reward' for paying your mortgage is that you get to keep living in the house you're purchasing. They obviously also believe that you have some sort of 'right' to remain in possession of something you cannot afford.

Here's an idea: I'll go out and purchase a Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren for $457,250. It's listed as the 7th most expensive car in the world and I picked it because I liked how it looked. I'll make some of the payments on it and then, when I can no longer afford to do so, I'll turn to government and politicians and make the case that without my car I won't be able to work, so I need them to create a program that makes banks renegotiate with me to lower the amount I owe. After all, it's no longer new and it's just not worth what I originally agreed to pay for it.

Then, I'll insist on limits to how much my payments can be - no more than, say, 15% of my monthly gross income. If a house payment is okay at around 30% of monthly gross income, 15% seems like a fair number for a vehicle.

And, to top it all off, once I've got the debt reduced and the payments at a manageable level, I'll demand a prize for actually honoring the obligations I've committed to.

That's the equivalent of President Obama's Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan applied to a car rather than a house. Doesn't quite seem right when you remove the emotion of 'home' from the equation, does it?

Whether a house or a car, they're both pieces of property and other options exist if either or both are taken from you because you don't pay. Perhaps, even, you might find an option you can actually afford in your current circumstances rather than live beyond your means at the expense of taxpayers.

The worst part of the plan, however, is not the actual components, though they're bad enough. The worst part is that there is no assurance it will actually solve the problem.

Each quarter, the Comptroller of the Currency issues a Mortgage Metrics Report. The most recent, for the third quarter of 2008, included

"... the first available data on the performance of loans that have previously been modified to encourage home retention. Data on the performance of modified loans provide insight into the effectiveness of loss mitigation actions.

The conclusion of the report, in brief, is that delinquencies continue to rise, foreclosures and other actions leading to home forfeiture also continued to rise, and loan modifications were associated with high levels of re-default."

But the most startling data in this report is the re-default rate for loans that had been modified, as the President's plan would do.

For loans modified in the first quarter of 2008, more than 37 percent of modified loans were 30 or more days delinquent or in the process of foreclosure after three months. After six months, that re-default rate was more than 55 percent. For loans modified during the second quarter, the three-month 30+ day delinquent re-default rate was more than 40 percent.

For loans modified in the first quarter, more than 19 percent were 60 or more days delinquent or in process of foreclosure after three months. That rate grew to nearly 37 percent after six months. For loans modified in the second quarter, that re-default rate was more than 21 percent after three months.

More than half the loans modified re-defaulted within six months.

(Side note: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had higher default rates than traditional lenders. I'm sure there's an entire blog post for the implications of this fact alone.)

Obviously, the issue is more than just an 'affordable' mortgage payment. But giving out other people's money is the solution politicians are promoting in spite of this evidence that the action is only delaying the inevitable - not 'solving' the problem.

And those of us who are doing all the right things are going to foot the bill - again.

I think Santelli has it right. Tea, anyone?

Thursday, February 19, 2009


If you've not yet seen it, CNBC has a great video of an interview with Rick Santelli on the Chicago trading floor.

Think: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" with traders cheering in the background.

The other reporters didn't quite know how to respond...

And then there is this article on student reaction to President Obama's speech ... out of the mouths of babes...

Obama's mortgage rescue plan

If you'd like to know what's in President Barack Obama's mortgage rescue plan, the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire has a good summary of the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan.

From the article:

The Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan is part of the President’s broad, comprehensive strategy to get the economy back on track. The plan will help up to 7 to 9 million families restructure or refinance their mortgages to avoid foreclosure. In doing so, the plan not only helps responsible homeowners on the verge of defaulting, but prevents neighborhoods and communities from being pulled over the edge too, as defaults and foreclosures contribute to falling home values, failing local businesses, and lost jobs. The key components of the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan are:

1. Affordability: Provide Access to Low-Cost Refinancing for Responsible Homeowners Suffering From Falling Home Prices

· Enabling Up to 4 to 5 Million Responsible Homeowners to Refinance: Mortgage rates are currently at historically low levels, providing homeowners with the opportunity to reduce their monthly payments by refinancing. But under current rules, most families who owe more than 80 percent of the value of their homes have a difficult time refinancing. Yet millions of responsible homeowners who put money down and made their mortgage payments on time have – through no fault of their own – seen the value of their homes drop low enough to make them unable to access these lower rates. As a result, the Obama Administration is announcing a new program that will help as many as 4 to 5 million responsible homeowners who took out conforming loans owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to refinance through those two institutions.

· Reducing Monthly Payments: For many families, a low-cost refinancing could reduce mortgage payments by thousands of dollars per year:

o Consider a family that took out a 30-year fixed rate mortgage of $207,000 with an interest rate of 6.50% on a house worth $260,000 at the time. Today, that family has about $200,000 remaining on their mortgage, but the value of that home has fallen 15 percent to $221,000 – making them ineligible for today’s low interest rates that now generally require the borrower to have 20 percent home equity. Under this refinancing plan, that family could refinance to a rate near 5.16% – reducing their annual payments by over $2,300.

2. Stability: Create A $75 Billion Homeowner Stability Initiative to Reach Up to 3 to 4 Million At-Risk Homeowners

· Helping Hard-Pressed Homeowners Stay in their Homes: This initiative is intended to reach millions of responsible homeowners who are struggling to afford their mortgage payments because of the current recession, yet cannot sell their homes because prices have fallen so significantly. Millions of hard-working families have seen their mortgage payments rise to 40 or even 50 percent of their monthly income – particularly those who received subprime and exotic loans with exploding terms and hidden fees. The Homeowner Stability Initiative helps those who commit to make reasonable monthly mortgage payments to stay in their homes – providing families with security and neighborhoods with stability.

· No Aid for Speculators: This initiative will go solely to helping homeowners who commit to make payments to stay in their home – it will not aid speculators or house flippers.

· Protecting Neighborhoods: This plan will also help to stabilize home prices for all homeowners in a neighborhood. When a home goes into foreclosure, the entire neighborhood is hurt. The average homeowner could see his or her home value stabilized against declines in price by as much as $6,000 relative to what it would otherwise be absent the Homeowner Stability Initiative.

· Providing Support for Responsible Homeowners: Because loan modifications are more likely to succeed if they are made before a borrower misses a payment, the plan will include households at risk of imminent default despite being current on their mortgage payments.

· Providing Loan Modifications to Bring Monthly Payments to Sustainable Levels: The Homeowner Stability Initiative has a simple goal: reduce the amount homeowners owe per month to sustainable levels. Using money allocated under the Financial Stability Plan and the full strength of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, this program has several key components:

§ A Shared Effort to Reduce Monthly Payments: For a sample household with payments adding up to 43 percent of his monthly income, the lender would first be responsible for bringing down interest rates so that the borrower’s monthly mortgage payment is no more than 38 percent of his or her income. Next, the initiative would match further reductions in interest payments dollar-for-dollar with the lender to bring that ratio down to 31 percent. If that borrower had a $220,000 mortgage, that could mean a reduction in monthly payments by over $400. That lower interest rate must be kept in place for five years, after which it could gradually be stepped up to the conforming loan rate in place at the time of the modification. Lenders will also be able to bring down monthly payments by reducing the principal owed on the mortgage, with Treasury sharing in the costs.

§ “Pay for Success” Incentives to Servicers: Servicers will receive an up-front fee of $1,000 for each eligible modification meeting guidelines established under this initiative. They will also receive “pay for success” fees – awarded monthly as long as the borrower stays current on the loan – of up to $1,000 each year for three years.

§ Incentives to Help Borrowers Stay Current: To provide an extra incentive for borrowers to keep paying on time, the initiative will provide a monthly balance reduction payment that goes straight towards reducing the principal balance of the mortgage loan. As long as a borrower stays current on his or her loan, he or she can get up to $1,000 each year for five years.

§ Reaching Borrowers Early: To keep lenders focused on reaching borrowers who are trying their best to stay current on their mortgages, an incentive payment of $500 will be paid to servicers, and an incentive payment of $1,500 will be paid to mortgage holders, if they modify at-risk loans before the borrower falls behind.

§ Home Price Decline Reserve Payments: To encourage lenders to modify more mortgages and enable more families to keep their homes, the Administration — together with the FDIC — has developed an innovative partial guarantee initiative. The insurance fund – to be created by the Treasury Department at a size of up to $10 billion – will be designed to discourage lenders from opting to foreclose on mortgages that could be viable now out of fear that home prices will fall even further later on. Holders of mortgages modified under the program would be provided with an additional insurance payment on each modified loan, linked to declines in the home price index.

· Institute Clear and Consistent Guidelines for Loan Modifications: Treasury will develop uniform guidance for loan modifications across the mortgage industry, working closely with the bank agencies and building on the FDIC’s pioneering work. The Guidelines will be used for the Administration’s new foreclosure prevention plan. Moreover, all financial institutions receiving Financial Stability Plan financial assistance going forward will be required to implement loan modification plans consistent with Treasury Guidance. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will use these guidelines for loans that they own or guarantee, and the Administration will work with regulators and other federal and state agencies to implement these guidelines across the entire mortgage market. The agencies will seek to apply these guidelines when permissible and appropriate to all loans owned or guaranteed by the federal government, including those owned or guaranteed by Ginnie Mae, the Federal Housing Administration, Treasury, the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, Veterans’ Affairs and the Department of Agriculture.

They also have a 2-page document that lists several examples of how the plan would work.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Council tables low voltage regulations

City Council's committee today decided to table the low voltage regulations that had been proposed.

Apparently, the huge turnout in opposition to the new fees, permits and rules was enough to make city council members say no.

But I just heard a WSPD news interview with one of the administration staffers. It's not yet up on the WSPD website, so this is going from memory right now....

City director Chris J. Zervos says that the low voltage area is an unregulated industry. Reporter Aaron Brilbreck responds and says that AT&T is regulated by the PUCO yet they're not exempted even though they are regulated. Zervos agrees. Brilbeck follows up with, "so the regulation isn't really a valid argument, is it?" Zervos then says, "You know, we're done."

I guess he didn't like having his contradiction pointed out.

The good news is that concerned citizens and businesses in Toledo found out about an onerous and 'not business friendly' regulation, showed up en masse to oppose it, and city council actually listened to them and turned down.

Side note: I'd sent an email to all council members with the questions I raised in my previous post and have, so far, received the following responses.

From George Sarantou:


Thank you for sharing your concerns regarding the proposed low voltage ordinance 83-09, from the Finkbeiner Administration. Today we had a public hearing, which many constituents attended, and the Community & Neighborhood Development Committee decided that this legislation would effectively be tabled. From all of the testimony, it is clear to me that this legislation would place an unfair burden on business, as well as consumers, who utilize low voltage services. It would also lead to several days of delay for inspectors to come out and approve a telephone, computer, cable, or other low voltage work - thus this will raise the cost of low voltage installation in the City of Toledo and create enormous delays for consumers wanting to get their telephone installed in a timely fashion. It is clear to me that this is not a safety issue because nobody could sight any harm done to consumers regarding low voltage improper installation.

Thank you again for sharing your concerns.


George Sarantou

From D. Michael Collins,

Ms. Thurber,

Thank you for emailing me concerning the proposed ordinance 83-09 (Low Voltage Installations). I am sure that you are aware that a public meeting was held today in council chambers for the purposes of sharing opinions in this very controversial issue. I attended the entire meeting and do not believe that this ordinance serves the citizens of our community in a positive way. There was no evidence that a community safety issue exists, however the issue of unscrupulous conduct in a minority of the situations exists. The issue of fraud and/or theft will not be addressed with the passage of this ordinance.

In addition it became very clear that the list of exempt organizations as well as businesses needed to be expanded. The matter will remain in Committee and will not be voted on until it is relieved from the Committee. The Chairperson of the Committee Councilman Joe Mc Namara will advise if he is going to have a second meeting.

I have after careful review and deliberation, listening to the testimony and speaking with the business community find no reason to support this legislation. I will be voting no if the matter comes before Council for consideration.

Thank you again for your email.


D. Michael Collins
Councilman, District 2

One question for Konop as he starts business listening tour

Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop has issued the following press release and I have only one question for him in response: If you're so concerned about the opinions of businesses, why are you completely ignoring what they're telling you about your living wage proposal?

Konop Talking With Toledo Area Small Businesses
Seeks regional business community input as he moves toward mayoral decision

Contact: Ben Konop

As I continue to think seriously about running for Mayor of Toledo, I want to engage the members of our regional small business community in a grassroots conversation on our present and future economy. Over the next two days, I will visit nine area small businesses --ranging from high tech start ups to industrial firms to cupcake vendors-- for discussions with entrepreneurs about the challenges and potential of doing business in our community.

Small businesses create the majority of jobs in Northwest Ohio, and these jobs aren't outsourced overseas. Often times, however, small business needs and concerns are overlooked at Government Center. When it comes to making our city a better place, I want to consult those who matter most -- like the men and women who are fueling our economy and creating jobs on a daily basis.

Coming from a family of small business owners, I am uniquely positioned to understand the challenges that these businesses face on a daily basis. If our community is going to get its economy back on track again and create jobs, the mayor's office and the small business community will have to work hand in hand.

I am hopeful that my discussion with Toledo small businesses will not only give me guidance as I decide on running for mayor, but more importantly give local businesses a voice and a stake in the future of our community.

Konop's Talking With Toledo Area Small Businesses Tour (9 stops over 2 days):

Wednesday, Feb 18

Techtol Imaging
3359 Silica Dr, Sylvania

Red Envy Boutique
3145 W. Central Ave, Toledo

Cake in a Cup
6801 W. Central Ave, Sylvania

Kistler Ford Dealership
5555 W. Central Ave, Toledo

Thursday, Feb 19

Paulettes Studio of Dance
10 S. Holland-Sylvania Road, Toledo

Aunt Minnies Food****
12265 Williams St Suite B, Perrysburg

We Fulfill It/ Wrap n Ship
5055 Enterprise Blvd, Toledo

Universal Metals
805 Chicago, Toledo

Virtual PC
19 N. Erie, Toledo

****we respectfully ask that media not attend this stop

Side Notes: if you don't want the media to attend one of the stops, don't put it on the schedule! To have a scheduled visit on the list and then ask the media not to attend raises more questions than it answers. It may be that the business owner just doesn't want media at their facility and that's certainly their prerogative. But you don't raise such questions and, perhaps, embarrass your host into explaining the request, by listing it and then asking people not to stop by.

Also, notice how many are outside the city of Toledo limits???

Finally, I have to question this: "Coming from a family of small business owners, I am uniquely positioned to understand the challenges that these businesses face on a daily basis." According to his own biography he's never worked in any of the small business his family owns, nor has he actually run or been responsible for a small business in order to 'understand.' (In case it's updated later to reflect such employment, I've saved a copy of how it appears as of this blog post.)

Regulating low voltage in Toledo

The City of Toledo has proposed an ordinance to regulate low-voltage installations/modifications, impose requirements for permits and mandate licensing fees. Ordinance #83-09 was referred to the Community and Neighborhood Development Committee for a hearing at 1 p.m. today in city council chambers.

After discussing this on the talk shows on WSPD yesterday and this morning and receiving multiple emails on the issue, I have yet to find anyone who supports this money-grab.

Lisa Renee at Glass City Jungle has a copy of the ordinance, which is 16 pages long.

According to the ordinance, these new fees, permits and regulations are required to:

"... protect the public from such life safety issues as electric shock and fires, and will also diminish consequential property damage."

According to statements made during council's agenda meeting where this was discussed, the city could not document a single instance where shocks or fires or property damage had resulted from inappropriate low-voltage installations.

Additionally, I've been told that the Ohio Association of Broadcasters has done some research and cannot find any instance of another city in Ohio having such onerous regulations.

The OAB members include television and radio stations who traditionally have their own internal staffers do much of the low-voltage work necessary to their operations. Under this ordinance, they would not qualify for licenses to do the work and anything they did in the normal work day would require a permit and inspection before use.

Last night, a caller who previously worked at WSPD, mentioned a problem that typifies the type of issues government has failed to address. The WSPD studio has an Emergency Broadcast 'ticker' that beeps and then broadcasts alerts and warnings. If something in the device failed, it would qualify under the ordinance as a low-voltage repair and would require the station technicians to go to Government Center, apply for a permit, pay money for the permit, obtain a licensed contractor, journeyman or apprentice eligible to do the work, schedule the work to be done, schedule the inspection, wait an unknown number of days for the inspection and then, when inspection is passed, turn on the device.

All that time, the station would be without an Emergency Broadcast system. Since citizens rely upon radio and television for such broadcasts, and because most broadcast companies have similar types of devices, there would be greater threat of 'life safety issues' to implement such a law than would be prevented as a result.

Now, the city administration didn't just create this idea out of thin air. Nope - the city has 'boards of control' who get full authority to propose regulations and mandates upon building activities. TMC 1311.11 establishes such boards.

I sent an email to Jason Webber, the mayor's public information officer, requesting the names of the members of this board, the category they represent and their terms of office. I don't yet have confirmation, but I believe these are the members who've recommended this ordinance:

* Todd Michaelsen - Exec. V.P. Toledo Electrical Contractors Assoc., National Electrical Contractors Assoc. and chairman of the board of control
* Andrew Bryson - Bryson/Tucker Electric Contractor
* James Cisterino - Cisterino Electric Contractor
* Kenneth Roach - Business Manger IBEW Local 8
* Daniel Bollin - Transtar Electric Inc.
* Thomas Dubose - Thomas Dubose Electric Contractor
* Jimmie Cisco
* Eugene Dembowski - Chief Electrical Inspector City of Toledo
* Peg Wallace - Manager Civil Service City of Toledo
* Paul Syring - City of Toledo Law Department

Interestingly, the code says the terms of office are three years, but there have been no appointments/re-appointments to this board in all of 2006, 2007, 2008 or yet in 2009, according to a search of the index of theToledo City Journal.

So here are some questions that need to be asked:

* How much is this new source of revenue supposed to generate and how much will it cost to implement and then oversee?

* Since the city routinely takes several days for inspectors to be scheduled, how with the city deal with the increased work load being asked of this department and how will it ensure that citizens, who work, will be able to have an inspector available during evening and weekends when they will be home? (Or is the city suggesting that a person lose a day of work just to get a speaker wire inspected?) How are overtime costs estimated for such non-business hour services?

* If safety is the issue, what accident, injury or fire prompted the need? What other cities have done this (again - none in Ohio) and what were their reasons for implementation.

* The National Electrical Code does have 'standards' for installing low-voltage wiring/devices, but exempts such from regulatory control. Since you're using NEC as a basis for this law, how do you reconcile the NEC recommendations against regulation to this proposed regulation.

* What plans are being made and what are the cost projections for informing the do-it-yourselfer who just goes to Radio Shack, buys a cable and then runs it, of the fact that they are in violation of the law - or of their need to comply with a new permitting law and licensing mandate?

* Many citizens are just going to ignore this, much like your cat licensing law, because you have no way of knowing when do-it-yourselfers violate your new rules and then become subject to fines and penalties. As a result, what plans are being made to enforce the law in such circumstances?

* Single-family residential structures are not required to have firewalls. Since one of the things being said about this is the breaching of firewalls, why are you requiring regulations for structures that don't have this component?

* There are a lot of things that potentially can cause more 'life safety' issues than running a stereo wire - like space heaters and Christmas trees. These two items alone have been documented as the source of fires and loss of life. Why are you recommending regulations for something that hasn't resulted in damage when you ignore other items which clearly have. If 'life safety' is the overriding consideration, will we soon see regulations, permits and licensing for space heaters and Christmas Tree lights?

* What industries or training programs will or could benefit from this regulation? Did these entities have any part whatsoever in developing these mandates?

* What industries or businesses might suffer if this ordinance is passed? How did the administration document the potential negative impact and evaluate it prior to making the recommendation that this new law be implemented?

* How does this regulation contribute to a 'business friendly' environment in our city? Is it possible that some might see this as 'not business friendly'?

These are just the questions I've come up with. I'm sure that individuals within the affected industries will have more. But let's see how many of these questions get asked by council members today during the hearing.

More importantly, let's see how many of them get answered PRIOR to a vote on the measure.

If you have thoughts about this bill, contact your city council members - and encourage your friends, family, employees and customers to do the same thing.

Contact information:

City Council phone: 419-245-1050
City Council emails:

Quote of the Day

"The more one considers the matter, the clearer it becomes that redistribution is in effect far less a redistribution of free income from the richer to the poorer, as we imagined, than a redistribution of power from the individual to the State." ~ Bertrand de Jouvenel

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

States' rights and sovereignty

A growing number of states are looking to exert their rights under the 10th Amendment. This website has a complete list as well as some interviews from sponsors of the various measures.

Amendment 10 - Powers of the States and People

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

This Amendment is based upon the second Article of Confederation:

Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.

Ohio does not yet have a bill pending.

As you'll see from the comments, this website also has a complete list of states and links to the news about their sovereign issues.

Quotes of the Day

From the Patriot Post:

"The multiplication of public offices, increase of expense beyond income, growth and entailment of a public debt, are indications soliciting the employment of the pruning knife." ~ Thomas Jefferson, letter to Spencer Roane, 9 March 1821

From Liberty Tree:

"I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on the objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents." ~ James Madison, 1792, in disapproval of Congress appropriating $15,000 to assist some French refugees

"The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits." ~ Plutarch (c.45-125 A.D.) Priest of the Delphic Oracle

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Blade pushes Fairness Doctrine

Last Sunday, I wrote about the local paper's front-page article about the Fairness Doctrine. In addition to pointing out some facts that were missing and questioning some of the inconsistency in statements made, I made a prediction:

"This is not the end of the subject. If The Blade is true to form, they will have some sort of sob story (or three) about someone who's tried to provide balance in talk radio but failed due to something that 'evil conservatives' have done.

Then they'll have an editorial endorsing some form of censorship of talk radio. Oh - they won't call it that. They'll couch it in the same terms as Sen. Stabenow did - accountability, standards - or call for a 'level playing field.'"

While not exactly a sob story, today's paper again has a front-page article on the subject.

This story focuses on Democrats who want to institute a new form of the Fairness Doctrine, which is the standard mantra coming from the left: 'we don't want a fairness doctrine, per se, we just want balance and standards that reflect the public interest.'

See? Exactly the type of language I predicted.

Of course, who gets to determine what's in the public interest is not the 'public,' unless you count the coordinated campaign to urge leftists to complain about local conservative talk radio to the FCC. The market, the ratings, the listeners, the advertisers - they won't really be the ones making the determination. It will be bureaucrats in Washington who get to decide. And as Brian Wilson, the WSPD program director and afternoon show host always says, it's not what is decided but who gets to decide that is key.

The article again uses the term 'drumbeat' to describe the current programming on WSPD:

From morning to night, the drumbeat pounds on, with listeners told repeatedly that government is bad, that politicians steal the public's money, and that President Obama and the Democrats are transforming America into a socialist state.

Last week's article led with:

"It starts at 6 a.m. every weekday in Toledo and continues nonstop for hours, a persistent drumbeat on the radio air waves:

Barack Obama's stimulus plan is larded with corruption, pork-barrel politics, and waste.

Liberalism is destroying the country.

The Democratic party is fundamentally flawed, labor unions are ruining the economy, and if we're not careful, socialism is just around the corner."

While talk show hosts are not the news department and are clearly expressing an opinion, one can only wonder if such repetition isn't part of a Blade agenda to characterize local conservative talk radio in a negative light?

Is their repetitive description not also a 'persistent drumbeat'? And is a 'news' article really the proper place for such opinionated wording? News is supposed to be neutral in coverage - editorials are not. But these two Sunday articles are not on the editorial pages - they're on the front page and they are clearly promoting a particular viewpoint by use of these types of words.

As a graduate of The University of Toledo with a degree in Communication/Journalism, and as a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund Copy Editing Intern, I was taught that such word selection was inappropriate and had no place in a news article. As a copy editor, I would have been called on the carpet for allowing such usage to appear in an article - much less the lead paragraphs.

But The Blade does this on a regular basis when they latch on to an issue and decide they want to influence thought on the matter. They blur the lines between straight news and editorial opinion - and that's part of the reason why they, and many other main stream media in general, have developed the negative reputation they currently have. One can only wonder if this is part of the reason for their financial condition, as well.

A bigger problem in their description of conservative comments made by talk show hosts on WSPD is that they do not challenge the opinions, only complain about the fact that they're being expressed.

Conservative perspectives dominate talk radio. That's primarily because leftist thinking dominates most all other news. Note the difference, though: talk radio is all about opinion and expressing it. Television news and newspapers are dominated by leftist thinking in the news portion of their outlets and do not reserve such opinion for the opinion pages alone.

Additionally, the issue should not be about expression of opinion. If the left thinks there needs to be more 'balance' on local talk radio, they could actually participate in it.

The article mentions Rep. Marcy Kaptur's thoughts on 'fairness':

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) was a co-sponsor of Mr. Hinchey's bill when it advocated reinstating the Fairness Doctrine.

She said the radio waves should have more diversity, which she thinks would be accomplished with local ownership.

"Our broadcast media are largely absentee-owned. I believe in local ownership, local control. I think there's an argument to be made for balance and fair play," Miss Kaptur said.

But Kaptur was invited to appear on Brian Wilson's show last week and, as of Friday, had not responded to the invitation. Here was a perfect opportunity to provide the 'diversity' and 'balance' she advocates, but she hasn't agreed to do so.

Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop has an open and standing invitation to be my guest on Eye On Toledo. The last time I invited him to appear on the show, he took months to even respond to the invitation and, when he did, he said no. But he was perfectly willing to talk to the like-minded newspaper to express his opinion:

"There is plenty of need in this town for constructive, informed debate on the serious challenges we face. WSPD is, sadly, not the place for that," Mr. Konop said.

So, because he doesn't like the station, he believes it's okay to decline to provide exactly what he says is needed?

Interestingly, I've agreed with Konop on several points he's made - and I've said so on air. Last week I sent him another email asking him if he's changed his mind about being my guest on the show and reiterating my open invitation to him. Sadly, as much as he seems to believe there should be debate on issues, he apparently believes he has no obligation to provide it, since he's not yet responded to my communication.

I'll have more to say about this Tuesday during Eye On Toledo, so be sure to tune in.

The push by Democrats for the Fairness Doctrine - or something similar - isn't really about providing balance. It's all about using the force of government to obtain what leftists cannot achieve in an open market. Even the article mentions that there are liberal voices on air in Toledo:

"Liberal broadcasters Bill Press and Stephanie Miller can be heard on WNWT-AM 1520, a 500-watt station in Rossford - Mr. Press from 6 to 9 a.m. and Ms. Miller from 9 to 11 a.m."

So if there are alternatives in the market, what's the problem? If WNWT broadcasts liberal shows in the morning, what's to prevent them from broadcasting liberal shows during the rest of the day? Why can't they grow their audience and advertisers just like all the other radio stations have done?

And therein lies the rub. Expecting such stations to actually compete in the open market goes against what has become a core philosophy of leftists: 'you aren't successful because you're a victim,' or 'you're not successful because it's not fair,' or 'it's never your fault if you fail.' Leftist believe that wealth is not created - only redistributed. They see the market as a zero-sum entity where if one person is winning, someone else must be losing. They believe the pie is only so big, rather than envisioning a bigger pie. If they were truly 'liberal' (in the traditional sense of the word) they would understand that a market could grow, but that to do so doesn't require the force of government, rather, it requires their own investment of money and capital to make it so. Unfortunately, today's liberals seem to loathe spending their own money, but are very willing to spend everyone else's (tax dollars).

So instead of investing their personal money, efforts and resources in growing their own talk shows, they decide to use government to 'level the playing field' or, in other words, to achieve through force the success that someone else has worked hard and risked their own funds to obtain.

In the case of The Blade, I believe their push for something like the Fairness Doctrine is because they don't like the competition. For too long, they have been the only 'opinion leader' in the area. In fact, it used to be that candidates were told a Blade endorsement during a campaign was worth about 10,000 votes. While there was no way to gauge such a claim, it is an indication of what people thought of their support. Today, the concern is that the endorsement might count for 10,000 votes but you never know if that's in agreement with or opposition to what The Blade recommends.

But when you've had such influence and a now you have competition, it's not fun and can cause resentment by the person who's lost control. When, for years, you've gotten away with saying A, C, E and G and someone else comes along and starts telling people B, D and F, two things happen. One, people begin to realize that you're not giving the full picture and that those missing factors can change perspectives. And two, you lose credibility for not including all the factors to begin with.

The reaction from those on the left to such disclosure and, dare I say it, balance is that the opposing views must be silenced. They claim that those opposing views be 'balanced' even though such opposing views are the very balance they claim to promote and which they have never endorsed within their own structures.

If balance is what is desired when it comes to opinions expressed in talk radio, where is the corresponding balance on the pages of opinion in The Blade? If alternative voices are so necessary on the airwaves, why not have alternative voices in the paper's editorials? If the perception is that liberals should be able to have their own time on a conservative show, where is the equal perception that a conservative should have their own space in the paper?

The equivalent is not carrying the occasional conservative op-ed writer. The equivalent would be to have a pro/con editorial on each issue. Think we'll see that sort of thing any time soon in The Blade?

As I wrote following the first story:

"...if the paper really wants some sort of 'standards' when it comes to balancing conservative and liberal, they should start with themselves."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Senate passes spending bill - total federal obligations now exceed world GDP

With our Sen. Sherrod Brown as the final yes vote, the Senate passed the conference report for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill, 60-38. Sen. George Voinovich voted no.

Three Republicans voted in favor of the spending, both the original bill and the conference report: Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins (both from Maine) and Arlen Specter (from Pennsylvania).

Had they not voted for the largest spending bill ever, it would not have passed. Remember their names when you, your children and your grandchildren have to foot the bill for this boondoggle.

If the cost of this bill doesn't concern you, maybe this article by Jerome R. Corsi will:

As the Obama administration pushes through Congress its $800 billion deficit-spending economic stimulus plan, the American public is largely unaware that the true deficit of the federal government already is measured in trillions of dollars, and in fact its $65.5 trillion in total obligations exceeds the gross domestic product of the world.

The total U.S. obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits to be paid in the future, effectively have placed the U.S. government in bankruptcy, even before new continuing social welfare obligation embedded in the massive spending plan are taken into account

Strange - I always thought the Goal was Freedom.

Friday, February 13, 2009

House passes stimulus bill without GOP support

The U.S. House of Representatives just passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill conference report, H.R.1, with a vote of 246 to 183.

Seven Democrats joined all the Republicans in voting no. One Democrat voted present. One Democrat and two Republicans did not cast a vote.

The Senate is expected to vote later today.

I expect that Rep. Marcy Kaptur will again support the bill, as she did originally, and because no Republicans voted in favor, I'm certain that Rep. Bob Latta voted no.

Finkbeiner proposes to raise taxes to balance the budget

Yesterday, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner made several suggestions to balance the city's budget.

I must admit to being confused about just how much is needed because the numbers coming from the administration change each time someone references the deficit. Last week, city council was told they needed another $8.1 million for 2008 - after closing out some Capital Improvement Projects to cover an $8 million hole.

Today, the mayor's power point presentation said $2 million was needed to close out 2008, but, despite having passed a balance 2009 budget, there is projected to be an $11-12 million hole yet this year.

According to today's paper,

Even though Mr. Finkbeiner proclaimed the city's budget as balanced, his plan only partially addresses an $8.1 million shortfall from 2008. Under the plan, the city will close the books on last year with about a $1.7 million deficit, which is in violation of the law.

I guess the 'bottom' line is that council still needs to find about $14 million in cuts between last year and this year.

So one of the ways Carty plans to cover that hole is by changing the way Toledo's payroll income tax is charged.

How it works:
The current rate of payroll income tax is 2-1/4%. A Toledoan who earns $50,000 owes the city $1,125 per year. Toledo has reciprocity on income taxes with surrounding communities.

If you live in Toledo, but work in another city, Toledo has allowed you to deduct whatever you pay in payroll tax to that other city from what you owe Toledo.

For instance, if you work in Maumee, you'd be paying them $750, so the only amount you would owe Toledo is $375 ($1,125 minus the $750). Under Carty's plan, you'd only be able to get credit for half the $750, so you'd now owe Toledo $750 ($1,125 minus $375).

If you work in Oregon, which has the same income tax rate as Toledo, you'd be paying them $1,125 and nothing to Toledo. Under Carty's plan, you'd get credit for half of that amount, which means you'd pay Oregon $1,125 and Toledo $750.

This is a tax increase for every person who decided to stay in Toledo even though they work in another city. Carty said this will raise $5.2 million per year.

I think it will make people want to move out of Toledo.

But that's not the only change he's suggesting.

On May 1, the garbage tax for people who recycle was supposed to go down from the $2 we're currently paying to the new rate of $1. He has proposed keeping the rate at $2 which will 'save' $175,000. Of course, it 'costs' citizens the same amount, but Carty seems to have a disconnect between the needs of the city versus the needs of the citizens.

A new fee he wants to create is a charge for Fire Department response to fires. He says that most insurance companies have a cost recovery provision of between $500 and $1,000. He plans to bill you and get that reimbursement from your insurance - the same way they bill for emergency response to a car accident.

Again, there is a disconnect. I think the mayor sees this as 'free' money to the city, failing to recognize that such public policies just end up raising the insurance rates of everyone in the area.

Carty does suggest some cost cutting: savings from the on-going contract negotiations with police unions, removing one fire engine from service, some layoffs for AFSCME Local 2058 - the supervisory union, going to four 9-hour work days for all exempt employees, automating garbage pickup.

But most of these cuts are across-the-board types of things. He has not, as far as I can ascertain, gone through an overall evaluation of current city services in order to eliminate the ones that are not mandated in the charter. According to the budget passed by council for 2009, we still have a youth commission, which might be nice, but is certainly not necessary.

So, the approach is to raise taxes. From all components of the plan he presented, the most money is generated by the change in income taxes - $5.2 million. Even Republican Councilman George Sarantou, who admitted the change may make some people want to leave Toledo, said he believes people realize the city's need for the funds. He has previously bragged about how much they've cut out of the budget over the past several years.

And Carty said the same thing during his presentation. One power point slide claimed:

"Over the past two years this administration has cut $25 million from the budget. This combined with the estimated $14 million we are cutting today equals $39 million, which is 15.6% of the total general fund budget."

Now, I didn't think this seemed accurate, so I used the link on the left to view the city's budget. Here's what I found for the General Fund expenditures:

2006: $234,312,215.50 (actual spent)
2007: $242,752,864.71 (actual spent)
2008: $254,098,779.08 (estimated - still don't have final numbers)
2009: $249,369,853.02 (approved by council)

According to these figures, spending from the General Fund has increased - not been reduced. I can only surmise that the 'cuts' being referred to aren't really cuts in spending, but 'cuts' in the amount of increase - kind of what Washington does...

Now, there is a decrease of $4,728,926.06 between 2008 and 2009 - and the mayor did propose more cuts totaling $10.3 million. It would be fair to say that if the mayor's cuts are approved, combined with the approved budget, there is a $15 million cut between last year and this year, if last year's spending was close to what was estimated.

But that's not $25 million over the last two years.

Regardless, the problem continues to be spending. The solution isn't to 'inflate revenue assumptions' or raise fees. The solution is to cut the budget of unnecessary expenditures, eliminate departments, boards and commissions that cost money but have no real purpose or enforcement, and develop a business-friendly environment by not taking over private business functions that, despite claims, really don't generate revenue.
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