Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Money to charities not a donation, council president says

Hicks-Hudson says donation
not really a donation.
After 11 members of Toledo City Council voted on July 23 to give $20,000 to the African American Legacy Project and $30,000 to the University of Toledo Urban Affairs Center, I wrote to them asking why.

After raising our water and sewer rates, not reducing the trash tax to zero as promised, putting a parks and recreation levy on the ballot last year because they just didn't have enough money, and continuing to raid the Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) fund in order to balance the yearly budget, you'd think additional spending would be rejected.

Not our council. So I asked them:

If these organizations are so worthy of support that you must give them our limited tax dollars, how much of your own money have you given to them?

At-large councilman Rob Ludeman said they were 'worthy' organizations, but he hadn't given to them of his own personal funds because he had "never been asked."

District 2 councilman and mayoral candidate D. Michael Collins balked at answering such a personal question, despite an earlier press conference in which he released his credit report and said candidates' finances are relevant:

Mr. Collins opened the door into his personal finances during a morning news conference, when he said the candidates’ finances are relevant for voters. “The next mayor will become CEO for the city of Toledo and will be in charge of nearly a half-billion-dollar budget,” Mr. Collins said. “Transparency on how mayoral candidates handle their personal finances is key for the citizens of Toledo in making their decision on who is best qualified to lead the city.”

He didn't give to the AALP of his own funds either, though he is a donor to the University of Toledo, but not the UAC specifically.

At-Large Councilman
Tyrone Riley
At-Large councilman Tyrone Riley responded with this:

Thank you for writing me with your concern. I support both organizations. The organizations in question serve a viable and important role in our community.

But does 'support' mean in principle or with actual personal funds? I'm still waiting for the answer to that.

Council President Paula Hicks-Hudson was late in responding, but apologized. Her positions is that these are not 'donations.'

I wanted to let you know why I supported the two ordinances. Sorry for the delay. The African American Legacy Project is an organization that is working to preserve, restore and exhibit the contributions of African American Toledo citizens. They moved into the Ascension Church building and are working toward providing a stabilizing asset to this corridor. As you know, the Toledo Art Museum is less than ½ mile from the location. These funds will assist the Project in its mission and will be an asset for all people in this community. The funding to The Urban Affairs Center is actually an agreement for research and technical assistance for city council. Council is somewhat limited in its ability to acquire best practices, specific research on various issues that we face in our roles on council. Thus it is not a donation.

Further, I do not view the funds to the AALP as a donation. But, as part of their annual fundraising efforts, I have contributed to the project, as well as others.

Thank you for taking the time to contact us.

I can understand her belief that the money sent to the UAC was not a 'donation' because they do perform various research projects on numerous issues. They also do surveys and polling. But according to their website, they charge a fee for those specific projects to the requesting entity. Toledo has not asked for anything specific, so the $30,000 was for the overall work they are doing. What determines the exact nature of the payment is whether or not it was sent to the UT Foundation, as instructed on their web site:

Individuals interested in supporting the UAC may make tax-deductible contributions to:

The UT Foundation
Driscoll Alumni Center Rm 1002
MS 319
The University of Toledo
2801 W. Bancroft Street
Toledo, Ohio 43606

If this is where the city sent the money, then it's a tax-deductible donation, regardless of what Hicks-Hudson says.

And since this is tax dollars, where are the charitable donation receipts for each Toledoan?

Hicks-Hudson also writes that she "doesn't view the funds to AALP as a donation."

Which begs the question: if you do not consider it a donation, what would you call it?

And that's what I asked her in my reply.

Perhaps she should re-read Ordinance 331-13 (emphasis added):

Authorizing the disappropriation of $20,000 from the General Fund, Safety Administration and the appropriation of said amount to the General Fund, Office of the Mayor; authorizing the expenditure of $20,000 from the General Fund as a contribution to the African-American Legacy Project; and declaring an emergency.

I also asked if council had a policy regarding such donations/expenditures that set forth the criteria for consideration and, if not, when they would be developing one.

I'll let you know if I get a response.

No matter what they call it, this is an unacceptable use of our limited tax dollars.

Council has no business picking and choosing charitable winners who get public funds. The fact that there is no criteria for determining what organizations, if any, are the recipient of the council members' largess with other peoples' money is completely beside the point, but it makes this particular action worse.

Our personal favorite charity is Mobile Meals of Toledo. While we donate to a number of charities, this one receives our time as well.

What if they asked council for $20,000? Certainly they're 'more worthy' of funding than a department at a publicly-funded university, right? MM feeds people after all - would could be more worthy than that?

Would they get $20,000? Or would the fact that they don't have a personal connection to either the mayor or members of council mean their request would be ignored - or not be given the same priority?

If you're wondering about that last reference, you need to read this:

What was interesting is that in 2006 the organization's total contributions were $24,476 and only $7,467 in 2009. That makes a $20,000 contribution from City Council look even more suspicious. And it gets better.

On the form's list of "Officers, Directors, Trustees, and Key Employees" (none of whom, according to the form, received compensation), I found two familiar names--Dr. Cecelia Adams and Norman Bell, Sr. Isn't that interesting? Geez--I bet it's only a coincidence that a TPS board member and the mayor's father are key individuals in the African American Legacy Project.

Perhaps every 'worthy' charitable organization in the area should ask for $20,000 of taxpayer funds. Maybe then council - and the mayor - would realize what a huge mistake they've made.

On second thought - maybe not. They'd probably have to borrow even more money from the CIP to do so.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Blade's blue bag blight

Why isn't this litter?

These bags are delivered every weekend and remain on sidewalks for a period of time before finally being disposed of.

Actually, 'delivered' is not correct. They are tossed from a vehicle and only make it to the pubic sidewalk or sometimes a couple of feet into a yard. Zoom in on the picture and you'll see where they tend to land.

Toledo Municipal Code 963.15, which mirrors state law, says this is illegal:

963.15. Littering from vehicles.

(a) No person, while the operator of or passenger in a vehicle, shall deposit litter upon any public place or private premises.

But Maggie, you say, it's The Blade, the local daily newspaper.

Except it's not. According to The Blade's web site, these blue bags are distributed only to homes that do NOT subscribe to The Blade, and they do NOT contain the newspaper. In fact, this is what is inside:

They're filled with flyers for various stores (most of which are available at the store when you walk in the door) and, in only one of the last 10 that I've received, some coupons. Pretty much, it's garbage unless you happen to *want* what is inside - and I don't.

If you're not a subscriber to the daily paper, why in the world would they insist upon littering your property with unsolicited ads? Or even think that you might want this blight? And apparently, from the number that litter the streets in our neighborhoods, there are a lot of non-subscribers.

I've called and asked to have this litter stopped only to be told that it isn't litter and while they'd pass along the request, it probably wouldn't stop.

And why isn't it considered litter by The Blade?

Because Toledo Municipal Code contains an exemption for newspapers under the handbill definition.

963.18. Handbills.

(a) Public Places.
No person shall deposit or unlawfully sell any handbill in or upon any public place. Provided, however, that it shall not be unlawful on any public place for any person to hand out or distribute without charge to the receiver, any handbill to any person willing to accept it.

(b) Private Premises.
No person shall deposit or unlawfully distribute any handbill in or upon private premises, except by handing or transmitting any such handbill directly to the occupant of such private premises. Provided, however, that in case of private premises which are not posted against the receiving of handbills or similar material, such person, unless requested by anyone upon such premises not to do so may securely place any such handbill in such a manner as to prevent such handbill from being deposited by the elements upon any public place or private premises, except mailboxes may not be so used when prohibited by federal postal law or regulations.

(1) Exemption for newspapers and political literature.
The provisions of this section shall not apply to distribution upon private premises only of newspapers or political literature; except that newspapers and political literature shall be placed in such a manner as to prevent their being carried or deposited by the elements upon any public place or private premises.

Except there isn't a newspaper in the packet.

So it appears this qualifies under the definition of litter, not handbills. It's tossed primarily upon the public sidewalks and sometimes onto private property from a vehicle and contains unsolicited advertisements that most people would consider the equivalent of junk mail, to be thrown away usually without even looking twice.

It seems like it violates the law - now all I need is a police officer to write the ticket.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

House committee announces key findings on IRS targeting of Ohioans

An Ohio House of Representatives committee held a hearing this past week in Cincinnati to hear from tea party groups, organizations and individuals who were targeted by the Internal Revenue Service.

Interestingly, Democrat members of the committee did not attend. Rep. Mike Curtin called it "a dog and pony show."

"I don't think anyone's opposed to field hearings when they makes sense. This is a concurrent resolution that has absolutely zero impact."

While I agree with the fact that concurrent resolutions are, effectively, meaningless in their impact and only serve as a 'sense' of what our General Assembly is thinking, I can't help but wonder how many concurrent resolutions Curtin has voted for in the past.

Here is the press release announcing the key findings:

House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee Releases Key Findings of IRS Targeting of Ohioans

CINCINNATI – The Ohio House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee this week conducted a field hearing on House Concurrent Resolution 27, sponsored by Rep. Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) and Rep. Dale Mallory (D-Cincinnati) regarding the politicization of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and targeting of Ohioans.

Chairman Mike Dovilla (R-Berea) released the following statement and key findings of the House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee:

“Our committee extended an open invitation to all Ohioans who believe they were targeted by the IRS, regardless of personal political affiliation or inferred organizational association, and we are thankful many Ohioans volunteered to testify.

"Some observers have asked why we would take an Ohio House committee on the road and spend time discussing a federal agency. No one explained this better than Rep. Mallory during his sponsor testimony when he said this issue is a black eye for his region and the State of Ohio. To think that for months national news focused on Cincinnati as the focal point of abuse of government power inflicted upon ordinary citizens is troubling - and quite frankly an embarrassment to the good people of Cincinnati and our great state.

"Our Republic has a federalist form of representative government, and state legislatures must continue to play an important role in the discourse on public policy issues, including those that take place at the federal level. Our committee will continue to ensure government is accountable to hardworking Ohioans.”

Key points from testimony of Ohio residents:

· Marion Bower, the President of American PAGE, testified the IRS took an inordinate amount of time, over two years and six months, for the IRS to reach a final determination regarding their application.

· According to IRS documents submitted by Ms. Bower, in comparison to documents submitted by other groups, IRS agents were provided with much leeway in the writing of questionnaires.

· Under penalty of perjury, Ms. Bower was provided a list of activities her group could be engaged in as determined by an IRS agent, and was expected the total percentage of time and resources to add up to 100 percent. Answering honestly, one activity was listed twice, and Ms. Bower received a second questionnaire scolding her that the sum of her responses did not add up to 100 percent, forcing her to resubmit the questionnaire.

· The Ohio Christian Alliance was notified by the IRS they would be contacted within 90 days to complete their application for 501(c)3 status, it took 267 days for their organization to be contacted.

· An Ohio resident, Justin Binik-Thomas, was personally singled out in an IRS questionnaire to the Liberty Township Tea Party. Mr. Binik-Thomas had no personal, professional, or volunteer relationship with the aforementioned group and did not reside in the vicinity of the aforementioned group.

· Upon contacting the IRS Taxpayer Advocate, with a copy of the questionnaire, the Taxpayer Advocate provided two responses Mr. Binik-Thomas. The first informed Mr. Binik-Thomas that the IRS did not ask questions pertaining to individuals. The second informed Mr. Binik-Thomas that due to privacy laws the IRS could not divulge any information about questions related to Mr. Binik-Thomas.

· Tim Savaglio, Board Member of the Liberty County TEA Party, applied for tax exempt status in May 2010. Over three years later, the organization’s request is still outstanding.

· Mr. Savaglio’s organization received two questionnaires, with the first questionnaire composed of over 90 separate entries for more detailed information.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Collins balks at answering 'personal' question re: giving tax dollars to charities

Collins balks at being asked
'personal' question about
his vote to give tax dollars to
After Toledo City Council voted to give a total of $50,000 to two local charitable groups, I sent an email to the 11 members who voted yes. I wanted to know:

If these organizations are so worthy of support that you must give them our limited tax dollars, how much of your own money have you given to them?

At-Large Councilman Rob Ludeman was the first to respond and, after a couple of back-and-forths, admitted that no, he doesn't give his own funds to these groups, but he was happy to give 'other people's money' to them.

District 2 Councilman and mayoral candidate D. Michael Collins was the second to respond with this:

In response to your e-mail, I respectfully offer you the following. The University of Toledo’s, Urban Affairs Center, performs valuable research into best practices of municipal government, urban social options, challenges and pathways to successful governance. I have had the opportunity in my office to look at some of the 95 (since 2012) publications they have produced and found them to be of value. In terms of The African American Legacy Project, I strongly believe a robust community is one of diversity, cultural and leadership foundations. Toledo and Northwest Ohio must demonstrate that we are strengthened and enhanced because of these efforts.

To close, the quality of sound scholastic research can never be undervalued; in fact, this regions future will be to a major extent defined within the relationships between government and higher education.


D. Michael Collins

Respectfully, he didn't answer the question - and I told him so:

Thank you for your response extolling the virtue and value of the organizations. Their 'worth' was not questioned.

The question, to which I am still awaiting a response, was this: If these organizations are so worthy of support that you must give them our limited tax dollars, how much of your own money have you given to them?

Interestingly, I was copied on an email another citizen sent to Collins. He just forwarded this first answer he gave to me. He didn't even bother to cut to and paste the answer, just forwarded the entire email. Talk about poor constituent relations....

Collins did send another email after I told him he hadn't answered the question:

I hesitate to answer your personal question, however if you must know, my wife and I are members of the President’s Club at the University of Toledo. If you not familiar with this, it is a commitment of $1,000 a year for ten years. We opted to continue our support as 2013 was our final year.

As to the African American Legacy legislation, since that legislation was from the office of the Mayor, you may be better served in asking him as to his belief in its value.

Best wishes,

D. Michael Collins

Really? He 'hesitates' to answer the personal question? Perhaps if he weren't voting to give away our money for pet projects that he deems 'worthy' he wouldn't be asked such 'personal' questions in the first place.

And this is an elected city councilman who is also running for mayor who just recently released his credit report:

Mr. Collins opened the door into his personal finances during a morning news conference, when he said the candidates’ finances are relevant for voters. “The next mayor will become CEO for the city of Toledo and will be in charge of nearly a half-billion-dollar budget,” Mr. Collins said. “Transparency on how mayoral candidates handle their personal finances is key for the citizens of Toledo in making their decision on who is best qualified to lead the city.”

And now he's complaining about answering a question directly related to a vote he cast?

And then he said I should be talking to the mayor because it was his legislation. Did Collins somehow forget, in the span of the electronic conversation, that he voted yes on it? Sadly, this type of deflection, diversion and condescending attitude has been my experience with Collins over the years.

Collins is to be commended for financially supporting the University of Toledo. But that begs the question of why a department of UT, a taxpayer-funded public university, needs additional 'donations' for one of its departments. Doesn't it charge for studies it does on behalf of its clients? Why are they even asking for money in the first place? (I think I'll leave that to a separate post.)

The conversation continued with my follow-up:

Thank you for the response regarding the University of Toledo.

As for the other, it doesn't matter who presented the legislation, you voted for it. You voted to take limited tax dollars and "donate" it to a cause you deemed worthy. I believe taxpayers are entitled to know if you support the organization with your own dollars as well as theirs. Are you refusing to answer the question as it applies to the African American Legacy Project?

I don't know how much clearer I can make the question.

His response:

You have my answer to both questions, I might add when you held elected office I have no recollection of you being as transparent in your personal issues as I have been!

Seriously? A personal attack? This is how a mayoral candidate and sitting councilman responds to his constituents?

As an elected official, I was extremely transparent. But more importantly, I refused to vote to give tax dollars to charities.

During my term as County Commissioner, one of the local food banks was robbed. My fellow commissioner, Tina Skeldon-Wozniak, hastily drafted a resolution to give the food bank $1,000 from the county general fund to help them replenish their shelves. Commissioner Harry Barlos was ready to go along with the plan. I wasn't.

First, boards of county commissioners have limited authority. As the local arm of state government and an administrative body, not a legislative one, they can do only what the Ohio Revised Code permits. If the Ohio Revised Code is silent on an issue, commissioners cannot act.

So when the resolution was presented in our BCC meeting, I pointed this out to my fellow commissioners. I then challenged them: if they wanted to give $1,000 to the food bank, certainly a "worthy" and deserving entity, I'd be happy to split the amount with them and donate from my personal (not my campaign) funds and help the food bank restock their shelves.

There was silence from my fellow commissioners.

Then we moved on to the next item on the agenda.

I did give the food bank my share...but my fellow commissioners did not.

This told me an awful lot about the two individuals and about politicians in general. We all know they spend 'other people's money' very readily, but when it comes to spending their own on all these 'worthy' causes, most of them fall short - very short. Which is why I asked the question in the first place.

At-Large Councilman Tyrone Riley also replied, but I needed to clarify his response and will share his emails when I receive them. I've not heard from anyone else and I'm not optimistic that I will.

Just remember, Toledoans, these people work for you. If your boss sent you an email asking you to explain your actions, would you just ignore him? And if you did, would there be no consequences?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Tax dollars went to 'worthy' charities, Ludeman says

Councilman Rob Ludeman first to
respond to request.
Toledo City Council voted to make a 'donation' (their word, not mine) to two local organizations: $20,000 to the African American Legacy Project and $30,000 to the University of Toledo Urban Affairs Center.

I blogged about how wrong it is for council to spend our money in this manner and wondered if these 'worthy' organizations had been 'worthy' enough to get any of the council members' personal funds. So I asked them.

Here is the email I sent to the 11 members who voted in favor of both ordinances:

Yesterday 11 of you voted to make donations with our tax dollars to the African American Legacy Project and the Toledo Urban Affairs Center.

If these organizations are so worthy of support that you must give them our limited tax dollars, how much of your own money have you given to them?

I must say, though, that I'm not optimistic that even half of you will bother to respond even though it's an extremely valid question that deserves an answer.

Yes, I admit that I'm cynical when it comes to responses from my elected representatives, but apparently justified.

At-Large Councilman Rob Ludeman was the first to respond:

Hello Maggie. I got your e-mail and as I do am sending a reply. We vote on a lot of legislation in each meeting and it is interesting when members of Council are criticized over individual votes. The two that have come up this week are the $30,000 for the Urban Affairs Center and $20,000 for the African American Legacy Project. President Paula Hicks Hudson introduced the Urban Affairs legislation. During my tenure on Council the city has partnered in many ways with UT and the Urban Affairs Center. They have done numerous studies for and with us to help with different aspects of our city. The Mayor introduced the other piece. There was a question last week if it could be funded from a different fund source but it could not. In difficult times of potential racial divide this project may help make a difference in our community. Looking at the overall picture both seemed worthy of my support. Many cutbacks have occurred in our city government in the past ten years. I am proud to be a part of avoiding a $48 million dollar deficit in my first year back on Council in 2010. Every department has made severe cuts with not a single person laid off. We are back on track and assisting viable components in our community on a much smaller scale than in the past is a prudent investment in our future. Having been a district councilman and now at large, I know that every district council member has lobbied hard for projects in their neighborhoods. Each request is scrutinized and questioned before a Council vote, as were these two ordinances, and a decision is reached. I know not every vote I make will be appreciated by every citizen. But I have never voted without knowledge of the issue.

As far as my record on donating to worthy groups and organizations, Elaine and I give a substantial amount of our hard earned dollars to a multitude of charities as well as our church. We believe in giving back to our community in both time and money.

I did want to respond and let you know my thoughts.

Take care, Rob

While I appreciate that Ludeman replied, he didn't answer the question, though he did extol the virtues of the recipients.

My reply back:

Thanks for your reply, but you did not answer the question: How much of your own money did you give to either of these organizations? I ask it again, especially in light of your comment: "Looking at the overall picture both seemed worthy of my support."

As for the UT Urban Affairs Center, when they have conducted studies on behalf of the City, did you not pay them for the work at the time it was done?

No one has said the two organizations are not good entities nor that the work they do is not important. That is not the question.

When the City (not specifically you, but as an entity) is constantly telling us they don't have enough money for essential services, insists on raising rates on water/sewer, imposes a trash tax which was supposed to be reduced to zero but now seems to be a forever charge, and cannot seem to fix numerous potholes, why do 'we' have money for charitable organizations? And if these are 'worthy,' are you going to give to every charity that puts its hand out?

I'd really appreciate an answer to the original question.

And Ludeman did respond with an answer:

No, but have never been asked by either entity.

So he hasn't given of his own funds because he hasn't been asked, but he gave of our funds because that's what they asked for?

Perhaps that's a cynical conclusion that Ludeman doesn't deserve, but I cannot help but be incredulous over the 'logic.'

Ludeman did not answer the second question that arose: If these organizations are 'worthy,' are you going to give to every charity that puts its hand out for taxpayer dollars?

My guess is that the answer would be 'no,' but if so, how does council decide where to draw the line?

Will all charities who get a council member to support them get funds? Where is the 'fairness' in giving to one but not to all?

Will council support charities of fellow Democrat members and reject charities of Republican ones? Who doesn't believe politics plays no role in this?

What about the charities I support versus the ones I don't? Why should my tax dollars be used to support charities I might not favor? And can the charities I like get $20,000 too?

Does the city really have enough money to accommodate all the requests for charitable donations? And if not, should any get taxpayer dollars?

Here's the thing that really gets me. If the African American Legacy Project really needed $20,000 so badly, couldn't the 11 council members and mayor (who appears to support the 'donation') have given or raised it personally?

It's only $1667 per person.

Don't council members have the gravitas to raise that much for a 'worthy' cause? They certainly seem able to do it for themselves when it comes to their campaigns.

Mayor Mike Bell should veto this.

As then-Representative James Madison said in a speech on the House floor during the debate "On the Memorial of the Relief Committee of Baltimore, for the Relief of St. Domingo Refugees":

"Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government."

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hey Toledo City Council: make donations with your own money, not the taxpayers'!

Does Toledo really have money to burn?
Would you like to make a donation to the African American Legacy Project?

The majority of Toledoans have probably never heard of it, but here is a summary of the group from their web page:

a) Vision Statement
The African American Legacy Project (AALP) shall be the innovative multi-disciplinary epicenter, celebrating the triumph and spirit of the African-American experience. The African American Legacy Project exists to:
• Be a vehicle for raising the historical and present cognizance levels of African Americans in Northwest Ohio communities
• Be a motivator and promoter of community development
• Be a resource and repository for historic, current, and cultural inquiry
• Be an avenue for nurturing unity and the creative process

b) Mission Statement
The AALP pledges to stimulate the intellectual, socioeconomic and participatory growth in communities wherein African Americans reside

c) Statement of Purpose
The purpose of The African American Legacy Project is to bring together people who are interested in documenting and preserving the history of northwest Ohio’s African American communities and their impact and influence upon Toledo and the greater world community. Additionally, The African American Legacy Project will examine and record the socio-economic and cultural impact of African Americans for present and future generations of African Americans as we as the broader world society.
The primary function of The African American Legacy Project is to discover, document and preserve artifacts and historical information demonstrative, representative, and reflective of life, lifestyles and culture of Toledo’s African American community.

They are a 501(c)3 so all donations to them are deductible and they have a link on their site to donate, as well as a long listing of supporters/sponsors for their Easter Egg Hunt event earlier this year. They seem to be a good group - right? So how 'bout making a donation?

But Maggie, you say, I've got increased water and sewer rates, gas prices are still high and I have a tire to fix after hitting that huge pothole up the street that I know is there, but seem to forget until I actually land in it. I'm not interested in giving away my money to any group right now, no matter how worthy.

That's okay - because the City of Toledo just did that for you.

Last night every member of Toledo City Council except District 5 representative Tom Waniewski voted to give $20,000 of your tax dollars to this organization.

They voted the same way when it came to a request for $30,000 for the University of Toledo Urban Affairs Center, which already receives funding from the University. According to the ordinance granting the "donation," the Urban Affairs Center a valuable community resource.

In case you're not familiar with the UAC, here is their mission:

The Urban Affairs Center is an applied research unit of The University of Toledo and a member of the Ohio Urban University Program. The mission of the Urban Affairs Center is to enhance the economic vitality and quality of life of Toledo and its metropolitan region. We do this by identifying challenges and facilitating solutions in the areas of neighborhood, urban, and regional development.

UAC lists their community advisors which is a who's who of Democrat office holders, though it is outdated, and includes Republican councilman George Sarountou. Apparently, he didn't think it was a conflict of interest to vote to give money to a group he advises.

These donations came out of the city's General Fund - which is supposed to pay for everyday expenses like office supplies, salaries, etc...

Remember the Recreation Levy the Democrats on city council just had to have because they didn't have enough money to properly care for our parks?

And the transfers out of our Capital Improvement Budget in order to cover huge deficits in the General Fund?

At last count, they'd raided a total of $50 million from the CIP with another $12 million planned for 2012. Since the audit for 2012 isn't published yet, I don't have a final figure, but they planned to raid an additional $14 million for 2013!

They must believe they have money to burn.

This is not the role of city council - to take our hard-earned and limited tax dollars and give it to charities of their choice. They weren't elected to donate money to causes they deem worthy. They were elected to run the city and oversee the administration of the police and fire departments, the taxation department, and other necessary functions.

Here's the question no one asked, but I'm dying to know the answer to: how much of their own money have these city council members donated to these 'worthy causes'????

I've sent an email to them to find find out, and will share with you any response, but I'm not optimistic about getting an answer.

How much do you want to be the answer is $0?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Quote of the Day - free government

"Free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence; it is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power." ~ Thomas Jefferson

Friday, July 19, 2013

Quotes of the Day - family

My cousins, Rupert & Debbie Yen
I have family in town this weekend and am going to take some time to enjoy their company and not do too much political here are two quotes in keeping with that frame of mind:

"Family is not an important thing. It's everything." ~ Michael J. Fox
"You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them." ~ Desmond Tutu

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Gun silencers and food donations

Are you wondering what gun silencers and food donations have in common?

They're both the subject of bills introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives.

H.B. 234, introduced by Reps. Cheryl Grossman and John Becker (both Republicans) would allow a person to use a "noise suppressor attached to a gun while hunting game birds or wild quadrupeds."

You'd still have to obtain a hunting license and would have to be authorized under state or federal law to own the suppressor, but if the bill is passed, you'd be able to use it when hunting.

Other than not disturbing neighbors, I don't see the attraction. But I must say this is quite appealing considering the duck hunters who start firing at 0 dark thirty in the fall when I'm trying to sleep.

H.B. 230 would "authorize an income tax or commercial activity tax credit for businesses that donate food inventory to charitable organizations." Grossman and Marlene Anielski (R) are the sponsors.

The credit would be 10% of the amount deducted on the Federal Income Tax form and the food would have to be "apparently wholesome," as defined by section 170 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Just wondering...could you use the silencer to shoot ducks and deer and then get a tax deduction for donating them?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Toledo politicians: pandering to the old while sticking it to the rest of us

It's election season and some candidates are falling all over themselves trying to promise things to others - with our tax money, that is, not their own.

The latest is the proposal to allow seniors a discount on water, sewer and trash tax bills simply because they're older. Of course, they're more likely to vote, so this is not a surprise.

Mayoral candidates and current council members Joe McNamara and D. Michael Collins are claiming to be upset that the state of Ohio just passed a law in their two-year budget bill that restores income means testing for the Homestead Exemption on property taxes.

In the past, homeowners over 65 years of age received a discount on their property taxes if they had low incomes. Gov. Ted Strickland changed that during his term and made it all seniors, regardless of income. Now, as part of the tax reforms just passed, it's back to a means-tested formula and only those making less than $30,000 a year are eligible. They would get a $25,000 reduction of the property value when computing their taxes.

But the city's discounts for water, sewer and trash are based upon eligibility for the Homestead Exemption, so with that changing, clearly Toledo must change its laws as well in order to pander to seniors - right?

But why only for seniors?

If water, sewer and trash tax rates are too high for seniors, aren't they too high for everyone?

And if we're going to perform means testing, why not do so in general? What difference does it make if you're 25, 35, 45, 55 or 65 if you're making less than $30,000???

According to City-Data, the median income in Toledo in 2009 was $32,325. That's down from the 2000 level of $32,546.

This means that half the people in the city make more than $32,325 and half make less.

Obviously, if we offered a discount to people making less than $30,000 about half the city would end up paying less and that certainly won't work when the city is telling us they need even more to repair our aging infrastructure and just recently voted to raise the rates we all pay.

Of course, if half of Toledo pays less, the other half has to pay more - just to even things out.

So how will the city afford these discounts?

Who know? Who cares? But doesn't it sound great on the campaign trail?

Monday, July 15, 2013

UAW member makes the case for Workplace Freedom

I wanted to share this email with you so you can attend one of these Workplace Freedom workshops. I had the pleasure of meeting Terry Bowman - and hearing him speak - at a Citizen Watchdog Training. As a union member, he has a unique and compelling perspective on right-to-work positions and can tell how Michigan became a RTW state.

For more information on Bowman, his website is Union Conservatives.

Here is the email:

UAW member and Union Conservative founder Terry Bowman will be the guest speaker at two Toledo area Workplace Freedom workshops

Wednesday, July 17th
6 p.m.
West Branch Library
1320 W. Sylvania Ave.
(between Lewis and Jackman)

Tuesday, July 23th
6 p.m.
Point Place Library
2727 117th St.
Point Place

Bowman, a current UAW member for Ford Motor Co., was a leading advocate for Michigan's recent successful Freedom to Work legislation, and he will be sharing his story about how it happened in Michigan. He will also be sharing valuable insights on how Ohio can become the next Right to Work state in the nation.

"Now is the time for Ohio to discard compulsory restrictions on workers and allow them to choose for themselves whether they want to pay money to an outside, third-party agency as a condition of employment," said Bowman in an e-mail to Union Conservatives members. "I will use my time in Columbus to not only tell the story about how it happened in Michigan, but to make a simple, yet bold declaration: Ohio union workers deserve the same rights that Michigan workers have been granted, and Ohio Workplace Freedom is now on the table."

Bowman will be there to issue a 'call to action' to grassroots activists and Ohio's legislature and Governor Kasich.

"I am very excited to be talking to so many enthusiastic supporters of the pro-union worker issue that is correctly being called "Workplace Freedom" here in Ohio. With Indiana and Michigan now Right to Work states, Ohio cannot wait any longer to grant their union workers the return of their 1st amendment right of Freedom of Association - or conversely to not associate."

Bowman says their are many economic advantages to becoming a Workplace Freedom state, but granting workers the freedom to choose will always be the single best reason for Ohio to become the 25th Right to Work state in the nation.

The events are co-sponsored by Children of Liberty and Toledo Tea Party.

For event information, please contact Union Conservatives, or:

Toledo Tea Party
Contact: John McAvoy
Mobile: 419-787-9585

Friday, July 12, 2013

Field hearings on Ohioans targeted by the IRS

Press release:

Chairman Mike Dovilla Announces Field Hearing on Ohioans Targeted By Internal Revenue Service

State Representative Mike Dovilla (R–Berea) today announced the House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee will conduct a field hearing on Ohioans targeted by the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status based on political leanings. The committee hearing will take place on Thursday, July 25, 2013, at 1:00 p.m. at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services.


On May 28, 2013, State Representatives Terry Johnson (R–McDermott) and Dale Mallory (D–Cincinnati) introduced House Concurrent Resolution 27 to urge the IRS to take immediate action to correct its policies and cease targeting organizations applying for tax-exempt status based on the organization's political affiliation. News reports since the introduction of H.C.R. 27 have identified numerous Ohioans who were targeted by the IRS.

In announcing the hearing, Chairman Dovilla said, “The U.S. Constitution and the Ohio Constitution provide Ohioans with the right peaceably to assemble and petition their government. It is unacceptable and appalling that government personnel would seek to harass ordinary citizens and the groups which they formed in order to prevent their full participation in our democratic republic.”


The hearing will focus on Ohioans who were discriminated against by the Internal Revenue Service’s Cincinnati Field Office based on the political leanings inferred from IRS forms.


Any individual or group that wishes to testify must submit written comments for the hearing record to All submissions must be in either Microsoft Word or PDF. At the conclusion of the hearing process, comments from Ohioans will be submitted to the Ohio Congressional Delegation.


Full throttle: Ohio boaters get relief from repeated safety inspections

My latest post on Ohio Watchdog:

Halfway through the boating season, but too late for the Fourth of July holiday, Gov. John Kasich has signed the Boater Freedom Act, which curbs some police inspections.

Now you can traverse the waters of Lake Erie without fear of being stopped multiple times by multiple jurisdictions for a safety check of your boat.

H.B. 29 specifies that the state’s law enforcement may only stop a vessel if they have reasonable suspicion that the vessel or operator is in violation of marine law or otherwise engaged in criminal activity. Owners may voluntarily request a safety inspection, and boats can be inspected during authorized checkpoint operations.

Previously, a boater could be stopped by a state watercraft officer, local marine patrol or U.S. Coast Guard for a safety check, sometimes multiple times in one day.

Continue reading...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Quote of the Day - the Militia

North Carolina, Militia, 1776
"Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? It is feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American... [T]he unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people." ~ Tench Coxe

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Kasich, new TV ads, Obamacare and Medicaid expansion in Ohio

Despite the fact that it's summer when political things usually slow down, there's a lot of activity going on when it comes to Medicaid and Obamacare...

At a rally yesterday in Columbus, Ohio Gov. John Kasich continued his push for an expansion of Medicaid and enrolling up to 366,000 new members by the end of the year.

The General Assembly rejected this expansion as part of the state's two-year budget which they passed last month.

Jason Hart at MediaTrackers has good coverage of the event starting with:

Governor John Kasich stuck to his practiced Medicaid expansion pitch – a mix of progressive pseudo-Christianity and outright falsehoods about the program’s funding – during a speech at a July 9 Statehouse rally for socialized medicine.

As his administration has done for months, the Republican governor conflated Medicaid coverage with “health care,” though 28 percent of Ohio’s office-based physicians were already refusing new Medicaid patients in 2011 and a recent study found that Medicaid coverage does not improve physical health.

Americans for Prosperity - Ohio, one of the leading critics of expanding the state's Medicaid rolls (as allowed under law), argues that expanding Medicaid rolls will push thousands of low-income Ohioans into a shoddy system at enormous cost.

"AFP will continue to educate Ohioans about the problems with Medicaid expansion. Ohioans need more health care choices, not more sub-par, bureaucrat-controlled health care and higher taxes," Eli Miller, State Director of AFP-Ohio, said.

Also yesterday, in conjunction with the AFP-Ohio efforts, broadcast and cable networks in Ohio started airing a new ad from Americans for Prosperity. The goal of the ad is to "expose the major problems with the Pres. Obama's health care law, the Affordable Care Act also known as Obamacare."

It's called “Questions,” and features the story of Julie, a mother of two who started paying close attention to her family’s health care options after her son began having seizures. The threat of shrinking options, higher premiums, and Washington bureaucrats making health care decisions leaves her with serious concerns about ObamaCare.

"The American people have serious questions and concerns about the negative impact of ObamaCare," Miller said."Ohioans are waking up to higher premiums and fewer choices, but are being told by President Obama and outside groups that everything is just fine. Well President Obama, everything isn't just fine. We feel it is important to educate Ohioans on the true consequences of government intrusion into the private health care decisions of families."

AFP-OH and state chapters across the nation plan to host events and meet-ups to further educate and provide information on the negative consequences of ObamaCare.

AFP describes itself as "a nationwide organization of citizen-leaders committed to advancing every individual’s right to economic freedom and opportunity. AFP believes reducing the size and intrusiveness of government is the best way to promote individual productivity and prosperity for all Americans."

The AFP ad competes with a national buy from the pro-Obama Organizing for Action, though both groups say the timing is coincidental.

Called "Better Coverage," the OFA ad features Stacey Lihn, who is also a young mom, and focuses on the Obamacare provision that eliminates a lifetime cap on benefits. “Thanks to Obamacare, we can now afford the care that Zoe needs. And for her, that’s a lifesaver,” she says.

Both ads are going after a key demographic in the health care debate, as this quote from a 2010 Time article explains:

Women make the primary health care decisions in two-thirds of American households. They account for 80 cents out of every dollar spent in drugstores and are likelier than men to choose the family's health insurance. Even when both parents work, wives shoulder 75% of domestic responsibilities, including making the kids' doctor appointments and getting them there on time. "Women are the main brokers of health care in the United States," says Dr. William Norcross, a family physician and faculty member at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine. "This has long been the case and is probably true elsewhere in the world too."

But be ready, Ohio, because the push for Ohio to expand the Medicaid program and the ad wars on Obamacare are just getting started.

Quote of the Day - George Washington on amending the Constitution

People call our Constitution a living document, saying we must 'interpret' it in today's environment. What they really mean is that the Constitution should justify what they want the government to do, regardless of the limitations placed upon it by the Constitution.

George Washington, and our founding fathers, recognized the danger of such a perspective, but anticipated a potential need for modifying the Constitution, so they built into the document the ability to modify it, should we desire to. To modify the powers of government in any other way was considered usurpation - the wrongful seizure or exercise of authority.

"If in the opinion of the people the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this in one instance may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit which the use can at any time yield." ~ Pres. George Washington in his Farewell Address of 1796

Sadly, too many abuses of the legitimate powers and too many violations of the limitations specified in the Constitution have resulted in a federal government more like the one the United States fought a war to escape from than the 'more perfect union' our founders left us.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

New traffic restrictions on Secor at Central

City of Toledo Press Release:

Traffic restricted at Secor and Central intersection as construction progresses

Semi and bus traffic will be rerouted during reconstruction and utility work

picture from WNWO
As work to reconstruct Secor Road progresses at the intersection of Secor Road and Central Avenue it will become necessary to place additional restrictions on the traffic permitted to enter the intersection.

Beginning Wednesday, July 10 additional signage will be added to detour semi trucks and busses to alternate routes around the Secor and Central intersection. Truck traffic will still have access to make deliveries to businesses in and around the Secor Road corridor.

As engineers and contractors have observed the first full day of construction it has become obvious that extra precautions are necessary to ensure worker safety and the safety of other motorists and pedestrians. While cars have been making right hand turns without difficulty larger trucks have struggled and on occasion become stuck or run over curbs and sidewalks.

Programmable message boards will be installed at key locations advising trucks not to proceed to the intersection and to utilize posted detours. Additional signage will be installed to inform trucks of these detour routes. Toledo Police will be enforcing all posted traffic advisories in the area and assist in redirecting wayward trucks. Finally, the project contractor will work through the weekend in order to minimize the construction time in the intersection.

Businesses on Secor Road affected by the change in traffic patterns have been notified and the city continues to communicate changes in the construction program to them through the construction ombudsman.

The Secor Road construction is a $5.1 million capital improvement project that has included a new waterline providing service to the area and total reconstruction of the road from Monroe Street to Central Avenue. The project is scheduled to be completed no later than November 2013.


Sandy Spang to file petitions for Toledo City Council

A note to all candidates for office in the Toledo/Lucas County area: I will print your press releases exactly as written if you send them to me.

I may later comment on the contents, but the public will be able to see exactly what you wrote in your own words without any editing (except for minor formatting in order to fit it on the webpage).

Here is the latest from Sandy Spang, a candidate for Toledo City Council. Theresa Gabriel filed her council petitions yesterday.

Press Release:

And now they're coming for your cold beer

I've seen several blurbs about the new EPA regulations on energy-efficiency requirements for appliances and wanted to do a post about it, but then came across this editorial from Investor's Business Daily. I think it sums it up quite nicely so I'm sharing it.

Regulation: No longer the stuff of science fiction, a little-noticed change in energy-efficiency requirements for appliances could lead to government controlling the power used in your home and how you set your thermostat.

In a seemingly innocuous revision of its Energy Star efficiency requirements announced June 27, the Environmental Protection Agency included an "optional" requirement for a "smart-grid" connection for customers to electronically connect their refrigerators or freezers with a utility provider.

The feature lets the utility provider regulate the appliances' power consumption, "including curtailing operations during more expensive peak-demand times."

So far, manufacturers are not required to include the feature, only "encouraged," and consumers must still give permission to turn it on. But with the Obama administration's renewed focus on fighting mythical climate change, we expect it to become mandatory to save the planet from the perils of keeping your beer too cold.

Continue reading... then ponder if this is the government our founders envisioned...

Friday, July 05, 2013

Free dump day for Toledoans at Hoffman Road Landfill

Press Release from the City of Toledo:

Toledo residents offered free dump day at Hoffman Road Landfill, July 6th

The City of Toledo will offer Toledo residents free bulk waste disposal at the Hoffman Road Landfill at no charge onJuly 6, 2013.  The landfill will be open from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. and proof of residency will be required in the form of a current utility bill and valid photo identification.

Acceptable bulky waste items include excess trash, furniture, carpeting, mattresses, wood waste, and scrap metal.  There will be no free commercial dumping.

Appliances and items containing Freon; hazardous, chemical, toxic, poisonous flammable or industrial waste; tires; batteries; paint and oil will not be accepted.  For a complete list of prohibited items and information about hazardous waste disposal, please visit the Solid Waste page on the city’s website,


Thursday, July 04, 2013

Declaring our Independence

As we celebrate another Fourth of July and the birth of our nation, I think it's appropriate to remember the conditions we were under and why those brave men who became our founding fathers thought it necessary and just to declare our independence from England and the tyranny of King George.

This was the object of the Declaration of Independence. Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take. Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion." ~ Thomas Jefferson

They believed it  proper - polite, actually - to explain their reasoning, so the Declaration of Independence was written. Most people are familiar with the first part, but few take the time to read the list of offenses. Take time to do so today. I think you'll be surprised at how we seem to have come full circle with our current government structure exercising the same tyrannies we fought a war over in 1776.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Happy Birthday America!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

How Ohio profits from dangerous intersections

This commentary went up yesterday at Ohio Watchdog. I'm sharing it here because it's reflective of many points I've made all along about the red light and speed cameras.

REVENUE: If it’s really all about safety, where are the traffic engineering studies showing why intersections are unsafe?
REVENUE: If it’s really all about safety, where are the traffic engineering studies showing why intersections are unsafe?
Since 2001, when Toledo became one of the first Midwestern cities to install red light cameras, we’ve been told it was all about safety. Any revenue associated with making dangerous intersections safer was an unintended bonus.
“We are not looking at this as a revenue-producing thing, but as a traffic crash-reduction program,” said Toledo Police Lt. Louis Borucki.
In 2002, TPD Chief Mike Navarre told the Toledo Blade “It’s never about money. It’s about reducing accidents.”
In 2003, Toledo considered adding speed cameras. Apparently afraid of getting a ticket for running a red light, motorists were speeding up to get through an intersection. Who would have expected that?
In 2004, the city added more cameras, including speed cameras, bringing the total to 21.
“This is for personal safety. It’s not for balancing the general fund,” Tom Crothers, the city’s acting finance director, told the Blade.
But the financial impact was significant. In 2004, Toledo’s 25 percent take of the ticket amount was $279,700. Redflex, the company that won the contract for the cameras, got the rest.
In 2007, as the city considered an increase in the red light camera fines, safety was, again, the focus:
The additional revenue would make a major dent in the potential $10 million deficit next year, but the chief said that was not the intent.
“The job of the police department is to do enforcement and reduce accidents,” Navarre said. “If we increase revenue while we do that, that is a fortunate byproduct. It is certainly not our objective.”
In 2008, the Toledo council voted to increase the fine – from $95 to $120 – and negotiated 55 percent of the take. The city projected  revenue from the cameras would increase from $606,025 collected in 2007 to $2.5 million.
But a funny thing happened. As more people became aware of the cameras and either adjusted their driving or avoided the targeted intersections, revenue fell below projections.
In discussing the shortfall in 2009, Navarre continued the safety theme, saying “money is absolutely not the reason for the cameras.”
As a group was gathering signatures to place a red light camera ban on the ballot, Navarre again said, “The fact that revenue is generated is a fortunate by-product.”
Clearly, the revenue was important, more so as the city expanded the number and type of cameras it used.
If we are to take the politicians, law enforcement personnel and advocates at their word — that it’s all about safety — where are the studies showing why the intersections so unsafe?  What is it about certain intersections that make right-angle crashes more prevalent?
Barnet Fagel, a traffic researcher and a highway safety advocate with motorist advocacy group the National Motorists Associationsaid:
“There’s no need for cameras if intersections are safe,” explains Fagel. “Cameras document traffic engineering errors. They don’t prevent collisions, they only record them.”
And, “If an intersection is properly engineered you don’t need cameras. I feel as long as intersections are inherently unsafe they will be profitable for the camera company and the village.”
When trying to determine problems at an intersection, the National Traffic Safety Board recommends conducting studies of intersections and approaches to determine why red-light accidents happen. They identify several countermeasures to consider, including increasing yellow light times, having red lights in all directions before any light turns green and creating designated turn lanes.
The Federal Highway Administration on its intersection safety web page says:
Research shows that yellow interval duration is a significant factor affecting the frequency of red-light running and that increasing yellow time to meet the needs of traffic can dramatically reduce red-light running.
The FHA links to this report, which estimates results if a specific countermeasure or group of countermeasures is implemented.  A crash reduction factor is the “percentage crash reduction that might be expected after implementing a given countermeasure.”
Red light cameras have a CRF of 16 for right-angle fatal/injury crashes and a CRF of 25 for all injuries from right-angle crashes.  But their impact on rear-end crashes has a CRF ranging from minus 15 to minus 57, meaning they actually increase the chance of crashing.
The CRF for all types of crashes and all types of injuries using the red light cameras is minus 12.
Adding an all-red clearance interval has a CRF of 30 for right-angle crashes, which makes it more effective than a red-light camera.
Other measures listed with higher reduction factors than cameras are:
  • Improving signal timing — CRF of 30 for right-angle fatal/injury crashes
  • Increasing yellow change interval — CRF of 30 for right-angle fatal/injury crashes
  • Provide protected left-turn phase — CRF of 80 for right-angle crashes and 30 for all types of crashes
  • Converting intersections to roundabouts — CRF of 78 for fatal/injury crashes at signaled intersections.
All would be better at improving intersection safety than installing a red light camera — if safety is really the issue.
As the General Assembly debates a ban on cameras, will anyone ask the camera proponents if they followed this advice to determine the cause of crashes before they installed cameras?
In 2012 when Toledo added 11 more cameras, officials admitted that revenue was the only reason.
Finance Director Patrick McLean said the city selected the new intersections with the help of the Arizona-based company American Traffic Solutions.
The firm used a computer program to analyze traffic volumes and patterns across Toledo to determine intersections where red light violations are most likely to occur, he said.
Despite clear advice from experts in traffic safety, Toledo has never conducted a traffic engineering study of the numerous intersections they say are so dangerous. In this latest vote, they placed the cameras at intersections were violations were “likely.”
Why did they want the extra cameras?  To raise $320,000 to fund the city’s recreation department.
Apparently it is just about the money.
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