Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Konop admits that I am right

For a number of years - too many, in fact - I've been saying that it isn't our form of government that needs to change in this area in order to stop the decline - it's the people we elect to office. And not just the people, but the philosophy of the people we elect.

Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop has now admitted that I am right.

Oh - he's not actually saying, "Maggie Thurber is correct." That would be a sort of blasphemy, I'm sure.

But in today's paper where he admits his effort to change the county form of government is going to fail (just like so many of his other 'bold, fresh ideas'), he acknowledges that the problem isn't the form of government - but the people in office.

Here's what I first said about The Blade's push to change Lucas County to a county council form of government:

It's important to remember that a change in government does NOT equate to a change in behavior. In fact, as we can see from Toledo's change from a city manager to a strong mayor form of government, we've gotten pretty much the same types of decisions we'd previously gotten and Toledo is STILL heading downhill in terms of population, job growth, etc... while heading up in terms of government costs, spending, taxation and fees.

So we have clear evidence that a change in government structure does NOT mean we'll get a change in the philosophy of those being elected to govern.
The major problem with county government is not the form or the structure - it's the people we elect and the policies they promote. I cannot emphasize enough: those two things are not going to change if we change the structure.

And I've said this numerous times on my blog, on the radio when I was hosting WSPD's Eye On Toledo, and as an elected official.

Here's what the news article today attributes to Konop:

Mr. Konop said there is no guarantee that a county executive/county council form of government would improve Lucas County's economy. He said, rather, such a government would make it more possible for good elected leaders to make necessary changes.

"It allows the community to have a chance to change these things, if we elect the right people," Mr. Konop said.
(emphasis added)

Now, I certainly don't expect Konop to publicly admit that I've been correct all along - that would be 'hoping' for too much 'change' in behavior. But I am glad that he has seen the wisdom of my position, though it's disappointing that it happened with only six months left in his term.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

America could not have been created if DISCLOSE Act was in place in 1775

My friend Bill Collier penned this editorial and I wanted to share it with you. It's a perspective I've not yet seen in print and an important one to note:

I was talking to my friend Ralph Benko, who is a lawyer and a Constitutional scholar, and he brought up the fact that all (or at least MOST) of the newspaper articles and pamphlets, pro and con, for the revolution, including the pamphlet, “Common Sense” (which launched the Revolution,) were anonymous. If the Disclose Act had been in place, these would not have been written and America would not have become independent.

I agree with Ralph’s point of view here, and I think people who love freedom should be shouting this from the roof tops- “The Disclose Act would have prevented America’s Founders from even starting their Revolution!”

Later, as we saw the problems with the Articles of Confederation, the Federalist Papers, which led to the ratification of the Constitution, were all written anonymously and if they had not been written then there would have been no Constitution, and who knows what would have happened.

I have seen fewer more un-American pieces of legislation than the Disclose Act- it is an Act as INTOLERABLE as anything our Founding Fathers would have opposed, like the Stamp Act, not merely for the specific provisions, which are onerous and burdensome, but because by enacting such a “law” Congress is straying outside of its legal powers and it giving itself the POTENTIAL power to decide what defines free speech and what does not, and what types or forms of private associations, whether for business or what have you, enjoy the protection of our most basic and fundamental right of freedom of association!

read more....

And then Warner Todd Huston, another blogger friend, has chimed in with this:

But, as it turns out, Democrats excluded some of the biggest spenders on political ads and campaigns in the country, most of them their patrons. In a manager’s amendment the Democrats excluded any organization that has over 1 million members. That leaves Big Labor free and clear of these new disclosure rules. It also leaves the National Rifle Association free of the new requirements.

And this is precisely what makes the whole thing unconstitutional. It is true that Congress has made rules requiring disclosure of campaign donations and it is also true that the courts have declared it constitutional. But those laws were all levied equally on everyone. The laws affect everyone that donates a certain amount of money and higher, for instance. This law treats some donations as necessary of disclosure while affording other donations the luxury of secrecy.

The Constitution of the United States has always been conceived as one that affects everyone equally. But if the courts let this law stand, then we will be solidifying into law the concept that Congress can make laws that discriminate against some Americans while giving other Americans more freedom. This is a dangerous precedent to set.

Read more....

According to GovTrack, this is how Ohio representatives voted on the bill:

Aye OH-1 Driehaus, Steve [D]
No OH-2 Schmidt, Jean [R]
No OH-3 Turner, Michael [R]
No OH-4 Jordan, Jim [R]
No OH-5 Latta, Robert [R]
Aye OH-6 Wilson, Charles [D]
No OH-7 Austria, Steve [R]
No OH-8 Boehner, John [R]
Aye OH-9 Kaptur, Marcy [D]
Aye OH-10 Kucinich, Dennis [D]
No OH-11 Fudge, Marcia [D]
No OH-12 Tiberi, Patrick [R]
Aye OH-13 Sutton, Betty [D]
No OH-14 LaTourette, Steven [R]
Aye OH-15 Kilroy, Mary Jo [D]
Aye OH-16 Boccieri, John [D]
Aye OH-17 Ryan, Timothy [D]
Aye OH-18 Space, Zachary [D]

Friday, June 25, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper." ~ Francis Bacon

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Larry Kaczala Memorial Service

I know many people were waiting for information about a funeral or memorial service for Larry Kaczala. I learned tonight that there was a private service last week - primarily family and just a few close friends.

While many of us would have liked to pay our respects, this is what Gina and the family wanted, and I know we all want to honor her wishes.

Doesn't Toledo have enough debt already???

The City of Toledo is considering using tax dollars to guarantee loans on the old Fiberglass Tower office building in downtown Toledo.

The total obligation we'd be 'on the hook' for if the project isn't as successful as the developers hope is a whopping $13 million dollars - but only if the project doesn't go as planned.

Well, that's the same thing we've heard for years now on various other projects like the Commodore Perry building, the Hillcrest, Museum Place, the Steam Plant, and the Marina District.

The City of Toledo is still paying for too many projects that were touted in the same way - you only have to pay if we can't. In fact, the amount we're paying is right around $2 million a year. (See page 243 of the most recent budget available on line for Toledo - which is only the 2009 budget, by the way.)

And we've been paying these amounts for years.

So what does that mean to the average Toledoan? Well, since those payments come out of the Capital Improvement budget (CIP), it means less money for statutory requirements like roads (which are in desperate need of attention) and efficiency enhancements (like a financial computer system that might actually be able to produce a current budget, including current expenditures, to be put on line so that in June of 2010, we're not looking at one produced in the last quarter of 2008)!

Now, city officials and many council members will tell us that this deal is different (isn't it always?) because if the developers default on their loans, the city will end up owning the building.

And what, exactly, are we going to do with a failed building? If the private developer won't be able to make his project work, what in the world makes these politicians think they or the city staff will be successful? Because they're so much smarter??? It is to laugh!

Of course, since the debt obligation would only happen in the last 13 years of the loan term, many of these same politicians might not be around, so why should they worry?

You'll notice a lot of sarcasm in this post. I'm just so frustrated that in these dire financial times with the city looking at a deficit of millions of dollars for the 2011 budget, with increased costs for union contracts that they've negotiated, with declining population and loss of businesses, with mortgage foreclosures still at record levels - where in the world do they think they'll get the money to cover a new debt?????

They're trying to justify their desire to obligate the city to more debt by calling it 'economic development.' Well, it's only economic development if it is successful and making taxpayers pay for the lack of success does not qualify as 'economic development.'

Council should just say no! While they may 'hope' that the project will work, they should not risk public tax dollars for a private development - and certainly not when their track record on such 'investments' is so horrible.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Public unions' symbiotic relationship with government

In the private sector, union membership is declining. This is primarily because many of the laws and terms unions have fought so hard for over the years are now incorporated into law.

Despite the political claims of 'greed' being attributed to owners and managers in the private sector, everyone - unions included - understands that a company has to make money in order for the company to survive. If the company doesn't survive there are no jobs and no need for a union to represent the workers.

It is this basic fundamental, combined with the need to balance opposing interests (worker vs. management) in the adversarial relationship that results in agreements both sides can live with in order to keep the company viable.

But with government unions, the relationship between employee and employer is symbiotic - not adversarial. This basic difference accounts for much of the current problems public entities are facing when it comes to unsustainable compensation terms - terms that are bankrupting governments around the country, and here in Toledo.

The public sector unions rely upon agreements negotiated with mayors, governors, etc. They then rely upon votes by elected council members, commissioners, trustees, school board members or legislatures. These same individuals who are actually deciding upon the terms of the contracts are the same people who beg for endorsements from those same unions.

Elected officials seek union endorsements - and the contributions and volunteers that come along with those endorsements. The people making the decision about the compensation and other working terms are often dependent upon the recipients for their elected position.

The taxpayer, the ones the elected officials are supposed to be representing, is more often than not left out in the cold - consistently being expected to fork over more money in taxes and fees so the benefits can flow to both sides (government and union).

This is clearly a conflict of interest, but one that is never raised because it would result in the end of the mutually-beneficial arrangement.

Last month, Toledo Mayor Mike Bell suggested that voters should be able to have a vote on compensation terms like pensions. This is a terrific idea, but one that is not likely to make it to the ballot box.

Why? Because the people who have to decide to put it on the ballot are the same people who have to vote on the contracts - the members of Toledo City Council who are dependent upon those same unions for election. Again - the symbiotic relationship that has each side looking out for the other to the detriment of the taxpayers.

This is not a criticism of the unions - I don't blame individuals for wanting to join together to form a union and I don't blame them for doing what unions are supposed to do: get the best possible deal for those they represent.

The problem is the elected officials who too often forget that they're supposed to be doing the exact same thing: getting the best deal for the taxpayers they represent. It's too easy to view the taxpayers as a never-ending source of revenue rather than the employers they actually are. And, of course, the ultimate responsibility belongs with the taxpayers who'd rather vote for largess and/or the 'party' and/or the same name when election times roll around.

So what is the solution? Well, I like the idea of voters having a say on public union contracts. But I wouldn't limit it to just the pension terms. I'd make it the whole contract, including such items as vacation schedules, paid holidays, reimbursement for clothing and tools, educational reimbursement, etc.

This would do two things. One, it would allow voters to actually see and, hopefully, understand just what they're paying for. And, two, it would bring public compensation more in line with private sector compensation for similar types of jobs. I doubt that the general voting public will approve terms so much more generous than what they could ever hope to have.

Additionally, I believe it would allow the public to have a better understanding of the overall city budget and the priorities for spending. For instance, if voters were to approve a pay increase for public employees, they'd realize that the money has to come from somewhere. They'd either support cuts in other areas of the budget or be forced to support more taxation/fees/revenue to cover the compensation costs they were approving. They would be active participants in the finances of the city, rather than just complainers.

**SIDE NOTE: But then, I believe that no taxes should be withheld from paychecks - that every person should have to make quarterly tax payments so they realize exactly how much of their money is going to government. Whoever came up with the 'withholding' concept was brilliant because the payers never have the money in hand to realize what's being taken away. And I also believe that election day should be the same day your taxes are due - but what do I know?

If you notice, however, since the mayor made the suggestion, nothing has been done and the idea is no longer in the public discussion. This should not surprise anyone - with the symbiotic relationship between the unions and the council, Toledo council members wanted nothing at all to do with this idea.

The public should get behind Mayor Bell on this. We can use the same logic politicians have been using for so long when it comes to them voting to put tax levies on the ballot: let the people decided.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Next public meeting on county council issue scheduled

Well, there's not been much publicity about this, so I wanted to emphasize that the next public meeting to discuss the county-council charter form of government for Lucas County will be Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. in the Commissioner Meeting Room on the first floor of Government Center.

According to various reports, Comm. Pete Gerken plans to hold a vote June 29 deciding whether or not to put the 15-member charter commission on the November ballot. Under Ohio Revised Code, such a commission would be in charge of drafting a county charter to be put before voters in the following year.

So - if you can make it, be sure to attend the meeting Tuesday at 4:30 and ask all the necessary questions!

***Side Note:
Comm. Ben Konop has been making the rounds at various group/club meetings in the county showing statistics on just how bad off Lucas County is. Here are a couple of additional questions for him:

* How will changing the form of government reduce foreclosures in the county?

* How will changing the form of government decrease the unemployment rate in the county?

* What party/philosophy has been in charge of Toledo and County government over the last 40 years and how will decisions under a new form of government be any different than the ones that got us to this point?

* You came up with some money-saving ideas early in your term of office, but wanted to put the savings toward paying for college education for only certain county residents. That idea is included in your draft of the county charter that you want voters to approve this November. If you could come up with ways to save money, why not just go ahead and do the savings, even if you couldn't then spend the money as you wanted by giving it away to only select individuals? This was one way to actually reduce the cost the cost of government, yet you didn't push the savings because you couldn't get support for how to spend the savings. How will a charter form of government give us real 'savings' if your document calls for the those savings to just be spent in other ways?

* One of your major complaints about 'changing' Lucas County is that you couldn't get the support of two fellow Democrats on the BCC. What makes you think that getting the votes of a majority of people on a county council will be any easier? What, in a county charter form of government, is different when it comes to decision-making that makes you think the 'change' you seek will actually occur?

Plus any you can think of.

***End Side Note

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Commenting on AZ immigration law is NOT county business

I don't know why it is that so many politicians think they have to take a public stand on issues that don't impact them or their constituents. Perhaps it's because so many 'special interest groups' insist upon it? But whatever the reason, it doesn't surprise me that the Lucas County Commissioners decided to pass a resolution condemning Arizona's new immigration law.

As a commissioner, I vigorously opposed such actions. I repeatedly told my fellow commissioners that if they wanted to express their opinion on such matters, they were certainly welcome to hold a press conference and share with the public their personal views on anything, including actions by other jurisdictions.

I insisted that the role of the Commissioners was the governing of the county and passing such resolutions was not something the 'Board' should be concerned with - especially when you considered all the other statutory obligations we had.

I also pointed out that, absent a poll or some other survey of all residents in the county, it would be highly presumptuous of us to *assume* that our opinions were the same as the rest of the county. And even if we found general agreement on certain issues, it was a given that there would be significant portions of our constituents who objected either in whole or in part, so we could not properly 'represent' all of them by taking a position. Besides, it still all came back to the fact that a formal action by the board on such matters was completely outside our role as Commissioners.

These were pretty successful arguments as the number of these types of resolutions certainly declined during my term on the board.

But with three politicians, who all happen to be Democrats, too eager to cater to small special interests, these types of resolutions seem to permeate our county and Toledo governments.

And that's something else, we need to pay attention to. How many other cities, villages, and townships in Lucas County decided to stick their noses into the business of other jurisdictions? This type of action is rarely seen in the other jurisdictions in the county, so we should ask ourselves 'why?'

Is it because those other jurisdictions are focused on their statutory responsibilities? Is it because they realize that it's a pointless act, other than to cater to a very small special interest? Is it because they're too busy with taking care of their roads and keeping their governmental costs down?

These are all good questions, I know.

On Monday, Comm. Ben Konop addressed a Rotary Club to promote his idea of changing to a county charter government. (You can review my prior articles on this subject here, here, here, and here.)

In his speech, he highlighted the problems of Lucas County - problems that have existed here for a number of years:

Mr. Konop's presentation showed Lucas County ranks high in rates of unemployment, poverty, bankruptcy, and migration out of the state and has lower median income than the state overall.

"There is really no shortage of disturbing economic trends to report on for Lucas County," Mr. Konop said.

Lucas County's jobless rate was the highest of Ohio's six largest counties for each of the 12 months ending in April, the most recent period available, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Now, he didn't explain how changing the form of government will give us different decisions about how to address these things, but that's beside the point.

With these types of concerns, issues, problems, etc... why in the world are the commissioners spending any time whatsoever addressing something in a city over 1,600 miles away???

They shouldn't. But they did. And this is just another reason why switching our form of government won't change anything in this county. We'll just get more of the same type of philosophy exhibited by these three commissioners: that taking a position on an Arizona law is something the county government should do, instead of what it's mandated to do.

But won't all those small special interests be happy and keep electing them to office?

In the meantime, the problems in the county will continue ... 'fiddling while Rome burns' comes to mind.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Flag Day 2010

Join us tonight at 7 p.m. in Friendship Park for a Flag Day Celebration.

From National Flag Day Foundation:

The “Stars and Stripes”, the official National symbol of the United States of America was authorized by congress on that Saturday of June 14, 1777 in the fifth item of the days agenda. The entry in the journal of the Continental Congress 1774-1789 Vol. Vlll 1777 reads “Resolved that the flag of the thirteen United States be Thirteen stripes alternate red and white: that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”


On June 14th, 1885, Bernard J. Cigrand, a 19 year old teacher at Stony Hill School, placed a 10 inch, 38- star flag in a bottle on his desk then assigned essays on the flag and its significance. This observance, commemorated Congresses adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777. This observance was also the beginning of Cigrand’s long years of fervent and devoted effort to bring about national recognition and observance of Flag Day. The crowning achievement of his life came at age fifty when President Wilson, on May 30, 1916, issued a proclamation calling for a nation wide observance of Flag Day. Then in 1949, President Truman signed an Act Of Congress designating the 14th day of June every year as National Flag Day. On June 14th, 2004, the 108th U.S. Congress voted unanimously on H.R. 662 that Flag Day originated in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin.

Some interesting flag locations and flag facts:

* In 1909 Robert Peary placed a flag, sewn by his wife, at the North Pole. He also left pieces of another flag along the way. It is the only time a person has been honored for cutting the flag.

* In 1963, Barry Bishop placed the flag on top of Mount Everest.

* In July 1969 the American flag was "flown" in space when Neil Armstrong placed it on the moon. Six US flags are currently stationed on the moon. They were put there by Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17.

* The first time the American flag was flown overseas on a foreign fort was in Libya, over Fort Derne, on the shores of Tripoli in 1805.

* Old Glory actually refers to a specific flag owned by Captain William Driver. Old Glory was made with 24 stars and 13 red and white stripes representing the original 13 colonies: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island. Old Glory traveled with Driver on his ship and circled the globe twice before retiring with Driver in Nashville. The flag was hidden away inside Driver’s bedspread in Nashville, when Tennessee seceded from the Union. When the war was over, Driver joyously ripped open his bedding to an astonished group of patriots to be proudly displayed for all to see. Sadly, due its fragile state and incredible historical and sentimental value, Old Glory’s last show was at the Tennessee State Museum in 2006. It now lives in the Smithsonian.

* The red, white and blue stripes are strictly defined as Dark Red (Pantone 193 C), White (Pantone safe), and Navy Blue (281 C).

* The current version of the US flag was designed by an 18 year old high school student, who only received a “B-“ for his efforts. Robert Heft, took exception to this grade, and issued his teacher a challenge: if Heft’s design proposal was accepted by Congress, he would deserve and receive an “A”. Heft earned his “A”, and by presidential proclamation in 1958, his design was officially adopted as the nation’s flag.

* Flag Day is always June 14th.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Another blatant attempt to push Lucas into a charter form of government

Well, it's Sunday, so the paper has another story about what a great idea a county council form of government is. They also published another editorial berating just about everyone who hasn't joined in the rush to follow their instructions.

If my count is correct, they're up to 21 such articles and editorials (not counting their actual 'news' coverage of the public hearing on the idea) in a two-month time frame. They really want us to change our form of government.

Why? Well, I'm not going to speculate on their obsession with this, though nothing they've pushed in last 15 years or so has actually worked out to be 'good' for the area. They pushed the Marina District, the redevelopment of Southwyck and the renovation of the steam plant - all projects that have failed primarily because of a lack of private interest, though the politicians did jump all over themselves, as they usually do, to carry out the paper's wishes.

And look at some of the debt costs our governments are paying for other non-governmental basics like the Lasalle apartments and some of the other office buildings downtown. The city backed bonds for these efforts and is paying huge amounts of interest because they're not profitable ventures - diverting precious public dollars away from essential city services like road repair. Those were also pushed by the Blade.

Look at the paper's push to 'revitalize' downtown with a new arena. Every study done on government-backed arenas proves that they don't increase economic development, but only redirect the spending of existing disposable income. The paper and the politicians tout the 'new' businesses springing up around such ventures, but never stop to count the loss of other businesses in the area.

The Blade pushed for a strong-mayor form of government for the city of Toledo - and then we got Carty Finkbeiner who was known for his penchant to micromanage - poorly. And one of the major issues the editors had with Carty was his failure to hire someone who could actually do the day-to-day management of the city. They repeatedly said Carty needed to have a chief of staff who he'd let actually do such a job.

Of course, they also said a strong mayor would be better at economic development. And that's worked out soooo well for us, hasn't it? (sarcasm)

The paper, the publisher and the editorial board have been behind the biggest boondoggles in our community. What makes us think this latest fad of theirs - an actual change in our county government structure - will work out any better?

Ask yourself this: if the paper were actually reporting 'news' don't you think there would be at least a little bit of balance in the reporting? Where are the comments from detractors of this form of government? Where are the profiles of areas that chose NOT to change their government? And what about all the communities that are successfully meeting constituent expectations with a three-commissioner form of government?

So far, they've picked a couple of areas that have changed and quoted the new elected officials about how great it is. Funny, but the current elected officials in Lucas County are only trying to prevent the elimination of their jobs if they object to The Blade's plan - at least, that's what the editorials say. But those elected officials in county councils aren't doing the exact same thing by saying what a great form of government they serve in?

How typically hypocritical.

They also continue to demonize the very people whose help they say is needed: the business community and other community leaders. They accuse them of not exhibiting 'leadership' on the issue because they haven't followed the paper's lead and rushed to join the publisher's agenda. Again, how typically hypocritical to accuse people of not leading because they're not following.

But let's look at Ohio. We have 88 counties and in the last 40 years, only one (Summit) chose the county-council form of government. Cleveland, because of the huge amounts of corruption inherent in their system, is in the process of making the change. That means that 86 Ohio counties believe the three-board commission works just fine.

Across the nation, most counties have similar structures to Ohio, primarily because the counties are designed to be the arm of state government, implementing state laws and services on a local basis. Especially in Ohio, they are not designed to be law-making entities - only administrative offices tasked with oversight and funding of such duties as welfare, child support enforcement, zoning and building regs in unincorporated areas of the county, etc...

There really isn't a *need* for them to be anything more. The 'logic' that they can somehow magically be better at economic development if they only expand their members and their costs to the public fails at every level.

As I've repeatedly said - it's not our form of government, it's the people we elect and the philosophies they bring to the office. The Blade consistently pushes individuals whose concept is one of 'government as the solution' versus those who believe in a 'limited government' concept.

And to see the impact of that advocacy, all you have to do is look around Toledo and you'll see exactly where 40 years of such an attitude has gotten us: declining population, declining numbers of businesses, declining property values, increasing costs of government, increasing taxes and fees to support those increasing costs, increased size of government, and a growing class of people completely dependent upon government for just about everything from basic needs to forcing personal preferences of a few upon all.

Throughout it all, we've been told that if we only do what the paper advocates, everything will be better. The problem is that they're advocating policies that history shows us repeatedly to have failed. And they push politicians who haven't yet learned those historical lessons - and who have little, if any, experience actually doing the economic development everyone says they want.

So why should we believe them now when their track record is so ... wanting?

Their agenda is clear: they want us to change our form of government. And the manipulation of the 'news' to support their agenda is just as blatantly obvious as they inundate us with articles about other areas that have already done what they want.

But for each of their few examples, there are hundreds of others that didn't change their government and are certainly more successful, especially considering the huge deficits so many of their examples currently have.

Changing our form of government is not going to change the philosophy of those who are elected. Only the voters can do that. This area is like a drug addict going back to the ballot box at every opportunity for their 'fix.' Only when the voters hit rock bottom and realize that they must change will we get a different philosophy in our elected officials - and a chance at being successful once again.

Related posts on the issue:

Asking the wrong questions about a county charter form of government for Lucas County

The Blade is wrong about charter county government

Konop forces failed ideas into his county charter proposal

Public Meeting on changing Lucas County's government

Friday, June 11, 2010

Quote of the Day

"We are all full of weakness and errors, let us mutually pardon each other our follies. It is the first law of nature." ~ Voltaire

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Remembering Larry Kaczala

Long-time Republican officeholder Larry Kaczala passed away June 5.

I don't remember when I first met Larry. It could have been when I marched down to Republican Party headquarters in the late '80s because I was mad at my state rep. Or it could have been at a Young Republican Club meeting - or perhaps a central committee meeting. Which Republican function isn't really important, just that it was about 20 years ago and it was a Republican function.

He was a bit older than me, and some of the other YRs I was working with - but that never seemed to be an issue, except when he bragged, later on, that he was 'too old' to actually be a 'young republican' anymore. He seemed to enjoy telling us that.

I know that in 1991 I distributed literature for him in my precinct when he ran for Toledo City Council. I remember celebrating his success on election night as it was a major accomplishment for Republicans.

I also remember the discussion at the central committee meeting in 1993 when we needed to replace David Lewandowski as the county auditor due to his election as judge. While there were some other names being floated for the appointment, the clear and obvious choice was Larry. And he promised to put his obligation to the people of Lucas County first as he served - and to run hard to keep the office. Two things he did throughout his time there.

For the next 10 years, he was the only non-judicial county-wide Republican office holder. While he enjoyed the distinction, he would also say it was very lonely and he wanted company.

As the auditor, his motto was 'We're in the business of providing a government service." And he lived that philosophy, instilling it into his staff and the expectations of the public.

He won so many awards as auditor that I don't think they can even be listed. He gave lectures nationally and internationally about his methods and accomplishments as auditor. The modernization of the office and the electronic access to information was 'revolutionary' when it came to a government office. His AREIS system and the GIS programs are still the standard others aspire to. Even after losing election to Anita Lopez, the computerization he put in place still continued as Anita embraced the next planned improvement of the 'levy estimator' tool Larry had been developing. Larry was the go-to person across the state and in many areas of the nation when auditors wanted advice or guidance in making their offices more responsive and accountable to the public.

When I was elected as county commissioner, Larry told me it was now 'the two of us against the world.' It was nice to know that I would always have a friend to turn to in the complicated and often hostile world of county politics.

Larry and I were not without our disagreements, which is certainly to be expected. The two of us had strong beliefs, firm principles, but different ways of doing things. Disagreements are not bad things and they didn't hamper our relationship - though I do recall a meeting between the two of us at the round table in former party chairman Jim Brennan's kitchen to sort out some rumors that were going around. As it turned out, that meeting gave each of us a renewed opportunity to help the other - after all, there weren't that many elected Republicans that we could afford to let rumors spread by our enemies come between us.

And it strengthened our friendship and trust to know that we had each other's back in the political world. While that is something I always appreciated and valued, it really wasn't what I remember most about Larry.

What I remember most when thinking of him is his portrayal of 'The Great Karnak.' For those of you not familiar with the character, it was a skit that Johnny Carson did and Larry duplicated for the LCRP's dinner/talent show. Being someone who has a hard time telling a joke correctly, I marvelled at Larry's talent and humor - and his wonderful sense of timing and wit.

He knew how to be funny and always managed to incorporate local people and situations into that humor. He was an oft-requested speaker because of this talent, especially when people were looking for someone of Larry's stature but for a 'lighter' presentation.

Larry had a reputation for being responsive to his constituents and solicitous to his friends. Unlike some of the elected officials I worked with over the years, your party affiliation never mattered to Larry when you needed something from his office. He did truly live his office motto of providing service - both in his office and his personal life.

His donation of a kidney to his sister was well-known. But it wasn't just his sister he helped. He often led the Kidney Foundation's lollipop sale, taking advantage of his standing as a elected official to bring attention to their efforts and their fundraising.

And when one of his friends or fellow Republicans needed help or advice, he was there. Several times as a commissioner, when the politics of the office were really irritating me and I felt like I needed to be in what I considered a 'friendly' place, I'd call him and ask if I could come down and see him for a moment. He always said yes.

So I'd go down a couple of floors and sit in his office for a few minutes. He'd tell a couple of jokes or we'd talk about something of no real consequence - though we both knew the topic wasn't really the point. Then I'd take a deep breath, he'd give me that 'I know' look, and I'd head back upstairs to my office.

In light of what happened, I'm now wondering where his refuge was...

Much has been said and written about Larry's career since 2004 when he decided to challenge Marcy Kaptur for Congress. Because of Larry's prior successes and how well-liked he was, expectations were so high for his campaign. He got sick during that effort and wasn't able to campaign as he would have liked and lost, though so many of us thought that losing to Marcy with her reputation and district demographics was certainly not something to be embarrassed about.

But then he lost his re-election as auditor to Anita Lopez in 2006. I think he believed he was going to win, considering his past elections. But politics is a fickle thing and more than just the person often comes into play. Timing is sometimes more critical than skills or experience and that was the case in 2006.

I understand his frustration with being considered an 'associate' of Tom Noe. Too many people and businesses within the sphere of influence (what's left of it anyway) of the Blade just didn't want to risk having anything to do with anyone even remotely affiliated with Tom for fear of the headlines it would bring and the negative attention the paper would direct to them. Even in death, the paper couldn't resist the reference, so you can understand why businesses might have such a concern.

Larry had hoped to be appointed to a judicial vacancy, but for whatever reasons, that did not occur. In 2007, he did something he always criticized others for - ran against the appointed Republican for a seat on the Toledo Municipal Court. While I don't think that counted too much against him in the results, it probably did a bit and he lost that race as well.

I have no idea what Larry was dealing with over the last several years. Having experience with family members and friends who have suffered from depression, I know it's a hideous illness that hurts the family as well as the individual. I don't know if that was Larry's struggle, but considering all he went through, it would not surprise me if it was at least part of the issues he was facing.

And if it was, his family and friends are not only suffering from his loss, but questioning themselves about anything they might have done to prevent it - making this time even more difficult for them, so please pray for their peace of mind as you consider them in their mourning.

Larry was a good man.

He was a leader. He encouraged younger people both professionally and politically. He bore the standard of the Republican Party with pride and devotion to the core principles. He was inclusive, embracing individuals who shared a majority of those principles, even if they might disagree on a few. He took seriously his standing as a county elected official and his obligation to abide by a higher standard of conduct because of that position.

He was rarely without his wife, Gina, who clearly supported him as much as she loved him. They were often arm-in-arm at events and functions. Having a spouse as supportive, I cannot even remotely imagine what she must be going through, though my prayers are certainly with her and the rest of Larry's family.

So as we await the announcement of the arrangements for his services, I will remember him in the best of ways - as a friend and excellent role model.

And I will be forever grateful that Lucas County was blessed with such a devoted public servant who cared enough to devote his life to making this a better place.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Tax hikes, 2011 economic collapse and the impact on public budgets

We're all being told by politicians at just about every level of government that as the economy improves, revenues for government will increase.

This is not necessarily a wrong premise, since increased economic activity obviously provides more 'income' that government can tax.

However, when government plans to increase the amount of taxation on such 'income' whether it be dividends, wages, capital gains, etc..., people will make plans to reduce what they have to pay and to increase the amount of money they can keep.

Arthur Laffer, in a column in the Wall Street Journal (subscription may be required), makes the argument that people will maximize their income this year to take advantage of the current - and lower - tax rates. He predicts this will have a devastating impact on our economy next year when the economic activity would have normally taken place.

This does not bode well for budget projections or for politicians who are not making cuts in spending now hoping for increased revenues next year.

Toledo's elected officials have already expressed such hope for future revenues and are counting on increased monies to pay for costs they've pushed into next year. They've deferred police overtime until 2011 when it will be paid out at a higher hourly wage since police will be getting a pay increase as of January 1.

But if Laffer is correct, those hoped-for revenue increases will not materialize, leaving us with no additional funds to pay for the extra/delayed costs we know will have to be paid.

So what then? Even more taxes foisted upon us? Well, that seems to be the cycle....

When will they learn?

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Public Meeting on changing Lucas County's government

If, like me, you cannot make tonight's public meeting on changing Lucas County's form of government, WGTE is live streaming the meeting.


Quotes of the Day

"Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it." ~ Albert Einstein

"If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin." ~ Samuel Adams

"Never give in. Never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy." ~ Sir Winston Churchill

Monday, June 07, 2010

Wood County tornado update from Commissioner Tim Brown

This in via email from Wood County Commissioner Tim Brown:

As most of you know a devastating tornado hit northern Wood County in Lake Township late Saturday night. Within a very short period of time our county Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was activated and the Commissioners signed a declaration of emergency. Some of you getting this have been involved from the very beginning as response to this disaster was being coordinated both in the EOC and the command center established at Nagle trucking in Lake Township. After spending the first several hours in the EOC, Commissioner Carter and I made our first trip to Lake Township at about 4a.m. The Lake Township Building looked as if it had been bombed - completely destroyed and over half of their emergency vehicle fleet was crushed and mangled. At daybreak we began our survey of the entire area and I can tell you I have never witnessed such horrific destruction of homes and property. But most overwhelming of all was the vast and swift response of emergency responders to this crisis – they were from all over Wood County and northwest Ohio to work as a team and help, to transport the injured and to begin the search for survivors. Later in the day the Governor spent several hours surveying the damage and meeting with us and Lake Township officials and pledged the states resources to help. As I am sure you are aware by now, there have been many people injured and hospitalized with 7 confirmed killed in this storm. I’d ask that you please keep them all in your thoughts and prayers!

Since this tragedy began I have been asked by more people than I can count – how can I help – the phone calls and emails have been overwhelming, so I figured this would be the best way to reach the most people possible in getting the word out. Please direct your friends and family to the Toledo office of the American Red Cross. They are coordinating some of the response and accepting donations to assist in many aspects of this crisis. Their office can be reached at 419-329-2900. Additionally our Emergency Management Agency office can be reached at 419-354-9269.

God bless you all for your offers to help and for your expressions of concern to the people of Lake Township – they need our help and working together we WILL get through this!

Konop forces failed ideas into his county charter proposal

Tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. in the Downtown Public Library is the first public hearing on changing Lucas County's form of government. I again urge you to attend and be sure to ask all the questions you can as to WHY we need to change our form of government.

And don't let the commissioners get away with saying "it increases effeciencies" without documenting exactly how it does so and why other methods of increasing efficiencies aren't being tried first.

If Commission Ben Konop is present to discuss his proposal, you certainly need to ask him HOW he's going to increase the efficiency of county government when he's creating three new departments and three new boards/commissions, not to mention the increased number of elected officials.

Remember when Konop wanted the Lucas County Improvement Corporation to cater to his latest whims and they rejected his ideas? He then led an effort to oust the executive director, and tried to get the agency removed as the county's economic development lead. While trying to destroy the agency, he was also in charge of finding a new executive director - an effort at which he, again, failed.

Why is this important to remember now? Because his new 'charter' for Lucas County ignores the LCIC in favor of creating a new 'economic development commission' as well as an economic development department within county government. It also creates a department of development. These are just three of the six new boards and departments created under his proposal.

The others are a human resources commission, a county audit commission and a department of internal auditing. His proposal also creates a 'law director,' which will probably require staff as well. Currently the county prosecutor performs that function on behalf of all county elected officials.

But that's not his only failed idea that becomes a permanent part of county government. Remember his illegal scholarship program? I say illegal because county commissioners have no authority to take tax dollars and distribute it to 'certain, chosen' residents of the county in the form of college scholarships.

From Page 8 of his proposed charter document:

(11) To establish and provide for the administration of a program to provide scholarships, loans, grants and other forms of financial assistance for residents of the County that will enable them to participate in post-secondary education, including vocational education and job training and retraining; for the funding of the program from money determined to be saved by the operation of the County government under this Charter and from other funds of the County, including gifts, grants and donations received for such purpose; and for the conditions for eligibility for participation in the program by individuals and educational institutions.

Imagine that!

I suppose this change in government structure is Konop's last attempt at getting his way. He cited rejection of his ideas as his reason for not seeking re-election. I guess he'll show us by pushing another 'fresh, bold, new' idea from The Blade that, like his other failed ideas, lacks forethought, analysis, logic, details and substance - not to mention the fact that it will not do what he claims.

Konop's proposal also increases the costs of county government. I've previously documented how elimination of elective offices doesn't really reduce the costs of county government. Under Konop's proposal 10 of the new county council members will be paid $30,000 per year (to start) and the president of the council will be paid $35,000. They would be considered part-time. This is significantly less than what Cuyahoga is paying their council, but even at the lesser rate, the $335,000 total in Konop's proposal is still more than the $260,510 that the commissioners are currently being paid for their full-time jobs.

And this doesn't even get into the requirement that all county positions pay the 'prevailing wage' in the area. From Page 18:


Employees of the County and its offices, agencies and departments shall have the right to organize and to engage in collective bargaining as provided by general law. Wages paid under construction contracts entered into by the County and its offices,
agencies and departments shall be paid in accordance with general laws pertaining to payment of prevailing wages.

So even if the county wanted to negotiate something different, this charter provision says employees 'shall' be paid in accordance with prevailing wages. Oh - currently not all county employees are allowed to be in unions, but this seems to change that provision.

So Konop's proposal increases the size of county government, increases the costs of county government and incorporates many of his previously rejected ideas. How, exactly, is this a good thing for Lucas County?

I know - that's a great question.

But there are more questions you should ask - and I'll repeat them just in case you missed them in my prior post:

* What specific problems exist in county government?

* Why do we have these problems? Is it because of decisions by individuals or some structural problem?

* Where is the fiscal analysis showing the costs of the current government structure versus the cost of the proposed government structure?

* If there is no fiscal analysis of the cost comparisons, shouldn't that be done prior to any discussions on the matter so we're acting from an 'informed' point of view?

* If the problems with our county government have been identified, what are the other possible solutions to address them?

* Is there any type of documentation of the other potential solutions?

* Why are the commissioners rushing this? In the only two other Ohio counties to make this decision, it took them several years.

* Who are the other proponents of the idea - besides The Blade and certain politicians?

* Who are the opponents of the idea?

* What outreach have the commissioners done to the other municipalities in the county before proposing their new form of government? What was the reaction of the other municipalities?

* What new authority or powers would a charter form of government give the elected officials? What are the pros and cons of such new authority?

* What will be the taxing/fee authority of the charter form of government versus the limited taxing/fee authority of the current board?

* The Blade has done numerous articles promoting their perceived advantages of a charter form of county government. What are the disadvantages? Where are those documented and how will the commissioners share both sides of the issue with residents?

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Quick hits...TARTA, fish kills and mulch

A few quick hits on the news of the day while I await the delivery of 6 cubic yards of mulch from the City of Toledo.

(BTW - if you need mulch, the City has a great product at only $15 a cubic yard, which is quite a deal! And delivery is only $20. Hmmm...I wonder if this covers their costs or is this one of the reasons the city is in the hole with their budget? I think I'll think about that tomorrow or Sunday as I'm spreading the mulch around my yard.)

* TARTA is going to continue to push for a switch from property taxes to a sales tax as a method of funding, despite the fact that one of their member communities, Sylvania Township, voted against the proposal. They need unanimous support from their member communities to put the switch on the ballot.

Many of the suburban communities have been complaining for years about the lack of the service from this organization, despite the amount of money they pay for it. And with today's economic conditions, many struggling families are wondering why they're cutting back on their expenditures only to find they're paying for and/or subsidizing other peoples' method of transportation.

The TARTA levies (there are two of them) must be approved every 4 years by voters. A sales tax only has to be approved once, so that is certainly an advantage to TARTA. It would be applied on everything but prescriptions and groceries, raising the costs of all other items purchased in Lucas County and giving us one of the highest sales tax rates in the state.

TARTA likes to talk about how their estimates show people will pay less in sales tax than they do in property tax - but they never talk about the tax deductibility of those property taxes and how that might impact individuals who itemize. I've done calculations for our family and I know a TARTA sales tax will cost us more than the property tax.

But the biggest objection I have is that TARTA hasn't implemented many of the ideas from any of the studies they've done over the last 40 years or so. Today's paper quotes them as saying a bus costs about $45/hour to operate. There's no way they're going to ever break even if that is correct.

I heard one of the Monclova Township Trustees on the radio the other day talking about the increased pay the administration has gotten over the last several years. While I don't recall the exact amount, the figure of 20% sticks in my mind.

Oh - and the sales tax will generate roughly twice as much revenue for TARTA as the two current levies combined. So we'd be giving them even more money to run at a loss.

This just doesn't make sense.

* Fish kills at the Bayshore Power Plant cost us $30 million a year. At least, that's what the headline in the paper today says.

And how, exactly, do these dead fish cost us that much money? I have no idea - and the story doesn't say, though it does cite a 'study' as the source of the conclusion. But there's no link to the study so we can read it for ourselves and answer this question.

Oh - and the proposed solution is for the plant to build a $100 million cooling tower. What seems to be missed is that WE, the users of the energy from that plant, will have to pay for that $100 million cost - if it comes in at only $100 million. I think most people would say that other, less costly methods should be tried first. After all - what's more important to most people in the area: fish or their own checkbooks?

But here's the part that really gets me: the double standard.

Whenever an industry group does a 'study' that says a process or action is okay or not harmful, enviro-wackos claim the study cannot be trusted because of who paid for it.

***Side Note: I distinguish between enviro-wackos and normal individuals who happen to care about the environment and want to practice good conservation techniques - sort of like myself! So not all environmentalists are enviro-wackos.
End Side Note***

But when environmental groups - some of them known for 'radical' approaches - fund a study that says fish kills cost us $30 million a year, no one bats an eye or even remotely suggests that perhaps the study has a 'bias.'

See the double standard? When environmentalist groups fund a study, the study is valid - but when industry groups fund one, the study is biased and flawed.

You can't have it both ways.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Swartz withdraws from Congressional Race

Citing an unexpected family emergency, Libertarian Candidate Jeremy Swartz has withdrawn from the race for representative to Congress from Ohio District 9.

From his Press Release:

After careful consideration and deliberation, I met with my family and with deep regret have come to the decision to withdraw my candidacy as the Libertarian Nominee for the 9th District Congressional race effective immediately, due to a personal family emergency which recently arose and will require a substantial amount of my time.

Pursuant to Ohio Revised Code and Ohio Election Laws, the Libertarian Party of Ohio is legally allowed to name a successor to run in my place. If they (the Libertarian Party of Ohio) so choose, I recommend Joseph Jaffe (L) to run in my place for the 9th District Congressional seat. If a Libertarian successor should not be named, I will cast my vote to end tyranny in the United States by voting for Rich Iott (R) on November 2, 2010.

I wish him the best as he deals with his family emergency and will keep you posted as to any replacement named to fill the vacancy.

Quotes of the Day

I was working on a fiscal analysis of the proposed TARTA sales tax in lieu of their property tax, but Sylvania Township voted against the idea last night, derailing the entire process. Good for them!

So here are some quotes instead of the post I was going to make:

"A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government." ~ Edward Abbey

"Men in authority will always think that criticism of their policies is dangerous. They will always equate their policies with patriotism, and find criticism subversive." ~ Henry Steele Commager

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Quotes of the Day

From Liberty Tree Quotes as we reflect on our Memorial Day activities:

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived." ~ General George S. Patton, Jr.

"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it." ~ Thomas Paine
Google Analytics Alternative