Saturday, February 27, 2010

Quote of the Day

"Do not allow to slip away from you freedoms the people who came before you won with such hard knocks." ~ D. H. Lawrence

Friday, February 26, 2010

Red-light/speed cameras: fundamental fallacy and Ohio's Constitution

For regular readers of this blog, you know that I am not a fan of the red light/speed cameras for multiple reasons - from the fact that they don't address the claimed safety issues of the intersections to the process that presumes guilt based upon ownership and then requires the accused to present a guilty party as the only way out.

And while I believe I've made valid arguments, both here and on WSPD when I was doing Eye On Toledo, to support my position - including quoting from the national Traffic Safety Board - nothing quite says it all as this quote from Barnet Fagel, a a traffic researcher and a highway safety advocate with motorist advocacy group the National Motorists Association:

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

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

Toledo never did a traffic engineering study on any of the intersections they claimed were so unsafe that they needed red-light cameras. They did not attempt to determine the cause of the claimed safety issues in order to determine what the best solution would be. Nor did they try any of the recommended solutions (longer yellow lights, all red lights in every direction prior to the next scheduled green light, etc...) to see if a non-big-brother type of change would work.

Since they didn't actually try to address any of the claimed safety issues, many conclude (rightly, in my opinion) that the issue really isn't safety, but money. And with Toledo routinely trying to get more of a percentage of the fine money as well as increasing the fine amount, it's hard to deny.

So what we have is a company going around trying to sell jurisdictions on their product and promising a share of the proceeds if the politicians will buy into the deal. Toledo is, in effect, partnering with a private company to make profits for the company, at taxpayer expense, and then being bought off by that private company for a kickback of a marginal share of those profits. How does this not violate Article 8 of the Ohio Constitution:

O Const VIII Sec. 6 Political subdivisions to avoid financial involvement with private enterprise; mutual insurance exception

No laws shall be passed authorizing any county, city, town or township, by vote of its citizens, or otherwise, to become a stockholder in any joint stock company, corporation, or association whatever; or to raise money for, or to loan its credit to, or in aid of, any such company, corporation, or association: provided, that nothing in this section shall prevent the insuring of public buildings or property in mutual insurance associations or companies. Laws may be passed providing for the regulation of all rates charged or to be charged by any insurance company, corporation or association organized under the laws of this state, or doing any insurance business in this state for profit.

Even if you're a fan of the cameras, you should oppose them if they violate our state Constitution. If Toledo can enter this type of arrangement, what else can they do? The slippery-slope argument is certainly a valid one in Toledo, especially considering that they started with red-light cameras and then added the speed cameras when revenue began to decline.

Now all we need is a constitutional legal challenge to these arrangements.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Quote of the Day

"In a free country there is much clamor, with little suffering; in a despotic state there is little complaint, with much grievance." ~ Hippolyte Lazare Carnot

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Is the Mount Vernon Statement all it could be?

A group of conservatives got together and produced what is supposed to be a defining document for conservatism in the 21st Century. They called it the Mount Vernon Statement, as it was signed at Mount Vernon, the home for President George Washington.

I applaud their efforts and have signed the statement in support.

However, as a 'defining' document, I think it comes up short. I'm a Goldwater Republican and a particular fan of the Sharon Statement because I think it is more direct, more concise and more - well - 'defining.'

You can read both for yourself and make your own decision, but I had an interesting discussion with a group of fellow conservative bloggers/writers, and while we don't want to discourage support of the Mount Vernon Statement, we don't believe it defines conservatism with the words necessary to convey what we consider it to be.

Warner Todd Huston, one of the bloggers in the group, was inspired by the discussion to critique the statement - and come up with one of his own.

He acknowledges, as do I, that writing for 1 is easier than writing for 80, but I think Warner's done a better job than the conservative leaders in characterizing, identifying and expounding upon the principles that conservatives believe.

David Franke, who was present in Sharon, CT, and signed the Sharon Statement, has his own perspective of the new effort. As you contemplate what it means to be conservative, today, I hope you'll read his column on "50 Years Downhill Since the Sharon Statement."

Light postings

Just a heads-up to all my readers that I'll have light postings until March 13th.

I have a project I'm working on that will take up some of the time I usually spend writing.

In the meantime, please take this opportunity to visit some of my fellow State of Ohio Blogger Alliance members, who are listed in the left-hand column, for interesting and informative commentary on Ohio and conservative issues.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A new International Festival for March

This just in via email:

Toledo Sister Cities Announces International Festival
Mayor Bell to Serve as Honorary Chair

Mayor Michael P. Bell will join representatives of Toledo Sister Cities and Great Lakes Consortium to announce the Toledo Sister Cities International Festival at a press conference on Tuesday, February 23 at 10 a.m. in the Toledo Sister Cities offices.

Mayor Bell will serve as Honorary Chair of the festival that is to be held from noon to 5 p.m. on March 20, 2010 at the Civic Center Promenade at the Erie Street Market. The afternoon event will feature food, dancing, music and other performances by participants celebrating the cultures of Spain, China, Hungary, Poland, Japan, Tanzania, Germany, Lebanon, Pakistan and India.

Presenting sponsors include The Blade, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, the University of Toledo Confucius Institute and Reynolds Clinic. Admission for the festival will be $4 in advance and $5 at the door. Children under 10 will be admitted free.

Quotes of the Day

In honor of our friend and Tri Delta sister, Gretchen Gotthart Skeldon:

"We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, we take a little of each other everywhere." ~ Tim McGraw

How lucky I am to have known someone who was so hard to say goodbye to.” ~ Unknown

Saturday, February 20, 2010

GOP House caucus asks Cordray to challenge federal health care proposal

This in via email:

House GOP to Attorney General: Challenge the Federal Health Care Proposal

COLUMBUS—Ohio House Republican members today issued the attached letter to Attorney General Richard Cordray urging him to join their caucus in an effort to challenge the federal health care legislation that is currently being discussed in Washington D.C.

“As more details emerge from the compromises that are being brokered behind-the- scenes, I grow more concerned for the state of Ohio and the hardworking tax payers of our state,” State Representative Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said.

A current provision being discussed exempts the state of Nebraska from paying for any newly eligible Medicaid recipients ad infinitum, while other states would have to pay for Nebraska’s new enrollees. Additionally, in another brokered deal, Florida residents keep their Medicare Advantage plan at no additional cost to the state.

“I believe Ohio is being placed at a disadvantage as discussions on the federal health care reform continue,” House Republican Leader William G. Batchelder (R-Medina) said. “Though the outcome of the final legislative product remains to be seen, we question the constitutionality of the deals that were reached for the states of Nebraska and Florida.”

View the letter.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Quotes of the Day and other tidbits

"Liberty is from God; liberties, from the devil." ~ Berthold Auerbach

"He alone deserves liberty and life who daily must win them anew." ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

** I was not surprised to see that Judge Charles Doneghy's ruling sending the issue of the chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party to the Ohio Republican Party State Central Committee. The law is extremely clear that conflicts such as this are decided by the party's state central committee.

The judge ruled that the SCC must act within 30 days of his yesterday ruling to pick either Jon Stainbrook or Jeff Simpson as the chairman. From everything I'm hearing, the decision will go to Simpson.

But don't count Stainbrook out, he won't go quietly and I expect more court challenges will be filed by him or Megan Gallagher.

** Ten candidates for Lucas County Commissioner - what a great field!

In a future post, I'll be looking at each person and providing some insight on what their primary campaigns might hold. There are, of course, advantages and disadvantages for each person, but we're fortunate to have five Democrats and four Republicans vying for our votes.

** Toledo City Council didn't act on the immobilization/impoundment of vehicles with unpaid red light/speed camera violations. Instead, they want to renegotiate the contract with RedFlex, the camera provider.

And I thought this was all about safety! (sarcasm off)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Follow up on TPS and Toledo budget discussion from WSPD

Yesterday while filling in for Brian Wilson on NewsTalk 1370 WSPD, we talked quite a bit about the Toledo Public School's .75% payroll income tax ballot issue as well as the City of Toledo's budget deficit and Mayor Mike Bell's plans for addressing the $48 million shortfall.

I'm not happy with some of the things being said about cuts or the additional taxation being suggesting, but I am very pleased to see the outreach Mayor Bell is doing - with both the community and the media.

As I finished the show last night, I encouraged everyone to call (419-245-1001) or write the Mayor and let him know what YOUR priorities are for the budget. Please don't call and tell him what NOT to cut - every group out there will tell him not to cut their pet project or funding line item. But he wants your input and, as citizens, we are obligated to provide it.

Now there's an easy way for you to provide direction to city officials: The Future of Toledo. (H/T Chris Myers at SwampBubbles)

From the website:

In order to stay in control of our city and avoid bankruptcy, we will balance our budget. To do this, we are bringing together citizens, leaders, experts, and stakeholder groups. Our task is to review the current deficit, innovate "out-of-the-box" solutions, and prepare a budget proposal by March 1st. Review the information below, provide your input, and join us in getting our city healthy so that we can move from problems to possibilities.

1. READ Mayor Bell's letter.

2. VOTE on 50+ Budget Balancing Ideas worth over $25m.

3. CONTRIBUTE your Budget Balancing Ideas. Tell us what you think.

4. LEARN more about the budget process.

5. INVITE download the flyer and share with everyone.

(links are provided with each of the numbered items)

Most importantly, they have budget balancing ideas you can vote on and information about the budget process. They also have a Facebook page and Twitter account you can join.

I hope you'll all take advantage of this wonderful opportunity!


We talked to Michael Maurer of the Ohio Citizens Accounting Standards Board about their April 15th Project to put checkbook and wages of all major taxing jurisdictions, including schools, on line.

Since TPS wants more money from us, it's our responsibility to educate ourselves about their finances.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Iott files petitions for Congress

This just in via email:

Rich Iott Files Petitions for Congress

Businessman officially enters the race for the Republican primary nomination

TOLEDO - Saying he would campaign as an independent Republican, Businessman Rich Iott filed petitions today to officially enter the race for the Republican Party nomination for Ohio's 9th Congressional District seat.

He said there are several reasons that drove him to enter the race, including concern over Washington's out-of-control spending, its failure to create an atmosphere where the private sector of the economy can create jobs, and its failure to listen to the voices of the American people on sich issues as health care and the so-called "Cap and Trade" bill.

"We need to get this country back on the right track," Iott said. "Poll after poll shows that Congress is acting against the will of the people of America. They opposed Cap and Trade and the House of Representatives passed it anyway. They opposed the health care reform measure and the House of Representatives passed it anyway. They took over the domestic car industry. They took over the banking industry. They took over the student loan industry. The one thing they haven't done is fix the economy.

"I believe we also need to stop the spending by the federal government. No one can deny that we are mortgaging our grandchildren's future. Even the Congressional Budget Office says the federal spending is absolutely unsustainable. There is no way we can spend our way to prosperity. Instead we are spending ourselves into the poor house, and I don't want that future for my children and neither do the voters of the 9th Congressional District.

"Finally, we need to createan environment where the private sector can grow and thrive. We need to lower taxes, quit over-regulating industries that we need to build our economic future (the energy industry comes to mind immediately) and get out of the way of the people in our country who actually create jobs. The only jobs that Washington creates are government jobs. Even Indiana Senator Evan Bayh said as much in his speech earlier this week - that the public sector cannot create jobs. Only the private sector does that, and I intend to use my business experience to push that agenda."

The 9th Congressional District includes most of Lucas County, all of Ottawa and Erie counties, and the western half of LorainCounty.

State of the City speech

This just in from Toledo Mayor Mike Bell's office:

Bell To Hold First State of the City, February 24th

Mayor Michael P. Bell will hold his first State of the City address at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, February 24, 2010 in Nitchke Auditorium on the campus of the University of Toledo. The event is free and open to the public. There are no tickets required for admission and seating is available on a first come, first available basis. Capacity in the auditorium is 1,000 seats. Convenient free parking for the event is located in lots 19 and 20.

Media interested in webcasting or broadcasting the event live on HD channels will need to scheduled a site visit at Nitchke Auditorium. Please contact Sandy Stewart in the College of Engineering at 419-530-8014 no later than Monday, February 22nd to schedule a visit.

What: Bell to give first State of the City address

When: 7 p.m.; Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Where: Nitchke Auditorium, University of Toledo campus

OPM - Other people's money

In some ways, the local daily paper is soooo predictable.

Last week, the United Way filed the paperwork to demolish their old building. When they first announced their plans to build a new structure and tear down the old one, The Blade went ballistic - followed shortly by a cadre of politicians.

I had a countdown going for when they'd take another shot at the plans, which they did today, calling their editorial "Another throwaway."

They suggest that the United Way keep the building, regardless of cost, until they sell it. That's just moronic, especially considering that no one - repeat: no one - has made an offer in the last two years. The market has spoken, but The Blade isn't listening.

United Way executives say no would-be buyer has made an offer for the building in the past two years. That’s hardly surprising, since a deep recession has gripped Toledo for about that long. Many businesses and other institutions have been more focused on survival than on relocation or expansion during that period.

When the city’s economy recovers, as it will, potential tenants could find the building more appealing.

Potential tenants could find the building more appealing? Could???? And what happens if the economy doesn't recover or, if it does, there is still no one interested in the building? What then? Will The Blade step up and cover the costs? They won't now, so what makes us think they will if the Toledo economy recovers?

In the mean time, the United Way will have wasted significant dollars that could - and should - be used to help those in need, as their mission dictates.

When The Blade wrote their first editorial on the subject, I had this to say:

If The Blade thinks this building needs to be preserved, let them purchase it for a price that makes it worthwhile to the United Way. They can then do whatever they want with it.

But don't hold your breath waiting for that decision - like many liberals, they're much better at telling you what should be done with your own money than they are at risking their own.

Two years later, the sentiment is still the same and the truth of a leftist philosophy is clearly evident.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Trading one tax increase for another

Today at Toledo City Council, Mayor Mike Bell said he no longer wants to put a .25% payroll income tax increase on the ballot. Instead, he wants to eliminate the reciprocity for Toledoans who work outside the city.

Currently, people who live in Toledo but work in another jurisdiction get credit on their Toledo income tax for what they pay to the other jurisdiction. Under Bell's proposal, those individuals would pay whatever is charged to them in the other jurisdiction and 100% of what is due to Toledo.

Additionally, he still wants permission from the voters to have complete control over how the .75% payroll income tax is distributed. Under current law, collections from that tax are split between the general fund (for police and fire and other daily operations) and the Capital Improvements Fund. The proposal to go before the voters would give the mayor and council the authority to decide how to allocate those dollars.

Last year, voters rejected Council's "Safety First" proposal to reallocate the income tax dollars. I sincerely hope the voters stand by their prior position that draining the CIP isn't the right way to run a city and reject this latest proposal as well.

Bell would also delay the scheduled reductions in the 'trash tax,' keeping them at the current rates, eliminate the Fourth of July fireworks, eliminate waivers for festival fees and implement a new entertainment tax.

In effect, he's trading one type of tax increase for another.

He still wants to eliminate all pension pickups for city employees and have them pay 20% of their health-care costs, but he has removed the 10% pay cuts from discussion.

The problem is that these items would address the 2010 budget deficit, but still do not address the more than $12 million carryover deficit from 2009.

I applaud him for the cuts he wants to make, but cannot support any increase in collections for the city - and especially oppose giving Toledo politicians the ability to determine how the .75% payroll income tax is allocated. If they get that authority, I don't believe we'll ever see those dollars going into the CIP in the future due to their reputation for spending every penny they have - and then some.

Bell's letter to Council, along with budget data, is viewable here.

Here is the press release from the Mayor's office:

Mayor Asks Council to Pull Ordinance Authorizing Tax Increase

At this afternoon's City Council Committee of the Whole meeting, Mayor Michael P. Bell recommended to members of Council that the proposed ordinance authorizing a ballot initiative to increase the city income tax be pulled from the agenda. The administration has made numerous other recommendations to resolve the 2010 deficit without increasing the income tax.

Among the items outlined in the plan sent to members of council and leaders of the collective bargaining units are a proposal to add positions to the law, finance and taxation department to pursue delinquent tax collections, negotiate vendor contracts and provide additional budget analysis for long term fiscal changes. Additionally, it eliminates the July 4th fireworks, assumes elimination of pension pickups and 20% employee contribution for health insurance for all employees in all funds. It does not include a 10% wage concession from employees. Further, the balanced budget would require sale of assets, delaying the recycling fee reductions, elimination of festival fee waivers, implementation of an events tax and would change the tax code to eliminate the 100% reciprocity for those working outside of the city of Toledo.

Quote of the Day

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

Monday, February 15, 2010

Filling in on WSPD

Just a quick note to let you know that I'll be filling in on Wednesday for Brian Wilson ... 3 - 6 p.m. on NewsTalk 1370 WSPD. Hope you'll join me.

Konop didn't get his way so he's not running again

According to today's paper, Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop has decided not to seek re-election.

In a 1,644-word article, he details how he hasn't gotten his way as a Commissioner so he's giving up.

He claims it's because the area is so adverse to change. And he may have a point, though not for the reasons he believes.

He points to the massive and unified rejection of his idea to fund a scholarship program with public tax dollars.

"That meeting was probably the most clear-cut example of the good old boys circling the wagons to just shut down even any discussion of change," Mr. Konop recalled last week. "It's a win-win, logical program that is much needed in our community, and it was within 30 minutes just shot down by the entire status-quo network of northwest Ohio."

Actually, it nothing to do with status-quo and everything to do with the serious unanswered questions and faults with his idea.

He proposed paying for the scholarships by savings from various changes and efficiencies in county government. At the time, I stated that several of the money-saving ideas had merit, but what is the point of the county saving money in one place only to spend it in another to benefit some - not all - county residents?

The ideas to cut expenses in the county are admirable. I'm still not sold on open-source software, but a four-day work week, energy efficiency and privatized EMS ambulance service are terrific ideas. (I must remind Comm. Konop, though, that he opposed new windows for one of the county buildings - windows which would have improved the energy efficiency of that building.)

But if you can do these things and save $4 million, why don't you do it anyway, even if you don't pay for college for everyone? And since the county is planning on laying off people as of the first of the year, why aren't we already taking such steps to save money? And if you can save $4 million a year, the county can certainly lower the taxes (sales or property) so taxpayers don't have to pay so much. I'd much rather have the county apply such savings to my tax bill so I can further my own education - rather than pay for someone else's.

While Konop saw this rejection as a penchant for the status-quo, most others saw it as one more example of his failure to present ideas that had any merit. He was described as having 'big, bold, fresh' ideas, but most of them lacked details, enhanced government - not the individual, attempted to 'spread the wealth' by taking from all to provide for a few, and didn't address all the questions and/or issued that people had when they heard them.

Then there were the few ideas he did get passed, only to see them fail. Remember his Art Assist program that cost the county around $8,000 in interest and had to be cancelled because of lack of interest? What about his trolley idea to move people to points of interest? I think that only lasted a couple of weekends.

How about his effort to destroy the Lucas County Improvement Corporation? This is the only public entity that joined together the jurisdictions of the county to work toward a common goal of economic development. But because he couldn't control it, he decided it had to be destroyed. At one meeting, his outlook on his failure to kill the organization was very clear:

In the meeting, Konop exhibited paranoia (thinking all the people were there to try to intimidate him), hypocrisy (questioning an employee's qualifications despite not having any himself), and class warfare (accusing others of meeting at the exclusive Inverness Country Club while he was meeting with union members - duh! Where does he think people who 'create' jobs are? in union halls????). He also threw in a few catch phrases like 'mismanaged bureaucracy' and 'good ol' boys' just for good measure.

This sounds like his 'explanation' for not running again.

Konop complains that he was out-voted 2-1 on his initiatives. That was because his initiatives weren't good ones - at least, not from a detail, planning or implementation perspective - though most of them were consistent with the general philosophy of the other two commissioners.

I know how that feels because I was often outvoted 2-1 when I was on the board. But I went in the office expecting to not have the support of the two Democrats for my efforts to keep spending under control, limit the intrusion of government into individual lives, reducing taxation, following the state law about the limits of the commissioners' authority, and doing things that lead to a business-friendly environment.

I often say that my biggest success in office when it came to actual votes was that really bad ideas weren't nearly so bad because of my input. That's not something one would normally look at as 'success,' but in Lucas County, that was major.

Of course, for taking such 'no' positions, I was called an obstructionist and described as 'difficult' and 'stubborn.' Konop, however, gets praise for his opposition. But then, again, this is Lucas County.

The problem was that much of Konop's 'ambitious agenda' was more of the same political philosophy that got us into the mess we're in. His ideas might have been new in certain aspects, but they weren't new in terms of what's been tried before - and failed.

The article also quotes Konop as saying he didn't form enough political coalitions to get his ideas passed.

"That's a good lesson I think I've learned, that you can't just rely on the integrity of your argument. You have to build some sort of political coalition to push it through," the commissioner said. "Whether that would have been enough to overcome this circle-the-wagons mentality - who knows."

Note that he criticizes other political coalitions as 'good ole boy' networks. They're the same things, Ben. Calling your 'network' a coalition while describing other networks in a negative manner doesn't work.

I believe Konop had unrealistic expectations of what he could do as a commissioner. I know he didn't understand the limits state law puts on the authority of a board of commissioners because several things he said he wanted to do during the campaign the BCC had no authority to implement. I think he expected the support from The Blade and its publisher to mean more than it did to his fellow commissioners and other elected officials.

I also believe that Konop's unrealistic expectations are a sign of his immaturity, and that immaturity is clearly demonstrated by this article. The article is not flattering, making it look as if he's quitting because he didn't get his way. While that is part of it, I think he knows he wouldn't win if he ran again, and he's choosing to quit rather than lose.

What this means for Lucas County is that there will probably be contested primaries in both the Republican and Democratic Parties. Toledo City Councilman George Sarantou and Springfield Township Trustee Andy Glenn have said they will run. On the Democrat side, there is talk that Edna Brown is being encouraged to run for Commissioner rather than State Senate. Former Oregon Mayor Marge Brown and current Maumee Mayor Tim Wagener have also been rumored to be interested.

Lucas County will have good choices this year - from adults - now that the little boy is taking his ball and going home.

Side Note: Did you notice the box off to the side in the article titled "The Ben Konop File"? It says:

• Political endeavors: Elected Lucas County commissioner in 2006; ran unsuccessfully in 2004 against Republican Mike Oxley for Ohio's 4th Congressional District seat.

Now why, do you suppose, it fails to mention his most recent political endeavor of his failed bid for Mayor???

Sunday, February 14, 2010

This epitomizes what's wrong with Toledo

In today's Blade, the editorial board addresses the issue of the Toledo Public School income tax proposal that will be on the May ballot. In doing so, it epitomizes exactly what's wrong with this area.

They are correct that TPS needs to answer questions about their finances, but the questions The Blade wants answered are the wrong ones. They want to focus on what the schools will have to go without if they don't get more of our money. They should be more worried about what the taxpayers will have to go without if another government entity gets even more of our limited funds.

The school district needs to show parents and other voters, in grim particularity, how the district would have to cut its budget without the new revenue the tax would raise.

Really? They're suggesting that TPS board members scare the voters in order to get a tax passed. But they don't just suggest it - they come right out and say the voters should be threatened:

But unless voters feel threatened - unless they are convinced that the failure of the tax measure would make things unacceptably worse for themselves and for the pupils who attend city schools - they will vote no. That shouldn't be so hard to understand.

And not just once:

The district doesn't want to scare voters? If it wants its tax, it had better.

This is just unbelievable! Or, perhaps, it's completely believable as the only tactic that will work.

But what does it say about The Blade and the elected board members if the only way you can gain support for a proposal is through threats, intimidation and scare tactics?

They write that an emotional appeal won't work - yet fear is an emotion and they are actually recommending what they then dismiss. Where's the logic in that?

The Blade admits that things are tough all over. And they're right. But the solution isn't to badger and coerce voters into making it even tougher for themselves. The solution is to cut government spending so people have more of their own funds to spend.

Wealth in a community is not created by confiscating private funds for government spending.

The real questions the paper should be asking are all about TPS spending and why they're spending more than all but one other school district in the county and still need more. Where are the in-depth examinations of the finances of the system? Where are the investigative reports? Where are the tough questions for school board members and administrators about the (alleged) theft by a former administrator and how TPS has - or has not - changed their internal policies to prevent such actions in the future?

I guess it's just so much easier to tell TPS their best approach is to browbeat and bully voters than to actually expect them to share what's going on in the TPS checkbook. Of course, if we knew how TPS spent our money, we'd probably be less likely to give them any more. And if that's a possibility, no wonder plan is intimidation.

Has The Blade ever met a tax it didn't like? I don't recall, but it seems like every tax hike or additional government spending that's been presented in the last 15 years has had their support.

And now the city and TPS both want more and the editorial board thinks you should be bludgeoned into giving it to them. No wonder The Blade's lead story today says "U.S. ranks Toledo as nation's 8th-most impoverished."

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I enjoy the Olympics.

I love the competition, the feats and skills I could never even hope to perform, the Corinthian Spirit, the camaraderie of fellow competitors who have shared experiences with the same struggles and sacrifices, the national pride each watcher feels as they see their flag go flying by or raised in tribute on the medals podium... I love it.

What I don't love, however, are broadcasters who seem to think that what they have to say is more important that what is going on. I already miss watching the Canadian channels and their coverage of the games - they seem to know that what people want to see are the competitors and the events, not the broadcasters trying to 'add meaning' or 'context' to the games.

That being said, I'm not in the viewing area of the Canadian channels that are covering the Vancouver games, so I'm stuck watching the NBC affiliates where I'm likely to get 50 minutes of touchy-feely stories and only about 10 minutes of competition in every hour.

But I did enjoy the Opening Ceremonies. China amazed the world with their creativity in their opening ceremonies - and the sheer number of individuals who made manual tasks appear automated. It's not likely that any nation would be able to top what they did - so I'm glad Canada didn't try.

At first, I thought their presentation was slow. I also question the wisdom of doing a show that requires explanation in order to understand what's going on. But I did enjoy the special effects and, after a bit, the theme of moving across the Canadian nation to arrive at the games in Vancouver.

I thought they did a nice job of selecting Canadians to represent them in the show - from singers and artists to the individuals carrying the Olympic flag and lighting the torch.

The participation of their First Nations with their colorful costumes was a special treat. I didn't realize that their traditional dress was so colorful - it reminded me of the colors seen in a Bahamian Junkanoo or at a Mardi Gras celebration.

I loved the whales who traveled across the stadium floor - it really looked like whales coming up from water to breathe, complete with a mist that simulated the exhale from their blow holes.

I'm not a fan of KD Lang, and thought the words to the song she sang didn't quite fit in with the event, but loved the sound of her voice resonating throughout the stadium.

I thoroughly enjoyed Shane Koyczan's slam poetry as he recited a variation of his "We Are More."

John Furlong, Chair of the Vancouver Organizing Committee, extended the welcome and I think it's one of the best and most inspiring welcomes I've heard in a long time.

I also liked the fact that the athletes were in the stadium and were able to watch the opening ceremonies. Often, the parade of athletes is saved for the end, but Canada, explaining that the ceremonies were, after all, for the athletes, had the parade at the beginning.

And while it wasn't part of the ceremony, I was moved by a segment at the start of the NBC coverage last night: Tom Brokaw's look at the special relationship and long-standing friendship between the United States and Canada. That is certainly something to be proud of and grateful for.

So now the competitions begin. I'll be rooting, of course, for the USA, but I'll cheer just as loudly if Canada can win a gold.

Friday, February 12, 2010

PETA objects to elephant's transfer to Toledo Zoo

Toledo has a new elephant, but PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, isn't happy.

I'm not on PETA's mailing list, but figured they sent the following email to multiple sources, including bloggers in the Toledo area:

Good afternoon.

This morning, PETA fired off a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Administrator Chester A. Gipson, DVM, calling on the agency to transfer rescued elephants only to facilities that can meet their care requirements and that are superior to the ones they were rescued from. The request stems from the agency's problematic decision to transfer an elephant named Twiggy from a cruel circus to the Toledo Zoo. While PETA applauds the USDA for removing Twiggy from an abusive situation, it points out that the Toledo Zoo still uses an archaic and cruel circus-style elephant management system that's based on dominance, fear, and pain—a system that other zoos have rejected.

Ohio's freezing winter weather is detrimental to elephants' well-being, and the zoo's cramped enclosure causes stress and sets elephants up for incompatibility issues—as was the case with an elephant who had previously been kept at the Toledo Zoo. The elephant, Rafiki, had to be removed and was sent to the North Carolina Zoo in 2003.

PETA's letter to the USDA follows.

Best regards,

Robbyn Brooks


February 12, 2010

Chester A. Gipson, DVM
Deputy Administrator
4700 River Rd., Unit 84
Riverdale, MD 20737-1234

Via fax and e-mail

Dear Dr. Gipson:

We are writing to thank your agency for the recent confiscation of the elephant Twiggy from USDA licensee Julius Von Uhl in Macy, Ind., license #32-C-0102, but to express our concern about Twiggy's transfer to the Toledo Zoo. Had the Performing Animal Welfare Society sanctuary or The Elephant Sanctuary declined to take Twiggy before you decided on the Toledo Zoo? I'm sure you agree that the USDA should not be transferring confiscated animals from one bad situation to another.

The Toledo Zoo is one of the minority of accredited zoos that still manages elephants using an outdated, circus-style form of elephant management that consists of dominance and the imposition of fear, both of which are established by the barbaric use of bullhooks. By design, a bullhook has only one purpose—to inflict pain—and abuse with these weapons is not uncommon in zoos. Although the most egregious bullhook abuse takes place behind the scenes, numerous horrific incidents have been revealed at accredited zoos including the following:

* In June 2002, a 1-year-old elephant named Hansa was struck repeatedly with a bullhook and ran screaming into a public viewing area at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.

* In November 2001, Dickerson Park Zoo paid a $5,000 fine to settle charges of violating the Animal Welfare Act in connection with the beating of the elephant Chai, who was on a breeding loan. According to a witness, the elephant was beaten for two and a half hours with bullhooks and pieces of wood.

* In November 2000, the Oregon Zoo paid a $10,000 federal fine for the beating of a 5-year-old elephant named Rose-Tu. A police report found that Rose-Tu sustained 176 gashes and cuts after being repeatedly struck with a bullhook.

* A videotape showed that Sissy, an elephant at El Paso Zoo, was tightly chained and beaten for hours, sometimes so hard that she collapsed from the blows. In February 2000, the City of El Paso paid a $20,000 fine to settle charges of violating the Animal Welfare Act.

* In 1993, a videotape showed two elephants at the Milwaukee Zoo, Tammy and Annie, screaming with pain and fear as they were stretched out with block and tackle while being beaten by trainers wielding bullhooks.

* In 1988, the elephant Dunda at the San Diego Wild Animal Park was "disciplined" by chaining her four feet, pulling her to her knees and beating her with bullhooks and ax handles.

There are currently two African elephants at the Toledo Zoo, an adult female named Renee and her son Louie, who is almost 7 years old. In October 2003, the Toledo Zoo sent the African elephant Rafiki to the North Carolina Zoo because she and Renee reportedly stopped getting along after Louie was born. Rafiki and Renee had been companions since 1986, yet zoo staffers were apparently unable to mitigate conflicts that can arise as a result of changes in a herd in order to keep these long-time friends together. It's difficult to believe that they will have the skills or the space necessary to conduct a safe and humane introduction between Renee, Louie, and Twiggy, who will be complete strangers.

Finally, Ohio's freezing winter weather is wholly unsuitable for elephants and relegates the animals to spending extended periods of time indoors, where their freedom of movement is severely restricted. Such forced inactivity causes muscular-skeletal ailments, arthritis, and foot and joint diseases—which are crippling and killing captive elephants.

Since animals are presumably confiscated because they have been subjected to grossly substandard conditions for an extended period of time and are often debilitated as a result, it's essential that they be transferred only to facilities that can and will provide them with top-notch care. It is what the animals deserve, and the USDA's responsibilities in such instances call for no less. As such, we respectfully request that the USDA transfer confiscated elephants only to facilities that use protected-contact elephant management; have the necessary resources, staff experience, and abundant space; and can provide an appropriate climate for elephants.

May we please hear from you about this matter?

Thank you for your time.


Lisa Wathne
Captive Exotic Animal Specialist

The 'Green Police' have arrived in Toledo!

There was much to-do about the Audi 'Green Police' commercial that ran during the Superbowl. Well, reality has hit home as Toledo gets ready for it's own version of the 'green police.'

In today's Blade story about the additional $1.3 million in costs associated with the trash conversion, Dave Welsh, Director of Public Service said the costs were "unavoidable."

Among the extra costs included adding a call center to handle the large number of calls from residents, new inspectors to ensure people were using the new containers properly, and using traditional trucks to collect bulk and overflow trash within a 48-hour window. (emphasis added)

Now, the fact that they didn't know about these costs ahead of time just proves what I said all along about the operations of our local government. They didn't think about the implementation or impact ahead of time and, obviously, didn't budget for it. And now it's going to cost an additional $1.3 million? How many inspectors and call center people do they need? And for how long?

And just what, exactly, are they inspecting? Toledo has had curb-side recycling for years now. Why does the introduction of a city-purchased container for recycling require an inspection when they've never 'inspected' recycling in the past?

Do you think anyone on city council will ask these questions or demand an explanation as to why these costs were not anticipated - or even why they are needed?

But worse, yet, is my fear that, before long, they'll give these inspectors 'police' powers to issue tickets or citations to people who are not following the rules. Don't laugh - they've followed this path before, changing the city charter to grant police powers to inspectors who previously had none.

Hey - it's another source of income, otherwise known as 'revenue enhancements' in the city, so why not?

In the end, this wonderful new system that was supposed to save us money is actually going to cost us: new trucks, new cans, call center, new inspectors...guess they had to find new work for all the people whose jobs they eliminated.

Government really doesn't understand the concept of 'cutting expenses,' does it?

Quotes of the Day

...on Liberty:

"Liberty is one of the choicest gifts that heaven hath bestowed upon man, and exceeds in value all the treasures which the earth contains within its bosom, or the sea covers. Liberty, as well as honor, man ought to preserve at the hazard of his life, for without it life is insupportable." ~ Cervantes

"Liberty will not descend to a people, a people must raise themselves to liberty; it is a blessing that must be earned before it can be enjoyed." ~ Charles Caleb Colton

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sarantou to run for commissioner - again

NewsTalk 1370 WSPD is reporting that Toledo City Councilman George Sarantou has announced his intentions to run, again, for Lucas County Commissioner. Sarantou lost to Ben Konop when he last sought this office in 2006.

According to the news broadcast, Sarantou is touting his financial background as an asset to the county and as a reason to elect him.

Of course, this flies in the face of reason.

You see, through all the recent financial issues the City of Toledo has faced, George has been chairman of council's Finance Committee. With Toledo facing huge budget deficits over the last several years, while George chaired the committee, and now facing a $48 million deficit for 2010, you'd think George would realize the irony of promoting his 'financial expertise.'

This is not to say that he isn't a good financial advisor. I have no idea about his work skills. I only reference his failure as the finance committee chairman and wonder how in the world he thinks that can be any sort of positive for his campaign against Konop (or whoever wins the Democrat primary for the position Konop now holds).

Maybe he's counting on the disillusionment of the voters who chose Konop over him last time. Konop certainly hasn't given them any reason to stay loyal. But George has failed to distinguish himself during that time frame as well.

Of course, neither Sarantou nor Konop may make it through the primary. Area voters seem to be in a 'throw the bums out' mood and both men may qualify as 'bums' in that respect.

But there is always The Blade to consider. Like it or not, they still buy ink by the barrel and have been very supportive of all of Konop's antics - providing plenty of slanted coverage for his ideas while rarely (if ever) covering the failure of many of them. Rumor has it that the Republican and Democratic Party Chairmen were told by the publisher not to run anyone against Konop. I'll emphasize that this is a rumor, but certainly a believable one considering the perception many people have of the publisher and his penchant for wanting to direct elections in Lucas County.

What this all means, though, is that we'll have an interesting time leading up to the May primary and then the November election.

Stay tuned!

Judge sends LCRP chairmanship issue to the ORP

Judge Charles Doneghy issued the following ruling today in the case filed by Jon Stainbrook and/or Megan Gallagher against Jeff Simpson over who is the chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party:

2/11/2010 1 Title : ORD:FIND FACT & CONCLUSION LAW


By denying the injunction requested by Stainbrook and Gallagher, the issue will go to the Ohio Republican Party's state central committee to decide which group of Republicans to recognize as the official party.

This is in accordance with state law and the judge really didn't have much leeway in the matter.

The judge also denied a request for class-action status on behalf of the Stainbrook/Gallagher faction:

2/11/2010 2 Title : ORD:OPINION ISSUED SEE JE


In an interesting twist, the Toledo Free Press is reporting that Judge Doneghy also determined that neither the Simpson NOR Stainbrook group met and elected a chairman as required by law.

So now the state central committee will make their decision and, hopefully, the LCRP can get on with the business of fielding and supporting Republican (that is, conservative) candidates.

But don't expect Stainbrook to go quietly if things go against him in Columbus. He's vowed to do everything to maintain control, even if doing so is detrimental to the party he wants to lead.

Background posts in chronological order:

LCRP has a new chairman

The ruckus in the LCRP continues

Adding perspective to the LCRP power struggle

Surprise (not!) Stainbrook nominated for BOE

Stainbrook 'deems' Kriner and Olman resigned from BOE

LCRP Simpson group files complaints against Stainbrook

Another lawsuit and request for TRO in the quest for power in the LCRP

Republican clubs endorse Simpson

LCRP update

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mayor Bell presents updated 2010 budget with $48.2 million deficit

This just in via email:

Budget Forecast Update

Mayor Michael P. Bell today sent to members of Toledo City Council and the City's union leadership an updated forecast for 2010 revenue and the current state of the anticipated deficit. That information is attached electronically to this release. To date the administration has identified $25.6 million in deficit reduction measures.

The Mayor met on Wednesday with the union leaders to present them with the potential cost savings to be achieved through employee concessions, which would affect all employees in all funds and agencies. The concessions and deficit reduction measures, coupled with the ballot initiatives the administration has proposed for council action would remediate the 2010 deficit without seriously affecting the level of service provided to Toledo residents. All measures would nevertheless pursue a long-term improvement in the efficiency of internal operations for the City of Toledo.

On Thursday the administration will meet with representatives from the State Auditors office and on Friday there will be a budget working meeting with members of the administration, city council, department directors and union leaders. Public input sessions are also being scheduled to allow citizens the opportunity to offer suggestions and weigh in on the service priorities they feel need to be addressed.

The Mayor has committed to providing multiple draft budget scenarios to City Council by March 1 to allow them time for discussion and action before the March 31 deadline.


The attachment is available for viewing here. Key points from the letter:

* 2009 budget is projected to be $12.7 million - $3 million more than reported on Jan. 14.

* $1.3 million has to be added to the Solid Waste budget for costs associated with the conversion to automation and the cost of recycling.

* 2010 budget deficit is now estimated to be $48.2 million.

* The Bell administration has identified $13.6 million in revenue reductions and $12 million in revenue increases. If all these are implemented, 2010 deficit will be $22.6 million.

* Bell is still seeking concessions: $16.66 million including $ 6.7 million from elimiating all pension pick-ups, $2.86 million from employees paying 20% of their health insurance costs and $7.1 million resulting from a 10% across the board pay cut. The savings are if all departments, boards and agencies implement these cuts, including the Toledo Municipal Court Judges and Clerk.

Quote of the Day

"If government relieves us of the responsibility of living by bailing us out, character will atrophy." ~ John Stossel

The final straw?

The Toledo Public School Board decided to put a .75% payroll income tax on the May ballot to help them with a $30 million deficit. The City of Toledo is still considering a .25% increase to their payroll income tax to help with their $40 million (or so) deficit.

Will these people never learn?

Probably not - this is Toledo, which never met a tax increase it didn't like.

Maybe this time the voters will let these idiots know that enough is enough.

The problem is that the politicians in TPS and One Government Center are looking only at what THEY need - not at what WE need. They keep saying they need the money. In doing so, they're saying they need our money more than we do.

The TPS payroll tax will only apply to people who live in the TPS district. Do the politicians understand that people who live in Toledo actually have a choice and can maintain a Toledo address outside the TPS district? Washington Local Schools are perceived as a better school system, so if you could, why not move into their jurisdiction and instantly save money in your paycheck?

Toledo's mayor and council fail to understand that the same consequences apply to them. Toledo is already losing residents and businesses. An increase in the payroll income tax is not going to help stop that loss. In fact, it's more likely to hasten it.

Families have cut expenses in order to meet today's obligations. We really haven't seen evidence of politicians doing the same. They'll claim that everything they do is 'needed.' But we know that's not true.

Here are the general fund expenses from the most recent version of the city's budget:

2006 $234,312,215.50
2007 $242,752,864.71
2008 $240,632,123.04
2009 $249,369,653.02 (projected - actual not yet available)
2010 $241,255,794.49

The city's spending increased $8.4 million in 2007. Then, despite facing huge deficits in 2008, they only reduced spending by $2.1 million dollars in 2008. In 2009, again facing huge deficits, their budget had an additional $9 million in spending. For 2010, they're projecting much less than in 2009, but it's still more than what they spent in 2008.

The politicians will tell you they did cut spending, but if that's true, where is the evidence that the spending is truly less?

Well, they say, they cut over what it could have been. That's like you and me saying we cut our expenses because we didn't take that round-the-world trip we wanted to take, even though we really didn't have the funds to pay for the trip in the first place. Some 'savings'!

As for TPS, they can't possible have a good handle on their spending or budget. If they did, they would have known about one of their administrators (allegedly) stealing money. Yet these same people who had no idea about the thefts are now telling us they need more money from us? Talk about zero credibility.

And just how many people in the TPS district and the city of Toledo will actually be paying these taxes versus the ones who don't have any income or who are exempted? And how many who won't pay the taxes will vote for them because they have no costs associated with doing so?

Despite claims of 'feeling the pain' of their constituents, these politicians obviously don't care that Toledo has the highest unemployment of all the urban areas in the state, record foreclosures, records amounts of people on welfare, record requests for help from various non-profit and social service agencies, record amounts of requests to food banks for help, etc... etc... etc...

They still want you to pay more.

This may be more than we can take. While I was born in Nashville, I've lived here almost all my life. My husband was born in Toledo, though he grew up in Lasalle, MI. I went to Toledo Public Schools. We both were graduated from the University of Toledo. We chose to stay here. We started both our businesses here. We've purchased two homes and spent a lot of money renovating them, making both homes better than what we bought. We've invested time, money and effort in local charitable organizations. We buy things here. We hire people who live here. We've paid our taxes on time.

We're two college-educated entrepreneurs - the very type of people Toledo says it wants to attract. And if these taxes pass, we're ready to chuck it all and leave. And we're not the only ones who are considering this option. I guarantee there are others for whom this will be the final straw.

This is not because we don't want to pay to support the services we receive or because we don't love the city, the people, the location - even the weather. We really don't mind if we're getting value for the dollar. But Toledo is no longer providing that value.

Our property value is decreased because we live in the TPS district. TPS is a drain on the potential selling price of our property - yet they want even more money for their operations.

The city seems to understand nothing when it comes to growth, except the growth of government. Even Mayor Mike Bell fails to understand that giving some people raises, though the budget for the mayor's office is less than last year, doesn't sit well with people who've had no pay increases for a couple of years.

(Yes, I understand that the city has established pay rates for commissioners, directors and managers and that putting someone into those positions on a permanent basis (as opposed to 'acting') requires that they be paid according to the established rates or it gets you in trouble with the civil service commission. But they completely failed on the PR aspect, especially when asking for concessions from unions and tax increases from citizens.)

So while saying they want to have an environment that leads to growth and prosperity in the city, their actions prove they want the exact opposite - or that they are completely clueless as to what leads to success. Either way, these are not the people we want in charge of making decisions for us - and elections only give us more of the same philosophy, even when the faces are different.

So what is left? Continue bashing your head against the brick wall or leave, like so many others have already done?

The politicians are making the choice easier every day. Hopefully, voters will recognize the downward spiral and say NO!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Toledo cancels budget meeting due to snow storm

This just in via email:

Budget Working Meeting and Public Input Session Cancelled Due to Weather

Due to the inclement weather and road conditions the budget working meeting scheduled for Wednesday, February 10 in the Courtyard at Cousino's Navy Bistro has been cancelled. The meeting has been rescheduled for Friday, February 12 at 9:30 a.m. at the Bistro.

Additionally, the public input session scheduled for Thursday, February 11 at the Gesu Parish Sullivan Center has been cancelled due to weather and road conditions. The meeting will be rescheduled at a later date with notice to be provided to the public.

Strickland is the real 'cheerleader for failure'

A Google search will show multiple links to the headline "Strickland Lashes Out at Critics of Rail Plan," which is what Governor Ted did two days ago, calling opponents of his plan "cheerleaders for failure."

I don't believe the Governor understands the meaning of the term 'failure' if he really believes what he said.

From the WSPD News website:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland is lashing out at critics of the state's plan to use $400 million in federal stimulus money for a startup rail service, calling them ``cheerleaders for failure.''

Strickland said Tuesday he's tired of people who attack every idea that comes along and always look for something negative to say.

The governor says that's not the way to move Ohio forward.
Strickland says other states would have rejoiced to receive $400 million in federal funding.

Just a reminder: this plan that Strickland is so fond of will cost more than $500 million dollars, so getting $400 million from the feds just means the state has to come up with another $100 million or so in order to get it built. Ohio doesn't have that money - at least, not without giving up something already planned in the capital budget.

I've written previously about the operational costs of the rail plan, pointing out that the Governor's own report says the system will cost $29 million a year to operate, but is only projected to have $12 million in revenue - meaning the Ohio taxpayer will have to pay $17 million a year just to run the system once its built.

See that? This rail plan requires the taxpayer to pay nearly 60% of the yearly costs while those who ride it will only have to pay 40%. Do we really want to spend our limited tax revenues on such a boondoggle? Aren't there more important things already being cut out of the state's budget because it doesn't have enough money to break even? And Gov. Strickland thinks this is a good idea?

Talk about failure! I can think of nothing that so qualifies as a massive failure than to rejoice over a system that will cost us so much money to operate.

Obviously, it's not a good idea. But that won't deter a bunch of politicians who've already backed it and begged for money from the federal government (meaning you and me and every other taxpayer) to build a system that won't even come close to breaking even.

So what's a governor to do? Demonize the people who are using logic and reason and sound fiscal analysis by calling them "cheerleaders for failure."

Sadly, the only cheerleader for failure in this instance is Ted Strickland. The rail plan is a fiscal drain on a already tapped-out state. To continue to push it in spite of the financial reality is certainly not the "way to move Ohio forward."

Stop protecting irresponsible behavior

The Blade opines today that banks who charge you a fee for overdrawing your account are somehow 'discourteous.'

Personally, I fail to understand how a bank is being 'rude' in such circumstances.

Aren't YOU the one being rude for expecting the bank to cover your expenditure even though you have no money in your account?

The bank doesn't have to grant you this convenience - they could just expect you to know how much is in your account and never spend more than that.

Of course, that's expecting some level of personal responsibility from people who are driving, handling bills, raising children and probably voting.

According to the Consumer Federation of America, the typical debit card overdraft made by a customer is $20. But the typical penalty fee charged by big banks is $35, and it goes up exponentially the longer it is not paid.


This certainly seems reasonable to me. The idea of the overdraft charge is not to provide a short-term loan to individuals without the usual agreement between lender and borrower - it's provided as a true 'courtesy' by a supplier of a product to prevent you from facing embarrassment. The fee for the overdraft is to discourage you from overdrawing your account on a regular basis. And having the fee increase the longer it's not paid is just common sense!

Think about it: if you suffered no negative consequences for overdrafts, wouldn't you have more of them?

That's the point!

Your irresponsible behavior in spending more than you have is covered by the bank and they deserve to be compensated for the effort and the costs - and to be compensated in a way that discourages you from continuing to be irresponsible in the future.

I see nothing wrong with this.

But politicians - and the editorial board of The Blade - obviously do. They all must think people are idiots. They think these fees, which they describe as 'astronomical,' inappropriately 'cost you.' The fees do cost you, but they should!

Yet these same do-gooders, out to protect the stupid among us, fail to take into account how much the irresponsible behavior of the overdrawn customers inappropriately costs the banks - or the other depositors who don't overdraw their accounts.

Leftists on editorial boards and politicians in Washington, Columbus and One Government Center need to stop promoting feckless, immature and immoral behavior and stop passing laws designed to make others responsible for your bad decisions.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Public meetings for Toledo's budget

This just in via email - note the public meeting scheduled from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday.

Mayor And Council To Hold Budget Working Meetings

First Public Input Session Also Scheduled

The Mayor and City Council will continue to address the 2010 City Budget at a series of working meetings that will also include members of the Mayor's Transition Team, the Citizens Special Investigation team, union leaders and department directors.

The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, February 10 at 9:30 a.m. in the Courtyard at Cousino's Navy Bistro. Subsequent meetings are scheduled for February 17; February 24 and March 3. All meetings will begin at 9:30 a.m. and will be held at the Bistro.

The forum will provide an opportunity for the Mayor's administration, Council, and the Unions to work together in developing a common understanding of the current financial situation, community priorities, potential scenarios and options for addressing the deficit.

Additionally, further sessions will be scheduled at various locations around the city to collect citizen input regarding priority services and other budget related issues. The first of these meetings has been scheduled for Thursday, February 11 from 6-8 p.m. at the Gesu Parish Sullivan Center at 2049 Parkside Blvd.
(emphasis added)

Quote of the Day

From Dennis Prager in a speech to the Republican members of Congress:

"We have to learn to make our complex beliefs simple -- though never simplistic. And this is our powerful response to government doing more and more for people: "The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen."

And here's how we explain it: The bigger the government, the less I do for myself, for my family and for my community. That is why we Americans give more charity and devote more time to volunteering than Europeans do. The European knows: The government, the state, will take care of me, my children, my parents, my neighbors and my community. I don't have to do anything. The bigger question in many Europeans' lives is, "How much vacation time will I have and where will I spend that vacation?"

That is what happens when the state gets bigger -- you become smaller. The dream of America was that the individual was to be a giant. The state stays small so as to enable each of us to be as big as we can be. We are each created in God's image. The state is not in God's image, but it is vying to be that. This is the battle you're fighting. You are fighting a cosmic battle because this is the most important society ever devised, the United States of America."

Sunday, February 07, 2010

It's started - doom and gloom if Toledo doesn't get more tax dollars from its citizens

The front page of today's paper attempts to scare readers into thinking that if we don't support the current proposals to raise our taxes, doom and gloom will result.

That's the only outcome one can expect from saying that today's budget deficit for the city is very much like 1982. And don't forget, back then we had a massive - and perhaps, illegal - strike that burned property and resulted in the death of a bus driver.

Back then, a Republican and a Democrat got together and promoted the idea that the only solution was to approve a 'temporary' .75% increase in our payroll income tax. That 'temporary' tax was approved and has been 'permanent' ever since.

Now, Mayor Mike Bell is saying that his proposal for a temporary .25% tax is really temporary. But if that's the case, then why does the ordinance provide for a renewal?

SECTION 1. That subject to the approval of the electors of the City of Toledo, as provided in Section 718.01 of the Revised Code of Ohio, Chapter 1905 of the Toledo Municipal Code be amended as provided in this Ordinance to provide for the levy of a one quarter of one percent (1/4%) temporary tax on income for the period commencing June 1, 2010 and ending December 31, 2012 unless renewed by the electors. Subject to the approval of the electors of the City of Toledo the additional 1/4% temporary income tax shall be allocated for Police, Fire, and other Safety Department responsibilities. (emphasis added)

If everyone were really serious about this being only for two years, there would be no such renewal provision in the legislation.

But take a good look at The Blade article. What you see documented are the same problems we're facing today. Back then, the costs of labor contracts had skyrocketed and unions didn't want to have any cutbacks, costs of government had skyrocketed and politicians said they'd cut everything they could. The only solution was a temporary increase in the amount of money the city government took from its citizens.

Here we are, in 2010, with the exact same problems: contractual labor obligations that cannot be sustained, increased costs in government with politicians telling us there's nowhere else to cut and a mounting campaign to make us think that the only solution is to take more of our money so government can continue to grow.

It worked so well in the 1980s - why not repeat it again today?

But look at what actually happened. If we have the same problems today as we did in back then, the solution to increase taxes did not solve the problem. If it had, we wouldn't still be grappling with it now.

Raising taxes is NOT the solution, in fact, it's part of the problem.

The focus on finding a 'solution' to the deficit means that politicians and the Mayor's Citizens Special Investigation task force are asking the wrong questions. And if you ask the wrong questions, you get the wrong answers.

Everyone is looking for ways to get more money to the city of Toledo because the city doesn't have enough to pay their obligations. Of course, if your task is to raise revenue to the city, your best solutions will be tax increases, fee increases and maybe some cuts in spending.

The major issue Toledo faces is not really the deficit. In fact, the problem isn't that the city doesn't have enough money. That's only a symptom.

Our city is in decline and is taking everything along with it. As a result, we have fewer residents, fewer businesses, less employees and lower wages in the remaining businesses, declining property values, a declining school system, more bankruptcies, more home foreclosures, more people dependent upon welfare and food stamps and other government handouts, less of a tax base and less funds going into the public coffers.

The only answer being suggested is to take even more money from the citizens and businesses who are already suffering so. But that 'solution' will, not surprisingly, lead to more people leaving, more businesses failing (due to less customers), more unemployment, further decline in property values and even less money into the public coffers.

The very solution they promote contributes to and hastens the decline they seek to arrest.

So rather than ask the wrong question (how do we get more revenue to the government?) they should be asking 'how do we help promote the growth of the city?'

If we're interested in promoting growth, we do the exact opposite of what is being proposed: we LOWER taxes. We reduce regulations; we reduce fees; we cut government - which is a drain on the economy - to the bone; we make it easier and more profitable for businesses; we try to put more money into the pockets of citizens rather than into the government; and we encourage the private sector, not the public one.

These are the things that lead to the growth of a city and, subsequently, the increase in tax collections the city is so interested in achieving.

But if no one is asking the right question, we'll never get the right solutions - and we'll continue to face these same sets of circumstances over and over and over again.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Will new Toledo law violate Constitutional due process?

Well, it's official. The City of Toledo is seeking a law to either immobilize or impound vehicles with unpaid red light or speed camera tickets.

And here I thought the cameras were all about safety - not money. Apparently not.

Toledo has so many of these unpaid tickets that they're using it as an excuse for part of their budget woes. Recent news reports quote Police Chief Mike Navarre as saying the total amount due (dating back to 2000) is around $6 million, though not all of that money would go to the city. Some would go to the red-light camera company, RedFlex, which has a contract with the city to provide the cameras.

Last year, Toledo budgeted $2.5 million (more than they budgeted in 2008) in revenue from these cameras, but they only collected $874,308, leaving a significant shortfall. Of course, the fact that they over budgeted in 2008 should have given them their first clue about the problem.

They've tried a collection agency, but that's not working out too well. The problem isn't that the collection agency (a local law firm) isn't very good - it's that no court has ever issued a judgment in favor of the city for these civil fees, so people are ignoring them.

Under the current law, the photograph from the camera is prima facie evidence of a civil (not criminal) violation. The only way to appeal the violation is to request a hearing before a person hired by the city to serve as a hearing officer. The way the law is written, if the camera shows a vehicle and you are the owner, you are guilty. So when you appeal, the only way to get out of the presumption of guilt is to name another person as the driver.

It's no wonder this is a civil violation and not enforced under the traffic laws. If a person accused of hit-and-run were presumed guilty with the only way out being to present the actual offender, could you imagine how quickly various groups and citizens would be expressing their outrage? There's a reason why we have a presumption of innocence and due process procedures in the United States.

But when it comes to red light and speed camera violations, all those protections are thrown under the bus, ignored and flouted.

Now, without benefit of court adjudication, the city wants to confiscate property as a penalty for the violation.

Here is what the two ordinances relating to the immobilization/impoundment proposal say:

SECTION 5. That a new Toledo Municipal Code Subsection 313.12 (d)(6) is hereby enacted to read as follows:

“In lieu of assessing an additional penalty, pursuant to subsection (d)(5) above, the City of Toledo may (i) immobilize the vehicle by placing an immobilization device( e.g. a “boot”) on the tires of the vehicle pending the owners compliance with the Notice of Liability, or (ii) impound the vehicle, pursuant to TMC Section 303.08(a)(12). Furthermore, the owner of the vehicle shall be responsible for any outstanding fines, the fee for removal of the immobilization device (i.e., $75), and any costs associated with the impoundment of the vehicle.



Toledo Municipal Code Section 303.08 provides authority for the City of Toledo Police to remove (i.e., impound) a vehicle under certain circumstances specified. Likewise, the Section provides a mechanism for an owner to redeem his or her impounded vehicle. This proposed legislation amends, specifically, Toledo Municipal Code Section 303.08(a) by enacting a new Subsection, i.e., TMC Subsection 303.08(a)(12), to include authority to impound a vehicle of an owner who has refused or failed to comply with the civil penalty imposed pursuant to the City’s automated red light and speeding photo enforcement Sections; i.e., TMC Section 313.12,


Be it ordained by the Council of the City of Toledo:

SECTION 1. That Toledo Municipal Code Chapter 303, and specifically Section 303.08(a), is hereby amended by enacting Section 303.08(a)(12) to read as follows:

“When any vehicle against which two or more notices of liability has issued, pursuant to TMC Section 313.12, and the vehicle owner, as defined by TMC Section 313.12(b)(4), has failed or refused to comply with the civil penalty assessed, but after the appeal period has expired, pursuant to TMC Section 313.12(d) (4).”

Yes, that's correct. They want to come and take your vehicle - or put a 'boot' on it, depriving you of its use - without ever having gone to court.

Your failure to cater to their desire for more income will result in the confiscation of your property.

The 5th Amendment to the Constitution states:

No person shall ... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;

So how is this proposed law NOT a deprivation of property without due process? You don't even have a way to appear before a judge under Toledo's current law and this new authority for the city doesn't change that fact.

Where are all the civil liberties groups on this issue? Are they even aware of the proposed law?

Chris Finney, an attorney and co-founder of COAST, Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxation, has been very vocal in opposing these cameras and might even be partially responsible for the failure of the city's budget projections.

He has advised individuals to ignore the tickets because the city has no ability to enforce them. He has also advised people that letters from attorneys threatening collection have no force unless adjudicated in a court of law. During my fill-in for Brian Wilson on WSPD yesterday, I talked to him about the plan to immobilize/impound vehicles and his response was that this was a lawsuit waiting to happen. He continued to tell people that unless they get a summons or notice from a court, the fines are unenforceable.

Obviously, he's not well-liked by the politicians, especially because he's going to mount another campaign in Toledo to repeal the law allowing cameras in the first place, with collection of signatures for the ballot measure scheduled to begin in about a month.

My hope is that individuals, attorneys and groups who believe in the Constitution and the protection of rights will vigorously oppose these two measures. Here is contact information to help you in this goal:

City Council phone: 419-245-1050

City Council emails:

Friday, February 05, 2010

Filling in on WSPD

No detailed post today because I'm filling in for Brian Wilson from 3-6 p.m. on NewsTalk 1370 WSPD ... and I've got a LOT to say!

It's 'fishing line Friday,' so we'll be taking your calls on topics that interest you. I'm certain some of the discussion will revolve around:

* the proposal from the City of Toledo to raise the payroll income,
* the proposal from Toledo Public Schools to either put an income tax or property tax levy on the ballot,
* the Superbowl,

and anything else that comes up between now and then.

Be sure to tune in or listen live on line!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

'Not business friendly' Post #18 - raising Toledo's payroll income tax

It's been a while since I dedicated a post to the 'not business friendly' category but the latest from the Toledo Mayor's office certainly qualifies.

Toledo is facing a huge budget deficit. The amount seems to vary daily ($38-44 million), but let's just pick an even number in the middle and call it $40 million.

The reason we have a deficit is because the city spends more than it takes in. (DUH!) They blame revenues that didn't meet projections. I blame the individuals who projected revenues greater than were logical.

One of the biggest culprits in the mess is income tax collections - the payroll tax deducted from the paychecks of all Toledo residents (regardless of what city they work in) and all Toledo workers (regardless of where they live) - which are down significantly.

The solution being presented? Raise the payroll tax!

No, I'm not kidding! They have a decrease in both the number of people paying and in the amount collected from those who still are...and they want more! As if a temporary influx from raising the tax will somehow magically solve all the underlying problems that resulted in the decreased collections in the first place.

This is insanity! I can't say it any clearer.

If a company can give their employees an instant increase in pay by moving out of the City of Toledo, why wouldn't they consider it? If companies know that their employee compensation will be attacked by the local government, why would they want to come here?

On a national level, most people think the reason for deficits is because politicians spend too much - not that taxes aren't high enough. I'd wager that sentiment applies to local governments as well!

It's the tax-hiking, 'we've-cut-everywhere-we-can-there's-no-where-left-to-cut' type of thinking that got us into this mess in the first place. And the solution coming from Mayor Mike Bell's 'Citizens Special Investigation' task force is just more of the same - raise taxes. That's not 'out of the box' as the Mayor requested.

Oh, to be sure, the types of taxation they're suggesting (entertainment taxes) are a bit new - but they're still higher taxes. It's just more of the same failed philosophy that promotes the idea of government needing your money more than you do - and that's what got us into this mess in the first place.

But that's not the worst of it. Oh no!

The worst part is the hypocrisy of the elected officials when it comes to citizens paying more.

As a commissioner, I voted once to increase the amount of the dog license fee. The Dog Warden's operation was supposed to be self-sufficient and instead had been relying upon transfers from the County's general fund for meeting their budget. We had the department do some cuts and voted, 2-1, to raise the fee for the first time in years. Comm. Tina Skeldon-Wozniak voted against this saying that too many seniors relied upon dogs as companions in their old age and they might not be able to afford the extra $5 a year. But then Tina voted IN FAVOR of a new property tax that would have cost those very same seniors more than $5 a year!

It's contradictory - I know. But it's what passes for 'logic' in Toledo and Lucas County.

Why is this relevant? Because the same thing is going to happen in Toledo City Council.

Mayor Bell has drafted legislation to put an increase in the payroll income tax on the May ballot. It needs to be voted on by Council at their next meeting on Feb. 16th if it's going to make the May primary. The proposal is a 'temporary' increase of a quarter of a percent, raising the tax from the current 2.25% to 2.5%.

They say 'temporary' as they project it will expire in 2012. However, there is already .75% of the payroll tax that has been 'temporary' since the early much for the definition of 'temporary' in Toledo.

I have no doubt that a majority of council members will vote to put this on the ballot if it is presented to them. That's much easier than facing special interest groups packing council chambers to lobby for programs other than their own to be cut. They'll all get up and say how their program must continue and council should cut 'elsewhere.' But those groups are never asked by council what they'd do without in order to keep their funding...and if someone should challenge those groups on that point, their usual retort is 'that's council's job' to decide.

Which is why council will vote to increase taxes rather than upset all those special interests. Besides, they think they need your money more than you do. And they're hypocrites when it comes to your money.

Tuesday, council passed (with District 5 Councilman Tom Waniewski (R) as the sole 'no' vote) a resolution opposing two bills in the Ohio legislature. Amended Sub. Senate Bill 162 and House Bill 276 would allow phone companies in Ohio to raise monthly rates by $1.25 every year. Council suspended the rules requiring two readings of items before council and voted immediately - because they just couldn't wait to oppose what Columbus was considering.

In support of the resolution, At-Large Councilman George Sarantou (R) said the bills were "bad news for residential phone users." He said seniors and others who might not have any other type of phone service would be "severely affected" and that the bills were "absolutely very harmful."

Now, they're talking about $1.25 a month as being too much for Toledoans to be able to handle. Their resolution even states:

WHEREAS, historically, Toledo and Northwest Ohio residents have paid some of the highest utility costs in the state of Ohio and are challenged daily with uncertain economic conditions...(emphasis added)

But these same council members are going to ask for more money from you for THEIR purposes.

If you make $10 an hour and work a 40-hour week, you'll be paying $1 more per week if they raise the payroll tax.

They're going to tell Columbus not to pass an increase of $1.25 per month on to Toledo residents, but they're going to tell voters to pass an increase of $4 per month on those same individuals?

Can you say 'stuck on stupid'???

And they do this kind of crap all the time - telling others not to take pennies out of your right pocket while they take dollars out of your left.

Now, don't get me wrong. There may be other aspects of the phone bill legislation that would generate opposition, but the major selling point being used by the politicians is the monthly increase. They look like idiots when they, in effect, say that others can't rake your earnings over the coals - only they can.

They'll hide behind the whole 'I didn't raise the rate - voters did.' What a cop-out!

I'll predict right now that most, if not all, members of council will urge people to vote for the tax increase if it's on the ballot. You won't see them going out and telling people to vote no - that's for sure!

If they truly believe that Toledoans are having enough economic issues, they wouldn't even ask for the support of the voters. They'd just vote no to putting the measure on the ballot and begin the difficult job of reducing the size of Toledo's government.

But don't hold your breath.

The sad part of all this is that I doubt anyone is going to hold these council members accountable for their contradiction in saying $1.25 a month to the phone companies is too much but (an estimated) $4 a month to the city coffers is just fine.

And they wonder why we have declining numbers of businesses, declining population, the highest unemployment of all the urban areas in the state, record foreclosures, record bankruptcies, record numbers of people on public assistance, etc... etc... etc...

This is why. And both politicians and voters have refused to admit that the same failed philosophy of government that got us into the mess is not going to get us out.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

More contradictions from Obama

I've been thinking about the various proposals President Barack Obama has for 'helping' small business - and how, again, his words and actions are contradictory.

He is proposing a tax credit for hiring new employees, paying more to existing employees or purchasing equipment.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, though I oppose tax credits (an after-the-fact process of returning a small portion of what the government has taken from you in the first place) when an overall reduction in tax rates is so much more effective.

But the tax credit is only for a new hire, and doesn't apply to employees brought back after being laid off - nor does it continue to exist all the years that a company keeps that employee. The decision to hire another employee is never based upon a potential tax credit. It's based upon the need for that person and the sales to support the salary on a long-term basis.

He's also proposing to use TARP funds for bank loans to small businesses. You remember TARP? It's the temporary fund that was supposed to help bail out the banks deemed too big to fail, but that was also used to bail out the auto companies???? It's the fund that Obama says won't ever recoup all its loans and needs to charge ALL banks a 'recovery fee.' It's becoming a permanent source of funding for whatever spending Obama wants to do.

The bank loans he's talking about, though, are only through 'community' banks - banks that really don't need an infusion of cash to loan out. And Obama hasn't documented that there's even a need for such loans to small businesses - but determining a need for 'help' isn't relevant to how good the program sounds to the masses.

The main issue he's trying to address with this loan package is a direct result of the tighter restrictions government has placed on lending and capitalization of banks. The issues relating to sub-prime loans and the failures of many with government-back mortgages resulted in Congress 'doing something' to solve problems resulting from the last time they 'did something.' Tighter regulatory controls on the assets banks have to keep mean they have been more restrictive with the qualifications for loans. Small community banks think that if Obama's loan program will absolve them from loss on the riskier borrowers, then they might take advantage of it and lend to people they've previously denied.

What? Yes, loaning to people who have been determined to be too much of a risk for a 'regular' loan. Isn't that what got us into this economic mess in the first place? Is there really a need to loan to people/businesses that are that risky?

But there's a problem - and a contradiction - with what the President says.

At the same time he's planning small tax credits and loans for certain behavior, he's talking about raising tax rates on 'the rich.' Many small business owners, because of the way they've structured their companies, fall into the 'rich' designation because they report their business earnings as part of their personal income tax reports. This means they're taxed at the personal, not corporate, rate. Of course, for most, they're paying taxes on paper earnings they never actually see in terms of dollars in their wallets.

I don't want this to be a post focused on the tax code - a 60,044-page/25-volume monstrosity that no one, not even the government enforcers, actually understands. But it's important to note that because of the tax code and the complicated nature of it and corporation structures, many businesses go this route and end up being designated as 'rich' as a result.

For these types of business owners, a one-time, limited, tax credit is not enough to overcome the uncertainty of future, permanent taxes.

The politicians in the federal government are constantly talking about the need to raise taxes. The Associate Press reports that Obama's budget raises taxes on businesses. Various reports indicate that increased tax rates, health care 'reform' and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts of 2001 will mean more money paid to the federal government, detracting from anticipated profits businesses are earning.

On the state and local level, the discussion is much the same: government needs more money to continue its spending patterns (or to expand them in the guise of 'helping' the economy) and someone has to pay. In December, Ohio decided to 'delay' a phased-in tax cut that took effect in January of last year. In Toledo, there's discussion of raising the payroll income tax. That's more money coming OUT of the earnings and spendable income of individuals and business owners.

Unlike government and politicians, business owners have to plan for such things. When there is uncertainty about future costs, they will be cautious in their spending, choosing to save for future obligations rather than incur additional expenses while awaiting clarification.

And they're certainly not going to borrow money for anything if they think future earnings will be negatively impacted by higher taxes, limiting their ability to actually repay the loan.

They've also seen the complicated and arbitrary rules associated with such loans when the politicians get to decide the terms, many of them retroactive in enforcement. Will these small business owners be subject to earnings and pay limitations if they accept this government money?

Uncertainty is the killer.

So while Obama is proposing various programs to provide what he considers to be 'help,' he and his fellow Democrats in Congress are planning various actions that will definitely 'hurt' small business.

I'll concede that perhaps, despite how 'smart' people seem to think he is, our President might not have a clue.

Obama has never run a business. He's never been responsible for meeting a payroll, making decisions about hiring/firing or purchasing equipment for an operation. He's never had to develop a business plan and weigh various costs against potential income. He's never had to budget for today's operations while ensuring protection against tomorrow's decline or anticipating future growth.

He's never had to experience the decision-making process that all business owners have to face. So why should we expect that any policies relating to small business - or any business, for that matter - have any basis in reality?

We shouldn't ... but he's the President and if he doesn't have the personal experience, he's supposed to surround himself with people who do so he doesn't continually contradict himself by saying one thing and doing another.
Google Analytics Alternative