Saturday, May 27, 2006

Memorial Day and "Taps"

"Taps," that haunting, sad and all-too-familiar tune, was composed by Union Army Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield, a Civil War general who commanded the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Division in the V Army Corps of the Army of the Potomac. According to Wikipedia, he wrote the tune in 1862 while at Harrison's Landing, Virginia.

There are several myths about the history of "Taps," but Oliver Norton, the bugler who first performed the tune, credited Gen. Butterfield. There is also the story of how it came to be used at military funerals.

According to an officer's manual initially published in 1911, Army Col. James A Moss reported the following:

"During the Peninsular Campaign of 1862, a soldier of (Union artillery captain John C.)Tidball's Battery A of the 2nd Artillery was buried at a time when the battery occupied an advanced position concealed in the woods. It was unsafe to fire the customary three volleys over the grave, on account of the proximity of the enemy, and it occurred to Capt. Tidball that the sounding of Taps would be the most apprpriate ceremony that could be substituted."

This was the first recorded instance of the song being used for a military funeral.

During the playing of "Taps," individuals in uniform salute - others place their right hand over their heart.

There are no official lyrics because the original was purely instrumental, but below is the most common version.

Fading light dims the sight
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright
From afar, drawing nigh,
Falls the night.

Day is done, gone the sun
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky.
All is well, safely rest;
God is nigh.

Then goodnight, peaceful night;
Till the light of the dawn shineth bright.
God is near, do not fear,
Friend, Goodnight.

An additional verse:

Thanks and praise, for our days
Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky.
As we go, this we know,
God is nigh.

As we gather with our families for this holiday weekend, may we never forget those who made our freedom and our way of life possible.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Did I hear correctly???

Did I hear correctly? Did I really just hear Councilman Michael Ashford on WSPD say that the Mayor "has the power to appoint people to" Toledo City Council?

Unfortunately, that seems to be the perspective of at least 7 people on Council - including the Republicans.

I guess that the City Charter, which places this responsibility on the members of Toledo City Council doesn't mean that much.

Perhaps next time there is a vacancy on the Council, the members can conduct their own screening in full view of the public, and then make a decision based upon the presentations and Q&A. And since this is a non-partisan office, there should be no question as to the individual's party affiliation. This way, the focus could be on the actual qualifications rather than the political dues paid in the past.

This would certainly do justice to the Charter and to the residents of Toledo.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

More time for feedback on License Plate Fee

Today, the commissioners decided to delay a vote on the proposed $5 increase in the license plate fee.

Despite having 2 public hearings, Commissioner Wozniak believed that there should be better outreach to the township trustees for their input. She requested the delay in order to contact the trustees (and I also suggested the mayors and councils in the villages) to see if they would like to take a position on the fee increase.

The County Engineer, who made the request, confirmed that the vote could take place at our next meeting (June 6th, 9:30 a.m.) and still meet his timeframe for implementation, if we vote yes.

So there's still time for you to share your opinion of this with the commissioners. The phone number is 419-213-4500 and our emails are:

Please take the time to have your opinions heard!

I receive an email of all postings to my blog and the posting below was received, but has not shown up on the blogsite. I believe it's important to include it in the body of the topic rather than as a comment. My thanks to County Engineer Keith Earley who submitted it:

I am afraid that I bored everyone to death with all the details of what we do, why we do it, why it is important, and why it will cost more later. The major point is: HIGHWAY CONSTRUCTION COSTS HAVE INCREASED 25% SINCE 2003 AND EXPERTS EXPECT 30% MORE.

Our revenue has not kept pace with inflation, but we have coped with a 2.5% annual inflation rate, knowing some adjustments for inflation will need to be made. The $5 permissive would provide a 2.5% increase. With registations declining in Lucas County we expect our future revenue to decline. We have put an emphasis on maintenance & reduced our workforce 20%.

A one time 2.5% increase is a very small first step. We need all revenue tied to the average of the highway constion cost index & the CPI. CCAO lists one of the reasons to oppose the TEL amendment is because costs such as highway construction costs have increased much more than the 3.5% allowable.

The public is not aware of the situation and I am nnot surprised that they would oppose any increase. The longer we wait to make annual adjustments for inflation, the further our ability to let construction contracts will be diminished. A cap on the annual increase to 3.5 % would be a huge improvement to 0%.

--Posted by Keith Earley to Thurber's Thoughts at 5/24/2006 12:24:29 PM

Thursday, May 18, 2006

License Plate Fee Increase Poll

Okay - so I'm trying something new...a POLL!

As you may know, the BCC is considering increasing the license plate fee in the unincorporated areas of the County. If approved, people living in the 11 townships and the 5 villages would pay an additional $5 for each vehicle that has a license plate (including trailers, boats, etc...).

The money would be dedicated to the road and bridge fund in the County Engineer's office. The County Engineer, Keith Earley, has requested the increase.

We had our first of two public hearings on this issue. The second hearing, and the vote, will be Tuesday, May 23rd, at 9:30 a.m. in the County Commissioner's hearing room on the first floor of Government Center.

Please take the poll (bottom left side of page) and let me know what you think. Thanks!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Something on the lighter side...

In doing some research, I found that William DeBuvitz, a physics teacher, wrote the following and called it "Administratium." It was written in 1998 and published in the January 1999 issue of The Physics Teacher. I heard it recited at Hillsdale College as the definition of "govermentium." Enjoy!

Definition of govermentium:

A major research institution (MRI) has recently announced the discovery of the heaviest chemical element yet known to science. The new element has been tentatively named Governmentium.

Governmentium has 1 neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 224 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

Since governmentium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected as it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of governmentium causes one reaction to take over four days to complete when it would normally take less than a second.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of three years; it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause some morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.

This characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientists to speculate that governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as Critical Morass.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Does the ends justify the means?

The Toledo Free Press has a front-page article highlighting some of the communication problems on the 8th Floor of government center (Commission: Impossible - see TFP link). Interestingly, it includes the following:

Though discussing the ADAS and Mental Health merger in the commission before June 30 would have been illegal, Gerken and Wozniak insisted any oversight of the law was done unintentionally. They said such an arrangement, once completed, would better serve taxpayers, the organizations and their clients.

"At this point, it is a formality to pass a resolution," Wozniak said. "The work that the two groups have done has been going on, at length, for a period of time."

Gerken partly attributed the mistake in timing to the fact the legislation allowing a merger to occur was part of a large package that was passed en masse by the state House.

"If there's a ‘gotcha' in this, that's unfortunate, because at the end of the day we did our homework," Gerken said. "We're prepared and we're ready to move forward."

Let's see...first contention is that oversight of the law was "unintentional." I guess I'm wondering why no one (except me) bothered to do their due diligence ahead of time so that there was no oversight - unintentionally or not. But, should we, as elected officials, be excused from compliance simply because we didn't "intentionally" do something that was incorrect?

The second contention is that passing a resolution is a "formality." As the ADAS and Mental Health Boards have made the recommendation to merge, it really shouldn't matter to the public that the decision of the commissioners is just a "formality." I guess that any opinions from the public are unnecessary and, perhaps, unwanted.

Personally, the message I get from that statement is that any questions to the two boards regarding their merger report would be unwelcome (by the commissioners - not the members of the two boards) since the decision to merge these two entities has already been made and (sarcasm alert) we certainly wouldn't want to ask any questions that may challenge such a pre-determined outcome. Or perhaps we should ask such questions, but we should do so now - privately - and not wait for a public meeting...

The third contention is that "at the end of the day we did our homework." Somehow I thought that knowing and following the legal process was part of "doing our homework," but perhaps I missed a change in the definition along the way.

What these contentions boil down to is this: the perspective that the ends justifies the means. "We're doing something good - so don't worry about HOW we do it - just be grateful that we're doing anything at all...and don't hold us accountable for following the rules - just be glad with the outcomes." And this "logic" has been used more than once to excuse actions that have the potential to get the BCC into trouble.

I was always taught that if something is worth doing - it's worth doing right, and that you don't sacrifice legality for expediency.

Is this a perspective that is needed on the BCC? As this is an election year, you get to decide the answer to that question.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Of Special Meetings and grubs...

This past week, I've had to do research on problems I wish I didn't have...grubs in my lawn and requests for a special meeting of the Board of County Commissioners (BCC).

The special meeting, first...

I received an email from the Clerk of the Board that she'd been instructed to schedule a special meeting on Tuesday, May 2nd. Unfortunately, it took some work to try and figure out WHO gave the instructions and for what purpose...

After some research, I found that at least one commissioner wanted to pass the required resolutions for a merger between our Mental Health Board and the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services (ADAS) agency. And that's when the trouble started...

You see, in 1989, the counties were mandated by state government to form either an ADAS board or a combined MH/ADAS board. Some counties did, some didn't. Lucas County chose to form separate boards (still looking for the reasoning on that decision).

Then, in 2003, counties which had formed separate boards were given a window during which they could consider merging the two bodies. Lucas County did discuss this at a Dec. 16th, 2003, BCC meeting - at the request of Comm. Tina Skeldon Wozniak. The decision was NOT to merge (2-1 vote) - based upon comments made by both boards at the meeting.

Along comes 2005 and a different makeup of the BCC and now merger is back on the table. The ADAS and MH boards were either asked, encouraged or told (depending upon whose version you listen to) to merge their boards. They formed a study group to look at the benefits of merger and then, in February 2006, issued a final report that said merger was a good idea.

Now, there are many unanswered questions about this report - but those can wait...this post is about the special meeting...

While the study group was meeting, efforts were also under way in Columbus to create another "window" in which separate boards could merge. Since this is primarily a law to give permissive authority to counties, it received very little, if any, opposition - the general philosophy in Columbus being that they usually support permissive authority at local levels in order to let individuals decide what's best within their jurisdiction. The amendment to the law was added to the budget reconciliation bill recently signed into law by the governor.

The Study Group decided that the merger should be official by July 1, 2006. There are several rationales for the merger, but the timing is based upon having a merged entity capable of promoting itself and its benefits in time for the MH levy in 2007 (as they state in their report).

In order to have these agencies meet their timeframe, the vote on the merger was tentatively scheduled for May 9th at the 9:30 a.m. BCC meeting

ah, but there's the rub...

It seems that the new law requires a 3-step process:

1) Commissioners must pass a resolution declaring their intent to merge.
2) Commissioners must pass a resolution requiring a report on a potential merger to be completed by a date certain.
3) Commissioners, after having time to review the report, may pass a resolution to merge the two entities.

So if you're going to have a vote on the merger on May 9th (step 3), you need to have votes on steps 1 & 2 first...hence the need to schedule a special meeting on election day.

Except that terrible Maggie Thurber, who asks all these questions that no one wants asked...happen to inquire as to WHEN the new law goes into effect. You see, since no one was really able to explain WHY we were having a special meeting to order a report that had already been completed, I learned all about the three-step process and the fact that the law requiring the three-step process had just been passed.

Now, in Ohio, most laws go into effect 90 days after signature by governor, unless another effective date is included within the law itself. I could find no special designation of an effective date for the merger, so I had my assistant check with the prosecutor's office to verify the actual effect date. Turns out, it's June 30, 2006.

Which means that we cancelled the special meeting on Election Day and we won't have the merger vote on the agenda May 9th...and we can't do anything until AFTER June 30th.

And for making sure that the BCC didn't act without the statutory authority to do so, I've been the "bad" commissioner this week.

Kind of makes me look forward to dealing with the grubs in my lawn...
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