Monday, February 28, 2011

Is TPS Board Member Lisa Sobecki in violation of Ohio law?

I came across this post at SwampBubbles, a local blog forum, discussing disparaging remarks about inner-city school children. What struck me was this particular question from the poster, emphasis added:

If TPS(Dr. Pecko, Bob Vasquez and the Toledo Parent Congress) and Sandy Wiley Steward got all up in arms about the comments made by Brian Wilson, why hasn't TPS gotten all up in arms about what Ms. Wiley-Steward wrote on Facebook about inner city parents? The only reason I can come up with is that they all agree that inner city parents don't have a "volunteer mentality," that they have a hand out mentality and need to be trained (like monkeys) by the county which employs Lisa Sobecki school board vice president..

I'd not heard that Lisa was working for the county, so I looked it up. Every person hired by the county must be approved by a resolution of the Board of County Commissioners and, sure enough, there was resolution 10-136, passed February 9, 2010, approving her, and another woman, as full-time, bargaining unit Casework Aides in the Department of Job & Family Services. They were placed at pay range 25, step 1 with a starting hourly wage of $12.19/hour.

Now, I don't have any problem whatsoever with her working at JFS. I don't have a problem with her being in the union. But I do have a problem with a potential violation of state law based upon her other activities.

The position of Casework Aide is in the classified civil service, according to Ohio Revised Code 329.022. And, also according to Ohio law, individuals employed in the classified civil service in the state are prohibited from partisan political activity. Ohio Revised Code 124.57 states, emphasis added:

(A) No officer or employee in the classified service of the state, the several counties, cities, and city school districts of the state, or the civil service townships of the state shall directly or indirectly, orally or by letter, solicit or receive, or be in any manner concerned in soliciting or receiving, any assessment, subscription, or contribution for any political party or for any candidate for public office; nor shall any person solicit directly or indirectly, orally or by letter, or be in any manner concerned in soliciting, any such assessment, contribution, or payment from any officer or employee in the classified service of the state , the several counties, cities, or city school districts of the state, or the civil service townships of the state; nor shall any officer or employee in the classified service of the state, the several counties, cities, and city school districts of the state, or the civil service townships of the state be an officer in any political organization or take part in politics other than to vote as the officer or employee pleases and to express freely political opinions.

In fact, because the penalties for violation of this section are so severe, (reduced pay, fines, suspensions, or removal from the position, per ORC 124.34) when I was a commissioner, the Board regularly sent out a letter to all employees so affected reminding them of the prohibition.

Because school board members run in 'non-partisan' races, I'm not sure if her election to that office would constitute a violation - and I think it probably would not.

But after being hired by the County, Lisa Sobecki ran for - and was elected - to the position of precinct committeeman in Toledo's Ward 1G as a democrat for the Lucas County Democratic Party. That is clearly a partisan office and certainly prohibited under Ohio law.

So here are the questions:

* Did she know she was violating the law by running for a partisan office?
* If not - why not? Is that not explained to employees when they are hired? If she did know, should the penalty for violation be higher?
* The County Commissioners should certainly know of her role in the local Democrat Party, as they are involved in it as well. Have they just conveniently overlooked her partisan activities or are they negligent in their administration of the county and in violation of their oaths of office to uphold Ohio laws?
* If this employee is allowed to be in violation, are there other employees who are also in violation?
* Now that this has been made public, what are the Commissioners going to do? Sobecki cannot continue both jobs - casework aide and precinct committeeman - so which will go? Will the Commissioners bring her up on charges and provide some reduced penalty if she resigns from her partisan position?

Inquiring minds....

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Quote of the Day - Education

"[A]ny provider that commands 90 percent of the market -- whether we're talking about software, phone service, or heating oil -- is, by definition, a monopoly. Our government employs thousands of bureaucrats to track down and break up monopolies on the grounds that monopolies stifle competition and thereby produce bad products at high prices. Doesn't it strike anyone as strange that the same government protects its own monopoly in education? And stranger still, that nearly everyone accepts this state of affairs as normal -- as something that has always been and must always be? ... [C]ompetition forces public schools into making long-overdue repairs. And it offers poor parents the choices they desperately desire." ~ Jennifer A. Grossman

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bell realigns executive team

Press release from the City of Toledo:

Bell selects Deputy Mayor, realigns staff entering second year in office

Toledo Mayor Michael P. Bell today announced the appointment of Thomas Crothers to the position of Deputy Mayor for External Relations following the departure of Dean Monske to head the Regional Growth Partnership.

“I don’t view Dean joining the RGP as a loss for the city, but as the extension of our efforts and the opportunity to continue working with him and RGP as partners,” Bell said. “The momentum we started with Dean will continue. I have confidence that Tom will pick up where Dean leaves off and continue collaborating with our partners - local, state, national and international - to move Toledo forward.”

Mr. Crothers is currently director of public utilities and was previously executive director of the Downtown Toledo Improvement District and President of the Greater Downtown Business Partnership. He has also served as chief of staff, finance director; deputy director of economic development; and executive officer for previous mayoral administrations in the city of Toledo.

Along with the responsibility to spearhead the city’s collaborative economic development efforts, Crothers will additionally oversee the city’s inspection and neighborhoods departments and the Division of Real Estate.

As Crothers departs public utilities, David Welch will take over as director. Mr. Welch is currently director of public service and previously served as commissioner of field operations in the Department of Public Utilities.

Ed Moore will be appointed director of public service. Mr. Moore is currently commissioner of streets, bridges and harbor, that department’s most expansive division responsible for road maintenance and repair, demolition and debris removal; snow and ice control; and leaf collection. He has worked with the city of Toledo for 17 years beginning as a heavy equipment operator with the demolition crew. He became a foreman supervising road repair and was later appointed commissioner of sewer and drainage services. Moore is completing a degree in construction engineering technology at the University of Toledo.

David Pratt will serve as acting commissioner of streets, bridges and harbor. Mr. Pratt has worked for the city for 20 years in various capacities. Most recently he has served as manager of streets, bridges and harbor working with Mr. Moore to oversee road repair, snow and ice control and leaf collection.

Salaries have not yet been determined for those employees changing status or departments.

Other staff realignments will include a change in title for Shirley Green. Ms. Green has served as director of public safety, overseeing police and fire services. She will take on an expanded role as Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Personnel as human resources and affirmative action are brought under her administration. As a lieutenant, Green served as the equal employment opportunity officer for the Toledo Police Department. The changes in executive oversight will allow Deputy Mayor for Operations Steve Herwat to focus on collective bargaining negotiations with six of the city’s eight unions during the 2011 calendar year. There will be no change in salary for Ms. Green or Mr. Herwat.

The executive leadership changes will take effect March 14th.


The tanning bed police - protecting you from yourself

Yesterday I posted about a new law Rep. Courtney Combs has introduced, H.B. 119, that would require a doctor's permission for anyone under 18 to tan. Ohio law already requires parental permission, but this law would eliminate the parent's role and turn it over to a doctor.

My friend and fellow blogger Matt Hurley, Weapons of Mass Discussion, linked to my post on his Facebook page and here is the discussion that ensued.

Rachel Mullen Manias: My 11 year old is drinking coffee right now for a migraine. Should I have gotten a doctor's note first?

Matt Hurley: That sounds like a question for State Rep. Combs. His office number is (614) 644-6721. :)

Rachel Mullen Manias: So are the tanning salons going to have to file claims with insurance companies? What a tremendous amount of regulation for generally family owned business.
I am very disturbed by this bill.

Maggie Thurber: Great question Rachel!!! Those unintended consequences strike again.

Rachel Mullen Manias: So I called and the Aide told me that I can give my daughter coffee for a migraine. He also said that if you can afford a tan you can afford a doctor's visit.

Rachel Mullen Manias: So I called back. It wouldn't be a prescription so there would be no claim to process. Just authorization that the tanning salon would keep on file.
Oh and if I have a tanning bed in my own home I still need a doctor's note. I wonder who would be knocking on my door to verify that.

Matt Hurley: Did you get that guy's name?

Maggie Thurber: Rachel - that's hilarious! My doctor's co-pay is $20 for an office visit. A tan costs $7. But I suppose the aide completely missed the whole 'who gets to be parent - you or the nanny state' sarcasm of your question. lol

Matt Hurley: The Tanning Bed Police. A division of the Ohio Highway Patrol. To Protect and Serve.

I wonder if Rep. Combs has thought this through in terms of a doctor's order. Why wouldn't the order then be subject to medical reimbursement claims? If, as some people claim, there is a 'right' to health care, does it naturally follow that there is a 'right' to tan, if a doctor must order it? If this law is passed, how soon will it be before states are paying for tanning for medicaid/medicare recipients?

What about the office visit? I know my cost to visit the doctor is only a $20 co-pay, but the insurance company pays the rest of it. How will insurance companies like having to pay for an office visit so some parent can get a permission note for their kid to tan?!? What is THAT going to do to insurance rates?

And why stop at children? If it's bad for you, it's bad for you so perhaps the state ought to require a doctor's permission for everyone. But maybe they won't go that far - especially since that might reduce the number of tanning visits people make and that would hurt the state coffers, considering they're now collecting tax on such 'services.'

This is a ridiculous piece of legislation that isn't going to do anything to reduce skin cancer rates. Maybe our legislators should stop promoting these kinds of feel-good/sound-good bills that do nothing but add to our costs and, instead, focus on ways to address the state's estimate $8 billion budget deficit.

As I said originally...I can hope.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Prevailing wage and PLAs eliminated for school construction projects

Press Release from the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law:

OSFC agrees to eliminate Prevailing Wage and Project Labor Agreements for School Construction

Agency will also Review Strickland Era Contracts for Corruption

COLUMBUS - The Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) today agreed to adopt OSFC Resolution 11-16, marking the conclusion of a lawsuit brought by the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, a public interest law firm representing Ohio taxpayers. The Center argued that OSFC's funding of school projects with Prevailing Wage was unconstitutional, and that the Strickland Administration and labor unions engaged in corrupt activity in procuring, at great taxpayer expense, Prevailing Wage (PW) and Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) on school building construction projects around the state.

Under the Resolution, the agency will no longer fund Ohio public school construction projects that implement Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) or Prevailing Wage (PW). The move is expected to save Ohio taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, and level the playing field between union and non-union contractors.

"Project Labor Agreements" require non-union contractors to enroll their own employees as dues-paying members of a local union hall and abide by union work rules for the duration of the project. It is typically infeasible for non-union contractors to bid on projects with PLAs, which results in the elimination of competitive bidding, and drives up the costs of projects.

"Prevailing Wage" is a wage rate that is set based upon the average wage paid to union workers in a particular locality. It is typically well above the market wage rate, and its use reduces competitive bidding and drives up costs on projects.

Richland County taxpayers in Shelby and Madison school districts brought the lawsuit against OSFC, former Governor Ted Strickland, former OSFC Director Richard Murray, and Laborers' International Union of North America. The lawsuit alleged that Strickland and Murray pressured school districts to use union labor, at taxpayer expense, to ensure union donations to Strickland's campaign.

"The adoption of this resolution is a monumental victory for the taxpayers of Ohio, who can expect to save tens of millions of dollars now that they won't be subsidizing inflated union wages on multi-million-dollar school construction projects, and for non-union workers, who can now compete for public contracts on a level playing field," said 1851 Center Director Maurice Thompson. "Ohioans and non-union workers across the state should be very pleased with this outcome, and the Kasich Administration and Attorney General DeWine are commended for their cooperative approach in resolving this matter."

The Resolution OSFC will:

* Prohibit the use of Prevailing Wage on state-funded school projects;
* Prohibit the use of PLAs on state-funded school projects;
* Repeal all of OSFC Resolution 07-98, the Resolution implemented under the Strickland Administration that favored use of PW and PLAs;
* Review existing contracts with PW and PLAs, including those where 1851 has alleged rampant corruption;
* Allow OSFC to rescind PLAs and PW terms on existing school construction projects that OSFC is funding;
* Commit OSFC to the belief that "open contracting for publicly funded construction projects aids in lowering costs of such projects."

The Resolution halts a practice outlined in the 1851 Center's Complaint, whereby local construction unions would ensure the victory of a school district's tax levy campaign to build new schools in exchange for the school district's promise to implement union-friendly PW and PLAs.

"Higher quality schools can now be built for less, and tax levy elections in Ohio will now more accurately reflect taxpayers' wishes, rather than construction union clout," said Thompson.

As a result of the Resolution, the 1851 Center earlier today voluntarily dismissed its lawsuit, Oleksa v. Murray, which was pending in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas.

The Complaint in the case is available here.

More information on the case is available here.

Review new OSFC Resolution 11-16 here.

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law is a non-profit, non-partisan legal center dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of Ohioans from government abuse. The center litigates constitutional issues related to property rights, voting rights, regulation, taxation, and search and seizures.

Is Rep. Courtney Combs really a Republican?

I have to wonder, considering his primary sponsorship of H.B. 119 which would prohibit the sale of indoor tanning to anyone under the age of 18 unless permission has been granted through a prescription by a physician.

Fellow Ohio blogger, Matt Hurley at Weapons of Mass Discussion has the press release which states:

The current law requires that consumers under 18 obtain written consent from a parent or legal guardian prior to receiving tanning services. House Bill 119 seeks to eliminate such wording to protect teens from the early onset of serious medical conditions.

So why would an elected official who identifies himself as a Republican want to remove the authority of the parent and replace it with the authority of the state?

Are tanning services bad for you? Probably. Is it a bad idea of children to use tanning beds? Probably. Who should be responsible for making that decision? Parents.

But this law would remove the ability of a parent to make the decision with the state mandating that only a doctor can decide. So the state and this representative (along with the other sponsors of the bill) are saying that parents aren't good enough to make such decisions. Only doctors should be able to decide such a thing.

I have a problem with this. The more we remove the ability of parents to decide on behalf of their children, the more power we give to the government to make those decisions instead.

Some will say that the government isn't deciding at all - they're just requiring that doctors do. But that is still removing the ability of the parent to be the parent and I have a problem with someone who is supposed to believe in the freedom of the individual sponsoring such an action by the government.

Maybe Rep. Combs has a good track record on other issues, but this is a fundamental philosophical question: who is the better choice for making decisions on behalf of children - the parents or the government? And if you believe the government should be able to mandate someone other than a parent to make a decision about usage of a tanning salon, what will be next?

Remember, they said banning smoking was only going to be on airplanes, so the slippery slopes do exist.

This bill substitutes the opinion of the government for the opinion of the parent. I hope other Republicans in Ohio's legislature will refuse to start down this path, but I fear that hope is slim.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A 'fair' price for public safety

As a result of a conversation following one of my earlier posts on the real issue in the Wisconsin union protests, my friend and fellow blogger, Tim Higgins, decided to take the idea expressed in his comment and turn it into a full blown column.

I hope you'll take the time to read his intro to the post as well as the column itself, and decide on your own what, exactly, is 'fair.'

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Toledo to pick up storm debris

Press release from the City of Toledo:

City to pick up storm debris over the next several weeks

Following Sunday’s ice and snow storm, the city of Toledo has been working to clear downed trees, limbs and branches from city streets to ensure roads are passable and to allow Toledo Edison crews access to areas where electric service must be restored. This has been the priority in cleaning up after the weather event.

The city will begin collecting branches and limbs that are too large to fit in refuse containers in the following weeks. The following details will be helpful to residents to ensure that their storm debris is collected as expediently and thoroughly as possible:

- Residents are asked to move storm debris - tree limbs and branches only - to the curb between the street and the sidewalk as soon as possible.
- Residents are asked to be patient as the city works to collect the debris, as the priority is clearing streets. It may take several weeks for forestry crews to collect the storm debris.
- The city’s Division of Parks and Forestry will collect the debris and accordingly only tree limbs and branches will be collected - no construction or demolition debris will be taken.

This is a one-time service that will be provided only as a result of the extensive natural damage caused by the ice and wind during Sunday’s weather event.

Questions regarding the storm debris clean up may be referred to the Division of Parks and Forestry at 419-245-3357.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Quote of the Day - government unions

From my friend, and fellow Ohio blogger, Matt Hurley at Weapons of Mass Discussion, comes today's quote on collective bargaining by public sector employees:

The desire of Government employees for fair and adequate pay, reasonable hours of work, safe and suitable working conditions, development of opportunities for advancement, facilities for fair and impartial consideration and review of grievances, and other objectives of a proper employee relations policy, is basically no different from that of employees in private industry. Organization on their part to present their views on such matters is both natural and logical, but meticulous attention should be paid to the special relationships and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the Government.

All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.

Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable. It is, therefore, with a feeling of gratification that I have noted in the constitution of the National Federation of Federal Employees the provision that "under no circumstances shall this Federation engage in or support strikes against the United States Government

~ President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (D)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Going green costs jobs

Investors Business Daily had an interesting Friday editorial that took a look at the consequences of cutting off water to an area in order to 'save' the delta smelt. Turns out, jobs were lost and families lost their farms. And the worst part of it all is that it didn't help the delta smelt one bit.

Consequences: The green lobby assured everyone it knew what it was doing when it got a judge to cut water to Central Valley farmers to save the delta smelt. But while the Valley economy is now ruined, it hasn't helped the smelt.

Some day, environmental radicals will be held accountable for crimes against the ecosystem — the human ecosystem.

Back in 2007, they convinced federal Judge Oliver Wanger to rule that the Endangered Species Act gave the federal government the right to cut water to thousands of farmers in California's Central Valley to protect a 3-inch baitfish called the delta smelt.

That ruling turned many of the Valley's prized vineyards and almond groves into wastelands. Jobs were lost, family farms were shut, fields went fallow and food prices rose.

But there's been just one problem with this overreaching of the law: Cutting off water didn't save the smelt.

A draft of a new study from the Delta Stewardship Council shows the water cutoffs had no effect on the smelt. The smelt remains endangered even as farmers have been punished with a policy that cut off as much as 90% of their water.

"Environmentalists claimed the sky was falling in Delta, and the only way to save smelt was to flush more fresh water to the ocean," said Andrew House, spokesman for Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif. "So they embarked upon a narrow path of diverting water from (San Joaquin Valley) farmers by using science to confirm their predetermined assessment of what was going on."

But it didn't work. Similar evidence is now coming out from the Pacific Northwest stating that shutting down the logging industry never did save the spotted owl.

Read more

Friday, February 18, 2011

The real issue for union protests in Wisconsin

By now, most people - or at least those who don't live and die by American Idol - have heard about what's going on in Wisconsin. Michell Malkin has a good roundup on her blog, in case you'd like a single source to follow her updates.

Depending on which side is speaking, this is either a noble and necessary effort to return the state to fiscal sanity or a devious plot to break the unions.

If you listen to what the union supporters say, they give everything to work on behalf of the citizens, they 'sacrifice,' they're the only middle class and they've given concessions to help the situation. They also say that making them pay a portion of their pensions and a portion of their health insurance costs is 'unfair.'

But the main issue - the one that I believe is really motivating the unions (not the members, specifically) to protest is that their income is on the line. It's the money, stupid.

Now, you've probably not heard about these provisions in the proposed law:

1) The proposal to remove the requirement for state employees to belong to a union. No longer would a state employee have to join a union upon getting a job with the state. They could join, but they wouldn't have to.

2) The proposal to eliminate automatic deductions from paychecks for union dues. In most government sectors with unions, the dues are deducted from the employee paycheck and forwarded directly to the union by the governmental entity. If the law passes, employees will have to pay the union directly - after they cash their paychecks.

3) The proposal to require an annual vote to maintain a union's certification with it members. The current members of the bargaining union would be able to decide yearly if they want the union to continue representing them.

In looking at all three of these proposals, they could have a dramatic effect on union coffers. Many people would choose to join a union, but a significant portion wouldn't. If you had to actually write a check to the union instead of letting your employer take it from you before you even see it, are you going to be more or less likely to pay - and then monitor how your money is being spent? And if you could vote - every year - on whether or not you wanted a union to represent you, imagine how responsive that union would have to be to continue to earn your support, especially when any number of other unions could vie for your attention. If they didn't do a good job, they'd lose you (and everyone else) as dues-paying members.

I believe the real reasons the unions are mobilizing so strongly isn't because of terms they could negotiate - like pension and health care contributions - but because their bottom line is at risk.

This isn't really about representing their members. If it really were about the 'all for one' approach, no union would accept layoffs for some in order to keep wage rates for the remaining. But that's something they do regularly - especially in the public sector. They willingly sacrifice the jobs of some of their members in order to maintain what we now know are unsustainable compensation levels for the remaining.

And when union members realize that the union which claims to be working on their behalf is really working on its own behalf, such laws as Wisconsin is proposing will be the least of their worries.

***Sidenote: According to this summary of the Governor's proposal, the collective bargaining proposals do NOT apply to all unions:

Makes various changes to limit collective bargaining for most public employees to wages. Total wage increases could not exceed a cap based on inflation unless approved by referendum. Contracts would be limited to one year and wages would be frozen until a new contract is settled. Collective bargaining units are required to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union. Employers would be prohibited from collecting union dues, and members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues. Changes would be effective upon expiration of existing contracts. Law enforcement, fire employees and state troopers and inspectors would be exempt from the changes. (emphasis added)

Quote of the Day - Ohio's budget mess

From my friend, Scott Allegrini, who is also the leader of the local tea party group, the Children of Liberty:

"In Ohio spending in 2000 was 19.243 billion it increased to 26.783 billion in 2009 that is a 39.1% increase. Ok well that is a lot of money to spend, but if income kept up it would be no problem right.

Ohio income tax receipts in 2000 was 15.617 billion and it increased to 17.093 billion in 2009 a 9.4% increase. Ok so with a decrease in the tax rate Ohio Tax receipts increase by almost 10%.

So the state increased spending by 39% but income increased by only 9.4%, you don’t have to be a economist to see the problem here

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Roundup: Obama's budget and the deficit

There's been a lot of media and blogger coverage of President Barack Obama's budget, which is anything but the 'limit' on spending that he's trying to spin it as, and the impact on the deficit in the short and long term.

So I thought you'd like to see these two excellent posts to add to your knowledge:

1) My friend Steve Eggleston, who blogs at No Runny Eggs, says there is no deficit reduction. He spent hours comparing the budget to the CBO's "Budget and Economic Outlook" released last month, which assumes revenues and mandatory spending increase (or decrease) according to existing laws up until on-schedule expirations, and that discretionary spending increases at the rate of inflation. He said, "As the old Hertz commercials went, there's "deficit reduction", and "'not exactly' deficit reduction", and this is "not exactly"."

I hope you'll read his analysis: Obama’s FY2012 budget – worse than doing nothing.

2) Keith Hennessey is a former Assistant to the U.S. President George Bush for Economic Policy and Director of the U.S. National Economic Council. He has a blog where he posts on economic policy, among other things. His most recent entry, The long term budget problem begins now, has a startling chart, based upon Obama's own budget numbers, that should have us gathering up pitchforks and marching on Washington. But true to his style, he doesn't just give you the data, he explains what it means.

Take the time to read both of these posts and educate yourself about what your 'representatives' are doing on your behalf (and to your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren!).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New laws and one that is a 'must'

I'm not really in favor of creating more laws - in fact, my general opinion on the subject is that many of the laws we have right now are redundant and should be repealed.

As an example, look at the push to ban texting while driving and use of cell phones in the car. Both of these situations are more readily addressed by a single law already on the books, known by many names in different areas, but in Ohio as "Operation in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property" (ORC 4511.20). We also have a 'failure to control' section that covers just about everything a driver could do. So you see my point.

But too many politicians - and the voting public - judge the performance of an elected official in office by how many new laws they pass. And there are a couple introduced recently that, while good, shouldn't have to be a law. You know - like citing the section of the Constitution which grants Congress the authority to pass a bill or the one that would require Congress to be subject to any law they pass.

Swept into office on a sea of discontent, Republicans in Congress are working on cutting the spending of our federal government - and rightly so. Of course, for every penny they want to cut, there are multiple groups getting a portion of that penny who are arming battle stations to retain their access to other people's money (OPM).

And this is where I believe we actually 'need' a new law. I want a law that prohibits any person, organization or recipient of government funds from lobbying or advocating on behalf of the funding they (or any other persons, organizations or recipients) receive. The law would include prohibiting these entities from hiring a lobbyist to advocate for such spending on their behalf. Ideally, this new law would apply at every level of government.

Just think about it - no crowds of people coming into city councils, state houses or congressional hearings telling how they'd all be dead if it weren't for OPM handed out by the politicians. No tearful stories to pull on the heartstrings, no parents pimping their children for dollars, no lobbyists taking up the limited time of politicians leaving them plenty of time to actually read the bills they're voting upon.

With this law on the books politicians would have to judge programs and spending based upon total actual outcomes - not just individual stories that may, or may not, be representative of all. They'd also have the ability to properly prioritize the limited dollars they have without being accused of being heartless or callous or uncaring because they didn't bow to the emotional pressure of people who just want OPM.

What got me thinking about this was the recent effort by National Public Radio (though they no longer refer to themselves as such, preferring their brand: NPR) to fight their proposed cut in funding, which, according to this article is less than 10% of their overall budget. It seems to me that if every person who wanted that particular line item of funding to continue just contributed to NPR, they wouldn't need government funding in the first place. Besides, if they're such a terrific asset, it really shouldn't be necessary for the government to fund them, as the market surely will.

But NPR and other such groups are going to spend hundreds of man-hours and untold amounts of money to continue feeding at the public trough - money that would be better applied supplanting the public funds they are losing.

People dependent upon the largess of government shouldn't get to demand even more.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Toledoans and changes to Ohio's collective bargaining law

Toledoans are going to Columbus to partake in the discussion of changes to Ohio's collective bargaining law - Senate Bill 5. I noticed a Facebook post from the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association that they have a bus going down tomorrow and I received this press release from the City of Toledo:

Deputy Mayor Herwat to testify before Ohio Senate regarding collective bargaining law

Toledo Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat will testify before the Ohio Senate Insurance, Commerce & Labor committee this afternoon regarding proposed changes to Ohio’s collective bargaining law.

Herwat will represent the Bell administration in advocating for changes to Ohio’s collective bargaining law that reflect our fiscal times. His testimony will not advocate for or against specific proposed changes in Senate Bill 5, but will outline the City of Toledo’s experience over the past year with collective bargaining in the face of scarce financial resources. He will encourage the Senate to consider and address those issues in the legislation as they affect local governments and taxpayers across Ohio.

The Senate Insurance, Commerce & Labor committee meets this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in the South Hearing Room at the Ohio Statehouse.

A PDF copy of Deputy Mayor Herwat’s proposed testimony is attached to this release.


His prepared statement can be viewed here.

Must see movie: The Cartel

For decades, people have been warning of a problem with our public schools. The general consensus has been that if we spend more money, we'll have better outcomes. But recent test scores, both nationally and internationally, show just the opposite has occurred - our scores are stagnant, not improving, and our standing in the world is declining. We must need even more money - right?

That is the premise the starts the educational expose, The Cartel, a movie that looks at the state of education in New Jersey, though the movie's director, Bob Bowdon, is quick to explain that other states have similar problems.

I saw a screening of the movie at RightOnLine in San Diego, sponsored by Americans for Prosperity who provided me with a travel scholarship to attend. With the emphasis we have on education in Toledo - and the massive budget deficits along with the stated need for 'transformational change,' I thought seeing the movie would provide me with a good idea of the overall problems within public education and maybe some ideas on how to address them locally. I was correct.

The movie starts with Bowden, who has been in the news business for the past 15 years, asking various parents if they think more money needs to be spent on education. Overwhelmingly, the response is yes. But then he tells them how much their school is spending per year per classroom - and the parents are dumbstruck. One asked how much of the nearly half a million dollars per year goes to the teacher and was shocked to learn it averaged only about 10%. Upon finding how much money each classroom was costing, all the parents wanted to know where the money was going - because they certainly weren't seeing it in their kid's class.

It's a question that is resonating across America. As Bowden details, in New Jersey, 90 cents of every dollar goes to someplace other than the teacher - so it's not the teachers, themselves, that are the problem. Children are the not the focus of schools anymore, he explains. It's money that is the focus - and the adults who get or control the money to the detriment of the kids they're supposed to be serving.

Bowden interviews a NJ history teacher who was the state's teacher of the year. She end up being fired because she questioned funding for positions she knew didn't exist. While she won her lawsuit over the firing, she explains that other teachers knew the same thing, but couldn't risk their jobs to be whistle blowers.

Then there is the example of the speech therapist who kept asking for more help because of an increasing workload. The administrator took a look at the workload and saw that, yes, it was increasing. But then he looked further to find that kids were placed in speech therapy, but were never leaving. He commissioned outside experts to examine every student in the therapy program and found that a significant majority had no issues requiring a speech therapist. But this was one way to game the system.

These kinds of examples abound throughout the movie.

Bowden says the biggest bully in the schools is the teachers union, especially when they place the value of their union over the value to the children. He isn't opposed to unions - but he is opposed to the role they're playing in the educational cartel while opposing programs, policies and ideas that would help kids.

He rightly questions why teachers unions would be opposed to merit pay. Without it, he says, great teachers don't get rewarded for their performance, mediocre teachers don't get the support they need or the incentive to do better and bad teachers dominate - the union, the schools and the attention of the public.

Bowden makes a clear distinction that I believe we should adopt locally: the difference between public funding of education versus public administration of education. Nearly all people agree that public education should exist and most people don't mind paying for it, though they will disagree on 'how much.' So the issue isn't the public funding - but there are numerous ways to publicly fund education - and not all of them require public administration of system.

But, as Bowden notes, the whole idea of vouchers is rejected by too many people. So let's stop calling them 'vouchers' and change the name (that's what liberals -oops, progressives - do all the time). Vouchers are, basically, scholarships. So when you ask people about vouchers, they have a negative impression, including all the myths that have been promoted about them. But when you ask people if they'd like a 'scholarship' for children, they almost universally love the idea.

Bowden looks at all the claims promoted by opponents of vouchers and destroys every one. I love that he points out the hypocrisy of these people by highlighting how they're all for 'vouchers' in the form of Section 8 Housing, Medicare, the GI Bill, Pell Grants - even Food Stamps. So why would education be any different?

This is a key point that all of us should remember to emphasize at every opportunity.

Rev. Reginald Jackson, president of the New Jersey Black Ministers’ Council, is featured at one point in the movie and he says this:

"Quality education should not be a privilege nor based upon zip code."

Simple, but true. But too many think vouchers and charter schools are a GOP plot to steal money from public education and feed it to white corporations. As one person in the movie explained, if that's true, then failing schools are a plan of evil Democrats who depend upon 'us' to maintain their status quo. "We've been pimping children for a very long time."

Some other questions we should be asking of those opposed to school choice are emphasized throughout the movie:

* Is a high drop-out rate a better alternative than 'letting' a child attend a school of their choice?

* Are bad schools the only choice because vouchers are 'evil'?

* If it's really 'for the children,' why trap a child in a school that's not meeting their needs?

* Since safety cannot be measured on a test, shouldn't children have an option other than a school rife with violence?

But the best analogy is the burning building. Bowden demolishes every argument against school choice by asking:

If you see a building on fire and 20 people inside, do you not save any of them just because you know you cannot save them all?

That is what we need to focus upon - saving as many children as possible from a failing education, even if we cannot save them all through school choice or scholarships for all.

The most touching part of the movie is watching a lottery drawing for school vouchers. We see the elation of two moms whose children got one of the limited spots available. We share their tears of joy that, as they say, their children now have a chance. And our hearts go out to the mom sitting with her crying daughter whose name has not yet been called, even though they are into drawing the list of alternates in case one of the winners doesn't follow through. Both mom and daughter know that their chances of attending a school of their choice are not going to happen.

This movie puts a human face on the problems and frustrations. As the movie's website states,

Together, these people and their stories offer an unforgettable look at how a widespread national crisis manifests itself in the educational failures and frustrations of individual communities. They also underscore what happens when our schools don't do their job. "These are real children whose lives are being destroyed," director Bob Bowdon explains.

But the movie doesn't just inform you, there are things you can do and I hope you'll take the time to sign up for updates and participate in the items listed on the website.

The movie is available through and costs just under $25 (shipping to Toledo included). I've ordered my copy and would be happy to loan it to you for your private viewing if you can't afford your own copy. I believe it's important to see. Below is the trailer:

There is also a public showing version of the film that I hope someone locally will be willing to sponsor (about $200). It would certainly complement "Waiting for Superman" and "Kids Aren't Cars" that have been or are going to be shown.

But if not, we can still share the lessons from this movie and start focusing on what 'transformational change' really means.

Blade bias - #9

It's been a while since I did a post about our local daily paper's obvious bias - but today's headline on the trash service story cries out for attention.

Yesterday, Toledo City Council held a committee meeting to discuss the administration proposal to transfer garbage collection to Lucas County. Council had previously approved the county issuing a Request For Proposal (RFP) to see what kind on interest there might be for contracting out the collection of garbage. The Commissioners approved that RFP last week.

Today's headline about the committee meeting reads:

Councilmen drag heels on trash decision

When you read the article, you find that members of council had some serious questions about the plan and the claimed 'savings.'

In fact, I talked about one of the concerns last week when I filled in on WSPD for Brian Wilson, so I'm glad someone was listening and is now raising the question. The RFP calls for the 'option' of buying the city's newly purchased automated trucks for $7 million. But we paid $12.2 million for them about a year ago. The $7 million isn't enough to cover our debt on the trucks - and it's only an option for the bidder to consider. If the bidder doesn't want to purchase the trucks, they don't have to - which means that we'll still be paying for them despite the fact that they won't be in use.

I also took a look at the budget numbers that don't add up in this post from earlier today.

Then there are the questions members of council raised about the obligation to cover the refuse department employee pensions (for forever, it seems) as well as the costs the city will still have to pay to actually dump the garbage in a landfill.

These are serious concerns and getting clear answers to the questions is part of the duty of the members of council. They aren't 'dragging their heels' - they are, in this case, being responsible representatives.

The headline is clearly the opinion of the headline writer. There is no quote in the article that might have supported the opinion as a claim and only the mention of the administration's arbitrary deadline to support the erroneous conclusion.

The headline could have easily read, 'Council considers costs, savings of trash plan' or even partial use of the sub-headline, 'Council raises questions on trash decision.' Either of these would have been both accurate and truthful without expressing an opinion in the news section.

Now, if this had been a headline for an editorial, it would have been perfect, as it expresses the opinion of the editorial board. But since this was the news section, it deserves to be #9 in the ever-growing list of bias examples at The Blade.

City's trash numbers don't add up

Toledo City Council held a committee meeting yesterday to discuss 'turning over' the city's trash pickup to Lucas County. Dave Welsh, the director of public service, gave the committee information about the income and expenses of the service. According to today's paper (link), here is the report:

Dave Welch, the city's director of public service, said the trash operation costs Toledo $16.5 million annually. A monthly $8.50 trash fee generates about $9 million toward that cost. The rest is paid for with income taxes collected by the city.

"If you want to make this a true enterprise fund that pays for itself, you would have to raise that monthly fee [to] $17.25," Mr. Welch said.

But the city's own budget figures show something else completely. This is the line item for Refuse Fee revenue from the 2011 proposed operating budget:

2008: $ 4,966,035.04
2009: $ 4,700,000.00
2010: $ 13,124,736.84 (budgeted)
2011: $ 8,928,000.00 (proposed)

In addition, there is a line item for Refuse Disposal income:

2008: $ 368,279.39
2009: $ 350,000.00
2010: $ 375,396.80 (budgeted)
2011: $ 651,000.00 (proposed

So if the trash fee only generates $9 million a year, why did the city collect $13 million last year in fees and another $375,400 for individual disposal? If he was referring only to the 2011 proposed/projected collections and only for the garbage tax itself, his statement is understandable. But it's not a complete picture.

Then he says that the trash operation costs the city $16.5 million annually. However, the budget shows the following for expenses:

2008: $ 11,603,270.67
2009: $ 10,192,454.93
2010: $ 7,714,761.53 (budgeted - though it was originally $7,211,259.06)
2011: $ 5,438,208.36 (proposed)

This is a far cry from $16 million.

Is it possible that there are other costs not described in the budget as 'refuse'? I suppose, but when a citizen looks at the budget and adds up anything with 'refuse' or 'waste' in the line item description, they don't total $16 million.

The Bell administration is to be commended for reducing the refuse collection expenses. The cost in 2010 was a 24% decrease from 2009, even though the city did forget to budget additional costs for fuel for having to go up and down each street twice with the automated trucks.

But when council is told the expenses are $16 million, despite the budget showing it's not been anywhere near that amount for at least the last 3 years, questions should be asked.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Quote of the Day - Education

"It constantly amazes me that defenders of the free market are expected to offer certainty and perfection while government has only to make promises and express good intentions. Many times, for instance, I’ve heard people say, 'A free market in education is a bad idea because some child somewhere might fall through the cracks,' even though in today's government school, millions of children are falling through the cracks every day." ~ Dr. Lawrence W. Reed, President of the Foundation for Economic Education

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy Birthday Abraham Lincoln

Today is President Abraham Lincoln's birthday. In honor of his birth, here is a great article from The Heritage Foundation discussing whether or not he was the father of big government:

On February 12, America will celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s 202nd birthday, but will conservatives celebrate his legacy? Lincoln is a pivotal figure in American history, yet some conservatives are wary of him. Lincoln, the Left proclaims and the Right fears, is the father of big government.

Conservatives shouldn’t be fooled. If big government means a permanently large and growing federal budget and a vast civil service (see William Voegeli’s Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State), then Lincoln may deny paternity for both. As Allen Guelzo explains, while the federal budget indeed ballooned to meet the cost of the Civil War (from $63.2 million in 1860 to $1.29 billion in 1865), it shrank once the war ended (back to $293 million by 1870). “If Lincoln had plans to create ‘big government,’” Guelzo concludes, “none of his successors seems to have known what they were.” Similarly, while the federal government employed more people during the war, the number shrank once the war ended.

In reality, big government is a Progressive invention, designed by Progressive thinkers such as Herbert Croly and John Dewey and perpetrated by Progressive presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. These men embraced big government, because they held certain principles opposed to the limited government framework set forth in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

By contrast, Lincoln held a different set of premises. He defended the Constitution and “never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence.” To understand Lincoln, therefore, we must turn to the documents he held so dear.

Read the entire article here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Quote of the Day - Protection by regulation is illusory

I thought this was an interesting quote considering how President Barack Obama has lately been telling various groups how government regulation leads to innovation and growth when, in fact, regulation hampers the economic growth he seeks.

Additionally, as Investors Business Daily points out, we have "regulation without representation." As the article explains:
* Regulatory agencies enact more than 3,500 new regulations in an average year.
* A new federal rule hits the books roughly every two hours, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
* Regulation without representation is a major reason why the Code of Federal Regulations has ballooned to 157,000 pages and counting, making it far more difficult to do business and slowing economic recovery.
* The total cost of federal regulations last year was over $1.75 trillion.
* Every year, about 200 major rules hit the books -- these are defined as regulations that cost more than $100 million per year.
* In 2010, there were 224 major rules at various stages at the agencies.

Taken together, they cost businesses and consumers a bare minimum of $22.4 billion.

Considering all this, do you think the quote is correct?

"Regulation -- which is based on force and fear -- undermines the moral base of business dealings. It becomes cheaper to bribe a building inspector than to meet his standards of construction. A fly-by-night securities operator can quickly meet all the S.E.C. requirements, gain the inference of respectability, and proceed to fleece the public. In an unregulated economy, the operator would have had to spend a number of years in reputable dealings before he could earn a position of trust sufficient to induce a number of investors to place funds with him. Protection of the consumer by regulation is thus illusory." ~ Alan Greenspan

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Congressional pay cut?

Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA9) has introduced H.R. 335 "To provide for a 10 percent reduction in pay for Members of Congress."

The bill was introduced in January and referred to the Committee on House Administration and the Commitee on Oversight and Government Reform.

This is a no-brainer for every member of Congress. Republicans who want to cut government spending should be signing up by the droves. Democrats who always complain that more money is needed for all kinds of various programs and spending can lead by example by doing what they're always telling us to do - give their own funds to advance the needs of the "underserved" and "less fortunate."

Sadly, though, this bill currently has no co-sponsors. Not one!

Members of Congress: put your money where your mouth is!

Here is the text of the bill:
To provide for a 10 percent reduction in pay for Members of Congress.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


(a) Reduction- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the annual rate of pay for each Member of Congress shall be as follows:
(1) For pay periods during the period beginning October 1, 2011, and ending December 31, 2012, the applicable rate in effect as of the date of the enactment of this Act.
(2) For pay periods occurring during 2013, the applicable rate during the period described in paragraph (1) reduced by 10 percent, rounded to the nearest multiple of $100 (or, if midway between multiples of $100, to the next higher multiple of $100).
(3) For subsequent pay periods, the applicable rate during 2013, subject to adjustment under paragraph (2) of section 601(a) of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 (2 U.S.C. 31(2)).

(b) Member of Congress Defined- For purposes of this Act, the term `Member of Congress' means an individual serving in a position under subparagraph (A), (B), or (C) of section 601(a) of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 (2 U.S.C. 31).

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Countries with merit pay score highest on international tests

Press Release from Education Next News:


Countries with Merit Pay Score Highest on International Tests

Significantly better student achievement seen in countries that make use of teacher performance pay

CAMBRIDGE, MA – A new study finds that student achievement is significantly higher in countries that make use of teacher performance pay than in countries that do not use it. Students in countries with performance-related pay score 25 percent of a standard deviation higher on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests in math; 24 percent higher in reading; and 15 percent higher in science. Since one-quarter of a standard deviation is roughly a year’s worth of learning, the study’s author suggests that “by the age of 15, students taught under a policy regime that includes a performance pay plan will learn an additional year of math and reading and over a half a year more in science.”

Ludger Woessmann, a professor of economics at the University of Munich, conducted the study for Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance. A research article presenting the study’s findings will appear in the Spring 2011 issue of Education Next and is currently available on the web at

The author analyzed a survey conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which identified the developed countries participating in PISA that reported having some type of performance pay plan for teachers. The OECD survey reported on performance pay policies in place at a time corresponding to the administration of the PISA tests in 2003, which made the study’s comparative data analysis possible. Using this information, the author examined PISA test scores of 27 countries, 12 of which indicated that they had performance pay and 15 of which did not.

The findings of higher math, reading, and science performance (noted above) among the countries that use performance pay were obtained after adjustments for levels of economic development across countries, student and school background characteristics, and features of national school systems. A series of sensitivity tests, such as restricting the analysis to variation within continents only, support the results.

The author points out that according to the results of the 2009 PISA tests, released in December 2010 by the OECD, “The United States performed only at the international average in reading, and trailed 18 and 23 other countries in science and math, respectively” while students in China’s Shanghai province “outscored everyone.” He also notes that in terms of relative performance, “in no subject did the scores for the United States differ significantly” between the 2003 and 2009 PISA test administrations.

About the Author
Ludger Woessmann is professor of economics at the University of Munich and heads the Human Capital and Innovation department at the Ifo Institute for Economic Research.

About Education Next:
Education Next is a scholarly journal published by the Hoover Institution that is committed to looking at hard facts about school reform. Other sponsoring institutions are the Harvard Program on Education Policy of Governance, part of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.

For more information please visit:


Monday, February 07, 2011

Mayor Bell to sign MOU on Marina District with Chinese investors

Dashing Pacific Group is now interested in the Marina District as well as the Docks.

Press release from the City of Toledo:

Bell to sign memorandum with investors interested in Marina District

Toledo Mayor Michael P. Bell expects to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Tuesday before City Council's economic development committee hearing with investors interested in the Marina District. The MOU is not a solid offer for purchase, but indicates that Dashing Pacific Group is interested in purchasing and developing the riverfront district pending the successful purchase of The Docks restaurant complex.

Dashing Pacific Group made an offer to purchase The Docks in January of this year and Council will contemplate the proposal at their hearing beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning, February 8th. The administration has asked for a vote on the sale at the full meeting of council on Tuesday afternoon.

Mayor Bell will be available for comments following Tuesday's hearing.


Reminder: filling in on WSPD

I'll be filling in for Brian Wilson on Wednesday from 3-6 p.m. on the Talk of Toledo, 1370 WSPD. Hope you'll join me!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Happy Birthday Ronald Reagan

Today would have been President Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday. In honor of this great man, here are some quotes of the day, though I fear they remind us just how far we've gone away from the principles that made our nation great:

"It is not my intention to do away with government. It is, rather, to make it work -- work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it. It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government. ...

We are a nation under God, and I believe God intended for us to be free. It would be fitting and good, I think, if on each Inauguration Day in future years it should be declared a day of prayer
." ~ First Inaugural Address, 1981

"Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.

And these excerpts, which are even more relevant today - from his speech "A Time for Choosing," in support of nominating Barry Goldwater for President at the 1964 Republican Convention:

"No nation in history has ever survived a tax burden that reached a third of its national income. Today, 37 cents out of every dollar earned in this country is the tax collector's share, and yet our government continues to spend 17 million dollars a day more than the government takes in. We haven't balanced our budget 28 out of the last 34 years. We've raised our debt limit three times in the last twelve months, and now our national debt is one and a half times bigger than all the combined debts of all the nations of the world. We have 15 billion dollars in gold in our treasury; we don't own an ounce. Foreign dollar claims are 27.3 billion dollars. And we've just had announced that the dollar of 1939 will now purchase 45 cents in its total value. ...

We're at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind in his long climb from the swamp to the stars, and it's been said if we lose that war, and in so doing lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening. Well I think it's time we ask ourselves if we still know the freedoms that were intended for us by the Founding Fathers.

Not too long ago, two friends of mine were talking to a Cuban refugee, a businessman who had escaped from Castro, and in the midst of his story one of my friends turned to the other and said, "We don't know how lucky we are." And the Cuban stopped and said, "How lucky you are? I had someplace to escape to." And in that sentence he told us the entire story. If we lose freedom here, there's no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth. ...

This is the issue of this election: whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well I'd like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There's only an up or down: [up] man's old -- old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. And regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for security have embarked on this downward course. ...

Senator Fulbright has said at Stanford University that the Constitution is outmoded. He referred to the President as "our moral teacher and our leader," and he says he is "hobbled in his task by the restrictions of power imposed on him by this antiquated document." He must "be freed," so that he "can do for us" what he knows "is best." And Senator Clark of Pennsylvania, another articulate spokesman, defines liberalism as "meeting the material needs of the masses through the full power of centralized government."

Well, I, for one, resent it when a representative of the people refers to you and me, the free men and women of this country, as "the masses." This is a term we haven't applied to ourselves in America. But beyond that, "the full power of centralized government" -- this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew that governments don't control things. A government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy. ...

Private property rights [are] so diluted that public interest is almost anything a few government planners decide it should be. In a program that takes from the needy and gives to the greedy, we see such spectacles as in Cleveland, Ohio, a million-and-a-half-dollar building completed only three years ago must be destroyed to make way for what government officials call a "more compatible use of the land." The President tells us he's now going to start building public housing units in the thousands, where heretofore we've only built them in the hundreds. But FHA [Federal Housing Authority] and the Veterans Administration tell us they have 120,000 housing units they've taken back through mortgage foreclosure. For three decades, we've sought to solve the problems of unemployment through government planning, and the more the plans fail, the more the planners plan. ...

We have so many people who can't see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one. So they're going to solve all the problems of human misery through government and government planning. Well, now, if government planning and welfare had the answer -- and they've had almost 30 years of it -- shouldn't we expect government to read the score to us once in a while? Shouldn't they be telling us about the decline each year in the number of people needing help? The reduction in the need for public housing?

But the reverse is true. Each year the need grows greater; the program grows greater.

Now -- we're for a provision that destitution should not follow unemployment by reason of old age, and to that end we've accepted Social Security as a step toward meeting the problem.

But we're against those entrusted with this program when they practice deception regarding its fiscal shortcomings, when they charge that any criticism of the program means that we want to end payments to those people who depend on them for a livelihood. They've called it "insurance" to us in a hundred million pieces of literature. But then they appeared before the Supreme Court and they testified it was a welfare program. They only use the term "insurance" to sell it to the people. And they said Social Security dues are a tax for the general use of the government, and the government has used that tax. There is no fund, because Robert Byers, the actuarial head, appeared before a congressional committee and admitted that Social Security as of this moment is 298 billion dollars in the hole. But he said there should be no cause for worry because as long as they have the power to tax, they could always take away from the people whatever they needed to bail them out of trouble. And they're doing just that.

A young man, 21 years of age, working at an average salary -- his Social Security contribution would, in the open market, buy him an insurance policy that would guarantee 220 dollars a month at age 65. The government promises 127. He could live it up until he's 31 and then take out a policy that would pay more than Social Security. Now are we so lacking in business sense that we can't put this program on a sound basis, so that people who do require those payments will find they can get them when they're due -- that the cupboard isn't bare?

Barry Goldwater thinks we can.

At the same time, can't we introduce voluntary features that would permit a citizen who can do better on his own to be excused upon presentation of evidence that he had made provision for the non-earning years? Should we not allow a widow with children to work, and not lose the benefits supposedly paid for by her deceased husband? Shouldn't you and I be allowed to declare who our beneficiaries will be under this program, which we cannot do? I think we're for telling our senior citizens that no one in this country should be denied medical care because of a lack of funds. But I think we're against forcing all citizens, regardless of need, into a compulsory government program, especially when we have such examples, as was announced last week, when France admitted that their Medicare program is now bankrupt. They've come to the end of the road. ...

No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. So, governments' programs, once launched, never disappear.

Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth.

Federal employees -- federal employees number two and a half million; and federal, state, and local, one out of six of the nation's work force employed by government. These proliferating bureaus with their thousands of regulations have cost us many of our constitutional safeguards. How many of us realize that today federal agents can invade a man's property without a warrant? They can impose a fine without a formal hearing, let alone a trial by jury? And they can seize and sell his property at auction to enforce the payment of that fine....

Last February 19th at the University of Minnesota, Norman Thomas, six-times candidate for President on the Socialist Party ticket, said, "If Barry Goldwater became President, he would stop the advance of socialism in the United States." I think that's exactly what he will do.

But as a former Democrat, I can tell you Norman Thomas isn't the only man who has drawn this parallel to socialism with the present administration, because back in 1936, Mr. Democrat himself, Al Smith, the great American, came before the American people and charged that the leadership of his Party was taking the Party of Jefferson, Jackson, and Cleveland down the road under the banners of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin. And he walked away from his Party, and he never returned til the day he died -- because to this day, the leadership of that Party has been taking that Party, that honorable Party, down the road in the image of the labor Socialist Party of England.

Now it doesn't require expropriation or confiscation of private property or business to impose socialism on a people. What does it mean whether you hold the deed to the -- or the title to your business or property if the government holds the power of life and death over that business or property? And such machinery already exists. The government can find some charge to bring against any concern it chooses to prosecute. Every businessman has his own tale of harassment. Somewhere a perversion has taken place. Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment. ...

Those who would trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state have told us they have a utopian solution of peace without victory. They call their policy "accommodation." And they say if we'll only avoid any direct confrontation with the enemy, he'll forget his evil ways and learn to love us. All who oppose them are indicted as warmongers. They say we offer simple answers to complex problems. Well, perhaps there is a simple answer -- not an easy answer -- but simple: If you and I have the courage to tell our elected officials that we want our national policy based on what we know in our hearts is morally right.

We cannot buy our security, our freedom from the threat of the bomb by committing an immorality so great as saying to a billion human beings now enslaved behind the Iron Curtain, "Give up your dreams of freedom because to save our own skins, we're willing to make a deal with your slave masters." Alexander Hamilton said, "A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one." Now let's set the record straight. There's no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there's only one guaranteed way you can have peace -- and you can have it in the next second -- surrender.

Admittedly, there's a risk in any course we follow other than this, but every lesson of history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face -- that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight or surrender. If we continue to accommodate, continue to back and retreat, eventually we have to face the final demand -- the ultimatum. And what then -- when Nikita Khrushchev has told his people he knows what our answer will be? He has told them that we're retreating under the pressure of the Cold War, and someday when the time comes to deliver the final ultimatum, our surrender will be voluntary, because by that time we will have been weakened from within spiritually, morally, and economically. He believes this because from our side he's heard voices pleading for "peace at any price" or "better Red than dead," or as one commentator put it, he'd rather "live on his knees than die on his feet." And therein lies the road to war, because those voices don't speak for the rest of us.

You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin -- just in the face of this enemy? Or should Moses have told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should the patriots at Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns and refused to fire the shot heard 'round the world? The martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn't die in vain. Where, then, is the road to peace? Well it's a simple answer after all.

You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, "There is a price we will not pay." "There is a point beyond which they must not advance." And this -- this is the meaning in the phrase of Barry Goldwater's "peace through strength." ...

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny.

We'll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we'll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness

Friday, February 04, 2011

The slippery slope - subsidies to buy fruits, veggies

It should come as no surprise that subsidies are 'naturally' going to follow the new dietary guidelines from the government. What could be more 'natural' than government subsidies?!?

You see, the federal government has again revised the listing of what is good for us and what isn't (per order from Congress) and because we're so stupid as to not obey them (because we're busy making our own choices and living with the consequences), they're going to try to bribe us into doing what they want.

From CNSNews:

"At an event on Monday to unveil the federal government’s new dietary guidelines for Americans, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that subsidies may be used to encourage people on government assistance to eat more fruits and vegetables. asked the secretaries to explain what was meant by Vilsack’s remarks about incentives to encourage the consumption of more fruits and vegetables.

Vilsack said that a pilot program is in place in Massachusetts to allow participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – or SNAP – to get a discount for buying fruits and vegetables.

“The grocer basically gets paid full value for the fruit or vegetable that’s being purchased but it’s only credited say 70 or 80 percent on the card,” Vilsack said at the event, held at George Washington University."

Oh - so only if you're already getting handouts do you get even more. The rest of us, who are paying taxes so you can eat for free - we get nothing, except a higher bill.

The guidelines, which are required by Congress and are updated, as needed, every five years, also set a 300 milligram limit of cholesterol and encourage people to eat more chicken and fish and to avoid beef, which is defined as a “solid fat.”

Wonder what the beef industry will say to that? I also wonder if beef farmers are getting subsidies - or if they'll need them now that people are going to be reducing the amount of beef they eat?

What a tangled web of rules, regulations and government intrusion!

Here's the problem with subsidizing fruits and vegetables under the SNAP program: it's the equivalent of just giving them more money. There are guidelines and formulas in place for people on food stamps that bases the amount of assistance on earnings, number of people in the family, etc. By making them 'pay' less (because *they* don't really pay), you're giving them more money to spend. Where is the additional money coming from when it's clear our government is already broke? Nothing is really 'free' - we all know this fact. So who is paying for this 'subsidy'?

And then there is the sheer unfairness of it all. Liberals are so focused on fairness, though today it takes the form of the term 'justice.' They are constantly trying to attain equality of outcomes rather than equality of opportunity. So in looking at this latest plan, why should dependents of the government get a product for less than what the rest of us have to pay? Why should they, alone, be subsidized simply because they've either fallen on hard times or are part of the growing class of people who are generationally dependent upon the government for sustenance?

If it's good for them, isn't it good for all of us? Or perhaps that's the plan - for the government to take over the purchasing and distribution of things that are 'good for us' so we no longer have to worry about making such decisions, especially because we don't do what the politicians and bureaucrats want us to do in the first place.

Then there is the condescending nature of the whole idea - that people who are on food stamps don't make good decisions and they only way to 'force' them to make good decisions is to pay them to do so.

Two thoughts come to mind. One is that fresh fruit and veggies are cheaper than junk food, so they shouldn't need to be subsidized; and the other is that I would be *offended* if the government tried to bribe me into making food selections that they have approved.

Why don't people on food stamps have these same thoughts? Maybe some do, but if you've got people who, for generations, have used food stamps for their groceries, they've been conditioned to not be as accountable as others because they're using *other people's money.* They don't make good decisions because the government always bails them out and fails to allow them to suffer the consequences - instead rewarding them with more money or help or assistance. So of course they don't make good decisions - they've never learned how.

Despite that being the case, you'd think they'd have a bit of independence and reject the bribery designed to force them to change their habits. But then again, perhaps not. As I said earlier - maybe they'll just use the money they save for buying more junk food.

The losers in all of this are you and me. We'll pay full price while also paying for SNAP recipients to not have to. And the politicians will use all of it as a reason we should keep electing them.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Sarantou statement on dropping election case

Press Release:

Sarantou Issues Statement on Decision to Stop Contest-of-Election

(Toledo, OH) --- George Sarantou, longtime Toledo City Councilman and candidate for Lucas County Commissioner in 2010, issued the following statement today after dismissing his Contest-of-Election challenge in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

"Today I made the difficult but correct decision to stop my challenge to the Lucas County Commissioner election. I did so because I believe it is the right thing to do for the community and myself.

On election night, the Board of Elections announced that I led by 1376 votes. Three weeks later, after counting the provisional ballots from the election, the Board reversed those results and announced that Carol Contrada won the election by the thin margin of 193 votes.

Since that time, I have wanted to understand what happened, because the candidates, and more importantly the voters and the entire community, have the right to know how elections are handled and to be certain that the results are accurate and reliable. I asked the Board of Elections then to permit my representatives to review the provisional-ballot envelopes but was told they would not be made available. I tried other methods to find out what happened and to ensure that the provisional ballots were handled correctly, but the Board of Elections was steadfast in refusing my requests. After waiting to the last possible day, in the hope that the Board would change its mind, I filed my election contest. I said at the time, and it remains true, that I did so only because I wanted a fair and impartial review of the election, which the entire community deserves.

Even then, I had to fight the Board to gain access to the envelopes. Eventually, Judge Stacy Cook ruled that my team could see them, and we spent hundreds of hours reviewing them. We finished that work early this morning.

I have accomplished what I set out to from the beginning. I have been permitted to review the ballots. They show what I suspected --- The Board counted many ballots that should not have been counted and, in addition, there are hundreds of envelopes that did not comply with the law. We have reviewed all of the provisional envelopes, it is apparent that the system needs to be improved to ensure that provisional balloting does not undermine the integrity and reliability of our elections.

I believe in my heart that I won this election. But given the law on the subject, the only way I could show that in court would be to call individual voters to ask them how they voted, and I respect the rights of voters to vote privately, which is a hallmark of our democracy.

If I didn't choose that path, all I would accomplish by going forward would be to have the election vacated. In that event, Ms. Contrada would have been appointed County Commissioner by the Lucas County Democratic Party, because the law does not permit the Judge to order a new election.

While I think the public is entitled to know about its elections, I do not want to drag the community through a trial and contribute to the cynicism of the public about the political process, only to have that hollow result.

As I weighed my options, I concluded that the best thing for the community and me was to stop the contest.

I wish Carol Contrada the best in her role as County Commissioner, and I thank all of those who have supported me through this important process."


Quote of the Day - it's all up to us

"What is to be the consequence, in case the Congress shall misconstrue this part [the necessary and proper clause] of the Constitution and exercise powers not warranted by its true meaning, I answer the same as if they should misconstrue or enlarge any other power vested in them...the success of the usurpation will depend on the executive and judiciary departments, which are to expound and give effect to the legislative acts; and in a last resort a remedy must be obtained from the people, who can by the elections of more faithful representatives, annul the acts of the usurpers." ~ James Madison, Federalist No. 44

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

All hail government dietary guidelines!

What Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in this CNSNews article is so alarming on so many levels I'm not sure where to begin.

Let's start with the premise: I wouldn't be healthy if it weren't for the government telling me what to do.

As if no one in the world would be healthy or know how to eat in a manner that contributes, rather than detracts, from health if there weren't dietary guidelines coming from an all-knowing, all-power nanny state!

On Monday, he and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius 'unveiled' new dietary guidelines. Here's what he had to say at George Washington University:

“I must admit personally, I had never read the dietary guidelines until I got this job. But I read them in detail. I read all of them and I realized how significantly different my eating habits were from what constituted a healthy pattern. So personally, my life has changed by virtue of these dietary guidelines.”

He could have just as easily - and more honestly - said: "I never read them because they had absolutely no bearing on my life until I got hired to promote them."

These guidelines have been published since 1980.

Oh my! Whatever did we do prior to then???

I was 16 in 1980 and I knew, even then, what constituted healthy eating and what I should and should not put into my mouth. And prior to 1980, we certainly had a vast majority of Americans who knew the same thing. In fact, I'd wager that today most people know what is good for them and what isn't in terms of sustenance. And I'd further wager that nearly all of them don't even know that the government tells us what we *should* eat.

Just recently, I decided to do what Vilsack and his wife are doing - keep track of what I eat. I didn't need a government to help me find out how many calories are in the food I chosen - I just did a simple Google search, found several websites that contain searchable lists and then I bookmarked the one I liked. Every now and then, there's an item they don't list, so I just Google that item and I can usually find multiple sources of the calories in less than two seconds.

And how might people who don't have computers in their homes do the same thing? Well, they can go down to their local tax-payer funded library and either use the free computer there or get a free card and check out a book (for free) that will tell them the same thing.

The government's *guidelines* are a duplication of what already exists and the only reason to follow their instructions rather than any others is because, obviously, the bureaucrats who suck up our tax dollars to tell us these things know so much more than doctors and dietitians and nutritionists. After all - if you can't trust your government, who can you trust?

But the story gets even scarier. Read this portion of the article and pay attention to the mindset:

HHS Secretary Sebelius said if Americans make unhealthy choices, it hurts the country’s prosperity.

“You can’t be educated if you’re sick each and every day; you’re not a good student,” she said.

“You won’t be as productive or as innovative as a working member of this society if your health condition is debilitating so this has a tremendous cost overall on America’s prosperity.”

She later added that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is helping design safer neighborhoods to increase access to healthier foods.

“When you have to walk two miles in some neighborhoods to get fresh produce at the near super market but only a block away it’s easy to get chips or other kinds of high calorie foods, that makes it very difficult to eat nutritious meals,” she said.

“When it’s not safe to play outside or send your children outside, it’s very tough for kids to get the exercise they need so again the Recovery Act is helping neighborhoods and cities invest in ways to make it easier for people to make healthier choices from serving healthier school lunches to designing more walkable neighborhoods."

See? If you don't do as the government orders, the 'nation' is at risk.

Really? If I don't do what I need to do to keep myself healthy, that has no impact on anyone other than myself and, maybe my family if they rely upon my health for their own. The only way my individual health impacts the nation is if someone else has to care for me, either by providing me a house and food if I cannot, or by providing any medical treatment that may be necessary as a result of my choices. The solution to this dilemma of others paying for my bad choices is NOT to begin to control those choices for me, but to eliminate the obligation for others to pay. Simple - but that certainly does not take us down the path of bigger, more powerful government that knows best and wants to control my life.

But look at the logic: you can't be a good student and get an education if you're sick. That's such a crock of lies I don't know where to begin as most children these days aren't getting a good education regardless. Just take a look at any of the indicators and you'll see a majority of students (in urban public schools, at least) are in schools that are failing them - and it has nothing whatsoever to do with a 'sick' child. Besides, the same government using this lie spends billions every year to feed kids in schools - assuming a parental responsibility that engenders a mentality of slavery, with children growing up dependent upon the government for their needs.

Then there is the communistic-like reference to not being a good 'working member of society' if you aren't healthy - as if your only purpose in being is the betterment of society and not your own personal goals or freedom.

I'm reminded so strongly of the communist propaganda:

Young builders of Communism, go forth toward the new heights (achievements) in education and labour.

Value the Bread!

Alcohol - the enemy of the production!

"Cultivate vegetables!"

"Come comrade, join us in the collective farm!"

Civilized life - productive work

What's next? A Ministry of Plenty (Miniplenty) to properly dispense what we should be eating?

But that's not all - government's failed stimulus, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is our saving grace. Why, if it weren't for ARRA and the benevolent government politicians you might have to walk two miles to a grocery store! Never mind the fact that walking two miles is good for you and is something you should do on regular basis anyway, especially if a more healthier you is a goal.

No, according to Sec. Sebelius, you're just too darn stupid and lazy and would rather buy junk food at the local carryout.

So that's why these new guidelines are so important. Now that they've been issued all these stupid, lazy people she's referring to will actually eat better! Besides, with all that ARRA stimulus money, you stupid, lazy, unhealthy people will now have walkable neighborhoods and healthy food choices on every corner!

Yeah, right!

Do you think she's ever paid attention to all the anecdotal (and documented) stories of people on food stamps - sorry, it's called SNAP now because that's less stigmatizing - who buy chips and pop and ice cream and ignore fruits and vegetables? If she were to actually gather the information about what people were buying with 'other people's money' would she realize that she's fighting a losing battle and the only way to actually accomplish the goal would be to completely take over and just provide the meals she approves of to everyone in the country?

Perhaps that's the next step, especially with Obamacare leading to the anti-logic that now that the government is paying for your medical treatment it can dictate your behavior to ensure health.

We're already on the slippery slope, as I've previously written:

These people who seek to control us know that they really can't control our eating or our choices. So, in the plan detailed in the article, they're going to control the products we purchase by regulating what food manufacturers can and cannot do within the free market.

I know how I'll respond: I won't purchase those products. And if all product choices have new regulations that cut out something I like, I'll just add it after the fact.

I am not a child whose eating habits need to be regulated by people who think they know better than me. I have a doctor whose opinion I trust infinitely more than some bureaucrat in Washington - or some epidemiologist who gets appointed to serve on some panel.

I am a free individual - or so I thought - who is responsible for myself and willing to abide by the consequences if I choose to eat salt - or any other product some do-gooders think I should avoid.

And this sentiment of freedom - liberty to live a life of one's own choosing - is what led our founders to establish this great nation. I cannot help but believe they would be appalled at what we have become.

Can you imagine how much it cost to do these stupid, one-size-fits all-ignore-the-individual-health-conditions-of-a-person guidelines? How many millions are spent for the government to duplicate what is already available for free simply by looking? And what were our representatives in Congress thinking when they passed the law that requires these to be done???

And the absolutely worst part of the whole thing is that the *guidelines* are wrong! Or rather - they've changed so dramatically over time that following them could be worse than not. According to this history of the food pyramid, the first USDA guide, issued in 1917, emphasized five groups:

1.milk and meat
3.vegetables and fruit
4.fats and fatty foods
5.sugars and sugary foods.

In 1946, it was seven groups:

1.Milk and milk products
2.Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, peas and nuts
3.Bread, flour and cereals
4.Leafy green and yellow vegetables
5.Potatoes and sweet potatoes
6.Citrus, tomato, cabbage, salad greens
7.Butter, fortified margarine

By 1956, it down to four basic groups:

3.Fruits and vegetables
4.Grain products

In 1977, it was recommended "that all Americans reduce their fat, saturated fat and cholesterol consumption, and increase their carbohydrate consumption to 55-60% of daily calories." By the 1990s, carbs were out and, today, more fish and fruit are the focus.

Granted, all this is based upon new knowledge and science, but since when has the government ever been able to keep up with what's going on in the free market or been on the cutting edge? As I wrote earlier, the more accurate and timely information is readily available and it doesn't require a bureaucrat to dispense.

What a utter waste - at a time when the nation is broke. And what a complete disregard for the limited powers our Constitution dictates for the federal government.
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