Friday, June 29, 2007

What Toledo can learn from the immigration bill defeat

Yesteday, a majority of senators voted no on a motion for cloture on the comprehensive immigration bill, including Ohio's Senators Brown and Voinovich. And good for them. It's obvious that they listened to the majority of Ohioans - and Americans - who believed that this was a bad bill that did not deserve to pass.

But what can Toledo learn from this? That public pressure can be brought to bear on our elected officials and result in them doing OUR wishes, instead of their own.

So many times, I've heard my fellow Toledoans say, "what's the point - they don't listen to us anyway." And this defeatism seems to be contagious. Whether it's electing the same names to different positions, recycling old politicians in appointments and committees, getting different faces but the same failed policies, refusing to communicate with politicians through mail, phone or public hearings...Toledoans - at times - seem to have given up. And then they leave.

But despite what appears to be a pervading attitude, I see isolated pockets of success: the south Toledo neighborhood who successfully defeated an effort to build an ill-conceived bike path, the override of the mayor's veto of a charter school in the old Shriner's building downtown, the existence of a recall effort (at least they're trying to make a difference!), and even the frustration followed by positive ideas showing up on blogs and forums (Toledo Talk and Swamp Bubbles - links on the side).

Toledoans should be encouraged and inspired by the example set on the immigration bill. Americans didn't like what their senators were going to do - so they spoke loudly, consistently and OFTEN - telling them to vote NO on a bad bill. The Senate phone system even shut down because it couldn't handle the number of calls...although it was characterized as a 'modest' increase in calls.

When the public gives direction to our elected officials, it can be effective. But it requires a sustained and consistent message, followed up by consequences on election day.

We've seen that it can work on a national level, Toledo...but do we have the will to make it work here?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Pres. Bush's statement on failed immigration bill

According to the AP, the President said the following:

"Legal immigration is one of the top concerns of the American people, and Congress' failure to act on it is a disappointment," he said after an appearance in Newport, R.I. "A lot of us worked hard to see if we couldn't find common ground. It didn't work."

Sadly, the President is wrong. It isn't "legal" immigration that is one of the top concerns of the American people - it's ILLEGAL immigration. And it's why so much of the nation was opposed to this flawed bill. Maybe now he'll 'get it.'

So wrong on so many levels - low-interest loans to buy art

Well, it's been a couple of days since this story was in the local paper, The Blade, but it got me so angry on so many levels that I've just now been able to blog about it.

Apparently, our county commissioners don't think that enough people are buying art, so they've decided that they're going to help. (Nice of them, huh?) You see, people who want to buy art, aren't always able to because of the cost - so, according to Comm. Ben Konop, there's now a program to make it 'more affordable.'

Under the new 'economic development' program, individuals who qualify can get a loan of between $500 and $2500 at an interest rate of 1% to purchase a piece of local art. The maximum amount that Key Bank will loan under this program is $25,000.

And why would Key Bank make such a program available? It's because they're going to get a $250,000 investment from the county in the form of a certificate of deposit...and they're only going to pay 1% interest for the cd.

So...instead of the County Treasurer, Wade Kapszukiewicz, getting the best rates for the county, he's agreeing to this investment which, according to his office, means that the county treasury will be out $7,881 (the difference between the going interest rate and the 1% that will be paid).

And please don't advance the argument that "it's only" a small amount of this case, the issue is not the amount of interest that's NOT going into the county treasury, it's the mistaken philosophy that public funds should be used to advance social issues.

From the article:

"County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz said he is always looking for ways to use the "financial resources of the treasurer's office to move the county forward.""

In doing research on this, I could find nowhere in the Ohio Revised Code that detailed this as one of the responsibilities of the office of treasurer. But I did find plenty of references to 'safe' or 'secure' investments including the following:

"Safety, liquidity and earning a market rate of return on the county's money are primary responsibilities of the Treasurer."

Further, the State Auditor has issued a manual for county treasurers which states:

"The main goal of the county treasurer is to coordinate the county spending with the active/inactive funds. The desire is to match short-term needs with the short-term deposits, and to match long-term needs with long-term investments. It is fiscally irresponsible to invest short-term funds in a long-term investment. This matching can be achieved by coordinating spending with estimates of income. Open communication is necessary between the auditor and the treasurer to plan the timing of the investments. The portfolio should be managed to maximize interest rates while keeping risk to a minimum." (emphasis added)

So, if the investments should be managed to maximize interest rates, has our treasurer done this? Nope! He's decided that, instead of maximizing interest rates, he's going to help people buy art.

Then there is the whole issue of a the program itself. If the county commissioners were going to provide a program of low interest loans, is buying art the best target of those loans? What about purchasing a vehicle - that would generate more than the $300 in sales tax that they estimate the art sales will provide. Or maybe a recent high school graduate would like a $2500 loan at 1% interest to help pay for college. Or maybe you'd like to redo your kitchen - wouldn't YOU love to have a 1% interest loan for that? How about any other purpose - landscaping your yard, putting up a new fence, buying a new big screen tv, or even a vacation?

And what are the qualifications for such loans? The article doesn't say, but is it likely that people who qualify aren't really in NEED of a loan to purchase art? And do we think that people who don't NEED a loan to purchase art will still take advantage of this program?

If I was planning to purchase a piece of art at $2000, I could invest $2000 in any number of ways that would generate more than 1% interest, but let's use the county's rate of 4.157%. Such an investment would give me about $83.

Then, I could take out the loan at 1% and purchase the artwork. The interest on the loan will only be $20. So I get the artwork AND I make $63 doing so. And I do this at the expense of the county treasury and all the county taxpayers. Sounds like a great deal to me!

I know that there are a lot of people who are firmly convinced that the best investment for a community is art - everything from subsidized rent to this kind of a program. But 'art' is in the eye of the beholder and it's so completely subjective.

My preference is that we prioritize better.

Our county jail is in serious need of attention - individuals with multiple court cases are never held to account because their crimes are non-violent misdemeanors so they are released without ever going to court due to the Federal Court Order on overcrowding in our jail - not to mention all the security issues and recent problems well documented in our local media.

Our historic County Courthouse has needs that have been detailed for years by the judges. What about all the individuals who've appealed their property tax valuation - any decrease in property valuation means a decrease in property taxes resulting in less money in the county treasury. I'm sure there are many other things that you think would be more important than using county tax dollars as a guarantee for artwork loans.

But as of today, other than the media report on the day of the announcement, no one's said a thing. So remember - any lack of opposition to a decision is perceived by our elected officials as being support for the decision, leading to similar types of actions in the future. Make your opinions known.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Carty's "Passion"

For many years now, I've watched Carty Finkbeiner's political career. Anyone who knows anything about him will say that he truly loves this city and he is known for being the #1 Cheerleader for Toledo.

But a closer look at his career will also show that, on any given day, 40-45% of the people love him, 40-45% hate him and the other 10-20% switch back and forth, depending.

We were both elected to office in 1993 - he as the first strong mayor and me as the Clerk of Toledo Municipal Court. I've always had a cordial, professional and often friendly working relationship with him, despite our disagreements on various issues. Like everyone else, I've heard the stories about his language and behavior, but nothing 'on the record.'

And right about now, you're probably wondering where this post is going. So let me get to the point.

Recently, he took exception to the Shriners wanting to move to a more economical building than the one they've occupied for decades in downtown Toledo. Carty characterized their financial decision as "abandoning" the city - "running away" from the city - among other things.

Today, on WSPD 1370 AM, there are clips of his town hall meeting last night, in which he 'passionately' (he likes to use this term) defends the job the police department is doing. I wasn't at the meeting, but from the discussion on the morning show, it appears he was responding to a question about crime.

In both these instances, his 'passion' has gotten the better of him. His reaction to the decision of the Shriners to move was one of saying 'shame on you for this decision.' I don't know if he met with them to offer a location within the city limits that might meet their need - although, that's what I would have done. But I do know that his criticism of them was severe, public and personal - certainly not the way to generate goodwill.

But generating goodwill is really hard to do when you see a financial decision as a personal affront.

At the meeting last night, when asked about increased patrols, he changed the subject to say that crime is down and that he thinks the police are doing a very good job. He got defensive about the job the police are doing despite the fact that no one said that individual officers weren't doing a good job.

He saw this as a personal affront to the police department and reacted to defend them. However, he missed the critical point. The concern wasn't the individual actions of all the officers, but rather the management of the department - which is his ultimate responsibility.

I've got to hand it to him, though...taking such a position in defense of the police officers was an effective way to shut down the criticism. All of a sudden, the 'complainer' finds him/herself in a defensive mode. Some may see this as a good political strategy, but I don't ... and the danger of such a 'strategy' is that it leads the public to think you are just deflecting the issue and not really answering the question.

These two incidences draw a clear distinction.

In the first case, the Shriners' decision wasn't personal and shouldn't have been taken as such. The mayor of a city should understand why people/businesses move into a city AND why they move out. This was an opportunity to look at factors within our limits that encourage or discourage such decisions. It was also an opportunity to see if we could have met the needs of an organization that needed to make a change. Had the mayor not issued such a scathing personal attack, there might still have been an opportunity to keep the Shriners in Toledo - but I believe that opportunity has now passed.

In the second case, Carty should have take the criticism of the management of the police department personally. He should have explained what decisions he was making regarding staffing levels, why he hasn't brought them up to the number he identified while campaigning, why citizens wait hours, sometimes, for an officer to respond and what he plans to do about it. He even could have begun the discussion of setting priorities with the budget - something he says he wants to do anyway with performance-based budgeting.

But he didn't do any of these things. He chose, instead, to 'interpret' the public comments as a slam on the officers, apparently in the hope that it would eliminate the need for him to account for his mayoral decisions regarding the department. And then he responded 'passionately.'

Passion in politics or leadership can be a good thing. But as these situations demonstrate, 'passion' falls short - when it's all you've got.

Quote of the Day

Founders' Quote Daily from The Patriot Post:

"On every question of construction carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to William Johnson, 12 June 1823)

Monday, June 25, 2007

"It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood." - James Madison

I came across a blurb in the Wall Street Journal which mentioned a relatively new organization called founded by Rafael DeGennaro, a registered independent.

The organization's inspiration is Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the rules of the U.S. Senate and founded the Library of Congress. Their mission is to promote transparency in government to revitalize American democracy. seeks only transparent process and does not support or oppose policy on substance, and it is non-partisan and philosophically independent from the two major parties.

Their most recent initiative, supported by numerous groups including the National Taxpayers Union and Common Cause, is to have legislation posted online 72 hours prior to any debate in Congress. They believe that doing so "will harness the collective intelligence of thousands of American to ensure someone reads the bills."

If in doubt about whether or not such a requirement is needed, just take a few minutes to read these comments by legislators - comments which clearly demonstrate that our Congress routinely passes laws without having any idea about what such laws require.

And then take the time to encourage your congressional delegation to support this initiative as well.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Triple!

Three items of interest from Chuck Muth's News & Views:

This first one sounds a bit familiar...


"The city (of Chesapeake, VA) will move forward with a plan to build a two-mile bicycle path along Dominion Boulevard at an estimated cost of $16 million. . . . City Council members recently voted 7 -1 in favor of the bike path. Mayor Dalton Edge cast the lone vote against the idea, arguing the money should be used elsewhere. 'It's a $16 million project,' Edge said Thursday. 'It reminds me of the bridge to nowhere in Alaska. You talk about government spending, and to spend that kind of money on a bike path that would be rarely utilized is stunning to me.'"

- The Virginian-Pilot, 6/14/07


"Despite the new Democratic congressional leadership's promise of 'openness and transparency' in the budget process, a CNN survey of the House found it nearly impossible to get information on lawmakers' pet projects.

"Staffers for only 31 of the 435 members of the House contacted by CNN between Wednesday and Friday of last week supplied a list of their earmark requests for fiscal year 2008, which begins on October 1, or pointed callers to Web sites where those earmark requests were posted. Of the remainder, 68 declined to provide CNN with a list, and 329 either didn't respond to requests or said they would get back to us, and didn't."

-, 6/19/07

Rep. Marcy Kaptur did respond. Rep. Paul Gillmor did not.

And there was this from columnist Robert Novak:


"(President) Bush plans to veto the Homeland Security appropriations bill nearing final passage, followed by vetoes of eight more money bills sent him by the Democratic-controlled Congress. That constitutes a veto onslaught of historic proportions from a president who did not reject a single bill during his first term. Of the 12 appropriations bills for fiscal year 2008, only three will be signed by the president in the form shaped by the House. What's more, Bush correctly claimed he has the one-third plus one House votes needed to sustain these vetoes. The unpopular president is taking the offensive on fiscal responsibility."

I can't help but wonder if the President thinks that his sudden attention to fiscal responsibility will somehow win over those whom he's lost on the 'comprehensive immigration' (a.k.a amnesty) issue.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Eye on Toledo on WSPD 1370 AM

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I'll be guest hosting for the Eye on Toledo show 6-7 p.m. on WSPD news talk 1370 AM this Friday and Monday.

Among other things, I plan to talk about the recent report on graduation rates issued by Education Week. The report shows quite a discrepancy between their calculations and the ones developed by Toledo Public Schools. For background, here's a link to the Toledo Blade article on the issue.

Please tune and share your thoughts on this - or other news of the day!

Orwell's 1984 and Pork

"The more than 32,000 earmarks requested in the Homeland Security spending bill have roiled the House this week, and now Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) wants the word 'earmark' to just go away. In a Tuesday press conference about appropriation bills, Pelosi said, 'Why don't we leave here today forgetting the word earmark?' She said they should be called 'legislative directives' instead." - Columnist Amanda Carpenter

Guess that Pelosi's taking lessons from George Owell's 1984.

Then there was this tidbit:

"...(A) provision in the $151.5 billion Labor-HHS measure to be taken up by the House Appropriations Committee Thursday would fund travel expenses for labor representatives heading to a November conference on worker safety in Portugal hosted by the European Union. 'It's offensive that Democratic leaders would earmark taxpayer dollars to fund a junket for AFL-CIO union bosses,' said a spokesman for House Minority Leader Boehner. 'We know Democrats are using their newfound clout to pay off their union comrades right and left, but this takes the cake.'"
- CongressDailyAM, 6/13/07

No wonder Congress's approval rating is 27% down from 36% in January...

Flag Day

How many people know that today is Flag Day, or what it means?

Flag Day, 14 June, marks the anniversary of the adoption by Congress in 1777 of the Stars and Stripes as emblem of the nation. Celebrations of the flag began in local communities throughout the country during the nineteenth century, largely for the purpose of educating children in history. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson, and later, in 1927, President Calvin Coolidge, suggested that 14 June be observed as Flag Day. It was not until 3 August 1949 that the National Flag Day Bill became law, giving official recognition to 14 June to celebrate the flag.

What does our Nation's flag mean to you? I offer this quote by Franklin Knight Lane:

"I am whatever you make me, nothing more. I am your belief in yourself, your dream of what a people may become.... I am the clutch of an idea, and the reasoned purpose of resolution. I am no more than you believe me to be and I am all that you believe I can be. I am whatever you make me, nothing more."

Remember to fly your flag today, and every day.

"The flag of the United States has not been created by rhetorical sentences in declarations of independence and in bills of rights. It has been created by the experience of a great people, and nothing is written upon it that has not been written by their life. It is the embodiment, not of a sentiment, but of a history." ~Woodrow Wilson

P.S. It's also the 231st birthday of the United States Army...Happy Birthday soldiers!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Quote of the day

"But ambitious encroachments of the federal government, on the authority of the State governments, would not excite the opposition of a single State, or of a few States only. They would be signals of general alarm... But what degree of madness could ever drive the federal government to such an extremity."

~James Madison (Federalist No. 46, 29 January 1788)


* Revolver, a Findlay restaurant specializing in haute cuisine, garnered a mention in the Wall Street Journal's weekend edition June 2/3...congrats to them!

* Also seen in the WSJ, was an interesting letter to the editor by Dr. Stephen Ball, Lourdes College Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Leadership Studies. He took exception to the characterization of the woes of the West Outer Drive neighborhood in Detroit (an article about the effects of sub-prime lending). He says, "An element that comes through in almost every story of subprime-lending failure is the inability of borrowers to take personal responsibility because of the ignorance of personal finance concepts and their application." He advocates for problem-based learning in K-12 math curriculum. Way to go Prof. Ball!

* And while on the subject of economic ignorance, I came across this quote by Winston Churchill. "The multitudes remained plunged in ignorance of the simplest economic facts, and their leaders, seeking their votes, did not dare to undeceive them."

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Ambulance Fees - What will they be? UPDATED

On June 12th, Toledo City Council will consider an ordinance to give the Fire Department the authority to establish and implement Basic Life Support (BLS) transport fees. The ordinance also awards "a contract to Advanced Data Processing, Inc. under terms and conditions prescribed by the Director of Law to collect transport fees for the Basic Life Support (BLS) transport billing and collection service."

The County has established a cap on the amount that ambulance companies, under contract with the County, can charge for BLS runs dispatched by them. That cap is $500 plus mileage. Dennis Cole, director of the County Emergency Management Agency which oversees the County's ambulance contracts, explained that the County does not have any contractual language that would limit the amount that the City of Toledo can charge.

Toledo has not said what they're looking at in terms of a fee. Interestingly, I could find no news coverage of any discussion on how much would need to be charged to generate the "at least $1.2 million a year in extra cash for the city's general operating fund" that this service is supposed to produce. And with no publicized discussions of what fees would equal $1.2 million in revenue, there are likely no 'promises' of not increasing the cost to those who have to use the service. And with all the discussion of 'continuity of care' being more important, I can predict that this will be the excuse should the fee be more than $500.

Somehow, I don't think Toledoans will happy if it's anything other than the $500 that they were paying under the private structure, and woe to any politicians who supported this if it is.

UPDATE: I've been trying to find my old notes on this issue, but I believe that the County's rate is set at a maximum of $500 - and that many ambulance companies were charging less than this for BLS runs. Since the ordinance gives the Fire Department the ability to set the fees, I wonder if anyone will question or require documentation for how those fees are determined?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

New School Board Member - updated

Well, the Toledo Public School Board has a new member, following Deb Barnett's resignation. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the current members voted 3-1 to appoint former Mayor Jack Ford. The lone 'no' vote came from Darlene Fisher.

Why should this come as no surprise? Several reasons...there were five scheduled to be interviewed, but one dropped out, leaving Ford, Dr. Francis Dumbuya, and the two endorsed Democratic candidates for the open seats, Lisa Sobecki and Richard Brown.

Now, the Dems on the board couldn't be expected to choose between the two endorsed candidates and Dr. Dumbuya has been aligned with groups that have opposed the actions of the majority of the board - so everyone knows he wouldn't get the votes...which leaves Jack Ford.

And this must have been pretty much a slam dunk considering the way in which Mr. Ford 'applied' for the position. Prospective candidates were supposed to supply their resume, but Ford sloppily filled out a teacher application. He didn't even get his contact number correct, as the number he submitted wasn't a valid extension. And you'd think that he would know his own address...

My concern at the time these applications were made public (resumes can be viewed here) was that if someone was so disinterested and nonchalant in the way they applied, what kind of interest and guidance would he bring to the board?

Personally, I would have eliminated Ford from the start for failing to follow the directions for applying - but this is Toledo. Perhaps he knew it really didn't matter what he submitted, so there was no need to be accurate or detailed. And after The Blade did their editorial supporting him, and Mayor Carty Finkbeiner announced his support...well, what were the Board members to do, especially when one board member works for Carty?

They could have acted like Darlene Fisher. And kudos to Darlene for her principled stand - foregoing all politics and looking, instead, at the qualifications of the individuals. She may be standing alone, but she's standing for what's right.

UPDATE ON THE VOTE: It's been reported that the vote for the vacant seat was a bit unusual. Darlene Fisher nominated, and Robert Torres seconded, Dr. Francis Dumbuya. When it came to vote on Dumbuya, Darlene voted yes, Larry Sykes and Steven Steel voted no and then Torres abstained. Yep - you read correctly, the man who seconded the nomination abstained and did not vote in favor.

Jack Ford was then nominated and selected by a 3-1 vote.

While I do not know the legalities, had Torres voted yes on Dumbuya, there would have been a tied vote. Usually, this means that the measure fails, leading to an opportunity to nominate someone else. Why Torres did not allow a tie vote, but instead chose to abstain makes no sense. Perhaps he's walking a very fine line between those who support Dumbuya - and also supported his candidacy as part of the 'Three for Change' - and the 'powers that be' which include his boss, the mayor. Perhaps Torres will explain his two votes so there will be no misunderstanding?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Words of Wisdom

Buddha said:

"If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change."

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