Saturday, December 30, 2006

Animals in government

No - it's not what you think...I'm not talking about our elected officials...

Actually, I'm talking about our mayor's new pet. I think it's terrific that he's adopted an assist dog that is no longer able to assist (due to arthritis), but have to question bringing Scout to work.

No, not on the day of the announcement. That actually makes sense...raises awareness about assist dogs in general and the ability to adopt pets which are not able to perform as trained.

Rather, on Thursday, Carty and I arrived at government center at the same time and Scout was with the mayor, again. Which raised the question of whether or not it was appropriate to bring a pet to work on a regular basis. (Please note - I'm talking about pets - not animals who are actually functioning as assistants.)

I can't help but wonder, considering my own alllergies, what happens when someone who's allergic to dogs has to attend a meeting with the mayor and Scout, or has to sit in a room where a dog has been hanging out. Does the mayor check ahead of time with his guests to see if it might be a problem?

And who takes Scout outside when necessary and cleans up after him?

Perhaps I'm way off, but I don't think the proper place for a pet is in the mayor's office.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Legislative language for funding the arena

The state legislature is considering the bill which grants permissive authority to the Board of County Commissioners - in eligible counties only - to increase the hotel/motel tax to fund an arena. (Link to the summary is here starting on page 66.)

There are several things which I believe are important for people to know.

1) Only Lucas County qualifies as an 'eligible' county.

2) It allows the County to establish ticket charges or surcharges for admission to events.

3) It allows the County to increase the lodging tax by 2 percentage points which can be used to make contributions to a convention and visitors bureau, to promote/advertise/market the region, and to pay for an arena.

4) A resolution to increase the lodging tax can only be passed by the Commissioners between January 15, 2007 and January 15, 2008.

5) The resolution takes effect upon adoption, unless they specify that the tax is to go to a vote of the people.

6) If the tax does not go to a vote of the people and is, instead, adopted by the Commissioners, the people can petition to have it submitted to a referendum.

7) The lodging tax remains in effect at the rate at which it was imposed for the duration of any lease or other agreement entered into by the board with respect to the arena; the duration during which any securities issued by the board are outstanding; or the duration of the period during which the board owns the arena, whichever period of time is longest.

8) The bill prohibits the Commissioners from repealing, rescinding or reducing any or all of the lodging taxes pledged to pay debt on any outstanding securities issued for the arena. Further, once lodging taxes are pledged to pay debt on the securities, they are not subject to repeal, rescission or reduction by the county voters.

People should know that there is nothing to require the tax to expire once the arena construction is paid for - and that if the taxes are passed and securities are issued, they are not subject to repeal.

I think this raises two critical questions: One - is this written so that the Commissioners can pass the tax, issue bonds and then eliminate the option of the people to petition for referendum because the tax would be pledged to debt payment on those bonds? In other words, is it likely they can get this done BEFORE the petitions for referendum can be filed? Two - will the Commissioners pledge to collect the tax only until the construction bonds are paid off?

Just some questions that I think need to be answered PRIOR to any votes...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Predictions for 2007

Sorry to not have been very active on my blog - some family issues have taken precedence. If you've ever had a close friend or family member diagnosed with cancer, you can understand the need to set aside non-essential things for the priority of helping out in such circumstances.

I lost an uncle to inoperable brain cancer in the 1980s. I was still in school at the time and the treatment has changed so much since then - as I saw last year when I lost a very dear friend, again to inoperable brain cancer. Last week, our best friends called us with the bad news that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Even with today's technology and treatment options, we're expecting that significant help will be needed as she undergoes chemotherapy. So we'll be working out schedules for helping with meals, cleaning, errands and the holidays. I'm sure we all have friends who are more like family. In this case, our friends are the family we choose, so we'll gladly pitch in.

But that means I'll have less time than expected for posting. So I've decided to ask for your input for 2007. I'd like you to make your local predictions for events, activities, 2007. I'll save these and we'll review them - either at the end of the year or as they come true. I may even end up with a prize for the best/most accurate prediction.

I'll start with two of my own:

1) My friend will successfully undergo her treatment and become a cancer survivor.

2) As soon as legally possible, the commissioners will vote to increase the hotel/motel tax - but they will make the public go through a referendum process rather than submit it to a vote prior to implementation.

Your predictions? Have at it!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Is government a thief?

Walter E. Williams' latest column, "Why we love government," says the following:

"Today's Americans hold a different vision of government. It's one that says Congress has the right to do just about anything upon which it can secure a majority vote. Most of what Congress does fits the description of forcing one American to serve the purposes of another American. That description differs only in degree, but not in kind, from slavery.

At least two-thirds of the federal budget represents forcing one American to serve the purposes of another. Younger workers are forced to pay for the prescriptions of older Americans; people who are not farmers are forced to serve those who are; nonpoor people are forced to serve poor people; and the general public is forced to serve corporations, college students and other special interests who have the ear of Congress.

The supreme tragedy that will lead to our undoing is that so far as personal economic self-interests are concerned, it is perfectly rational for every American to seek to live at the expense of another American. Why? Not doing so doesn't mean he'll pay lower federal taxes. All it means is that there will be more money for somebody else.

In other words, once Congress establishes that one person can live at the expense of another, it pays for everyone to try to do so. You say, "Williams, don't you believe in helping your fellow man?" Yes, I do. I believe that reaching into one's own pockets to help his fellow man is both laudable and praiseworthy. Reaching into another's pockets to help his fellow man is despicable and worthy of comdmnation.

The bottom line: We love government because it enables us to accomplish things that if done privately would lead to arrest and imprisonment. For example, if I saw a person in need, and I took your money to help him, I'd be arrested and convicted of theft. If I get Congress to do the same thing, I am seen as compassionate. "

Your thoughts?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Getting "in the spirit" for the holidays

There's a lot going on politically, these elected officials being sworn in (congrats to Joe McNamara), others preparing for the change of office in January, deficits in budgets in the City of Toledo and the County, issues of cuts - perhaps in fire service - in Sylvania/Sylvania Township, ... and these are just the ones getting attention in the news on a local level.

But this time of year, despite all the pressing problems and challenges, is the time that people start to think of things other than politics. After inundating our families with turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and pies - and all the leftover recipes that follow, we begin to plan for what can be a hectic, but fun, time of year. A time of rejoicing, giving and new beginnings.

My family did attempt to shop on the Friday after Thanksgiving - for about 30 minutes. We made one stop around 9:30 a.m. and realized that there was no way to gather a few items, pay for them, and get out by 11:30 for another family event. Perhaps it was foolish to think that 2 hours would be enough to buy a couple pairs of gloves...but our conclusion was that a 50% discount of $6 was about $3/hour for our wait - even the minimum wage is more than that.

But we did go out Saturday morning. The shops didn't open at 5 a.m., but many were open at 6, and while the glove discount wasn't 50%, it was 40%. Our arrival at one store at 7:20 meant that we shopped with only about 10 other people. The sales clerks had time to check the stock in the back room and seemed relieved that it wasn't a repeat of the previous day - yet.

The stores in the mall opened at 8, which was perfect timing. We had time to shop, have some personal attention to questions or suggestions and didn't feel pressed for time, or rushed, or frazzled. The sales clerk at the Discovery Store even had time to help me with a phone order for an item that wasn't stocked in the store - and I was very grateful! We had time to wander around a bit and have a cup of coffee before returning home for brunch (with leftovers, of course).

After our delicious brunch and the family had all left, we put up all our outside Christmas decorations and took the convertible out for a ride.

Had we not experienced such a delightful shopping trip on Saturday and an easy installation of our lights, I don't know if I'd be in the same holiday mood I'm in now. Maybe, but I'm not sure.

Now, unlike the last several years, I'm actually looking forward to getting our tree this weekend and putting on all the ornaments. For a while now, I've seen this as a chore, but this year it seems to be a pleasure. I'm planning our Christmas day meal (something OTHER than turkey and ham) and even getting excited about our annual New Year's Eve party with our dear friends.

I could speculate about what's different this year, but that would require a reflection and concentration that seems too much for this pleasant mood. Besides, I know the answer - but acknowledging it would also mean acknowledging the negative impact my job has had on me over the last 13 years. Like any job, there are positives and negatives, and this time of the year, I'd rather just enjoy the spirit of the holidays and not let anything interfere with that.

So, some things I'm doing: not letting the 'buying' interfere with the 'giving,' relishing kindnesses from people you don't know, savoring the site of wonder in children's eyes, anonymously giving and enjoying the feeling it generates, delighting in the lights and decorations as we drive around at night, appreciating the good wishes, taking pleasure in the things I may have overlooked in the past, and more dearly valuing the company of family and friends.

As I take this break from the everyday struggles and issues, I hope that you, too, will be able to take advantage of this time of the year - for the reflection it brings and the opportunity it presents to see the important things in life.

The Nutcracker Suite
Holiday Concerts
The Night Before Christmas, the Whole Story
Area Theater Productions

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Post hoc ergo propter hoc

Post hoc ergo propter hoc - it's a fallacy, logically speaking...a technical flaw which makes an argument unsound or invalid.

The fallacy of Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc occurs when something is assumed to be the cause of an event merely because it happened before that event. For example: "The Soviet Union collapsed after instituting state atheism. Therefore we must avoid atheism for the same reasons."

Most people will see that these two issues, state atheism and the fall of the Soviet Union, are not causational. The practice of atheism did not, solely, result in the fall of the USSR.

Another example of this would be: "Maggie Thurber was elected County Commissioner and since that time, unemployment in Lucas County has declined." No one, including me, would say that my election caused the unemployment rate in the county to fall. But we seem to accept this fallacy when it comes to other issues.

Why do I raise this point? It's because of the false belief that building an arena will result in an economic boom in this area, simply because other communities who've built arenas have seen improvements. Today's Blade article on last night's arena public forum starts with this:

"Until the arena came along, the business core of Grand Rapids, Mich., struggled. Storefronts were boarded up.

Today, 10 years after the Van Andel Arena was built, the mid-sized city in western Michigan claims that it's competing with Detroit.

That was the comment Richard MacKeigan, general manager of Grand Rapids' Van Andel Arena, had for a public hearing last night on Lucas County's proposed arena.

Mr. MacKeigan, who works for SMG, a national arena operator based in Philadelphia, which is bidding to be the Toledo arena operator, said Toledo would have a similar experience."

To suggest that the Van Andel Arena (opened in October 1996) is the reason that storefronts are no longer boarded up is a prime example of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. It ignores other such factors whose impact is signficantly greater than the building of arena - factors like educational level of the workforce, tax rates, sales taxes, population, per capita income, business climate, etc.

Just compare the census date of Grand Rapids to Toledo. You'll see that, from 1990 to 2000, GR had a population increase of 4.3% while Toledo's population decreased 5.8%. Almost 28% of GR's population has a bachelor's degree or higher compared to Toledo's rate of 16.8%. Median household income in Grand Rapids is about $5,000 higher than Toledo's. Toledo has 17.9% of its population below the poverty level compared to GR's rate of 15.7% Retail sales per capita in GR are about $2,000 more than in Toledo.

When you get to County data, some of the figures are even more disparate. Kent County's population increased 14.7% from 1990-2000 while Lucas County's population declined 1.6%. Kent's median household income in 2003 was about $7,000 more than in Lucas.

Additionally, the hotel-motel taxes in Grand Rapids are, according to the gentleman from last night, 12% versus our current rate of 14.75%.

But the arena is not the only area in which such fallacious arguments are used...just look at the rationale regarding the recently-passed minimum wage hike. Policy Matters Ohio used a study from the Economic Policy Institute which said that states which raised the minimum wage didn't see a decline in employment. Again, this argument presumes that no other factors contributed to the employment situation - and declines to consider whether or not employment might have increased by MORE than it did had there not been a hike in a minimum wage.

There's a lot of debate we can have on such issues and policies. But if we want to improve the quality of our debate, we must be capable of spotting invalid arguments and rejecting them - otherwise, we'll find ourselves facing the consequences of bad decisions.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veteran's Day

Article I of the Military Code of Conduct, states: "I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense."

On this Veteran's Day, we are charged with honoring those who defend us, our freedoms and our way of life. There's no easy, or concise way, to demonstrate the depth of our appreciation to those who gave up so much to serve our country. The simple words, "thank you," seem so insignificant for what the men and women in uniform commit to doing. So I borrow the words of Walt Whitman:

The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music,
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.

To my father, brother and father-in-law who served in the Navy, as well as to all Veterans, thank you!

Below are some quotes particularly suited for this day, followed by the History of Veteran's Day - what it means and why we celebrate on November 11th. And if you'd like to see something impressive, watch the Navy Ceremonial Drill team here.


As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

It is easy to take liberty for granted, when you have never had it taken from you. ~Dick Cheney

In war, there are no unwounded soldiers. ~José Narosky

But fame is theirs - and future days
On pillar'd brass shall tell their praise;
Shall tell - when cold neglect is dead -
"These for their country fought and bled."
~Philip Freneau

When our perils are past, shall our gratitude sleep? ~George Canning

Valor is stability, not of legs and arms, but of courage and the soul. ~Michel de Montaigne

We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude. ~Cynthia Ozick

Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die. ~G.K. Chesterton

In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot. ~Mark Twain, Notebook, 1935


World War I, then normally referred to simply as The Great War (no one could imagine any war being greater!), ended with the implementation of an armistice [temporary cessation of hostilities—in this case until the final peace treaty, the infamous Treaty of Versailles, was signed in 1919] between the Allies and Germany at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of November, 1918.

November 11: President Wilson proclaims the first Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…" The original concept for the celebration was for the suspension of business for a two minute period beginning at 11 A.M., with the day also marked by parades and public mettings.

Congress passes legislation approving the establishment of a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. November 11 is chosen for the date of the ceremony. According on October 20, Congress declares November 11, 1921 a legal Federal holiday to honor all those who participated in the war. The ceremony was conducted with great success.

Congress adopts a resolution directing the President to issue an annual proclamation calling on the observance of Armistice Day. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, most states establish November 11 as a legal holiday and at the Federal level, an annual proclamation is issued by the President.

Congress passes legislation on May 13 making November 11 a legal Federal holiday, Armistice Day. The United States has no ‘actual’ national holidays because the states retain the right to designate their own holidays. The Federal government can in fact only designate holidays for Federal employees and for the District of Columbia. But in practice the states almost always follow the Federal lead in designation of holidays.

1941- 1945
1950- 1953
World War II and the Korean War create millions of additional war veterans in addition to those of the First World War already honored by Armistice Day.

On June 1, President Eisenhower signs legislation changing the name of the legal holiday from Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day.

Congress passes the Monday Holiday Law which established the fourth Monday in October as the new date for the observance of Veteran’s Day. The law is to take effect in 1971.

The Federal observance of Veterans Day is held on the fourth Monday of October. Initially all states follow suit except Mississippi and South Dakota. Other states changed their observances back to November 11 as follows: 1972- Louisiana and Wisconsin; 1974- Kentucky, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, South Carolina, West Virginia; 1975- California, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming

Legislation passed to return the Federal observance of Veteran’s Day to November 11, based on popular support throughout the nation. Since the change to the fourth Monday in October, 46 states had either continued to commemorate November 11 or had reverted back to the original date based on popular sentiment. The law was to take effect in 1978.

Veteran’s Day observance reverts to November 11.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Happy Birthday U.S. Marines!!!

From the U.S. Marine Corps History website:

Title: Marine Corps Birthday Message
Category: Marine Corps Order No. 47 (Series 1921)
Author/Presenter: Major General John A Lejeune, USMC
Commandant of the Marine Corps
Date: 1 November 1921

759. The following will be read to the command on the 10th of November, 1921, and hereafter on the 10th of November of every year. Should the order not be received by the 10th of November, 1921, it will be read upon receipt.

(1) On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of Continental Congress. Since that date many thousand men have borne the name "Marine". In memory of them it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

(2) The record of our corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world's history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation's foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and is the long eras of tranquility at home, generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres and in every corner of the seven seas, that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

(3) In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term "Marine" has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

(4) This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the corps. With it we have also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as "Soldiers of the Sea" since the founding of the Corps.

John A. Lejeune,
Major General Commandant

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Congrats and Thanks!

Congratulations to all election winners and a sincere thank you to all candidates.

It takes a lot to run a campaign, time and money being just the tip of the iceberg. When you're a candidate, you've got so many places to be and people to meet, other things - like yard or house work - tend to fall by the wayside. You end up relying on friends and family to take up the slack, run errands, and assume responsibility for the tasks you traditionally do. They do this gladly, as they obviously support your efforts, but it's never easy.

While there are many downsides to being a candidate, there are also many rewards. To participate in such a public way in the political process, offer your ideas and see that many people support them, inspire others who enter the political scene because of you...these things make your efforts worthwhile.

When you enter a race, you obviously want to win. But the best campaign advice I ever had was to have a goal other than winning. In my first race, my goal was to make sure that people knew what a Clerk of Court did so that they could make a good decision. In my last campaign, because I filled a vacancy on the ballot, it was to make sure that the voters had a choice. On election night, regardless of the outcome, I knew that I had accomplished that goal.

Today, there are winners who are celebrating. But those who "lost" the seats they sought also have a reason to celebrate. Because of them, the voters were given options. We were inspired by their ideas, gave thought to their perspectives and had good discussions about the issues our community, state and nation face.

Regardless of the individual you supported, you and I - indeed, everyone - owes a thank you to the many people who put themselves forward and offered us a choice on election day.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Election Day

“If the people fail to vote, a government will be developed which is not their government... The whole system of American Government rests on the ballot box. Unless citizens perform their duties there, such a system of government is doomed to failure.” —Calvin Coolidge

“Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual—or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.” —Samuel Adams

"Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).” - Ayn Rand

"Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don't vote.” - William E. Simon

“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” - John Quincy Adams

“Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right.” - Henry Louis Mencken

"If you have been voting for politicians who promise to give you goodies at someone else's expense, then you have no right to complain when they take your money and give it to someone else, including themselves." - Thomas Sowell

"In times of stress and strain, people will vote." - anonymous

"People who don't vote have no line of credit with people who are elected and thus pose no threat to those who act against our interests." - Marian Wright Edelman

"Personally, I believe that our American system works as long as you participate in it. You must vote and make your voice heard. Otherwise you will be left out." - Mari-Luci Jaramillo

"Those who stay away from the election think that one vote will do no good: 'Tis but one step more to think one vote will do no harm." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all." - John F. Kennedy

"Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Scary movies

When we were young, Friday nights were our favorite times. Several families would meet at our house and the dads would go to the Ice Boat Club meeting...the moms would hang out with us for a while and order pizza.

As I was old enough to babysit, the moms would join the dads after the meeting and that's about the time that we'd get out the blankets, sleeping bags and chairs from the kitchen. We'd make "tents" in the living room using the blankets for the roof and the sleeping bags for the floor. We'd make popcorn, usually for 9, and hope that the parents would stay away long enough that we'd be able to watch these terrific, scary old movies at 11 p.m. on channel 50.

With it being Halloween, AMC is running all the old black-and-white favorites...Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, Creature from the Black Lagoon...with Bela Lugosi, Lon Cheney, Boris Karloff. The only thing that seems to be missing from the line- up, so far, is my all-time favorite, Vincent Price. But there are a couple more days to go...

Kind of makes me want to get out the blankets, pop some corn, make my own little tent and watch them all night long...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

For true political junkies...

If you can't get enough of political campaign ads, there's a local Toledoan who's putting them all together.

Politics @ 30 Frames Per Second is a new website showing political ads and it tells who sponsored/paid for them. You can see it here.

I agree with J.R.W., the blogger, that it's sometimes hard to analyze or understand the ads - and even harder to pay attention to who's paying for them. His website gives you the time you need to do just that. I hope he'll compliment his site by adding the various analyses of the commercials being done by local media.

What does a commissioner do?

In cleaning out some files, I came across an old document published by the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, titled "Who are these people and what do they do?" I thought, considering the discussions elsewhere on the internet and in the area, that I'd post their introduction which gives a sort of "job description" for a commissioner.

"A board of three County Commissioners serves as the general administrative body for 87 of 88 Ohio counties; the exception is Summit County with its charter form of government. County Commissioners are elected to office like other county officials, such as the Sheriff, Engineer and Auditor. However, they are seen as the leaders of county government, and their authority goes a long way toward supporting that viewpoint.

Given specific and limited authority by the state legislature, County Commissioners hold title to all county property, serve as the sole taxing authority for the county and control county purchasing. Most importantly, Ohio's 87 Boards of County Commissioners are the budget and appropriating authority for county government, meaning everyone - every agency, every court, every other elected office holder - depends on County Commissioners for their budgets.

This means that County Commissioners must take a broad view when making public policy and budget decisions. Given their impact on the work of many other elected officials and dfifferent departments, they must be astute in matters of law enforcement, correction facilities, human services, business development and other areas. Given their budget-making authority, they must have a good business sense - matching available revenue to service needs.

County Commissioners also have statutory authority for providing water and sewer services as well as solid waster (trash) disposal. They hold hearings and rule on annexations. And, as noted earlier, County Commissioners are today being given responsibilities, such as making public assistance work, that were once held by the state and federal government."

From further in the document:

"A very small percentage of all revenue that is collected by county government is available to County Commissioners to spend as they please for public purposes. Federal and state mandates dictate how County Commissioners budget the overwhelming portion of county revenues. This makes for some very hard decision making by County Commissioners when it comes to discretionary spending, because public needs almost always outdistance available revenue."

For more information, you can click here and read the County Leadership Handbook published by the National Association of Counties or the County Commissioners Handbook which details all the responsibilities of a commissioner. (Admittedly, you won't want to read the documents in their entirety, but a review of their chapters and scope will give you a good overview.)

Ideas for TPS

Chris Myers had created a really unique website called Ideas for TPS, which I've added to my links. As he states on the site, " is all about citizen-powered ideas. You can comment, rate and even submit your own ideas here to help the Toledo Public School (TPS) district save money."

This is a creative way for people to be involved in suggesting and rating ideas to help our schools save money - so more of the resources can go toward the education of the students.

I applaud Chris' continued attention to TPS as well as his devotion to involving the public in finding solutions. Please take the time to visit the site, read and rate the ideas, and add some of your own!

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Like many conservatives these days, I'm disappointed. Topics like judicial nominees, pork, illegal immigration, government spending, taxes ... many of the issues which I, personally, think are key to core conservative principles seem to be less of a priority than they should be.

I've looked at the candidates and their positions and I find that I disagree with the stance that many have taken on the issues I think are most important. And I don't believe that I'm alone in this thinking, which leads to a dilemma...whom to vote for?

I know that it's not realistic to expect to agree with a candidate on everything - I don't even agree with my husband on everything - so I have to determine who I agree with the most. And that continues to be, for the most part, the Republicans who are on the ballot this year.

I think that a lot of people are going to make their ballot choices on the same basis. My father always told me never to vote for a person based solely upon their political party - but to know their positions, their votes and their stance on issues that were important to me.

So while many of the Republicans don't get a 100% score on my issues test, they get much better scores than their Democrat opponents. If I want my perspectives represented by elected officials, I'm better off voting for someone I agree with 75% of the time rather than someone I agree with only 15% of the time.

And because I don't think that I'm alone in this perspective, I don't believe what many are saying: that Republicans are going to 'sit out' this year's elections. I think most Republicans - and conservatives - realize that if they want their core philosophies reflected in government, their best hope is in the Republicans on the ballot - even if they are sometimes disappointed in certain votes those individuals make.

UPDATE: I wanted to add this quote from the Patriot Post:

“The people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities... If the next centennial does not find us a great nation... it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.” —James A. Garfield

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Arena Public Hearings

There are three more public hearings for the Arena plan. There is a presentation of the study and then time for questions, answers and comments. If you haven't already seen the reports, a copy of the arena plan is available here and the exhibits (including the fiscal analysis) are available here. The files are quite large and do take a bit of time to download.

Please take advantage of these meetings to gather more information and make your opinions known!

October 19th at 6 p.m.
Sanger Branch Library
3030 W. Central Avenue

October 26th at 6 p.m.
Maumee City Council Chambers
Maumee Municipal Building
400 Conant Street

November 14th at 6 p.m.
The Roost at 5/3 Field
406 Washington Street

Also, the Board of County Commissioners will have an "on-the-road" meeting in Oregon on Tuesday, October 24th. That meeting will be in the Oregon City Council Chambers at 6 p.m. As this is an open meeting, comments and questions on all items, including the arena, are welcome.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Happy Birthday U.S. Navy!

Today marks the birth of the U.S. Navy.

On this day in 1775 (also Friday the 13th), the U.S. Navy was born when the Continental Congress authorized the arming of two sailing vessels in order to intercept supply transports for the British army. The Declaration of Independence came nine months later, followed by the creation of the Department of the Navy in 1798.

In 1972, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt authorized recognition of 13 October as the Navy’s birthday. The Navy Birthday is intended as an internal activity for members of the active forces and reserves, as well as retirees, and dependents. Since 1972, each CNO has encouraged a Navy-wide celebration of this occasion "to enhance a greater appreciation of our Navy heritage, and to provide a positive influence toward pride and professionalism in the naval service."

For more information, click here. In the meantime, to my dad and brother, who both served, as well as all other sailors, Happy Birthday!

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Yesterday, I picked the last of my roses and brought them inside because of the fear of frost today and tonight.

Today it snowed. Hats off to whomever picked October 12th for the first snow!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

October Moon

Friday I was able to take a good photo of the moon shining so brightly and reflecting on the water...but I knew that the actual moonrise would be better - a larger moon and more yellow-orange. So last night, we watched and I took the following photos. I'm a bit disappointed that the size of the moon isn't better depicted, as it was still a bit light and the camera I used is a simple point & shoot...but I especially love an October moon!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Moonrise over Maumee Bay

A Quote from our Founders

From the Patriot Post - a Founder's Quote:

"Nothing so strongly impels a man to regard the interest of his constituents, as the certainty of returning to the general mass of the people, from whence he was taken, where he must participate in their burdens."

-- George Mason (speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention,17 June 1788)
Reference: The Papers of George Mason, Rutland, ed., vol. 3 (1093)[Sheehan (5:5)]

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Cruisin' in Toledo

Press Release from the Port Authority:

Port Authority Hosts International Cruise Industry Delegation

Toledo, Ohio --- On Saturday, September 29th, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority hosted an international delegation of cruise line executives and tour operators. The delegation joined Port Authority President, James H. Hartung and the design team at the Port Authority office for a presentation on Toledo’s colorful tourism attraction.

With a sweeping view of Toledo’s downtown riverfront, Mr. Hartung gave details of the planned Marine Passenger Terminal the Port Authority is constructing within the Marina District.

“Our hosting this delegation of cruise industry executives afforded us a wonderful opportunity to, not only tout Toledo as an appealing venue for Great Lakes Cruising but also to gain input on the design of our Marine Passenger Cruise Terminal,” said Hartung. “We are committed to this project and we want our terminal to be among the best. We listened very carefully to their suggestions on how to improve the terminal.”

The energetic presentation drew great interest from the group who represent the travel industry from the United Kingdom, Canada and the U.S.

Currently, the Great Lakes are home to seven luxury overnight cruise ships with two additional ships set for deployment in 2007

The delegation is participating in a Great Lakes-wide tour coordinated by the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition (GLCC), a marketing organization to which the Port Authority is the founder and current board member.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Updates on water and arena

Sorry to not have been timely in my updates on various issues, but everything came together over the last three days ... so here they are - updates on the Water Agreement and the Arena Project.

Water Agreement: I held the public meeting Monday night and there were about 50 people in attendance, including trustees from many of the Lucas County townships. Jim Shaw, the county's director of public service, and Bob Williams, from the City of Toledo, were present to explain the agreement, the service area and answer any questions.

There was an overview of the agreement, including the summary of conditions that staff had put together. It was about a 10 minute presentation and then Jim took questions from the audience. Several questions were referred to Mr. Williams and most were answered. There were a couple of issues where neither individual had definitive answers or where the answer was dependent upon interpretation. Mr. Shaw promised to have definitive answers prior to the BCC vote the next morning.

After the Q&A, I asked what was the preference of the group. One individual said that the agreement should be signed. Everyone else said that the agreement should either be rejected or delayed for more input or more negotiations over the terms.

Tuesday morning, there were emails from three of the five townships impacted by the agreement formally asking the Commissioners to delay the vote. (The letters and the audio from the BCC meeting are available here.) Swanton and Richfield Townships wanted to have more opportunity to discuss the terms and conditions. Providence Township wanted time to hold a public meeting in Providence to have county and city representatives explain the agreement to their residents. The emails were sent to all three commissioners and I presented the requests at the meeting.

My colleagues did not believe there was any need to delay the vote and, after several legal clarifications on the language, the agreement was approved 2-1. I voted no.

My impression on this is one of amazement. Tina Skeldon Wozniak is usually one for allowing input and reaching consensus. According to the trustees, she never even discussed this agreement with any of them. I also don't understand the rush - especially considering the fact that the agreement was being circulated among the commissioners for signature without a vote. Had I not asked if they'd voted on this while I was in Hungary, it would have been signed and applied without ever coming before the BCC. Upon realizing that it needed a vote before being signed, it got scheduled for the next meeting (9-26). While the townships received a copy of the agreement late July/early August, there was no request for comments or deadline for input.

As I said at the Monday meeting, this is a terrific agreement for the City of Toledo and I understand them wanting such terms. But agreements are supposed to be about negotiation and mutually acceptable terms - and that's not what happened with this contract. Toledo put their terms to paper and the BCC accepted them without any input from those directly impacted.

Comm. Wozniak said that other options for water supply would have cost more money. The comments at my meeting indicated that perhaps paying more money would have been a better alternative than complete control by Toledo. She also said that this was better than requiring annexation - but many at the meeting felt that annexation wasn't necessary if you've already got control of the townships through the terms of the agreement.

Comm. Gerken said that the townships don't have to participate. But then what's the purpose of an agreement if none of the townships participate? Just to say you have a piece of paper?

Anyway, with this agreement signed, the townships can certainly enter into agreements with other sources for water in their jurisdiction, but the County would not be allowed to be involved. The agreement limits us to providing ONLY City of Toledo water until 2024 and there is no option for the County to get out of the agreement...the agreement can only be terminated by MUTUAL agreement - and that's the first time I've seen such a restrictive clause on any county contract.

Considering the total lack of logic and the rush, I can't help but believe that there is something else going on - I just don't know what it is. But I'm sure that, if true, one day soon something will be reported and we'll all go "a-ha!"

Arena Project: We held the first public hearing on the arena project Tuesday night at the McMaster Center in the downtown Library. (I love this venue for a presentation/meeting!) The powerpoint presentation and accompanying talk was very well done - more focused on the sight selection than the finances, but most of the aspects of the report were covered.

There were, throughout the evening with people coming and going, 47 individuals who attended. However, 28 of those were elected officials and their staff, candidates/campaign staff, media, individuals involved with the project (The Collaborative, p.r. firm), or plan commission members/staff. I was disappointed that only about 19 individuals from the general public were there.

There was a period for Q&A and several times, individuals were refered to the full report - and the exhibits - for more detailed information. In general, the questions were about my colleagues' votes on city council for the arena in the marina district and the "keeping the arena on the East Side" issue, availability of parking downtown versus the ease of parking at the current Sports Arena, and the projected size not being big enough in terms of fixed seating.

The really interesting comment was when Comm. Gerken said he'd talked to Sen. Randy Gardner about being able to impose the increased hotel-motel tax in Wood County since those hotels would also benefit from a downtown arena and that "Sen. Gardner was not opposed" to that idea. Fred LeFebvre, from WSPD, asked Rep. Peter Ujvagi (who was the only state rep to attend) if he'd be supporting the bill to increase the tax in Columbus. Rep. Ujvagi replied yes - especially if it would apply to both Lucas and Wood County.

Of course, this got covered on the radio the next day with Sen. Gardner clarifying that he's certainly OPPOSED to such an arrangement and that the chances of something like that passing the legislature was 0%. (This made the second time in two days that Sen. Gardner had to clarify his position based upon comments from Comm. Gerken.) Rumor has it that Comm. Gerken also sent out email clarification that Lucas County is not interested in collecting additional hotel-motel taxes from Wood County...

Additionally, I received a letter from a large number of hotel-motel owners stating that they are opposed to the idea of increasing the hotel-motel tax to fund an arena. Interestingly, according to them, Monclova's total taxes on rooms would be the highest in the nation if such an increase were passed. I will keep you posted on further developments.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Details on the proposed water agreement

I wanted to post some details about the proposed water agreement between Lucas County and the City of Toledo for supply of water to areas of western Lucas County which don't currently have water.

The agreement was discussed between county and city staff. Despite the fact that it significantly impacts the townships, they were not at the table to provide input. This is a major problem for me, in that their issues and concerns were not even considered.

My second issue is that the BCC has not held any public hearings on this proposal. Staff will tell you that we don't normally do such hearings, but this agreement is so much more restrictive than our current terms that I felt it would have been a good idea to get input from those impacted by our decision. This is why I've scheduled a public meeting to hear from people on Monday at 7 p.m. at the Springfield Township Hall on Angola.

Our current agreement calls for county recipients of Toledo-supplied water to pay the Toledo rates plus a 50% surcharge. The new agreement calls for a 75% surcharge. Additionally, staff has provided the following summary of terms:

Service Area: All of the township area in western Lucas County not in the July 6, 2005 Lucas County and September 9, 2005 Berkey water agreements, subject to restrictions involving the creation of a JEDD in each township.

(A JEDD is a Joint Economic Development District - from Wikipedia: A Joint Economic Development District (JEDD) is an arrangement in Ohio where one or more municipalities and a township agree to work together to develop township land for commercial or industrial purposes. The benefit to the municipality is that they get a portion of the taxes levied in the JEDD without having to annex it. The benefits to the township are that it does not lose prime development land, it can still collect property taxes, and it normally receives water from the municipality, which it may not otherwise have.

To create a JEDD, the municipality and township work together to create a contract. This contract specifies details such as how taxes are levied and shared, annexation prohibitions, and water rates. The communities then vote on the agreement. The issue must pass in each community for the JEDD to be approved.)

Lucas County Obligations: (These obligations also apply to the townships.)
* Adoption of the Fourteen Principles of Smart Growth and accompanying goals promulgated by TMACOG in June, 2003.
* Participation in studies or efforts designed to promote regional cooperation.
* The successful creation of a JEDD in appropriate territory of each township before water is provided to that township.
* Compliance with the Lucas County Land Use Policy Plan update adopted by the Lucas County Planning Commission on September 27, 2000.

Connection restrictions:
* No water in a township that fails to create a satisfactory JEDD. The unapproved modification of a previously created JEDD shall terminate Toledo's obligation to provide water to new customers in that township and shall authorize Toledo to impose the non-contract water rate on that township's existing customers served under this agreement.
* Water available to existing residential structures. No taps larger than one inch permitted unless mutually agreed.
* Water available to new residential structures that comply with the Lucas County Land Use Policy Plan Update adopted by the Lucas County Planning Commission on September 27, 200, only upon prior written approval of Toledo.
* Water available to existing or new commercial or industrial structures only upon prior written approval of Toledo.
* No sanitary sewers can be installed to serve properties receiving Toledo water unless required by a regulatory agency (at which time Toledo can stop new connections to the sewered area).

Water rates: First block Toledo inside rate plus a 75% surcharge.

Term: Agreement shall terminate October 10, 2024.

Some notes:

*"successful creation" of a "satisfactory" JEDD: First, the term 'satisfactory' clearly refers to Toledo's definition of 'satisfactory,' so even if the township trustees are willing to do a JEDD, they may not be willing to adopt Toledo's definition of "satisfactory." Second, 'successful' means that even if township trustees and the city of Toledo reach an agreement, it is subject to a vote of the township - if the voters were to reject such an agreement, no water will be supplied.

* any modification or termination of a JEDD means Toledo will not have to provide water to any new customers and all existing customers will be charged the "non-contract water rate." This is, according to the Toledo Municipal Code 933.02(b) a 100% surcharge.

* Toledo's written approval is needed before water can be supplied to any new residential structures.

* Toledo's written approval is needed before water can be supplied to any EXISTING or new commercial or industrial structure.

* The county will be limited in its ability to provide sewer services to county residents, unless so required by a regulatory agency like the Health Department or the EPA. This means that our existing sewer services cannot be expanded, meaning that any costs of service and maintenance must be born by existing customers and not, over time, spread out among a larger service area.

Some other things within the agreement:

* Standard language exists that if, for any reason, Toledo doesn't have sufficient water, it can limit the water it provides to the county. Under such conditions, the county may seek other sources of water to meet its needs until such time as the water shortage is eliminated.

* The service area is non-exclusive. Even with the agreement, Toledo can still enter into other agreements and provide water directly within the service area.

* Any proposed sewer service shall be submitted to the Plan Commission for their review of whether or not the proposed service is in accordance with the water agreement AND in accordance with the smart growth principles. The Plan Commission must prepare a written report of its findings to Toledo.

* Should any regulatory agency order sanitary sewers to be installed, Toledo may, in its sole discretion, prohibit any or all new service connections to structures that are or could be served by the sanitary sewers.

* Toledo reserves the right to deny water taps to new structures in any area impacted by an AMENDMENT of the adopted Land Use Plan that is enacted without Toledo's written approval. This means that any time a township wants to amend their Land Use Plan, they have to submit the proposed changes to Toledo for their approval - otherwise, Toledo can deny water...

* If there is any unauthorized or ineligible connection, the surcharge increases 5% for each one - and that surcharge is applied to ALL water customers in the service area.

* Toledo has the right to inspect the County's facilities used to provide water in the service area.

* Toledo's Department of Public Utilities must approve all construction or modification plans of the County's facilities to provide water. Toledo can require a feasibility report prior to granting such approval.

* Toledo's Department of Public Utilities must approve all the County's plans and specifications for the construction of any improvement within the service area. Only after such approval has been granted can the County take bids and begin construction.

* Construction standards must be in accordance with Toledo's standards at the time, and Toledo has the authority to inspect all work.

* Not only does Toledo have the right to negotiate agreements directly within the service area, Toledo also has the right to use the County's lines within the service area, subject to a charge for the actual operation and maintenance costs, for the purpose of supplying water to its customers inside or outside the service area, provided such use does not impair the service to Lucas County.

* This new agreement expires on the same date as the County's existing water agreement for everyone else within the jurisdiction. It is expected that any new agreement at that time will seek to impose the terms of this newly proposed agreement upon everyone else.

* A miscellaneous term: The parties will cooperate to attract state development aid, federal funds and employment training dollars to their jurisdictions. In addition, the parties agree to support state legislation that facilities tax-sharing arrangements between political subdivisions and which permits the use of water funds for economic development purposes.

I believe that this agreement is clearly in Toledo's best interest, and I have no objection to them hoping to get such terms. But this agreement is not in the County's best interest, in terms of the restrictions it places upon the County for provision of sewer services as well as the requirment that County lines can be used (only at cost - not any surcharge) should Toledo decide it wants to provide water directly to an entity within our jurisdiction.

I will wait for the public meeting Monday to see if the townships think the agreement is in their best interests, or if loss of autonomy is too high a price to pay for water from Toledo.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Water Agreement Meeting

The Commissioners have the proposed water agreement with the City of Toledo on our agenda for our meeting on Tuesday, September 26th at 9:30 a.m. This will be a pretty busy meeting as Tom Chema is scheduled to be present to address the arena study (and I have lots of questions).

However, there haven't been any public hearings for the Commissioners to get feedback from the county residents this agreement will impact. So I've scheduled a meeting to gain your input on the issue.

The meeting is Monday, September 25th at 7 p.m. in the Springfield Township Hall on Angola Road.

I hope you will come, learn about the terms of the proposed agreement (if you don't already know), ask questions and get answers, and then provide me with feedback. Jim Shaw, the county's sanitary engineer, will also be available with maps of current service areas and jurisdictions impacted by the proposed agreement.

If you cannot make this meeting and have any questions, you can post them here, email me at the office ( or call my office at 419-213-4229.

Michael Miller's wit

Micheal Miller, editor in chief of the Toledo Free Press (see link at the side), always does a column each week. Some are serious, some are thought-provoking and some are just plain in this week's column, "Words to live by (in Toledo)."

(I'd provide a direct link, but it's not available electronically, yet.)

He's nominated some words for inclusion in the 2007 Merriam-Webster dictionary and you must read the entire list. While I think it's a sad reflection on what's going one, I'm particularly flattered by:

Entry: thur*ber
Definition: To be cordoned off; split from main body; inappropriately separated from a process.
Usage: The fire left the deer thurbered in the woods. They are thurbering her by making decisions without her input.

My favorite entry in his list is "bi*sect*ual - "a political party divided into conflicting sections. The local Democrats are split in two teams, so each side of the donkey is a half-ass, bisectual version of the whole."

Read the entire list and let me know your favorites...or create your own!

Saturday, September 16, 2006


My apologies - I've obviously messed up something because all my posts are now underlined and bolded. I haven't put any underlined or bolded posts in lately, so I don't know how this happened and, despite trying a couple of things, I cannot seem to make it go away.

If you have any experience with this kind of thing or have any suggestions to correct it, I'd be very grateful for your advice!

UPDATE: Many thanks to Lisa Renee at GlassCityJungle for her help in locating what appears to be source of the problem - code in the feed from the SOB Alliance which, when removed, eliminated the bolding and underlining. I'll check back later with the Alliance to see if that was the cause and if I can re-add the links...

Constitution Day

September 17th is Constitution Day where we commemorate the signing of our Constitution. On the 13th, Walter Williams, one of my favorite columnists, wrote on the topic and I think he's said much of what I would have - but in a better way. His column is reproduced here:

"Each year since 2004, on Sept. 17, we commemorate the 1787 signing of the U.S. Constitution by 39 American statesmen. The legislation creating Constitution Day was fathered by Sen. Robert Byrd and requires federal agencies and federally funded schools, including universities, to have some kind of educational program on the Constitution.

I cannot think of a piece of legislation that makes greater mockery of the Constitution, or a more constitutionally odious person to father it -- Sen. Byrd, a person who is known as, and proudly wears the label, "King of Pork." The only reason that Constitution Day hasn't become a laughingstock is because most Americans are totally ignorant of, or have contempt for, the letter and spirit of our Constitution.

Let's examine just a few statements by the framers to see just how much faith and allegiance today's Americans give to the U.S. Constitution. James Madison is the acknowledged father of the Constitution. In 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief for French refugees who fled from insurrection in San Domingo (now Haiti) to Baltimore and Philadelphia, James Madison said disapprovingly, "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents."

Today, at least two-thirds of a $2.5 trillion federal budget is spent on "objects of benevolence." That includes Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, aid to higher education, farm and business subsidies, welfare, etc., ad nauseam. James Madison's vision was later expressed by Rep. William Giles of Virginia, who condemned a relief measure for fire victims. Giles insisted that it was neither the purpose nor a right of Congress to "attend to what generosity and humanity require, but to what the Constitution and their duty require."

Some presidents had similar constitutional respect. In 1854, President Franklin Pierce vetoed a bill to help the mentally ill, saying, "I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity," adding that to approve the measure "would be contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded."

President Grover Cleveland vetoed many congressional appropriations, often saying there was no constitutional authority for such an appropriation. Vetoing a bill for relief charity, President Cleveland said, "I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit."

Constitutionally ignorant people might argue that the Constitution's "general welfare" clause justifies today's actions by Congress. Here's what James Madison said: "If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions." Thomas Jefferson echoed, in a letter to Pennsylvania Rep. Albert Gallatin, "Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated."

James Madison explained the constitutional limits on federal power in Federalist Paper No. 45: "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined . . . [to] be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce."

Here are my questions to you: Has our Constitution been amended to authorize federal spending on "objects of benevolence"? Or, is it plain and simple constitutional contempt by Congress, the president, the courts and, worst of all, the American people? Or, am I being overly pessimistic and it's simply a matter of constitutional ignorance?"

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Last day in Hungary

As our last day was spent sight-seeing, I've decided to show some photos of the interesting things we saw. I've been told that I'll have to do a slide presentation - perhaps at the Hungarian Club - in order to share the rest of the pictures with those interested. I must say that the architecture is MAGNIFICENT. Many of the buildings are in the process of being restored - but even the ones that aren't are amazing in terms of the stonework and sculptures. You can't look at any row of buildings without seeing something amazing.

Hero's Square:

The 7 chieftans with Arpad, the leader in the center.

One of the sculptures on the circular tribute. This one is actually the second from the left in the photo of the square above.

Inside the circular monument are individual statutes of various heroes. This is St. Stephen, the first King of Hungary.

Under each statute is a three-dimensional plaque. This one is St. Stephen's.

Across from Hero's square is a reproduction Transylvanian castle - every detail meticulously copied, down to the moat. It houses the Museum of Agriculture and, again, the architectural highlights are not to be missed.

The chapel inside the castle, complete with full-size statutes over the entrance. Another portion of the castle had this woman and child next to the doorway.

This is a "spa" which is actually a public pool fed by mineral springs and a 'bath' area fed by hot springs. Massage and physical therapy are available and many doctors prescribe such treatments for rheumatism and arthritis.

On many of the main streets, there are special bike lanes designated on the sidewalks. You walk here at your own peril!

The Basillica.

And it's dome. From outside the actual church area, you can walk up to the top of the dome, access the outer walkway and walk around the external structure of the dome. We happened to be there at noon to hear the bells.

This weekend, I will try to figure out a way to put the photos from my other days onto a viewer to make it easier to see them. I will also consider posting the excellent views of the Castle on Castle Hill and the church where all the kings of Hungary have been crowned.

But I leave you with this...the view on the ride up to Castle Hill. This is the famous Budapest "Chain Bridge" with the Basillica in the background.

This weekend, I will try to figure out a way to put the photos from my other days onto a viewer to make it easier to see them. I will also consider posting the excellent views of the Castle on Castle Hill and the church where all the kings of Hungary have been crowned. But I leave you with this:

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The capital - Budapest

We left Szeged at 8:30 this morning and arrived at our hotel in Budapest around 11 a.m. Traffic in Budapest is MUCH heavier than in Szeged – this is a bustling city full of people and energy, old buildings and new.

Our hotel used to be a workers’ dormitory. The elevator has enough room for three people – if they’re close. Interestingly, you open a swinging door and the elevator doors then slide open. The elevator doors don’t close if the swinging door is not closed. Our rooms are very clean, but sparse. The room itself if about 10x10 with a twin bed, two chairs and a side table, a desk, an 18-inch tv and a cabinet for hanging up any clothes. The bathroom is larger than the one in Szeged, but not as well-equiped. There is no shower curtain and the hand-held shower head, which is connected to the bathroom sink, is the only source of water in the tub. The walls, however, are a pretty blue tile.

Since our check-in wasn’t until 2, we locked up our bags and went sight-seeing. We first stopped by Elizabeth Balint’s apartment (which she owns, but it’s not called a condo here), and met her mother. We then took a bus to Margrit Island – an island in the middle of the Danube between the Buda and the Pest sides of Budapest. It had a beautitul fountain and sculpture in a pond. We walked around the garden at the end, then took the bus – followed by the tram – to the Parliament building. The Mayor of Szentes had arranged for a special tour just for our group. It started at 2:45 p.m. which put us in the dome area during the guard tribute. Three guards, dressed in old-time uniforms, proceeded into the dome, saluted the crown/scepter/orb, stood guard for 15 minutes, then returned to their prior stations. This tribute happens every hour on the hour and we were fortunate to be able to witness it.

Following our tour of the Parliament building, we went to the most remarkable market. It was in a glass building and had all kinds of food vendors on the first floor (where we got paprika) and various shops on the top floor (where we bought tablecloths and hand-carved eggs). The place was packed with residents purchasing food and tourists purchasing goods. (I couldn’t help but think of Carty running around saying “this is what our Erie Street Market should be.”)

After dinner, we took a night cruise on the Danube and saw the buildings lit up at night – a remarkable sight, indeed!

This is the front entrance to Parliament. The middle main entrance is only used for visits from heads of state.

The accepted date of the founding of the nation of Hungary is 896 AD. There are, therefore, 96 steps leading from the main entrance to the main floor of the building.

One of the many figures on the columns in the lobby of the House of Lords - a peasant woman with her skirt filled with grapes. They were placed there to remind the Lords of the people they represent and on whose behalf they were making decisions.

The House of Lords was eliminated in favor of a single, combined parliament. The chamber is now use for special events, speeches, etc. It was being set up for some type of piano concert during our visit.

Night photos of Budapest...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Last day of the official program

Today was a very busy day – perhaps the busiest in terms of number of people we met and in the amount of time spent on the official program.

We started the morning with the President of the Csongrad General Assembly. We talked about the expectations each county has for the sister-county relationship. Csongrad and Lucas are very similar. Both have a major city (Toledo and Szeged) with smaller suburban cities and villages. While Lucas has townships, Csongrad has the rural, undeveloped areas. All of Hungary is in a process of change as they more closely align with the policies of the European Union. A lot of time is being spent on developing priorities for how the country will spend their allotment (or grant) from the EU. The purpose of the monies is to bring the infrastructure and roads up-to-date…but every county and city is lobbying for their project over the others. And there is a lot of room for improvement in creating highways and installing sewer systems.

Like Lucas, Csongrad faces an unemployment rate that his higher than the country’s and the issue of how to more effectively market the products. They are concerned about bird flu, dioxins, ensuring the safety of the food products made/grown in the county or imported (due to their closeness to the border. Diabetes is a problem with a significant number of people and, while they have developed food products to address such issues, they have no willing investors to help manufacture them in sufficient quantities. Market demand for such products is also an issue. Just about every conversation with elected leaders ended up in a request for, or encouragement of, private investment in their country.

There are many positive things about the county as well, but like in any society, the problems seem to dominate the conversations. It gave me some comfort to find that Hungary is considering eliminating the county governments in favor of regional governments which would cover an area equal to about three counties. There is significant opposition to this from county government, but the larger cities believe it is a way for them to gain more influence within their regions as well as on a national level. The smaller communities are not very much in favor because they already feel dominated by the larger cities and believe that power and funding will flow to the larger cities to their detriment. Sounds a bit familiar….

We also met with the city of Szeged and had a short but very informative power point presentation on the city’s current attributes and planned developments. They are strategically located on the main route into Romania and they’d like to take better advantage of their location for warehousing and transportation industries. They are working on a small airport and on a technology park. They have a highly educated workforce because of the success of the University of Szeged, but many of the degrees are in areas where there is an abundance of graduates.

Interestingly, they have a publicly owned company which is run independently of the city government. This company has a contract with the city to do economic development and long term planning. Their goal with this company is to provide continuity to the community in terms of the strategic planning and to take advantage of the willing involvement of the education and business community. I think we could learn from this arrangement.

We then walked to the University of Szeged and had a presentation from the Vice Rector (equivalent to a vice president) and met with the dean and former dean of their pharmacy college. If I understood the translation properly, the University of Szeged has been ranked among the top 300 universities in the world for the last 4 years. I also learned that their pharmacy college and the College of Pharmacy at UT have agreed to the details of an international exchange and credit program. They expect to the sign the agreement in the near future. We also had a tour of the University’s new library/student center. It is open and spacious. There are computer terminals for about 400 students – and their study tables have room to seat 4-8 and include a computer.

Our next stop was a visit to a culinary and services school. The students range from 14-22 years, with the school serving as a high school and certification program. The kids learn service (wait duties), cooking (chef), baking (pastry chef), economics and management. We were treated to a delicious dinner prepared by the teaching staff and served by their most recent winner in an international competition. Their students are required to learn two languages in addition to Hungarian and their final examination, as well as the competitions, must be performed in a language other than Hungarian.

Our final stop was a musical concert at the Jewish synagogue as part of the synagogue’s festival (which is not a festival as we have them – rather, a month of activities coinciding with certain holy days in the Jewish calendar). The group was a cross between traditional Jewish music and – believe it or not – Dixieland jazz. There were terrific and the synagogue, at 103 years old, was beautiful.

Our delegation was also very appreciative of the kindess expressed as this was September 11th. All our hosts mentioned how shocked they were five years ago when they learned that terrorists had crashed planes into our buildings. Most of them knew people in America or had friends who knew people - and they expressed their sympathies at our losses as remember those who died on that date.

As I’m still having some problems with the internet here, I won’t be able to publish the photos. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to do so tomorrow when we arrive in Budapest. Thanks to the mayor of Szentes and the deputy mayor of Szeged, both of whom are members of Parliament, we’ve been allowed to visit Parliament tomorrow and observe their ‘discussion’ of the new prime minister’s first 100 days. They promised it would be interesting!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sunday in Szeged

Today was spent on a tour of the city of Szeged. We had two interpreters, Anna and Andrea who showed us the sights and told us some of the extensive history of the town. The evening was the official cultural program and we were hosted by the Vice President of the Csongrad General Assembly and the Vice Mayor of the City of Szeged, who is also a member of Parliament.

Unfortunately, the program was in Hungarian, so I do not have all the names of the performers nor the pieces they did. (I will provide it as soon as I get it translated.) The first group was traditional folk music and very unique. The trio did a tribute to the Hungarian composer Bartok. The second performance was a pianist playing Bartok. It was wonderful to compare the folk music tribute and then to hear Bartok on piano. Many of the keys played sounded just like the violin and guitar-like instrument when they are played. It was a wonderful way to introduce us to both the composer and the traditional folk music of Hungary. We also had poems and several opera selections. The cultural program was followed by a reception in the ‘marriage room’ of the city hall. This room is used for marriage ceremonies and it is decorated with paintings of couples and children.

I must mention the extraordinary gift to the citizens of Lucas County from Csongrad, presented by Mr. Attila Marosvari, Vice President of the Csongrad General Assembly. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1956 uprising against the communist government. Through historical research, they have learned that the uprising actually began in the City of Szeged the week before the actions in Budapest. Three individuals have documented the activities of the Szeged university students during that week in a series of photographs which have been made into posters. The posters will be unveiled as part of the nation’s celebration. The gift to us is a set of these posters with the request that we help them in their commemoration by displaying them during October. I agreed that we would find an appropriate way to display such a wonderful treasure and will also help them to celebrate the courage of the Hungarian people which gave inspiration to the world.

(Note: There seems to be some problems with blogger over here and I can't upload any photos. I will try to do so tomorrow.)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Memorial Park and Festivals

Saturday – today was considered a ‘fun’ day with no official duties. We started early in the morning and traveled to Opusztaszer which is the home of the National Memorial Park – an expansive facility dedicated to the history and culture of Hungary. Both historical data and folklore indicate that this was the location where Chief Arpad brought the seven Hungarian tribes/clans together and decided to establish the country of Hungary.

The memorial park has a monument which was built in 1896 to commemorate the 1000 year anniversary of the decision.

This monument has a statute of Arpad on top and is surrounded by 20 busts of various kings and leaders of the Hungarian people.

To the side are the ruins of an ancient monastery. There is an area with traditional yurtas recently built to house museum information. There is also an historical village (very similar to our Sauder Village) and each house was donated by a city or village within Csongrad County. They also host a horse show where actors, wearing historical costumes demonstrate shooting arrows from horseback, lance throwing and games designed to improve horsemanship.

Inside the rotunda building is a cyclorama – a circular painting depicting Chief Arpad’s victory over the local people and the conquering of the land which became Hungary. This was extremely unique (one of only about 20 such paintings in the world) but no pictures were allowed. Also inside the rotunda are two street recreations from about 100 years ago – one a small village street (also known as a peasant village) and one a larger city. The costumes are amazing – with the peasant village having more of the traditional costumes we’re used to seeing at the Birmingham festival and the city street having costumes more like what you’d see in any large English city.

We were especially honored to have Mr. Jozsef Ott, vice president of the Csongrad General Assembly, join us for our tour. Mr. Ott was part of the delegation to Lucas County in May and is a board member at the Memorial Park. There is even a tree planted in his honor at the park in recognition of his many years of public service to the park and in elective office.

Mr. Ott treated us to lunch at a restaurant near the park. Our lunch was a pork rib soup with small pasta-like noodles and carrots and then the main dish of a ham cooked inside bread served with sauerkraut and vinegared potatoes. There was a also a dessert – similar to a cheesecake, but with the consistency of ricotta cheese and a slight hint of lemon. Very good, but the helpings are so generous as to be enough for two. This meal was served family style and the presentation was impressive.

Following lunch and a short stop at the hotel for more batteries and memory cards for our cameras, we proceeded to the village of Deszk for their annual village festival. The highlight of their event is a cooking contest between the mayors of various villages and cities, including their international sister cities. (Photo is Dr. Jozsef, Vice Mayor of the City of Szeged.) Festival goers are provided bowls and forks and can sample the various entries. Several civic groups also compete and this year’s winner was the local Serbian club. The village of Deszk has a large population of Serbs who originally came looking for work, but stayed. Their children’s dance group, which recently won an award for folk preservation also performed with many other traditional and modern dancers and singers as part of the cultural program. Fireworks finish off the evening but our delegation was tired and left before the fireworks began.

Tomorrow is sightseeing in the City of Szeged with the cultural program and formal presentation of gifts and recognition of our sponsors and facilitators.
Google Analytics Alternative