Saturday, March 30, 2013

Blade bias, Board of Elections and abuse of process


or otherwise titled:

Everything you didn't want to know about what's going on at the Lucas County Board of Elections


Alas, it should come as no surprise that news coverage of the recent brouhaha at the Board of Elections is biased. The Blade, for whatever reason, continues to support Lucas County Republican Chairman and BOE board member Jon Stainbrook.

People have wondered for years what Stainbrook might have on publisher John Robinson Block to make the man so supportive of Stainbrook, who some go so far as to call a sociopath.

Sadly, the voters of Lucas County - all of them, regardless of political affiliation or lack thereof - are the ones to suffer.

Let's recap, in case you've been otherwise occupied...

Jon Stainbrook engineers a majority of central committee members and gets himself elected as chairman of the Lucas County GOP. After years of struggle (I'm not exaggerating), he manages to finally get himself appointed to the Board of Elections. He also gets someone he believes will be his crony, Anthony DeGidio, appointed as the second Republican on the four-member board.

Along the way, he tries to fire everyone at the BOE he deems an enemy. Several individuals were his victims. Then he gets his 'sometimes girlfriend' (as The Blade identified her numerous times) appointed at the director of the BOE. No conflict of interest there, I'm sure (which is important as you will read in a moment).

Together, they announce they're going to 'clean up the board.' But that's hardly what is happening.

Instead, they're using the BOE and its resources to continue to go after those Stainbrook has deemed 'enemy.' And Stainbrook loves to hold a grudge, never forgetting a perceived slight or wrong.

But then comes the Secretary of State who oversees all the voting - and the local Boards of Election - in the state. They realize things are amiss in Lucas County and send in a Republican and a Democrat to take a look and make recommendations.

Not surprisingly, the report they issued calls for Gallagher and the Democratic assistant director to be fired.

This does not sit well with Stainbrook - for without his FoS (friend of Stainbrook) in the director position, how can he fulfill his vendettas? Plus, if rumor is to be believed, she shares income and earnings with him and I'm sure neither of them want to go without her $85,000+ salary.

What did surprise everyone, though, including his fellow Republican board member DeGidio, was Stainbrook's motion when the SoS report came before the full board.

Stainbrook made a motion to fire everyone at the board EXCEPT the two recommended by the report.

Seriously.

The motion did not get a second, but discussion did follow. After a brief recess, the board returned and no other action regarding the report was taken.

I can only imagine the conversation - more likely bullying - Stainbrook did during that recess to try to get DeGidio to second his motion.

I also presume that was the point at which DeGidio stopped being a FoS and became an enemy - and a target.

Suddenly, DeGidio is persona non grata and must be removed from the Board of Elections.

He doesn't live in the county.

He has a young, Filipino girlfriend.

He has an ethics complaint against him at the Supreme Court (which has nothing to do with his eligibility to serve on the BOE, but is apparently just cause for removal in Stainbrook's eyes).

And in case you missed it, let's repeat all those things until you believe DeGidio is an evil, evil man who must be removed from the BOE so we can avoid the zombie apocalypse.

Enter John Marshall, another FoS and failed candidate for Lucas County Commissioner.

Marshall files a challenge to DeGidio's eligibility to vote in Lucas County. He produces, according to The Blade, hundreds of pages of so-called 'proof' that DeGidio doesn't reside in Lucas County. Some of the 'proof' was before DeGidio was even on the elections board, so it was irrelevant to the challenge.

But all the so-called evidence was not enough to overcome a Supreme Court ruling about residency that says regardless of where you might stay/live on a temporary basis, it is your intent to be a voting resident of your home county that matters. (The Court said a lot more, but you get the drift.)

Accordingly, the BOE voted 2-1 against the challenge, with the two Democrats voting to dismiss it and only Stainbrook voting to uphold it. DeGidio wasn't present - and couldn't have voted anyway - though he was represented by an attorney for the hearing.

Here's where The Blade comes in, right on cue to join with the character assassination so desired by Stainbrook.

First came the article that Stainbrook wanted DeGidio off the Board, alleging all sorts of evil things (see list above).

Then came the story about the official complaint by Marshall.

Then came two stories (here and here) about the board's vote to dismiss the complaint.

Then, despite a rather firm decision, The Blade attempts to make readers 'question' the decision with yet another article raising - you guessed it - 'questions.'

It's a long sordid story, but necessary to go over the details so you can see why various information being omitted in the Blade coverage is vital to truly understanding what is going on in this most important government agency.

In reporting on the hearing, The Blade wrote:

Attorney James Perlman, who represented Mr. DeGidio at the hearing, tried to cross-examine Mr. Marshall and the legitimacy of the documents several times, but Mr. Marshall refused to answer any of the attorney's questions. Mr. DeGidio did not attend the hearing. "I'm not going to talk to you anymore," Mr. Marshall said when asked how he obtained such things as Mr. DeGidio's insurance records.

When Mr. Rothenbuler explained that cross-examination is part of the hearing process, Mr. Marshall told him, "I'm not going to answer his questions."

Mr. Marshall did acknowledge to Mr. Perlman that he launched an investigation of Mr. DeGidio after speaking with Mr. Stainbrook and Meghan Gallagher, the Board of Elections' director.

Further down in the article, is this:

Mr. Stainbrook expressed frustration with the board's decision. He said Mr. DeGidio's absence from the hearing undermined the proceedings because Mr. Marshall couldn't question him.

Did reporter Federico Martinez bother to ask Stainbrook why he didn't then object to Marshall refusing to answer questions from DeGidio's attorney? Isn't that a double standard for Stainbrook? Where is that coverage?

Then there is this, from the 'questions' article that says the decided residency issue isn't over (though I'm pretty sure it is).

Evidence produced by Mr. Marshall, through subpoenas issued by the elections board...

"Subpoenas" - plural???

Since when do staff members at the Board of Elections have the authority - without direction from the board itself - to issue subpoenas???

Why isn't this questioned by DeGidio's attorney and the Democrat members of the board - and The Blade?

Mr. Stainbrook, a former ally of Mr. DeGidio, said he felt it was his duty to tell Mr. DeGidio to move back to Lucas County.

I understand that Stainbrook has known all along about DeGidio's back and forth between Lucas County and his parents due to his parents' age and health. Why doesn't the reporter ask Stainbrook how long he's known about this issue and why it's just now an issue? Why doesn't the reporter ask Stainbrook if all this is just being brought up because DeGidio wouldn't second his motion to fire the entire staff rather than Gallagher and the Democrat assistant director.

Aren't those very valid questions to ask and extremely pertinent to the story?

The article references log-ins to DeGidio's BOE email, with only six of the 88 being from an Internet address within Lucas County. Did Marshall file a public records request to obtain that information or did BOE staff provide it to him in an effort to get rid of one of their bosses?

How much time did BOE staff spend on assisting Marshall with his challenge?

If the reporter is going to list all the documents and say they 'raise questions' why didn't he also ask how much BOE time employees and resources were used?

The challenge was by Marshall not the BOE. Because of this, the BOE is limited by statute to investigating only whether or not DeGidio was on the records at a proper address. The rest is supposed to be prepared by Marshall as the challenger to the voting eligibility.

Why doesn't The Blade mention that Marshall was assisted throughout the hearing by Kelly Bensman, another FoS? In fact:

Turns out Marshall was responsible for almost nothing. Someone else had assembled all the information he was presenting and was sitting next to him handing it to him.

Clearly it would not do for Bensman to have filed the challenge - that would be too obvious.

In fact, Marshall even said during the hearing that he didn't care about challenging DeGidio's right to vote but just wanted to get DeGidio off the board.

But that presents another serious problem for Marshall: abuse of process.

Abuse of process is where a legal process is used for an unlawful purpose.

Doesn't using a residency challenge to someone's right to vote in order to get them thrown off a Board of Elections because they won't agree with another board member fit that description?

And if Stainbrook has known all along about DeGidio's care of his parents and that it didn't have anything to do with voting residency but instructed Marshall to file the challenge, is Stainbrook also not guilty of abuse of process? What did he know and when did he know it?

What about BOE staff improperly using subpoena authority to get rid of one of their bosses?

I know I've developed a reputation for asking good questions, but why isn't anyone else asking about these things?

Clearly, we can't expect The Blade to do so, but surely the Secretary of State should be wondering.

There's another matter as well: Gallagher's grievance complaint with the local Bar Association against DeGidio, her attorney on a injury lawsuit.

Apparently, DeGidio, who has represented Gallagher, Stainbrook and Bensman in various lawsuits in the past - hence the title FoS - had filed suit on behalf of Gallagher over a car accident where she was hit from behind. The suit for $25,0000 claims:

* Gallagher has suffered - and continues to suffer -" headaches, numbness, stiffness, limitations in movement and pain with movement" as a result of injuries to her shoulder, neck and head in the accident.

* Gallagher has suffered "permanent physical injury and will continue to experience severe pain and suffering for the rest of her normal life."

* Gallagher will "suffer life-long pain and suffering and will require life long medical treatment."

One wonders how she can manage to work at the BOE?

Interestingly, on March 5th, DeGidio requested to withdraw as her attorney. His filing says notified her three times - in March 2012, November 2012 and January, 2013 - that he needed to withdraw and that she needed to find a new attorney to represent her in the case. On March 3rd, he emailed her and told her that he could no longer wait for her to find a new attorney, filing the motion to withdraw two days later.

The nature of the grievance against DeGidio is confidential, but the effect is very public. With DeGidio facing a grievance, he has a conflict of interest with Gallagher and cannot ethically vote to fire her.

What I want to know is this: when did Gallagher learn the SoS report was going to recommend her firing and when did she file the grievance against DeGidio to 'conflict him out' of the vote? I'm certain the two directors were notified before the report was made public so they would not be surprised by the findings and the recommendation. Is this another abuse of process?

And if DeGidio has a conflict of interest because of the grievance complaint, doesn't Stainbrook also have a conflict of interest if Gallagher is his 'sometimes girlfriend' and if he accepts monetary support from her as is rumored?

See, told you that conflict of interest would be important, especially because Stainbrook and Gallagher have denied a relationship, but no one at The Blade chose to research what they previously had documented about the two.

Clearly, there are conflicts all around.

The bottom line


Stainbrook should be removed from the BOE. DeGidio, with his on-going health problems and need to care for his parents and himself, should probably step down. But he shouldn't do so when Stainbrook will be responsible for naming his replacement.

The SoS recommendation to fire Gallagher and the Democrat assistant direct needs to accepted and the two need to go.

The SoS needs to bypass the local GOP in order to name two new Republican board members.

Stayed tuned...there is certainly more to come!




















Thursday, March 28, 2013

Rep. Sears responds to claim that she's helping to implement Obamacare in Ohio



This past week Rep. Barbara Sears was accused of supporting the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) and opposing Ohio's Healthcare Freedom Act.

An article appearing at RedState.com and FreedomWorks.org also called into question her motivations, stating:

"Not only has she received a substantial amount of financial contributions from the health care industry, she currently works at a health insurance provider and recently passed her own bill which helps implement Obamacare."

I noted that the article did not quote her, nor did it say that she failed to respond to a request for comment. So I contacted her and asked her to respond.

Below is her response, as sent to me, though I have modified the formatting to make it easier to read.

It is always important to get both sides before making a decision and this response allows you to do just that. I understand Rep. Sears is also scheduled to be a guest with Fred LeFebvre on 1370 WSPD tomorrow morning.

From Rep. Sears:

The following are my thoughts regarding several issues discussed in Breeanne Howe’s article. First, it’s always disappointing when someone chooses to make inferences both personal and professional without taking the time to look at facts or do even the minimum amount of research.

I appreciate that you reached out to me for some background. I have tried to summarize my comments in order of the article not to infer that the article is remotely creditable but to simply to review and comment process.

HB 91(Young – Thompson)

I am supportive of our constitutional Healthcare Freedom Amendment as passed by Ohioans. In fact, Representative Maag and I sponsored HJR2 in the 129th General Assembly which was the Healthcare Freedom resolution; the Senate companion resolution SJR 5 which was the vehicle that passed the Senate and failed in the House by 1 vote (it received 59 and needed 60) prior to the Citizens initiated Healthcare Freedom Amendment reaching the ballot.

The same provisions that were added to protect our private marketplace and passed overwhelmingly by Ohioans make HB 91 unworkable in my opinion.

Below is a summary of my thoughts regarding the interaction of HB 91 and our Constitutional amendment – Healthcare Freedom Act. It seems illogical to push legislation that would work towards the destruction of our private healthcare marketplace. I have yet to hear a workable argument that suggests that HB 91 doesn’t violate our Constitution.

From HB 91

Sec. 3964.02. (A) A health insurance issuer operating in this state shall not accept any remuneration, credit, or subsidy, as described in 42 U.S.C. 18082, that may result in the imposition of penalties against any employer or individual in this state.

(B) If a health insurance issuer violates division (A) of this section, the issuer's license to issue new business in the state shall be suspended immediately and until such time as the issuer represents it has returned that remuneration, credit, or subsidy to its source and will decline any such future remuneration, credit, or subsidy. Such suspensions shall not be construed as impairing the right of contract or the right to continue or renew existing business in the state.

I believe that if we pass HB 91, we violate Section 21(b) and Section 21(c) of the Healthcare Freedom Amendment.

To put this into practical terms, if a carrier were to accept funding under the terms outlined in the PPACA, it is possible that an employer could be penalized. How could this happen?

The PPACA requires that:

1. If an employer with more than 50 fulltime equivalent employees, who does not offers health insurance coverage and has at least one employee who receives a premium tax credit or cost sharing subsidy in the exchange, the employer would then be subject to a penalty for not offering coverage. The penalty is $2,000 annually times the number of full-time employees minus 30 in the first year, and grows annually.

2. If an employer with more than 50 fulltime equivalent employees offers health insurance that does not cover at least 60% of typical health care expenses and an employee chooses to buy on the Exchange and receive a premium tax credit, the employer would then be subject to a penalty for not offering affordable coverage. The penalty is $3,000 for each fulltime employee receiving a tax credit up to $2,000 annually times the number of full-time employees minus 30 in the first year, and grows annually.

3. If an employer with more than 50 fulltime equivalent employees offers health insurance with any employee paying more than 9.5% of family income for the employer coverage and an employee chooses to buy on the Exchange and receive a premium tax credit, the employer would then be subject to a penalty for not offering affordable coverage. The penalty is $3,000 for each fulltime employee receiving a tax credit up to $2,000 annually times the number of full-time employees minus 30 in the first year, and grows annually.

If any employer is put in a position “that may result in the imposition of penalties against any employer or individual in this state.” “[T]he issuer’s license to issue new business in the state shall be suspended immediately” (HB 91-130).

The issuer can renew policies but shall be prohibited from the sale of health insurance and Ohioans will be prohibited to purchase health insurance through the carrier. (HB 91-130)

The Healthcare Freedom Constitutional Amendment passed by 66% of Ohio and in all 88 counties in Ohio states:

• Section 21 (A) No federal, state, or local law or rule shall compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in a health care system.
• Section 21 (B) No federal, state, or local law or rule shall prohibit the purchase or sale of health care or health insurance.
• Section 21 (C) No federal, state, or local law or rule shall impose a penalty or fine for the sale or purchase of health care or health insurance.

Section 21 (E) (3) “Penalty or fine” means any civil or criminal penalty or fine, tax, salary or wage withholding or surcharge or any named fee established by law or rule by a government established, created, or controlled agency that is used to punish or discourage the exercise of rights protected under this section.”

I could suggest that if we pass HB 91, then we violate Section 21(b) and Section 21(c) in that we will be prohibiting both the sale of health insurance and an individual’s right to purchase health insurance by imposing law and rules that would be specifically used to punish a carrier should they accept any remuneration, credit, or subsidy as provided in the PPACA.

I appreciate the effort to find an appropriate way to protect our healthcare freedom and our private marketplace. However I believe that HB 91 does not get that accomplished no matter how some would like to characterize the interaction of HB 91 with the Healthcare Freedom Constitutional Amendment.

HB 3(Sears)

This is what the PPACA says about the role of a Navigator:

NAVIGATORS.—
(1) IN GENERAL.—An Exchange shall establish a program under which it awards grants to entities described in paragraph (2) to carry out the duties described in paragraph (3).

(2) ELIGIBILITY.—
(A) IN GENERAL.—To be eligible to receive a grant under paragraph (1), an entity shall demonstrate to the Exchange involved that the entity has existing relationships, or could readily establish relationships, with employers and employees, consumers (including uninsured and underinsured consumers), or self-employed individuals likely to be qualified to enroll in a qualified health plan.

(B) TYPES.—Entities described in subparagraph (A) may include trade, industry, and professional associations, commercial fishing industry organizations, ranching and farming organizations, community and consumer-focused nonprofit groups, chambers of commerce, unions, small business development centers, other licensed insurance agents and brokers, and other entities that—
(i) are capable of carrying out the duties described in paragraph (3);
(ii) meet the standards described in paragraph (4); and
(iii) provide information consistent with the standards developed under paragraph (5).

(3) DUTIES.—An entity that serves as a navigator under a grant under this subsection shall—
(A) conduct public education activities to raise awareness of the availability of qualified health plans;
(B) distribute fair and impartial information concerning enrollment in qualified health plans, and the availability of premium tax credits under section 36B of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 and cost-sharing reductions under section 1402;
(C) facilitate enrollment in qualified health plans;
(D) provide referrals to any applicable office of health insurance consumer assistance or health insurance ombudsman established under section 2793 of the Public Health Service Act, or any other appropriate State agency or agencies, for any enrollee with a grievance, complaint, or question regarding their health plan, coverage, or a determination under such plan or coverage; and
(E) provide information in a manner that is culturally and linguistically appropriate to the needs of the population being served by the Exchange or Exchanges.

(4) STANDARDS.—
(A) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary shall establish standards for navigators under this subsection, including provisions to ensure that any private or public entity that is selected as a navigator is qualified, and licensed if appropriate, to engage in the navigator activities described in this subsection and to avoid conflicts of interest. Under such standards, a navigator shall not—
(i) be a health insurance issuer; or
(ii) receive any consideration directly or indirectly from any health insurance issuer in connection with the enrollment of any qualified individuals or employees of a qualified employer in a qualified health plan.

(5) FAIR AND IMPARTIAL INFORMATION AND SERVICES.—The Secretary, in collaboration with States, shall develop standards to ensure that information made available by navigators is fair, accurate, and impartial.

(6) FUNDING.—Grants under this subsection shall be made from the operational funds of the Exchange and not Federal funds received by the State to establish the Exchange.

(j) APPLICABILITY OF MENTAL HEALTH PARITY.—Section 2726 of the Public Health Service Act shall apply to qualified health plans in the same manner and to the same extent as such section applies to health insurance issuers and group health plans.

(k) CONFLICT.—An Exchange may not establish rules that conflict with or prevent the application of regulations promulgated by the Secretary under this subtitle.

I have attached my Sponsor Testimony. The House passed HB 3. SB 9 is the Senate companion bill which has also passed the on Senate floor.

Ms. Howe states in her article “So why would a Republican propose a bill that seeks to further regulate a government created job that will cost the state untold amount of money? It would appear that insurance brokers across the country are getting nervous about the prospect of competition from navigators and have been lobbying for stricter standards on them.”

First I would like to point out to Ms. Howe, and would have if she would have contacted me, that the State of Ohio is not offering a State Exchange. The State of Ohio is not hiring nor are we paying Navigators. A quick read of the law clearly states that: “(6) FUNDING.—Grants under this subsection shall be made from the operational funds of the Exchange and not Federal funds received by the State to establish the Exchange”. We are expecting hundreds of additional pages of Federal regulation soon regarding the role of the Navigator.

In Ohio, the Federal Government will be managing the Exchange and funding will come from the Exchange. Carriers that choose to sell on the Exchange will be charged a tax that will create the funding. Ms. Howe’s statement that “California is slated to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to hire 21,000 navigators” is consistent with the fact California is opting for a State run Exchange; Ohio is not!

Second, are brokers concerned about the impacts of the PPACA on their jobs? Of course; it would be illogical to suggest otherwise. They are joined by almost every other healthcare provider who has concerns regarding how this law will impact them and their ability to provide services.

Most importantly, the PPACA does not allow carriers to require that Navigators have E&O (Errors and Omission) coverage or liability insurance. This is coverage that carriers require from licensed insurance agents. I, along with others, felt it was important to require that Ohioans have basic protections when providing detailed personal information to Navigators. HB 3 requires training and educational requirements on such topics as ethics. HB 3 requires that they submit a disclosure regarding conflict of interest and that they complete criminal records checks (requirements that are consistent with licensed agents). I believe these are important protections to have in place before Ohioans allow Navigators into their homes and provide them with detailed personal and financial information. HB 3 requires that they are certified and registered with the Ohio Department of Insurance and their employer is listed. HB 3 allows the Ohio Department of Insurance to set fees and fines, revoke or non renew Navigators or Business Entity should they act improperly.

HB 3 also includes language that permits any insurer that is a qualified health plan under the PPACA to offer their plan through the Exchange.

I believe HB 3 is very consist with Ohio regulatory position as enforced through the Department of Insurance and would be very surprised if Ms. Howe truly felt comfortable with have Navigators work in the State of Ohio without any basic protections against bad acts. I can not imagine that she would feel it appropriate if the legislature allowed unregulated, potential felons into someone home to collect their personal financial and medical data.

Personal questions:

Yes, I am employed by an independent insurance agency and I’m thankful that they consider me a “resource”. It would be personally disappointing to be employed but someone as a nonresource. I have disclosed my position freely. I believe that it is important for our elected official to work under the rules and laws that they impose. I complete disclosures both for licensing and in my elected position that are filed with the Department and with the State.

It is surprising to believe that Ms. Howe would believe that we should work to serve Ohio and our district only on committees that we have little understanding of the issues. Clearly, if we are looking at insurance issues, someone with an insurance background would be helpful; as legal issues come up we look at our attorneys; additional it would make little sense to ask our urban legislators to be the legislative lead on our farming issues and our farming legislators to solve urban issues. Being knowledgeable and specializing in specific areas of study should be valued, even when parties disagree. I am thankful that I have a reputation for being more of a legislative policy “geek” than a party politics based legislator, although I have always been considered conservative.

Ms. Howe writes “the fact that she works at an insurance agency that will benefit from her bill seems a conflict of interest.” I would refer Ms. Howe again to HB 3 which states “(3) The superintendent shall not certify as a navigator, and shall revoke any existing navigator certification of, any individual, organization, or business entity that is receiving financial compensation, including monetary and in-kind compensation, gifts, or grants, on or after October 1, 2013, from an insurer offering a qualified health benefit plan through an exchange operating in this state.”

We very specifically drafted the bill to prevent someone from working as either a licensed insurance agent or a navigator and receiving a financial gain from both the exchange and qualified health benefit plans. Quite frankly, I ensured that I could not gain from HB 3. I suppose that I could quit my position as a licensed insurance agent and work as a navigator whose expected income will be between $10 and $14 dollar hourly rate, however I will suggest that is not likely.

Currently I serve the 47th House District which includes most of Western Lucas County and much of Fulton County. As a Representative I serve as the House Majority Floor Leader andserve on the Finance and Appropriations Committee, the Human Services SubCommittee, Health and Aging Committee and the Insurance Committee.

Maggie, I thank you for reaching out to me. I am happy to provide additional information regarding any of these topics and look forward to talking to you.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Guest Post: Historic 1913 flood Mapping History Project


Do you recognize any of these locations?



Last week I received an email from a member of the blog, HistoricNaturalDisasters.com, asking me if I'd accept a guest post focusing on a photo project they were doing for the Centennial of the 1913 flood that devastated the Midwest. You may have seen the recent Blade article on the event.

But the Ohio history buffs on the website need your help - and here is their guest post:


The week of March 21st through March 26th marks the 100 year anniversary of one of the greatest – and least talked about - natural disasters to ever hit the United States, and the worst in Ohio history. A series of winter storms that hit the area this week in 1913 started a chain reaction that began with more than 10 inches of rain hitting the already over-saturated Great Miami watershed area. The resulting runoff then quickly swelled the Great Miami river and its tributaries to the breaking point, and the resulting flooding ultimately ended with hundreds dead, thousands homeless, and billions of dollars of damage inflicted upon much of the Midwest and parts of New England.

With some help from some friends we created a great photo set, matching available historical images with the current images found on Google Streetview. It creates a really cool perspective of what these areas looked like during the flood compared to what they look like today.

While we were researching the locations of the images to together our “then and now” photo sets, occasionally we came across a photograph for which, try as we might, we couldn’t definitively tie to a particular location. We set these photos aside and returned to them once we had identified the others we were working with, but even after a second pass, our best efforts couldn’t place these photos in an exact 1913 or 2013 location. In most cases, we knew what city or town we were looking at, but without the street address or intersection, we couldn’t find the location in Google Maps.

Then a light bulb went on above our heads, and we thought, why not let our readers help us find the photo locations that we can’t? Many of our readers know more about the history of a given town or city than we do, and have volunteered information to help us identify photos in the past, so we thought this would be the perfect way to get readers directly involved with our project. Along with the satisfaction of helping us set the record straight, one lucky submitter will be drawn at random once the photos have all been matched, and that submitter will win a $100 Amazon Gift Code!

Here’s how it works. To submit an image location to us that you believe matches one of the images listed at our Mapping History Contest,

1. Go to Google Maps: http://maps.google.com
2. Use Google Maps to find the location that you think best matches the original photo
3. Click the Link icon (located next to the printer icon), and email this link URL along with the title of the post from our Mapping History Contest listings to info@historicnaturaldisasters.com

That’s it! Just by submitting, you’ll be automatically entered in the drawing to receive a $100 Amazon Gift Code from our sponsors at InsuranceTown.com.

Have at it, readers!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Rep. Sears, Obamacare and Ohio's Health Care Freedom Act


Over the past 24 hours, many of us in this area (and around the country, for that matter) have been informed about actions and comments made by Rep. Barbara Sears in a House committee during the discussion of the Health Care Freedom Act, the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) and the proposal to accept the Medicaid expansion in Ohio.

The FreedomWorks article, cross-posted on RedState.com, says:

In early March, Ohio State Representative Ron Young and Rep. Andy Thompson introduced a bill known as, “The Health Care Freedom Act,” (HCFA) that proposed a new line of defense against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or, Obamacare. The bill, when passed, will prohibit health insurance companies in Ohio from accepting any federal funding that would trigger penalties for employers or individuals who aren’t compliant with Obamacare. Wednesday, when the bill was brought up in committee, opposition arose; but not only from the expected side of the aisle. While the Democrats did balk at the bill, Republican Majority Floor Leader Barbara Sears also took issue with HCFA. One needn’t look too deep to understand why Sears wouldn’t want the HCFA to pass in Ohio. Not only has she received a substantial amount of financial contributions from the health care industry, she currently works at a health insurance provider and recently passed her own bill which helps implement Obamacare.

Rep. Sears is not quoted in the article, nor does it say if they tried to contact her to get a comment or response.

I've known Barbara for a long time - we've worked on each other's campaigns and supported each other over the years. So I emailed her and asked for her response. Here is her reply:

Thank you - I can respond however I'm in Columbus with a full calendar of budget meetings today and tomorrow.

It would be helpful if they would read or call...Thank you for your reach out.

Barbara

When she does respond, I will post it here.

Monday, March 25, 2013

UToledo: The Informational War on Guns


Dr. Brian Anse Patrick
(from his Facebook Page)
This summer, the University of Toledo will offer a class on The Informational War on Guns.

It begins June 24 and will go until Aug. 2. It's an on-line communication class (COMM 4900 -921) that will include weekly in-person meetings and would count for three credits in either social science or the humanities.

It sounds like an interesting class that will feature a visit to the national gun matches at Camp Perry in July, perhaps a visit to gun range as well as the Ohio/Michigan Concealed Pistol License training course. Dr. Brian Patrick is the instructor and he is certified to teach the CPL courses.

The class will focus on various aspects of the information battle regarding guns, including the most recent issues of gun control.

Here is a link to Dr. Patrick's blog which gives the tentative weekly schedule for the class.

Here is the summary from the syllabus that was emailed to me. If you have questions about the course, you can email Dr. Patrick at brian dot patrick at utoledo dot edu. I believe you can still audit a class without being a regular student of the university. You pay the course fees and take it as a pass/fail, but you don't get college credit for any audited class.

COMM 4900 Section 911
Informational War on Guns
Online Summer Session 6/24—8/02
Syllabus


“Power Comes From the barrel of a gun.” ~ Chairman Mao

Brian Anse Patrick, PHD
Professor of Communication
Department of Communication

4630 University Hall, University of Toledo

brian.patrick@utoledo.edu
419 530 4670

American gun policy is a site where many lines of social influence converge. Symbolically speaking, it functions much like that fabled paradoxical location where irresistible forces meet up with immovable objects: e.g., the Million Moms March vs. the National Rifle Association; individual vs. collective rights; public health vs. individual autonomy; conservative vs. liberal values; local vs. federal authority; elite culture vs. egalitarian culture; propaganda vs. information; and the libertarians vs. everybody else. The list goes on. Accordingly, scholars and researchers have contributed to what has become a vigorous public and academic debate overlapping many disciplines: e.g., history, law, economics, public health, psychology, communication, criminology, sociology and others.

Ideologues abound in this area—and virtually everyone, ideologue or not, has what they feel to be a well-justified opinion on guns and gun policy. But having taken a serious interest in the debate for more than a decade, my impression is that people in general believe more about guns and gun policy than they really know; their general tendency being to seek out, perceive and interpret information in ways that align with their predispositions. Further, advocates and “experts” for and against guns cite and brandish scientific statistics and studies as proofs, yet few advocates appear ever to have actually read or understood the studies that they claim back up their positions. Compounding matters even more, American journalists who quote these advocates in news stories are notorious for poor, inaccurate, lazy and some say biased, reporting on gun issues.

The main purpose/goal of this seminar, therefore, is to provide a systematic overview of American gun policy, an overview informed by what is known—or alleged to be known—about guns by researchers and scholars.

The seminar will proceed mainly by means of (1) readings, presentations and discussions of primary source materials, e.g., research articles from scientific journals, book chapters, blogs, websites and papers presented at national conferences; (2) invited presentations and discussions with pro and anti-gun advocates and politicians who have played important parts in the debate and policy formation in Ohio and Michigan (and perhaps nationally if we can schedule visits or video-conferencing), and; (3) an occasional “talk” or overview of what I know (or think that I know) on particular areas of gun policy. Additionally, I have a number of video-recordings of panels on gun policy at national forums along with propaganda/educational pieces by various gun/antigun groups; we can select those that interest us most. The seminar is interdisciplinary by its nature. No prerequisite or background is required except an interest in the subject and willingness to read and thoughtfully participate.

Many of the scholarly works that we will visit are controversial. Some works have made and unmade professional reputations. A sample of works includes:

· Excerpts from historian Michael Bellesiles’ book, based on data from colonial era wills and other documents, challenging assumptions about the central role and prevalence of guns in the original U.S. colonies. Bellesiles won a Bancroft Prize form Columbia University for this work, however, the prize was withdrawn after critics attacked him for being unable to provide the documentary evidence he claimed to have. After a disciplinary inquiry, he resigned from Emory University.

· Work by economist John Lott, based on data from state uniform crime reports, that equates more guns with less crime, specifically that violent crime decreases in the many states that have recently licensed average citizens to carry concealed weapons. Lott, who has also been attacked over the validity of his data and methods, routinely appears before legislative committee hearings in state houses concerning liberalization of concealed weapon carry laws. Lott now works for a conservative think tank.

· Work by legal historian Robert Cottrell reviewing the origins of uniform state laws restricting concealed carry of firearms. Cottrell concludes such laws were aimed mainly at minorities (Blacks and Italians especially) and recent immigrants whom cultural elites of the progressive era distrusted.

· The often-cited work from the New England Journal of Medicine by public health researcher A. Kellerman that concludes homicide risk to household members is increased by the mere presence of a firearm.

Required Texts. Many of the works that we will read will be made available online to you online.

A number of articles and book chapters will be posted on the Carlson Library e-reserves for this seminar and your “My Courses” function at MyUT (in the “files” for this course.) Some are available online directly from their sources , e.g., the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s 2nd Amendment decision, DC v. Heller, and McDonald v Chicago.

Lastly, in the final weeks of the seminar we will select and discuss some readings based on seminar participants’ developing views on the subject of gun policy.

Friday, March 22, 2013

ODJFS performance audit identifies nearly $17 million in yearly savings


As part of a mandate in state law (Ohio Revised Code 117.46), the Ohio Auditor is required to do a performance audit of four state agencies each biennium. Their performance audits have identified millions in savings for local municipalities, school districts and other state departments.

Yesterday Dave Yost's office released a preliminary audit of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services which identifies a potential of $8-18.5 million in yearly savings by reducing the supervisor-to-staff ratio within the department.

“More people should be doing the work instead of bossing the work,” Yost said in a press release. “I give credit to Director Colbert, who previously improved his supervisory ratios. I’m confident he will move quickly on these recommendations.”

ODJFS has a goal of one supervisor to seven staff and meeting that goal would save $2.76. million each year. They are currently at a ratio of 1:6.737.

But the performance audit says the ratio should be between 1:8 and 1:10, which is consistent with peer states and best practices.

"Reduction of an additional 84 to 195 FTE (full-time equivalent) supervisory positions through attrition, reassignment or reduction in force will lead to a savings range of up to $8M to $18.5M annually in payroll costs."

The auditor issued the interim report in order to assist the agency with immediate actions that should not wait until the final report was issued. This interim report was limited to the organizational structure at ODJFS, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Medicaid provider enrollment process.

A prior interim report that focused on the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission found that "using appropriate state job classifications and increasing efficiency" would save another $1 million yearly.

The full recommendations from the organizational review, along with the dollar amounts of savings are available here.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mobile Meals Chili Cook-off!!!


If you are looking for something to help get you out of this weather slump, check out the Mobile Meals’ Great Chili Cook-Off on Saturday, March 23rd, at the Stranahan.

It runs from noon-4 p.m. but you'll probably need to get there by 3 p.m. if you want chili - some teams run out; plus the awards start then.

Admission is free and you can sample from 19 chili teams. There will be a DJ, concessions which include beer, pop, hot dogs and Toft's Ice Cream - an a classic car show outside (weather permitting).

You *vote* for your favorite chili with your dollars - making a contribution to their jar based upon your preference for 'the best.' Your donations will help determine the People's Choice winners while the judges will name the other winners.

If you like chili, you’ll love this event - and you'll help a terrific organization at the same time!

About Mobile Meals:

Mobile Meals of Toledo, Inc. is a non-profit, volunteer-based social service agency that delivers nourishing food—at home and at school—to those whose nutritional needs might otherwise go unmet. We have been serving our community since 1967.

Our home-delivered Meals on Wheels Program serves over 1,200 clients annually. More than 500 volunteers deliver over 500,000 nutritious meals to homebound people who are elderly, ailing, or physically disabled every year. Packaged along with every meal is the dignity and independence that all people treasure. With their nutritional needs met, and with our concerned volunteers checking on their health and well-being daily, many of our clients can postpone—or eliminate altogether—the need for more extensive and expensive care arrangements.

The Weekender Meal Program provides food to children who would otherwise get inadequate nourishment over the weekend. Students who qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches receive a bag of food every Friday afternoon. The bags contain kid-friendly snacks—all healthy items that require no refrigeration and are easily opened by children. Students get more to eat all weekend long so they can come to school Monday morning nourished and ready to learn.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Toledo City Council Meeting - March 19, 2013


Items of particular interest from this week's city council meeting are Item #89 which establishes a 10-member Performance Audit Committee to create a Request For Proposal for a performance audit of the Water Department and Item #113 which will transfer money to cover money transferred inappropriately for the purchase of vehicles - including a vehicle for the mayor. That item will be part of committee hearing tomorrow, March 21, at 1:30 p.m.

Additionally - and this is new - here is a link to the agenda items so you can read the complete description of the legislation being considered, as well as a brief explanation of the item.

Notes from Sherry:

Toledo City Council Meeting
March 19, 2013


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

Item 106 - Appointments – Ottawa/Jermain Park Advisory Board - 1st Reading.(Something was mentioned about Mr. Fish's residency.)

Item 107 – Appointment – Toledo – Lucas County Plan Commission – confirmed – all voting yes.
Herwat recognizes Shelly Co. (Group) as outstanding – from Thornville, OH, offices in Toledo, for fixing Southwyck Blvd., Mr. Collins district.

Item 89 – Establish 10-member Performance Audit Committee to create RFP for performance audit of DPU – passed – all voting yes.
* Webb – memo to Water Director – make changes to document, Mayor has final say – not Council President.
* McNamara – Amend, delete with chair/or – Ms. Webb should be on this Committee.
* Collins – All the work by Lisa and Ms. Webb to be commended but, this will take some time, we don't have time – separate and district challenges now – breakdown on Capital of that system.
* Hicks-Hudson – This is a two track process.

Item 102 – Appropriation to refurbish athletic facility at 1111 Manhattan Blvd. For PAL, $250,000 Parkland Replc – hold –

* Collins – Administration at Agenda Review – property?
* Herwat – We wrote to them about it.
* Collins - $700,000 in Law Enforcement Fund – take this money out of the trust – this will be a recreation facility for the children – Amend and change.
* Craig – Good work, Mr. Collins.
* Steel – Is this the only change?

Item 108 – Lease for Family House at 669 Indiana Ave. for homeless families, $1, 5 years + 5 year option – passed – all voting yes.

Item 109 – Re-appropriation for Electrical Power Distribution at Water Treatment Plant, $1,870,000Water Bond – passed – all voting yes.

Item 110 – Expenditure to Shumaker Bros. For emergency sewer repair at 1105 Oakdale, $19,589 Sewer Op – passed – all voting yes.

Item 111 – Expenditure for Transportation's street signalization and signs, $150,000 CIP Fund – passed – all voting yes.

Item 112 – Expenditure to Hoffman Rd. Landfill scale and scale software, $50,000 CIP Fund – passed – all voting yes.

Item 113 – Transfer funds from General Fund to Capital Replacement Fund for vehicles purchased since 2004, $437,646 - 1st Reading. Sarantou – Finance Committee to meet on this issue on the 21st at 1:30 PM.

Item 114 - Expenditure to Clark Schaefer Hackett for 2012 annual audit, 4 of 5 years, $190,000 General Fund – passed – all voting yes.

Item 115 – Expenditure to TMACOG for 2013 membership fee, $55,658 General Fund - 1st Reading.

Item 116 – Amend TMC by repealing 13 boards/commissions & creating Toledo Parks & Recreation Advisory Board – to Parks & Recreation Committee. Steel – hold till Committee Meeting on Tuesday the 9th, at 4 PM.

Item 117 – Appropriation for Glendale Water Main Replacement, Oak Hill Ct – A. W. Trail, $1,500,000 Water Replacement – passed – all voting yes.

Item 102 – to Committee.

* Herwat – Is this an appropriate use of funds? As of 2/20/13, there was $12,000 available. What are they using these funds for?
* Collins – can't be used for personal costs – examples in previous years - $500,000 per year – What are legitimate uses?
* Hicks-Hudson – Law Department to answer.
* Collins – this needs further research.

Last Call:

Ludeman – Concerned about the traffic on Glendale, Item 117, especially on Southwyck, I like to know.

Riley – UT – good luck in Columbus.

Sarantou – I was Principle for the day at Sherman Elementary, great school.

Steel – (to Sarantou) Hope you didn't make any lasting decisions.

Waniewski – Best wishes to Womens UT Basketball Team. Thanks Administration for paving Secor Road. He hasn't received any bad reports about it.

Webb – Saturday the 30th at Friendship Center, Easter Bunny. Last year 1,000 kids showed up. Reference – what's driving relationships – Steve Hagin and the City- email list. Who is paying for the City' web site – paving streets, April 2nd at the Library, 6 PM. Concerned about all the missing young women in Toledo – Candice Clark from Point Place (gives contact info).

Collins – This Thursday 5 PM at the LOPH, street paving meeting – update on cameras installed – maintenance issues? 2012 Public Safety – Police and Fire, different Supervisors – removed them – wants officers protected on streets – what drove that decision? Where are they going to be placed?

Craig – Thanks his wife for putting up with 33 years of marriage.

Hicks-Hudson – Tomorrow night, 6 PM at the Fredrick Douglas Center, street paving meeting for her district.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

First review of TPS performance audit findings


The Toledo Board of Education will hold a special meeting on April 3, 2013 at 5 p.m. to discuss the first version of the Performance Audit of the District by Evergreen Solutions.

The meeting will be in the board room of the Thurgood Marshall Building, 420 E. Manhattan Blvd. The board room is on the second floor and just to your right when you come in the main (Manhattan side) entrance of the building.

It is my understanding that both an electronic version and a limited number of written versions should be available at that time, ensuring that all members of the public have access to this public document.

It is also my understanding that board members and staff will have an opportunity to question various aspects of the report, though only factual errors will be changed for the next version of the report.

Having this preliminary report available after three months of study is in keeping with the promise Evergreen made to take only three months to do a comprehensive performance audit of the district. I also understand that recommendations that are dependent upon contractual negotiations will be identified as such.

This is a terrific step that the BOE took and we should be there to not only see the recommendations but also to support them in implementing them.

Hope to see you there!!!!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Are some of Stainbrook's chickens coming home to roost?


My, oh my...this is what happens when you decide you disagree with Jon Stainbrook....

Stainbrook aims to oust GOP board member

Apparently, Tony DeGidio is inclined to support the recommendation from the Ohio Secretary of State to fire the Board of Elections direct and assistant director. But the director is Meghan Gallager, FOS (friend of Stainbrook) and that doesn't sit too well with the GOP county chairman.

So...all the dirt is coming out.

Stainbrook claims:

* DeGidio doesn't actually live in the county
* He has a pending ethics complaint and that makes him ineligible to serve on the BOE

DeGidio claims:

* Stainbrook has a conflict of interest because he and Gallagher were or are romantically involved
* Stainbrook takes money from Gallagher

What a mess!

First, if DeGidio doesn't live in the county, isn't that something Stainbrook has known all along?

Didn't he investigate that fact before presenting his name to the Lucas County Republican Party's executive committee for them to recommend him as the board member?

And if Stainbrook has known this all along, why is it only now an issue?

Could it be because now it's useful to Stainbrook? That would certainly be in keeping with his modus operandi.

And so what if DeGidio has a *pending* ethics complaint. Having an unadjudicated charge against you could be a concern but is it cause for removal? If so, I can think of a significant number of people who will gladly file similar types of ethics charges against Stainbrook just to get rid of him.

Now, if the charges pan out, then that's a different discussion. But we're not there yet - unless there's more that Stainbrook knows that he's not yet telling.

DeGidio's charges, however, are more serious. If you receive funds from an appointee, you clearly have a conflict of interest - on both sides. A romantic relationship is also a conflict, but harder to prove when both parties are denying it.

But does DeGidio, knowing Stainbrook's penchant for gathering dirt and holding it against someone, have dirt of his own?

Knowing Stainbrook's history, did he gather evidence to protect himself, or at least take Jon down with him?

Aye, there's the rub.

Only time will tell, but until then, expect the pile of dirt to get higher as this is certain to get more ugly as the chickens come home to roost.

Careful, though. As Chris Myers as Swamp Bubbles warns: eating your own can give you indigestion.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Toledo council deserves 18% pay increase, Democrat-dominated commission says


The commission charged with reviewing, every four years, the wages of Toledo mayor and city council has decided that members of council deserve an 18% pay increase.

Yes, you read that correctly.

They want to increase the pay from $27,500 to $32,500. The $5,000 per year increase for the part-time job is 18%. That's almost as much as the median income for the city and - let me repeat - for a part-time job.

According to Census.gov, the median household income for Toledo from 2007-2011 was $34,170.

Do Toledo city council members really deserve to make as much as the median household (not individual)???

No.

Having been an elected official, I know that no elected position is ever the time they say it will be. A full-time position is never just 40 hours per week and I'm sure a part-time position is never just 20 hours per week. But as Jon Stainbrook told The Blade, it's not supposed to be about the money.

And Stainbrook, the only Republican on the commission, did vote against the council pay increase recommendation. Thank goodness!

But note that the other six members of the commission (five of whom were present to vote on the recommendation) are all Democrats.

The commission is technically appointed by council; they name organizations which then send a representative to serve. There is nothing in the ordinance, nor in the city charter, that requires a balance of party affiliation.

Is anyone surprised that five Democrats voted to give city council members a raise and one Republican said no?

(Well, considering Stainbrook's past behavior, some might be surprised it wasn't unanimous.)

Yes, it's true that current council members won't be eligible for the increase unless they are re-elected, with at-large members getting it starting January 2014 and district members getting it January 2016 - and then only if council approves the recommendation.

Regardless, the council that said Toledo didn't have enough money to pay for our parks and recreation and needed a 1-mill new tax levy doesn't deserve a pay increase now. If they've got the money to spend on their own pay, they can put it to parks instead.

And don't forget, this is also the same council that was going to devote the fine income from the new red light/speed cameras to recreation.

Yeah - that hasn't happened yet either. All that money went into the general fund and, per my last conversation about two weeks ago with the city treasurer's department, has yet to be allocated to parks and recreation.

And just to rub salt in an open wound, what about the temporary 3/4% payroll tax that was supposed to be - you know - temporary?!? We're going on 30 years now. Or the trash tax that was supposed to go down to zero that is now a permanent part of our water bills?!?

I know - don't get me started.

Maybe they just need the additional pay so they can all cover their past-due water bills....

You need to get on the phone now and tell city council that they don't deserve a pay increase - no matter what any commission says. They ran for the positions - actually paid money to attain them - knowing it was paid based upon a part-time basis and they should keep it that way.

For a part-time job, they don't need to be making nearly as much as the median household in the city.

The telephone number for Toledo City Council is 419-245-1050 and here are their email addresses:

Paula.Hicks-Hudson@toledo.oh.gov
dmichael.collins@toledo.oh.gov
mike.craig@toledo.oh.gov
shaun.enright@toledo.oh.gov
rob.ludeman@toledo.oh.gov
adam.martinez@toledo.oh.gov
joe.mcnamara@toledo.oh.gov
tyrone.riley@toledo.oh.gov
george.sarantou@toledo.oh.gov
steven.steel@toledo.oh.gov
tom.waniewski@toledo.oh.gov
lindsay.webb@toledo.oh.gov

And don't forget to mention that they need to pay more attention to the makeup of their commission next time around and ensure *balance* and *fair* representation in terms of political parties.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Paid fellowships available with Ohio Legislative Commission


From State Rep. Tim Brown:

The Ohio Legislative Service Commission is accepting applications for its 13-month Legislative and Telecommunications Fellowship Program. The commission, which works closely with the legislative caucuses of the Ohio General Assembly, will hire 20-plus fellows to work with members and staff at the Ohio House of Representatives and Ohio Senate during 2014.

This Fellowship will provide graduates with incredible on the job training experience in research, legislative policy development and analysis. I highly recommend it to graduates with an interest in learning more about our state government.

Legislative fellow duties include assisting members of the Ohio General Assembly with constituent work and communications, doing legislative research, attending meetings, and performing administrative duties. Telecommunications fellows assist in televising House and Senate proceedings and preparing educational video productions about the General Assembly and the legislative process.

The program is open to graduates of all major fields of study who have a genuine interest in learning about state government, and no political experience is required. All applicants must have graduated from a four-year college degree program by the December start date. Those holding graduate or professional degrees are also encouraged to apply.

The fellowships are full-time, paid positions with eligibility for benefits applicable to other state employees. Application materials must be postmarked by April 1, 2013 to be considered for the program. The application deadline for the two telecommunications positions is May 31, 2013.

For more information or for an application and instructions, please contact the fellowship coordinator at the Ohio Legislative Service Commission by calling (614) 466-3615 or visit www.lsc.state.oh.us/fellowship.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Ohio has mediation program for disputes on public records requests


As I talk to bloggers and citizen activists in other states, they are continually amazed at how easy it is for Ohioans to gain access to public records. Our laws are definitely skewed in favor of release of records and are written to ensure public access.

But even so, we run into trouble getting documents or information we want. So the Attorney General's office has a program to help: the Public Records Mediation Program.

Under Ohio Revised Code 149.43, if you request public records and don't get them, your recourse is to seek mandamus action in court. An entity that failed to follow the public records' law may be liable for a fine (though it's not called that in the law) as well as your attorney fees.

But turning to a court process isn't a step many people have the time or inclination to take. Enter the Mediation Program.

The AG's website explains:

The Mediation Program is a voluntary and confidential process in which a mediator who is well-versed in Ohio’s public records laws helps the disputing parties through a process to identify the parties’ issues and interests, with the goal of finding a mutually acceptable solution.

They even provide a form online that you can submit electronically or print and mail or fax.

If your think that your request for records was denied incorrectly or if it's taking too long to get the records, you can request assistance through this mediation process.

Additionally, if a public body thinks a request is too broad or ambiguous - or just wants helps meeting a public records request - they can request assistance through the program as well.

The key is that both the public body and the requester must agree. And since the goal is the proper release of public records, there's really no reason for either side to object.

The mediations are private and confidential - and free!

Since the program began less than a year ago, 59 requests for mediation have been made. Of those, 23 were resolved prior to mediation.

Think about that - sometimes, just requesting the mediation is enough to get compliance from the public entity.

The AG's office has completed seven mediations, though one was not successful. And it's not sure-fire way to get what you're looking for - they report an 84% success rate with 32 of 38 disputes fully resolved, so there is room for improvement.

But still, if it can help you resolve your public records request without going to court, it's definitely worth a try.

If you'd like to know more about Ohio's public records or open meetings laws, you can attend a Sunshine Law training. It's a three-hour session and required for elected officials and/or their designee, but also open to the public. They're free as well!



With the law and the state AG on your side, there's no excuse NOT to make a public records request.

So - what have you always wanted to know?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

70 mph speed limits and turnpike bonds


Ohio Senators added an amendment to the Transportation Bill, Substitute House Bill 51, which would increase the speed limits on highways to 70 mph.

It would apply to all highways in the state, except for stretches through urban areas.

Another amendment, approved unanimously by the transportation committee, would require that 90% of the proceeds from $1.5 billion in Ohio Turnpike bonds go to road and bridge projects within 75 miles of the turnpike.

HB 31 and HB 51 were combined into Sub. HB 51 as part of the committee actions. Gongwer Ohio has a listing of other changes in the Transportation Budget bill made by the committee.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Quotes of the Day - limitations on government


"In the first place, it is to be remembered, that the general government is not to be charged with the whole power of making and administering laws. Its jurisdiction is limited to certain enumerated objects, which concern all the members of the republic, but which are not to be attained by the separate provisions of any."

"The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite."

~ James Madison

Sunday, March 10, 2013

WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!


I must admit: I really don’t pay much attention to global warming/global cooling scenarios.

Living on the western end of Lake Erie and having visited the glacial groves on the nearby islands many times, I know that this area was once covered by an ice sheet.

Obviously, the earth has warmed since then.

But I know others who believe that man is responsible for negligible increases in the overall temperature of the earth, but those negligible increases are, in their eyes, catastrophic!

And those others (Al Gore) predict that unless we go back to living like cave men, all the ice at both poles will melt, causing the oceans to rise, cities to flood, crops to fail, gloom, doom and zombies.

Well, maybe not the zombie part – but you get the drift.

Of course, if everyone on the planet had to stop using electricity and revert to wood fires for warmth, cooking, etc… can you imagine the amount of carbon we’d put into the atmosphere? But I digress…

And if it’s man causing all the warming, what explains the warming on other planets in our solar system? Perhaps the alien theorists are right after all?

After hearing, nearly all my life, that the planet was warming and it was all my fault, imagine my surprise when I read the latest report from The Space and Science Research Corporation that says the earth is actually cooling!

SSRC is an independent scientific research organization and, according to their own website:

“…the leading research organization in the United States on the subject of the science and planning for the next climate change to a long lasting cold era especially with regard to alerting the government, the media, and the people of the need to prepare for this new climate era.”

No modesty there.

They also brag about their record:

“The SSRC and its President, Mr. John L. Casey, have an established record of accuracy in climate change predictions using the Relational Cycle Theory or RC Theory of climate change, a theory based on solar cycles as the main drivers behind the Earth's variations in climate.”

Last month they released the Executive Summary of their Global Climate Status Report for 2013 which warns “what is really happening with the climate.”

“In the Executive Summary, the SSRC report authors show convincing evidence that the Earth's atmospheric and oceanic temperatures are on a long term temperature cool down as a result of the just started reduction in the Sun's energy output. Called a "solar hibernation," this rare and powerful natural cycle of the Sun has been shown to bring long and potentially dangerous cold climate eras to the planet.”

In light of upcoming Congressional action on the idea of a carbon tax, Casey said:

"This report was planned for some time. Clearly though, its release at this time is intended to put some reality into the ongoing Congressional debates about to begin on the administration's proposed new carbon taxes and other regulations supposedly designed to stop manmade global warming. The government's release of its own draft climate assessment report continues to show our government is on the wrong track for addressing climate change and is still shackled to the disproved greenhouse gas theory of climate change. As is well known, however, past predictions about the climate using that theory have been all wrong, global warming ended years ago, and now a new cold climate has arrived. The general public and our leaders need the truth about climate change at their disposal before making long term decisions about climate change for government policy and managing their day-to-day lives. This next climate change to a potentially dangerous cold climate needs to be well understood by all so they can best prepare for what is coming.”

So what is coming??

“The Earth has left the past era of global warming, caused primarily by the Sun, and is in the process of a rapid transition to a new cold climate. This next climate change is expected to last for at least the next forty years. The extent and depth of the cold weather produced in this new climate era is estimated to be the worst in over two hundred years. As such, it will likely be historic in scale and highly destructive globally in terms of crop damage and human suffering. Based on past cold climates of this type, the most likely outcome for this next climate change will be worldwide social, political and economic upheaval, and substantial loss of life.”

But that’s not all…

“In conclusion, the SSRC believes existing climate change indicators support the Summary Climate Assessment that a new potentially dangerous cold climate age has begun. It should be emphasized that unless a significant unexpected and rapid change in the present declining ocean and atmosphere temperature trends occurs, there are only two climate scenarios that appear likely at this time over the next forty years. Each scenario results in a new cold climate era.

One would be a Dalton class cold era with two hundred year cold weather records being set and the other being a Maunder class cold era with four hundred year cold weather records. A review of the history from these periods shows they were marked by significant increases in cold weather deaths, starvation though crop losses, and loss of life through concurrent civil unrest and warfare.

Both scenarios for the Earth’s climate future are likely to result in substantial, global, social disruption and loss of life. The difference will be one of degree.”

Yikes!

Now, I don’t know if the earth is warming or cooling – the scientists and so-called experts can’t agree and there is clearly no *consensus*. In fact, I’m not sure such things can ever be predicted. After all, they can’t even predict tomorrow’s weather very well…

But what I do know is this – whether by baking or freezing or something in between: WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!

At least they agree on that and on this point, they’re probably right.

Sunshine Week 2013


Hey - it's Sunshine Week!


Yes, despite the prediction of rain for today, it is the start of Sunshine Week, where we celebrate and embrace our right to know things about our governments.

It's made possible due to support from Bloomberg LP and the John S. and James L Knight Foundations. It's a national initiative to promote the importance of open government and freedom of information.

In Ohio, we're very fortunate to have one of the best public records laws in the country. Just about anything you'd want to know about what's going on in your township, city, county, state, school, or other public entity, is covered and your access to that information is a priority.

It's all right there in Ohio Revised Code 149.43, but in case reading codified law isn't your thing, there is the Ohio Sunshine Book.

For years, Attorneys General and State Auditors of Ohio have jointly published this handy reference guide that tells you, in plain language, what the law says; it also includes information about open meetings laws that public bodies must follow. The book is available on line, or you can order a printed copy or CD for free from the AG.

Take a moment to check it out. Know what the requirements are for Ohio public bodies and then make sure your *favorite* entity is following the rules. Also, make a public records request. It's pretty easy and you may be surprised what you find out.

It's your government - using public records laws to hold it accountable is your responsibility!

So, let the sun shine in!

Friday, March 08, 2013

'FrackNation' hits NWOhio


The movie FrackNation, a journalist's search for the fracking truth, is coming to Ohio...and if you're in the Van Wert or Wausean areas, you can see it March 16th.

If you can wait, the movie will also be screened by the Northwest Ohio Conservative Coalition on April 23 at 6:45 p.m. at the Maumee Indoor Theater.

It is especially important to educate yourselves with the truth about fracking because Josh Fox, the producer of the anti-fracking and highly inaccurate movie Gasland, has a sequel ready to debut - and it's just as bad as the first.

In the sequel he's claiming, without any evidence, that fracking causes breast cancer.

I hope you can make one of the screenings in Northwest Ohio.

Here are the details for the 6 p.m. screening in Wauseon:

Christ Church, 410 North Shoop Ave., Wauseon, OH 43567
Sponsored by the Northwest Ohio Freedom Alliance.

Here is the press notice for the 2 p.m. screening in Van Wert:

VAN WERT HEART LAND PATRIOTS SPONSOR "FRACKNATION" SCREENING

The Van Wert County Heart Land Patriots invite northwestern Ohio/northeastern Indiana residents to a FREE public showing of the independent documentary film FRACKNATION on Saturday, March 16th, at 2:00 PM in the main auditorium of Calvary Evangelical Church, located at 10686 Van Wert-Decatur Road, Van Wert.

The 75 minute documentary follows journalist Phelim McAleer as he faces gun threats, malicious 911 calls, and bogus lawsuits when questioning green extremists for the truth about fracking, a safe and economical procedure for extracting shale gas and oil from the ground.

Fracking is going to make America one of the world's leading energy producers, but has become the target of a concerted campaign by environmentalists who want it banned.

In FRACKNATION McAleer travels across America and Europe to uncover the science suppressed by environmental activists and ignored by much of the media.

He talks with scientists and ordinary Americans who live in fracking areas and who tell him the truth behind the exaggerations and misrepresentations of anti-fracking activists, including those who produced the film Gasland and promoted it's claims on the unsuspecting American public.

Not only does McAleer's film reveal truths about fracking and the possiblities for unlocking the great storehouses of energy underground huge portions of America, but it makes a clear statement about the state of much of modern journalism.

Further information on the film's showing may be obtained by telephoning Rev. Keith Stoller of the Patriots: 419-968-2869

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Toledo to host street planning forums


Press Release:

CITY ENGINEERS TO HOST STREET PLANNING FORUMS FOR COMMUNITY EDUCATION AND INPUT

The City of Toledo Division of Engineering Services will host a series of forums to review street planning. The first meeting will be March 12 from 6-8 p.m. at the Sanger Branch Library at 3030 W. Central Avenue.

This is the second annual series of street forums to improve citizen input in street planning for Toledo. Sessions will be held in each of the city’s six council districts. City administrators hope to review with citizens which streets are included in the city’s 2013 repaving and reconstruction program and how they are selected for repair, and which city divisions do work to repave or repair streets and how to contact them for assistance. Administrators will be on hand to work with residents in small groups, answering questions and collaborating to create district feedback, priorities and recommendations for the 2014 street program planning.

All meetings will be held from 6-8 p.m. A full schedule of dates and locations for the 2013 forums follows.

March 12, 2013
District 5
Sanger Branch Library, 3030 W. Central Ave

March 14, 2013
District 3
East Toledo Family Center, 1020 Varland Avenue

March 20, 2013
District 4
Frederick Douglas Center, 1001 Indiana Avenue

March 21, 2013
District 2
OLPH, Anthony Wayne Trail and Sherwood

April 1, 2013
District 1
Bethlehem Baptist Church, 1430 W. Bancroft Street

April 2, 2013
District 6
Point Place Library, 2727 117th Street

For more information about the forums or the street planning process, citizens are encouraged to contact the Division of Engineering Services at 419.936.2275.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

New TARTA hub won't spur revitalized downtown


The Toledo Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) and the City of Toledo would like to build a new hub for transfers on the bus system. The cost would be $24 million - at least, that's what they estimate today, though it is certain to be higher by the 2016 completion date.

The Toledo Blade thinks this is a wonderful idea because it would spur revitalization of the downtown area. They write in their editorial:

"...the proposed transit center could be a key element of downtown Toledo’s revitalization. The project is worth pursuing."

How many times have we heard this? Portside, The Docks, the Marina Project, a new sports arena, Promenade Park...the list of publicly funded projects that will revitalize our downtown seems to be endless. And yet, here we are with yet another.

We are constantly being told that *this* will be the one. This is all we need and we'll return downtown Toledo to its former glory days. And yes, in case you were wondering, this does qualify for stuck-on-stupid designation.

Not surprisingly, these projects never actually do any of the 'revitalizing' the promoters promise they will.

This is not to say that some of the projects are not good ideas - nor that they are not successful. But many, like the new Huntington arena which is successful so far, do not create NEW spending or growth. They just redistribute it from other establishments and areas.

Both Huntington Center and 5/3 Field have brought people to the downtown area. Eateries and other types of establishments have followed. But for every new place around these two facilities that has opened, others (perhaps multiple others) have closed.

There is no net gain in the county in terms of number of new businesses, employment or spending as a result of having these two new sports venues.

Sales taxes, which are key indicator of spending in the county, did not see increases as a result of these two facilities, either.

So what makes anyone think that a new TARTA bus station is going to somehow miraculously change the current activity in downtown Toledo?

Are people suddenly going to start taking the bus just so they can stop at the new hub? (I'll pause here so you can catch your breath from laughing so hard...)

The plan is to get the federal government to pay for 80% of the funding. Yes, TARTA and city officials think our broke, out-of-money, heavily-indebted federal government can pony up the dough for this boondoggle. You can pick yourself up off the floor now.

Will any special requirements or mandates come with any funding they might be able to eke out? Probably yes - and it will most likely be in the form of ridership.

Would TARTA revamp their routes to force more people into transfers downtown? That's already the number one concern from suburban communities - that they are forced to spend unnecessary time on a bus so it an come downtown before going back out to another suburban community (the whole wheel/spokes/hub concept). In fact, that is why many of the communities are opting out of TARTA - because it doesn't meet the needs of the suburban riders in terms of direct routes to where they want to go.

How many more communities would opt out if federal funding for a new transfer station would result in more routes being shunted to a downtown hub? No matter how nice they make it, I doubt it would be enough to justify extra time on a bus for a suburban rider.

Clearly a new bus station hub is not going to be a "key element of downtown's revitalization," no matter how much The Blade, local politicians or the woefully inadequate TARTA board may hope it will be.

The only thing that will revitalize anything in this city is the private sector. A thriving private sector will hire people who will then have funds to spend, generating economic activity that is in addition - in in place of - the spending they are already doing.

And the sooner the editorial board at the paper and the local politicians acknowledge this FACT, the sooner we'll see true economic develop and revitalization.


Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Thomas Edison vs. the state


"The great non sequitur committed by defenders of the State, including classical Aristotelian and Thomist philosophers, is to leap from the necessity of society to the necessity of the State." ~ Murray N. Rothbard

I read this quote today and couldn't help but think that we are there.

Whenever there is an issue, it appears that the first response or reaction is to turn to government for a solution, despite the fact that many possible solutions already exist in society.

And then I think about the great inventors in our nation. They saw a need or had an idea. Their first reaction wasn't to turn to government to provide it; they went out and did it themselves.

Think about Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb, the phonograph and the motion picture camera - among other things.

He held 1,093 patents, making him the fourth most prolific inventor in history!

And I'll bet there was no such thing as a federal grant back when he was inventing things either.

How could that possibly have happened? How could he come up with so many brilliant contraptions that have so changed the way our world operates without relying first upon government?

Have we come so far from individual liberty and responsibility, as well as responsibility to care for our fellow man, that we cannot do so with an enormous interwoven jungle of government agencies to make it possible?

Or perhaps we've given up on our individual obligations to succeed and use our success to help others less well off in favor of paying taxes to the government so the government can perform those functions for us? Isn't that the core basis of collectivism - at least the kind of collectivism currently being espoused by so many on the left? Isn't that why so many think that research and development can *only* be funded by the government? Or maybe I should say *best funded* by the government?

If Edison were alive today, would he be the great inventor he was able to become before his death in 1931?

Or would he be just another person sitting in the dark waiting for government to invent a light bulb?
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