Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mayor, Council urge support of 3/4% payroll income tax

Press release (talk about timing!):

Mayor, Council join to urge support of 3/4% levy

Mayor Michael P. Bell, Council President Joe McNamara and members of Toledo City Council will join together to voice their support of Issue 1 at a 3:45 pm press conference Tuesday, January 31 outside of council chambers.

Issue 1 is on the March primary ballot and passage would renew the city’s ¾% payroll tax levy. The ¾% is anticipated to provide over $51 million to city coffers in 2012 and its continuance is vital to ongoing city services, including police and fire operations.

What: Mayor and Council join to support ¾% levy

When: 3:45 p.m., Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Where: Outside council chambers, One Government Center

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Ultimate red light camera question for Toledo City Council

Actually, this question would apply to any entity that wants to install red light or speed cameras. Feel free to demand an answer of your elected officials!

If these cameras are for "safety" then where are the traffic engineering studies you did on each intersection documenting the safety issues and potential solutions???


When they don't have any traffic engineering studies that document the safety issues at the intersections ask a follow-up question: Then why are you implementing a 'solution' when you don't even know what the 'problem' is???

Obviously, this is all about the money and asking this question will clearly demonstrate that fact.

Citizens United, Corporate Personhood and Democracy debate

Event Notice:

Steven Colbert’s SuperPac may be a great comedy gag, but to some, the issue of campaign finance reform is no laughing matter. And at the heart of the debate is the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling from January 2010.

Two nationally recognized experts - Prof. Bradley A. Smith and Greg Coleridge - will face off in a moderated debate on “Citizens United, Corporate Personhood, and Democracy” at the UT College of Law Auditorium on Wednesday, February 8, beginning at 6:00 p.m. Terry J. Lodge, Esq., Toledo trial lawyer, will serve as moderator.

The debate is free, open to the public, and sponsored by the UT chapter of The Federalist Society; Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (Toledo); Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society; and The UT College of Law.

Quote of the Day - security vs. liberty

"We must pity the poor wretched, timid soul who is too faint-hearted to resist his oppressors. He sings the song of the dammed: “I can’t fight back; I have too much to lose; I own too much property; I have worked too hard to get what I have; They will put me out of business if I resist; I might go to jail; I have my family to think about.” Such poor miserable creatures have misplaced values and are hiding their cowardice behind pretended family responsibility -- blindly refusing to see that the most glorious legacy that one can bequeath to posterity is liberty; and that the only true security is liberty." ~ Marvin Cooley

Monday, January 30, 2012

Government steps up Jeep Liberty airbag probe

This came to my attention because I have a Jeep Liberty Sport. It's from NPR:

DETROIT (AP) — Federal safety regulators have stepped up their investigation into the Jeep Liberty SUV after 50 people reported they were hurt when the air bags inflated even though the vehicle wasn't involved in a crash.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration started investigating Liberty SUVs made by Chrysler Group LLC from the 2002 and 2003 model years in September. The investigation was upgraded to a full engineering analysis last week.

Documents on the agency website say Chrysler and regulators have gotten 87 complaints of air bags going off by surprise. Nearly 387,000 vehicles are under investigation.

Drivers reported burns, cuts and bruises. No deaths have occurred.

Forty-two of the incidents involved the driver's front air bag, with the remaining 45 cases involving both the driver and front passenger air bags, the documents said. The incidents occurred as the vehicle was being started and while it was being driven. The agency said some of the Liberty owners reported that the air bag warning light illuminated just before the air bags were inflated. But others reported that they didn't see any warning light.

NHTSA said in the documents that Chrysler inspected the air bag control computer chip and found that it fails due to a possible electrical voltage spike.

The company says no incidents have happened in vehicles made after March 19, 2003. But regulators say Chrysler can't explain that, so they are starting an engineering analysis.

read more here

Toledo CIP - source of all for everything - is running dry

In his State of the City address today at the Toledo Rotary (viewable here), Mayor Mike Bell said he wants to restructure the Capital Improvement Plan funds in order to borrow $28 million for street paving in 2012 and 2013.

The problem is that Toledo City Council has decimated the CIP fund over the past several years in order to cover general fund - or every day - expenses. This has left us with virtually nothing in the CIP to cover the necessary CIP expenses like road repair.

Council transferred funds because they just couldn't find anywhere to cut, despite funding things like Easter Egg hunts, hip hop concerts, arts projects and a host of other unnecessary (though desirable by some) items. In fact, tomorrow they will vote on transferring another million because revenue they expected from the new casino isn't yet coming in due to a delay in the casino opening.

Despite warnings that routinely relying upon the CIP to balance the general fund would lead to shortages in the long-term, council continued to do so.

Now we are faced with borrowing $28 million to cover our necessary expenses because there's nothing left. Interestingly, this will be the highest amount of debt issued since 1998 - more than twice the $13.5 million that was issued in 2003.

Toledo transferred out $7 million in 2011 to cover the 2010 budget deficit. They depleted their rainy day fun years ago. I believe the last time I added it up, it was around $50 million that had been taken out of the CIP and transferred into the general fund to cover every day expenses.

If council had just lived within its means and not transferred the money out of the CIP, we wouldn't have to borrow anything in 2012-13 to pay for road repaving.

But since Toledo voters approved letting council raid the CIP, there is no incentive for them to not do so. They spend the money knowing they can just raid the CIP to cover their pet projects and special programs, expecting to let future councils deal with the consequences.

Fortunately, the 3/4% payroll income tax will be on the ballot this year and Toledoans will have a chance to tell council "NO!"

Ohio 39th in State Business Tax Climate Index, worse than neighboring states

The Tax Foundation has released its 2012 State Business Tax Climate Index and Ohio finds itself still in the bottom at 39th in the nation, unchanged from last year.

The 10 best states are:

1. Wyoming
2. South Dakota
3. Nevada
4. Alaska
5. Florida
6. New Hampshire
7. Washington
8. Montana
9. Texas
10. Utah

They earn these positions primarily because they don't impose some or several of the taxes calculated.

The 10 worse states are:

41. Iowa

42. Maryland
43. Wisconsin
44. North Carolina
45. Minnesota
46. Rhode Island
47. Vermont
48. California
49. New York
50. New Jersey

Ohio ranked:

* 22 in corporate tax rate

* 42 in individual income tax

* 29 in sales tax

* 10 in unemployment insurance tax

* 33 in property tax.

Michigan, our neighbor to the north, ranked 18, up from 19 in 2011. While their corporate tax rank is 49 (the second worse in the nation) and their unemployment insurance tax rank is 44, they rank 11 in individual income tax, 7 in sales tax
and 30 in property tax, moving them ahead of Ohio in the overall rankings.

Indiana, which is expected to be a right-to-work state upon the governor's signature of recently-passed legislation, is ranked 11, also unchanged from 2011. Pennsylvania is 19, up from 21 in 2011 and Kentucky is 27, up from a 25 rank last year.

Sadly, all our neighbors rank better than we do in business taxation and they are our competition for jobs.

For more information on the rankings and methodology, you can read the entire report here.

2012 Toledo State of the City address

Reminder:

Mayor Mike Bell will deliver the 2012 State of the City address at the Toledo Rotary Club meeting at noon. If you'd like to view the State of the City, you can watch it live (and later as a recorded broadcast) at knowledgestream.org. His speech will begin immediately after the abbreviated Rotary meeting at approximately 12:15 p.m. and is expected to last 30 minutes.

Toledo City Council: liar, liar, pants on fire

Tomorrow Toledo City Council is scheduled to vote on adding 11 red light cameras in order to - hopefully - generate $320,000 to fund recreational programs. From all the news reports and comments, it appears that the measure will pass. After all, 'if it saves just one life' ...

For a decade, Toledo administrators and elected officials have told us the cameras are there for our safety. On June 22, 2009, as the city was discussing the fact that the camera revenue was not as projected, Police Chief Mike Navarre was on the record emphasizing safety over money.


Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre said money is absolutely not the reason for the cameras.

"I believe in the red-light camera[s] and they have been proven just by the very fact there is a drop in violations at the intersections where they are installed," Chief Navarre said. "If less people are going through red lights, there are going to be less accidents."

In 2007, as the city supported an increase in the red light camera fines, safety was, again, the focus:


From Chief Navarre:The additional revenue would make a major dent in the potential $10 million deficit next year, but the chief said that was not the intent.

"The job of the police department is to do enforcement and reduce accidents," Chief Navarre said. "If we increase revenue while we do that, that is a fortunate byproduct. It is certainly not our objective."


From Councilman Rob Ludeman: "What sold me was not so much the revenue source but making the intersections safer."

In 2009, as a group was gathering signatures to put the red light camera issue on the ballot, Chief Navarre again emphasized that revenue was merely a "by-product."

While the cameras do produce revenue for the city, Chief Navarre said that is not their sole purpose.

He said every camera throughout the city has shown a steady decline in violations since they were installed.

"That means less people are running red lights and I think it's logical and sensible to conclude there will be less accidents," he said. "The fact that revenue is generated is a fortunate by-product."


And then there's Councilman Tom Waniewski, who in 2008 said:


Councilman Tom Waniewski asked if the Finkbeiner administration would consider installing flashing yellow lights in advance of red lights to warn motorists.

"I'm concerned that a lot of times now, particularly now with increased air patrol, which is intended to be a revenue generator, that we're becoming a gotcha city," Mr. Waniewski said.

But today, Waniewski has accepted the idea of being a "gotcha city":


“If it will keep accidents down, then fantastic. I think we’ve probably come to accept the cameras as part of our landscape,” councilman Tom Waniewski said.

"...we've come to accept" the cameras? Wow - what a testament to Toledoans and their willingness to have their liberties infringed. And what a comment for a Republican councilman.

I guess we should be grateful that, at least now, they're all admitting it's just for the money. Finally we see their previous claims of safety for the lies they were.

But that's not all, folks - they're actually bragging about that fact and how this is a great solution to their budget problems. Heaven forbid that they actually try to live within their revenue rather than just create new taxes, fees and fines to continue spending beyond their means!

The worst part of this is how they came up with the new locations. According to today's paper, the intersections were selected based upon where red light running is "likely" to occur.


Finance Director Patrick McLean said the city selected the new intersections with the help of the Arizona-based company American Traffic Solutions.

The firm used a computer program to analyze traffic volumes and patterns across Toledo to determine intersections at which red light violations are most likely to occur, he said.


So we're not looking at accidents caused by running a red light. We're not looking at the number of violations of running a red light. We're letting some Arizona company predict where their computer program says it's "most likely" to have revenue. And that's where we're installing them.

Here's the thing that most frustrates me: if we have intersections where red light running is "likely," why haven't we modified those intersections to address that likelihood and thus make our intersections .... wait for it .... SAFER?!?

Here is the list of intersections:

• The southbound and northbound lanes of Secor Road at West Alexis Road, a congested intersection near Whitmer High School
• The northbound and southbound lanes of the Anthony Wayne Trail at Glendale Avenue southwest of the Toledo Zoo
• The eastbound and westbound lanes of West Bancroft Street at North Reynolds Road
• The eastbound and northbound lanes at Heatherdowns Boulevard at South Byrne Road
• Northbound North Detroit Avenue at Dorr Street
• Northbound Talmadge Road at Monroe Street, close to Westfield Franklin Park mall
• Southbound Collingwood Boulevard at Dorr Street

If Toledo city council members vote yes on this plan, it makes them all liars. They cannot stand by prior comments that the cameras are all about safety and then turn around and use them to fund the recreation department.

Call or email your city council members and tell them to vote no on using red light cameras sto fund the recreation department. Here is their contact information:


Toledo City Council phone number: 419-245-1050

D. Michael Collins: dmichael.collins@toledo.oh.gov

Phil Copeland: phillip.copeland@toledo.oh.gov

Mike Craig: mike.craig@toledo.oh.gov

Paula Hicks-Hudson: Paula.Hicks-Hudson@toledo.oh.gov

Rob Ludeman: rob.ludeman@toledo.oh.gov

Adam Martinez: adam.martinez@toledo.oh.gov

Joe McNamara: joe.mcnamara@toledo.oh.gov

Tyrone Riley: tyrone.riley@toledo.oh.gov

George Sarantou: george.sarantou@toledo.oh.gov

Steven Steel: steven.steel@toledo.oh.gov

Tom Waniewski: tom.waniewski@toledo.oh.gov

Lindsay Webb: lindsay.webb@toledo.oh.gov

Quote of the Day - government partiality

"History affords us many instances of the ruin of states, by the prosecution of measures ill suited to the temper and genius of their people. The ordaining of laws in favor of one part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly the most erroneous and mistaken policy. An equal dispensation of protection, rights, privileges, and advantages, is what every part is entitled to, and ought to enjoy... These measures never fail to create great and violent jealousies and animosities between the people favored and the people oppressed; whence a total separation of affections, interests, political obligations, and all manner of connections, by which the whole state is weakened." ~ Benjamin Franklin

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Quote of the Day - legal vs. moral

A quote for you to ponder as I participate in family celebrations today. As today ends National School Choice Week, I'm going to do a round-up of various school choice articles I came across and will post it tomorrow.

"Can we assume that a thing is right if it is legal? But slavery was once legal; Nazism was legal. Well, can we assume a thing is right if it is endorsed by majority rule? But a lynch mob is majority rule. Is a thing sure to be right, then, if it comes about through the democratic process? But fascist dictator Juan PerĂ³n of Argentina was democratically elected by majority rule on two occasions. . . . Well, how about the Constitution? But again we run into difficulties, for the Constitution can be amended to say anything the society wishes it to say. Suppose, for example, the Constitution were amended to permit the lynching of blacks—would this practice become ethically correct merely because the Constitution permitted it? The moral basis of capitalism is the right of each individual to live his own life, for his own sake." ~ R.W. Grant

Friday, January 27, 2012

NLRB makes providing jobs more difficult

This morning I attending one in a series of Workplace Regulation Seminars sponsored by the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce. James Yates, of Eastman and Smith, was the presenter with an overview of recent National Labor Relations Board actions and their impact on employers and the workplace.

The session, New Year - New NLRB Rules on Social Media and Union Organizing, was eye-opening. I've followed the shenanigans going on at the NLRB with claimed recess appointments as well as the U.S. Chamber's opposition to those appointments. But since I don't have employees, I've not paid as much attention to the various rules and regulations. Today's session brought me up to speed - and it's pretty scary. Let's just say that the NLRB is making it more difficult to provide the jobs so desparately needed in today's economy.

One of the most important facts I learned today is that the NLRB, unlike federal agencies and departments, is just a board. The name should have been a clue, but understanding the difference is critical.

Like the U.S. Supreme Court, this board has no authority under law to create regulations or rules. They speak, as does SCOTUS, through their decisions on cases brought before them. While their decisions become 'case law,' providing guidance to others in similar circumstances, they cannot create something new to impose upon Americans.

That, however, hasn't stopped them.

One of the negative aspects of a board that is packed with leftists is that they refuse to accept the limits on their authority - choosing, instead, to exercise rule making and hoping it will stand.

A case in point is their dictate that employers display a new Employee Rights Poster. This was originally supposed to be required last year, but thanks to a lawsuit the implementation date has been pushed back several times and is now April 30, 2012. Oh - and if you have employees who speak anything other than English, you must display the poster in one of the 24 languages whose translation they've provided.

Not surprisingly, industry groups sued over the rule. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Federation of Independent Business are all trying to block the implementation.

Included among the points they make in the lawsuit, Yates explained, are these:

* Nowhere does the National Labor Relations Act give the board the authority to coerce employers to post such notifications;

* The rule arbitrarily and capriciously excludes from the mandatory notice a description of an employee's fundamental right to be free from compulsory union membership or dues; and

* It violates federal law by failing to property assess the significant economic impact the rule would have on small businesses.

Additionally, as many comments on the proposed rule pointed out, there has been nothing - no study, or finding, or collection of data - that indicates a need for the regulations. So why impose a costly mandate, one for which you really have no authority, when there is no demonstrated need to let employees know they can form a union?

Good question. But since the NLRB doesn't care about their lack of authority to mandate a new regulation, what makes anyone think they're going to worry about a need for such a mandate?

Yates provided overviews of some of the other NLRB actions, including the complaint against Boeing to block the opening of their production facility in South Carolina. That a supposedly impartial NLRB was used as a negotiation tool to intimidate (through government threat of law) Boeing is clear to just about anyone who bothers to learn about the issue. The problem, though, is that the complaint was dropped as soon as the union got their way. What are the implications for employers who find themselves in similar circumstances? Unfortunately, since the NLRB didn't rule, I expect we will see similar strong-arm tactics from unions in the future. After all, with a board dominated by union people, it's not likely that they will prevent the NLRB from being used to coerce employers into agreeing to union negotiation demands.

So much for an unbiased, impartial board who is supposed to ensure all sides are following the National Labor Relations Act.

Some other interesting rulings Yates informed us of:

* The 'rat' case. Yes, a large, inflatable rat displayed outside a secondary employer is not the same as picketing and is allowed, as this Daily Caller article and source of the below photo explains.

Current law says that unions cannot picket a secondary employer - in this case, a hospital that was using a contractor with whom the union had a beef. But, with the NLRB ruling that such displays are not 'picketing,' unions are now free to place large, ominous rats right at the doors of your company.

As Yates explained, the ruling decided that this large, ugly, scary, toothy, evil-looking creature in a blow-up format is not frightening to families, children and patients at the hospital and that its presence would have no effect on the visitors to the hospital.

But, I wondered, if there was no effect on the people going into or coming out of the hospital, why display the rat at all? What would its purpose be if it had no effect?!?

Apparently, that's a bit of logic beyond the comprehension of the NLRB.

Yates also detailed some rulings regarding social media that employers need to be aware of - especially because they will require changes to employer policies. Additionally, these rulings impact most all employers, even those without a union in their company.

The current standard for allowable - as in not able to fire over - speech is that it must be protected (relating to employment, working conditions, wages, etc...) and it must be concerted (meaning not just related solely to the person making the comments, but related to one or more employees in the same class).

So if, for instance, an employee gets on TV and, as part of an interview over a strike or walk-out, relates lies about his employer's failure to comply with regulations having nothing to do with employment, that's okay. You, as the employer, cannot fire the individual who just told lies about non-existent illegal activity at your company because he was doing it as part of his protected and concerted actions. Never mind that most people won't know it's a lie or that your company's reputation has just been, perhaps irreparably, harmed. You can't do anything about it, so long as the employee really didn't have 'actual malice' in mind when making the comments. As anyone who's ever been slandered or libeled can tell you, proving 'actual malice' is nearly impossible.

But it gets worse, as Labor and Employment Law Update explains:

In this case the NLRB majority agreed that Parexel International did not terminate the employment of Theresa Neuschafer for protected concerted activities under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). (Section 7 of the NLRA expressly prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee for engaging in protected concerted activities.)

Generally, employees have received protection under the NLRA when they were retaliated against for internally criticizing a term or condition of their employment to their coworkers or a member of management.

The employee in this case was found to have discussed alleged pay raises and purported preferential treatment towards South Africans by the management of Parexel, Int’l (Neuschafer was not South African). The NLRB concluded that the company wanted to prevent Neuschafer from engaging in such discussions with her coworkers in the future. Such action, according to the NLRB’s majority, served as an unlawful preemptive strike against protected concerted activity.

The NLRB reasoned that because an employer violates the NLRA by threatening to terminate an employee in order to prevent her from exercising Section 7 rights, it follows that an employer similarly violates the law by terminating the employee in order to be certain that she does not exercise her rights in the future. In so finding, the NLRB majority expanded the theories on which the agency may hold employers liable, stating that an employer violates the NLRA when it fires an employee “to be certain that she does not exercise her Section 7 rights.”

Even though the employee had not engaged in protected and concerted activity, she might decide to do so in the future and, if she had done so, the company would have been prevented from firing her.

So, because she might, sometime, in the future, maybe, engage in some activity that would be protected, she can't be fired now for her non-protected comments.

How's THAT for certainty in the workplace!

I guess the lesson the NLRB wants employees to know is that as long as they couch their defamatory, negative, harmful, disparaging, disloyal, derogatory comments in sentences about the terms and conditions of their employment, they will win any wrongful termination complaints when they get fired for doing so.

Other things of note from Yates' presentation:

* The NLRB is likely to find that small units are 'appropriate.' In the past, the NLRB had held to the position that fragmentation within a single employer doesn't help collective bargaining - it undermines it. Many fights over unionization deal with the composition of the 'appropriate' unit. For instance, if you have a manufacturing facility with 50 plant employees (no supervisors), it's likely that the 'appropriate' composition of the potential union group is all 50 employees. Past practice would say that the 10 people in the warehouse or the five people in shipping are not part of two separate units.

However, with private sector union membership in such decline, the NLRB is looking for ways to help unions, so determining that 10 warehouse workers can be their own bargaining unit is one way to do so. The unions get their foot in the door; they don't have to convince all employees - just a small number of them - to join; and the battles begin.

And just to make it more difficult, employers now have to show "overwhelming" support against the smaller unit in order to prevent such action.

* 'Liking' a Facebook post of a fellow employee who comments about terms and conditions of employment on their wall may be enough to constitute the 'concerted' standard.

* Personnel policies will probably have to be revised, Yates advised, to reflect these changes:

- You can no longer prohibit disparagement of the company, unless you expressly exempt online discussions that are permissible under Sect. 7 of the NLRA (protected and concerted).

- Policies that prohibit the use of your company's name, logo or service marks outside of the normal course of business without prior permission are unlawful.

- Policies prohibiting representations about the company, including comments to the media, without prior approval of the company are unlawful.

- Broad prohibitions against disclosing confidential, sensitive or non-public information are unlawful, though prohibiting disclosure of proprietary or legally confidential information (like health data) is still allowed to be part of your policy.

- You can't even require that social networking communications be 'professional' or 'appropriate.'

- And you cannot require employees to expressly state that their comments are their own personal opinions and not those of their employer.

- Comments or posts that would violate policies against harassment or hostility in the workplace on account of protected classes are ones that employers can still restrict.

- Dissemination of product launch or release dates, including pending reorganizations, mergers or acquisitions can still be prohibited in your policies.

These are just the NLRB and social networking issues employers have to be aware of. Add to them all the OSHA, EEOC, FMLA and ADA requirements and you've only just begun. There are rules and regulations from the Federal EPA, the State EPA; licenses and permits; Workers' Comp and unemployment; health insurance, pension and benefits laws; and you've not even gotten to the actual production of the service or product you're trying to sell.

Given just these, and there are myriads more, what individual in their right mind would want to start a business today? Or stay in business when you have these sorts of headaches to deal with?

It boggles the mind - and most people making the rules (or trying to make rules when they have no authority to do so) have no clue what their 'little provision' means in the real world to the people trying to provide jobs for their neighbors and communities.



***Side Note: Eastman & Smith will host a day-long seminar, A Proactive Approach to Labor and Employment Law Issues, on Feb. 7 from 9-3 at the Grand Plaza Hotel. Registration begins at 8:30 and there is a $10 fee for registration and lunch. Further information is available here.

Gorver Norquist to headline 5th Congressional District Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner

Press Release:

Anti-Tax Crusader Grover Norquist to Headline 5th Congressional District Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner

BOWLING GREEN - Congressman Bob Latta welcomes Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) as the featured speaker at his 2012 Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner scheduled for Saturday, March 3, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. at Bowling Green State University’s Lenhart Grand Ballroom in Bowen-Thompson Student Union located off Thurstin Street in Bowling Green.

Tickets are $25 per person. To purchase tickets, contact a county Republican Party chairperson.

Mr. Norquist is president of ATR a taxpayer advocacy group he founded in 1985 at President Reagan’s request. ATR is a coalition of taxpayer groups, individuals and businesses opposed to higher taxes at the federal, state and local levels.

All 2012 Republican Presidential candidates are invited.

For more information, visit www.lattaforcongress.com.

Quote of the Day - Keystone Pipeline

This quote from Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) is courtesy of CNSNews:

"Well, we fought and won World War II in less time than it’s taken so far to evaluate this project. I mean, with all due respect, it is an insult to the American people to say that you need more time.

There are 10 other agencies that have reviewed this project and – correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that the Corps of Engineers approved it, the Department of Agriculture approved it, the Department of Interior approved it, the Department of Transportation approved it, the Environmental Protection Agency – believe it or not – approved it, the Defense Department approved it; the Justice Department approved it, the Homeland Security Department approved it and the Department of Commerce approved it. Only the State Department, which I believe, by law is required to look at the International implications since its trans-Canada -- only the State Department did not approve it.”

I did not know, and I'll bet the majority of Americans do not know, that all these other agencies - including the EPA - have approved the pipeline.

Do you think the lame street media would want that fact shared with us?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

FirstEnergy closing 6 plants due to new EPA rules

Just great - not! President Barack Obama said he wanted to bankrupt the coal industry and now, as a result of his new EPA standards, we're losing jobs and electricity sources in Ohio.

FirstEnergy today announced the closing of six coal-fired plants, including our plant here in Oregon, Ohio, and three others in our state. We already have some of the highest electricity rates in the state. How much will our rates go up without this local plant?

And what about the employees??? More than 500 employees will be out of work, though some may relocate to other plants or take early retirement. And then there are the ancillary jobs and economic benefits that will decrease, including transportation, office and manufacturing suppliers, etc...

So much for a President who said his number one priority was jobs.

For more information about how Pres. Obama's coal policies are costing us hundreds more per year, check out this blog post by Warner Todd Huston.

Here is the FirstEnergy press release:

FirstEnergy, Citing Impact of Environmental Regulations, Will Require Six Coal-Fired Plants

FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE) announced today that its generation subsidiaries will retire six older coal-fired power plants located in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland by September 1, 2012. The decision to close the plants is based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which were recently finalized, and other environmental regulations.

The total capacity of the competitive plants that will be retired is 2,689 megawatts (MW). Recently, these plants served mostly as peaking or intermediate facilities, generating, on average, approximately 10 percent of the electricity produced by the company over the past three years.

The following plants will be retired: Bay Shore Plant, Units 2-4, Oregon, Ohio; Eastlake Plant, Eastlake, Ohio; Ashtabula Plant, Ashtabula, Ohio; Lake Shore Plant, Cleveland, Ohio; Armstrong Power Station, Adrian, Pa.; and R. Paul Smith Power Station, Williamsport, Md.

In total, 529 employees will be directly affected. Existing severance benefits will apply to eligible, affected employees. However, the final number of affected employees could be less as some are considered for open positions at other FirstEnergy facilities and work locations, and eligible employees take advantage of a retirement benefit being offered to those 55 years and older.

"This decision is not in any way a reflection of the fine work done by the employees at the affected plants, but is related to the impact of new environmental rules," said James H. Lash, president, FirstEnergy Generation and chief nuclear officer. "We recently completed a comprehensive review of our coal-fired generating plants and determined that additional investments to implement MATS and other environmental rules would make these older plants even less likely to be dispatched under market rules. As a result, it was necessary to retire the plants rather than continue operations."

The plant retirements are subject to review for reliability impacts, if any, by PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization that controls the area where they are located.

FirstEnergy is finalizing MATS compliance plans for its remaining coal-fired units. Since the Clean Air Act became law in 1970, FirstEnergy and its predecessor companies have invested more than $10 billion in environmental protection efforts.

Since 1990, FirstEnergy has reduced emissions of nitrogen oxides by more than 76 percent, sulfer dioxide by more than 86 percent and mercury by about 56 percent. When the six coal-fired plants are removed from FirstEnergy's competitive generating fleet, more than 96 percent of the power provided will come from resources that are non- or low-emitting, including nuclear, hydro, pumped-storage hydro, natural gas and scrubbed coal units.

FirstEnergy is a diversified energy company dedicated to safety, reliability and operational excellence. Its 10 electric distribution companies comprise the nation's largest investor-owned electric system. Its diverse generating fleet features non-emitting nuclear, scrubbed coal, natural gas, and pumped-storage hydro and other renewables, and has a total generating capacity of nearly 23,000 megawatts.

TARTA excuses don't ring true, Gee still to blame

By now, most people are aware that the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority, TARTA, has "unauditable" books for 2010. I've called for all the politically appointed board members to be replaced (except the new Sylvania Township rep).

TARTA General Manager James Gee, who should have been replaced after illegally spending taxpayer monies on the levy campaign, has presented several excuses for the "unauditable" finding.

These poorly-presented excuses do not ring true - and certainly don't account for the finding from the State Auditor.

His first response was that the missing audit items were "minor." However, in looking at the list of items the State Auditor ordered him to produce, you can see they are clearly NOT minor.

Gee's other excuse is that they installed a new computer system. Having installed a major computer system as Clerk of Toledo Municipal Court, as well as overseen the transition of Lucas County to a new ERP system, I know such a switch should never result in "unauditable" books.

The Clerk's computer system wasn't just my office, but was part of a complete replacement of individual systems in the Toledo Police Department, Clerk of Court, Toledo Municipal Judges, Lucas County Sheriff's Department Correction Center (county jail) and CCNO - the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio. Not only did we replace each of the systems in these agencies, we merged them into a single overall system that shared data and information across jurisdictions, resulting in the elimination of duplicate entries, etc. Each of these systems kept records for the agencies as well as financial data, including much more complicated financial records that what TARTA has to deal with.

None of the agencies participating the criminal justice computer replacement were unable to complete their audits like TARTA.

If, as Gee claims, the switch to a new computer system is to blame, then it is his administration and oversight, as well as his lack of planning and anticipation of needs, etc... that caused the State Auditor finding - not the computer system itself.

It is his leadership of the transition and/or the staff that is fully at fault for not adequately handling the installation of a new computer system in a manner than ensures the accountability of the agency to the public for the funds they are receiving and expending.

So even if the "unauditable" finding is partially due to a new computer system, he is still the one to blame for not making sure the agency could function throughout the transition.

His other excuse was that there was new staff in the financial office.

He obviously hired the staff, so why did he hire people who can't produce such basics audit items as a list of contracts - new computer system or not? And why would he hire new staff as he was embarking upon a computer transition?

Even if 'new staff' is partially to blame for the "unauditable" finding, it is still his responsibility as General Manager to hire the right people and ensure they are properly trained so that an audit can be completed.

Again, he is to blame.

His last excuse is that he had trouble scheduling meetings with the private accounting firm, Clifton Gunderson, who was hired to do the audit.

Talk about lame. In a full year, with today's technology, you couldn't get a meeting date???

This certainly doesn't sound valid. Clifton Gunderson is a well-respected national firm that has wide experience in doing public audits. From their website:

Clifton Gunderson is registered with the Public Company Auditor Oversight Board (PCAOB) and is a member of the Audit Quality Center of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), as well as the Government Audit Quality Center and the Employee Benefit Plan Audit Quality Center. Our accounting and auditing quality control systems have earned unmodified reports in all of our peer reviews and a clean report from the PCAOB.

Does this really sound like a company that can't schedule a meeting?

Or is it more likely that TARTA - and James Gee, personally - are to blame for his 'lack of meeting' excuse? Besides, it doesn't take a personal meeting to produce the missing documents so an audit can be completed.

So, no matter what lame excuse Gee has presented, he is the General Manager and it was/is his responsibility to have the audit completed. He can try to blame others, but the real fault is in his lack of leadership and oversight.

He needs to go.



* "unauditable" is not an actual word, but is the term the Auditor of State has used for a number of years now to indicate the status of public agencies whose books cannot be audited, for one reason or another.

Quote of the Day - collectivist mindset

"To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over and above them. He is proud of a common heritage and loyal to common traditions. But he regards government as a means, an instrumentality, neither a grantor of favors and gifts, nor a master or god to be blindly worshipped and served. He recognizes no national goal except as it is the consensus of the goals that the citizens severally serve. He recognizes no national purpose except as it is the consensus of the purposes for which the citizens severally strive." ~ Milton Friedman

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Quote of the Day - heaven, hell and socialism

"As an English conservative said, Obama will never realize that his kind of socialism is workable only in heaven, where it isn’t needed, and in hell, where they’ve already got it." ~ Hans Von Spakovsky

What the government doesn't want you to know: airlines now required to hide taxes

I'm on a list serve with a number of conservative bloggers and yesterday there was an email from Seton Motley, President of Less Government that contained a surprising notice from Spirit Airlines.

WARNING:
New government regulations require us to HIDE taxes in your fares.


This is not consumer-friendly or in your best interest. It's wrong and you shouldn't stand for it.

Starting January 24, 2012, fares are distorted.

Why?
Thanks to the U.S. Department of Transportation's latest fare rules, Spirit must now HIDE the government's taxes and fees in your fares.

If the government can hide taxes in your airfares, then they can carry out their hidden agenda and quietly increase their taxes. (Yes, such talks are already underway.)

And if they can do it to the airline industry, what's next?
As the transparency leader and most consumer-friendly airline, Spirit DOES NOT support this new USDOT mandate. We believe the better form of transparency is to break out costs so customers know exactly what they're buying.

What can you do to help stop this injustice?
Join us in keeping government taxes and fees low and transparent by contacting your elected officials.

It then had links to contact your congressional representatives.

Additionally, when you go to the Spirit Airlines website, there is a pop-up screen that gives you the same warning.

At first I thought this was one of the most outrageous things I'd heard of. But then I realized that it's just another in the long list of abuses the government is inflicting upon us. And this from the administration that promised to be the most transparent in history.

If the Transportation Department can force companies to hide the taxation, how will you hold your government accountable for their collections and expenditures? But that's the point. They don't want you to know. Instead, when the cost of airline travel rises, you'll get mad at the 'eeeee-villlll' airline company - and politicians can then step in to save you by tyrannically imposing price controls. Voila - we're no longer the land of the free.

Kudos to Spirit Airlines for having the courage to say what needs to be said and urging their customers to be active in opposing government tyranny.

Where are the other airlines? And what action are you going to take now that you know about this?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Run a red light - it's for the children

Well, well, well. Imagine my surprise to learn that the City of Toledo is planning to install additional red light cameras in order to generate funds to pay for recreational programs. The cameras clearly aren't about safety, but are merely a tool to raise funds because the city just can't stop spending.

I nearly flew out of my chair when I heard Patrick McLean, Finance Director, tell Toledo City Council at their meeting today that they will install 11 additional cameras with the hopes of raising about $320,000.

Of course, this relies upon people not running the red lights.

The problem, as I've detailed previously, is that the more people get used to red light and speed cameras, the less the revenue there is from violations. Since 2009 when the city added speed cameras and negotiated a higher percentage of the fines, the revenue has steadily decreased. This means that the city, in order to continue to collect their targeted budget amounts, must constantly expand the big-brother-type surveillance.

And now, they want the additional revenue from the additional cameras to go to recreational programs - who could argue with that?!?

Can't you just see the ads now?
* Run a red light - it's for the children!

* When you run a red light, that money goes to buy eggs for the annual Easter Egg hunt. Don't let needy children go without an egg on Easter - run a red light today!

and my favorite for which I even made a poster

* Without government recreational programs, kids will turn to crime. So run a red light ... commit a crime to keep kids from becoming criminals.



























Of course, this time around, they're actually admitting the cameras are to generate revenue - not for the safety of motorists, as they've claimed previously.

Remember what traffic researcher and highway safety advocate with the motorist advocacy group National Motorists Association Barnet Fagel said:

“There’s no need for cameras if intersections are safe,” explains Fagel. “Cameras document traffic engineering errors. They don’t prevent collisions, they only record them.”
...
“If an intersection is properly engineered you don’t need cameras. I feel as long as intersections are inherently unsafe they will be profitable for the camera company and the village.”

It's what I said originally, but here's an 'expert' saying the exact same thing.

So I guess there's no need for any traffic engineering studies - not that the city did any in the first place. There's no need to try all reds in every direction before the light turns green - and no need to expand the yellow light time. In fact, since this is all about revenue, they'll probably shorten the yellow light time, as they've been accused of doing in the past, just to ensure more people get a ticket for running the red light. Talk about enhancing safety.

Perhaps, as numerous towns are ending their red light programs and evidence is mounting that the cameras actually cause more accidents, it's probably a good thing that Toledo is so opening admitting that it's not about safety, but about the bottom line.

My only hope is that City Council will say no to additional red light cameras in order to fund recreational programs. But if we can't stop them from installing more cameras, maybe we can at least get them to dedicate the revenue to repair our decrepit roads.

Constitutional Modernization Commission accepting applications for public appointments

Press Release:

Constitutional Modernization Commission Accepting Applications for Public Appointments

COLUMBUS—Speaker William G. Batchelder (R-Medina) and Rep. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron), co-chairs of the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission, announced that they are currently accepting applications for 20 open public member seats on the Commission.

Per the procedure adopted by the legislative members of the Commission on December 28, 2011, interested applicants should send a cover letter and a resume to each of the co-chairs by January 31, 2012 at:

Speaker William Batchelder, Co-Chair
Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission
77 South High Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215
District69@ohr.state.oh.us

Rep. Vernon Sykes, Co-Chair
Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission
77 South High Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215
john.meacham@ohr.state.oh.us

The Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission is a bipartisan committee charged under R.C. 103.61 with examining the state constitution and making recommendations to the Ohio Legislature. Under the statute, appointees to the Commission shall serve without compensation for terms that expire on January 1st of every even-numbered year. A summary of H.B. 188, which established the Commission, is available online at:

http://www.lsc.state.oh.us/analyses129/11-hb188-129.pdf

-30-

'Rich pay less than their secretaries' claim has already been debunked

Considering that President Barack Obama in tonight's State of the Union is going to again call for a Buffett tax on the rich, primarily because he believes the rich pay less in taxes than their secretaries, I thought this article from Yahoo News might be good to recall.

This is especially timely when you know that Warren Buffett's secretary is going to be a guest in First Lady Michelle Obama's box at the speech.

From the Yahoo News article:

On average, the wealthiest people in America pay a lot more taxes than the middle class or the poor, according to private and government data. They pay at a higher rate, and as a group, they contribute a much larger share of the overall taxes collected by the federal government.

The 10 percent of households with the highest incomes pay more than half of all federal taxes. They pay more than 70 percent of federal income taxes, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

...

This year, households making more than $1 million will pay an average of 29.1 percent of their income in federal taxes, including income taxes, payroll taxes and other taxes, according to the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank.

Households making between $50,000 and $75,000 will pay an average of 15 percent of their income in federal taxes.

Lower-income households will pay less. For example, households making between $40,000 and $50,000 will pay an average of 12.5 percent of their income in federal taxes. Households making between $20,000 and $30,000 will pay 5.7 percent.

The latest IRS figures are a few years older — and limited to federal income taxes — but show much the same thing. In 2009, taxpayers who made $1 million or more paid on average 24.4 percent of their income in federal income taxes, according to the IRS.

Those making $100,000 to $125,000 paid on average 9.9 percent in federal income taxes. Those making $50,000 to $60,000 paid an average of 6.3 percent.

So with this data readily available and known by reporters, do you think anyone will actually challenge the President on his claim that we need a Buffett tax because the rich pay less than their secretaries?

Hey NAACP - Who's side are you on?

This is National School Choice Week and, as part of my support for kids being able to have the schooling that meets their needs regardless of their zip code, I'm sharing with you this article and video, produced by ChoiceMedia.TV

The Story of How the NY NAACP Sued Charter Schools Serving Black Kids

As school choice becomes more integrated into the fabric of American public education, teachers unions have been using a new tactic to fight these reforms: the lawsuit. And it’s making for strange bedfellows.

The United Federation of Teachers, the New York City teachers union, joined forces with the New York State NAACP in a lawsuit to evict charter schools from buildings shared with traditional district schools. This despite the high percentage of students of color that attend the city’s public charter schools.

Why would the NAACP agree to sue the very charter schools that were providing so many black kids with a high quality education?


National School Choice Week - teachers have a choice, too

Press notice - for all teachers and those interested in educational choice:

Join Smart Girl Politics in partnership with the Association of American Educators for "Teachers Have a Choice Too" Tele-townhall.

Wednesday, January 25 at 7:00 PM EST

Are you a teacher? Do you have friends who are teachers? Please join us for this unique event and help us get the word out to teachers around the country that they too have a choice!

The Association of American Educators (AAE) advances the teaching profession through personal growth, professional development, teacher advocacy and protection, as well as promoting excellence in education so that our members receive the respect, recognition and reward they deserve.

AAE is America's fastest growing national, nonprofit, nonunion teachers' association with members in all 50 states.

AAE offers professional member benefits such as liability insurance and legal protection, professional development, newsletters, scholarships, classroom grants, and a voice on educational issues-but at a fraction of the cost of most other associations' dues.

AAE does not spend any of our members' dues on partisan politics, nor do we support or oppose controversial agendas unrelated to education.

Join us for a School Choice Week Tele-townhall Wednesday, January 25 at 7:00 PM. AAE will present information on school choice, show a 15 minute film, and will be available to answer questions about teacher choices.

REGISTER HERE

Follow up on TARTA board members

I received an email from a friend who lives in Sylvania and she informed me that the Township named a new representative to the TARTA board last year.

Troy Stevenson, who replaced the former TARTA board president and Sylvania Township rep James Bohn, has been rather diligent in reporting back to Sylvania Township about the goings-on at TARTA. You can see his report from the Dec. 1, 2011, TARTA board meeting here.

Strangely, there is nothing in his report about the lack of a 2010 audit nor the imminent declaration by the Auditor of State that the TARTA books are 'unauditable.' Perhaps that wasn't discussed and, as a new member, it wouldn't occur to him that the agency hadn't completed its audit. Of course, considering, as I've said previously, that being put on the State Auditor's 'unauditable' list doesn't come as a surprise, everyone should be demanding an explanation from James Gee as to WHY that issue wasn't discussed at the December TARTA board meeting.

Since he's new, I won't include him in my call to replace all TARTA board members.

Hopefully, now that the financial debacle at TARTA is public, he'll earn the support of his community by holding TARTA - and his fellow board members - accountable.

Quote of the Day - tyranny

"The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress." ~ Frederick Douglass

Monday, January 23, 2012

TARTA missing audit items not 'minor'

In response to the declaration by the Ohio Auditor of State that TARTA is "unauditable" for the 2010 fiscal year, James Gee told the local daily that the missing items were “a list of minor details.”

So I emailed the auditor's office to find out what was missing.

Their letter reads, in part:

To Ms. Stacey Clink and Mr. James Gee:

As part of our regular audit of the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority for the period January 1, 2010 through December 31, 2010, we have determined that the condition of your financial records is not adequate to finish our audit. The IPA firm completing the audit has been unable to obtain the information in the attachments to this letter.

Consequently, we consider the financial records unauditable pursuant to Ohio Rev. Code Section 117.41.

Here are the items listed in the attachment referenced:

Cash and Cash Equivalents
• Request copies of the following checks:
 Huntington a/c 9902 (on Dec bank rec)
 Support of deposit in transit for $33,266.71

• Request details for PNC error

Accounts Receivable
• Support of A/R Federal Oper Assist account

Prepaid
• Trapeze prepaids

Fixed Assets
• FA2- Current year additions detail (need invoices for any significant additions)
• FA3 - Current year disposal detail (need check copy/support for any significant proceeds received)
• Requested support for significant CIP additions
• FA4 - Gain / loss on disposal detail
• Need responses to tax department questions

Accrued Liabilities
• Copy of AL16 for adjustment noted in health care accrual calculation which caused adjustment to be off $62,000

Miscellaneous
• Provide G/L detail for accounts 1380-000, 3020-000 and 3200-000.
• MC8 - Most recent (2011) internal Balance Sheet and Income Statement

Ohio Revised Code
• OR4 - Certificate for total amount from all sources available for 2009 and 2010.
• OR7 - Do-not-exceed certificate
• OR8 - Amending appropriation resolution for expenditures
• List of contracts over $25,000
• Any contracts > $50k. Need corresponding RFPs

Single Audit
• Disbursement Testing Selections. Sample was sent by email on 5/13/11. File was titled “Grants Disbursement Selection”. Requesting P.O.’s, invoices, and copies of cleared checks
• DBE Memos for 2010
• SA11 - Disposals that were purchased with federal dollars

Prepaid
• Hylant prepaid

Accounts Receivable
• Proof of subsequent receipt of TMACOG invoices in other accounts receivable
o Nov 09, Jan, Mar & - $21,918
o Nov – $11,166.20
o Dec - $14,065.61

Accounts Payable
• Need requested invoices for sample selected from 2011 check register. - missing grant invoices

Expenses
• Legal fee detail for 2010 invoice
• Explanation for fluctuations in the following accounts:
o 6110-020
o 6145-020
o 6160-020
o 6175-020
o 6185-020

• Need to determine whether holiday and vacation accruals are correct for last week of pay period
• Updated report for claims
• Updated report for litigations

Control testing
• Last page of check registers for requested pay periods

Other
• Completion of disbursement testing on 11/2/11
• Responses to questions and additional requests relating to quarterly narratives

These are NOT minor. It's not 'minor' to be missing your accounts receivable support for your federal operating assistance account.

It's not 'minor' to be unable to produce a listing of your fixed asset purchases and disposals.

It's not 'minor' to be missing your "Most recent (2011) internal Balance Sheet and Income Statement."

It's not 'minor' to be unable to produce - for 13 months! - your listing of contracts over $25,000 and the requests for proposals for all contracts over $50,000.

It's not 'minor' to be missing your list of disposals purchased with federal dollars. In fact, lack of the audit information on the federal items could result in loss of federal income.

It's not 'minor' to be missing details of your legal expenses, details about fluctuations in various accounts, reports for claims and litigation against the agency, or your complete check registers.

No matter what Gee says, these are major items, most of which should be kept on a regular basis or at least should be capable of being produced within a full year of being requested.

How does TARTA not provide a list of their contracts over $25,000? How do they not provide their RFPs for contracts over $50,000? How do they not gather this information in 13 full months????

There is no excuse for such incompetence. A change in personnel and a new computer system cannot be blamed for many of the missing items. It shouldn't take any specialized knowledge to go to your check register (the document used to record checks written) and make a copy of the last page for various pay periods.

I'll say it again: James Gee needs to go and the entire TARTA board needs to be replaced.

1000 days without a budget

Replace all TARTA board members

The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority is in trouble again with the state auditor - this time because their 2010 fiscal year is "unauditable."

You'll remember last May when a state audit revealed that TARTA spent tax dollars illegally. The auditor issued findings for recovery against James Gee (personally) and TARTA for using public dollars to fund their tax levy campaign.

Now we learn that TARTA has failed to turn over records so their 2010 books can be audited.

A Jan. 20th press release from Dave Yost, State Auditor, says:

As a result of inadequate financial records, Auditor of State Dave Yost placed the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) on the “unauditable” list.

“Unavailable records leave unanswered questions,” Auditor Yost said. “This delay is deeply troubling.”

During the course of the regular financial audit of TARTA for the period January 1, 2010 through December 31, 2010, the Auditor of State’s office determined that the condition of the authority’s financial records were not adequate to complete the audit. Financial audits are usually completed within six months of the end of the entity’s fiscal year. In a letter to TARTA, the Auditor of State’s office provided a list of records required to complete the audit. For example, the authority must still provide reconciliation information, as well as lists of purchases and disposals of fixed assets.

Within 90 days of the date of the letter, TARTA must revise its financial records and provide the necessary data. Failure to bring records to an auditable condition may result in legal action, including the possibility of the attorney general issuing a subpoena to the comptroller and general manager to explain the condition of records. The attorney general may also file suit to compel the comptroller and general manager to prepare and/or produce the required information.

The Auditor of State’s Local Government Section (LGS) is now available to help TARTA reconstruct their records.

Gee told the local daily paper that the list of missing items is "minor." I've requested from the State Auditor the list as well as the letter and will share them with you upon receipt. We'll see just how 'minor' they are.

My question is why it's taken so long for anyone to know there was a problem? The audit is over six months past the normal completion time.

TARTA is managed by James Gee. But he reports to a board of trustees made up of representatives from the jurisdictions in the TARTA service area - though the board is dominated by Toledoans.

The most current list of board members I could find show these individuals and the jurisdictions they are supposed to be representing:

* James Bohn (President), Sylvania Township
* Lori Brodie, Village of Waterville
* Brian Fitch, City of Toledo
* Francis Frey, City of Maumee
* Bonita Johnson (Vice President), City of Toledo
* Jack Murphy, City of Toledo
* Shelly Papenfuse, City of Toledo
* Steven Pecsenye, City of Toledo
* Tom Ramsdell, City of Sylvania
* Kevin Rantanen, City of Perrysburg
* Harold Salverda, City of Toledo
* Barbara Sperr, City of Toledo
* Anthony Szilagye, City of Rossford
* Dee Talmage, Village of Ottawa Hills
* Robert Vasquez, City of Toledo
* Clifford Wright, City of Toledo

So why haven't any of these board members - who are supposed to be watching out for the best interests of their jurisdiction - bothered to mention to anyone that TARTA was having trouble producing financial records from 2010?

Why haven't these individuals reported back to their jurisdictions that an "unauditable" designation was forthcoming from the State Auditor? Such a determination never comes as a surprise, as it requires extensive communications and coordination before ever being considered, much less issued.

Is there no one on the board who realizes that they are responsible directly to the taxpayers and that the taxpayers should have had some warning of the problems?

Is it possible that they didn't know? If so, it means that they're not doing their job to ask where the 2010 audit report is - and/or it means that James Gee is keeping information from them.

If the latter is true, Gee needs to be removed immediately. But had I been a board member I would have insisted he be removed after being found personally liable for the illegally spent tax dollars.

These board members have failed in their basic duty: oversight of the agency. Furthermore, their failure to share the pending problems with their appointing authority indicates a lack of accountability to the people they're supposed to be representing.

They are placed on the board to ensure that the agency is serving the jurisdictions in a fiscally prudent and responsible manner. When the agency cannot be audited because it cannot produce records, it is certainly not being fiscally prudent nor responsible.

Toledo City Council and the other jurisdictional appointing authorities should call these representatives in at a public meeting to explain themselves - then remove them.

The entire board of trustees needs to be replaced with individuals who are going to be accountable to the taxpayers and who are willing to provide the oversight this agency so desperately lacks.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

National School Choice Week


Today is the beginning of National School Choice Week - with a goal of "shining a spotlight on effective education options for every child."

There are events across the nation - and you can find one near you by going to PutKidsFirst.com.

School choice is very basic: it consists of 'allowing' (though no one should be granting such permission in the first place) families to select the school(s) that bests meet their child’s needs. Heritage Foundation has published a video the explains school choice, how it can benefit parents and their children and, most importantly, why school choice is needed today more than ever.

School choice is critical because, as the Put Kids First website says:

kids should be able to read their diploma

and

America shouldn’t be 35th in anything.”

but even more importantly

Because children shouldn’t be condemned to failure because they live in the wrong zip code.”

Take some time this week to learn about school choice and why so many people support it.

Quote of the Day - government parasite

"Government is a parasite -- a cancer that by nature tries to spread deeper into society. Those who want to run others' lives won't give up and start minding their own business." ~ Harry Browne

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Contradiction abounds in requirement to provide free birth control

Friday, the Obama Administration announced final regulations requiring health care plans to cover birth control without charging any co-pays or deductibles to their participants. The requirement will begin Aug. 1.

The administrative rule will require organizations like religious schools and Catholic hospitals to offer birth control - at no cost - to employees covered by their health plans, though not until 2013. Houses of worship are exempt.

I'm certain that many people are going to be writing about the infringement on religion, and the Catholic religion specifically, but I want to focus on the clear contradiction in thought: that requiring health care plans to provide contraception (or any service/treatment/drug) without a co-pay or deductible somehow 'saves money.'

First, there isn't anyone who doesn't have 'access' to contraception. Any person can purchase condoms and anti-spermicide at the drug store counter - and the effectiveness of each is increased by using them together.

Any woman can get a prescription for birth control from numerous outlets. A doctor may recommend a specific type over another based upon the woman's personal and medical history, but there are so many doctors willing to write the prescriptions that no woman is without 'access.'

This regulation isn't about 'access' - it's about a woman not having to pay for the contraception she wants to use.

From The Hill:

"Birth control is not just basic health care for women, it is an economic concern," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. "This common sense decision means that millions of women, who would otherwise pay $15 to $50 a month, will have access to affordable birth control, helping them save hundreds of dollars each year."

As Richards readily admits, women already have access, but they're paying "$15 to $50 per month." With this new rule, they won't be required to pay anything - at least, not up front.

But someone always pays, hence the contradiction.

The manufacturer will still need to be compensated for the product they provide. So while the individual woman won't have to fork over any money at the time she actually get her contraceptive, insurance companies will still have a cost that will need to be covered. Without the ability to charge the individual user, they'll raise their rates on everyone to cover the expense.

This means higher rates for all - including the ones who think they're now getting their contraception for free. Talk about a contradiction between hype and reality.

So of course, it should come as no surprise that the overwhelming comments on the HHS rule were in favor of the requirement. All those people who supported it think they'll no longer have to pay. But that's just a bigger comment on their intelligence and reasoning skills - or perhaps our education system - than it is on the rule itself.

So what about seniors who don't need contraception? Or a single person who is celibate? What about men and women who have had a medical procedure that eliminates the need for contraception? Or individuals who are sterile?

All of these people will now be covering the costs so some can have the luxury of not having any out-of-pocket expenses for a product only they are using.

This is un-American. And it's no different than if my co-worker stole money out of my wallet in order to pay for her birth control pills.

Guest Column: New Programs a priority for BWC

Guest Column from State Rep. Barbara Sears:

New Programs a Priority for Bureau of Workers’ Compensation

As a long-time advocate for employee benefits, I am excited that the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. The BWC has a long legacy of protecting Ohio workers and creating programs that speak to the best interest of both Ohio business owners and their employees. The BWC has been especially successful in its 100th year when it came to creating programs that protect and benefit Ohio workers.

One of the great programs created this past year by the BWC is the Destination: Excellence Program. This program aims to improve return-to-work rates by rewarding employers for building a risk management plan that focuses on safety, prevention, and returning injured employees back to their jobs more quickly. The plan offers seven program options to best fit the unique needs of employers and their businesses.

Another BWC program that seeks to keep employees healthy and productive is the new Wellness Grant Program. The Wellness Grant Program is a four year $4 million plan that awards companies up to $15,000 to create employee wellness initiatives. This program will help employers meet the challenges related to rising incidences of obesity and chronic disease, as well as an aging workforce. All of these factors contribute to workplace injuries and slow the recovery of injured workers.

Additionally, there is the Grow Ohio Program. This program speaks specifically to employers. It is designed to help boost economic development by creating options for new employers that can decrease their premiums by up to 53 percent. The Grow Ohio Program and similar efforts are crucial to creating an environment in Ohio in which businesses are able to thrive and expand.

Aside from program building, the BWC has made it a priority to cut down unnecessary spending through a series of efforts. The BWC has saved Ohio’s private employers $65 million in premiums by reducing the average base rates by four percent. Next, it has reduced Public Employer rates by five percent, thereby saving local governments $22 million a year. Lastly, the BWC has saved an additional $80 million by reducing its budget by 12 percent over the next two years.

The combination of creating excellent programs for Ohio’s workforce, alongside accomplishing major reductions in unnecessary spending, has fostered a healthier environment for the Ohio job market. It has been a remarkable year for the BWC, and I have no doubt that the momentum it has gained in its 100th year will continue into the future as we continue to serve the needs of Ohio’s workforce

Friday, January 20, 2012

Quotes of the Day - other people's money

"Politicians never accuse you of ‘greed’ for wanting other people’s money—only for wanting to keep your own money." ~ Joseph Sobran


"Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves." ~ Ronald Reagan


"What’s “just” has been debated for centuries, but let me offer you my definition of social justice: I keep what I earn and you keep what you earn. Do you disagree? Well then, tell me how much of what I earn “belongs” to you -- and why?" ~ Walter Williams

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Understanding SOPA and PIPA

Because of the actions of numerous websites, including Wikipedia which went black yesterday, a lot of people are now aware of two pending Congressional bills: Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA).

But in case you still don't know why they're such a big deal, Sal Khan from the Khan Academy has put together a video which explains the bill in it language that is easy to understand.



(H/T: Small Business Against Big Government)

Toledo City Council Meeting January 17, 2012

Notes from Sherry:

Prior to the meeting, everyone in the Chambers had to leave. There was a bomb threat.

In attendance: Councilmen Collins, Sarantou, Martinez, Ludeman, McNamara, Copeland, Steel, Craig, Waniewski, Riley, Councilwomen Webb, Hicks-Hudson, Deputy Mayor Herwat, Mayor Bell.

Special Meeting on the 10th - (I wasn't there)

Item 16 – Accept Fact Finding Report for Toledo Fire Chief's Association (TFCA) – passed.

Item 17 – Appointment – Director of Department of Neighborhoods – Lourdes Santiago – Webb – on going investigation – Should we appoint? Premature – timing off. Nothing against Lourdes. Waniewski – tell the public that there is stability in that department. Herwat – agrees with Waniewski. Webb – thanks for your comments. Confirmed – all voting yes.

Item 18 – Appointments – City Council Committee – confirmed – all voting yes.

Item 19 – Resolution – Recognize Buckeye Cable Sports Network (BCSN) on their 8th anniversary – adopted – all voting yes.

Item 35 – SUP for fuel station for Kroger at 2555 Glendale Ave. at S. Detroit Ave. (w/o Recommendation 4 – 0) – Collins – property owners (abutting) are across the room – not against Kroger – not a win/loss – zoning issues- traffic crashes (many mentioned) – How will this be filled? - What will neighbors say? - We have 2,500 signatures against this, 490 of them are residents – these people are stake holders – vote no with me – broken window analogy, that is the first step – not no to Kroger, no to this project. No – Collins, Copeland, Hicks-Hudson, Ludeman, Martinez, Riley, Sarantou, Steel – Yes – Waniewski, Craig, McNamara, Webb. Ordinance failed.

Item 10 – Amend TMC Part 1 to transfer Division of Recreation from Neighborhoods to Department of Public Service – McNamara – needs 3 readings – Hold till January 31st.

Item 15 – (496-11) Accept JAG grant for Police for equipment for motorcycle traffic enforcement, $207,691 – passed – No – Collins, Craig, Martinez, McNamara, Riley – Yes – Waniewski, Ludeman, Hicks-Hudson, Steel, Sarantou, Copeland, Webb.

Item 20 – Contract with Kalniz, Iorio & Feldstein for legal defense for Police Officer Arrow Osborne, $13,520 General Fund – passed – all voting yes.

Item 21 – Accept FirstEnergy E.D. Grant for VM Systems Inc for electrical upgrades at 3125 Hill Ave., $25,000 – passed – all voting yes (Craig out of the room).

Item 22 – Eminent Domain – 6010 Garden Road for Perrysburg-Holland Bridge over Swan Creek, $31,878 – passed – all voting yes.

Item 23 - Eminent Domain – 2454 Knights Hill for Perrysburg-Holland Bridge over Swan Creek, $3,280 - passed – all voting yes (Craig out of the room).

Item 24 – Agreements with Ohio EPA, OWDA and Nature Conservancy for WRRSP in Oak Openings area – passed – all voting yes.

Item 25 - Agreements with Ohio EPA, OWDA & Black Swamp Conservancy for WRRSP in Maumee River Watershed – passed – all voting yes.

Item 26 – Agreement for sale of Renewable Energy Credits from Co-Generation Facility at Bay View WWTP – passed – all voting yes.

Item 27 – Expenditure for DPU 2012 membership dues to American Water Works Association, $11,191 Water Operations – passed – all voting yes.

Item 28 – Appropriation for rehab of Pump No. 3 at Heatherdowns Pumping Station, 2650 Cass Ave., $65,000 Water Replacement – passed – all voting yes. Ludeman – after 9/11, that pump needed security. Herwat – someone will get with you, to give you a verbal briefing.

Item 29 – Accept ODOT grant for various Engineering Services improvement projects City-wide, $15,817,442 – passed – all voting yes.

Item 30 – Accept OPWC grants & loans for 9 roadway projects & 4 utility projects for Engineering Services, $7,298,188 – passed – all voting yes.

Item 31 – Resolution – Application to ODOD CORF for remediation and demolition of Northtowne Square Mall, $2M – Collins - $700,000 in EPA grant? Person from Administration (did not say name) – Yes. Original grant was 1.5 Mil – 504 K added. One year to repay interest free – What happens to project? Last project (Clean OH) moved to top of list. Collins – dedicated to Northtowne? Person from Administration – Yes. Grant due 1/20 – difficult to get. Waniewski – apply now or goodbye. Person from Administration – Yes. Waniewski – go after it. Craig – more jobs to Toledo. Adopted – all voting yes.

Item 32 – Appropriation for demolition of Collingwood Manor Apartments, 2127 & 2131 Collingwood, $123,000 Grants & General Fund – passed – all voting yes.

Item 33 – Zone change at 1212 Cherry St. (Approved 5 – 0) – passed – all voting yes.

Item 34 – SUP for drug & alcohol residential facility and non residential treatment center at 1212 Cherry St. (Approved 5 – 0) – passed – all voting yes.

Item 36 – (11-11) Amend TMC to enact Sec. 127.14 to transfer NBA from Neighborhoods to Department Public Service – McNamara - motion to relieve – amend – Hold until 1/31. Steel – Why? McNamara – needs 3 readings. Martinez – supports.


Last Call:

Hicks-Hudson – reminder of Meeting at Kent Library, 6 PM, Budget. MLK Service at the University was very good- peace through justice.

Sarantou – MLK service was very good. Finance Meeting, Thursday, 1/19, at 1:30. Economics Professor from UT to be there.

Steel – update on web site? (to Sarantou) Yes.

Waniewski – Thanks to all for participating in the online budget meeting. Update on Lobbyist (quarterly).

Webb – Appointments to Steering Committee – not done. On 1/26 at 4:00 PM, at the YMCA on Summit/Superior – is the first unofficial meeting.

Stench of landfill – dredging has been added – lots of complaints. If it is over 45 degrees, you can smell it. Took the kids out for a walk, the smell made her ill. She made contact with Mr. Ireland – what are we going to do? Herwat – will get with you on that.

McNamara – Retreat this Saturday – talk about anything – will send draft on Friday night.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Latta statement on SOPA and PIPA

Press release:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) issued the following statement regarding Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA):

“SOPA and Protect IP Act are well-intentioned proposals that attempt to address online piracy concerns; however, in their current form the legislation goes too far. The proposals can present damaging ramifications to free speech, global cybersecurity and Internet functionality. At this time, I do not support SOPA and Protect IP Act in their current form, and I hope further committee hearing will be held to resolve these concerns."

###

Humor: Hydrogen Barackside

Sent to me via email and sharing because I thought it was funny. I believe the source is Toby Toons.



Quote of the Day - a Lotus-land of litigability

I decided to share this quote, not just because of the content, but because I absolutely loved the last line and the description of what our court system has become.

"The paternalist project for our civil courts runs something as follows. After the revolution -- which perhaps has already taken place—the average citizen will enjoy a vast array of wonderful new rights to sue other people. You will be empowered to haul your neighbors and fellow citizens to court if you feel they have fallen short of good faith and fair play. You will be entitled to sue them for unlimited damages, punitive as well as compensatory, even over behavior that had previously been thought not subject to liability at all. Everyone will be under a vague but stringent obligation to look out for your safety and welfare, enforceable by legal action. You will enjoy a cornucopia of contention opportunities, a smorgasbord of suing options, a Lotus-land of litigability." ~ Walter Olsen

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

House Republicans outline priorities, initiatives for 2012

Press Release:

House Republicans Outline Priorities, Initiatives for 2012

Workforce development, beginning hearings on fixing school funding formula among top goals for legislative session


COLUMBUS—On the heels of a successful first half of the General Assembly that saw the passage of more than 90 bills that address issues from regulatory reform and the creation of JobsOhio to prescription drug abuse, Speaker of the Ohio House William G. Batchelder (R-Medina) and members of the House Republican Caucus today unveiled their legislative priorities for 2012 at a press conference at the Ohio Statehouse.

“It was not too long ago that this state faced an $8 billion budget hole that was created when the former administration wrote short-term checks with disappearing ink,” said Speaker Batchelder. “In 2011, this caucus faced one of the greatest challenges ever put onto the plate of a legislature—deciding whether to fill an enormous deficit by either reducing state spending or by raising taxes on every family in Ohio. We defied the skeptics; we filled this deficit without raising taxes, we kept vital services intact and protected our state’s most vulnerable. The second half of the General Assembly will be focused on building upon this strong foundation that we have worked so hard for and bringing about a brighter, more prosperous Ohio in a number of ways.”

The priorities outlined by House Republicans include a close analysis, fact finding, and making recommendations for revising Ohio’s school funding formula, which in 1997 was deemed unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court. Despite the court ruling, Ohio’s school funding system has not undergone any transformative changes that have wholly fixed the root of the problem. To address this issue, House Republicans announced that they will initiate comprehensive, bipartisan hearings on both the funding formula and student achievement, which will be led by Representative Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster) throughout the duration of 2012.

“The goal of these discussions will be to figure out how we can make our schools and students more successful in a cost-efficient manner for Ohio’s taxpayers,” said Rep. Amstutz. “We want to create a new model of achievement and accountability that will benefit all of Ohio’s students and give those from disadvantaged geographic regions an equal chance to succeed. We will work diligently on legislation to incorporate the findings into practice and place Ohio’s schools back on track with an equitable and fair funding formula. The goal of any legislation implemented is to create an equitable funding formula and to develop a more accurate measure of success and achievement for our students.”

The House Republican Caucus also laid out a proposal to implement the recommendations of the JobsOhio report through the creation of the Development Services Agency. The proposal will complete the transition to a lean, streamlined public/private partnership free of the cumbersome bureaucracy that characterized Ohio’s economic efforts in the past. Additionally, the caucus discussed strategies for implementing the findings of the Ohio Workforce Development Study Committee, specifically focusing on helping career tech schools and community colleges to prepare a ready workforce, as well as training Ohioans for imminent shale and energy jobs.

“We continue to strive to get unemployment down, help Ohioans find work, and create new opportunities for Ohio well into the future,” said Speaker Batchelder. “We have maintained a focus on jobs throughout 2011—from passing several tax credits to encourage economic investment and job retention, to exploring our energy potential that could create hundreds of thousands of jobs— and Ohioans can expect that we will continue this focus into 2012 and beyond.”

The caucus has also revealed plans to reform the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, building upon existing reforms to go further in assisting injured workers while identifying other cost-saving possibilities.

Other legislative items that the House Republican Caucus intends to address include:

* The Great Lakes Compact
* Casino and gaming laws
* Healthcare exchange
* Laws pertaining to exotic animals

“We have tackled the issues that are most important to the people of this state, and we will continue to do so for as long as we have the privilege of leading this House,” said Speaker Batchelder. “There is much time and energy that we must be prepared to invest in order to revive the state of Ohio, and we are ready to do the work necessary in order to breathe new life into this state and be able to compete nationally. We’ve come a long way, but we have much, much farther to go—we are just getting started.”

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