Rove (and Mandel) and the RPCC (and Mandel)

On Tuesday, February 24th, the Republican Party of Cuyahoga County held their Lincoln Day Dinner in downtown Cleveland in the Grand Ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel.  The featured speaker was Karl Rove.

The cost of an individual ticket to the dinner was $85.  In the hinterlands of Ohio, I’m accustomed to a Lincoln Day Dinner price tag of $25.  If it were $25 in Cuyahoga County, though, I imagine 3 or 4 thousand people would show up for dinner.  What facility is large enough to seat 3 or 4 thousand people for dinner all at the same time and serve them all a formal dinner?  The Grand Ballroom at the Renaissance Hotel was as big a venue as I’ve seen for such occasions, and it was packed.  I’m guessing there were 800 guests, since there were about 80 tables, with 10 persons to a table.

In one sense, Cuyahoga County Republicans may seem a bit dysfunctional.  After all, the Democrats have a virtual lock on elected offices throughout the county and especially in Cleveland.  Furthermore, the Republican base in southwest Ohio may be of the opinion that at least half of all Cleveland-area Republicans are RINO’s.  But, RPCC chair Robert Frost and featured speaker Karl Rove both underscored the importance of turning out the Republican vote in Cuyahoga County.  Which Ohio county gave more votes to John McCain for president than any other Ohio county last November?  Cuyahoga County did.

So, if you are looking to win a statewide office, and you forecast that you need a specific number of votes to win a statewide majority, where are you going to look for votes first?  Podunkville?  Heck, no!  You’re going to get as many votes out of Cuyahoga County that you can get your hands on.  From my conversation with Kevin DeWine in Sandusky last Friday, I’d say that the ORP would agree with that assessment.

Having said that, not all statewide hopefuls were in attendance in Cleveland on Tuesday night.  I hope they were doing something very meaningful, like attending a family member’s ballet recital, because if they were doing something of a political nature, and they weren’t in Cleveland, they weren’t being as productive as they could have been.

So who was there?  State Auditor Mary Taylor was there.  She led the Pledge of Allegiance.  Supreme Court Justice Terrence O’Donnell was there.  He gave a lengthy invocation after saying numerous words about Abraham Lincoln (I greatly appreciate Reverend Clyde Davis, who proceeded directly to the benediction prayer without speechifying, rather than following the example of Justice O’Donnell).  Jim Petro was there.  Sandy O’Brien was there.  State Rep Nan Baker was there, as well as a number of suburban mayors and council members.

Most of all, Josh Mandel was there.  State Rep Josh Mandel shared much the same message that he had when he appeared in Tiffin earlier this month.  But it didn’t end there.  Mr. Frost said a lot of nice things about Mr. Mandel.  But it didn’t end there, either.  Karl Rove, the keynote speaker, had some very nice things to say about Mr. Mandel, too.

They said Rob Portman had been in Cleveland to speak last year.  The U.S. Senator-wannabe had postcards distributed to every seat at every table.  Speakers urged us to fill out the form on the Portman postcards and send them in.  It seemed empty, though, because Portman wasn’t there.  He was a ghost, a shadow of the past.  He wasn’t larger than life.  Josh Mandel was there, and he was larger than life.

John Kasich was probably busy parsing President Obama’s speech so that he could appear as a pundit on Fox News with savvy commentary about the stimulus bill.  I get the sense that a lot of Cleveland Republicans are too busy in the evenings to tune in to television, let alone Fox News.  For whatever reason, John Kasich, who wants to be Ohio’s next governor, wasn’t there.  Unlike Rob Portman, Kasich wasn’t even a ghost, wasn’t even a shadow, wasn’t even a whisper, because he didn’t even have anyone plugging his candidacy and there was no Kasich literature.  Kasich wasn’t there, so he had no chance to be larger than life.  Josh Mandel was there, and he was larger than life.

Karl Rove’s most stirring moments occurred while he described the service of those in the nation’s armed forces.  He also talked about what it takes to keep the country safe.  He talked about the economic crisis, even pointed a finger at the person who stood in the way of Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac reforms that would have prevented the housing bubble in the first place (the U.S. Senator from Connecticut, Christopher Dodd).  Of course, he also talked about George W. Bush.  And Josh Mandel.

Keeler with Carnival #156

Ben Keeler, of Keeler Political Report and politics.ohio.com, was this week’s editor for the Carnival of Ohio PoliticsInstallment number 156 is up and ready for your reading pleasure.  Besides posts from Keeler and from yours truly, this week’s edition included posts from Bizzy Blog, Just Blowing Smoke, Roland Hansen Commentary, Neocon Panic Attacks, Divided We Stand United We Fall, Conservative Culture, Writes Like She Talks, Buckeye Punditeers, and Free Market Politics.

If you have a blog that offers coverage of Ohio politics, wouldn’t you like to participate in the Carnival, too?  Next week’s editor is scheduled to be McKee from The Boring Made Dull.

Seneca County Treasurers

I’ve noticed a lot of digging through some prior posts at Buckeye RINO related to last fall’s election contest between Seneca County Treasurer Marguerite Bernard and challenger Damon Alt.

Perhaps those of you who are digging through are puzzled about having Marguerite Bernard’s name on your property tax bills when you thought for sure that you had elected Damon Alt.  If so, let me assure you that Damon Alt did indeed win the election in November, and is the Seneca County Treasurer-Elect.  Damon Alt’s term in office is scheduled to start at the beginning of September, so we will be getting the treasurer that was elected, but Bernard is still the treasurer at this moment.  I hope this clears up some questions.

Erie County Republicans meet Kevin DeWine

Matthew OldThis is a photo of Matthew Old, Erie County GOP Chair, taken in downtown Sandusky’s Washington Park on the day that John McCain and the Straight Talk Express made a Presidential campaign tour stop in Sandusky.

A few months later, at the Erie County Lincoln Day Dinner held last Friday, February 20th, Mr. Old remarked that local Republicans had been excited just to be able to host Senator McCain’s surrogates.  They were suprised when Senator McCain, the candidate himself, made plans to stop in Sandusky.

Are Ohio Republicans demoralized from the election losses in 2006 and 2008?  After seeing the turnout from Sandusky County, Seneca County, and Erie County at recent Lincoln Day Dinners, I’d be inclined to say that interest in participation in the party is on the INCREASE in early 2009.

2009 is an election “off-year,” when low profile local races such as city council, village council, township trustee, municipal court judge, and school board races are decided.  I’ve seen turnout for party functions in other “off-years.”  There may have been complacency on display during those other “off-years,” but this time is different.  What I’ve witnessed so far this year is hunger, and I’m not talking about hunger for food.

Tomorrow night, Tuesday, February 24th, I plan to be at the Cuyahoga County Lincoln Day Dinner, and I’ll be curious to see if the same trend manifests itself there.

At any rate, Matthew Old acknowledged that people in Erie County are seeking out the GOP in greater numbers.  One of the reasons I attended the function (held at the Sandusky Yacht Club, which, by the way, may very well have the most attentive and pampering waitstaff I’ve encountered anywhere) was that one of my mom’s friends, who lives in the city of Huron, was curious about getting involved in the Republican Party.  We thought that accompanying her to the Lincoln Day Dinner would help tremendously in introducing her to like-minded Republicans.  We weren’t disappointed.  In addition to the official Erie County GOP organization, there is also a club for Erie County Republican Women.  Apparently, my mom’s friend represented just the tip of the iceberg, because many new faces had emerged at recent party functions.

The keynote speaker for the evening was the chair of the Ohio Republican Party, Kevin DeWine.  He acknowledged that Republican officeholders in high places had made grave errors of hypocrisy leading to the election defeats of 2006 and 2008.  Our party platform includes principles of small government, balanced budgets, lower taxes, transparency, and ethics.  Yet, we witnessed the biggest expansion of government on the Republicans’ watch, with unbalanced Federal budgets, and closed-door deals that led to ethics scandals.  While Mr. DeWine acknowledged all of these errors, he said that the party must turn toward the future rather than wallow in the past.  I think everyone in attendance was there because we were concerned about the future, not because we were still focused on the past.

Regarding the future, Mr. DeWine said that we need to multiply our party’s membership rather than purge our party’s membership.  I’m inclined to agree.  After all, the name of this blog, Buckeye RINO, is partly a response to those who bandy the “RINO” appellation too freely.  Republicans are supposed to be the big tent party, not the groupthink party.  To be the big tent party, we have to be tolerant of varying opinions on a wide array of topics, though there are some bedrock principles that we all subscribe to.  The party of Lincoln is a party of liberty, not groupthink.

I think alarm over rampant socialism within our own nation is part of the motivation for the increased attendance at these functions.  Another common concern is the feeling that, when it comes to foreign affairs, we need to be every bit as relentless as our adversaries, and, frankly, it appears that our nation may be caving in on many international fronts.

Mr. DeWine said that he fully expected a solid GOP ticket for 9 statewide offices up for grabs in 2010.  While discussing some of the possible names that may appear on the 2010 ballot, he was careful to point out that only Rob Portman had made an official announcement so far.  Portman is seeking the U.S. Senate seat held by Senator George Voinovich, who has announced his retirement.

In one-on-one conversation with Mr. DeWine, I inquired about the ORP’s commitment to campaigning all over the state, not just in southwest Ohio.  Mr. DeWine gave his assurance that winning statewide races requires campaigning in northern Ohio.  What caused me to make such an inquiry?  It was the Secretary of State race in 2006, when Jim Trakas stepped aside to let Greg Hartmann carry the banner for the GOP.  Greg Hartmann was invisible in northern Ohio.  I don’t think we’ll see a repeat of that mistake in 2010.

Also in one-on-one conversation with Mr. DeWine, I asked about the GOP’s competitive disadvantage in early absentee voting.  Northern Ohio Republican candidates have fared much more poorly since absentee voting laws were changed to allow voters to vote early without having to specify a reason why they were choosing to do so.  Mr. DeWine said that many other states have made similar changes, so this is a topic of discussion that’s been brought before Michael Steele and the rest of the RNC.

Two other featured guests at the Erie County Lincoln Day Dinner on Friday night were two state senators:  Senator Karen Gillmor, and Senator Mark Wagoner.  Erie County is located within Senator Wagoner’s state senate district, so he was granted a few minutes to speak from the podium.  Senator Karen Gillmor didn’t speak from the podium, but she did work the room, meeting and greeting guests before dinner was served.

Carnival #155 is up

Jill Miller Zimon, of Writes Like She Talks, has posted this week’s installment (number #155) of the Carnival of Ohio Politics.  “Survival” is the theme she’s chosen for the week.  155 persons survived the crash landing of U.S. Airways flight #1549 that had to ditch in the Hudson River after Canadian geese took out the plane’s engines.

Speaking of survivors, I’m a huge fan of the music of Destiny’s Child.  Now that I’m thinking of the topic of survival, the Destiny’s Child song titled “Survivor” is running through my head.

So, if you’ve survived another week and lived to tell the tale, head over to the Carnival of Ohio Politics to get the best that Ohio bloggers had to offer this week.

Carnival embarrassment

This week it was my turn to edit the Carnival of Ohio Politics.  Unfortunately, my cousin, Jack Daniels Williamson, and I had a little squabble, and, in the end, I conceded and let him write the Carnival.  Big mistake.  Big, big, big mistake.  I don’t know the last time I’ve felt so insulted.  If ever there was a Carnival that I wouldn’t want you to read, it’s the foul concoction that Installment # 154 turned out to be, no thanks to my cousin.

He won’t be writing the Carnival ever again.

Next week will be Jill Miller Zimon’s week to edit the Carnival, so redemption is right around the corner.

Have you received your property tax bill for 2009?

I’ve heard complaints from homeowners in both Erie County and Lorain County that tax appraisal valuations have kept increasing recently even though the bottom has been falling out of the northern Ohio housing market since 2000.

I think it’s worth noting that County Auditors will be up for election in 2010, and it’s not too early for challengers to launch campaigns and start raising money.  Just fill out a Designation of Treasurer form for your campaign committee and submit it to the Board of Elections, as I’ve written about in this blog entry, and you’ll have the greenlight to start raising campaign funds.  You won’t have to worry about circulating petitions until the beginning of next year.  In my opinion, both Erie County Auditor Tom Paul and Lorain County Auditor Mark Stewart are tyrants that ought to be replaced by voters.

I understand that the property valuation should be a rolling average of at least the past three years, so perhaps there might be a little bit of a lag between what the market value drops to and what the tax valuation drops to, but I’m hearing complaints that tax valuations in the two counties keep creeping UP, not down.  I’ve seen tax valuations for properties that are higher than the selling price ever was and higher than the marketplace could ever sustain.  Such practices amount to nothing short of a money grab by county government, specifically, the County Auditors’ offices.  Some politicians don’t respect the citizens enough to put tax increase proposals on the ballot, and some even ignore the citizens after they have voted down tax increases, and they use these ever-upward-creeping assessed property values to artificially inflate tax revenues.  Meanwhile, it’s no secret that REAL market values for homes have been plummeting for eight or nine years now, and assessed values should have been dropping downward to reflect that dynamic.

So what should you do beyond vote out these tax-grabbing county auditors?

That Woman’s Weblog has an excellent article on this very topic.  It is possible for you to request an appeal of your home’s tax appraisal valuation.  Please check it out and follow up.  Don’t let yourself be a victim of artificially inflated tax appraisal valuations.

Kasich, Husted, Mandel, Latta, Gillmor, Wagner, Boose in Tiffin last night

Former Columbus-area Congressman John Kasich gave the keynote speech at the Seneca and Sandusky Counties’ Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner last night (Feb. 5, 2009) in Tiffin.  I was in attendance to hear what he and others had to say.  You can check out this related article from the Tiffin Advertiser-Tribune, if you like.  Others who spoke from the podium included Dayton-area State Senator and former Ohio House Speaker Jon Husted, Cleveland-area State Representative Josh Mandel, and local Congressman Bob Latta.  Local State Senator Karen Gillmor and local State Representatives Jeff Wagner and Terry Boose were also in attendance, but did not speak.

As many in the blogosphere have already guessed, Kasich is giving serious thought to running for Ohio Governor in 2010, Jon Husted is giving serious thought to running for Ohio Secretary of State in 2010, and Josh Mandel is giving serious thought to running for Ohio Treasurer in 2010.  They confirmed from their own mouths that they were giving serious thought to running for these statewide positions, though none of them were ready to officially announce for certain that they were seeking these seats.

We’ve heard that Ohio has lost much more than 200,000 jobs since 2000.  Kasich is letting everyone know that Ohio has lost much more than 100,000 thousand jobs since Ted Strickland took office in early 2007.  Kasich is also letting everyone know that Ohio is dead last or nearly dead last among the fifty states for new business start-ups in virtually any way one chooses to measure such a statistic.  On the topics of both Ohio’s economy and Ohio’s education system, Kasich sees that under current leadership, Ohio is spiraling ever downward and out of control.  He likened the current national and statewide decay of our standard of living as what we’ve experienced during the Jimmy Carter Administration, with Democrats at the time telling us to lower our expectations for what the future had in store.  Ronald Reagan rejected the dismal forecasts and chose a bolder path.  John Kasich urged Republicans in attendance to reject the path of Obama, Reid, Pelosi, and Strickland.  He asked everyone to mobilize to turn Ohio around, starting with visiting the website www.RechargeOhio.com and signing up.

Husted echoed Kasich’s sentiments and reiterated some of Kasich’s statistics.

Mandel charmed the crowd with some self-deprecating humor about his youthful appearance, while reminding everyone of the dedicated women and men who serve in the armed forces.  He held up a pair of shoes with the soles and heels worn out from canvassing neighborhoods during his state rep campaigns, and promised he wouldn’t be outworked by his opponents if he officially undertakes the statewide campaign to become Ohio Treasurer.

Congressman Latta delivered the most red meat, as he hammered away at the foolishness of the bailout packages and the proposed economic stimulus bill.  Latta seemed quite genuine in his conservative assessment of the shenanigans on Capitol Hill, and the crowd reaction was very favorable.

Several local politicians were present, as well, with Seneca County Engineer Mark Zimmerman capturing much of the spotlight, since he emceed the event.

PD’s Phillip Morris with more of what’s wrong with Cleveland

Because Cleveland’s Democrat politicians want to have a finger in every pie, trying to do business in Cleveland is no cakewalk.  Plain Dealer columnist Phillip Morris shares a case study in jumping through hoops.

All aboard the Carnival train

Carnival #153 has been posted by Lisa Renee, blog author of Glass City Jungle.  Reaction to Governor Strickland’s State of the State address is abundant, but there are many other topics under the umbrella of Ohio politics that also receive coverage.  Please read the Carnival of Ohio Politics this week!

Just a heads-up for next week:  Yours truly, Daniel Jack Williamson, will be compiling next week’s Carnival.  If you have blog entries about Ohio politics that you’d like to have included in next week’s Carnival, please submit them by 11 pm next Tuesday, February 10, 2009 by sending links to your entries to ohiopolcarnival@gmail.com!

Calling NEO: Read Ed Morrison if you want to prosper

Yesterday, I wrote a post pointing to an Ed Morrison (a Brewed Fresh Daily contributor) article at New Geography that chronicled Cleveland’s timeline of recent economic history.  Today, I wish to point you to his followup article, in which Ed Morrison has identified 5 components of economic development that Cleveland’s been taking the wrong approach to, along with his suggestions for a better approach.  Please read this if you live in Northeast Ohio, even if you don’t live in Cuyahoga County.  Chances are, these wrong approaches are being pursued in towns like Lorain, Elyria, Sandusky, Ashtabula, Painesville, Warren, Canton, and Akron, too.

First, Cleveland takes “the wrong approach to achieving scale.”  You need a critical mass of participants in order to do something big enough to have a permeating effect through an entire region, but building a bigger hierarchical monolith is not the way you get more players to buy into the process.  Morrison points out that a network, with links and nodes, is so much more effective construct for participation than a monolith.  I’m sure Morrison wanted to keep things brief and to the point, but I think more elaboration on this point would be useful.

Second, Cleveland misunderstands public-private partnerships.  Cleveland’s understanding of how these partnerships are supposed to work effectively is so inside-the-box, so thirty-years-ago.  Cleveland needs to take off the blinders and survey far afield, observe what’s working in the regions that are achieving success, and adopt the best practices.  I think elaboration on this point would be useful, too.  I’ve lived in 9 states and a foreign country at some point during my adult life.  I’ve traveled to 42 states and 7 foreign countries during my adult life.  When I criticize NEO’s misguided attempts at economic development, I have a catalog inside my head of what works based on what I’ve witnessed in other places.  If Cleveland doesn’t look much farther than the end of its nose, it just won’t see very much.

Third, Cleveland has “no strategic framework, no theory of change.”  Morrison hits a home run on this point, so let me quote him directly and add my own emphasis in bold print:

Cleveland’s leadership has no apparent theory of change. Overwhelmingly, the strategy is now driven by individual projects. These projects, pushed by the real estate interests that dominate the board of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, confuse real estate development with economic development. This leads to the “Big Thing Theory” of economic development: Prosperity results from building one more big thing.

The economy has shifted under the leadership’s feet. We are rapidly moving toward an economy of networks embedded in other networks. With an economy driven by knowledge and networks, economic development is more than land development, real estate projects, and recruiting firms that move from Michigan to Mexico.

Today, economic development begins with brainpower in 21st-century skills, and Cleveland’s leadership largely ignores the role of developing brainpower.

I have been harping on this and harping on this with anyone who cares to listen.  NEO communities, across the board, are making this same mistake.  They have confused economic development with real estate development.

I’ve grown very fond of the WoMbats, the current and past contributors to Word of Mouth blog, who have relentlessly exposed folly after folly in Lorain and Lorain County relating to misguided economic development.  Sandy Prudoff, Ron Twining, Anthony Giardini, and Ted Kalo are among The Powers That Be that have earned our collective derision.  Scott Bakalar posted a piece on WoM just today that illustrates just what I’m talking about, but many more such examples can be culled from WoM and WoM offshoots like That Woman’s Weblog, Muley’s Cafe, Developments Along the Black River, and Lorain County Photographer’s Blog.

Fourth, Cleveland has “the wrong mindset for making decisions.”  Part of the reason for this proceeds from the hierarchical monolith structure mentioned before, in which communications occur vertically either from the top down or from the bottom up.  Again, Morrison hits a home run, so let me offer a direct quote and let me add some of my own emphasis in bold print:

If you live in a world of hierarchies, you live in a world of two directions: top-down or bottom-up, with top-down the preferred direction. It’s the direction of command-and-control; of predictability and stability. Bottom up is the opposite. It implies disorganization and chaos, inefficiency and fragmentation, confusion and uncertainty. If you approach economic development from a top-down perspective, you want to limit and control public comment. Civic engagement is a carefully circumscribed event, not a process; a meeting, not a collaboration. Anyone who has attended a school board meeting understands this point.

There’s only one problem. The top-down world does not exist in economic development. Complex public/private strategies are developed in a “civic space” outside the four walls of any one organization. Within the civic space, no one can tell anyone else what to do. Strategies born in a top-down mindset are doomed to fail.

It’s not just school board meetings that illustrate this failing, nor just meetings at the local government level.  Ohio’s General Assembly and our nation’s Congress in DC have demonstrated the same failings, and economic downturn with no effective remedy is the result.  They’ve been tuning out the voices of the public that have decried pay-to-play politics, and even as they plunge into the abyss, the people aren’t being heard.

One more quote from Morrison on this point:

Cleveland’s leadership has a long way to travel down this road. There’s a naive ineptitude in the civic deliberations on complex issues. For over ten years, the Greater Cleveland Partnership has been fiddling with a convention center decision. In the long run, the upside for the city is minimal, while the downside grows each day. By following traditional top down management models, the city’s leadership, if it’s lucky, will build a 30-year-old idea 10 years late.

Fifth, Cleveland doesn’t measure its progress.  Nobody at the top of the monolith wants to hear that their decisions failed to transform, so, naturally, there is an aversion to quantifying the aftermath.  Without such metrics, we fail to mark the path we are headed down.  If there are any lessons to be learned along the way, the lack of metrics assures that we won’t learn them.

Ed Morrison on Cleveland’s economic collapse

Ed Morrison hasn’t yet revealed the final findings of his biopsy of Cleveland, but top Cuyahoga County officials hardly even acknowledge the town is diseased as they continue their whimsical pursuit of a taxpayer-financed convention center boondoggle.

I agree with Ed Morrison’s timeline of Cleveland events, so I hope my readers will read this article he authored at New Geography.

Ed Morrison (along with George Nemeth) routinely explores potential remedies and recommendations for Northeast Ohio at Brewed Fresh Daily, a blog that I’ve included in my lefty blogroll since the inception of Buckeye RINO, so if you want to explore more of Ed Morrison’s writings, Brewed Fresh Daily can be a starting point.

Frankly, as I’ve noted before, I think Cuyahoga County voters should mix things up a little bit by electing more Republicans to office.  I don’t think it’s healthy for the Democrats to control everything.

I look forward to Ed Morrison’s followup article, which I reserve the right to agree or disagree with, but the first step for current county commissioners is to acknowledge how events have unfolded, acknowledge the pathology, and acknowledge the failure to remedy it.  Ed Morrison outlines all of this in the article.