I love Carnivals from TBMD

Installment number 171 of the Carnival of Ohio Politics is up, thanks to the author of The Boring Made Dull.  As dismal as Ohio’s political trends may be, TBMD’s deft compilations of the Carnivals often make me laugh.  He warns us that for the next Carnival that he writes after this one, he might “go off the reservation.”  Well, if his Carnivals, heretofore, have been “on” the “reservation,” my sides might ache from too much laughter the next time around.  Go ahead and click the link.  You know you want to.

Strickland, Redfern, Dimora, Kasich, and Coughlin

Politics serves us flip-flops and broken campaign promises on a frequent basis.  In the midst of petty political bickering, we have a fully stocked arsenal of such flip-flops and broken promises to go tit-for-tat with our opponents, no matter which candidate one champions.  Such is the human condition.

But some political reversals are so shattering that using the word “flip-flop” in those instances would be trying to trivialize the seriousness of the offense.  An example of what I’m talking about would be George Bush the elder, who served one term as president on the heels of Reagan.  Bush said, “Read my lips!  No new taxes!”  That was an outright lie.  He didn’t get re-elected.

Ted Strickland’s abandonment of his stance against slots shows that he is a liar.  Whatever he said in opposition to gambling to get co-endorsed (with Ken Blackwell) by the Ohio Roundtable in the 2006 gubernatorial race was an outright lie. Read the rest of this entry »

For Ohio’s sake, move county commissioner races

“Along the rust belt that hugs Lake Erie’s shores, Democrats have long enjoyed a near monopoly on municipal and county governments.”

I began another Buckeye RINO post with those words, titled “Democrats control everything.”

If you are a Cuyahoga County voter, you probably think that’s a pretty cool thing that Democrats control everything.  Nirvana has been achieved, right?

Oh.  Except for the corruption.  Funny thing, about that Cuyahoga County corruption . . . as I said before the last election, when I endorsed Annette Butler for Bill Mason’s County Prosecutor seat . . . “It has everything to do with the Democrat Party.”

Oh.  Except for the economic woes of Ohio’s Rust Belt.  But that has much to do with the corruption.  Let Plain Dealer columnist Phillip Morris connect the dots for you, as he did in a column last Monday:

“When will we begin to aspire and agitate for honest and efficient government?

“When will we stop accepting the oversight of party hacks, interested more in preserving power and patronage than in advancing prosperity?

“When will we start to understand that our futures are being compromised by too many uninspired and uninspiring public officials who routinely exploit their offices for self-enrichment?

“When will we realize that we can never become a business incubator as long as we tolerate inefficient city and county government?

“When will we demand better for our children — and our industry — which continue to flee the area in droves?”

I know that everybody in Cleveland likes to blame George W. Bush for the tanking Rust Belt economy, but the former U.S. President has not been implicated in any of the corruption probes of Cuyahoga County officials.  Let me just note that the “party hacks” referenced in the 2nd paragraph of that Phillip Morris column excerpt happen to be Democrat party hacks, since the Democrats are the ones who control all the legislative and executive branch offices of Cuyahoga County government.

Talk of a Cuyahoga County government reform package by way of home rule charter has died down.

Phillip Morris asks for voters to start pressuring Dennis Kucinich, Marcia Fudge, and Frank Jackson to present a new plan to reform the county.  I think that’s looking to the wrong direction for reform.

The right direction for reforming county government is for voters looking in the mirror and putting pressure on themselves to learn more about election candidates than whether they are Democrat or not.  They have to start voting for the person, and stop voting for the party.  Jimmy Dimora does not fear any wrath from Cuyahoga County voters.  He knows that they will always vote Democrat.  Even if Dimora has to step down, he knows that he can always get a crony to replace him, since Democrats will surely always win.  Unless Cuyahoga County voters demonstrate that they are capable of voting for a Republican instead of rubberstamping even the most corrupt of Democrats, reform will continue to be elusive.

How is it that even the most corrupt Democrats win county elections time after time after time?  I think it’s mostly that they hide in the coattails of the top of the ticket.  In presidential and gubernatorial years, the ODP looks to maximize voter turnout in Cuyahoga County to help the top of the ticket carry the state.  A lot of the voters that come out of the woodwork for those elections only know about the presidential or gubernatorial candidates at the top of the ticket, but they vote in all the races, using the Democrat party affiliation as their guide in the races they know nothing about.  It happens in more than just Cuyahoga County (an example from Lorain County here), and that’s how voters enable entrenched cronyism and corruption.  The counties with the least government corruption are those with swing voters, where politicians fear that if they screw up, they’ll be voted out in very short order.

I do have a proposal, though, for cleaning up county governments, not just in the rust belt, but throughout Ohio, and it doesn’t require any home rule charters be implemented for restructuring governments:

Just move the election dates.  Elect county commissioners in odd-numbered years.

If we are going to look to a Cleveland-area Democrat elected official to put pressure on to reform county government, let’s not start with Kucinich, Fudge, and Jackson, as Phillip Morris suggests.  Let’s start with Ohio House Speaker Armond “I’m for sale!” Budish.  Let’s see if Budish is willing to distance himself from the Dimoras, and Russos, et al, of Cuyahoga County.  Let’s get action from the Ohio General Assembly to begin the process to amend our state constitution, to change the law, whatever it takes, to move the elections for county commissioners throughout Ohio to odd-numbered years.

Odd-numbered years, like this one, are low turnout years, because we vote for obscure offices like city government, village government, school boards, and township trustees.  We ought to encourage more turnout for these local offices.  We can do so by bringing a higher profile race to odd-numbered election years.  So let’s hold elections for county commissioners in odd-numbered years.

County Commissioners wouldn’t be able to hide in the coattails of the top of the ticket.  Instead, they’d be the top of the ticket.  They wouldn’t be able to hide.  They’d have to withstand more scrutiny.  If Cuyahoga County commissioner candidates want to turn out Democrats who will vote straight tickets, they, themselves, will have to be the draw, not the presidential or the gubernatorial candidates.

We’ll make it easier for county commissioners all over Ohio to fear the wrath of voters.

How would we make the transition?  In 2010, we elect commissioners to a three-year term.  They’d be up for re-election to a four-year term starting in 2013.  Likewise, in 2012, we elect commissioners to a three-year term, and they’d be up for re-election to a four-year term in 2015.  That would complete the transition.

More than just Cuyahoga County would benefit from this change.  86 other counties (Summit County has home rule charter) would benefit as well.  This is a county government reform measure that can be put into place that Jimmy Dimora can’t block from being enacted, as the State of Ohio will be the entity that undertakes the reform, not Cuyahoga County.

Two scoops of Carnival, please

For those who love the Carnival of Ohio Politics, Jill Miller Zimon, of Writes Like She Talks, has composed a double-post.  Therefore, as you peruse the contents and see that some blogs appear in two separate paragraphs, bear in mind that they aren’t duplications of the same thing, they are, instead, twice as much stuff as usual (lots of reading).

It must have been quite a chore to put all that material together, so I’ll not try to make too big a deal out of the way my post about a “released time” proposal in Willard was incorrectly characterized in the Carnival as a fusion of church and state.  But I do have to make something of a deal out of it, because the released time proposal preserves a separation of church and state, and, if pursued along the same veins revealed in my post about School Enterprise Zones, released time can be a benefit for students and parents that can be applied to any supplemental educational pursuit, and need not have any connection at all whatsoever to religion.

Support for Willard Ministerial Association’s “released time from school” proposal

I don’t know what the Board of Education of Willard City Schools will decide pertaining to a “released time” proposal put forward by the Willard Ministerial Association, but I certainly favor the idea.  The Norwalk Reflector recently published an article outlining the proposal.

Under the proposal, students at Willard’s Central Elementary School would be allowed to cross the street to Grace United Methodist Church during their recess period after lunch and receive religious instruction.  The volunteers that would act on the WMA’s behalf in escorting the school children across the street and providing the religious instruction would be subject to background checks.

The separation of church and state would be maintained, as the religious instruction would not request any resources whatsoever from the public schools.  The only request is that students be permitted, if they and their parents desire, to be excused for recess for a few minutes of Bible study off school grounds, yet adjacent to school grounds.

But even if the Willard School Board decides against “released time,” I would encourage the Willard Ministerial Association to make weekday religious instruction more accessible to schoolkids, perhaps as a before-school activity, and/or as an after-school activity, or perhaps on a “released time” basis to junior high and high school students at locations adjacent to those schools.

Of course, if released time is permitted for those of Central Elementary’s students who want to spend recess on Bible study, released time should also be granted to students who wish to devote their recess to alternative pursuits.  In this sense, even parents who wish their children’s education would steer clear of all religious instruction can still benefit from approval of WMA’s proposal, as they can design programs according to their own preferences to be utilized during “released time.”  All of this is encapsulated within the concept of “School Enterprise Zones” that I’ve written about here at Buckeye RINO and also here, here, and here at Word of Mouth.

If these proposals are followed, any popular demand for charter schools will be diminished, as parents are able to incorporate public school instruction into a larger educational design for their children.  It is the role of the public schools to be a tool in the hands of parents so that the parents can fulfill their responsibilities to educate their children.  The public schools should not usurp those parental responsibilities for education.  The public schools had better not show themselves to be inflexible and unwieldy tools, as I foresee continued vigorous debate over the future of education in Ohio, and schools had better ally themselves with parents in that debate than make enemies of them.

“Why aren’t more women at the forefront of the GOP?”

I’ve put the headline in quotes, because it isn’t my question.  It’s a question more often posed by those who are left of center.  It’s not my question, because I know that Republican women can do whatever they want to do, in the political arena, or otherwise.  I’ve met some very capable, perceptive, resourceful, creative, intelligent, skilled, and motivating Republican women.  The left-of-center questioners are hoping that Republicans answer in this fashion: “Because the men of the GOP hold them back.”  I don’t think that’s the truth.

So why aren’t more women at the forefront of the GOP?

One of the factors might be how such women are treated by the left.  Think especially about how the left treated Sarah Palin last year.  She was courageous enough to follow through, and so was her family, despite being maliciously slimed with rumor, innuendo, fabrications, and outright lies.  Other courageous women are up to the challenge of leading within the GOP, also.  But . . . there are other women . . . who might be rightfully apprehensive about charging into the fray and taking a leadership stance in the GOP.  I welcome them to take that chance, and if I can do something to help defend them against the merciless onslaught, I’m willing to help.

But if you thought the left’s treatment of Sarah Palin was an aberration not to be repeated again, you’re wrong.  Check out this article by Vicki McClure Davidson at Frugal Cafe Blog Zone.  The main target of a lefty troll, who wrote a frighteningly vicious magazine article, is one of my favorite conservative bloggers, Michelle Malkin, who had some reflections of her own.  That lefty troll has a lot of company, too.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but the number of left-of-center blogs listed in my blogroll is a fairly small number, and the main reason why some don’t make it to my blogroll is because some of them are overly coarse, vicious, vulgar, mean-spirited, and potty-mouthed.

If you have enough hours in the week, Carnival 168

This week was my turn in the rotation, so I’ve compiled and posted installment number 168 of the Carnival of Ohio Politics.  Contributing blogs this week were Bizzy Blog, Writes Like She Talks, Roland Hansen Commentary, Just Blowing Smoke, Keeler Political Report, The Ohio Republic, Spinelli on Assignment, The Cincinnati Beacon, and The Boring Made Dull.  You’ve got 168 hours in a week, and at least one of them can be used to search through the great blogging represented at the Carnival.

Supplemental learning opportunities: School Enterprise Zones

In my recent post expressing my opposition to charter schools, I had this to say about my own education in the public schools:

My parents are aware that sometimes values are taught in public school that run counter to their own values.  My parents are aware that some values are totally missing from the public schools.  Knowing such things, but also knowing that they bore the ultimate responsibility for our education, they supplemented my public school learning with other opportunities for learning.

Parents can (and ought) to supplement their children’s education in order to customize and tailor the learning experience to fit their children’s unique personalities, and align that education with a parent’s values and priorities.  This follows from the assertion that parents (not the schools, not the government) are the ones who are ultimately responsible for a child’s education.  The government provides schools, but parents should view them as merely a tool to help them fulfill their own responsibility for seeing that their children are educated.  Parents should not feel tempted (yet they often are) to abdicate their responsibilities to educate their children and lay that burden, instead, upon the school.

Furthermore, for families who like charter schools because they have champagne taste and want a private school experience for their children, but they are only willing or able to set aside a beer budget to obtain it (with unvoted, confiscated tax dollars used as subsidies), supplemental learning opportunities make it possible to make the public school experience more like a private school experience without breaking the bank.

My own parents had limited time and limited funds, and they had 10 children.  That’s the main reason they opted for public schools.  However, public schools were only one item on the learning menu that they selected for us.  How much nutrition can you get if your meal only consists of one dish?  How much easier is it to optimize your nutrition if the main entree is a smaller portion of the meal and side dishes are added?  So, think of public school as an entree that delivers on a few of the educational nutrition needs, but think about the learning activities that should be offered as side dishes to add nutrients that the entree is missing.  If, after doing all this, your parental priorities and values aren’t reflected in what appears on your children’s educational dinner plate, don’t blame the schools.  Go look in the mirror.  Blame the person you see reflected in the mirror.

When I was in high school, I was involved in some extra-curricular activities, such as the cross-country team, the track team, the school play, the school choir, and a number of student clubs.  I also had a lot of responsibility at home, as the oldest of the 10 kids that my parents had, and those household responsibilities were learning opportunities.  Our family attended church together on Sundays.  I had occasional access to the YMCA.  I had ready access to the local library.  My parents had an excellent selection of reference books at home.  Our family had a very large yard for outdoor activities.  I met each school-day morning, before school started, for Bible study with other students who attended both my school and my church.  I also participated in 4-H and Boy Scouts.  When I was younger, I had piano lessons (I discontinued the lessons by my own choice–I was never any good at piano, but it did teach me how to read music, so it wasn’t a total waste) and swimming lessons.  As you can see, school was just an entree.  There were many side dishes.

I am mindful that supplementing a child’s learning might be inconvenient.  It’s hard to think of oneself as a parent when one is relegated to the role of taxi driver, shuttling this kid here  for this activity by this time, and that kid there  for that activity by that time, and then picking them up afterward.  Wouldn’t it be so much better if a wide array of supplemental learning opportunities were available in one location?  Wouldn’t it be better yet if that location were adjacent to the school?  A parent wouldn’t have to feel like a lowly taxi driver for their children, if such were the case.

I propose that we add another facet to regional and urban planning.  I call it the “School Enterprise Zone.”  This is a concept I’ve been publicly touting since the days of my first state rep campaign back in 2002.  When I was a contributor to Word of Mouth blog, before the launch of Buckeye RINO, I wrote a three-part piece about the concept, which you can find here, here, and here.  It’s a land-use designation that Ohio communities could add to their options when they contemplate zoning ordinances.  What it’s designed to do is make it easier for properties adjacent to schools to transition from residential/commercial/industrial property to property where supplemental learning opportunities are available for children.  The key mechanisms to make it work are removing impediments to entrepreneurial providers of supplemental learning opportunities.

Let’s say I’m a martial arts instructor, or a piano teacher, or a youth minister of a church, or a fencing instructor, or an arts and crafts workshop leader, or a ballet teacher, or a Brownie Scout leader, or . . . somebody that has some programs designed to involve kids, and I buy a house within a School Enterprise Zone that surrounds the school.  Let’s face it, I’m not going to become fabulously rich by offering after-school lessons to kids.  I just want to at least scrape by, or at least supplement some other household income with teaching or coaching or mentoring kids on the side, or maybe I’m just a volunteer, like the Brownie Scout leader, and I don’t want a lot of government-imposed red tape, regulations, and fees to get in the way of providing programs for kids.  A School Enterprise Zone could make the task less daunting.

Here are some examples of what a School Enterprise Zone designation could facilitate:

Example 1:  Schools are often located in residential zones.  Often, residentially zoned properties are prohibited from being sites of commercial activity.  The School Enterprise Zone would relax those restrictions to allow commercial activities that provide programming for kids.

Example 2:  Ohio laws don’t allow certain adult-oriented businesses, such as bars, within a certain distance of a school.  Also,  registered sex offenders are required to reside beyond a certain distance of a school.  By creating a School Enterprise Zone, the boundaries of the “safety envelope” would be expanded.

Example 3:  In converting a house within a School Enterprise Zone from strictly residential to a house where some of the space is reserved for private living space and some of the space is used for commercial activity related to programming for children, only a portion of the public space would be required to be handicap-accessible, not the entire facility, thus negating the need for expensive remodeling projects.

Example 4:  Tax exemptions could be offered to qualifying entities within the School Enterprise Zone to help keep overhead expenses low so that these enterprises can keep afloat.

Example 5:  Instead of parents being an after school taxi service, they may send a note to school signaling that their child is to be released to an agent of the after-school program when school is dismissed for the day.  The parents then don’t have to pick up, drop off, and pick up again.  They just have to pick up.

Example 6:  If the School Board allows it, some of the school facilities may be rented out to after-school program providers.  A ballet instructor may require more performance space than a residential setting may allow, and converting enough space for performance space on private property may be too costly.  Instead, the instructor’s property within the school enterprise zone may contain just the business office for the ballet instructor while she rents performance space at the school.

Example 7:  If school district budget cuts cause them to no longer offer some extracurricular activities, it may create an opportunity for a new program offering within the School Enterprise Zone.  For example, if the junior high no longer has a football team, perhaps an enterprising would-be football coach would set up office in the coach’s home within the School Enterprise Zone and rent the school’s athletic field so that kids can continue to play football.

Example 8:  Parents and kids could buy the supplies and equipment they need directly from the after-school program within the School Enterprise Zone instead of having to make a trip to the mall.  I propose that such purchases within the School Enterprise Zone be made exempt from sales tax to make the after school activities less expensive for parents.  But even without a tax exemption, there is added convenience when one can buy what supplies are needed on-site rather than having to taxi kids to far-flung shopping centers to procure the supplies.

Parents, of course, would foot the bill for whatever after-school programs they enroll their children in, and since funds may not be able to stretch far and since chidren are a precious commodity, the motivation behind creating School Enterprise Zones would be to conveniently locate an array of  low-cost, low-risk supplemental learning opportunities.