Thursday, January 31, 2013

Pecko out at TPS

Monday I questioned if Jerome Pecko, the superintendent of Toledo Public Schools, was on his way out.

It wasn't anything specific, but a combination of comments by board members and some reflection on past performance that led me to question if his contract would be renewed.

Like others in the community, I was surprised to learn that the TPS Board was planning to hold a special meeting Wednesday so they could go into executive session to discuss this very matter.

And today we learn that yes, indeed, Pecko's contract with TPS will not be renewed.

This puts a lot on the plate of TPS board members and administrators.

They're in the process of doing a comprehensive performance audit and will have multiple recommendations to implement when it is finished.

They have a levy that expires this year and they *need* to have it renewed or they'll face serious budget issues. Their last three requests for additional new money have been rejected overwhelmingly by voters.

They have contract negotiations with their unions coming up.

And now they need to find someone to lead the district - either an interim while they search for a permanent replacement or someone they can find and hire before August when Pecko's term is up.

I don't envy them the tasks before them, but I believe this is a tremendous opportunity for TPS and all of us.

Any new superintendent should be prepared to aggressively implement the recommendations from the performance audit and hopefully save the district - and the public - significant dollars.

The new super should also take a serious look at Pickett Elementary and commit to ending the deplorable and unacceptable 12-year run that school has had in academic emergency status.

The new superintendent should also be someone who understands that the children (not unions or administrators or board members) come first and that the taxpayer needs to see real progress and accountability for the dollars they are spending.

Ideally, TPS will involve the community in the search for a new leader for TPS. They've done a good job of inclusion on the performance audit - maybe they're finally getting the message.

Quote of the Day - controlling crime

"But to ban guns because criminals use them is to tell the innocent and law-abiding that their rights and liberties depend not on their own conduct, but on the conduct of the guilty and the lawless, and that the law will permit them to have only such rights and liberties as the lawless will allow. ... For society does not control crime, ever, by forcing the law-abiding to accommodate themselves to the expected behavior of criminals. Society controls crime by forcing the criminals to accommodate themselves to the expected behavior of the law-abiding." ~ Jeff Snyder

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Reminder: National School Choice Week in Toledo

Just a reminder of the National School Choice Week event in Toledo tomorrow at the Valentine Theater.

National School Choice Week is Jan. 27 - Feb. 2 and the Whistle-Stop Train Tour will stop in Toledo to bring messages of hope and optimism for kids and their education.

The event begins at 9 a.m. and will "celebrate the benefits of widespread school choice - including public charter schools and private school choice - in the Buckeye State." It's a Coffee & Hot Chocolate Reception. You can RSVP by sending an email to:

From the National School Choice Week website:

National School Choice Week shines a spotlight on effective education options for all children. In 2013, more than 3,000 events, across all 50 states, will bring unprecedented attention to the need for, and benefits of, school choice. National School Choice Week's participants support a variety of different school choices for families — from high-performing public schools to public charter schools, private schools, magnet schools, digital/online learning, and homeschooling.

Each special event along the National School Choice Week 'Special' route will focus on one or more of these essential components of school choice, bringing together a diverse, bipartisan coalition of groups and individuals who support school choice. We encourage members of the media to attend and cover these events, which will be filled with enthusiastic parents, students, teachers, and community leaders.

Hope to see you there! Here is the flyer:

TPS Performance Audit consultant wants to hear from you

On Tuesday, February 5th, from 4:30 to 7 p.m., Evergreen Solutions will hold a public hearing to solicit comments and information regarding the district. Evergreen is the company hired by the school board to do a comprehensive performance audit of TPS.

They want to hear your concerns and opinions on any issue, from food service to transportation to fiscal.

The meetings will be at the Thurgood Marshall Building at 420 E. Manhattan. The entrance is on the Manhattan side of the building.

If you cannot make the meeting, comments can be sent via email to survey@consultevergreen. com.

This is your opportunity to identify both good and bad things about TPS, so don't miss it...and be sure to spread the word!

Time to end corn-based ethanol production

Rep. Marcy Kaptur has, for years, pushed ethanol fuel on us and the nation. She's advocated its use and voted to mandate it for our gas supply. But new research shows it's not anywhere near as 'good' or as environmentally friendly as she claims it to be.

Mark Perry, a University of Michigan - Flint economics professor and scholar at The American Enterprise Institute, wrote an interesting column called "Production of Corn Ethanol as an Automotive Fuel Source Should Cease," (MLive, January 16, 2013). The National Center for Policy Analysis provides this summary:

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) justification for mandating an increase in E15 production, a fuel comprised of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline, is weaker than ever, says Mark Perry, a University of Michigan at Flint economics professor.

* A recent American Automobile Association report found that using E15 causes accelerated engine wear.
* Accelerated wear on the internal parts of a combustion engine results in costly repairs for consumers who believed they were being environmentally-friendly.
* Ethanol produced from corn is the only widely-available biofuel that meets federal guidelines.

Enacted in 2005, the Renewable Fuel Standard requires increasing ethanol production capacities and predicted that the biofuel industry would be booming by now.

* As a fuel source, corn ethanol is far less efficient than gasoline, providing 27 percent lower fuel economy than traditional gasoline.
* After a 51-cent-per-gallon tax credit companies receive to produce ethanol, it still costs 70 cents more per gallon.
* With 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop being used to produce ethanol, retail food prices for the average American have increased.

While the ethanol lobby has claimed that the production of ethanol will move America toward energy independence, the National Research Council found that it requires significantly more water in its production process than gasoline, as well as requiring large amounts of fertilizers and pesticides that deplete water and soil quality.

* The EPA refuses to rescind the ethanol mandate and has set production to increase from 13 billion gallons this year to 36 billion gallons by 2022.
* By 2022, the nation's entire corn crop would be devoted to ethanol production.
* Advances in cellulosic ethanol, which is made from wood chips, switchgrass and other sources, could reduce demand for corn.

For these reasons and more, I agree with Perry. Now the question goes to the politicians. Will they 'trust the science' or keep pushing an agenda that is rooted more in politics and control than the actual environment?

My bet is on the latter.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Toledo Council President: Business and profits don't lead to jobs

Toledo Mayor Mike Bell gave the state of the city address yesterday and announced that he intends to seek re-election. The local paper sought comments regarding the speech, including from Bell's detractors and potential opponents.

It was the usual criticisms along political lines, until you get to Joe McNamara, current president of the Toledo City Council.

In a single quote McNamara reveals such complete lack of understanding of the marketplace and economics that you're left wondering if the quote is, indeed, an actual quote.

But this is Toledo - bastion of liberal illogical philosophy which is part of the reason people refer to us as 'little Detroit,' as it certainly seems many of our Democrat politicians are leading us down the same path as our bankrupt neighbor to the north.

According to The Blade (emphasis added):

Mr. McNamara, a possible Democratic candidate for mayor, said Mr. Bell’s state of the city was “a really bad speech.”

“It wasn’t focused on the lives of people in Toledo,” Mr. McNamara said. “We have an 8.2 percent unemployment rate and the economic development focus should be on people and jobs, but this mayor talked about business and profits. Business and profits are great, [but] it doesn’t lead to jobs for the people who live here. That is what’s important.”

Business and profits are great but they don't lead to jobs...

Yep, definitely a starred item in the "not business friendly" category while also earning 'stuck on stupid' designation.

How, exactly, does McNamara think jobs come about?

Obviously, not from the money companies make when people purchase their product at a price greater than expenses. No, companies whose products are in demand don't use those profits to hire more people to produce even more products for people to buy. And they don't use the profits to hire people to help create new or improved products.

They must just sit on the profits - greedy, evil business owners that they are.

Business owners want to deal with people who understand their situation. This doesn't mean you have to have owned or run a business, but it sure does help when the people making the rules, imposing the taxes, setting the fees and issuing the regulations have an accurate understanding of the impact of those decisions on the people who do, in fact, create the jobs so desperately desired.

Companies are not going to want to even talk to a mayor who believes such rubbish as 'business and profit don't create jobs.'

With thinking like this, sadly not isolated to McNamara, it's no wonder businesses and population are fleeing the city.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Council District 6 budget town hall tonight!


Tonight District 6 Councilwoman Lindsay Webb will host a budget town hall meeting from 6-8 p.m. at the West Toledo Library, 1320 Sylvania Avenue.

This is the last opportunity to ask questions and instruct your council on the 2013 City of Toledo operating budget.

Tomorrow, the council will hold a special meeting at 1 p.m. in council chambers to approve both the 2013 operating budget and the 2013-17 Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) budget.

Is TPS Superintendent Pecko on his way out?

Is Jerome Pecko, the superintendent of Toledo Public Schools on his way out?

Based upon recent comments that, at first, seemed oddly out of place, combined with some more recent criticism, I can't help but wonder if TPS board members are thinking of replacing him.

Pecko was hired by the district on August 1, 2010 and has a three-year contract that is up this summer. Unlike other superintendents who have been prominent in various social and public circles, Pecko has seemed to keep a lower profile.

In the various levy campaigns (none approved by the voters), his role was more supportive than one of leadership.

When Brenda Hill was elected by her fellow board members to be president of the TPS board, she listed reviewing the superintendent contract as one of her priorities, along with passing a levy.

At the time, she said board members would soon begin discussions about extending Pecko's contract or finding a replacement.

While reviewing an expiring contract is clearly a priority for the board, especially when it is the superintendent, I thought the phrasing of her comments was a bit odd. Is that really something you announce as a priority? Was this 'notice' that perhaps the board was less than happy with Pecko's performance, especially given the stinging loss of the new levy request at the ballot box, coupled with the previous two losses?

I shrugged Hill's comment off as just a statement of routine business. But then I attended the January TPS board meeting and heard Lisa Sobecki's comments citing her disappointment with the administration.

Lisa Sobecki expressed concern and dissatisfaction that the matter was brought to the board "at the 11th hour." The deadline for placing issues on the May ballot is Feb. 8.

She questioned the lack of a plan for getting the levy passed, especially in light of early voting which would begin in April, leaving the board only the months of February and March to plan a strategy, raise the money and convince voters of the need for the renewal.

Her tone was definitely one of reprimand and it was clear she was not happy with the way the issue was being handled.

Remember, too, that Hill expressed dissatisfaction at the way the last levy was handled, though she stopped short of blaming anyone directly.

But then I read this Toledo Free Press article and I realized that the dissatisfaction with Pecko's performance is deeper than I first realized:

Sobecki said TPS is not planning far enough into the future.

“I’m not seeing the administration preparing for anything past yesterday. I always look to when the school year starts; that’s when I begin planning for the next year,” she said. “It’s already started. You should already have your plan in place. But if you’re going to run off the seat of your pants and plan this as you go, you’re not going to be successful.

“We teach our students that in the classroom — to be organized and to plan for that test in two weeks. You don’t start studying the night before, and I see my administration studying the night before and cramming, and when you cram for a test, you fail a test. That’s my analogy. And they failed the test Tuesday night.”

The article expounds upon Sobecki's comments during the last board meeting discussion about placing a renewal levy on the ballot (emphasis added):

Sobecki said she felt discouraged that she was given so little time to make the decision and was confused by the cabinet-level administrators’ lack of a plan for what she considered an important decision.

“Our administration knows our board well enough to understand that we like to have plans of actions,” Sobecki said. “We’ve had three operating levies defeated recently. And after every defeat, we looked back and asked why.

“The first time the levy failed, [Superintendent Jerome] Pecko said he wasn’t prepared. He was new on board. The second time it failed: ‘We weren’t prepared.’ The third time, this last November, it failed. I don’t want to go into a fourth time when I’m making a decision on $200,000 of taxpayer money. Without a plan, it’s a crapshoot. If we don’t have a plan, but I’ve asked the voters to support us and it’s defeated, I’ve just taken almost a quarter of a million dollars out of taxpayers’ bank account — our general fund — and flushed it down the toilet.”

That thoughtlessness of this administration, in my opinion, is done. It has to stop.

“I was extremely disappointed with the administration’s lackadaisical approach of taking board members’ concerns properly, waiting until the eleventh hour and then pressuring the board to make a decision,” Sobecki said.

Sounds like Sobecki is tired of excuses - and she should be, though I disagree on her stance that the district *needs* new money. I think the Performance Audit they're doing should identify cost savings that, hopefully, will eliminate the *need* for even more funds to be taken from the public and shunted to TPS. But I digress...

But it's not just Pecko's inability to pass a new levy request, it's the communication structure as well:

Sobecki said she was also disappointed because cabinet-level administrators sent board members an email at 10 a.m. on a Thursday informing them of a special Finance Committee meeting the next day at 10 a.m.

“That’s not communicating to your board members effectively,” she said. “I had plenty of questions, and I was not afforded the opportunity to go through committee structure to get to the chair or the co-chair of the committee.”

These are not the type of comments one makes when they plan on supporting a renewal of an employment contract.

Perhaps Pecko sees the writing on the wall:

“Quite frankly, after losing on Nov. 6, after the comprehensive campaign that we just went through, I think our brains just went blank while we were trying to reinvigorate and catch up,” Pecko said. “There were a lot of other things we really had to put attention on.”

"...our brains just went blank..." ???

What kind of a comment is that coming from the man in charge of a major public school district with a multi-million-dollar budget?!?

That's not something you say when you want your employment contract renewed.

My prediction: failure to pass three levies (new money all); lack of communication and lack of planning and preparation, coupled with findings/recommendations from the performance audit (PA) will give TPS board members enough data to justify seeking a new superintendent. They can even say that with the PA done, they're looking for a new start and they believe a new leader with the ability to fully implement the next phase of TPS is the best way to go.

Stay tuned....

Friday, January 25, 2013

Quote of the Day - inequality as the outcome of eduction

Next week is National School Choice Week and the Whistle Stop Train Tour will be in Toledo Thursday to celebrate.

In light of the upcoming events, I thought this QOTD was a good way to kick off the festivities, because it really is true.

"True education makes for inequality; the inequality of individuality, the inequality of success; the glorious inequality of talent, of genius; for inequality, not mediocrity, individual superiority, not standardization, is the measure of the progress of the world." ~ Felix Emmanuel Schelling, (1858-1945) American educator and scholar

Thursday, January 24, 2013

How-to guide for local ballot initiatives released

Press Notice:

The Lucy Burns Institute recently published its first booklet, titled "Local Ballot Initiatives: How citizens change laws with clipboards, conversations, and campaigns."

The booklet guides readers through the steps necessary to launch a local ballot initiative campaign, covering signature gathering, petition circulation periods, formatting, training circulators, and campaign finance filing and reporting deadlines, and a host of other initiative-related topics.

The guide, written by the Lucy Burns Institute's President and CEO Leslie Graves, is available as a free download on-line.

If you would like more information about the guide or if you would like a hard copy, please contact Lauren Warden Rodgers at

Toledo City Council Meeting - Jan. 22, 2013

Thanks to the generosity of Revealing Politics, Sherry was given a small video recorder to begin taping city council meetings. This was the first time using the recorder and the Last Call section is a video. When we get past some technical issues, the two other videos referenced in her notes will be linked. Please be patient as we both learn the new equipment and uploads.

Notes and video from Sherry:

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

Item 11 – Resolution – Recognize Toledo Schools that received “Excellent” rating - adopted – all voting yes. (3:30 of the 2nd video)

Item 12 – Appointment – Maumee, Monclova, Toledo JEDZ – confirmed – all voting yes.

Item 13 – Appointments – Records Commission – confirmed – all voting yes.

Item 14 – Appointments – Council Committees – confirmed – all voting yes.

Item 15 – Appointment – Advisory Audit Committee – confirmed – all voting yes.

Item 16 – Create seven-member Salary Review Commission, salaries of Mayor and Council, report by April 1 – passed – all voting yes.

Item 17 – Resolution – Support rehabilitation of New Town Apartments for low-income housing tax credits – adopted – all voting yes.

Item 18 – Resolution – Encourage lease extension with YMCA for Wayman Palmer Community Center, 20 years – adopted – all voting yes.

Item 19 – Resolution – Support construction of Commons at Garden Lake for low-income housing tax credits – adopted – all voting yes.

Item 20 – Contract for engineering services at Water Treatment; Arcadis, Stantec, Jones & Henry, SSOE, $950,00, Water – passed – all voting yes.

Item 21 – Accept additional ODOT grant for Summit/Front Bike Path, $41,000 – passed – all voting yes.

Item 22 – Expenditure to Solar Turbines for Co-Generational Facilities at Bay View WWTP & Landfill, $1,918,386 - 1st Reading. (see 2nd video, 12:16 – 15:00)

Item 23 – Annual contract for various goods, materials, and services for 2013 for purchasing and supplies – passed – all voting yes. (see 2nd video, 15:10 – 16:20)

Item 24 – Agreement with Pharmacy Data management for self-insured pharmacy benefit management, 3 years + 1 – passed – all voting yes.

Item 25 – Resolution – Vacate Amherst Dr. between Dartmouth and A. W. Trail for Toledo Zoo – adopted – all voting yes.

Item 26 – Resolution – Vacate alley off Chester St. Between Louie and Hillside – adopted – all voting yes.

Item 27 – Resolution – Vacate alley right-of-way near Monroe and Douglas – adopted – all voting yes.

Item 28 – Resolution – Vacate Avondale Ave. between Division and I-75 for LMHA – adopted – all voting yes.

Item 29 – Resolution – Vacate Weiler Ave. between Belmont & Nebraska for LMHA – adopted – all voting yes.

Item 30 – Zone change at 2067 Tremainsville Rd. (Approved by Plan Commission 7 – 0) – passed – all voting yes.

Item 31 – Close old Benore Rd. between 5911 and 5920 Benore Rd. (Approved by Plan Commission 7 – 0) – passed – all voting yes.

Item 32 – Zone change at 2916 Lagrange St. (Approved by Plan Commission 7 – 0) – passed – McNamara abstaining, rest voting yes.

Item 33 – SUP for tobacco shop at 2208 W. Alexis Rd. (Disapproved by Plan Commission 6 – 1) – failed – all voting no. (see 2nd video, 23:40 – 24:20)

Item 34 – Resolution – Support rehabilitation of St. Hedwig's Senior Apts. For low-income housing tax credits – adopted – McNamara abstaining, rest voting yes.

Item 35 – Resolution – Support rehabilitation of Collingwood Green Phase II for low-income housing tax credits – adopted – all voting yes.

Item 33 – re-vote – failed – all voting no.

Last Call:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

TPS decides no levy for the May ballot

I attended the Toledo Public School Board meeting last night because they were slated to vote on putting a levy on the May ballot. They chose not to do so and referred the matter back to the finance committee.

The Finance Committee held a special meeting to hear a proposal from the administration on renewing an existing 6.5 mill levy. The levy expires at the end of the year and the board will likely have it on the ballot at some point this year.

According to the discussion at the meeting last night, the committee had numerous questions about the various scenarios presented by the administration ranging from how much it would cost for the renewal to be on a special election (roughly $200,000), where the money would come from, how would they mount a campaign and who would lead it, etc...

Dr. Cecelia Adams, chair of the Finance Committee, said answers to these questions were critical in order to determine when the issue would be on the ballot.

The committee voted to recommend placing the renewal on the May ballot, but last night, Dr. Adams changed her support of that approach and did not make a motion to go forward on the May election.

Bob Vasquez, the other member of the Finance Committee made the motion to place the renewal on the May ballot. It died for a lack of a second. The matter was then referred back to the Finance Committee.

Lisa Sobecki expressed concern and dissatisfaction that the matter was brought to the board "at the 11th hour." The deadline for placing issues on the May ballot is Feb. 8.

She questioned the lack of a plan for getting the levy passed, especially in light of early voting which would begin in April, leaving the board only the months of February and March to plan a strategy, raise the money and convince voters of the need for the renewal.

Vasquez was not happy over the lack of a second to his motion and told the board as much. He then spoke at length in favor of putting the measure on the ballot, including questioning Treasurer Matt Cleland on the amount of "sacrifices" employees had made in prior contract negotiations and addressing TPS union representatives directly.

Board member Larry Sykes raised a point of order and said Vasquez had gone too far, but it was unclear if he was referring to the discussion without a pending motion on the floor or to Vasquez directly addressing the union reps about the upcoming contract negotiations.

Several board members mentioned that this renewal levy is included in the district's five-year budget plan so they definitely need the money to be approved. Their options now are to place the measure on the special election in August or wait until the general election in November.

If it's on the August ballot, it will still cost $200,000, but only $50,000 for the board's share of the November election. However, if the measure is on November's ballot and is defeated, there is no other chance to bring it before the voters. That was one of Vasquez's points for May - having both August and November for additional chances at passage.

Based upon the discussion, I would expect the administration to put together a plan for funding the renewal levy and for it to be on the August ballot - and then again on the November ballot if it doesn't pass at the special election.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Quote of the Day - who is to blame?

We hear President Barack Obama blame his predecessor and Republicans in general. We hear Republicans blame Democrats. We hear Democrats blame the tea parties and "extremists" (which includes anyone who disagrees with them). Blame is all around us and everyone is eager to point fingers at everyone else. Sadly, no one puts the blame where it truly belongs:

"Do not blame Caesar, blame the people of Rome who have so enthusiastically acclaimed and adored him and rejoiced in their loss of freedom and danced in his path and given him triumphal processions. Blame the people who hail him when he speaks in the Forum of the new wonderful good society which shall now be Rome's, interpreted to mean more money, more ease, more security, and more living fatly at the expense of the industrious." ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman philosopher and statesman

When you fail to learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Today we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, but few will remember - and the main stream media certainly won't remind you - that it was a Republican President who designated the day as a national holiday.

Ronald Reagan signed the MLK holiday bill in 1983, after Congress found a compromise on the date. Dr. King's birthday, Jan. 15th, was thought to be too close to the New Year holiday so legislators agreed on the third Monday instead.

Dr. King was a Republican, as his niece Alveda King explains, though Democrats go ballistic when they hear this.

Perhaps Dr. King's best-known quote comes from his "I Have A Dream" speech:

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character..."

But in that same speech he also had a warning:

"And that is something that I must say to my people who stand on the worn threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protests to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.

They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone."

Sadly, we cannot know what he would think of today's Black leaders or of the reverse discrimination inherent in Affirmative Action. As happens more than it should, good teachings are often distorted for personal purposes which is why it is important for each of us to research, on our own, the words from Dr. King's mouth and apply them to our lives.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Quote of the Day - radicals

I came across this quote a while back when the Tea Party was being described as a bunch of radicals. Today, Second Amendment advocates are being called radical because they want no infringement upon their God-given right, enumerated in the Constitution, to keep and bear arms. The Constitution puts no restrictions on that right - such as how many or what type of arms nor on how much ammunition you can collect for those arms.

Yet leftists and statists want to do exactly that, while calling opponents to their plans 'radicals.' This is for them - and anyone else who might think they're possibly correct:

"The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naive and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair." ~ H. L. Mencken

***Personal note: between a funeral for our dearest friend and my father-in-law's complications from surgery, I've not been posting very much. While we're still helping our friend's family, my father-in-law is doing better so I should be back to regular posting by the weekend.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Quote of the day - loss of a loved one

"When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure."

No posts this weekend as we honor and remember the life our dearest friend, Dr. George Osborne.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ohio House to go digital with legislative documents, broadcast budget hearings

Congrats to the Ohio House of Representatives for their plan to increase transparency and allow greater public access to drafts of bills and other legislative documents. They also plan to broadcast budget hearings, both online and on television.

This will make it easier for citizens and watchdogs to know what is going on in Columbus - and respond accordingly before votes are cast.

Gongwer Ohio reports:

House Speaker Bill Batchelder on Monday said the House plans to broadcast online and on television hearings on the budget bill and make more legislative documents available on the Internet.

The move towards increased transparency was announced in the leader's speech during opening day ceremonies in the House. The chamber also elected its majority and minority leaders.

The speaker said the ability to make legislative information and hearings more accessible comes through rules approved by the chamber about eight years ago.

"We will be unveiling a system that will make legislative information significantly more accessible to our public and to our constituency," he told the chamber. "This new platform will revolutionize the legislative drafting process and will make documents like bill drafts and other legislative materials easily available to the public online."

The speaker said this should improve on the past process of laying out amendments on a table in his office - a process that drew little interest.

The House will also broadcast the hearings of the House Finance & Appropriations Committee over the Internet and on television throughout the budget process, "allowing people to delve into the budget process from their own homes or from their mobile device. This alone is an unprecedented step forward in terms of legislative transparency."

Some of the Finance subcommittees would likely also be broadcast during the budget cycle, he said. Other committee hearings could be broadcast depending on what legislation is being heard. He referenced the House Agriculture Committee's hearings on exotic animals last session that drew expansive public interest.

He said he plans to work with members of the Statehouse press corps to determine what its needs are.

"These initiatives are being implemented to collaborate with our partners in the Senate, in order to accomplish saving taxpayers significant amounts of money; we also, I think, will find that there are a great number of people who will be able to benefit from access to these processes of electronics," he said.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Quote of the Day - punishing tyrants

"O sir, we should have fine times, indeed, if, to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people! Your arms, wherewith you could defend yourselves, are gone; and you have no longer an aristocratical, no longer a democratical spirit. Did you ever read of any revolution in a nation, brought about by the punishment of those in power, inflicted by those who had no power at all?" ~ Patrick Henry

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Local union head wants to 'de-nut' Toledo city councilman

Yes, it's true - but that's not all. Let's throw in some tarring and feathering as well!

Dennis Duffey, former head of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 8 and currently secretary-treasurer of the Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council, isn't happy with Toledo city council president Joe McNamara.

"Whether he should be removed, tarred and feathered, or de-nutted, it don’t [expletive deleted] matter, something ought to happen to him,” Duffey told The Blade.

Tarring and feathering is brutal - the subject is stripped to his waist; hot tar is poured or painted on the body; then the victim is rolled around in a pile of feathers or has feathers thrown on him. The subject is then paraded around town on a cart or wooden rail. The purpose of this savage attack is to inflict enough pain and/or humiliation to either force conformity or get the individual to leave the town.

De-nutting is even worse.

So much for dispelling the union thuggery myth.

What could have a prominent Democrat, union leader and former appointee to the Lucas County Port Authority suggesting such violence again another Democrat?

They are supporting two different people to fill a vacancy on the council. Duffey, along with the local Democratic Party, has endorsed Shaun Enright, a staff organizer for the IBEW. McNamara is supporting former Mayor Jack Ford for the position because, as McNamara explained, Ford is black:

"I think it's unjust if we would not have an at-large African-American on council when we have the most qualified person possible," Mr. McNamara said, referring to Mr. Ford.

But what about women? Women are 52% of the city's population so shouldn't we have more than just two district reps on the body? Where is the concern about appointing a woman to an at-large seat?

It's sort of fitting that a political party so wrapped up in special interest identities ends up fighting over how to split the spoils among those special interests.

Not that a city council seat is properly considered 'spoils' - but in Toledo it is.

The two candidates for the vacant seat aren't exactly the cream of the crop. Enright has a police record and Ford has bounced from office to office, including a lamentable time as mayor, only to be beaten by Carty Finkbeiner (his predecessor). People joke that Toledo picked crazy, then lazy, then crazy again before settling on current mayor and beloved Fire Chief, Mike Bell.

Ford also has health issues. In 2007, he was named to a vacancy on the Toledo School Board, but in 2011 was hospitalized for weeks and missed months of school board meetings. At that time, it was reported he was undergoing dialysis and was hoping to make a kidney transplant list.

There has been no public discussion about his current state of health nor its impact on his ability to serve on council.

If the local Republican Party endorsed anyone for the position, their website doesn't say. A Republican member of council did take out an ad to solicit applications for the vacancy and more than 28 letters of interest, including from an, attorney, police officer, former radio news reporter and several entrepreneurs. There's even a management consultant, Richard Parish, who has an MBA with extensive experience in non-profits and private industry as well as finance. Shouldn't a man like that someone we would all want on city council?

None of them are even being considered, much less discussed, as possible replacements.

The worst part about all this is that Toledo City Council is a non-partisan office and filling any vacancy on the body is left up to the remaining members.

But the city charter (re-written by several Democrats and adopted by Toledoans in 1993) provides no process for the selection of the replacement.

There are no requirements for advertising the vacancy, no method for soliciting applicants, no interview process candidates must go through. Council just names the individual. And since there are a majority of Democrats on council, naturally it should be the local Democratic Party that decides this for everyone.

Until upshots like McNamara and Michael Craig (who defeated Enright in the last election) start thinking they can think on their own. Then they have to be brought back into line, resulting in a union head wanting to tar and feather or de-nut one of them.

Why just McNamara? Because he sits on the executive committee of the Lucas County Democratic Party and, as the article explains, those individuals take an oath to support the party and its endorsed candidates. As Duffy told the paper:

He said if Mr. McNamara is being forced to choose between the obligations of being a public official or a member of the Democratic Party’s executive committee “he should quit one of them.”

While The Blade treats this as just another day in Toledo politics - and it pretty much is - there is a bigger issue of loyalty. Do we elect city council members to be loyal to the Democratic Party (or Republican Party, for that matter), or to the voters, residents and citizens of the city?

And when there is conflict between the two, what does the politician do?

They *should* err on the side of Toledoans, but in this city, they usually tow the party line because the Democrat Party controls virtually everything - and unions control the party.

Since McNamara wants to be mayor, he'll need the union support - and the party's support - if he wants to get elected. As a Democrat, that is.

Meanwhile, 67% of Toledoans - those who aren't registered Democrats - are left wondering who represents them. No wonder people are fleeing this town.

Monday, January 07, 2013

New TPS president's top priority: new tax levy - not education nor preformance audit

As part of her comments after being elected president of the Toledo Public School Board, Brenda Hill said "you reach a point where you can’t ask for more.”

Was she talking about taxpayers and those who foot the bill for the school system? Was she using this as an introduction to ways the school district could operate more efficiently and live within its means, especially in light of their decision to do a comprehensive performance audit?

Heavens no!

Hill, a former teacher in the TPS system, was talking about teachers.

In a Jan. 4th Blade article (basically repeated on Jan. 7th with a different headline and opening), Hill says her top priority is a passing new school levy this year because:

"...she pointed out that the district has already asked for teachers to give up pay, and said that "you reach a point where you can't ask for more."

When asked if the district had reached that point, she said she didn't know, but said that teacher pay does impact employee morale, and cuts to pay could cause staff to leave the district.

"We can't afford to lose anymore staff," Ms. Hill said."

She also said:

"...she doesn't expect the district to make major changes to operations this year to entice voter support."

Nope - no need to change what we're doing to earn voter support.

It wasn't that property owners don't want to pay more, or that they think they're already paying enough.

In her view, the problem with the failure of the last four levy requests isn't because of bad performance by the schools, nor is it because of questionable financials - like having a $11.22 million carryover while demanding you need more money.

No, according to Hill, it's because they ran a poor campaign with not enough yard signs.


An example of the poor campaign, Ms. Hill said, was what she believes was a dearth of yard signs supporting the levy.

Never mind that the majority of yard signs supporting the levy were illegally on school property or posted - again illegally - in the public right-of-way. Did Hill ever stop to think that perhaps the reason there weren't 'enough' yard signs were because no one wanted to support the levy?

Did she even remotely consider that perhaps it was taxpayers who had reached the point where they couldn't be asked for more?

I don't know what's scarier: that she was elected by the other board members to be president or that, with such failed reasoning, she was actually teaching our kids!

And what about that performance audit? You remember: the comprehensive evaluation of everything the district is doing and how it might save money and perform more effectively and efficiently?

Hill was among the unanimous supporters of entering into a contract with Evergreen Solutions to do a performance audit when the TPS board voted on Dec. 18th.

Did she forget her vote? Or is she already convinced that the audit will sit on a shelf and none of the recommendations will be implemented?

Shouldn't a 'top priority' of a school board president be to see the audit to completion and then oversee implementation of the recommendations with the expectation of saving money so they don't *need* a new levy???

Apparently not.

Of course, this doesn't even touch on the educational aspects of TPS - you know, the entire reason we have a school board in the first place?!?

Well, at least she included "improving graduation rates" as part of her priorities, along with "improving employee morale."

Yeah - she's concerned about improving the morale of the employees by taxing property owners more. And here I thought money didn't buy happiness. What a fool I must be.

Then there is the superintendent issue. Jerome Pecko's contract is up in June. The board will also have to decide whether to extend it or look for a new superintendent.

But getting more money from already tapped-out taxpayers is the priority of the new TPS president.

So much for my cautious optimism.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

The most important question on Toledo's 2013 budget

Yesterday I listed a series of questions - important questions - relating to the City of Toledo's 2013 budget.

But here's another question that is equally worthy and may be the most important of all: which member of council - or the media - bothered to ask any of these questions themselves?

I'm often told that I ask really good questions - and that may be true - but why aren't our elected representatives asking these types of questions? And absent the elected officials doing so, why aren't the media?

It's not hard to come up with the 'good questions' on the budget because they're just common sense and a little bit of basic math. When you look at the line items and you see one that doesn't have anything allocated to it for 2010, 2011, and 2012, but a large amount for 2013, don't you want to know why there is a brand new line item in the budget, especially when the city just asked for a 10-year levy in November because they didn't have enough money?

When you see the city estimate an income item that is nearly double what they've gotten or budgeted in the last couple of years, don't you wonder where that money is coming from and how they decided they were going to get twice as much?

It's not hard to be curious - and the budget really isn't that difficult to follow.

So why aren't our elected officials and the media all over these points, demanding answers and accountability?

Ohio House changes email addresses

The email addresses for members and staff of the Ohio House of Representatives have changed.

The suffix used t be It is now which is much easier to remember and type.

The generic district email address has also changed from to For example, the email for newly-elected Rep. Tim Brown would be Again - much easier to remember and type.

Emails sent to old address will forward to the new ones for a period of time.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Ask these important questions at the upcoming Toledo budget meetings

There are still three opportunities for you to hear about the City of Toledo 2013 budget, ask questions and provide feedback/instruction to your elected officials regarding how they spend your money.

The dates and times:

Monday, January 14th; 6-8 p.m.; Reynolds Corners branch library, 4833 Dorr St.

Tuesday, January 15th; 6-8 p.m.; Grace Community Church; 3700 Dorr St.

Monday, January 28th; 6-8 p.m.; West Toledo branch library; 1320 W. Sylvania Ave.

If you've not yet done so, you can view the proposed operating (General Fund) budget here.

There are some odd things in the 2013 budget and I realize that many of you are not familiar with the details of the city's general fund, so I've listed some questions you might want to consider asking:

* The city has transferred - or budgeted to transfer - $76 million out of the Capital Improvement Plan fun to cover yearly operating expenses. Included in that amount is the $12 million it budgeted to transfer in 2012 and the $13.96 million included as a transfer in the 2013 budget. When is the city going to 1) begin to live within its means and stop stealing from the CIP in order to pay for every day expenses and 2) replenish the funds it took that are desperately needed to cover essential infrastructure maintenance and improvements for roads, buildings and other such items? The fact that the city is still spending CIP monies on necessary and allowable items is no excuse or justification for continually raiding the fund and never replacing the money taken.

* If the city finds it necessary to borrow from the CIP in order to cover every day expenses, why is it INCREASING unnecessary spending by adding $175,000 to "support recreation activities"? Didn't the city understand that the voters already said no to additional recreation spending when they defeated the levy?

* Why do you keep calling it a balanced budget when it's clearly not balanced if you have to raid the CIP to make it so?

* Why did council and the mayor give pay raises totaling more than $300,000 a year if you're still raiding the CIP because you don't have enough income to cover your yearly expenses?

* The budget estimates a 3.4 percent increase in revenue from the income tax. The Economic Cycle Research Institute states that we began another recession in July 2012 and that "production, income and sales will keep trending down for now, and employment too is likely to turn down." So what plan exists and what provisions are in place if the estimated increase is not realized?

* Mayor Bell states, in his cover letter, that "Our citizens are clear that they want us to operate within the parameters of our existing resources." How are you living with those parameters if you are constantly balancing the budget by raiding the CIP fund?

* The budget estimates a 45% increase in revenue from Fines and Forfeitures ($2,180,795 more than the $4.8 million budgeted for 2012 and even more than the $4.7 million collected in 2011). Did you make the targeted $4.8 million in revenue in 2012 and what makes the city believe it will basically double its income in that line item?

* In 2012, the city budgeted $8.4 million in other income. That was 71% more than you actually collected in 2011. Did the city actually get $8.4 million in "other income" and why are you budgeting an additional $1.6 million (18% increase) in this line item?

* The Erie Street Market brought in $196,527 in 2011. The city budgeted $95,000 for 2012 and $30,000 for 2013. What was the actual revenue for the ESM in 2012 and why is it reasonable to assume $30,000 for 2013? Additionally, the ESM costs the city more than it brings in. It was estimated to cost us $137,250 in 2012 and it budgeted to cost us $80,523. What were the actual 2012 costs and why is there a 41% decrease in estimated costs for next year? Why are we still operating something that is estimated to cost us 168% more than it brings in?

* The city spent $8,208,169 in overtime in 2011 but only budgeted $5,184,111 for 2011 and has further reduced that amount to $4,920,698 for 2013. What were the actual overtime costs for 2012 and is it reasonable to expect a further reduction in the amount of overtime paid out? What if the overtime exceeds this amount? Where will the additional funds come from to cover the expense? (And if they were over budget in 2012, what makes anyone think they'll be able to be ON budget in 2013?)

* We eliminated the Youth Commission and survived quite nicely without it for several years. It was brought back in 2012 at a cost of $117,350 and now the city is planning to spend $160,015 in 2013. That's a 36% increase. Prior to its elimination it did things like Easter Egg hunts and rap concerts. These are not necessary functions of government. Why can't this department stay eliminated?

* Why is the mayor's office getting a 14% increase in its budget?

* Why is there a new item called Neighborhood Beautification Action and why is it getting $1,315,124 in the 2013 budget? What is this going to fund and where? How are the neighborhoods to be 'beautified' going to be determined? Who asked for this?

* Why is the city spending more money on Marina Development? It budgeted $144,568 for 2012 and has estimated $269,463 - an 86% increase - for 2013. Shouldn't the new property owners be paying for the development?

* The Information & Communications Technology line item shows $3,655,922 spent in 2010, $3,784,936 spent in 2011 and an estimated $4,856,694 for 2012. But for 2013, you're only budgeting $3,150,330. What accounts for the decrease in this line item to more than a half a million less than what you spent in 2010 and a 35% decrease over last year? Is it realistic to expect that this department will really reduce their expenditures by more than a third?

* What is covered under the category Utility Administrative Services and why is it getting a $4 million increase in its line item budget?

These questions should really get the discussion going.

If you attend one of the townhall meetings, be sure to take a camera and record it. They are public meetings and no one can prevent you from recording them. And if you get something really good, let me know and I'll help you get it publicized.

Council has scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday, January 29 at 1 p.m. to vote on the budget.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Save the date: National School Choice Week in Toledo

National School Choice Week is Jan. 27 - Feb. 2 and the Whistle-Stop Train Tour is getting ready to roll.

From Los Angeles to New York, with 14 stops, the National School Choice Week Special will bring messages of hope and optimism from coast to coast.

On January 31st, they will stop in Toledo to "celebrate the benefits of widespread school choice - including public charter schools and private school choice - in the Buckeye State."

They will be at the Valentine Theater at 9 a.m. for a Coffee & Hot Chocolate Reception. You can RSVP by sending an email to:

From the National School Choice Week website:

National School Choice Week shines a spotlight on effective education options for all children. In 2013, more than 3,000 events, across all 50 states, will bring unprecedented attention to the need for, and benefits of, school choice. National School Choice Week's participants support a variety of different school choices for families — from high-performing public schools to public charter schools, private schools, magnet schools, digital/online learning, and homeschooling.

Each special event along the National School Choice Week 'Special' route will focus on one or more of these essential components of school choice, bringing together a diverse, bipartisan coalition of groups and individuals who support school choice. We encourage members of the media to attend and cover these events, which will be filled with enthusiastic parents, students, teachers, and community leaders.

So put the date on your calendar and be sure to support school choice! Here is the flyer:

Bell plans State of the City address for Jan. 28

Press Release:

Mayor Bell to deliver 2013 State of the City, January 28th

Speech to be part of Rotary Club meeting, streamed live and archived for public on

Mayor Michael P. Bell will deliver the 2013 State of the City address at noon on Monday, January 28, 2013 at the regular meeting of the Downtown Toledo Rotary Club in the ballroom of the Park Inn. The speech will be streamed live online for the public and later archived at

The Rotary meeting begins promptly at noon. Rotary club business is scheduled to conclude by 12:15 p.m. at which time the Mayor will be introduced. The speech is expected to begin no later than 12:20 p.m. and will last approximately 30 minutes.

2013 State of the City Address
Noon, January 28, 2013
The Park Inn, 101 N. Summit St.


Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Quote of the day - Principles

Something Republicans in Congress should have remembered before voting to 'solve' the so-called fiscal cliff issues:

"Always stand on principle, even if you stand alone." ~ John Quincy Adams

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Quote of the Day - manners and virtue and 2013

Something to remember as we begin a new year, especially in light of this debacle broadcast on CNN last night while children on the west coast may have been watching.

"A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader." ~ Samuel Adams
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