Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

Today is the last day of 2012 and tomorrow starts a new year.

When we're young, a year seems to last forever and it's true that they pass faster as you get older. It's a weird quirk of nature, defying all laws about time, I suppose - which makes me wonder if a sci-fi story has ever been written with such a premise...

2012 wasn't the best of years, but it wasn't the worst, either. We've all said goodbye to people we know and loved (in one way or another), but welcomed new friends into our lives - not to replace those lost, but grateful that they help fill the void.

We've all had many happy times, though we could always use more. And the sad times helped us each learn to be stronger in the long run. There were bad times for us as well, but we should be grateful to them for helping us learn valuable lessons, though we certainly wish they weren't lessons that had to be learned the hard way.

Despite wishing we'd rather not have experienced the bad and sad times, they make us who we are, shaping our decisions and thinking and making up the pieces of what we call living.

So raise a glass to the passing year and welcome in 2013 and may the best days of this past year be the worst days of the next.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

"Tax cuts for the rich" hypocrisy

I was in elective office in 2001 when the Bush tax cuts were first proposed and then passed, so I was regularly involved in discussions about them. Opponents described them as 'tax cuts for the rich' as if only the so-called 'rich' were going to benefit.

That the cuts were across the board, applying to all income levels, was conveniently forgotten and ignored by the media and those on the left who didn't want any tax cuts at all.

Then along came 2003 when the cuts came up for revision/renewal. Again the Democrats demonized them as only 'for the rich' and the media went happily along with the distortion.

Looking back now - and even at the time - it was plainly evident that the Republicans clearly lost the PR battle, since nearly everyone still thinks the tax cuts were just 'for the rich.'

They then became an issue in the 2004 presidential campaign. Being a county commissioner, I was a local spokesman for the Bush campaign and faced an uphill battle explaining the facts of the tax cuts: they applied to everyone and not just the rich and anyone opposing them was against cuts for poor and middle-class families.

But the accepted spin about the cuts being 'for the rich' was too ingrained in the public psyche, though Democratic candidate John Kerry did take to describing his plan as 'repealing the tax cuts for those making $200,000 or more.'

Sadly, many thought he was just re-defining the definition of 'rich' - not that any tax cuts had been given to poor and middle-class families in the first place.

Now it's 2012 and those tax cuts 'for the rich' are set to expire and everyone in D.C. is scrambling to preserve the cuts for the poor and middle class.

How do you preserve cuts for the poor and middle-class if they were never part of the deal in the first place?

Clearly, they were.

Even President Barack Obama admitted the truth - though not outright.

So today media outlets and politicians who decried the cuts a decade ago are conveniently ignoring their prior descriptions and eagerly supporting what they ardently opposed.

Is it any wonder we no longer trust the media to give us the truth?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Toledo taxpayers shafted (again!) in latest tit-for-tat over public employee wages

Yes, it's true - but sadly, not surprising that Toledo taxpayers are being stranded in the frigid cold as Mayor Mike Bell and Toledo city council engage in their own personal tit-for-tat over how much to pay their staffs.

To understand just how bad this really is, let's back up a bit.

The city has, for years, raided the Capital Improvements Plan budget in order to pay for everyday, general fund expenses. Going into 2012, they'd (legally) transferred a total of $50 million out of the account that is supposed to pay for major infrastructure improvements and roads - and used it to pay for things like office supplies, donations to local non-profits and pay increases for public employees.

They planned to continue stealing from the CIP for this fiscal year:

Faced with not enough income to meet their desire for 'more, more, more,' council has transferred (at last count) more than $50 million out of the Capital Improvements Plan fund (CIP) into the general fund to meet the everyday costs of the city.

So now council is going to start building back up the rainy day fund.

You'd think this was a good thing...but (there's always a but), they're still raiding the CIP to the tune of $12 million!

According to the city, the actual planned amount is $11,949,054, which does included $1.1 million originally unplanned, but approved by council yesterday to make up for the lack of revenue due to a delay in the opening of the casino.

Is there anyone else who fails to see the logic of this action?

They were patting themselves on the back for their plan to start building up the city's rainy day fund - which they depleted before they resorted to raiding the CIP - but they completely missed the point that they were taking another $12 million out of the CIP to do so.

And while they were at it, they decided to spend money they didn't have on a new director to run a previously eliminated department, a new filing system for their council offices and a consultant to create a Historic Preservation Plan.

Things went along normally for a while - or as normal as can be for Toledo, with politicians spending more than they take in, raiding the CIP and plotting ways to wring more cash out of the taxpayers.

Then Mayor Bell decided he wanted to increase the salary ranges for his administrative staff. He said he wasn't interested in actually giving pay increases; he just believed that the ranges needed to reflect current conditions.

Council balked.

Councilman Steve Steel, fearing that a pay scale increase would result in pay increases, went a step further and proposed a new ethics requirement for the mayor to "avoid any appearance of impropriety" or quid pro quo since many of these same administrators had contributed to the mayor's campaign.

In what can only be described as a political TKO, Bell came up with his own ethics proposal that applied not just to him, but to council as well.

But Mayor Bell has trumped Steel - handily - in submitting a new ordinance for a council vote.

While it is already illegal for individuals to solicit contributions from public employees in the classified service, Bell's ordinance would make it illegal to solicit and/or accept contributions from current city employees (not just those in the classified service), members of current employees' family and/or the bargaining units that represent city employees.

I'd call this game-set-match for Bell.

Needless to say, the entire subject was dropped.

But city officials were still crying poverty - so much, in fact, that Steel and Councilwoman Lindsay Webb decided Toledo just had to have a brand new, 10-year property tax levy to pay for parks and recreation. Steel and Webb pushed the tax increase and were soon joined by the mayor. They promised it would benefit seniors and kids and - believe it or not - reduce crime.

The bribes even included a new water park.

But a funny thing happened along the way to the ballot box. Maybe Bell didn't really want that new levy to pass. How else to explain his sudden announcement that he was giving pay increases to more than 50 staff members, totaling $295,000 a year?

Surely if the city had a third of a million dollars lying around, it didn't need a levy for parks, right?

Council was not amused, though Republican Councilman George Sarantou, Chairman of the Finance Committee actually justified the expense by claiming the city was expecting a $900,000 surplus.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Now the city has a budget surplus? I thought they had no money to pay for parks and recreation?!?

And how did we get this surplus? Did we NOT raid the CIP fund as they planned? Did they repay the advance they took on the CIP when the casino didn't open in time?

Have they thought that maybe reimbursing the $50 million or so they previously raided from the CIP might be a bigger priority to citizens than "valuing" administrators that have better pensions, vacation time, holidays and pay than they do?

But council doesn't like to be outdone, especially when some of the council members have aspirations to sit in the mayor's seat. Hence the latest tit for tat between council and the mayor. After all, it's only fair to retaliate against mayoral raises with raises of your own, right?

In response to Mayor Mike Bell’s across-the-board salary increases in October for 55 administrators and lawyers — a move that will cost the city $295,000 more a year — Toledo City Council has given a pay bump to four officials it controls.

Council voted 9-1 to increase the salaries of the council clerk, assistant clerk, city auditor, and plan commission director by 8 percent. But those four employees will lose their 5 percent “pension pickup” by the city, netting a 3 percent increase overall.

Councilman D. Michael Collins, who pushed for the compensation changes before council approved them last week, said it was the fair thing to do after the mayor boosted salaries an average of 9.8 percent, with no adjustment, for administration officials whose pension payment plans are still covered by the taxpayers.

Throughout all of this back and forth, spending, raiding the CIP and concern for the self-esteem of public employees, the taxpayer has been ignored.

Rarely has anyone mentioned, much less thought about, the out-of-work Toledoan who is footing the bill for this excess and political gamesmanship.

The taxpayer gets shafted while politicians maneuver for personal gain and engage in childish "I'll show you" antics.

Meanwhile, for 2013:

Toledo Mayor Mike Bell presented the 2013 budget today and it plans to raid $13.96 million from the Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) fund while spending more money on parks and recreation.

Happy New Year, taxpayers!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Toledo's Christmas tree disposal program

Press Release:

City of Toledo to provide drop off locations for Christmas trees

Six sites available across the city, December 26 to January 14

During the 2012 Christmas season, the City of Toledo Division of Parks, Recreation and Forestry will accept Christmas trees for disposal between December 26, 2012 and January 14, 2013 at no cost. Trees should be cleared of all decorations, bags or other materials, and may be dropped off at any of six selected sites around the city. Collected trees will be ground into mulch by forestry crews.

Drop off sites include Jermain Park; Schneider Park; Ravine II; Detwiler Park; Bowman Park, Laskey Rd. entrance and Greenwood Park, Darrell entrance. All sites will be marked with signage indicating drop off points.

The City of Toledo does not provide curbside collection of Christmas trees. For more information about Toledo’s curbside refuse and recycling program, please visit


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I'm going to enjoy the next three days with family and friends, celebrating the holiday. Postings will return on the 26th.

I wish a very Merry Christmas to one and all!

Montrouge, Paris, France Christmas Tree ... I love the blue lights!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Toledo City Council Meeting - Dec. 18, 2012

Notes from Sherry:

In attendance: Councilmen Martinez, Copeland, McNamara, Steel, Collins, Waniewski, Ludeman, Craig, Riley, Sarantou, Councilwomen Webb, Hicks-Hudson, Mayor Bell.

Item 581 – Resolution – Recognize Councilman Phil Copeland – adopted – all voting yes.

Item 582 – Resolution – Recognize Sheriff James A. Telb – adopted – all voting yes.

Item 583 – Resolution – Recognize Recorder Jeanine Perry – adopted – all voting yes.

Item 584 – Resolution – Recognize Whitmer High School Football Team – adopted – all voting yes.

Item 585 – Resolution – Recognize Central Catholic High School Football Team – adopted – all voting yes.

Item 586 – Appointment – Walbridge Park Advisory Board – confirmed – all voting yes.

Item 479 – Amend TMC Ch. 1767, Vacant Residential Building Registration:

* Hicks-Hudson – Amend - I'm letting colleges know we worked with Loan Department on how codes are enforced.
* Collins – Have the Realtors and stakeholders signed off on this?
* Hicks-Hudson – The City knows of the foreclosures.
* Collins – Council thought it was a bad thing to take - 1st Reading on this – look for Realtors and stakeholders.
* Martinez – Agrees with Hicks-Hudson – let liens on homes be an issue.
* Ludeman – Agrees with Collins - had been asking about this for days, no response – 2:00 PM today email about this – vote today – wait two weeks – read, digest it, then vote – all parties part of the decision.
* Sarantou – More discussion on this with Banks etc. - we have a bunch of vacant buildings – find out things to pass something – (repeats what Ludeman said about time).
* Steel – 4d (TMC) a Hold supersedes an Amendment – graduated fee for multiple units, based on how large structure is.
* McNamara – move to postpone, 1st Reading ... Hicks-Hudson has done a lot of work on this.
* Webb – This has been on the radar for months – communication is a two way street – she wants to vote on this tonight.
* Hicks-Hudson – no point holding legislation – no input from stakeholders, input from Council – do we care about blight? Realtors not from here – have these properties registered? Falls within confines of the State – Department of Neighborhoods not in charge of these issues.
* Martinez – most important piece of legislation – up or down vote.
* Riley – Appropriate hard work by Hicks-Hudson – this effects a big buildings and property owners – now beyond scope of this – voting against this.
* Craig – Property owners need to clean up – many houses don't get any attention – tired of his district being treated like a trash can – this is pro-real estate, not anti-real estate.
* Collins – no vote – thinks Hicks-Hudson did a great job – asks for two weeks to study it more – stakeholders play a part in the community.
* Sarantou – Just asking for two weeks – nobody on Council likes blight.
* Riley – They need to take care of their property – make sure it's not an eye sore – do the right thing.

Vote – yes to postpone, no don't postpone.
Yes: Collins, Ludeman, Riley, Sarantou, Steel, Waniewski.
No – Webb, Copeland, Hicks-Hudson, McNamara, Craig, Martinez –
Tie: Mayor votes yes, 1st Reading.

Item 595 – accept ODNR grant for Cullen Park boat launch improvements, $850,000 – passed – all voting yes.
* Webb – thanks group waiting for this.

Item 601 – Zone change at 1065 Garden Lake Parkway (Approved 4 – 0) – passed – all voting yes. (Copeland leaves)

Item 602 – Zone change at 3131-3162 St. Bernard Dr. and 2100 Giant St. for Toledo Hospital (Approved 4 – 0) – passed – all voting yes.

Item 563 – Providing for 2013 Assessed Services Program – Street Services, $18,517,895 ('12=$21,146,410) – passed – all voting yes.

Item 564 - Providing for 2013 Assessed Services Program – Citywide Street Lighting, $4,167,645 ('12=$3,908,076) – passed – all voting yes.

Item 565 - Providing for 2013 Assessed Services Program – Downtown Street Lighting, $250,948 ('12=$256,199) – passed – all voting yes.

Item 566 - Providing for 2013 Assessed Services Program – Street Trees, $5,385,867 ('12=$4,942,125) – passed – all voting yes.

Item 567 - Providing for 2013 Assessed Services Program – Surface Treatment, $802,233 ('12=$856,940) – passed – all voting yes.

Item 568 – Approve final 2011 expenditures, all funds, allocate 2011 surplus of $326,000 to Budget Stabilization

* Sarantou – commend – clarify our finance report.
* Mayor Bell – we have a surplus – we stand by our numbers – including our recycling and landfill – like making a car payment – put rest in Rainy Day Fund, this is the conservative thing to – this is nothing new – you can go for either policy – this could effect our bond rating.
* Collins – in 2000 we didn't tax CIP – stabilize our budget – car payment argument didn't work – we borrowed money from CIP – ask Auditor about this.
* Wheelock (auditor)– this transaction should not take place at this time.
* Collins – Cause has been made to borrow from CIP to pay for General Fund.
* McLean (City Treasurer) – Myths – GF has a positive balance of $326,000 – cannot put money in Rainy Day Fund – false – we have a signal to Wall St. and the Business Community.
* McNamara – What is our balance?
* McLean – Restricted assets – Can we do it? Yes, same to Martinez – self regulating ourselves.
* Martinez - Do we have to pay back CIP?
* McLean – no.
* McNamara – Restricted Funds to Rainy Day Funds?
* McLean – Not the rest.
* Hicks-Hudson – used to work at Budget Management – this is a policy decision – not right or wrong – do we want to strengthen our need to decide policy – we should have excess money in the Budget Stabilization Fund.
* Steel – Clarify 3/4%, passed with the rest.
* McNamara – 1/3 to GF, 1/3 to CIP, 1/3 Police and Fire Departments.
* Steel – Entire thing borrowed for the GF?
* McLean – Borrowed is the right word.
* Steel – What is the ideal amount in Stabilization Fund?
* McLean – 1-2 months worth of funds.
* Steel – Last time we had anything in?
* McLean – '08 – still looking at money from CIP.
* Sarantou – To the CPA – you came to us and said it shouldn't be done – go to my minutes of 3:52 PM – I need to have a conference call with Mr. Rhodes – if there is evidence that I'm wrong, I will concede – move forward on the amendment.
* Martinez – Transfer something we don't have to pay back – we need a Rainy Day Fund – we have come a long way.
* McLean – Undesignated?
* McNamara – 5.7 mil in undesignated funds.
* McLean – don't understand – we are borrowing from a deficit? We send a bad message to Wall St.
* Collins – Recycling balance.
* McLean – $5.8 mil deficit.
* Collins – to Sarantou – why get a call at 3:52?
* Martinez – How to move forward – no policy?
* Wheelock - No we don't. To Martinez – put money in Savings Bonds for the streets.

Wheelock and the Mayor go back and forth on having a mortgage and putting extra money in a Savings Account. Which would you borrow on, house or saved money?

* Wheelock – We owe on no bills right now.
* Sarantou – Back me up on this – ignore the Law Department – ask for help.

Vote yes to remove the $326,000
Yes: Collins, McNamara, Riley, Sarantou, Waniewski.
No: Webb, Steel, Hicks-Hudson, Ludeman, Craig, Martinez.

Motion on allocation failed.

Vote on the rest:
No: Collins, McNamara, Sarantou.
Yes - Webb, Steel, Hicks-Hudson, Ludeman, Craig, Martinez, Waniewski, Riley.

Item 570 – Temporary Appropriation for January – March 2013, $152,393,947 All Funds – passed – all voting yes.

Item 571 – Contract for banking services, Fifth Third as Central Depository & KeyBank as Secondary Custodian – passed – all voting yes.

Item 572 – Expenditure to Toledo Sister Cities Int'l for 2012 contribution, $25,000 Federal Fund, Finance Dept. Vote: No – Waniewski, rest yes.

Item 587 – Waive TMC Ch 2101, pension pick up & monthly health care premium for 4 employees of City Council

* Waniewski – move to Amend – overdue for adjustments.
* Collins – we are responsible for these employees – tried to raise rate 20%, rejected - Herwat 10 days later – ranges are already present, $213.4 mil – pointed this out, Mayor thanked Collins for this the next day – then the Mayor asked for 15%, failed. Health care his choice – (gives example) still not fair – this is a choice the Mayor has to make not voting for this – agrees to what was previously accounted for.
* Ludeman – leave credit assistance.
* Waniewski – not in favor of pay raises – support something I can swallow.

Vote yes for Waniewski Amendment
Yes: Martinez, McNamara, Riley, Sarantou, Steel, Waniewski, Webb.
No – Craig, Ludeman, Hicks-Hudson, Collins.
Motion passed.

Item 588 – Resolution – Urge Congress come to bipartisan & balanced plan on spending cuts & revenue enhancement. adopted – no – Waniewski, rest yes.
* Waniewski – I'm not a fan of this kind of Resolution. The Federal Government brings in $5 Billion a day, we spend $11 Billion a day in entitlements, $11.7 Billion a day just in interest, we've already gone over the cliff.

Item 589 – Resolution – Urge creation of task force on responsible banking as it relates to the investment policy. Passed – no – Waniewski, rest yes.
* Webb – I met with our only “green” bank, Fifth Third.
* Sarantou – Investment Advisory Committee should be considered for this also.

Item 590 – Claims settlement – Gary Daugherty for 2008 termination, $200,000 Risk management Fund
* Collins – we have heard from Finkbeiner (letter), haven't heard from the Administration.
* Adam Loux – I was confirmed by Council, haven't regretted it. I am preparing to go to court on 2/11/2013 – tough issue – vote how you want it.

No: Collins, Waniewski, Sarantou
Yes: Webb, Steel, Hicks-Hudson, McNamara, Ludeman, Craig, Martinez, Riley.

Item 591 – Accept Port Authority grant for Fire for TruDefender Fti Detector to identify unknown chemicals, $49,000. Passed – all voting yes.

Item 592 – Contract with Bender Communication for upgrade of radio communications, system, all non-safety forces. Passed – all voting yes.
* Hicks-Hudson – thanks Administration for amending this.

Item 593 – License for Cityworks software for unlimited users , 3 years, $90,000 per year, Utilities Administration Fund. Passed – no – Sarantou, rest yes.

Item 594 – Resolution – Support TMACOG and the Transportation Legislative Agenda for 2013 & 2014. Adopted – no – Martinez, rest yes.

Item 596 – Contract with Taylor Construction for sewer repairs, 1 year + 2 options - 1st Reading.

Item 597 – Contract with Gleason Construction for storm sewer repairs, 1 year + 2 options. Passed – all voting yes.

Item 598 – Approve 2013-2017 CIP Plan, appropriate $27,884,140, all except Fire Stations #3 and #12 – to Finance and Planning Committee.

Item 599 – Appropriation for Fire Stations #3 and #12, $4,500,000 2013 CIP. Passed – all voting yes.

Item 600 – Extension of agreement with ADP, Inc. for payroll services up to 1 year. Passed – no – Martinez, rest yes.

Item 603 – SUP for convenience store at 5831 Dorr St. (Plan Commission Disapproval) (Disapproved 5 – 0)
* Collins – vote no – spacing issue - 3rd time through.

Failed – all voting no.

Item 604 – Lease former Leverette Middle School from TPS for PAL, 5 years + 5 year option
* Steel – how are utilities run?
* Herwat – bids to run lines, $2,000 per month.
* Steel – Able to use for anything else?
* Herwat – need for ball field.
* Steel – City fixes it – schools have the right?
* Herwat – after the 1st of the year we will try to acquire it.
* Martinez – Budget tax?
* Herwat – I can give you that at a later date.
* Ludeman – good site, boxing ring set up – can this wait two weeks?
* Herwat – this is included in the budget.
* Riley – What do we get?
* Herwat – Gym and property.
* Riley – lease the building too?
* Herwat – yes.
* Hicks-Hudson – Why do we need this tonight?
* Herwat – We need to have this for improvements. We are stepping in the shoes for PAL.
* Ludeman – Gym built after the building – fabulous facility.

Passed – no – Martinez, rest yes.

Last Call:

Collins – Best Wishes for Holidays. Reflects upon tragedy at Grade School. Savage acts, faith the only thing to get through.

Craig – Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Ludeman - Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Martinez - Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Sarantou - Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Steel - Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Waniewski - Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Webb – What requirement do food trucks have? 12/20 caroling at the Friendship Center (starts), Santa will be there. Coyotes and foxes spotted at Point Place. Small animals have gone missing.

McNamara – One of our colleges did not receive public records. Needs to be given.

Armed Teacher Pilot Program to provide free training to teachers

The Buckeye Firearms Association (BFA) has launched a pilot program to provide firearm training to teachers free of charge.

Ken Hanson, BFA's Legal Chair, announced the program at a town hall meeting last night in Columbus where gun control issues were being debated.

"Teachers and school board members have been asking us for years about training to prepare for an incident like Sandy Hook," Hanson said. "So our educational Foundation will sponsor an Armed Teacher Pilot Program for a comprehensive 3-day training class at Tactical Defense Institute in West Union, Ohio. Based on the response to this pilot program, we will roll out classes to other training facilities."

According to their website, The first class will instruct 24 teachers. All expenses, including class tuition, ammunition, and lodging (expected to total about $1,000 each), will be paid by Buckeye Firearms Foundation and outside donations. Teachers can sign up here. They plan to keep the identity of participants "strictly confidential."

"The long-term goal is to develop a standard Armed Teacher curriculum and make the training available to any teacher or school official," Hanson added. The first class will be announced in early January.

The training might be welcomed by teachers, but some administrators are not happy about the plan.

Bellaire Local School District Superintendent Tony Scott told WTOV in Steubenville that he "can't fathom teachers carrying guns."

"I just don't believe our teachers signed up for this. I know I didn't sign up for it," Scott said.

Scott said he does feel like something needs to change, because innocent lives are being lost. He just is not sure what that change should be, and he feels the issue needs a lot of research and discussion.

"I have two kids that are teachers. Obviously I was a teacher coming through the ranks. I don't know that I would want the responsibility to have a firearm in my classroom," Scott said.

He said it could either save lives or make matters worse -- a risk he's not willing to take.

Though Ohio law prohibits "illegal conveyance or possession of deadly weapon or dangerous ordnance or of object indistinguishable from firearm in school safety zone," Ohio Revised Code 2923.122 Section D(1)(a) does allow school boards to give written authorization to a person to possess a weapon in a school.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Just what is this 'fiscal cliff' thing and what does it have to do with addiction?

To understand what the 'cliff' is and why everyone is worried and talking (not actually doing anything) about it, you have to go back to the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003.

In 2001, President George W. Bush pushed for - and Congress passed - tax cuts for all income brackets. The Democrats demonized the package claiming it was 'for the rich' and the media happily went along with the spin.

In 2003, there was some follow-up legislation and, again, the left howled about 'tax cuts for the rich.'

Unlike other programs and laws which go on and on forever (whether they should or not), these measures had a sunset clause. They were all set to expire in 10 years. So, unless Congress acted, as of January 1, 2011, taxes for everyone in all income brackets, as well as taxes on capital gains, dividends and estates, were going to rise - or, more specifically, go back to the higher rates under Pres. Bill Clinton.

So in 2010, realizing that they weren't tax cuts just for the rich like they'd told everyone originally, Congress extended the cuts for two years - until January 1, 2013, which is just 14 days away.

If it were just the Bush tax cuts, they might manage to work out a deal to extend them again, even with Democrats and Pres. Barack Obama demanding that millionaires and billionaires pay more. Oh yeah - those millionaires and billionaires are people (and many small business owners who file as individuals) making $250,000 a year - not $1,000,000.

But there's more.

In 2011, the United States was about to reach it's debt limit. For those of you who are unsure, that's like the maximum amount on your credit card. You can spend up to that amount, but they don't let you go over it. In the case of the U.S. government, that's the amount of money the nation has the authority to borrow. We borrowed to the max and, unless we raised the limit so we could borrow more, we wouldn't be able to pay the bills (like to social security recipients, medicare providers, contractors and employees).

This is different than the yearly deficit which is the amount of money government spends every year that is greater than the amount of money it takes in. Spending more than you take in results in a deficit that must be covered, so the U.S. government borrows money to pay the bills. The cumulative amount of money borrowed over the years to cover the individual yearly deficits gives us the debt, which was $14.294 trillion in 2011. We hit that mark on May 16 of that year.

Clearly, cutting spending wasn't an option for Washington so Republicans and Democrats struck a deal. We'll raise the debt ceiling now and form a committee to identify what cuts should be imposed, they told the American people. The normal process in which congressional committees make such decisions was bypassed in favor a "super committee" consisting of 12 individuals and named the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.

They were supposed to reduce the deficit by $1.2 - $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.

What made us think that this committee was going to be different than the regular congressional committees? Congress included the policy of sequestration - automatic cuts that would kick in if other cuts were not identified and passed.

As Idea Money Watch explains, the 'super committee' was no different than the other congressional committees and they failed:

Announcing its inability to reach an agreement on November 21, 2011, the members of the bipartisan committee stated that "after months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee's deadline."

So, as established in the BCA, sequestration was triggered when the super committee failed to reach an agreement. Sequestration generates automatic cuts for each of nine years, FY 13-21, totaling $1.2 trillion. Without Congressional action to prevent sequestration, the first round of cuts will take place Jan. 2, 2013.

The 2013 cuts apply to “discretionary” spending and are divided between reductions to defense ($500 billion) and non-defense ($700 billion).

So, taxes are scheduled to go up and spending is scheduled to be cut as of the first of the year.

That's the cliff - a double whammy on you and me and everyone else in the nation.

But that's not all....

Our current debt limit is a whopping $16.394 trillion - and, as of Tuesday, we were just $63 billion short of reaching it. Since the government spends about $10.5 billion a day, we'll reach the debt limit Dec. 23. Merry Christmas!

Of course, there are things the government can do to postpone actually hitting that limit, but Pres. Obama doesn't want to deal with those. He'd rather bypass Congress and have the ability to raise the limit all by himself.

This new power is part of the “deal” the President offered to House Republicans on the fiscal cliff. His “deal” is massive tax hikes, more government spending, and the ability for him to send that government spending skyrocketing through the stratosphere without any vote of Congress. One White House official describes this proposal as “resolv[ing] the debt limit without drama.”

See? It's easy - raise taxes on the 'rich,' spend even more money, and let Obama borrow whatever he wants without limit or check&balance by Congress.

Now Republicans - well, House Speaker John Boehner, specifically - are talking about pushing off the debt ceiling debate for another year, so long as they get spending cuts greater than the debt increase.

But remember - the spending cuts from the last increase are the ones they're trying to avoid taking now!

The American people were promised cuts in spending at least equal to the amount of additional borrowing granted in 2011. Those cuts are supposed to happen, but politicians in DC are trying to stop them.

It has been reported that one of President Ronald Reagan's biggest regrets was agreeing to small tax increases 'now' for cuts in spending over time. The cuts in spending never came.

The same holds true today. Just last year Congress and Pres. Obama agreed to spending cuts in exchange for being able to borrow more money. Now they're talking about borrowing even more money and raising taxes in order to avoid those 'future cuts' from 2011.

It never ends.

Terry Jeffrey puts numbers to the madness, proving that government doesn't have a revenue problem, since revenue has actually increased - they just spend a lot more (and that 'more' amount continues to grow) than they collect.

According to Obama's OMB, federal revenues will be $2.57 trillion this year. In nominal terms that is about $1.58 trillion more than the $991.1 billion in federal revenue for 1989. Even adjusted for inflation, it is $830 billion more.

But, again, federal spending has grown faster. According to Obama's OMB, the federal government will spend $3.83 trillion this year, running a deficit of $1.27 trillion.

Adjusted for inflation, the $152.6 billion deficit of 1989 equals $268.4 billion in current dollars. That means the $1.27 trillion deficit Obama plans to run this year is almost five times larger in real terms than the deficit Reagan ran the year he left office naming the deficit as the only regret in his farewell address.

When Reagan left office in 1989, federal spending was 21.2 percent of gross domestic product. This year, the Obama administration plans to spend 25.1 percent of GDP.

The spending is growing faster than the revenue, which means even more borrowing to cover the expanding gap. Yes, this qualifies as 'stuck-on-stupid.'

And Boehner seems poised to agree to this instead of holding the line, not just for the conservatives who helped elect him, but for our nation and our children.

The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies.


Leadership means that “the buck stops here.” Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.

That was Barack Obama in 2006 when he was a senator from Illinois and Bush was president.

Obama was correct then, but he - and just about everyone else in Congress - have succumbed to the spending addiction that hits individuals once they get to the logic-free zone of Washington, D.C.

Now we - and our children and grandchildren - are going to suffer, one way or the other, because those people we elect to represent us just can't make the hard decisions necessary to return fiscal sanity to the government. They keep kicking the can down the road, think the road will go on forever.

It doesn't - and that's where we are today.

For another perspective on this, be sure to check out this post by Tom Blumer at Bizzy Blog.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Why they want our guns

A Facebook friend of mine posted a comment on my wall saying that he wouldn't mind a ban on assault weapons. Why would you need one, he asked.

My response was that it wasn't the type of weapon being banned, but the fact that Congress was infringing upon a right to keep and bear arms in direct violation of the Constitution which forbids them to do so.

We do need to have a discussion on guns because, as inevitably happens following any tragedy in which guns are involved, those who would infringe upon our right are massing and getting ready to act.

They are using a crisis to further erode our ability not just to protect ourselves, but to determine what equipment is necessary in order to do so.

The Ludwig von Mises Institute sends out a daily email and today's was Tyranny and the Monopoly of Arms, an article by Stephen P. Halbrook that originally ran as "Gun Laws" on October 15, 1970 in The Libertarian Forum.

This article is 44 years old and its message is even more vital for being so.

It starts off talking about "the extreme shackles placed on actual or potential gun owners by the acts snowballing into the Gun Control Act of 1968 (Public Law 90-618)."

It details all the requirements for purchasing a weapon, the restrictions and monitoring that existed then as retailers were required to keep track of who purchased ammunition.

Local rules were no less onerous, including mandates for background checks and exorbitant fees in order to be granted a license - read "permission" - to own a weapon.

The ultimate goal of the power structure is the total abolition of private (non-ruling class) gun ownership. In mid-January 1969 the Illinois Academy of Criminology spoke favorably of this goal, and hundreds of other groups and individuals openly admit similar ambitions. The minimum they will settle for is complete police control of all firearms as is the case in Soviet Russia.

The masses are taught to believe the lie that such laws will reduce crime. Nothing could be further from the truth, because gun ownership by the general population simply does not cause crime.

Halbrook gives several examples to support this statement - and there are numerous others after 44 years. He then states a truth we all know, though some refuse to admit:

Since criminals will always have guns (no criminals would register their guns, and besides, zip guns are easy to make), it is necessary that potential victims be able to arm themselves to prevent crime.

So why do they want our guns?

What, then, is the real reason why the power elite wants to leave the people defenseless?

It has already been observed that guns are necessary for peaceful individuals to protect themselves from criminals. But who has been the most ferocious criminal in history? It is obvious: the State!

He details why regulation of the means to defend ourselves is necessary:

The U. S. Government, though they trust themselves with the largest arsenal the world has ever known, including everything from napalm and M-16’s to tanks and H-bombs, will not trust its thralls with .22-cal. revolvers. Why does this trust not exist? The people want to be free, a great number of blacks as well as many non-ruling class whites desire self-determination, and the Establishment must frustrate these movements. Laissez-faire gun ownership is feared for the same reason that Hitler would have been afraid of a gun-owning Jewish population or Stalin a bunch of pistol-packing Ukrainians. Well does the State know Mao’s dictum: political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” The rulers realize that the only way to retain their control over the people is to monopolize the firearms. The powers-that-be perceive that the people can never exercise their right to be free if they have no might to be free. Thus it is in part by gun control that Big Brother perpetuates his hegemony.

In 1995, Eric Holder, the man who would become the Attorney General of the United States, said we need to "just really brainwash people into thinking about guns in a vastly different way."

Have we already reached that point? Have people come to think of guns as something only the government can control? Have people gotten to the point where they believe government shouldn't ban guns outright, but definitely should be allowed to place some restrictions - yes, infringements - on their ownership?

My Facebook friend believes this. He even makes the argument, used by many on left, that our Founding Fathers could not possibly have anticipated the types of weapons that are available today.

His implied position is this: had they imagined a gun that could hold hundreds of rounds which would also fire continuously, they would never have forbidden the government from passing "reasonable" laws restricting our right to keep and bear arms. Surely, our Founders (and the states and people who ratified the document) would have approved of some infringements - right?


The wording is clear "...the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." In legalese, 'shall not' is a command.

In 1776, there were numerous types of weapons and arms. The ability of the government to confiscate the means of defense was the issue - not the type of weapon that was used to provide that defense.

Swords were more common than guns or rifles, and more individuals had those weapons than had cannons. Certainly if the founders thought that it would be okay for government to infringe upon the right to keep and bear any type of arms, they would have designated which arms they meant - right?

The Bill of Rights makes no distinction between the arms of that day.

It doesn't need to be 'adapted' to make that distinction today.

If we allow government to infringe in one way, what is to prevent them from infringing in others?

This is the proverbial slippery slope that leads us down the path of complete government control - not only of the arms we may keep (own) and bear (carry), but over our ability to decide what types of arms are necessary for our own defense.

If you live in a gang-infested section of a city and the gangs have handguns and semi-automatic weapons and you want to defend yourself from the criminals, will a knife really work? Why shouldn't you, rather than any government, be able to decide what tool is the appropriate one to protect yourself and your family?

But, as my Facebook friend also opined, the government has tanks - does that mean we should be able to have them too?

Yes - why not? If I want to spend the money to purchase a functioning tank, what constitutional authority does the government have to tell me I can't?

But then comes the argument that it might be okay for me to own such weapons, but what about other people who aren't okay? What about mentally ill people? Should they be allowed? Shouldn't we have 'reasonable' laws to prevent unstable people from getting access to tools that can kill? And who ends up deciding the definition of 'reasonable'?

Most people will say 'yes'. But a mentally ill person who wants to hurt others doesn't need a gun, or even a knife. We don't stop sick people from driving, do we? A person intent on doing harm will find a way and a tool, regardless of the laws we put into place to restrict access to the most obvious of methods.

"Laws do not curb the lawless. After all, that's why we call them 'lawless.'" ~ Joel Miller

Since we know this is a truth, why would we want to violate the Constitution and infringe upon everyone's ability/right in order to - doubtfully - stop one evil person from hurting others?

As my friend and fellow blogger Andrew Lawton wrote, There is no antidote for Evil:

A sane man does not look at a gun and become a murder. But a murderer looks at a gun and sees a weapon, just as he would were he to see a knife, an automobile or a lead pipe.

If individuals want to engage in a discussion about accessibility to firearms and regulations for firearm owners, that’s reasonable. But why does every one of those discussions need to take place in the days following a shooting? Such tragedies force people to beg for answers. For events like the shooting at Sandy Hook, where nothing can ever come close to answering the question of “Why?”, people will look for absolutely anything they can cling to. That is what we are programmed to do.

The notion that simply changing the laws will take away the pain and suffering of this tragedy or even prevent future ones from occurring is simply not true. And it’s a dangerous myth being purported by the mainstream media.

There are laws that exist that imprison individuals motivated by Evil, but it is impossible to rid the world of that motivator itself. The true source of it is a philosophical question that, to me, is not nearly as important as recognizing its presence. The fact is, Evil cannot be fixed, and even if it could, the government is not the body to do that.

Some will say now is not the time for a discussion on weapons as we have not yet buried all those killed in Sandy Hook.

But this is war and the enemies of freedom are not waiting for us to finish grieving.

It is up to those of us who are not intimately associated with the victims to follow Thomas Paine's words:

"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it."

Monday, December 17, 2012

One step closer to comprehensive performance audit

The TPS Finance Committee approved a resolution recommending a contract with Evergreen Solutions, LLC for a performance audit of the district's operations.

The motion was made by board member Bob Vasquez and passed unanimously. The recommendation will be presented to the full board at their monthly meeting Tuesday (tomorrow) at 5:30 p.m. in the Board Room of the Thurgood Marshall Building, 420 E. Manhattan Blvd.

At their last finance committee meeting, the members heard presentations from three potential providers of a performance audit.

Board member Dr. Cecilia Adams opened this special meeting saying they wanted "to keep the momentum going" and move along toward a performance audit "in a timely manner." She stated that one provider seemed to offer all the items they were looking for in a PA.

She noted that the state auditor would not be able to start their PA until the spring and was hampered, somewhat, by staffing issues. They would have to outsource the instructional and IT portions of any audit, Dr. Adams said.

The Council of the Great City Schools, while providing valuable services to TPS, would take at least six months to complete any PA, she said.

Both would charge about the same amount but neither would be able to do all the things TPS was looking for in a PA.

Dr. Adams noted that Everygreen could - and she made a point of saying that Evergreen's presentation at the last meeting wasn't just a reaction to what the other two entities had already said; all of the items they touted were included in the sample audit they provided to the committee.

Dr. Adams told me after the meeting that she had checked references for Evergreen and all were positive.

Evergreen said they would be able to start a PA "right away," though they noted at during their original presentation that they didn't recommend starting before the end of the year due to the holidays. They were not present at today's meeting.

Dr. Adams also noted that she had been in communication with the other board members to apprise them of the progress the committee was making and she hoped to have their support at the regular board meeting.

Before making the motion to recommend Evergreen, Mr. Vasquez asked the staff and the audience if there was anything missing from the draft detailing areas to be covered. While there were comments about specific aspects of what would be included under the categories, there were no changes to the draft as presented.

Here is the resolution and Exhibit A listing the areas to be included in the PA. If there are items you believe are not covered under the draft, please contact the board members ( and so they can be sure the PA is comprehensive and encompasses all areas of concern.

As a side note, I continue to be encouraged by the actions of the Finance Committee. In the recommendation, they direct that the PA contract should include (emphasis added):

(f) such other terms and conditions, including other major areas of study, as are found to be in the best interest of the District following further consultation with interested stakeholders, including staff, union leadership, interested community members, and as approved by the Superintendent, Treasurer, Board President and District General Counsel.

They want input from the public so be sure to take advantage of their active solicitation of your participation.

If you support their going forward with a comprehensive performance audit, let them know. Too often, elected officials only hear from us when we don't like what they're doing. You must also tell them when they're on the right track.

TPS performance audit update

The Finance Committee of the Toledo Public School board plans to act today on a performance audit for the district. They meet at 8 a.m. and I will attend.

According to sources, it appears they are ready to recommend a private consulting firm to do the performance audit. If so, this is good news. But regardless of who is selected as the auditor, the key will be the scope of work and ensuring it is comprehensive and complete, top to bottom, and doesn't exclude compensation/benefits/working conditions that are covered under collective bargaining agreements.

I'll update you later this morning.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Quotes of the Day - guns

Some quotes of the day while we put up our Christmas Tree...

"Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States." ~ Noah Webster

"When we say "guns don't kill people, people kill people" we are not being trite or dismissive of your loss. We are expressing a core belief that is religious in nature. If we believed, as you believe, that people are fundamentally good then none of these arguments would be necessary. If you were correct in your belief then guns would not be necessary either." ~ Mike Adams

"After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it. I sure as hell wouldn't want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military." ~ William S. Burroughs

"To prohibit a citizen from wearing or carrying a war arm ... is an unwarranted restriction upon the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. If cowardly and dishonorable men sometimes shoot unarmed men with army pistols or guns, the evil must be prevented by the penitentiary and gallows, and not by a general deprivation of constitutional privilege." ~ Wilson v. State

"There is no reason for anyone in this country, anyone except a police officer or a military person, to buy, to own, to have, to use a handgun. I used to think handguns could be controlled by laws about registration, by laws requiring waiting periods for purchasers, by laws making sellers check out the past of buyers. I now think the only way to control handgun use in this country is to prohibit the guns. And the only way to do that is to change the Constitution." ~ Michael Gartner, former president of NBC News

"Laws that forbid the carrying of arms ... disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man." ~ Cesare Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishment, quoted by Thomas Jefferson in Commonplace Book

"The provision in the Constitution granting the right to all persons to bear arms is a limitation upon the power of the Legislature to enact any law to the contrary. The exercise of a right guaranteed by the Constitution cannot be made subject to the will of the sheriff." ~ People vs. Zerillo

"Are we at last brought to such a humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our own defence? Where is the difference between having our arms in our own possession and under our own direction, and having them under the management of Congress? If our defence be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?" ~ Patrick Henry

And this one - which is perhaps the most important as well as the most succinct:

"A government that does not trust it's law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms is itself unworthy of trust." ~ James Madison

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Right To Work: it's not just the money unions are afraid to lose

With Michigan passing a Right-To-Work law unions are claiming - again - that people who benefit from union representation should be required/forced/mandated under penalty of law to pay at least their 'fair share' for that representation even if they don't want to join a union.

Like in Ohio, the law allowed unions to determine how much that 'fair share' fee was and the employer, under order from the union, would deduct that fee from their paychecks.

The union position is that the non-member still gets paid based upon wages the union negotiates and enjoys the benefits (vacation, medical, pension, etc...) the union 'gains' for its members. Logically, to the union, that non-member should pay.

But these same union members will brag that so many of the laws we have on the books today covering workplace safety, the 40-hour work week and other such measures are a direct result of the advocacy of unions over the years. They use this argument as a reason why everyone should support unions and also say that all workers have benefitted from unions.

But they're not telling everyone that they need to pay their 'fair share' for THAT representation.

Just because you benefit from something, it doesn't mean you should be forced - against your will - to pay for it.

Besides, the union never talks about the impact of letting non-union workers in a facility negotiate on their own - and there's a reason why.

If you choose not to join a union and then opt to negotiate your own terms of employment based upon your own performance, you're likely to work harder in order to make yourself more valuable and increase your bargaining position in order to garner more pay/benefits. You would not be constrained by co-workers who produced less.

Clearly a union - which is based on the collectivism model - can't have one person demonstrating the ability to do better individually than the collective can do for them. Others might see the one doing better than everyone else and think they might be better off on their own. Obviously, such individualism in the workplace must be banned. And then penalized by having to pay for the collective representation.

It's not just the loss of money unions fear - even though that is significant. It's that individuals bargaining on their own has the potential to destroy the very basis of the purpose of a union - and show, in striking contrast - that collectivism always results in the lowest common denominator being the standard. That is inherently opposite of the core American principle that in this nation, your own hard work and determination can result in your success.

Such independence is what we fought a revolution over and the desire for liberty and to be judged on our own merits is still strong. Unions may have been able to mask that by offering goodies and promises that an 'all for one' approach is better, but if a single individual can opt-out of the collective and do even better, others might follow.

That is the real threat and why they are fighting so hard to prevent it.

Something old, something new, somthing blue

I spent the last three days in Chicago with awesome people as we helped develop a format for a new program for 2013. Not only did I learn a lot of new things, but my opinion about the conservative movement was reinforced knowing these individuals are also out there fighting for Consitutional principles.

I won't be able to tell you about the new program until it's introduced and ready to roll out, but I can say that Ohio bloggers and citizen watchdogs will benefit from the work we did and it will, hopefully, benefit all of us in the state.

That's the something new.

As for the something you remember when James O'Keefe caught Democrat Congressman Jim Moran's son telling an undercover investigator how to forge utility bills and steal the votes of Virginia's citizens? Well, Patrick Moran is back in the news:

Moran and his girlfriend were fighting outside 14th Street bar The Getaway around 1:23 a.m. on Dec. 1, according to a police report, over Moran talking to another woman at the bar. Suddenly, Moran allegedly slammed his girlfriend's head into the bar's metal trash can cage.

After the attack, police described Moran's girlfriend as "bleeding heavily from her nose and also observed that her nose and right eye were extremely swollen." One of the ambulance technicians who transported her to Howard University Hospital told police that Moran appeared to have broken her nose and given her a skull fracture under her right eye.

Moran was arrested for felony domestic violence assault, but pleaded the charge down to simple assault today. He was sentenced to probation.

As for the something blue, I'm going over the city of Toledo budget. I know councilmembers are holding town hall meetings on them so I want to get my review done and share with you my questions and what I find. But reading the budget definitely makess me blue.

I'll have more catching up tomorrow and over the weekend.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Quote of the Day - your duty to stop tyranny

"It is necessary for every American, with becoming energy to endeavor to stop the dissemination of principles evidently destructive of the cause for which they have bled. It must be the combined virtue of the rulers and of the people to do this, and to rescue and save their civil and religious rights from the outstretched arm of tyranny, which may appear under any mode or form of government." ~ Mercy Warren, History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution, 1805

Monday, December 10, 2012

TPS union members stood up by their AFSCME rep

Toledo Public Schools have cafeterias. Cafeterias have workers. Those workers are in a union - specifically the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFSCME. Not news so far - right?

TPS has an ad hoc Food Service committee and this committee, clearly of interest to the AFSCME union and its members, is scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. tomorrow.

Guess who won't be there?

The AFSCME business rep, David Blyth, Jr.

What could be more important than representing the TPS employees? Why Michigan, of course.

I'm on an email list that notifies me of all TPS meeting dates and times. Blyth is too, and he hit 'reply all' when he responded with this note:

I am unable to attend this meeting since I must be at the "Right to work" protest in Lansing Michigan. Sorry, Dave

Yes - instead of staying in Toledo to actually - you know, REPRESENT his members, he's going to the Michigan state capital to protest a bill that passed the Michigan legislature last week and is scheduled to be signed by the governor tomorrow.

Wonder if any of his members will mind being stood up for a useless exercise in media attention - in another state, no less...

A pay raise for local officials? Say it ain't so!

You'd think that local elected officials would realize that asking for a pay raise in this economy - and when local governments are asking for money (additional taxes) or laying off workers, or both - was a stuck-on-stupid idea. Apparently not.

Gongwer Ohio recently had a blurb about exactly that - and during a lame-duck session no less!

They reported that Sen. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Cincinnati, was pushing for a proposal to give state and local elected officials a cost-of-living increase. Under his plan, it wouldn't take effect until Jan. 1, 2014 and would only be issued if the legislature put enough money in the next biennial budget to cover it.

Regular pay raises would be limited to 3% or the consumer price index, whichever is less, and would be contingent on next year's budget, he said in an interview. "If that happens, then the raises for the countywide officials and so forth would be allowed to go into effect. If it doesn't, it wouldn't."

Sen. Seitz noted that legislators, judges, county commissioners, sheriffs, prosecutors and other elected officials have seen no increase in their pay since January 2008.

Aw...poor babies!

I seem to recall that most elected officials are not eligible for a raise during their existing four-year terms. So the fact that these privileged individuals haven't had a raise during this current term isn't something to bemoan, nor is it justification for claiming no increase since 2008.

But it's not a raise...because surely if we call it something else, it won't sound so terrible to people who've been without a job for months!

"This is not a raise, this is a cost-of-living," he said.

"If you don't think the cost of gasoline, hotels and everything else hasn't gone up in the last five years, you're wrong. And if we don't do something, it'll be another four years," he said, noting the Ohio Constitution prevents public officials, with the exception of judges, from getting a raise during the term to which they are elected.

"So if we do not act, it will be nine years with zero increase," Sen. Seitz said.

Oh - what a shame! Perhaps if they go nine years without a raise they'll have some idea what their constituents who have to pay for these raises feel like!

And what does the price of hotels have to do with government pay?!? Don't most people talk about food and gasoline and heating costs when they want to give an example of everyday living expenses?

Maybe hotels are part of Seitz's everyday living - who knows?

There are two critical points Seitz seems to overlook or outright ignore:

1) The extra money for increases in pay, regardless of what you call it, has to come from somewhere so either the public has to pay more or they have to go without something already provided in order to divert existing funds to the increase.

2) The reason many of the costs are going up is because of actions by these same people who now think they deserve even MORE pay for adding to our daily costs!

When Ohio's General Assembly mandates certain insurance coverages, insurance companies raise their costs and we pay.

When Ohio's General Assembly mandates that our energy companies get an ever-growing portion of their product from so-called 'green' sources - which cost a ton more than what they're paying for so-called non-green sources - they pass along those costs to us and we pay more.

When local elected officials spend limited tax dollars on things like art and swimming pools, they divert money from key governmental functions like road repair and safety - and then want more money to cover their 'essential' services, putting levy requests on the ballot and rising the cost of property taxes or income taxes, resulting in us - the public - having less money and paying more to local businesses who pass along those increases in the prices they charge.

Seitz - and the local electeds who want a pay increase - are either completely out of touch with the consequences of their own actions or they don't care.

Fortunately, it appears that leadership in the General Assembly isn't so enthusiastic:

Senate President Tom Niehaus (R-New Richmond) said he was aware of the proposal, but stressed that no legislation is currently before the chamber.

"There have been conversations...emails and letters of support from local elected officials and judges asking us to consider something along the lines of like a cost-of-living increase and making that conditional on (funding) being approved in the next budget, but there's no legislation on that right now," he said.

Sen. Niehaus said he planned to talk about the issue with his caucus.

"I think it is appropriate to talk about the issue because it has been probably four years since there has been any type of an increase. But I'm still very mindful of the fact that there are still many people in Ohio who are unemployed and would like to have any job and there are many others who have not seen any increases in many years," he said.

"So I don't think our elected officials, whether they be at the state or local level, are in any different situation than the people we represent," he added.

Speaker Bill Batchelder (R-Medina) was even less enthusiastic about the proposal.

"My caucus has very, very grave reservations," he said.

Hmm...wonder who has been sending emails and letters of support? Maybe public records requests are in order so we can put names to these local electeds who think they're not paid enough already.

Quote of the Day - right-to-work from labor's own mouth

I want to urge devotion to the fundamentals of human liberty – the principles of voluntarism. No lasting gain has ever come from compulsion. If we seek to force, we but tear apart that which, united, is invincible….I want to say to you, men and women of the American labor movement, do not reject the cornerstone upon which labor’s structure has been builded – but base your all upon voluntary principles and illumine your every problem by consecrated devotion to that highest of all purposes – human well being in the fullest, widest, deepest sense.” ~ Samuel Gompers, American Federation of Labor

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Quote of the Day - taxes

A QOTD as I do work on my Christmas decorations and makes you wonder when we've had this problem since the 6th century!

"The people are hungry: It is because those in authority eat up too much in taxes." ~ Lao Tzu, 6th century Chinese Philosopher

Friday, December 07, 2012

Supreme Court: business tax on fuel sales is unconstitutional

Gongwer Ohio is reporting:

The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that the application of the commercial activity tax to motor vehicle fuel sales is unconstitutional.

The 6-1 ruling will only apply to fuel sales made after today’s decision.

The groups challenging the tax said it unduly diverted $140 million annually from public highway purposes to the state’s general revenue fund.

Justice Robert Cupp wrote in the court’s majority decision that the CAT on fuel sales violates the Ohio Constitution’s ban on using fuel tax revenue for non-highway purposes.

Justice Terrence O’Donnell dissented without opinion.

Cautious optimism for a comprehensive performance audit at TPS

I attended the Toledo Public School Board's Finance Committee Meeting yesterday and left cautiously optimistic about getting a comprehensive, top-to-bottom performance review for the district.

At the direction of Dr. Cecelia Adams, the chairman of the committee, Treasurer Matt Cleland reached out to several of us who have been vocal about the issue and invited us to attend the meeting to hear presentations from three entities under consideration for the performance audit.

The Council of the Great City Schools, the State Auditor and Evergreen Solutions, LLC, were the presenters.

I've detailed my concerns about CGCS and nothing in their comments yesterday changed my mind.

TPS pays dues to belong to CGCS and participates in their board. Clearly, this presents a conflict of interest to hire a group that you belong to as an evaluator of your performance. Doing his presentation via phone, Michael Casserly, the Executive Director, addressed this concern, saying that prior reports they've done are very objective.

"I encourage people to look at any reports done over the years to see that they are extremely candid," he said.

Casserly described their approach as "reviews" of specific areas of function such as budget and finance, transportation, food services, or IT systems. While cost depends upon scope, he estimated roughly $30,000 per review with a 'broad review' typically costing around $100,000.

He emphasized that the costs are only for travel, hotel, meals and other expenses because the individuals used on the different subject teams are already employed in various senior urban school positions.

Casserly said they do not use a template for their reviews but do apply best practices and look at the "difference between why some schools do better than others and why reforms ... aren't getting the traction necessary."

In response to a question about union contracts Casserly replied with a very disturbing answer. "Sometimes we look at collective bargaining agreements if we think it has an impact on the instructional or operational review scope." He added that they will look at contracts "if asked."

He said they don't do follow up after the reviews, but they can refer the district to others who can help with implementation of the recommendations.

Board member Bob Vasquez asked if the Council had worked with other entities. For example, had CGCS done a review of transportation while another entity did a review of budget and finance? Casserly said they had, but emphasized that entities like states who do financial audits are usually looking at compliance with various laws and regulations and that having two groups pursuing the same goal but on two separate paths often takes up staff time.

My impression is that he was referring to a yearly financial audit and not a performance audit like our State Auditor offers.

Casserly explained the "main job is to identify and look at underlying structures and strategies that help or impede the results" the district is trying to achieve. He had no details about cost savings obtained but estimated between $2 million and $20 million in operational efficiencies.

The Auditor of State presentation was more of an overview of the performance audit services they offer. They look at all aspects of the operation with a focus on "skinnying down government." They use Lean Six Sigma and best practices, comparing an entity to public and private services when applicable. They emphasized that what works in one place might not be good in another.

The Auditor's average return is $23 in savings for every $1 spent on the audit. Their PAs cost around $100,000, depending on scope but they do have a revolving loan fund that can advance the district the cost of the audit, so long as it is repaid within one year of the audit completion. Using the LEAP fund, as it's called, allows districts and other entities to have time to implement recommendations and acquire the savings to pay for the audit.

The report they do will note any recommendations that are subject to labor contracts and negotiation so that everyone reading the report will have realistic expectations regarding the implementation of those recommendations.

Evergreen Solutions had not been invited to present. They'd heard about the discussion of a performance audit and contacted the board, asking to present their services. That companies specializing in school performance audits had not been contacted in advance was very disconcerting, but the presentation was top-notch.

Dr. Linda Recio, president of the firm, gave the most professional and comprehensive presentation of the methodology, tools and process they would employ in doing a performance audit.

Their PA team consists of individuals with extensive background in education and prior service in leadership positions in school structures. "We've been where you are," she said, but are now full-time consultants who can be completely objective in evaluating and making recommendations. She said that when they look at school budgets, they don't just bring in a former school treasurer, but a former school treasurer who is also a CPA.

She emphasized their knowledge of various state and federal laws to ensure that all recommendations are in compliance with mandates and requirements.

She brought a copy of the model structure guidebook they use for their PAs as well as a copy of the final report they did for a Virginia district. She said she thought it was important for everyone to see a sample of their work and the product they would receive.

Recio emphasized the constant, web-based interaction with both internal and external stakeholders; their hands-on approach which includes actually riding the bus and eating in the cafeteria; and their interview techniques.

"How do you hold yourself accountable for how you're spending public dollars," she asked, explaining that a comprehensive, top-to-bottom performance audit is key.

She said she would prefer to wait until after the first of the year to start any PA because she didn't think between Thanksgiving and Christmas was a good time to get people to focus on the tasks necessary. She said they could do their comprehensive PA in three months, which is half the time of other estimates.

Recio also said they do not charge extra or refer the district to others to help with the implementation of their recommendations. They provide not just recommendations, but detailed plans and strategies for how to implement their suggestions.

She estimated the cost of a 'the works' audit at "no more than $150,000, probably less" and said the audit of the Virginia school district, similar in size to Toledo, was just under $150,000.

In response to a question she noted that they've done audits of districts at the request of various states and that states have found 85-90% implementation rates. She also said the return on investment for their audits was $193 in savings for every $1 of audit costs.

My impressions:

* Dr. Adams does a very good job running a meeting. She was firm, but kind, in how she praised the progress staff was making on a goal of eliminating "confirming purchase orders" while insisting on further identifying the problems resulting in having them still on the agenda. (These are purchase orders that have been issued AFTER the action or service has been performed and they were a finding on the TPS 2011 audit.)

Her questions to the presenters were thoughtful, detailed and caught a couple of questionable statements that were made.

* Bob Vasquez was clearly thinking 'outside the box' (though he said at one point that he really didn't like that term) as he asked about having the presenters work together - perhaps using one to focus on financial aspects and another to focus on instructional aspects.

* Both Adams and Vasquez clarified that their resolution to pursue a contract with CGCS was not a commitment to hiring them for a performance audit - that a final decision on who will do the audit and the scope of the audit had not yet been finalized. They called on Keith Wilkowski, legal counsel to the board, to verify that was the case.

* Despite saying that they'd done more non-instructional audits than instructional ones, my impression of CGCS is that they are more likely to emphasize and focus on the instructional side of the operation.

My previous concerns about them still stand and I now have more. If I understood correctly, they use current employees in member schools to do the PAs. This pulls those individuals away from their regular duties and, while they are probably good people with good skills, they are more of a peer review rather than independent experts. Would they be more like co-workers than evaluators?

* The State Auditor was my preference prior to this meeting. I do believe they can do an excellent and comprehensive job of evaluating the district (both instructional and operational), but they are limited in their ability to help TPS in the implementation stage. This is not from a lack of desire to see success, but more from the structure of state government and their duties and limitations within that structure.

* Evergreen was the best of the three presentations and gave the best options to the district. They - or a firm like them - is now my preference, though their initiative in reaching out to the district to offer their services moves them to the top of the list.

Recio even had some free advice for the board for after the audit: hold quarterly meetings with the public where you share your progress on each of the recommendations. She said they provide a spreadsheet template boards can use to show the original recommendation, any modifications, percentage completed, savings achieved as well as other items the board might want to track.

I thought this was an excellent idea that would demonstrate how the board is following through and I hope they do that regardless of who is selected to do the PA.

* At one point Vasquez and Adams asked about needing property tax levies in the future. Evergreen noted that they are not a PR firm, but that their clients had successfully used the PA and the implementation of the recommendations in their efforts to educate the public about the finances of the districts. Vasquez wondered if the public would support a levy request in the future.

In response, John Mc Avoy, with the Northwest Ohio Conservative Coalition, told the board members that NWOCC was not opposed to school property tax levies in general, but they want to be sure entities requesting funds truly need them and are already using existing funds in the best possible manner. He shared that he, personally, decided to support the Lake School District levy after seeing their performance audit and the progress they were making as a result.

I told the board that support for future levies was never guaranteed, but that they couldn't spend three or six months doing an audit and then, two months later, ask for a new levy. I told them if they do the top-to-bottom, comprehensive, 'the works' audit, spend a year holding regular meetings showing how they're implementing the recommendations and achieving the targeting savings, and then they find they still need money, even I would probably support a levy.

But the key will be in demonstrating to the public that they are following through.

I also believe that if they do such an audit, they might not need a new levy for an extended period of time.

* Overall, I thought this was a very productive meeting and while I'm cautiously optimistic about the PA, I still have some questions:

- If they want to go with an outside consulting firm (like Evergreen), do they have to issue an RFP and/or go out to bid for the project? I don't think they have to if they use a CGCS or the state auditor.

- Are there board members who are committed to using CGCS and will find a way to do so regardless of better options? I didn't think they were the better choice to begin with and am even more convinced of this now.

- Will the openness I saw from two board members at the finance committee meeting carry over into regular board meetings and move TPS toward a comprehensive performance audit?

- As board president Lisa Sobecki asked previously, will they have the will to implement any recommendations they get?

- Will the TPS unions, especially the teachers and administrators, embrace the process and the outcome?

The ball is not really in the board's court right now - it's in ours. We need to continue to pressure them to stay on this path and to help them make good decisions along the way.

The next board meeting is Tuesday, December 18, at 5:30 p.m. It's in the Board Room at the Thurgood Marshall Building at 420 E. Manhattan Boulevard in Toledo.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

TPS finance committee meeting

I'm headed over to the Toledo Public School Board finance committee meeting - will give you a update on what happened later today. They are scheduled to discuss the performance audit options.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Performance Audit Workshop

The Northwest Ohio Conservative Coalition is hosting a Performance Audit Workshop - everything you always wanted to know about a performance audit but didn't know who to ask.

Here are the details:

Performance Audit Workshop

an ingredient of fiscal responsibility

If your community is pondering a levy, has voted on a levy, or is considering a performance audit, then you need to join us to get the details on what a performance audit can and cannot do.

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013
7:00 p.m.
Maumee Indoor Theater
601 Conant St. (Conant and Anthony Wayne Trail)
Maumee, Ohio

Ohio Auditor of State Dave Yost or his representative will be present to answer these questions:

What is a Performance Audit?
How can I get my school or city to do one?
What do you look at?
How long does it take?
How much does it cost?
How much money can an audit save?
When do we need to pay for the audit?
What happens if the audit doesn't find any savings?
What benefit will my school get out of an audit?

Audience Q&A will follow the presentation.

Put it on your calendar and plan to attend!

Obama Claus is coming to town

Sharing this - sent to me by email which says the author is Dean Hilgeman.

you better not work.
you better not try.
you better not earn.
I'm telling you why.
Obama Claus is coming to town.

he sees you when you're building.
he wants what you all make.
he'll tell the 47 per cent.
that being rich is a mistake.

oh you better not work.
you better not try.
you better not earn.
I'm telling you why.
Obama Claus is coming to town.

he’ll tell you to be thankful.
to bow down and give thanks.
or he’ll send you to a FEMA camp.
to get your thinking “straight”.

oh you better not work.
you better not try.
you better not earn.
I'm telling you why.
Obama Claus is coming to town.

he'll give you a free cell phone.
say Obamacare is great.
he'll tell you being a success.
is something you should hate.

oh you better not work.
you better not try.
you better not earn.
I'm telling you why.
Obama Claus is coooming tooo tooown!

By Dean Hilgeman

Toledo City Council Meeting - Nov. 5, 2012

Notes from Sherry:

Toledo City Council Meeting
December 4, 2012

In attendance: Councilmen Collins, Martinez, Ludeman, McNamara, Waniewski, Steel, Craig, Riley, Sarantou, Councilwomen Webb, Hicks-Hudson, Deputy Mayor Herwat, Mayor Bell.

Swearing in of the new Sargent at Arms, Will Carroll.

Item 556 - Resolution – Recognize the lifetime achievements of Adam Grant – adopted – all voting yes.

Item 573 – Resolution – Naming paved bicycle/walking path at International Park as Dr. Richard D. Ruppert Rotary Trail – adopted – all voting yes.

Item 544 – Purchase 15-passenger used van for Police, $29,000 General Fund and LETF

* Ludeman – haven't gotten back to me on referral – Police Explorer Program – what van has been useful for?
* Collins – Administration needs to take this legislation back, Adam Loux needs to read it – wants a good transfer.
* Herwat – Council needs to vote on this now.

Slow roll call vote: yes to Committee, no for vote. Yes – Collins, No – the remaining 10, motion failed.

* Steel – purchase used van – keep funds appropriated for it – this is not a model of good intentions – this falls under the laws of specificity – like comparing a street sweeper to a SUV.
* Sarantou – asking for specific details.
* Steel – get VIN number.

Passed – Collins, no – rest yes.

Item 545 – Agree with ECDI for technical & financial assistance to small businesses, 6 months, $125,000 CDBG EDL

* Martinez – we have had a hearing on this, internal business plan, good program to undertake expertise in small business – Amend to $250,000, partner at table.
* McNamara - $250,000 matching fund?
* Martinez – yes.
* Hicks-Hudson – some concern at hearing – look to long term.
* Collins – prudent move on his part (Martinez) – excellent idea.

Passed – all voting yes. Craig – this is opportunity for Toledo job growth.

Item 557 – Landbanking Sale – 2248 Fulton and 20 Columbia to Timothy Bexten for lot expansion, $250 – passed – all voting yes.

Item 558 – Re-appropriation from roof replacement to Water Treatment East Plant Improvements, $2.8M Water Bond – passed – all voting yes.

Item 559 - Re-appropriation from roof replacement to Water Treatment Low Service Pump Station, $1.5M Water Bond – passed – all voting yes.

Item 560 – Contract with Rockwell, Inc. for upgrade of SCADA System at Water Treatment Plant – passed – all voting yes.

Item 561 – Purchase leak detection equipment for Water Distribution, $40,000 Water Operating Fund – passed – all voting yes.

Item 562 – Renew contract with TTL Associates for geotechnical testing services, 1 year – passed – all voting yes.

Item 563 – Providing for the 2013 Assessed Services Program – Street Services, $18,517,895 ('12=$21,146,410) - 1st Reading.

Item 564 - Providing for the 2013 Assessed Services Program – Citywide Street Lighting, $4,167,465 ('12=$3,908,076) - 1st Reading.

Item 565 - Providing for the 2013 Assessed Services Program – Downtown Street Lighting, $250,948 ('12=$256,199) - 1st Reading.

Item 566 - Providing for the 2013 Assessed Se rices Program – Street Trees, $5,385,867 ('12=$4,942,125) - 1st Reading.

Item 567 - Providing for the 2013 Assessed Services Program – Surface Treatment, $802,233 ('12=856,940) – 1st Reading.

Item 568 – Approve final 2011 expenditures, all Funds; allocate 2011 surplus of $326,000 to Budget Stabilization

* Collins – Mr. President, take budget – faulty on surface – Mr Rowe had $712,000 inventory with the rest 3rd party in reserves from a landfill – place this money in escrow – cannot use it without 3rd party OK – reference back to the Administration.
* Patrick (didn't get his last name – Administration) – this is the first I've heard of this – yes, there are restrictions.
* Collins – received his answer from Mr. Rowe – won't agree with it till CPA says this is a good practice.
* Patrick – It was reviewed by a CPA.
* Collins – why are we afraid of a 3rd party opinion? Authority to act.
* McNamara - 1st Reading.
* Ludeman – review in two weeks.

Item 569 – Re-appropriation for Police and Fire overtime $640,000 and unemployment comp. $165,000, General Fund – passed – all voting yes.

Item 570 – Temporary Appropriation for January – March 2013, $152,393,947 All Funds - 1st Reading.

Item 571 – Contract for banking services, Fifth Third as Central Depository & Key Bank as Secondary Custodian - 1st Reading.

Item 572 – Expenditure to Toledo Sister Cities Int'l for 2012 contribution, $25,000 General Fund, Finance Dept. - 1st Reading.

Item 574 – MOU with Toledo/Lucas County Sustainability Commission for community wide sustainability program – passed – all voting yes.

Item 575 – Accept ODNR grant to fund 2 to 4 intermediation projects in Toledo, $250,000 – passed – all voting yes.

Item 576 - Accept ODNR grant to fund tree-planting projects in Toledo, $50,000 – passed – all voting yes.

Item 577 - Accept ODNR grant to complete additional phytoremediation work, $38,000 – passed – all voting yes.

Item 578 - Resolution – Close portion of old right-of-way of Benore Rd. - adopted – all voting yes.

Item 579 – Vacate alley at Monroe St. and Auburn Ave. (Approved by Plan Commission in Aug. 5 – 0) – passed – all voting yes.

Item 580 – Vacate alley bounded by Lagrange, Park & Streicher (Approved by Plan Commission in Sept. 5 – 0) – passed – all voting yes.

Last Call:

Hicks-Hudson – 1) Last night there was a meeting at Lagrange Library – need to sit down with Mr. Robinson's team – need to be proactive. 2) Meet with Department of Neighborhoods for shelters – clear this up for CDBG.

Ludeman – Clean park up (sorry couldn't hear which one), Wilma Brown's Birthday today.

Sarantou – Congratulations to Central Catholic and the Whitmer Panthers.

Steel – City of Toledo web site has been launched. It has a specific site for Business – friendly – modeled after NY.

(There is a page on the site stating:
“Recently fDi Magazine, a prestigious British publication, recognized Toledo as the "Most Business Friendly" city in North America. That decision is based on many factors. See below some of the highlights of Toledo's business approach:” ~ SZ)

Waniewski – Wishes congrats to Central Catholic and the Whitmer Panthers. December 12th at 6 p.m., the budget will be on line like last year. Looking for alternative funding – what dollars can and can't be used.

Webb – Meeting tonight with the different Catholic schools at what they can do (mentions a few). Talks about Item 571, changing that to a 2-year contract – using the same two banks as the City of Cleveland – looking at Cleveland for what they do track – put together unbanked people and what they do in Toledo. (Is “unbanked” a word? SZ)

McNamara – remember budget hearings coming up.

Herwat – Lighting up the Holiday Tree tonight.

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