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)

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