Friday, December 27, 2013

Toledo Christmas Tree drop off locations

Press Release:

City of Toledo to provide drop off locations for Christmas tree disposal

Six sites available across the city

The City of Toledo Division of Parks, Recreation and Forestry will again provide drop off locations for Christmas tree disposal. Collections sites will be operational between December 26, 2013 and January 17, 2014 at six of the Toledo’s city parks. 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. No disposal fees are charged for the service.

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.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I believe in Santa Claus

Yes, I'm a big kid at heart and I have - and always will - believe in Santa.

Even if someone can possibly prove to me that he does not exist physically (which I doubt), I will continue to believe in his spirit and impact on us.

But - in case you were doubtful about the jolly man in a red suit, let me share with you this explanation: physics proves Santa exists. Don't worry - it's short and easy to understand - unlike most physics we might recall from our days in school.

If that's not enough, the Christmas Tree Market provides this infographic to show how Santa manages to do it all - from the making to the delivery of the presents (click for full view):

Wonders and Physics of Santa Claus

If you're still skeptical, how about some physical proof?

"A weather camera posted on the east deck of the late actor Don Knott's former estate high above Los Angeles captured still pictures of something very very unique and enchanting. Looking like a plane or helicopter at first glance, when experts zoomed in on the image, they found themselves face-to-face with what really does appear to be a sleigh and reindeer soaring through the sky. It was a monumental capture in the search to prove that Santa is indeed very real."

and this:

"On a Moscow bound flight from Athens, Greece during the early morning hours of Christmas Day, 2001, a man traveling home to his family in rural Russia took a picture out of the plane window high above the icy wilds of the Ukraine. Do you see what I see? What he saw? Yeah, the proof is in the pudding, as they say."

Then there is NORAD - who tracks Santa's progress across the globe. Are you really going to doubt NORAD?

Santa is magical, yes. But he definitely exists and I hope you get to experience the joy of believing this year, and every year.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

School Choice isn't just charters and vouchers anymore

The first in a series leading up to National School Choice Week January 26 - February 1, 2014.

I recently attended a conference sponsored by the Franklin Center designed to inform citizen journalists about school choice in advance of National School Choice Week. I thought I was pretty well informed about the subject, but I was wrong.

It turns out that school choice - or education choice as many think it will evolve into - is a lot more than just charters and vouchers.

First, let's clear up some misconceptions. There are six types of school choice currently available:

Traditional Public Schools - (yes, this is actually a choice!) where you are assigned to a school to attend based upon your zip code or neighborhood. Some areas have open enrollment in the school district which allows a child to attend another school in the system based upon request, need or other criteria.

Public Charter Schools - they are PUBLIC schools as well, but with greater curricular independence than traditional public schools and entry is usually by applications and then lottery when applications exceed spots available. For the record, students attending these schools are not hand-picked, chosen or stolen, as some have claimed.

Private Schools - these are often sponsored by a church or other organization and are privately run but often must meet certain state criteria for certification and student test results.

Magnet Schools - these are rigorous public schools that specialize in a certain curriculum. STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and performing arts are two of the most common types. For example, in Toledo we have the Toledo School for the Arts and the Maritime Academy of Toledo.

Home Schools - where children are educated in their own homes by their parents, usually with the support of network or organization of other parents and/or experts.

Online Schools - these can be stand-alone schools are can be used to support traditional brick and mortar schools or homeschooling. They are commonly used by students who are training to be professional athletes or performers with demanding schedules, by students who need flexible learning hours, and to provide GED education for adults or formerly incarcerated individuals.

The point is, there is no 'right' or 'wrong' choice, no matter what other people may say.

The entire premise of school choice is that parents should be able to select the school that best meets the need of their child because what works for one can never work for all.

Every parent makes a choice, whether they realize it or not. It is a choice to send your child to your neighbor traditional public school, as much as it is to send them to a private church-sponsored school or to educate them at home.

What should also be remembered is that making a decision other than the traditional public school does not mean you want the traditional public school to fail or be eliminated. Property values and taxes give every parent and resident a vested interest in the success of their local school systems.

How you get to a school choice is where such things as vouchers, educational scholarships and tax credit scholarships come in.

All are methods by which public funds or credits are used to help cover the costs of the school choice.

Knowing and understanding the options, along with how to take advantage of them, is the important thing so parents can make an informed choice based upon their child's needs. And no one knows their child like they do.

We all know that no one school can meet the individual needs and interests of every child. And no single school should be expected to be the best at every single thing, whether it be STEM or athletics, or be the perfect fit for every child.

But if we accept that we can have numerous restaurants in a community to effectively meet the food cravings and needs, why shouldn't we think of schools the same way?

Why is K-12 education thought of so differently than college? We wouldn't expect all students wanting to attend college to be forced to attend the single institution in their city, would we? Then why do so many reject the *concept* of school choice, even when some of those choices are still part of the *public* education?

Demographics trends

The trends are not on the side of forcing kids into a single zip-code-based system.

Matthew Ladner
Matthew Ladner, Senior Advisor of Policy and Research for the Foundation for Excellence in Education, crunched the numbers. Based upon the 2030 Census projections, the United States is about to see a sizable increase in K-12 students.

Nationally, the under-18 population is projected to increase 11.3 million, from 74.4 million in 2010 to 85.7 million by 2030.

In 2010 in his home state of Arizona there were 1.7 million people aged 18 and under. By 2030, the population of that age group is projected to be 2.6 million. Where are they all going to go?

"If we went to universal school choice in Arizona tomorrow," he said, "the traditional public schools will still see growth."

Ohio's under-18 population is projected to decline slightly - about 100,000 - from 2010 to 2030, while the over-65 population is projected to increase, the Census Data shows. This continues a trend seen from 2000 to 2010.

But there's an even bigger problem for our nation: our aging population. Baby boomers (those born between 1944 and 1964) have already hit retirement age and many states and localities give property tax breaks to retirees, including on school levies, which will continue to reduce the amount of money collected via that means.

Nationally, Census data shows an increase from 40.2 million people over 65 in 2010 to a projected 71.4 million by 2030.

So how are we going to handle more students and less people helping to pay for their education? We really need to learn to do K-12 education "better, faster and cheaper," Ladner said.

It won't be easy but Arizona has found a creative way that other states should pay attention to and consider. And it will change the way we think about school choice forever if they do.

Educational Empowerment Scholarships Accounts

In 2011, Arizona passed a law creating Educational Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESA). The state deposits educational funds directly into an account controlled by the parent. The parents can choose how to spend the funds using a type of debit card that is coded to allow its usage only for pre-approved expenses.

Parents can use it for tuition at any school, to pay for college or university courses while their child is still in high school, for online education, certified tutors, testing preparation like for SATs, or even a la carte public school courses (foreign languages, for example). They also have the choice to not spend it and put it toward a future college education. Anything not used in a year is allowed to accumulate.

Think about how food stamp EBT cards work and you'll have a good understanding about how the Arizona system works, except it's education items that are being purchased rather than food.

There are numerous stories about waste, fraud and abuse in the food stamp EBT card program, but the lessons states have learned about that management should help them devise a "robust system of state oversight," Ladner said, including account monitoring and auditing.

The future of choice will be more than just government-funded coupons that allow parents to choose between public and private schools.

"All possible methods of education delivery will compete with each other," Ladner said.

The best thing is that Arizona has already learned some lessons and made some modifications, so states like Ohio who choose to consider a similar process will have an example to follow and won't have to re-learn any of those lessons.

With the changing demographics, the ever-increasing costs and the way technology has us expecting a customized experience, it's time we realized that it's no longer just about choosing a school. It's about how we choose an education - and the options should be endless.

Other coverage

There were a number of us at the conference and I want you to see what others have done on the subject.

While all the links below are excellent articles, this one is my favorite so far because it tells a winning story for conservatives - and I agree with it completely!

A Slam-Dunk Win for the GOP - No, Its Not Immigration Reform

Here is a round-up of the posts from other citizen journalists:

Educational Choice: The Ponderings of My Latest Interest


Friedman Foundation Study Focuses on How Parents Choose the Right Schools for their Children

Former Anti-Voucher Advocate Now Advocates For Vouchers and School Choice

School Choice is a Winning Issue

School Choice Changes Lives, One Scholarship At A Time

The Common Core Steamroller

Citizen journalists learn about school choice

GOAL Scholarship Parents Appear to be Active Consumers of Private Schools

The Best Public Schools Embrace School Choice


Court awards "win" to disqualified school board candidate, SOS Appeals

Education Reform as a Disruptive Technology

4000+ Lawrence School Children Are Being Left Behind, But There is Hope on the Horizon

Reforming government schools

Schools of Choice: A Human Right to Quality Education for EACH Child

Charter School Only California School as Finalist in National “Race to the Top”

What is School Choice

Friday, December 13, 2013

Marcy Kaptur told the Obamacare "Lie of the Year"

Well, it's official. President Barack Obama is responsible for the "Lie of the Year" according to Politifact.

Graphic courtesy of
The Heritage Foundation

"PolitiFact has named "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it," the Lie of the Year for 2013. Readers in a separate online poll overwhelmingly agreed with the choice."

But Obama isn't the only one responsible for this Obamacare lie. Every other person who told the lie should be on the hot seat as well, including our own representative, Marcy Kaptur (D-9th District).

Here's what Kaptur said:

Rep. Marcy Kaptur
"The goal is to try to get you into a plan that you pick, where you feel you have very carefully monitored care, that you participate in, so nobody's left out, nobody's rejected and you have choices. That sounds like a much better system than we have today for so many people. If you like what you have, you keep it…"

And just so you're sure nothing is taken out of context, here is the press release from her office and here is a screen shot of it as well:

That wasn't the only time she lied. Here's another example:

"The whole intention of the law is to relieve some of the worries that seniors face," Congresswoman Kaptur said. And, "you keep the insurance that you have if you like it."

She told that one to a bunch of seniors - seniors! - in a telephone town hall. Again, here is the link to the statement on her own website and here is the screenshot of it:

The big question now is this: Will anyone hold her responsible?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Toledo Police Chief Diggs to retire in January

And so it begins...

Press Release:

Diggs to retire at end of Mayor Bell’s term

Citing irreconcilable differences in policing philosophy with the Mayor-elect, Toledo Police Chief Derrick Diggs this morning notified Mayor Michael P. Bell and the executive staff of the police department of his intention to retire at the end of Mayor Bell’s term. The chief will take the opportunity to pursue other professional law enforcement opportunities giving the Mayor-elect the opportunity to appoint a chief with whom he shares the same approach to policing strategy for Toledo. Chief Diggs’s final day with the department will be January 2, 2014.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Kearney out as FitzGerald gubernatorial running mate


Sen. Eric Kearney, the Democratic lieutenant governor running mate for gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, is off the ticket.

He had resigned his position as Senate minority leader when he was selected as FitzGerald's running mate.

Kearney has been widely criticized for unpaid taxes along with his credit card debt.

Both men said this would be the best move for the campaign.

From their statement:

“It’s undeniable that this has come to be a distraction from a discussion of the vital issues facing Ohio, and the choice voters must make in this election. The stakes are too high: we need a change of leadership to move Ohio in a new direction that puts more Ohioans back to work and builds a better future for our children,” Mr. Kearney said.

“I have discussed this with Ed FitzGerald, and while I will always be grateful for him selecting me to be his running mate, we agree that the best course of action is for me to step aside from the campaign for Lieutenant Governor and focus on serving the people of the Ninth Senate district."

This does not bode well for the FitzGerald campaign and is not the best way to start a campaign. I expect that criticism over the choice, along with the vetting process, will be a continuing issue during the campaign, opening FitzGerald up to questions about how he would perform similar acts if he were elected.

The Ohio Republican Party got in the first dig with this tweet:

"Historians and pundits always say that the first real decision a governor makes is the one of running mate." - Ed FitzGerald


Then they issued this statement attacking FitzGerald and the "disservice" he did to Kearney.

"Ed Fitzgerald has done a huge disservice to Senator Kearney and his family. By failing to fully vet him, FitzGerald put his running mate in an impossible situation for weeks before finally abandoning him in an attempt to save his own campaign. We have learned a lot about FitzGerald and his priorities throughout this entire episode. His lack of judgment and honesty will haunt him for the remainder of this campaign. We still don't know how FitzGerald allowed this to happen, but we know the entire time nothing Ed Fitzgerald or the Ohio Democrats have said has been true. If anyone should leave this race, it's Fitzgerald who is clearly not prepared for statewide office."

It's going to be a long campaign...

Friday, December 06, 2013

The Christmas Tree tax is back

The House version of the
Farm Bill would lift the
stay on the Christmas Tree tax.
Yes, just in time for the holiday, the Christmas Tree tax is making a comeback.

In 2011, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a Christmas tree promotion program. They didn't call it a tax, but that's what it was. It set up a Christmas Tree Promotion Board (because clearly Christmas trees aren't popular enough and need to be promoted) and funded the operations with a 15-cent tax on every Christmas tree sold.

Now, they said the tree growers would pay the tax, but the reality was that the tax would be passed along to the buyer. And this was all “to enhance the image of Christmas trees and the Christmas tree industry in the United States.”

Fortunately, public outrage resulted in a stay on the proposed rule.

But the tax has been resurrected in the latest House version of the Farm Bill. Under their version, the stay would be lifted so the tax could be imposed and the Christmas Tree Promotion Board could be formed.

The Senate version of the Farm bill does not include this provision. Both bodies are supposed to meet soon to work out the differences. Don't forget, the Farm Bill is really a Food Stamp Bill, because that's where a significant amount of funding in the legislation actually goes.

Two years ago I shared a summary of Ilya Shapiro's "The Christmas Tree Tax Is a Microcosm of What's Wrong with Constitutional Law" because it asked so many good questions about these types of forced promotions that are supposed to be for the good of those being forced. The questions are even more relevant today:

* Are Free Exercise and Equal Protections issues present with this tax? Christmas trees really aren't secular; for most people, they're an expression of their Christian faith and a celebration of the birth of Jesus. Does this tax the free exercise of Christianity since no other religions have such trees?

* Does the Constitution give the federal government the authority to tax the sale of a local agricultural products? Unless the trees are being trucked across state lines (and many are not), there is no interstate commerce. And since it is a tax (which USDA denied), it must be an excise, which is allowed in the Constitution.

The courts have said an excise tax is on transactions or privileges. How does this tax promote the general welfare or common defense - the only legitimate purposes of excise taxes? Is Congress really saying that an excise tax to "enhance the image of Christmas trees and the Christmas tree industry in the United States" is really part of the common defense or necessary to the 'general welfare' of the nation?

* Even if the tax is lawful, should it be imposed by a governmental agency? Shouldn't it be imposed by Congress? Removing a stay on the tax imposed by an agency without an act of Congress doesn't really count as passing a tax, does it?

And I have some questions of my own:

* If there is a *need* for a Christmas Tree Promotion Board, isn't there an association or group that can create it and manage it - maybe with dues from members who have voluntarily joined together to do so? Why does the federal government need to do this instead of the people who are directly going to benefit from the promotion: the tree growers themselves?

* Is it maybe because *some* growers want this and others don't that *some* are using the power of government to force the others to do something the *some* believes is good for them? Isn't that quite arrogant? And if government force is so necessary to actually creating and funding the board, how much demand could there be for it in the first place?

* Do Christmas Trees really have such a bad reputation that their image needs to be enhanced? Who actually comes up with these premises and when it was first suggested did anyone with common sense express disbelief?

* How much time, effort and taxpayer money has been spent on this single bad idea? Doesn't the USDA have more important things to do than create a tax to fund a board that doesn't have enough support within the industry to be created?

Sometimes, I just can't believe how ridiculous some of these things are.

(H/T The Heritage Foundation)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ohio AG files suit against two Toledo brothers operating Toledo Appliance Repair

Press release:

(TOLEDO, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today announced a lawsuit against two brothers who operated Toledo Appliance Repair. Roger Sutherland and Shawn Wheeler, both of Toledo, are accused of performing shoddy work and misrepresenting their services. The Attorney General is seeking consumer restitution, an injunction to stop further violations, and civil penalties.

“These individuals came into consumers’ homes, made repairs without providing estimates, and then surprised consumers with the bill,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Because consumers filed complaints, we were able to detect a pattern of violations, and we encourage any other consumers who believe they were treated unfairly to contact our office.”

The brothers advertised on Craigslist and in the yellow pages, often using the names Toledo Appliance Repair, Toledo Appliance Guys, or Brothers Appliance.

About 15 consumers filed complaints against the business, reporting total losses of $5,844.50, including a $2,200 loss and a $1,300 loss. Consumers generally said that after the business repaired an appliance, the appliance quickly broke again, often within hours or days of the repair.

The business advertised a one-year warranty but Sutherland and Wheeler never returned to make the additional repairs. They also claimed to accept credit cards but once in a consumer’s home, they said they only accepted cash. Some consumers said they were expecting only an estimate but that the business quickly made the repair and handed the consumer a bill.

The Attorney General’s lawsuit charges the brothers with multiple violations of Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act. Counts include shoddy work, misrepresentation, failure to inform consumers of their right to an estimate, and failure to deliver.

Attorney General DeWine encourages consumers to research a business before making any payments. Consumers can check for complaints on file with the Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau. They also should check with the Ohio Secretary of State to determine whether the business is properly registered.

Consumers who suspect an unfair or deceptive business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General's Office at 800-282-0515 or

A copy of the lawsuit is available on the Ohio Attorney General's website.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Quote of the Day - encroachment on the Constitution

"The nature of the encroachment upon American constitution is such, as to grow every day more and more encroaching. Like a cancer; it eats faster and faster every hour. The revenue creates pensioners, and the pensioners urge for more revenue. The people grow less steady, spirited and virtuous, the seekers more numerous and more corrupt, and every day increases the circles of their dependents and expectants, until virtue, integrity, public spirit, simplicity and frugality become the objects of ridicule and scorn, and vanity, luxury, foppery, selfishness, meanness, and downright venality swallow up the whole of society." ~ John Adams

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Quotes of the Day - rights vs. tyranny

"Of the liberty of conscience in matters of religious faith, of speech and of the press; of the trial by jury of the vicinage in civil and criminal cases; of the benefit of the writ of habeas corpus; of the right to keep and bear arms...If these rights are well defined, and secured against encroachment, it is impossible that government should ever degenerate into tyranny." ~ James Monroe

"The time to guard against corruption and tyranny, is before they shall have gotten hold on us. It is better to keep the wolf out of the fold, than to trust to drawing his teeth and talons after he shall have entered." ~ Thomas Jefferson

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ineptocracy - a new definition of America?

I was actually sent this in a email - it was a picture of the definition on a t-shirt, so I'm sure you can find it somewhere online if you look:

Ineptocracy (in-ep-toc’-ra-cy), n. A system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Happy 238th Birthday U.S. Marine Corps

Today is the 238th Birthday of the United States Marine Corps - so Happy Birthday Marines!

Besides the really cool uniforms

and awesome hymn:

From the Halls of Montezuma
To the shores of Tripoli;
We fight our country's battles
In the air, on land, and sea;
First to fight for right and freedom
And to keep our honor clean;
We are proud to claim the title
Of United States Marine.

Our flag's unfurled to every breeze
From dawn to setting sun;
We have fought in every clime and place
Where we could take a gun;
In the snow of far-off Northern lands
And in sunny tropic scenes;
You will find us always on the job
The United States Marines.

Here's health to you and to our Corps
Which we are proud to serve;
In many a strife we've fought for life
And never lost our nerve;
If the Army and the Navy
Ever look on Heaven’s scenes;
They will find the streets are guarded
By United States Marines.

and the fact that they carry swords,

they have a time-honored tradition as they celebrate their birthday:  the cutting of their birthday cake.

Here is one version of the script for the ceremony:

The Marine Corp’s birthday cake-cutting ceremony is important to all Marines, as it is an annual renewal of each Marine’s commitment to the Corps . . . and the Corps’ commitment to our nations quest for peace and freedom worldwide.

The birthday cake is traditionally cut with the Mameluke sword, as a reminder that we are a band of warriors, committed to carrying the sword, so that our nation may live in peace. The Mameluke sword gets its name from the cross hilt and ivory grip design, similar to swords used for centuries by Ottoman warriors. The Marine Corps tradition of carrying this sword dates from Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon’s assault of Derna, Tripoli, in 1805, where he is said to have won the sword of the governor of
the city.

As is our custom, the first piece of cake will be presented to our guest of honor.

By tradition, the second piece of cake is presented to the oldest Marine present. Ladies and Gentlemen . . . the oldest Marine present is (insert name). (insert name) was born in (insert year). The third piece of cake is presented to the youngest Marine
present. Ladies and Gentlemen . . . The youngest Marine present is (insert name). (insert names) was born in (insert year).

So to the few and the proud, Happy Birthday! And thank you!

Semper Fidelis

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Mayoral transition stories hint at bad things to come

Mayor-elect D. Michael Collins 
In looking online at The Blade, I had three important observations I want to share.

The first one deals with the editorial, "Mayor Collins His challenge is to persuade jaded Toledoans that city government can be a vital, positive force in their lives"

As editorials go, it's not bad, though it is the usual Blade telling their endorsed candidate what to do, which is a really a warning should he not follow their instructions.

No, the problem is the premise in the headline that city government can - and should - be a "vital, positive force" in our lives.

Government is not supposed to be any such thing. Governments exist to protect our individual rights. We grant them the opportunity to serve us as we see fit, giving them the authority to provide essential services like road repair, sewers, police and fire which we'd have a hard time doing alone (though when it comes to police, even that is changing).

Government should be seen as a necessary evil - something that must constantly be watched and guarded against lest it becomes too powerful and infringes upon our individual rights and freedom. It should be the last option - not the first choice - when there is a need.

Sadly, both the local paper and too many citizens don't understand this concept, which is probably why the city is stuck on stupid.

The second one deals with the 3/4% payroll income tax which Mayor D. Michael Collins wants to make permanent.

Since the 1980s, Toledo voters have approved this 'temporary' tax every four years. We've granted city council the ability to divert money from the original stated purposes and now use it to fund police, fire, capital improvements ... and yearly deficits.

We like the fact that we have a say every four years for it keeps a level of accountability present in how the city uses the money. If they don't use it properly, we'll take it away from them.

But like so many other things, a temporary solution was relied upon for every-day functions and the city never really makes any attempt to live without it, threatening us with doom and gloom if we fail to continue to grant it to them.

Collins wants to reduce it slightly, but make it a permanent tax. He said "growth in the economy would offset the loss and that Toledo would benefit from the positive signal the reduction would send to the business community." This just demonstrates his ignorance of the business community - and the economy.

Most people won't notice a reduction from 2.25% to 2.2% and business owners know that. The tax isn't paid by the businesses, but by the employees they hire and pay. And he has not mentioned, as far as I can tell, the impact that H.B.5, a revamp of municipal income taxes pending in the House, might have on the city or his plan.

Think about it: we're talking a $15 reduction for a $30,000 salary or a $12.50 reduction on a $25,000 salary. That's not a lot of economic growth when prices are rising.

But Toledoans will probably fall for it. Yes, stuck-on-stupid comes to mind.

The last thing is this quote from the same article:

“I plan to reach out to Dashing Pacific Group through the Regional Growth Partnership and help them develop a plan for the Marina District,” Mr. Collins said.

Did he not see the TV ads? Put out by a Toledoans for Working Families with a Columbus contact - not the Collins campaign - they portrayed a Chinese flag and said “Mike Bell cares more about creating jobs in China than he does here in Toledo.” They also said he sold the Marina District to Chinese investor Dashing Pacific Group Ltd. “for chump change.”

The ad was a direct attack on Dashing Pacific, something that the Chinese culture does not take kindly to. And since Collins refused to repudiate the ads, it's likely he will be seen as complicit.

If this were you, how receptive would you be to any outreach?

Then there is the arrogance - something Collins is well-known for. He wants to help them develop a plan for the property. How does he know there isn't one already or that he is better qualified than them to do so?

These three items are just a mere indication of what is to come - and it doesn't bode well for Toledo.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Toledo election results - stuck on stupid

Has Toledo fallen into a sink hole
from which we will never recover?
I cannot express how disappointed I am in Toledo's election results. We've put back into office the same names, same philosophies and the same stagnation that has us wishing for the 'good ol' days' only to be disappointed - again and again and again.

You know the definition of insanity? Toledo exemplifies it.

The unions and the Blade didn't want Mike Bell to be mayor again, primarily because they couldn't control him. But they fail to realize that he was actually doing good things in the city.

D. Michael Collins ran ads excoriating Bell for his economic development trips to China and for selling the Marina District to business developers who - eek! - don't look like us. What Collins and his supporters failed to realize is that doing so turned the District into a revenue-producing asset (primarily through the property taxes paid) instead of a drain on the city requiring constant upkeep.

No, it's not yet been developed as everyone, including the owners, would like, but at least it's not an albatross hanging around the city's neck like it had been under the previous mayors.

Collins is now between a rock and a hard place. Does he really think the owners of the Marina District are going to want to work with him to actually develop the property? Or will they wait it out until the next election? Or perhaps, like so many other business owners, leave the city altogether?

How will a mayor who criticized the outreach now reach out to those who have the ability to bring companies and jobs to the city?

Did anyone stop to think about that when they were jumping on the bandwagon?

And then there is city council which, except for Sandy Spang (the only bright hope of the night) is nothing but a repeat of old, tired names we've had all along.

Rob Ludeman, Jack Ford, Sandy Spang, Steven Steel, Theresa M. Gabriel and either Adam Martinez or Larry Sykes will be our at-large representatives on council. But even Gabriel isn't for certain. Only 75 votes separate her from Martinez, who is only 34 votes ahead of Sykes. The results are unofficial and I'm sure there are provisional ballots which were cast so it's really to early for any of the three to be celebrating.

But for Toledoans, it doesn't really matter. They're what we already have in terms of philosophy and approach - and at least two of them are names we've seen and heard over and over and over again. I have to wonder, though, if Sykes thinks not running for re-election to the school board was a bad idea. He was pretty much assured of that seat.

We've gone back to Jack Ford - again. He was first elected to City Council in 1993, the year I was elected clerk of Toledo Municipal Court. He then served as mayor (between Carty Finkbeiner stints) and then went to the school board. I think he also did a term in the state legislature - hard to keep track of the offices he's jumped to and from. He was so bad as mayor that Finkbeiner, whom he defeated after two terms, was able to get elected again. The joke was that we were on a pendulum swinging between crazy and lazy and definitely preferred the crazy side, which is why we back to Carty.

You'd think we'd learn our lesson. Apparently not.

And Gabriel, if she is elected, is an old Finkbeiner ally having served in his cabinet, but also appears to get along well with Ford.

Rumor has it that Finkbeiner is interested in being appointed to fill the district seat Collins will vacate when he's sworn in as mayor. Can it be any worse for Toledo? These are the same people who led us to our current decline/stagnation, but they're old (both physically and in length of time in the public eye) and must be familiar. We just seem to have a disconnect between the people and the policies they advocate which keep earning us the name of 'little Detroit.'

Then there is the Toledo School School board. Bob Vasquez was the top vote-getter which is not surprising considering he was the only incumbent. I like Bob. I've always respected his service on boards and commissions, even when I might have disagreed with him - which wasn't as often as some may think. At TPS I believe he pays good attention to the financial aspects of the school district and he was an early supporter of the performance audit I pushed for. Again, we don't always agree, but I think he's better than most when it comes to an elected official.

But who fills the two vacant seats? Polly Gerken-Taylor, wife of sitting County Commissioner and former Toledo Councilman Pete Gerken and, until now, a perennial candidate ... and Chris Varwig. a long-time TPS volunteer who says she wants to be an advocate for parents and has no desire to run for city council. She may be the second bright hope - if she doesn't get railroaded by the politics inherent in the system. My hope is that she will find allies in Vasquez and fellow board member Dr. Cecelia

As for Polly (because the hyphenated name is just too much), the primary thing she has going for her is her husband's name and unions. Then there was her ridiculous campaign slogan, "now is the time." For what? For her to finally get into public office? She didn't campaign for anything other than what the board has always done. And our test scores, declining enrollment and general failure of the schools is the result. No wonder parents send their kids elsewhere.

On a good note, Josh Lanzinger was elected judge of the Toledo Municipal Court. He'd been appointed to the position and was able to keep it, primarily through the limited incumbency, but also because of the extremely familiar name (his mom is Supreme Court Justice Lanzinger with a long successful history of election in Lucas County). He'll most likely keep the seat for as long as he wants it.

But that's about all...

Let me share with you some of the comments from my Facebook friends:

"Toledoans will elect and reelect the same names and faces that have presided over Toledo's decline for decades...and then complain that it keeps getting worse."

"What's funny Maggie is people in Toledo acting like there is "change" or we will some how move out of the status quo... yes they have said that... but they keep voting the same status crap in."

"Toledo Businesses are voting,... on their way out. Is it any mystery Maggie, that we builders and developers are putting up new houses and subdivisions in the surrounding area and not into Toledo. Failing schools, failing philosophy. Who with a clue wants to live there?"

followed immediately by:

"This is why I will never expand my business to Toledo."

And then this from dear friend and fellow blogger Tim Higgins:

"Perhaps Toledo can put in for designation as a "Green City" for all of the candidate recycling that it did this election."

Maybe, but it won't help. As Sam and I have said for decades: Toledo is like a drug addict who hasn't yet hit rock bottom to know it needs to change.

"Toledo.... the future Detroit of Ohio."

Indeed. :(

btw: this DEFINITELY qualifies for 'stuck on stupid' though now I'm wondering just how stupid am I that I stay....

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trick-or-Treat times rescheduled

The City of Toledo just sent out the following press release:

NW Ohio communities reschedule Trick-or-Treat hours for Sunday, November 3rd

After a collaborative meeting between mayors, managers and police chiefs, several area communities are rescheduling trick-or-treat hours according to the following schedule.

The cities of Oregon, Perrysburg and Toledo and the Village of Ottawa Hills will host trick-or-treat from 6-8p.m. on Sunday, November, 3 2013.

The City of Sylvania and Sylvania Township will host trick-or treat from 6-7:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 3, 2013.

The City of Bowling Green will host trick-or-treat from 6:30-8 p.m. on Sunday, November 3, 2013.

Further information is available from individual community contacts.

Why Sunday? Is it because they expect too much might be going on Friday and Saturday nights? What about Sunday being a school night?

The hourly forecast from Accuweather says it will rain between 6 and 8 p.m. tonight, but that the temperature will be in the low 60s. While Sunday is supposed to be clear, it's predicting a high temperature of only 51 degrees.

Have we routinely rescheduled trick-or-treat times because of rain or have we only recently become so intolerant of a little discomfort?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Just in time for Halloween: a civil liberties graveyard

The Young Americans for Liberty have been quite active at the University of Toledo this semester and their latest is rather creative. Just in time for Halloween, they've decided to host a civil liberties graveyard, mourning the loss of liberties and freedoms. Oh - they're handing out candy, too.

Here's the press release:

TOLEDO, OH—This Tuesday come see The Young Americans for Liberty at the University of Toledo in one of their spookiest activism projects yet, THE CIVIL LIBERTIES GRAVEYARD!!!!

The civil liberties graveyard will be filled with the tombstones of our beloved civil liberties and freedoms. Some liberties featured will include our health freedoms, religious liberty, right to privacy and right to bear arms. Along side those freedoms we will have tombstones mourning our losses of sound money and peace with two mystery tombstones. But be careful viewing the stones because the commander-in-chief and chief grim reaper of our civil liberties will be walking around with his scythe looking for more liberties he can take away. To put it more bluntly, we are going to have someone walking around in a Grim Reaper costume with a Barack Obama mask because in legend the grim reaper kills people and in real life our current president, Barack Obama kills our freedoms.

Please come take some pictures and take some candy... if you dare!

Tuesday, October 29th
Noon-5 pm

The University of Toledo
Centennial Mall
2801 W Bancroft St, Toledo, OH 43606

The Young Americans for Liberty at the University of Toledo

-Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Second Amendment film debuts tonight

"MOLON LABE - How the Second Amendment Guarantees America's Freedom" will have its world premier tonight in theaters and online.

Featuring Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan, Alex Jones and G. Edward Griffin, this documentary explores the reasons Americans not only have the right to "keep and bear arms," but the duty to "keep and bear arms" as part of their state militia responsibilities.

You can watch online beginning at 8 p.m. here:

Filmmaker James Jaeger (FIAT EMPIRE, CORPORATE FASCISM) teamed with constitutional attorney Edwin Vieira Jr. and producer Richard Iott (BEAUTIFUL BOY, CARJACKED) on MOLON LABE, which was inspired by The Sword and Sovereignty, a book by Vieira.

The movie notes how the duty to keep and bear arms, as well as the concept of the militia, are often misunderstood. As a result a "gun-control lobby" has been eroding the original intent of the Founders by passing unconstitutional laws establishing self-defense prohibition zones and destroying the 300-year-old militia system established by WE THE PEOPLE, the press release for the movie states.

You can view the trailer here.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

City of Toledo to begin electronic contracting

This is good news:

Press Release

Toledo to make the switch to electronic contracting

City, Chamber to host small business workshops to introduce new program

Soon to be gone are the days of orange folders routing through city offices with contracts waiting to be signed by department directors. The City of Toledo is preparing to flip the switch on electronic contracting in an effort to streamline the bid and contract process by automating the paperwork and allowing information to be submitted online. The new process will save the business community and the city time and money by reducing the City’s paper dependency and conserving resources. It will also speed the process, reducing the length of time between a bid award and a signed contract so projects may proceed more quickly.

In partnership with the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Minority Business Development Center, the City will host a series of business development workshops to roll out the new online bid and contract processes. The workshops will demonstrate how to use the new system and walk through the added value of bidding on city projects using the new online tools.

Two meetings and one webinar will be offered for the convenience of current vendors and other businesses interested in more information on the new program:

Thursday, October 24th 8:00am – University of Toledo, Scott Park Campus of Energy & Innovation, Student Center Room 1080C

Tuesday, October 29th 9:00am – Webinar – To register go to:

Wednesday, October 30th 5:30pm – Sanger Branch Library, Room A, 3030 W. Central Ave.

Bids will still be accepted through the traditional paper process, but vendors will be encouraged to utilize the convenience of an automated process. City employees will be available to assist businesses with the online services during the transition to the new system.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Controlling Board membership may be altered to provide okay for Medicaid expansion

It looks like Gov. John Kasich will get his Medicaid expansion approved by the Controlling Board.

I previously shared with you his plans to bypass the Ohio General Assembly, which had removed the expansion from prior bills and is still debating the issue.

Last week, the Department of Medicaid submitted a request to the panel seeking authorization to spend federal funds totaling $500,000 million in FY14 and $2 billion in FY15 to extend the program to cover citizens up to 138% of the federal poverty level, as originally proposed by Gov. John Kasich in his biennium budget bill.

The item is scheduled for the Controlling Board's meeting on Oct. 21.

The Controlling Board is a 7-member body comprised of:

  • The Director of Budget and Management, or designee (the President of the Board)
  • The Chair of the Finance and Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives
  • The Chair of the Finance Committee of the Senate
  • Two members of the House appointed by the Speaker of the House, one from the majority party and one from the minority party
  • Two members of the Senate appointed by the President of the Senate, one from the majority party and one from the minority party

In order for the expansion to be approved, at least one Republican would need to vote in favor of it. The two House Republicans have previously expressed opposition to the plan, but the two Republican Senators have been silent on the matter.

Today Gongwer Ohio (subscription may be required) reported that House Speaker Bill Batchelder (R-Medina) "plans to alter his chamber's membership on the panel prior to next Monday's meeting and will seat at least one member that will give the go-ahead to the governor's plan."

Rep. Ron Amstutz expressed his displeasure with the governor's Controlling Board move last week. Rep. Cliff Rosenberger said he would vote against expansion at the Controlling Board, and told Gongwer he hadn't heard of any plans to replace him on the panel.

From Gongwer:

Rep. Rosenberger said he'd prefer to continue to debate the policy through the full legislature but added that he has been on record as opposing a straight expansion and instead prefers the "reform" approach embodied in various proposals, including the bill (SB 208*) introduced last week by Sen. David Burke (R-Marysville). (See Gongwer Ohio Report, October 10, 2013)

"There's an opportunity for members of the General Assembly to still hear those options," he said, adding that he's concerns about the impact of pushing the expansion through the board versus the legislature.

"I would be a 'no' vote on the Controlling Board on the issue," Rep. Rosenberger said.

While Speaker Batchelder has been a staunch opponent to expansion, as it was part of the vilified "Obamacare" package, swapping out his reluctant Controlling Board members could prove to be politically expedient as it would provide cover to some of his caucus members who support expansion.

A Controlling Board vote averts putting those members on record for where they stand on separate legislation, thus protecting them from potential primary challenges from the right. Meanwhile, he's also boosting the policy aims of his fellow Republican governor, whose name is being bandied about as a presidential candidate in 2016.

Also a matter of conventional wisdom: Gov. Kasich wouldn't have scheduled a Controlling Board item if he wasn't assured of the votes.

Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) said in an interview Tuesday that his caucus is aware of his opposition to expansion, however he has told his members on the panel - Sen. Bill Coley (R-Liberty Twp.) and Sen. Chris Widener (R-Springfield) - to vote their conscience and their districts.

Nevertheless, he also said he doesn't view the proposal before the board to be the actual "expansion," per se. That would come through an executive order from the governor, he said. The Controlling Board agenda item would merely authorize the transfer of funds.
Kasich has been criticized by conservatives in the state for his plan to expand Medicaid. Here is guest post that details the 'myths' associated with the expansion, as promoted by the Kasich administration talking points on the plan.

Others, including State Rep. Barbara Sears, left-leaning groups and many Democrats, support the expansion of the government program.

Had this been Democrats planning to replace board members in order to provide a favorable vote for their governor, I'm sure the Republican Party would be having a conniption. As it's a Republican governor, expect the party to stand behind their man, regardless of party principles.

Guest Post: The Myths of Medicaid Expansion

The following is a guest post from Rep. Ron Young, Republican from Leroy Township, District 61.

I believe Ronald Reagan summed up what we face today way back in 1961. He said, “In 1927 an American socialist, Norman Thomas, six time candidate for president on the Socialist Party ticket, said the American people would never vote for socialism. But he said under the name of liberalism the American people will adopt every fragment of the socialist program. One of the traditional methods of imposing socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It's very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. Most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can't afford it.”

Today, our nation and Ohio are experiencing an expansion of government intrusion into our health care industry of unparalleled magnitude. Full implementation of Obamacare will mean about one- sixth of our nation’s total economy will fall under even tighter government regulation and bureaucracy. 

My comments in this report are focused on the impacts of expanding the Medicaid program. Contrary to some reports, it is impossible to oppose Obamacare and yet support Medicaid expansion. Medicaid expansion is a major part of Obamacare and represents about half of all Obamacare spending. 

In order to understand why Medicaid expansion is bad for Ohio, we need to first understand a few points about the current Medicaid program. 

  • About two million Ohioans are on the Medicaid program today, or about 20 percent of Ohio’s total population.
  • The current program is by far the biggest expense of the state’s budget, consuming about 42% of it, because Medicaid spending increases much faster than inflation. It is crowding out education, infrastructure improvements, prison funding, and other critical needs. The current program, even without expansion, is financially unsustainable
  • The program has been in effect for more than 40 years and is designed to care for pregnant women, children and individuals with disabilities of low or no income. Medicaid expansion is designed to a different population, healthy individuals who fall below the poverty line. The largest group in this population is comprised of single young adults with no dependent children. Of course, this begs the question, are we incentivizing people not to work?  
Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is famous for her statement regarding Obamacare, “We have to pass this bill so we can find out what’s in it.” However, I believe one of her even more insightful quotes is, "Think of an economy where people could be an artist or a photographer or a writer without worrying about keeping their day job in order to have health insurance."  
Her vision of incentivizing unemployment to create an underclass of starving artists is absurd. However, while operating an employment firm in Ohio for more than 30 years, I can recall numerous occasions where individuals rejected job offers and even promotions in order to retain government benefits. Incentivizing unemployment and underemployment is a real problem with the Medicaid program. 


In an effort to win public support, a number of myths have been perpetrated regarding Medicaid expansion. By contrasting some of these myths with reality I believe a clearer portrait of the effects of Medicaid expansion can be seen.  

MYTH #1: “Medicaid offers good health care and expanding Medicaid will save countless lives.” 

REALITY: The health outcomes for those our government places on Medicaid are poor and the best research supports this statement. It should not be surprising that Medicaid offers sub-par medical services. Medicaid patients have a significant problem getting access to medical care. One major reason for lack of access is that Medicaid pays doctors only a fraction of what private insurers pay. According to a Heritage Foundation 2012 study, “Medicaid Patients Have Worse Access and Outcomes than the Privately Insured,” Medicaid typically pays physicians only 56% of the amount private insurers pay. Other studies indicate that for a physician in Ohio practicing in an office setting the reimbursement average for Medicaid is even lower. 

As a result, many doctors choose not to see Medicaid patients because it is more difficult to keep their practices alive if they do. That, in turn, makes it hard for Medicaid patients to get doctor’s appointments for annual checkups, routine care, and even urgent medical problems. A 2011 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that many doctors even refuse to see Medicaid children complaining of seizures, uncontrolled asthma, and even broken arms.  

These types of access problems also cause huge overcrowding issues in hospital emergency rooms. Since they have difficulty finding available doctors, Medicaid recipients visit emergency rooms at much higher rates than the uninsured. According a study reported in USA Today, “Uninsured Don’t Go to the ER more than the Insured” by Mary Brophy Marcus, Medicaid recipients visit the ER about twice as much as the uninsured.  

After reviewing the research described below I hope each reader will ask a simple question. Is it moral to promote a health program that consumes hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, but offers such questionable health outcomes? 


University of Virginia Study: A very large study by the University of Virginia found that surgical patients on Medicaid are 13% more likely to die during their hospital stay than those with no insurance coverage and 97% more likely to die than those with private insurance. The Virginia group evaluated 893,658 major surgical operations from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample database from 2003 to 2007. They adjusted the database in order to control for age, gender, income, geographic region, operation, and co-morbid conditions (having 2 or more diseases simultaneously). That way, they corrected for the obvious differences in the patient populations (for example, older and poorer patients being more likely to have ill health). 

Oregon Study: The 2008 Medicaid expansion in Oregon based on lottery drawings from a waiting list provided an opportunity to evaluate the health impacts of the expansion. Approximately 2 years after the lottery, data was obtained from 6387 adults who won the lottery and received Medicaid coverage. Data on health outcomes was also collected on 5842 adults who lost the lottery and did not receive Medicaid coverage. This randomized and controlled two year study that was published in the prestigious Harvard School of Public Health showed that Medicaid coverage generated no significant improvements in measured physical health outcomes. 

A University of Pennsylvania study published in Cancer found that, in patients undergoing surgery for colon cancer, the mortality rate was 2.8% for Medicaid patients, 2.2% for uninsured patients, and 0.9% for those with private insurance. The rate of surgical complications was highest for Medicaid at 26.7%, as compared to 24.5% for the uninsured and 21.2% for the privately insured. 

A Columbia-Cornell study in the Journal of Vascular Surgery examined outcomes for vascular disease. Patients with clogged blood vessels in their legs or clogged carotid arteries (the arteries of the neck that feed the brain) fared worse on Medicaid than did the uninsured; Medicaid patients outperformed the uninsured if they had abdominal aortic aneurysms. 

A Harvard Study suggests there are some instances where Medicaid coverage may save lives. The authors compared three states that expanded their Medicaid programs — Maine, Arizona, and New York — with neighboring states that did not — New Hampshire, Nevada and New Mexico, and Pennsylvania. The Medicaid expansion was associated with increased mortality in Maine, and with decreased mortality in Arizona and New York. 

While the results suggest Medicaid could be helpful in some instances the study has problems. For example, demographic differences between New York and Pennsylvania could explain the entirety of the “benefit” that the authors ascribed to New York’s Medicaid program. Yet the authors’ conclusion — that Medicaid saves lives — hinges entirely on the comparison of New York with Pennsylvania. Without it, the authors would have shown no difference in outcomes between those with Medicaid and the uninsured, because the results in Maine and Arizona would have canceled each other out. 

Another obvious problem with the study is that the Harvard economists looked only at county- level data about mortality and Medicaid; they had to make assumptions about which patients had enrolled in the program, and when. The extensive clinical research showing Medicaid’s poor outcomes, such as the UVA study, has reviewed millions of individual patient records to learn what happened to specific patients with specific forms of health insurance. 

MYTH #2: “If we don't expand Medicaid Ohio will lose federal tax dollars that are earmarked for us. It would be foolish of Ohio to turn down all these free federal dollars."

REALITY: There are no federal Medicaid dollars earmarked for Ohio and it is not free money. There is no pot of gold with Ohio's name on it in Washington waiting to be dispersed the day we expand Medicaid. Most of the money we would receive from the federal government by expanding Medicaid would simply increase the national debt. Many members of the Ohio General Assembly are constantly bemoaning excessive and out of control federal spending. This is reasonable given the fact our federal government is currently more than $16 trillion in debt and going deeper in debt every day. Not only do they not have a balanced budget, they don't even have a real budget. To expand Medicaid only makes the hole this nation is digging for our grandkids deeper. 

MYTH #3: “The federal government has made some great promises to Ohio in the form of special dollar matches if we expand our Medicaid program. The federal government funds about 62% of Ohio’s current Medicaid program. For the expanded program they have promised to pay 100% of the cost of the program for 3 years and 90% of the cost thereafter. A promise from our federal government is rock solid. They have to live up to their promises; we should trust them and take the deal.”  

REALITY: There are no iron clad guarantees in any of the promises offered by the federal government. The federal government can change the Medicaid match amount at any time. To accept Medicaid expansion means Ohio is trusting its financial future to a government that is deeply in debt and addicted to over spending. The calls for a balanced federal budget and entitlement cuts should send a chilling message to those that would support the expansion. Also, we must consider potential changes caused by future administrations. Remember Medicaid is not a road project, or some other short term building project. No one foresees an end date for Medicaid. Whatever budget sources we use to fund the program must be deep, dependable and wide.  The current program is growing so rapidly that its cost is often described as unsustainable. Expanding the program now by signing on hundreds of thousands of new participants would be irresponsible.  Perhaps the old saying, "today's promises are tomorrows taxes" applies in this case as new revenue would have to be found to sustain the program at some point in the future. In any case the long term commitments required to make this deal even somewhat financially feasible are very dubious. 

MYTH 4: “If the expansion program doesn’t work then we’ll just shut it down and walk away.”

REALITY: We could probably argue all day about how Health and Human Services, the courts, a future Governor, a future President, a future Secretary of Health and Human Services, etc., might interpret the law. Most of the “experts” seem to agree that once a state accepts the federal offer and expands Medicaid there is no easy withdraw from the expansion portions of the program. However, I believe the legal argument is a moot point. The reality is that Ohio would simply not drop hundreds of thousands of voting citizens from a Medicaid program. We do not have the political will to do such a thing. Just consider the political pressure being applied today for expanding the program and then consider how much greater that pressure would be if the subject of the discussion was one of taking it away. 

MYTH 5: “We will use the expansion of Medicaid as an opportunity to reform the program.”  

REALITY: It defies logic to expand a government program that needs to be reformed. If we can meaningfully reform Medicaid we should start with the existing program. After the reforms are in place and operating effectively then, and only then, should we consider expansion. 

CONCLUSION: Regardless of the sweeping rhetoric and marketing techniques used by those that support Medicaid expansion the science to support claims of significant improvements in public health are not supported by the facts. How many lives and families could be saved by leaving these billions of dollars in the private sector to create jobs and expand our economy, as opposed to burdening the nation with more debt and bigger government in order to expand a very questionable, if not failed, government program? 

Quote of the day: value vs. fear

"Economic power is exercised by means of a positive, by offering men a reward, an incentive, a payment, a value; political power exercised by means of a negative, by the threat of punishment, injury, imprisonment, destruction. The businessman's tool is values; the bureucrat's tool is fear." ~ Ayn Rand

Friday, October 11, 2013

UPDATED: Kasich seeks Controlling Board approval for Medicaid expansion

Gongwer is reporting that Ohio Gov. John Kasich's administration will seek approval from the Controlling Board to expand Medicaid up to 138% of the federal poverty level.

The Department of Medicaid on Friday submitted a request to the panel seeking authorization to spend federal funds totaling $500,000 million in FY14 and $2 billion in FY15 to extend the program to cover citizens up to 138% of the federal poverty level, as originally proposed by Gov. John Kasich in his biennium budget bill.

The Controlling Board’s next meeting is Oct. 21. GOP legislative leaders have thus far been coy about providing votes for the plan; at least one Republican vote will be needed to clear the spending through the seven-member panel.

“Only the General Assembly can authorize Medicaid to spend funds in this way, either through a bill or the Controlling Board,” Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said in an email. “The Administration has been preparing to implement this change when the General Assembly gives its ok and we’ll be ready.”

Despite the shutdown, federal officials approved Ohio’s proposal to expand the entitlement program earlier this week...apparently, such approval is an 'essential' function of government.

See Jason Hart's post at MediaTrackers for more background on the continuing saga.

UPDATE: Statement from Chairman of the House Finance and Appropriations Committee and member of the State Controlling Board Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster):

"I have grave concerns about the place, the time and the substance of this proposed Controlling Board action. Based on our solid track record of passing tough bills, I would expect a far superior and more creative solution by legislative enactment than what I fear may result from effectively crimping the legislative process."

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Free fuel for thee, but not for me!

City to give electric vehicle owners free fuel

Charging stations similar to this one have
 been  installed in downtown Toledo.
You and I  are paying for them.

I received a press release from the City of Toledo announcing a press conference to unveil their new electric vehicle charging stations:

City to unveil electric vehicle charging stations

Three stations to be available in downtown area

Mayor Michael P. Bell will unveil three electric vehicle chargers at 10 a.m., Thursday, October 10 near 347 North Superior St., the corner of Superior and Adams.

As a pilot program, motorists will pay for metered parking and can plug to the charger in at no additional cost. The city will monitor the usage to determine the need to expand the program in other locations. In total the units cost $7,200 to purchase. Installation assistance was provided through a competitively bid contract with local contractor TAS Electric.

Okay - so the city is spending $7,200 to purchase the chargers and TAS Electric got the contract to install them, for how much it didn't say.

But did you catch this? The cost to the electric vehicle user is the same and you and I would pay to park - the coins we are required to put in the meter.

The electric vehicle owner is getting their juice for free.

The City is paying the cost of the electricity used to charge the vehicles - which means you and I are paying for someone else to charge their car.

Now, when a regular vehicle owner parks downtown, no one pays him or her two hours worth of gas.

Why should electric vehicle owners get their fuel for free while you and I have to pay for our own?

Whatever happened to equal equal treatment?

Mayor Mike Bell said at the press conference that this will contribute to Toledo being a business-friendly town.

Really? What's "business-friendly" about giving some people their fuel for free while charging others for it?

A Honda Fit can go 82 miles on a fully-charged electric battery. It needs 7.25 kW-hrs to go 25 miles which means it needs 23.78 kW-hrs to fully charge the battery. According to Edmonds, the cost of charging the vehicle is 23.78 kW-Hrs times the cost of the electricity.

The cost of electricity varies and the city probably has a special rate, but my current rate is $0.064075/kwh. If I were charging a Honda Fit at home, it would cost me $1.52.

That might not seem to be very much - at first. But numerous cars will be able to plug in, each charging their battery in full, 7 days a week.

But that's not the only cost. The expense the city incurred to install the charging units also needs to be recouped, except the city isn't charging the users for that at all.

This is going to be a constant drain on taxpayers. And since it's a pilot project and Bell hopes to add more, it will be even more of drain as time goes on.

And don't forget the current controversy over the gasoline tax. Electric vehicles, because they use so much less gasoline (if at all), don't pay as much gasoline tax which is used to pay for road maintenance and repair. This has caused some to suggest a meter on vehicles to charge a fee per mile driven. So they're using the roads, but not paying as much for them as you and I.

How difficult would it be to have the users pay an extra $1.50 when they put money in the meter?

And why would the city and its elected officials think it's okay to not charge the users for the fuel they're using?

Can I park at a downtown meter and get $1.50 worth of gas? Can pull up to the city gas pump and put $1.50 worth of their gasoline in my car every day?

Can you imagine if we all demanded equal treatment when it comes to the city paying for vehicle fuel?

This is so wrong I don't know where to begin.

This is not the proper role of government and tax dollars should not be going to pay for fuel for some but not for others.

The vehicle owners need to be charged for the electricity they use and a portion of the cost of the chargers as well. Anything less is unacceptable.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Indiana, 15 school corporations sue IRS to block employer mandate

I received this press release via email:

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

State and 15 schools sue IRS to block impact of employer mandate

Zoeller: IRS exceeded its authority, contravened law Congress passed

INDIANAPOLIS – The State of Indiana and 15 school corporations filed a lawsuit today against the Internal Revenue Service, challenging a new IRS regulation that imposes the costly “employer mandate” requirements of the Affordable Care Act onto state and local governments. The plaintiffs seek declaratory judgments and injunctions that would prevent the IRS from financially penalizing the State and its political subdivisions. They contend the Affordable Care Act or ACA as passed by Congress does not allow financial penalties in states that did not create their own health insurance exchanges; and that the financial penalties – which are based on the total number of employees – cannot be applied to government employers.

“This case is about the fundamental relationship between the State and federal government. We respect the United States Supreme Court’s ruling last year upholding the individual mandate to buy health insurance; but it did not address the recent IRS regulations extending the reach of the ACA’s employer mandate. We contend the ACA improperly regulates sovereign states and does not authorize the IRS to do what it is doing in treating the State as a taxable entity. We are raising this respectful challenge for the federal courts to decide these questions,” Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said. As the lawyer for state government, Zoeller’s office filed the lawsuit today in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

Joining the State as co-plaintiffs are 15 Indiana school corporations:

  • • Metropolitan School District of Martinsville, Martinsville, Ind.
  • • Perry Central Community Schools, Leopold, Ind.
  • • Benton Community School Corporation, Fowler, Ind.
  • • Community School Corporation of Eastern Hancock County, Charlottesville, Ind.
  • • John Glenn School Corporation, Walkerton, Ind.
  • • Monroe-Gregg School District, Monrovia, Ind.
  • • Mooresville Consolidated School Corporation, Mooresville, Ind.
  • • North Lawrence Community Schools, Bedford, Ind.
  • • Northwestern Consolidated School District of Shelby County, Fairland, Ind.
  • • Shelbyville Central Schools, Shelbyville, Ind.
  • • Southwest Parke Community School Corporation, Montezuma, Ind.
  • • Vincennes Community School Corporation, Vincennes, Ind.
  • • Madison Consolidated Schools, Madison, Ind.
  • • South Henry School Corporation, Straughn, Ind.
  • • Southwestern Jefferson County Consolidated School Corporation, Hanover, Ind.

As political subdivisions of the State, school corporations are faced with reducing the hours of their part-time employees in order to avoid the financial penalties of the IRS regulation under the employer mandate.

“The costly and burdensome employer mandate the IRS wrongly applies to government employers such as our school corporation interferes with our ability to efficiently manage our workforce. We always strive to be good stewards of tax dollars in educating our community’s students, but our school corporation’s efforts are undermined by the IRS overstepping its bounds that Congress set. As public servants who revere the Constitution, we join with the State in asking the federal court to correct the IRS’s overreach,” said Assistant Superintendent Randy Taylor of MSD of Martinsville.

IRS contravenes specific instructions of Congress

As passed by Congress in 2010, the Affordable Care Act permits states to decide whether to operate their own health insurance exchanges or leave that task for the federal government. The unambiguous wording of the ACA says that citizens in a state with a state-run exchange can qualify for federally subsidized insurance; while citizens in states with a federally run exchange can use the exchange to shop for coverage, but will not qualify for federally subsidized insurance. Though some states have chosen to create their own state exchanges, seven states chose hybrid federal-state exchanges and 27 states including Indiana declined to create exchanges. Since Indiana declined, the ACA therefore required the federal government to operate an exchange useable by Indiana citizens; it opened October 1.

The IRS also administers the federal premium subsidies available to those citizens who use exchanges. In May, the IRS issued a regulation that goes beyond what Congress authorized, contrary to the specific language of the ACA statute. The IRS regulation offers federal insurance premium subsidies in all states, not just those the ACA specified. That regulation in turn has the effect of charging a future financial penalty against non-compliant employers in all states, even though the ACA that Congress passed authorizes the penalty to be collected only in states where a state-established exchange exists.

By exceeding the specific authority Congress granted it, the IRS is interfering with the State’s ability to manage its own employees and thwarting the State’s policy to avoid employer mandate penalties – and that in turn violates the Tenth Amendment, the ACA and the Administrative Procedure Act, the lawsuit alleges. The plaintiffs ask the federal court to issue an injunction blocking the IRS regulation and resulting penalties from being applied against the State and school corporations since that is contrary to the ACA. Also, the plaintiffs ask the federal court to issue a declaratory judgment finding the IRS regulation and associated tax reporting and certification requirements unconstitutional and void under the Tenth Amendment.

Ripple effect: Avoiding enormous financial penalties

Among the issues with the penalties faced by employers who don’t provide minimal essential health coverage: The employer mandate defines “full-time” as working 30 hours per week on average. That federal definition conflicts with state government’s longtime personnel policy that defines state employees as full time -- and eligible for insurance benefits -- if they work 37.5 hours per week or more. Full-time state employees already are eligible for health insurance but part-time state employees are not. A preliminary analysis found the State has fewer than 65 part-time employees who work an average of at least 30 hours per week but fewer than 37.5 hours who would be considered “full time” under the ACA.

Under the employer mandate, large employers who do not offer minimum essential coverage face penalties of $2,000 per employee for all full-time employees in the organization (after the first 30), even if just one employee obtains federally-subsidized insurance through the IRS regulation. For example, if a private company employing 1,000 people does not offer minimum essential coverage and some workers then obtain subsidized coverage through health-care exchanges, the IRS could impose penalties of $2,000 for 970 employees, or a total $1.94 million. For State government, with approximately 28,000 employees in the executive branch (not including the legislative and judicial branches), the potential penalty for non-compliance could be approximately $56 million or more. Although the U.S. Treasury Department issued a July 2 statement announcing its intention to postpone enforcement of the financial penalties until 2015, Zoeller said the lack of a formal legally binding document and the potentially draconian penalty amounts prompted the plaintiffs to seek relief from the court.

Zoeller reiterated the IRS regulation potentially subjecting the State to financial penalties it would not otherwise face is contrary to the actual wording of the ACA. But to mitigate the risk of financial penalties due to the lack of a state exchange, the State Personnel Department recently notified agencies that the State’s definition of “part-time” employee is being reduced from less than 37.5 hours to less than 30 hours per week – below the threshold where either employer-sponsored coverage or federally-subsidized insurance would be triggered.

“It’s very unfortunate that by unconstitutionally interfering with our state personnel policy, the IRS has caused hardship not only to the State but to a number of our state employees who will see their hours reduced through no fault of their own, and it inflicts similar injuries on schools and local governments and their part-time employees,” Zoeller said. One issue in the lawsuit is whether the federal government through the IRS can treat the State government and its political subdivisions as taxable entities like private businesses. The plaintiffs contend it cannot.

School corporations who employ part-time workers – such as instructional aides for learning disabled students, substitute teachers, part-time coaches and extra-curricular staff or cafeteria workers – have already reduced the hours of non-benefit-eligible employees in order to avoid financial penalties, the Attorney General added.

Zoeller said it is up to federal policymakers in Congress, not the IRS, to decide whether to extend federal insurance premium subsidies into states that do not have state-run exchanges. He noted the focus of the lawsuit is not directly about whether private-sector workers should be able to purchase insurance at subsidized rates; that’s a decision for Congress. But State government should not be saddled with potentially huge financial penalties because the IRS promulgated a rule that Congress never approved, Zoeller said.

Attorney General defends sovereignty of state government

In May 2010, representing Indiana, Zoeller’s office joined the 26-state legal challenge to the constitutionality of newly-passed Affordable Care Act. The United States Supreme Court in June 2012 upheld the ACA’s individual mandate, as a tax. But the Court struck down a portion of the federal health care law that would have required states to dramatically expand Medicaid or forgo the program entirely. Zoeller noted U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion striking down the mandatory Medicaid expansion opened the door to states bringing new legal challenges to other portions of the ACA.

“The fact that many citizens lack health insurance is an issue for policymakers, and my office takes no position regarding the congressional debate over funding the ACA. I never complain when private plaintiffs file lawsuits to challenge the state authority that my office defends; but now our role is reversed and Indiana has initiated this lawsuit asking the court whether the IRS has exceeded its federal taxing authority over state governments. This respectful challenge is an appropriate role for the Office of the Attorney General to vigorously assert the ability of the State and its political subdivisions to manage their workforces in our American system of federalism,” Zoeller said.

If other schools decide to join, the complaint can be amended later to include additional co-plaintiffs. The public school corporations are represented by Bose McKinney & Evans LLP.
The lawsuit, State of Indiana et al v. IRS et alis one of approximately 3,000 civil suits and 1,200 criminal appeals the Indiana Attorney General’s Office handles at any given time, and Zoeller noted his office’s participation in the case will not distract from its work on other cases representing the State. The AG’s Office’s solicitor general, Thomas M. Fisher, is overseeing the State’s legal representation in the multi-plaintiff lawsuit. Two similar challenges to the IRS regulation brought by other plaintiffs are pending in federal district courts in Oklahoma and Washington, D.C.

Named as defendants in the Indiana’s lawsuit are the Internal Revenue Service and Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel I. Werfel, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. No court dates have been set yet.

NOTE: At this link is the complaint filed today in U.S. District Court in the lawsuit State of Indiana et al v. IRS et al. At this link is a financial circular issued by the State Personnel Department.

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