Friday, November 30, 2007

Everything you wanted to know about electric deregulation but were afraid to ask

Eye On Toledo Preview:

Electric deregulation...two words that make your eyes want to glaze over. It's a complicated subject that few understand fully. But with the Ohio Senate passing SB 221 and discussion starting in the Ohio House, the issue is once again front and center.

In 1999, SB 3 was passed and signed into law. It was supposed to gradually turn Ohio from a regulated energy state into one in which competition flourished. Since that time, legislators 'fiddled' with the plan and are again doing so.

My guest on Eye On Toledo Monday night is Lynn Olman, representing the Alliance for Real Energy Options. He was the chairman of the Ohio House Public Utilities Committee when he was a state rep. He'll help sort out what it all means, especially for those of us in northwest Ohio, where energy costs have traditionally been higher than most other areas of the state. For more information, please visit Eye On Toledo Blog.

Following his interview Monday, I'll do another blog post here to help make sense of this complicated subject. Hope you'll join us Monday night - and every night - at 6 p.m. on 1370 AM or online!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The value of third place at LivCom

Yes, Toledo won third place, out of seven finalists, in our population category for the United Nations sponsored LivCom Awards. And that's a nice thing.

But what is the value of this award? and how can it help us with the myriad of challenges Toledo faces? Ah...there's the rub.

In all the data on the LivCom website, I couldn't find objective criteria for the judging, although the city did release its scores in the various categories (one A and the rest Bs). And the paper is reporting that 70 communities applied in our category. So what, exactly, are we among the 'best of' in terms of 'livable cities'?

The criteria are listed here, but the judging was based upon application and presentation. There was no independent verification of the statements made.

Toledo, I'm sure, did a good job in preparing the application and in making the presentation. Carty Finkbeiner is nothing if not enthusiastic about our city and its assets ... and he has the ability to infect others with his enthusiasm. So I'm sure the decision of the judges (environmental and landscaping professionals) was justified.

But does winning this award change anything? Sadly, I don't believe so. Not because it isn't a nice thing to have - it is - but because the hype over the award is in excess of the value. Having this nice claim to fame isn't going to do anything for the problems Toledoans face on a daily basis.

And even The Blade admits the problems in their editorial today:

"This is not to say that Toledo doesn't have issues it is struggling to overcome. The flight of educated young people to greener pastures, the loss of good jobs, the lack of downtown retail development, troubled schools, and growing suburbanization are all issues yet to be adequately addressed."

But their take on this award is that "Third place is infinitely better than no place, which is where some, including naysaying radio personalities, would have us believe Toledo is."

Now, I have no idea if they're referring to me, or not. But I take exception to the depiction that such awards will actually change the city, because they won't. Papers, certificates, trophies and titles will never be enough to cover up the loss of good jobs, loss of population and troubled schools. And no company is going to make a decision to move here because of those awards when these other issues are still outstanding.

Even the poll results on The Blade website show their readers understand this fact. As of the time of this post, nearly 61% do NOT "agree with Toledo's mayor that pursuing a recognition award is worth the effort to improve a city's reputation?"

It's a matter of priorities - and style over substance. Carty is great at style, but a bit lacking on substance. To be glad about the third-place finish is appropriate, but to jump up and down is a bit much. What would be so much better, however, would be to have no awards, but a city with good roads and infrastructure, low taxes, and a business-friendly environment. Then we'd really have something to rejoice about.

Quote of the day

"The best way to look at the U.S. tax code is like it's a three legged mule. It's ugly, deformed, and doesn't do much good for anybody. . . . As it stands today, our country's tax code is an unmitigated disaster: confusing and complex, costly and burdensome, a bloated bureaucratic mess that perfectly - and frighteningly - symbolizes all that can and will go wrong when the government decides to take control of the lives of individuals." ~ Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey

(hat tip to Chuck Muth's News & Views)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Toledo Choose Local and BALLE?

There's a lot to be said for a 'buy local' campaign. After all, what could be more innocent than supporting your local businesses when it comes to your buying or purchasing, either individually or from a business perspective?

But our Toledo Choose Local (TCL) organization has affiliated with BALLE, (pronounced ball-ee) the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. According to Stacy Jurich, the executive director of TCL, they pay dues to be a member of the BALLE network.

BALLE, on the surface, seems reasonable. Their mission is to "catalyze, strengthen, and connect local business networks dedicated to building strong Local Living Economies ... A Living Economy ensures that economic power resides locally, sustaining healthy community life and natural life as well as long-term economic viability." And what could be wrong with that?

When you dig deeper into the organization and their Board members, especially when you discover the philosophies of the members of their Board of Trustees and their Advisory Board, you see that there are many reasons to be concerned about this affiliation.

What I found actually scared me because of the insidious way the socialist concepts they propose are woven into such innocent-sounding programs like 'buy local.'

So let's take a look at just a few of the BALLE board members and some of the statements and philosophies they have:

Merrian Fuller from the E.F. Schumaker Society:
* believes we need to decommoditize land and place it under the control of a regional organization.
* wants an alternative monetary system (fits in with 'local currencies' or 'buy local dollars').
* said: "Businesses should champion social justice" and "Truly responsible businesses would be owned by all members of the community."

Basically, she espouses no private ownership - the foundation on which this nation was built.

Laury Hammel believes that social responsibility should be the guiding principle of a business - not profit.

Doug Hammond could be considered the founder or originator of the corporate social responsibility movement. He thinks we should "move from a world shaped by privilege to a world created by community."

These two believe that businesses should not be motivated by profit for the owners/shareholders, but by the good they can do for society as a whole. Much has been written about the CSR movement, so there's no need to list all the pros and cons here. But CSR's aim is a fundamental change from capitalism to socialism starting from within the agents of capitalism - the business. A business doesn't exist for the owner's benefit - but for the benefit of society as a whole ... and that's socialism.

Michelle Long, BALLE co-chair, believes there should be a new type of corporation (called a "B Corp") that focuses the corporation on 'benefits' to the community as a whole. She said: "The interests of employees, the community and the environment should be embedded into a corporation's governing documents so they can survive new investors, new management and new owners."

In several talks, she emphasizes that local economy movements can be a great laboratory for global change. "It's both difficult and risky to make deep systemic changes to an enormous system like the global economy, but it is easy to change smaller-scale systems..."

David Korten, author and founder of People-Centered Development Forum, founder of Positive Futures Network and an associate of International Forum on Globalization. Key beliefs:
* "Capitalism is destroying things of real value in the world - like cancer destroys life."
* enterprises should be based on stakeholder ownership limited to those with a stake in the firm like workers, customers and the community in which it's located.
* publicly-traded LLCs are anti-democratic and anti-market.
* wants to replace corporations with living fair-profit and non-profit enterprises.
* supports 20-hour work week, guaranteed income, 50% tax on advertising and the disbanding of armies.
* "corporations are parasites on humanity"
* says BALLE's goal is to replace our current 'suicide economy' with local living economies with locally rooted ownership.
* believes we should measure economic performance by indicators of social and environmental health.
* supports graduated taxes for corporations and individuals. "Those whom society most benefits benefit properly pay the greatest share of taxes for its maintenance. A fair tax system is a graduate tax system by which the wealthiest corporations and individuals contribute a growing share of their income to support the well-being of the whole."
* "achieving equitable distribution of ownership is an essential cornerstone of our work" at BALLE.
* his writings have been described as similar to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

I'll do a separate post on Korten and his organizations, especially in relation to the International Fund on Globalization.

But, in general, what I've found is that many of the board and advisory board members belong to or run anti-capitalist organizations. Many BALLE individuals serve on multiple boards - either as trustees or advisers - and many share funding sources or fund the same 'partner' organizations.

While these individuals have their own organizations and goals, they are joined together in BALLE with the idea that BALLE is the way to 'tell a new story' that is more compelling than capitalism. At least, that's what Korten said in 2004 in his keynote address to the BALLE annual conference:

"Listen carefully to the familiar elitist power story, as an important part of our work is to replace it in the public mind with a story both more democratic and more truthful.

Economic growth creates prosperity and expands the pie of wealth for all. It depends on investment. Since the poor have no money to invest, a wealthy investor class is essential to the prosperity of all. The greater the return to the investor class, the more it invests, the faster the economy grows, and the faster the lives of all improve. The market in turn rewards individual investors in proportion to their contribution.
The free market will then put people to work, eliminate poverty, get money in people’s pockets so they can make their own choices, create the wealth necessary to protect the environment, and provide people with better services at a cheaper price. The rich may get richer, but so does everyone else.
We progressives have many stories about redistributing wealth to help the poor and save the environment, but we have no prosperity story.

This allows the far right to accuse us of wanting to tax the productive to reward the lazy; and to sacrifice people to save exotic species. No matter how truthful our progressive claim that elitist policies actually destroy wealth, take from the poor to give to the rich, and threaten human survival, the elitist story will carry the day until we are able to counter it consistently and convincingly with a coherent prosperity story.
It is not enough merely to point out the flawed and ethically challenged assumptions of an established story. A story that embodies a flawed theory can be challenged successfully only by a more compelling story.
They cannot compete with the stories of creative human possibility that are ours to tell.

The prosperity story for a new Era is implicit in the work and vision of BALLE.
The old physics was based on a premise that only matter is real. The new physics suggests the sharply contrasting conclusion that matter is an illusion, only relationships are real. There is a parallel in biology. The old biology taught that each living being is engaged in a ruthless competition for survival against every other living being. The new biology concludes that life exists only in relationship to other life; the very existence of life depends on a continuous, cooperative flow of active energy within and between living organisms. Life exists only in community.
True prosperity, security, and meaning are all found in the life of vibrant, interlinked communities that offer every person — without exception — the opportunity to contribute their creative energy through joyful, creative, engaged relationships with one another and the Earth to Creation’s search for ever unfolding possibilities. Life in community is essential to the realization of our humanity.

This is the larger context of the work of BALLE. Our mission is to nurture the formation and connection of living enterprises that function as communities within communities to support the realization of the fullness of our human possibility."

From Korten's view, capitalism cannot be 'defeated' but it can be replaced - and his plan, as stated above, is to start with 'local living economies' and the organization of 'buy local' campaigns - and to spread these campaigns throughout the nation, providing a base from which to launch more of their ideas - eventually leading to a socialist environment.

By this point, you're probably thinking I've been reading too many conspiracy stories and have found my own. And believe me - I've asked myself this very same question - but, as I'll show in further posts, the organizations and individuals are inter-related and, when you connect all the dots, you get a clear picture of an overall plan - intended or not.

But regardless of the connections, the fact that these are the ideas promoted should give local business owners and citizens cause for concern about Toledo Choose Local's affiliation with BALLE, especially when you consider the following principles on which BALLE is based:

~ Living economy public policies support decentralized ownership of businesses and farms, fair wages, taxes, and budget allocations, trade policies benefiting local economies, and stewardship of the natural environment.

~ Living economy investors value businesses that are community stewards and as such accept a "living return" on their financial investments rather than a maximum return, recognizing the value derived from enjoying a healthy and vibrant community and sustainable global economy.

~ Living economy businesses are primarily independent and locally owned, and value the needs and interests of all stakeholders while building long-term profitability. They strive to:

1) Source products from businesses with similar values, with a preference for local procurement
2) Provide employees a healthy workplace with meaningful living-wage jobs
3) Offer customers personal service and useful safe, quality products
4) Work with suppliers to establish a fair exchange
5) Cooperate with other businesses in ways that balance their self-interest with their obligation to the community and future generations
5) Use their business practices to support an inclusive and healthy community, and to protect our natural environment
6) Yield a "living return" to owners and investors

Some of these things don't sound too bad - who could object to offering customers personal service and useful, safe, quality products? But a "living return"? Who gets to define 'living' return? "Meaningful" living-wage jobs? How does an employer ensure that their employee finds 'meaning' in their job? And what if a business cannot afford someone else's definition of 'living-wage'?

And when BALLE says they want 'public policies' that support decentralized ownership and 'fair wages,' does that mean they're going to want their affiliates to advocate for new legislation? And do local business owners really want public policies that support the decentralized ownership of businesses?

And do these ToledoChooseLocal members even know that these are the ideas they support through their membership?

When I asked Stacy Jurich if Toledo Choose Local was advocating socialism, her response was, "Not directly. That's not one of Toledo Choose Local's immediate goals. We're working on very simple steps."

As a friend once told me years ago, 'just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean they aren't really out to get you.'

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Purchase of Southwyck? Reality sets in

Well, as I've been saying all along, Southwyck is owned by private individuals and, until those people want to do something with this empty mall, nothing can happen.

Despite headlines about the City of Toledo purchasing a portion of the property, this Blade story adds some reality to the prospects. (For more background, search this blog for 'Southwyck.')

Developers interviewed said the deal isn't any good without all the pieces. And it doesn't look like all the pieces will be in place any time soon - if ever. The scary part is the fact that Larry Dillin, the city's hand-picked developer for the property, has no comment on the city's plan to purchase and hold the portion of the mall for 30 days.

"Under the term's of the deal, the city would pay $1 million to the M.G. Herring Group of Dallas for the vacant Dillard's store site and an adjoining parking lot. The city would make the purchase with the intent of re-selling the property to its developer within 30 days.

But Robert Reinbolt, chief-of-staff for Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, said yesterday Mr. Dillin has not agreed to that.

The developer, he said, would prefer to delay the purchase until other pieces of the development are in place including finding tenants for the project and reaching agreement with Dillard's."

(Dillin, of course, sounding like the savvy business man that he is...)

This, alone, should give City Council some serious pause before they vote on the deal at today's council meeting. And it makes my question ('what happens if Dillin doesn't exercise his option in 30 days?') even more pertinent.

But, this is our mayor ... ready, shoot, aim. As Steve Serchuk, of Signature Associates, said, "You've either got something or you've got nothing. Currently, you got nothing. You have something when you get two pieces."

First, I don't think the city should be purchasing any portion of this land. They've picked a developer and Dillin should be the one to do the purchasing. But this being Toledo, if council members vote to do so, they should insist that any agreement to purchase is contingent upon acquiring the other portions of the mall AND they should have a signed commitment from Dillin before risking public dollars.

I can only hope that cooler minds prevail in this venture ... I'll update you after the vote.

What makes a livable city?

Toledo won third place at the United Nation's LivCom Awards in their population category. This award is billed as determining the 'most livable' cities in the world.

But what makes a livable city? This is the topic of discussion tonight on Eye On Toledo. I'll share with you the criteria for LivCom - and then take your calls and your priorities for what makes a city 'livable.'

Join me at 6 p.m. on 1370AM or listen live through the link in the left-hand column!

Kudos to UT!

The University of Toledo has been selected to house the offices of the statewide University Clean Energy Alliance of Ohio!

UT beat out Ohio State University and Miami University to host the alliance which coordinates collaboration among 15 Ohio universities in the discovery, development, and commercialization of energy-related technologies.

Go Rockets!!!

Monday, November 26, 2007

LivCom Results: Toledo is third

Toledo was one of seven finalists for the LivCom Awards in Category D, population of 200,001 – 750,000. Other finalists were:

* Edogawa City, Japan
* Lyon, France
* Malmo, Sweden
* Manukau, New Zealand
* Regional Municipality of Niagara, Canada
* Toledo, USA
* Wenjiang, PR China

Toledo finished in third place in the awards. Second place was Lyon, France. Winner was Malmo, Sweden.

Complete results are available at the above link.

Extending 'no-wake' zones on the Maumee River

-Sepp, at Uncommon Squalor, has a great post about an upcoming vote of Toledo City Council on extending the no-wake zone from the downtown area up river past all the boat clubs.

This will definitely have a negative impact on the boaters and their visitors - people who actually spend money in the area.

I'm awaiting a copy of the legislation and will update this post once it's received. Until then, I'm wondering if this will get a 'not business friendly' tag...

Excuses abound for breaking the rules

Well, even though The Blade editorial board admits that Carty's violating the rules, it's okay, the 'fuss isn't warranted,' and the end justifies the means.

"...we aren't all that disturbed by Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's insistence on breaking the rules at Government Center..."

Because we like dogs too...

"...the mayor is one of those people who believes the rules that govern ordinary folks don't necessarily apply to him."

And since we keep electing him, we obviously want him to continue to disregard all the rules the rest of us have to follow.

"So why should anyone raise a howl over Scout's continued presence in the mayor's office? ... We don't think the fuss is warranted."

After all, it's only our tax dollars that are paying for the staff person who takes Scout out for his breaks and the janitorial staff who has to clean up after the dog in the mayor's office. And that doesn't even mention all the other people who would like their dogs to accompany them to work every day. But if everyone else did that, "the place would soon turn into a zoo, and that would be untenable."

In the end, it's all about Carty's mental health ... and his mental health is more important than any rules for a building. So, the end justifies the means.

"Just think of it as one way to keep the peace in Toledo."

And since the major newspaper in the area isn't going to constantly harp on the mayor's complete and total disregard of the rules, the mayor now has 'permission' to keep bringing Scout to work. He's getting a pass - and, because of this, he will continue to violate the rules with impunity.

Please take a moment to read "Because we let them," and remember - this isn't about a dog. It's about the rules, following them - or not, and setting the example rather than expecting special indulgences because of the position held, which is supposed to be about service and not privilege.

And this is an interesting read - WSPD talk show host Brian Wilson's comparison to George Orwell's "Animal Farm."

Snowy Owl sighting in Point Place

This dreary, foggy, raining morning had a nice surprise for us. As we were putting out our recyclables, a large winged creature swooped overhead and landed on the roof of our neighbor's house.

Turns out, it was a large Snowy Owl - about 16" high according to the bricks on the chimney - and it's unusual to see this far south, as its normal southern-most boundary is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

My neighbor said one of the tv stations had a small blurb about it being sighted in Point Place, but I couldn't find it online. According to this website, it was Fox Toledo, Channel 36.

He's been on the rooftop about an hour as of the time of this post. We'll see how long he stays there - and in the area!

Council to consider early renewal of 3/4% tax

Looks like Mayor Carty Finkbeiner wants to put the renewal of the 3/4% payroll income tax on the primary ballot March 4th, even though it doesn't expire until the end of 2008.

Perhaps the mayor is afraid it might not pass the first time around and wants to be sure there's a second opportunity to put it on the ballot in November?

This temporary tax was first approved in 1982 and has been successful each time at the ballot since then. Currently, the money is split with 1/6 to the capital improvements budget and 5/6 to the general fund. But, the mood is not the same as it was four years ago ... and passage of this tax is not as sure as it was in the past.

However, this being Toledo, expect doom and gloom scenarios of raging criminals with no police and homes burning to the ground because of a lack of fire fighters. And dutiful citizens who will give the elected officials all the money they need to spend on 'nice' things while necessities go wanting.

Again, how much are we borrowing because we don't have the money to finish the MLK Bridge?

Toledo to purchase part of Southwyck

According to this story in The Blade, the mayor has signed a letter of intent to purchase a portion of Southwyck Mall for $1 million.

He intends to ask city council to vote on the measure at tomorrow's meeting. Of course, I'm sure this will be voted on as an 'emergency' which means it will go into effect as soon as the mayor signs the legislation, rather than wait the normal 30 days.

Carty Finkbeiner then explains that Larry Dillin, who's been selected by the city to redevelop the mall, will have an option to buy the city-owned portion within 30 days.

So here are the questions city council should ask:

* why must the city purchase this property in the first place?

* if the owner of this portion is willing to sell, why not sell directly to Larry Dillin?

* where will the city get the money? The article says that the money will come from the Southwyck line item in the capital budget. However, nearly $1 million of that amount has already been allocated to the road, street sign and beautification projects. Exactly how much money is there in this line item?

* what happens if, in 30 days, Dillin does NOT exercise his option to buy?

When council makes its decision on this, I hope they'll remember all the other priorities for which the city has responsibility - likes roads and infrastructure. And didn't they just decide to borrow a ton of money to finish the MLK Bridge?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all - On this, and all days, my family and I have much to say 'thank you' for. I'm thankful for you who read, and comment, on my 'thoughts.' I wish you the comfort of family and friends and blessings both great and small for which to be grateful. Happy Thanksgiving!

Reprinted with permission from The Patriot Post:

“Tomorrow being the day set apart by the Honorable Congress for public Thanksgiving and Praise; and duty calling us devoutly to express our grateful acknowledgements to God for the manifold blessings he has granted us, the General... earnestly exhorts, all officers and soldiers, whose absence is not indispensably necessary, to attend with reverence the solemnities of the day.” ~ George Washington (December 17, 1777)

The necessity of Thanksgiving

In this era of overblown political correctness, we often hear tales of Thanksgiving that stray far afield from the truth. Contemporary textbook narratives of the first American harvest celebration portray the Pilgrim colonists as having given thanks to their Indian neighbors for teaching them how to survive in a strange new world. This, of course, is in stark contrast to the historical record, in which the colonists gave thanks to God Almighty, the Provider of their blessings.

The “First Thanksgiving” is usually depicted as the Pilgrims’ three-day feast in early November 1621. The Pilgrims, Calvinist Protestants who rejected the institutional Church of England, believed that the worship of God must originate freely in the individual soul, under no coercion. The Pilgrims left Plymouth, England, on 6 September 1620, sailing to the New World on the promise of opportunity for religious and civil liberty.

For almost three months, 102 seafarers braved the brutal elements, arriving off what is now the Massachusetts coast. On 11 December, before disembarking at Plymouth Rock, the voyagers signed the Mayflower Compact, America’s original document of civil government predicated on principles of self-government. While still anchored at Provincetown harbor, Pastor John Robinson counseled, “You are become a body politic... and are to have only them for your... governors which yourselves shall make choice of.” Governor William Bradford described the Mayflower Compact as “a combination... that when they came a shore they would use their owne libertie; for none had power to command them...”

Upon landing, the Pilgrims conducted a prayer service and quickly turned to building shelters. Malnutrition and illness during the ensuing New England winter killed nearly half their number. Through prayer and hard work, with the assistance of their Wampanoag Indian friends, the Pilgrims reaped a rich harvest in the summer of 1621, the bounty of which they shared with the Wampanoag. The celebration incorporated feasting and games, which remain holiday traditions.

Such ready abundance soon waned, however. Under demands from investors funding their endeavor, the Pilgrims had acquiesced to a disastrous arrangement holding all crops and property in common, in order to return an agreed-to half of their produce to their overseas backers. (These financiers insisted they could not trust faraway freeholders to split the colony’s profits honestly.) Within two years, Plymouth was in danger of foundering under famine, blight and drought. Colonist Edward Winslow wrote, “The most courageous were now discouraged, because God, which hitherto had been our only shield and supporter, now seemed in his anger to arm himself against us.”

Governor Bradford’s record of the history of the colony describes 1623 as a period of arduous work coupled with “a great drought... without any rain and with great heat for the most part,” lasting from spring until midsummer. The Plymouth settlers followed the Wampanoag’s recommended cultivation practices carefully, but their crops withered.

The Pilgrims soon thereafter thought better of relying solely on the physical realm, setting “a solemn day of humiliation, to seek the Lord by humble and fervent prayer, in this great distress.” In affirmation of their faith and providing a great witness to the Indians, by evening of that day the skies became overcast and gentle rains fell, restoring the yield of the fields. Governor Bradford noted, “And afterwards the Lord sent to them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanksgiving.”

Winslow noted the Pilgrims’ reaction as believing “it would be great ingratitude, if secretly we should smother up the same, or content ourselves with private thanksgiving for that, which by private prayer could not be obtained. And therefore another solemn day was set apart and appointed for that end; wherein we returned glory, honor, and praise, with all thankfulness, to our good God, which dealt so graciously with us...” This was the original American Thanksgiving Day, centered not on harvest feasting (as in 1621) but on gathering together to publicly recognize the favor and provision of Almighty God.

Bradford’s diary recounts how the colonists repented of their financial folly under sway of their financiers: “At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other things to go in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number.”

By the mid-17th century, autumnal Thanksgivings were common throughout New England; observance of Thanksgiving Festivals spread to other colonies during the American Revolution. At other junctures of “great distress” or miraculous intervention, colonial leaders called their countrymen to offer prayerful thanks to God. The Continental Congresses, cognizant of the need for a warring country’s continuing grateful entreaties to God, proclaimed yearly Thanksgiving days during the Revolutionary War, from 1777 to 1783.

In 1789, after adopting the Bill of Rights to the Constitution, among the first official acts of Congress was approving a motion for proclamation of a national day of thanksgiving, recommending that citizens gather together and give thanks to God for their new nation’s blessings. Presidents George Washington, John Adams and James Madison followed the custom of declaring national days of thanks, though it was not officially declared again until another moment of national peril, when during the War Between the States Abraham Lincoln invited “the whole American people” to observe “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father... with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience.” In 1941, Congress set permanently November’s fourth Thursday as our official national Thanksgiving.

The Pilgrims’ temporary folly of sundering and somersaulting the material as transcendent over the spiritual conveys an important lesson that modern histories are reluctant to tell. The Founders, recognizing this, placed first among constitutionally recognized rights the free exercise of religion—faith through action.

If what we seek is a continuance of God s manifold blessings, then a day of heartfelt thanksgiving is a tiny tribute indeed.

This Thanksgiving, please pray for our Patriot Armed Forces standing in harm’s way around the world, and for their families—especially the families of those fallen Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who have died in defense of American liberty.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Troubles at the LCIC - again

Here we go again ... issues of power and control surfacing again at the Lucas County Improvement Corporation, a non-profit agency that does economic development in the county. (background: here, here, and here)

Today's issue? Who sits on the search committee for the new executive director.

According to the Blade article on the meeting yesterday, Oregon Mayor Marge Brown added some people to Commissioner Ben Konop's hand-selected list of committee members.

Interestingly, the article doesn't mention Ben's committee, except for a few. And Mayor Brown's additions are certainly individuals of good standing and respect in the community.

So let's take a look at some of the people Ben picked out, according to what I've learned:

* Ben Konop - of course.
* Bill Brennan - the chair of the Workforce Investment Board. This is good person to have on the committee since the WIB has been contracting with the LCIC for shared duties of the executive director and has paid 40% of the salary for the position.
* Deborah Barnett - a community liaison person for Huntington Bank and former Toledo School Board member who did not run for re-election. She was considered a part of the 'Larry Sykes group' while on the school board. For a short time, she was a member of the WIB.
* Jim Irmen, a township trustee in Swanton and the township representative on the LCIC Exec. Board.
* Rick Mitchell - local lawyer. In the past, he's had a contract with Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz for labor law services and he's been actively involved in many aspects of the community. In the interests of full disclosure, he worked at a local law firm when I was first elected and performed some work on a labor contract for me as the Clerk of Clerk.
* Ann Albright - owner of Swan Creek Candle Company
* Don Monroe - city of Toledo employee and a member of the LCIC
* Keith (last name unknown) from the non-profit Toledo Community Shares
* Carter Wilson, - professor of political science and public administration at The University of Toledo
* Dan Johnson - UT
* Sue Wuest - believe she still works at the Urban Affairs Center at UT. Sue ends up on a lot of such committees and either was, or still is, a member of the Toledo Plan Commission.

Considering the lack of business or economic development people, it makes sense to me that Mayor Brown would want to add such representation. And I think a good mix of political affiliation wouldn't hurt either.

As for the composition, do we really need three people from the University of Toledo? Is this just a way to ensure support for making the interim director permanent? That's what some speculate.

In the end, though, it's not about what is decided as much as it is who gets to decide. And that leads me to this Konop comment from the article:

"He also said he felt it was best for there to be a degree of separation between the LCIC and the team formed to find the organization's next chief executive officer."

And I have to wonder - why would the board want a degree of separation between themselves and their employee? And why would Ben think this is acceptable? This person is going to have to work for the board. He or she is going to have to follow the directions of the board and carry out the board's instruction and vision.

Which brings me back to the original problem I have with how Comm. Konop is going about 'affecting change.' His issue really isn't with the staff - or even with the executive director. His issues are with the decisions of the executive committee and the fact that they're not doing what HE wants. And, despite his involvement with the executive committee, he's not a voting member of the committee so his ability to influence the outcomes is limited.

But he's wrong if he thinks that getting the 'right' executive director will change that. In the end, any new executive director will still work for the board - not just for him, or even for just the commissioners. If he really wants to implement his ideas and plans, he's going to have to get at least one other commissioner to support him. And then he's going to have to get the other members of the executive committee to go along - but he hasn't shown much success in that arena to date. Maybe there's a reason why they're not all jumping for joy over his initiatives? A good question for him to ask himself.

In the meantime, this agency and the good staff members there will continue to be used as pawns in the bigger political game of power and control. And, as has already happened, the support from all the governmental jurisdictions will wane. And it might just make his search for a new executive director more difficult.

By the way - wonder where the $30,000-40,000 cost of the search will come from?

Monday, November 19, 2007

NBC 24 Exclusive on COSI - UPDATED

NBC 24 is reporting that Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and Lucas County Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak met today with COSI board members to discuss keeping Toledo's Center of Science & Industry open for another year -- and then placing a third levy request on the ballot.

NBC 24's Aaron Brilbeck spoke to COSI Chairman David Waterman this afternoon.

Watch NBC 24's news at 6 p.m. for more details!.

This will be Tuesday's topic on Eye on Toledo at 6 p.m. on NewsTalk 1370 WSPD.

From NBC 24:

A new plan to save COSI

By Aaron Brilbeck
Posted: Monday, November 19, 2007 at 5:43 p.m.

(Toledo)--Twice, voters have said they don't want any more tax dollars used to save COSI. But today, a "top secret meeting" was held to do just that. Mayor Carty Finkbeiner called the meeting today with local business and political leaders.

That despite taxpayers sending a clear message by turning down not one-but two COSI levies. The most recent just a few weeks ago.

But NBC24 has learned the mayor held a secret, closed door meeting to discuss having the county and city use tax dollars to keep COSI's doors open at least for the short term. We're told city and county leaders at the meeting also talked about possible long term solutions to keep COSI open.

And while COSI Board Chair Waterman says there seems to be a lot of support, no real concrete answers came out of the meeting.

Waterman says if there is a taxpayer funded bailout, it would have to be enough money to keep COSI open for at least a year

Pack neatly? Who are they kidding?

Yes, we are now being 'urged' by the TSA to pack neatly to reduce our time in line during the busy holiday travel season.

This, in addition to taking off our shoes, carrying very small bottles of liquids and face cream and deoderant...

Gotta tell ya - our lines would be greatly reduced if they looked for suspicious PEOPLE and BEHAVIOR instead of potentially dangerous toothpaste.

But to tell us to pack neatly??? Wonder if the 'powers that be' who issued this advice ever bothered to take a look at a bag after a TSA agent was finished rummaging through it?

Does this qualify as another anti-logic post? You decide.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ulterior motives in ballot issues

According to today's Blade article on the 2008 ballot issues, it's not the issue itself - there's an ulterior motive involved.

In reference to the 'Sick Days Ohio' initiative, Catherine Turcer, of Ohio Citizen Action, says:

“When you can’t get the legislature to take up an important policy issue, you take it to a vote of the people. But we all know these ballot issues affect who goes to the polls and who gets elected.

“Sick leave pulls at the heart strings, and it is so much more likely to bring out Democrats and maybe independents who are left of center,” she said.

Dale Butland, spokesman for the proposed Healthy Families Act, the official name of the proposal that would require employers with 25 or more workers to provide the employees with seven days of sick leave a year to care for themselves and their families, downplays the overall impact such an initiative would have on the presidential elections.

“I know this is the story that all political reporters want to write, that this is our wedge issue like the gay-marriage issue was for Republicans, but we hope the legislature passes this,” he said. “They’ll get this in January, and to that end we are reaching out to Republicans.

“We are prepared to go to the ballot if we have to, but that would be very expensive, and there are a lot of other things to spend money on next year,” he said.

But the impact is clear. If the Republican-led state legislature doesn't adopt this proposal, they're risking the presidential election because the Healthy Families Act will bring out those left of center. And in my conversation with Mr. Butland and others who were in Toledo earlier this year, they made it clear that they want what is in the proposal - not a compromise. They're willing to 'look' at what a Republican-led legislature might propose, but they want what they've put down in writing already.

For the Republicans, this is a lose-lose situation. They can either pass a law that is detrimental to the business climate (which isn't that great in Ohio as it is) and increases the costs of doing business here (big loss to everyone), or they can risk an almost-guaranteed large turn-out of liberal-leaning voters and risk the state's electoral votes for president (another loss).

For the Democrats, it's a win-win. They either get their guaranteed paid sick days for all Ohioans (big win which gives unions a higher baseline when bargaining for paid days off), or they get an almost-guaranteed large turn-out of liberal-leaning voters which would help them win the state's electoral votes for president (another win).

And that's what these groups are counting on ... because the issue is just the by-product - the tool, if you will - to accomplish the ulterior motive: turn Ohio to the Democrats in the 2008 presidential election.

And who can blame them for going this route? They saw what a marriage amendment did for conservative turn-out in 2004, even though there are some who think this was just one of many issues pushing conservative voters to the polls.

Opponents of the measures acknowledged that the proposed amendments might have increased Republican turnout. But they said most of those voters would have gone to the polls anyway, galvanized by a host of social issues, including abortion, stem cell research and gun control.

"From Day 1 of the Bush administration, they have done everything possible to cater to their conservative, evangelical base," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "They were energized to vote for him, and same-sex marriage was just one of those issues that energized them."
~ (source: New York Times article)

Proponents of "Sick Days Ohio" hope the idea of paid sick days will be a similar type of motivator, gaining support of employees, regardless of political affiliation. I suppose it's true when they say that imitation is the highest form of flattery.

Either way and regardless of whether it's a conservative or liberal issue, as a voter, I don't like being used, or manipulated, in this way.

(Note - I was not blogging 2004 and, as a sitting County Commissioner, I did not take a position on the marriage amendment - or any ballot issue - that year.)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Defining the 'middle class'

I recently came across an old CBS poll that defined middle class as those with incomes of $30,000 to $75,000.

But only 44% of those with incomes in this range describe themselves as middle class. In fact, this poll (and others) indicate that nearly everyone with incomes from $30,000 to $200,000 think of themselves as middle class and that range represents about 75% of all families, with fewer than 5% earning more.

Actually, according to the most recent IRS data (from 2005) the top 1% of income earners were those with an annual adjusted gross income of $365,000 and higher. I think most of us would define this as rich.

The top 5% of income earners were those having an adjusted gross income of $145,000 and higher. The top 10% earned income over $103,000.

The top 25% had income of over $62,000 and the top 50% earned $31,000 and higher.

According to these stats, if you break people into only 2 groups, those who make $31,000 and above would be 'rich' while those making less than $31,000 would be poor. But if you were to use these figures to determine the 'middle,' you'd probably pick $62,000 as the top end (as 25% make that much or more) and $31,000 as the low end (as 50% make less than that amount).

In Toledo, according to the latest Census data, the median income is $32,546, with half earning more and half earning less than that amount. This link shows the average wage for occupations in the Toledo Metropolitan Statistical Area (which includes Fulton, Lucas, Ottawa and Wood Counties) - and a vast majority of them are above the $31,000 figure.

According to this UAW link, in 2006, a typical assembler would earn $57,845 per year and a typical skilled trades worker would earn $67,226 per year (both without overtime).

If we look at $62,000 as the dividing line between middle class and 'rich,' the UAW skilled trades workers are rich. If a typical assembler were to work 100 hours of overtime (about 12 eight-hour days), they'd reach that $62,000 mark, putting them into the rich category as well.

Teachers would reach the 'rich' threshhold, depending upon degree attained, after about 21 years. Lead Workers in the City of Toledo AFSCME Local 3711, D-F classifications, make enough to qualify as 'rich,' as do AFSCME 2058 groups 14 and 15 and Teamsters Local 20 groups 14 and 15 (base salaries 2002).

And if both husband and wife worked in any of these jobs, their family would be in the top 10% of all wages earners, definitely putting them into the 'rich' category.

But I'd bet that if you asked any of these people how they'd define themselves, they wouldn't say they were rich - or in the top 25% to 10% of all wage earners in the nation.

And that's part of the problem. When politicians and others talk about the 'rich,' we all think about those making tons of money - certainly those in the top 1% of wage earners making above $365,000 per year. We certainly don't think about our neighbors who both have worked at the local union factory for the last 15-20 years. Or even ourselves, for that matter, if we make combined incomes above $62,000 a year.

And that's what they count on. If such speakers were required to define 'rich,' they'd have to give an earnings figure and that would immediately result in a realization that they were talking about most married or two-income families.

So the next time you hear some politician mention 'the rich,' ask them to define it in terms of annual income and if they don't, watch your wallet.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Link to Toledo's 2008 Budget

Just wanted to let you know I've added a link to the 2008 Toledo proposed budget. It's a .pdf and is about 300 pages. Enjoy!

Sometimes I hate to be right

As predicted in this post about Jack Ford's idea to make COSI into a science/math school, The Blade has jumped all over the idea as a viable option to keeping the failing venture open.

While it's true that they'd rather have this remain a museum in the downtown area, they're basically giving the elected officials the go-ahead on the idea. Which means that you'll see the TPS school board, the mayor and the county commissioners 'uniting' to figure out how to make it happen. Never mind that voters don't want their taxes spent on this ... it's obviously more important to keep The Blade happy than it is the voters.

The Blade says they don't want another shuttered building downtown. I can't help but wonder if it ever occurred to them to actually sell the building to a private developer and let the private market take responsibility for making it into a successful venture ... especially when you consider that neither the city nor TPS have a good track record on such projects.

I hate it when I'm right on these kinds of things.

The need for pruning

Considering that Mayor Carty Finkbeiner will hold a press conference today to introduce the 2008 budget, I thought today's Founders Quote from The Patriot Post rather timely.

"The multiplication of public offices, increase of expense beyond income, growth and entailment of a public debt, are indications soliciting the employment of the pruning knife." `~ Thomas Jefferson (letter to Spencer Roane, 9 March 1821)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Toledo tries to shift its costs to everyone else

Toledo's new (actually old) idea to save money is to start citing certain crimes under the Ohio Revised Code rather than under the Toledo Municipal Code. How will this save money? Because the code determines who pays for the costs of incarceration (both pre- and post-conviction) and who gets any fines imposed as a result of a guilty finding.

So Toledo thinks it can save money by citing certain crimes under the ORC, thus avoiding the payment for jail time, and the cost of bookings, when individuals are in the downtown jail awaiting court appearances or at CCNO (the Correctional Center of Northwest Ohio) out in Stryker, OH.

Of course, they plan to do this only on charges that are likely to result in jail time, like domestic violence, assault and DUI.

According to today's Blade article on the issue,

"Charging under state law means the city would lose about $700,000 in fine revenues, but would enjoy a net savings of $1.5 million by no longer having to pay daily booking charges at the county jail.

In addition, about $400,000 currently paid by the city to the office of the public defender would shift to the county."

And, of course, the County would then be responsible for these costs. In reality, this is Toledo's way of moving the costs of their own law enforcement onto the backs of the rest of the county - making other jurisdictions (like Maumee, Sylvania, Oregon and Ottawa Hills who also cite under their own code) pick up the tab for crimes in Toledo. And if they get away with this scheme, should we expect the other municipalities to do the same? Fair is fair, after all.

There are some jurisdictions in Lucas County who cite only under the ORC. The Sheriff and most village and township police departments are some. But the important thing to remember is that ALL citations within these jurisdictions are under the ORC.

Despite the fact that the County doesn't have the funds to pick up Toledo's costs, it appears that at least one commissioner, Pete Gerken, is looking at how to make that happen.

"Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken said he met with Mr. Finkbeiner last week to discuss criminal-justice savings.

"I'm not offended they're trying to save money," Mr. Gerken said. "We're going to work together to cut costs. This is a complicated, ongoing process.""

Interestingly, Lucas County is known for the variety and extent of diversion programs we run to help avoid the high costs of incarceration. We have alcohol/drug programs and electronic monitoring, among others, which help keep the daily jail populations down. But Toledo, being the largest jurisdiction, ends up with much of the costs simply because of the volume of arrests they have.

Additionally, because of the Federal Court Order (FCO) on jail overcrowding, many defendants are booked and released on a regular basis. Most of those never report to court as scheduled resulting in bench warrants followed by another arrest, another booking, another release, another non-appearance and then another bench warrant. As recently as 2006, the failure to appear rate of such defendants in Toledo Municipal Court was around 50%.

This revolving door obviously results in higher booking costs for Toledo, not to mention the manpower costs of continually arresting such individuals. Despite the need for more jail space in general, and to hold daily non-violent offenders with a history of bench warrants specifically, the City of Toledo long ago lost interest in joining with the County to build a new Muni-Court/Jail facility. And then the Sheriff decided, despite a long history of asking for a new facility, that he could get by on what he had if the County spent millions to do some renovations and security improvements.

As it is, the 2007 County budget for the county correction center (official name of the downtown jail) is $20.85 million. The 2007 County budget for CCNO is $4.63 million. And with declining sales tax revenues and no more funds expected from the state to help with the cost of public defenders, the County really doesn't have way to cover these costs.

Besides, the real problem isn't who can pay for these costs, it's in finding a way to eliminate the needless revolving door in the jail that drives up these costs.

But that would require a long-term plan rather than just a shifting of Toledo's costs onto the county as a whole. Two commissioners, having been on Toledo City Council, have shown a propensity for 'taking care of' Toledo and it's problems. But when your budget director says "we sure don't have the money," it's hard to see how they'll justify such a scheme without having an outright revolt in all the other jurisdiction - or without every other jurisdiction with its own code doing the exact same thing.

In the end, Toledo can legally make this change, but with the Mayor being so critical of other jurisdictions when their actions are perceived by him to have a negative impact on Toledo (remember his tirade against Wood County when it looked like FedEx might move there???), he'll be hard pressed to explain how this would not be hypocritical...but then again...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Toledo's 2008 budget - and blogging

Wanted to share with you a new website hosted by Toledo City Councilman Frank Szollosi: Toledo Budget '08.

I've already send Frank an email thanking him for posting this ... please make sure you take advantage of this opportunity to view and comment on next year's budget!

'Not business friendly' - post #4

Well, despite the pleas from realtors who truly know our market the best, Toledo City Council passed a government-mandated inspection of homes prior to a land-contract sale. (Blade article on the vote here.) And kudos to the five council members who voted no: Joe Birmingham (R-Dist. 6), Rob Ludeman (R-at large), George Sarantou (R-at large), Betty Shultz (R-at large) and Mark Sobczak (D-at large).

This means that anyone wanted to sell their home under a land-contract agreement must first apply to the Commissioner of Building Inspection for the Certificate of Property Code Compliance (CPCC) and include a copy of the inspection of the house conducted by an inspector "registered with the Commissioner of Building Inspection."

"A Certificate of Property Code Compliance Inspection shall include an inspection of the electrical, heating, and plumbing systems and building structure (e.g., roof, gutters, siding, etc.) to ensure that the residential property is in a safe, sanitary and habitable condition and meets the Property Maintenance Code (PMC) of the State of Ohio. Any Certificate of Property Code Compliance Inspection Report shall be on the form provided by the City of Toledo. Minimally, the Certificate of Property Code Compliance Inspection Report shall list individual violations and a rough estimate of the cost to cure each violation or deficiency, signed by a Registered Inspector. The Commissioner of Neighborhood Revitalization or the Commissioner of Building Inspection may, at his or her discretion, accept alternative inspection report forms. The Certificate of Property Code Compliance Inspection Report shall be completed and filed with the Commissioner of Neighborhood Revitalization or the Commissioner of Building Inspection within thirty (30) days of the date of application."

You've got 90-days (renewable once) to fix any defects found in the inspection report. Oh - and of course it's going to cost you $100 to actually become a 'registered inspector.' And, if you fail to follow this law, you can be fined $250 for the first violation, $500 for the second one and $1,000 for the third and subsequent fines - enforceable in civil court.

Non-compliance with other portions of this new law can be charged under the criminal code "of a misdemeanor third degree on the first offense, a misdemeanor of the second degree for a second subsequent offense or a misdemeanor of the first degree for a third subsequent offense."

All this, according to Keith Foster, vice president of the Greater Toledo Housing Coalition which sought the change, is to "protect the consumer."

And, the coalition will certainly work with any landlord who thinks the law is detrimental ... how magnanimous.

As many landlords and realtors have said in the past, laws already exist to protect such consumers. But the problem many housing advocates have is that they provide relief AFTER the fact, rather than preventing the consumer from making a mistake in the first place. And now we have the force of government to ensure that no one purchases a home on land contract without being aware of any problems and having them fixed. Never mind that anyone purchasing a home has the ability to hire an inspector and then negotiate a price accordingly. The force of law is now going to be not on the buyer, but on the seller to not only perform the inspection but to make any necessary repairs.

I guess the days of 'caveat emptor' are over - and instead we have the increasing lack of personal responsibility due to the government ensuring you never have the opportunity to learn from a mistake.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

'Hope' replacing sound business decisions?

A Sunday Blade article took a look at Toledo's downtown and the struggles going on to 'redevelop' this area.

"Once the undisputed business and shopping center of Lucas County, downtown Toledo long ago lost its status as either of those.

Over the past quarter-century, projects such as CitiFest, Erie Street Market, and COSI have helped sustain the hope of the downtown community.

Downtown's advocates say there is much from which to take heart.

There is Fifth Third Field, which has spawned enough spin-off business to nurture a handful of nearby bars and restaurants, including a Tony Packo's.

The Toledo Riverfront Hotel - which opened as the Hotel Sofitel in the same spurt of redevelopment that produced Portside - is set for a $6 million upgrade and a new name, Crowne Plaza.

City officials are hoping the new county-owned arena being built at Jefferson Avenue and Huron Street, at a cost of $85 million to $105 million, will contribute to downtown's re-emergence - not become another struggling victim.

Also contributing to hopes for an ultimate downtown revival is the Marina District across the Maumee River, now getting a $10 million public road and park investment to be followed by a $75 million private investment promised by real estate developer Larry Dillin."

What is the common theme in all of this? Hope.

Unfortunately, hope is not enough to sustain any type of development or re-development and that's the biggest problem in Toledo. While 5/3 Field does have some new businesses surrounding it, the County hasn't seen any substantial increase in sales taxes as a result. I do not know if Toledo's payroll taxes have increased or not - but considering the loss of other companies (Owens-Illinois, for one), I'm pretty confident in speculating that there hasn't been an overall increase as a result of these new shops/restaurants. And these 'results' would be in keeping with most studies on the economic impact of such ventures that draw from within an existing community. They do not result in NEW spending, but reflect a RE-DIRECTION of existing spending.

The new arena will be the same because, according to the feasibility study, its targeted draw is from a 50-mile radius, meaning that they, too, will be likely to re-direct their spending from one existing activity to a new one in the arena. And this is especially true during the economic times the area is currently (and perpetually) experiencing.

A recent Blade editorial on another topic contained this statement:

"With Fifth Third Field drawing hundreds of thousands of people annually, the construction of the new sports arena well under way, the Marina District moving forward, and downtown eateries and watering holes doing well, it is clear that a foundation should have been laid for a solid downtown revitalization."
(emphasis added)

Toledo and its leaders, including The Blade, continue to believe the 'build it and they will come' philosophy of economic development - counting on their hope that such amenities will generate the economic boom we'd all like to see. But in doing so, they neglect the underlying core problems that make Toledo an unfriendly place to do business. They ignore the studies which provide data contrary to what they hope and, as we are seeing in the arena project, they fail to provide a realistic financial plan to the public. This failure means that any potential challenges identified in such plans, or any documented issues identified in the studies, are never addressed either by the decision-makers or the public.

As I wrote in my Toledo Free Press article:

If we are really serious about selling the strengths of this area and recruiting jobs and businesses, we have to show how companies can make money here — as that is their main purpose. We have to show how our infrastructure and qualified work force will make it easier for them to conduct their operations. We have to show how our costs of doing business (payroll, property, income and inventory taxes along with permits and regulations) are less costly resulting in more profit for their owners, shareholders and employees. We have to show how we can help them to be successful, rather than how we expect them to foot the bill for all our individual initiatives (LivCom funding?).

Once we have the companies, the jobs and the resulting payroll expenditures contributing to our overall economy, we'll experience both the demand and the financing for such “quality of life” amenities. They are a result of job growth and expansion — not the cause of it.

We need to stop 'hoping' for economic growth from these attempts and start paying attention to the lack of impact they've had over the last 20 years. Then we have to change our approach if we expect to get different results.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Anti-logic: Toledo ambulance runs

Well, here goes another post on the anti-logic so prevalent in today's governmental actions.

On Sunday, The Blade had an article with a terrific headline: Ambulance runs will pay off for city, fire officials assert. New service squeezes private transporters.

Doesn't that just about say it all?

But that was just the headline. In the second paragraph you see that perhaps the headline is a bit misleading.

"But so far, basic life-support ambulances - which began their full operation last month - haven't brought in any profit and are projected to cost the city nearly $1 million over the next five years to lease six rigs."

Granted, the article is filled with quotes and estimates that the profit will be there, despite a projected collection rate of only 40%. But I can't help but wonder if the 'profit' that is projected was ever balanced with the lack of payroll taxes, income taxes and other taxed due to the city caused by the elimination of jobs and income by the private ambulance companies.

Certainly someone looked at that DECREASE in tax revenue, even though it was never discussed by city council. Perhaps not, though, as that would have required city council members to think of such a question in the first place.

But the real zinger is the false claim that better patient care is a result of this decision - based upon the following:

"Jim Martin, president of Toledo Firefighters Local 92, said first responders are able to more quickly return to service. In the past, fire engines were out of service while they waited for a private ambulance to arrive.

"Now, they turn around and go back into service," Mr. Martin said.

Rescuers were called to a West Toledo apartment last week and were able to quickly transport a 3-year-old boy, who had fallen and hit his head, to Toledo Hospital.

Previously, first responders would have arrived, assessed the scene, and then called a private ambulance company to transport the boy - which sometimes took up to 20 minutes, Mr. Harman said.

Within minutes of the call, the little boy was buckled into a child safety seat inside the rig and was on his way to the hospital.

"He might still be there waiting for the private ambulance [and] now he's at the hospital," Mr. Harman said. "That's where the patient care gets better.""

If the main 'problem' government was trying to address in taking over this task was the delay waiting for the arrival of the basic life support ambulance run, it would have been easy to fix. Ambulance companies have, for years, asked to be dispatched at the same time as the rescue squad, with the understanding that they'd respond without lights and sirens. They even offered to cover any internal expenses as a result of getting to the scene only to find that they might not be needed. But if they were needed, they'd be present and ready to transport, allowing the fire unit to return quickly to service.

But that idea was routinely rejected by the fire department without much explanation - or at least none that made a lot of sense.

And here's where the problem with article comes in. The article explains that:

"Basic life-support units and first responders are dispatched simultaneously, which also reduces the amount of time it takes to get patients to the hospital, said Luke Harman, a firefighter and EMT at Station 9 in South Toledo."

Did you note that? Under the city-run transport services, they're now dispatching the tranport unit AND the first responders at the same time - and then they're using this as an example of 'better patient care.'

Of course, they could have agreed to this dispatching protocol without going to expense of leasing ambulances and then staffing them ... and without significantly impacting local private companies. But where's the fun in that?

Again, it's anti-logic. It doesn't make sense to say that 'governmentizing' such tasks results in better patient care when a simple change in protocol was all that was needed. Face it - this really had nothing to do with patient care or time at the scene because both these issues could have been addressed by implementing the protocol the city changed - dual dispatching.

So why did government have to take over this function? I'll let you decided - and comment accordingly.

ASIDE: background on this issue is available here and here.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Of Mosques and Olympics and bittersweet awards

The last two days of news have given me so much to write about that I don't know where to begin. So, because I've got a lot to say about Toledo taking over the ambulance transports, the fallacy of 'hope' versus action when it comes to downtown Toledo (and this Blade editorial), regionalism as another name for uni-gov (which we'll discuss on Eye on Toledo on Monday at 6 p.m.), and the lack of events where the public could honor veterans, I'm going to take my time over the next couple of days to do justice to each of these topics.

In the meantime, let me share with you two uplifting events from yesterday:

In the afternoon, I attended the Open House as the Masjid Saad's new mosque on Alexis Road. 'Masjid' means mosque and 'saad' means luck - making this the Mosque of Luck.

It was great to see so many friends whom I've missed in the last several months - and it was nice to see how all the visitors were treated as the honored guests that they were.

They gave tours of the new worship area and classrooms for the Al-Bayan Arabic School and pre-school and the Toledo Islamic Academy. One room had about 20 computers for students to use and the library had a terrific selection of books - both known and unknown to me.

Their new facility has room for them to grow - and a huge gymnasium which easily sat 300+ for the magnificent dinner that they served to members and guests alike. I wish them many good years in this new location!

But to the elected officials who were invited and either didn't come or didn't decline the invite - shame on you! Dan Foote, representing Rep. Marcy Kaptur, said a few words and then read a letter from Marcy. Sheriff James Telb, whose family is from Lebanon, was present, as he usually is. Sylvania Township Fiscal Officer Dan Simko and his family were there, and even Scott Smith from the FBI joined for the celebration. The Imam and many members from the Columbus Mosque also travelled to Toledo for the festivities, bringing with them a letter from Gov. Ted Strickland. And a woman from the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, who'd been with them earlier in the year to address the graffiti on their new buildings, spoke briefly.

The program included the names of other elected officials who either agreed to attend or who were listed because the organizers did not get a response. As it was explained to me, they went ahead and listed those who didn't respond because they didn't want to cause any offense should those invited decide to show up at the last minute. Those officials, btw, were: Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, Rep. Peter Ujvagi, State Sen. Teresa Fedor, and Juanita Green.

One lady explained that she could understand the lack of elected officials because it was after the elections and many weren't on the ballot. That just set me off!

It's not just during an election or when your name is on the ballot that you attend such events, because you're not supposed to be attending just for what you get out of it - neglecting such events if you don't see any selfish 'gain.' In fact, you've got much more time when it isn't an election year to attend such activities and events in the community.

Of course, so many of our local officials only show up at things when they're up for re-election or when they think it will get them some publicity. Your attendance - or lack thereof - at such events demonstrates whether you are someone who truly cares, or if you're just out for yourself and votes. Service to the public is just that and those who didn't show up (or didn't respond) to this invitation would be wise to keep this in mind. And so should everyone at the Masjid Saad.


Also Saturday, I got to attend the annual awards banquet for North Cape Yacht Club. Since leaving politics, I've found more time to sail and race and this is something I truly enjoyed. Group Therapy, the boat we race on, did get a flag for one of the Wednesday night series and was also recognized with the highest honor at the club, the USSA Sportsmanship Trophy. This was shared with two other boats for the rescue efforts during this year's Commodore Perry Race in which our long-time friend, Bruce Goldsmith, was knocked overboard. As we later learned, Bruce died instantly when the boom hit him and knocked him into the water during the rough weather. While we are proud of the efforts of our skipper and crew, and proud of the recognition, we'd all much rather that Bruce was still with us. So the awarding of this prestigious trophy was bittersweet.

But, we also got a chance to welcome back one of NCYC's previous junior sailors, Anna Tunnicliffe. If you're wondering why it's such a big deal to welcome home a former junior member - it's because she's going to the OLYMPICS!!!!

Anna qualified to represent the United States in the Olympics in Beijing. She is the world's #1-Ranked Woman Laser Radial Sailor and took the gold in the Pre-Olympic Regatta held in Qingdao in August. She is expected to win a medal - and we're hoping it's gold - in 2008.

Anna grew up in Perrysburg and started sailing and racing at NCYC. We're certainly proud of this first-ever qualifier from our club! And I hope you will join me as we watch her successes over the next year - and at the Olympics in 2008.

Veterans Day

My thanks and undying gratitude to all Veterans for helping to preserve our lives and our liberty!

"Respect for those who fight and die is expected of all citizens. Stand in silence and remember the price of your freedom." ~ 'Faith of the American Soldier,' by Stephen Mansfield

A Proclamation By the President of the United States of America:

Throughout our history, America has been protected by patriots who cherished liberty and made great sacrifices to advance the cause of freedom. The brave members of the United States Armed Forces have answered the call to serve our Nation, ready to give all for their country. On Veterans Day, we honor these extraordinary Americans for their service and sacrifice, and we pay tribute to the legacy of freedom and peace that they have given our great Nation.

In times of war and of peace, our men and women in uniform stepped forward to defend their fellow citizens and the country they love. They shouldered great responsibility and lived up to the highest standards of duty and honor. Our veterans held fast against determined and ruthless enemies and helped save the world from tyranny and terror. They ensured that America remained what our founders meant her to be: a light to the nations, spreading the good news of human freedom to the darkest corners of the earth.

Like the heroes before them, today a new generation of men and women are fighting for freedom around the globe. Their determination, courage, and sacrifice are laying the foundation for a more secure and peaceful world.

Veterans Day is dedicated to the extraordinary Americans who protected our freedom in years past, and to those who protect it today. They represent the very best of our Nation. Every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, and Coast Guardsman has earned the lasting gratitude of the American people, and their service and sacrifice will be remembered forever. In the words of Abraham Lincoln: " . . . let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the Nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle . . . ." On this Veterans Day, I ask all Americans to express their appreciation to our Nation's veterans.

With respect for and in recognition of the contributions our service men and women have made to the cause of peace and freedom around the world, the Congress has provided (5 U.S.C. 6103(a)) that November 11 of each year shall be set aside as a legal public holiday to honor our Nation's veterans.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim November 11, 2007, as Veterans Day and urge all Americans to observe November 11 through November 17, 2007, as National Veterans Awareness Week. I encourage all Americans to recognize the valor and sacrifice of our veterans through ceremonies and prayers. I call upon Federal, State, and local officials to display the flag of the United States and to support and participate in patriotic activities in their communities. I invite civic and fraternal organizations, places of worship, schools, businesses, unions, and the media to support this national observance with commemorative expressions and programs.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-second.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Toledo Free Press looks at Citifest

This week's Toledo Free Press has a terrific article on Citifest and the struggles they face with the City of Toledo in light of their management agreement to run the Erie Street Market.

Interestingly, the article says that Citifest did not want to do the Rallys by the River which lose money - but that Finkbeiner wanted them during the summer, so Citifest had to host them.

And then there is this, which I think says it all:

"(Citifest board chair Brian) Epstein refuted Schwartz's claim the market has a constant revenue stream that allows it to self-sustain.

“There isn't” a revenue stream, Epstein said. “Revenues aren't covering expenses. That's how you get an operational loss. If they can't understand that, how the hell are they running the finances of the city?”"


I'd also suggest that you read my column about 'quality of life' amenities...they're the result of economic development - not the cause of it.

COSI as a charter school?

That's the idea of Jack Ford, a COSI board member and newly elected (to fill the seat he was appointed to) Toledo School Board member.

According to today's paper, Ford suggested to Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and COSI board president David Waterman that TPS could take over the building and make it into a charter-type school focusing on science and math during the day while leaving it open to the public for visits and exhibitions during the afternoon, evenings and weekends.

I think the idea of a charter school focusing on math and science is a great idea. And it would make sense if we don't already have one in the Toledo/Lucas County area.

But ....

One of the biggest problems COSI faces is the HVAC costs because of the design of the building. If TPS is going to invest taxpayer dollars for a math/science charter school, the COSI building is certainly NOT the most economical nor efficient building to select, even if they were able to get $1 million in other tax money from the city, the state or the federal government.

Besides, this really has nothing to do with the need or the offering of a charter school - this is all about how to save COSI, which the voters have said - TWICE - they don't want their tax dollars used to save.

And it doesn't matter which tax dollars they use for this building - school, city, state or federal - they're all still tax dollars and the voters have said NO.

Just what part of NO do they not understand?

(prediction: The Blade will jump all over this idea as a good solution to saving COSI and the downtown.)

Walleyes and 'Peckerheads'

How's that for a name for a sports team?

According to this article in today's Blade, these are two of the names being considered for a hockey team (Walleyes) and an arena football team (Peckerheads). Actually, the name for the football team would be the Woodpeckers with 'Peckers' and 'Peckerheads' as the nicknames.

"Mud Hens general manager Joe Napoli said walleye and woodpecker are on a short list of names under consideration for the franchises.

“We have the intentions of registering some other names as well,” he said.

The Hens organization submitted approval of the name for the minor league hockey team with the patent office in May, 2005. The paperwork for the arena team name began last May. All the applications are pending.

Mr. Napoli said the trademark requests will act as safeguards to protect the use of the name if they are chosen for the franchises."

I don't know about these names - 'the walleyes' sound, well, fishy.

The Walleye gets its name from the fact that its eyes, like cats, reflect light. Other for being able to see well in dim or murkey waters - and for being good to eat - they're not really known for anything. And I don't think it'd be easy to develop a walleye mascot. Besides, they're slaughtered by the thousands every year for food...and they don't even put up a good fight when you fish for them.

As for the Woodpeckers, 'peckers' or 'peckerheads' ... all I can say is that you can't be serious. Do we really want a team who's nickname is the same as part of the male anatomy? And even if you say you're not going to use such nicknames, you know your opponents will. And that's not good for any team, nor the morale of their fans. If you think the country laughed at the mayor's idea to move the deaf to the airport, wait 'til they get wind of this one!

Your thoughts on this???

p.s. Did you note the date that the Mud Hens submitted the name to patent office - May, 2005????

Let's Read - You and Me

One of the things I enjoyed most about being an elected official was being asked to read to kids as part of various reading programs. The way a child's eyes light up when you engage them in such a way is priceless.

So when the 'Let's Read - You and Me' initiative contacted me to join them in reading to pre-schoolers, I enthusiatically said YES!

This is an early reading initiative geared toward teaching young children and their caregivers the importance of reading. The kickoff week begins Nov. 12th with Barnyard Banter by local author Denise Fleming. It's sponsored by United Way of Toledo and NBC24.

So far, I'll be reading to kids at Toddler Tech Child Care Center and the Head Start at Jefferson Center. Volunteers are still needed and I hope you'll join me. To sign up, click here!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Arrogance and Condescension in Lucas County

Well, there you have it. The voters in Lucas County rejected, for the second time, a levy to fund COSI. That means we're "unwise" if you listen to our mayor, or "nervous" if you listen to the editorial board of The Blade.

I prefer to think that the voters were neither. Just because we disagreed with you doesn't mean that we're wrong - unless you are so arrogant as to think that you always know best and those who fail to follow along are just in need of education. But this is an attitude we see so often from those 'in power' or considered 'elite.'

The Blade's editorial says "It's a mystery why Lucas County voters rejected COSI's request for nominal taxpayer support..." It's no mystery to anyone who bothered to actually talk to many residents - they don't want to be taxed for this. They don't want to increase their own property taxes and they don't believe this non-profit organization should be on the public dole. They obviously think that the Board wasn't responsible enough with the money they did have to give them any more, especially when Board Chairman Dave Waterman said that they've had a failing business plan for 10 years - but they aren't developing a new one or making changes in the failed one in anticipation of tax receipts.

Rather than wonder why we could have possible said no to this - The Blade and the Mayor should be asking why, in light of declining revenues and attendance, they said yes!

And calling the tax 'nominal,' 'mere' and other terms designed to makes us feel bad for being so 'stingy,' doesn't enhance the position any. In fact, I believe voters are beginning to see through this tactic and reject it.

The Blade says:

"Many complicated reasons can be involved when voters refuse levies. Maybe this one failed because it was a new tax, which makes voters nervous in wobbly economic times. Other levies - for Lucas County's public libraries, Metroparks, and TARTA - were successful, but they were renewals."

(Aside to the editorial writer: they weren't renewals - they were replacements. And if you can't get that right???)

Again, it's not complicated if you talk to people or pay attention to what is going on in the community. People are complaining about being overtaxed; we've got commissioners doing fake food stamp challenges because so many residents 'have to struggle just to eat'; commissioners give out gasoline cards because people can't afford the increased gas prices; and our welfare offices give out vouchers to pay for winter heating because it's too costly and our fellow residents just can't afford it. Of course, we also lead the state in terms of number of foreclosures and, according to these same elected officials, it's so bad we have to have a foreclosure task force! Plus, we lead the urban communities in unemployment - and our population is declining.

Yep - it sure is a mystery why we didn't vote to increase our tax burden! Actually, I think the real mystery is why, considering all of this, any of the levies passed.

But The Blade comes to at least one incorrect conclusion. They say, "It's hard to believe, though, that anyone would think COSI wasn't worthwhile." I didn't hear anyone say COSI wasn't worthwhile. What I did hear them say is that it shouldn't be funded with tax dollars - that if it's SOOOO worthwhile as supporters claim, it should be able to earn the donations and memberships of private individuals.

The incorrect conclusion is to assume an opinion of COSI based upon a rejection of a particular funding mechanism. But when you're trying to embarrass or shame the public into adopting your perspective on the issue, such reason and logic about funding mechanisms are intentionally confused with emotion over the product/services being offered in an attempt to persuade. (see also Emotion versus Reason)

To think that your opinion of 'worthwhile' is all that is needed to tax the entire public is yet another example of the arrogant and condescending attitude that is so prevalent in the area. But it's especially so when you consider the access that The Blade has to all their prior stories on COSI.

In a quick review of old Blade articles I found Brent Cousino, COSI board treasurer, saying that they lost money every year of operation. I found that, in May 2001, COSI's attendance was down 5%, even before the events of September 11th. Based upon the numbers in multiple articles, I found that their attendance, while averaging 250,000 per year since opening, was actually an average of 155,000 over the last 8 years. And considering other references to declining attendance, was probably much less than that over the last 4.

It's also a shame that our local newspaper intentionally ignored all the signs of trouble as well as the original promise COSI made to never go to the voters for support.

But the voters aren't the only ones being chided in the editorial.

"City officials say they are not writing COSI's obituary yet. That's encouraging, but we didn't notice much of a push from Government Center before the election, which might have meant the difference."

But, just wait. Now that said elected officials have realized that the voters have a different position than they do, they'll embark upon their own campaign to 'educate us' on the error of our ways.

In fact, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and our three county commissioners, Tina Skeldon Wozniak, Pete Gerken and Ben Konop, signed a letter sent to all 34 board members asking them to keep COSI open.

"On behalf of the citizens of the City of Toledo and Lucas County, we encourage COSI to stay open until a logical future-funding plan can be discussed. We will work to seek the help that you need in order to make this happen.

In the meantime, we encourage you to keep your doors open. We fear if you close, we may lose this valuable resource forever.

Yours from Toledo – a City of the Future! *"

First, you don't speak for me. You're supposed to represent me and the other residents of the city and county. You are NOT supposed to subordinate our demonstrated decisions to your own opinions. The voters have spoken - twice, and by a greater margin than the first time - that they do not want to fund COSI with tax dollars.

If - and I emphasize IF - you do anything, you had better not expend any public dollars on this failing entity. To go against the wishes of the voters in this regard would be tantamount to asking for an uprising - unless you think we're so dumb as to let you get away with that.

But, given the past actions of voters in this regard, you may have grounds to believe you will suffer no consequences. I believe, however, that times have changed and that the voters are wiser and more knowledgeable than they've been in the past. This COSI vote demonstrates that, and YOU would be 'wise' to consider this fact.

Sadly, the issue of voter apathy gets lost in these details about a specific levy. Less than 30% of the registered voters bothered to exercise their right on Tuesday. But when you consider comments by the mayor, letters urging the opposite of what voters decided and newspaper editorials telling us we're stingy for not increasing our tax burden - not to mention the arrogance and condescension so evident in these missives - is it any wonder why people think their vote doesn't matter?

Voters wanted to keep the old workhouse open but officials closed it anyway. Voters rejected (either two or three times) building a convention center, but officials built it anyway. While there may be some technical points, many Toledoans thought they voted to build a new arena on the East Side - but it's being built in downtown Toledo (and still without a solid funding stream to support the projected $100 million in costs). And the same entities who supported going against the voter wishes on these projects are now suggesting that it's time to do so again - this time with COSI.

And those same people wonder why so many don't bother to go to the polls??? It's no mystery to me.

As for the future of COSI, it seems obvious. There are bank presidents, accountants and corporate leaders on the board of COSI. If COSI came to them and asked them to invest their own monies, would they? Would Huntington, FirstMerit, National City, Bank of Maumee or Key Bank loan this business any money? Would any accountant or fiscal officer risk the funds they were responsible for in this institution with this kind of fiscal history? And if their answer is 'no' why do they expect the voters to be any different?

The voters have spoken - twice. It's time to abide by what they decided.
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