2009 Buckeye RINO endorsement recap megapost

Election Day is next Tuesday, November 3rd.  Don’t forget to vote.

This year, I’m weighing in on the following issues:  The statewide ballot Issues 1,2, and 3; Lorain County Issue 4; Cuyahoga County Issues 5 and 6.

Buckeye RINO’s local political coverage generally spans Lorain, Huron, Seneca, and Erie Counties.  This year, I’m endorsing local candidates in the following cities:  Amherst, Sandusky, Lorain, and Elyria.

ISSUES (Ballotpedia.org has info on state and local issues, including other viewpoints)

  • No on Issue 1.
  • Yes on Issue 2–I have mixed feelings about this issue.  This is about the living conditions of livestock.  Some special interest groups (animal rights advocates, climate change activists, vegetarian and vegan crusaders), using tactics such as those outlined in Saul Alinsky’s book, “Rules for Radicals,” are waging a campaign against animal-based agriculture.  I’m not enthralled with the proposed solution offered by Issue 2, because it authorizes creation of yet another governing body (groan).  I feel caught between a rock and a hard place.  I’ll take a chance on Issue 2, but my support is far from solid.
  • NO on Issue 3.  If you read Buckeye RINO at all, you know I’m very emphatic on this point.  NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO and NO.  Got that?
  • No on Lorain County Issue 4.
  • No on Cuyahoga County Issue 5.
  • Yes on Cuyahoga County Issue 6.

AMHERST

I’ve endorsed Phil Van Treuren for Amherst City Council at-Large.  Four candidates are running for 3 at-Large seats.  I’ve taken no position on any of the other contested races in Amherst this year.

Phil Van Treuren didn’t bring up this point, so let me do so:  Phil has a lot of knowledge of what goes on in Amherst and throughout Lorain County.  You don’t knock on all the doors of Amherst without getting an earful.  Phil’s knocked on those doors.  Phil started out in Lorain County as a journalist, covering the stories that pop up all over the county.  He has an awareness of conditions and issues that supersedes that of his peers who are running for Amherst council.  This has as much to do with why I endorse Phil as any other factor.

SANDUSKY

Purge the city commission of as many incumbents as possible.  They are “good old boys.”

Vote for Richard Koonce for Sandusky Board of Education.

LORAIN

Three positions are open for Lorain school board.  Above all else, vote for Jim Smith, even if you vote for just one.  Williams and Sturgill are the others preferred by Buckeye RINO.  Bivins is campaigning as a rubber-stamp of the superintendent, which is why I favor the other 3 candidates.

Buckeye RINO endorses Mike Scherach for Law Director.  I expect lawyers to make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.  The interim law director failed to meet that basic requirement.

Unfortunately, not all races for Lorain City Council are contested.  Lorain is a central city within a metropolitan area.  Lorain’s proper role is not to be a sleepy bedroom community and retirement center.  Lorain’s proper role is to be a mecca for industry and employment.  Infrastructure is the skeleton to which economic muscles attach.  Lorain’s infrastructure is 30 years overdue for an upgrade.  Anthony Giardini, Democrat party boss, is the puppetmaster for many of the members on city council.  The city’s government is fundamentally broken and entirely dysfunctional.  I favor city council candidates who will present the greatest challenges to existing authority and the powers-that-be.

  • For Lorain City Council at-Large, Buckeye RINO endorses Sean Kalin Stipe, who has correctly predicted that Lorain’s fiscal crash is being masked over until after Election Day.  I have my hunches about who the “good old boys” are trying to protect by these maneuvers.  There are 5 candidates running for 3 seats, which means it’s impossible to sweep out all the incumbents this time around.  Buckeye RINO favors Stipe and Keith Jones, the two challengers.  Of the incumbents, I’m willing to try one more term for Mitch Fallis, but I haven’t been impressed so far.  Please show Given and Molnar the door.
  • Melanie Szabo for First Ward.  She’s the only current city council member that hasn’t been a disappointment.
  • Joyce Early for Third Ward.  If Tim Howard were running for Oberlin City Council and if Timothy Haupt were running for Amherst City Council, they might make a good fit for those respective cities, which are far more functional than Lorain.  They don’t fit well for Lorain’s current situation, where the government is fundamentally broken.  Joyce Early takes the more confrontational approach that is needed in these desperate times.
  • Andy Winemiller for Fourth Ward.  This is the GOP candidate I’m most excited about in Lorain.  He clearly outshines Schuster.
  • Greg Holcomb for Sixth Ward.  Yes, he’s an incumbent, and yes, I’m disappointed so far, but his challenger is Bob Kerecz, who has served on council before.  Kerecz would represent a step backward from where Lorain is now (if that’s possible).
  • Kenneth Baughman for Seventh Ward.  Silecky makes no important contribution to council.

ELYRIA

Buckeye RINO endorses Gary Bennett for Elyria Municipal Court.  Bennett has been a Democrat, a Republican, and an independent over the course of his lifetime.  He’s held non-partisan office on the Elyria school board.  He served as an interim county prosecutor.  He pursues no partisan political agenda, and he’s remained apart from the political fray.  He just tries to do the best job he conscientiously can based on the facts at his disposal.  Grunda=partisan.

Unfortunately, not all city council races in Elyria are contested.  Like Lorain, Elyria’s proper role as a central city within a metropolitan area is to be a hub for industry and employment.  Additionally, as the county seat, it is a hub of government, as well.  For the economic vitality of the surrounding region, Elyria is not to be a museum for nostalgic retirees who yearn for Elyria’s past glory days.  The government hub is located downtown, in the heart of the community, which suffers from clogged coronary arteries.  The existing transportation infrastructure supports growth only on Elyria’s periphery.  Though LCCC is situated on the edge of Elyria, the local labor market is ill-equipped to absorb its graduates.  Mayor Bill Grace is a visionary who has the wrong vision.  Grace has Stepfordized Elyria, bringing death to Elyria’s inner soul in Grace’s pursuit of cosmetic conformity for the outer shell of Elyria that remains.  Elyria City Council is in dire need of members who can see the big picture who can provide an alternate vision to compete with Grace.  Council members must not be rooted in the past.  The infrastructure must be upgraded with a vision of the future clearly in mind.  Employee layoffs should begin with Grace’s own staff before ever proceeding to safety forces.  Unemployment and poverty rates are spiking higher in Elyria right now, signaling that the financial crunch will just get bigger if the city continues along the path that Grace is leading it.  With all that in mind, some of these council races are tough to decide, but I’m going to give it a shot.

  • Ray Noble for Elyria Council at-Large.  There are 9 candidates seeking 4 seats.  Noble is the wisest of the whole bunch.  Rae Lynn Brady, Christopher Best, and Diane Lesesky are the other three who are able to size up the picture quite well.  Oust the 3 incumbents, Lotko, Stewart, and Callahan.  The other Democrat, Siwierka, places too much faith in getting assistance from the state and federal governments.  Sorry, but nobody from DC or Columbus will be coming to Elyria’s rescue.  Quinn’s first reaction to the ensuing crisis is to look for more tax revenue.  Sorry, you can’t get blood from a turnip.
  • Forrest Bullocks for Elyria 2nd Ward.  This is bad news for 2nd Ward.  You aren’t well served by continuing to follow the city leadership that Bullocks supports, but Sandra Laubenthal hasn’t done enough homework to be prepared to challenge Bullocks, and would not hit the ground running if elected to council.  I hope 2nd Ward fields stronger candidates the next time around.
  • Garry Gibbs for Elyria 3rd Ward.  Thank you to all the 3rd Ward voters who’ve supported Gibbs year after year.  Gibbs is one of the few bright spots on Elyria council.  If you vote for Noble, Brady, Best, and Lesesky for the at-Large seats, Gibbs will be a capable leader on council that can serve as an effective counterbalance to Mayor Grace.  Koepp brings nothing to the table.
  • Brandon Rutherford for Elyria 4th Ward.  Among council incumbents, Mark Craig is my 2nd favorite, behind Gibbs.  Craig has been a model for communication and transparency.  If Craig were running for an at-Large seat, he probably would have picked up my endorsement.  Rutherford, however, is the more visionary.  There are several things I admire about Rutherford.  Rutherford is resourceful.  He makes lemonade out of lemons.  When faced with a setback, he usually reacts with a swear word, but after a few moments, he’ll start brainstorming  for a way to proceed.  Elyria is going to get slammed with more financial bad news in the near future, but Rutherford is one who won’t be paralyzed into inaction.  Read through Rutherford’s guest blog entry and see the stuff Rutherford can come up with that can improve a community for little to no $$$.  Also, when brainstorming, Rutherford reaches out and picks at other people’s brains across the political spectrum.  4th Ward constituents are among those prone to turn back the clock to a simpler time and less hurried way of life.  They want a cozy environment for their retirement years.  Unfortunately, they are the ones who will be clobbered with the price tag for what they desire, because the working population will have departed for elsewhere, seeking job opportunities that are missing in Elyria.  At a Rutherford fundraiser, I saw YOUNG people.  These are the people Elyria needs to attract and retain WITH JOBS in order to prevent retirees from getting crushed under a heavy tax burden.  What’s missing from the Craig platform is: the future.
  • Marcus Madison for Elyria 5th Ward.  Tom Aden seems like a very nice fellow.  Aden was instrumental in getting West by the River neighborhood designated as a historical district.  Great.  Madison is talking about infrastructure upgrades, like replacing 4-inch water lines with 8-inch water lines.  Good.  Aden=past.  Madison=future.  I’m going with Madison.
  • Dorothy Klimczak for Elyria 6th Ward.  A no-brainer, she is far and away the better choice.  Mitchell is running as a rubber-stamp for Bill Grace.
  • Jerry McHugh for Elyria 7th Ward.  This is a tough choice, but, unlike the tough choice for 2nd Ward, this is good news for the 7th Ward.  Ed Sinegar would also be a good choice.  Flip a coin over it.  The best news is that the incumbent is not in this race.  McHugh first caught my attention and raised my eyebrows during the primaries of 2007 at a candidate forum hosted by CHIP in Lorain.  After watching the event, I sent an email, comparing notes, with someone who was also at the event.  An excerpt of my email reads, “Can’t compare Jerry McHugh with no-show Burkholder, but I like the guy’s demeanor.  I’d like to see him on Elyria council.”  I guess that’s why I’m picking McHugh in this one, but whether you vote McHugh or whether you vote Sinegar, it’s bound to be an improvement over the previous occupant of the 7th Ward seat.

Like my endorsements?  Don’t like my endorsements?  Feel free to sound off in the comments, below.  (Keep the language clean, though.)  Don’t forget to vote.

Richard Koonce for Sandusky school board

Unfortunately for Sandusky residents, there are not enough challengers to sweep out both incumbents, Tom Patterson and Faith Denslow.  Though you are permitted to vote for two candidates, you may want to consider casting a vote for just one: Richard Koonce.  By voting for only Koonce, you don’t add to the vote totals for Patterson or Denslow, thus increasing the chance to get Koonce elected and thereby decreasing the chance that both incumbents will be retained.

If you really can’t resist casting a second vote, then Denslow is the lesser hazard.  Patterson absolutely needs to be purged from Sandusky school board.  Absolutely.  Unequivocally.  No doubt whatsoever.  Patterson must go.

Koonce, I believe, is a little naive when it comes to the issues, so I’m not overly optimistic that he’ll be able to work miracles in Sandusky if elected, but Denslow is delusional, and Patterson is evil.  Strong words, I know, but the Sandusky Register has the video proof of what I’m talking about.

Watch the video of the school board candidates at a forum moderated by Register editor Matt Westerhold if you have a strong enough stomach.  I will attempt to interpret the proceedings for you, if you don’t want to suffer through the video.

During the first 30 minutes of the video, I told myself, “If I had any kids in Sandusky schools, I’d pull them out and send them somewhere else,”  the dialogue was that depressing.  No, I’m not talking about opting for a charter school.  The open enrollment offered by the Perkins school district would be very tempting, though.  The remainder of the video becomes really alarming, as the pathology of the Sandusky school board is exposed for all to see.

I am alarmed that the incumbents feel the need to spend money on a marketing campaign for Sandusky schools to “toot our own horn.”  What a misplaced priority.  I’m sure some marketing firm is happy to absorb the dollars that the school board is so eager to part with.

Results.  Positive academic outcomes.  If Sandusky school students were achieving desired results, no tooting of horns would be necessary.  The word would get out.  On its own.

Register columnist Rufus G.W. Sanders also viewed the candidate forum and posted an op/ed with his observations. I’m often at the opposite end of the political spectrum from Sanders, but this is another one of those occasions wherein we largely agree.  He didn’t have quite the same reaction as I did, as he didn’t advocate pulling children out of Sandusky schools, but he did announce his intention to vote against the school levy, which he says he hasn’t ever done before.

Koonce says it was a mistake to get rid of Madison School.  When asked what he’d do to more fully utilize a school where attendance had dropped, Koonce had the beginning of a response, but not a full response.  I have a hunch that Koonce might come up with some additional answers what to do about Madison School if he reads my blog entry about “School Enterprise Zones.”

Koonce would open up school board meetings for public comment.  This is necessary. Both Denslow and Patterson are opposed.

Denslow made it clear that she’s on the board to protect the unionized employees, as she explained her opposition to public comments, so it’s easy for me to see which constituency group in Sandusky has been supporting her in past elections.

Patterson is on the board to have his ego stroked, so public comment tends to irk him (in fact, he nearly became unhinged during the course of the forum).  For his part, Patterson will only take responsibility for hiring the district’s superintendent and the district’s treasurer.  For anything else, Patterson passes the buck.  He dodges accountability at every turn.

Denslow has champagne taste, but the schools are on a beer budget.  She utters a mantra about the field of education being a continual work-in-progress, constantly upgrading materials and technology to bring to the schools the best innovations that the 21st century can offer.  Let’s be realistic.  Vendor$ love Den$low, I’m $ure.  Also, several administrators use Denslow’s mantra to justify the existence of their jobs.  As an alternative, the schools could keep an ear to the ground through contact with education professors at our state universities for improvements in pedagogy which can be communicated to teachers at inservice meetings.  This is the approach that Sandusky can afford on their beer budget.  Cut those administrators and save some money.

I’ve taught school in South Korea.  Asian students are not beating American kids at academics because of classroom technology.  I saw kids as young as 4 years old memorizing their multiplication tables up to 20 times 20 by rote.  Using very ANCIENT technology, the abacus, can often yield greater math proficiency than cutting-edge calculators and computers.  Teachers in Asia are typically not as well paid as they are in America, yet their students outperform American students.  The most competitive schools I saw also had the least amount of administrators.  The Asian students are not born with a silver spoon in their mouth.  In South Korea, they are just one generation removed from being a Third World nation.  Many Asian nations that are making greater strides than Americans in education still are Third World nations.  Many neighborhoods of Sandusky are impoverished, yes, but those same neighborhoods would be a utopia for someone from rural China.  Why doesn’t poverty hold back the academic achievements of Asian students?  Actually, it does hold them back.  They could be beating American students at academics by even wider margins if they could afford better.  They don’t even have a beer budget.  They have a tap-water budget.  Expectations of the community, the educators, and the parents, combined with the desire of the students are the factors that fuel the drive for academic excellence in Asia.  It’s not all about the money.

Patterson has the gall to say that his priority is securing funding for Sandusky schools, and then turns around and passes the buck to Governor Strickland and the Ohio General Assembly.  That’s counter-productive.  I believe, as I interpret Ohio’s Constitution, that the state does have more responsibility for funding than they currently undertake, but Patterson won’t address the funding and expenditure issues that are under the control of the school board.  When faced with criticisms of how he fulfills his own fiscal role, Patterson dodges and evades responsibility at every turn.

When Denslow is given the opportunity to freely express her campaign message, it is full of platitudes that sound really lofty, noble, and optimistic, as she did her opening and closing statements.   When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, and fielding tough questions, there is a HUGE disconnect between her terse and convoluted responses and her flowery stump speech.  So, calling her delusional is giving her the benefit of the doubt, as it assumes she honestly believes everything she is saying and doesn’t grasp the inconsistencies of her statements.  If I don’t give her the benefit of the doubt, then I’d have to downgrade my assessment of her from delusional to dishonest.

While I’ve identified one of Denslow’s core constituencies as being the school district’s unionized employees, I want to be fair to Patterson by identifying one of his core constituencies.  He’s supported by the “good old boys,” as is plainly evident from his statements at the forum.  There’s no doubt that he’s on very good terms with Dennis Murray, who is among the ringleaders of those who sought to oust Kim Nuesse as police chief.  He clearly relishes his role in cutting back-room deals for prospective businesses who want to hammer out TIF agreements.  He loves rubbing elbows with VIP’s in the various positions he holds on boards and committees, and name-dropping is one of his penchants.  His message to voters is that if you re-elect him, he’ll kiss up to state-level VIP’s like Strickland and Murray sufficiently to secure a tidal wave of funding that he can divvy out to vendors to make sure the district always has the cutting edge technology.  He wants to continue to have a finger in the pie.

Koonce is trying to carve out a constituency among concerned residents who are outsiders.  Whether he succeeds in galvanizing such a constituency will not be known until after the election.

With Denslow’s emphasis on equipping teachers, Patterson’s emphasis on greasing the wheels to increase state funding, and Koonce’s emphasis on building unity in the community, all fell short of where the emphasis needs to be:  the children and their academic achievements.  That’s why we have schools in the first place.  Of the three approaches, Koonce’s is the most benign and Patterson’s is the most malignant.

Because they failed to identify the children’s academic progress as top priority, that’s reason numero uno for pulling kids out of Sandusky schools and schooling them elsewhere.  Reason numero dos is that the disappointment that Denslow and Patterson express over decreasing enrollment is based upon the toll it takes on the district’s $$$.  If they had children at the heart of their platforms, then they’d be happy for the kids who were able to find a school better suited to advancing their academic pursuits.  They’d be striving for Sandusky to be the school district best suited to advancing the academic pursuits of Sandusky’s children.  But that’s not their focus.  They see dollar signs attached to each student instead of seeing the academic potential of each student.

There is a racial component to the dropping enrollment.  Patterson refused to address this issue.  Either he’s too uninformed or he’s too cowardly.  At any rate, he dodged and evaded a discussion on the matter.  He claims to be uninformed.  However, as someone with a penchant for networking, as Patterson clearly is, it’s hard for me to buy into Patterson’s plea that he really doesn’t know.  I suspect he’s being cowardly.

Here’s my own honest perception of the racial component, and this would be why Koonce’s emphasis misses the mark:  If I’m sending my child to your schools, it’s because I have confidence that you’ll foster my child’s academic achievements.  As I’ve already noted, Patterson and Denslow don’t see my child’s academic potential, they only see the $$$ that my child provides for their funding scheme.  Koonce, however, wants to use the schools to build unity in the community.  I think that’s a worthwhile goal, but it’s a SECONDARY goal.  My child’s learning comes FIRST.  My child’s primary purpose in attending school is not to be a guinea pig of some social engineering experiment.  My child’s primary purpose in attending school is to obtain the best education possible under the circumstances.  Therefore, to the extent that the academic goals of the district take a back seat to social engineering goals of the district, I’m going to be inclined to send my child elsewhere, to a school that puts academics first.  That, dear readers, is my own take on white flight from Sandusky schools.  If you’ve got another take on it, feel free to express your comments here at Buckeye RINO.

All three candidates place way too much faith in the Ohio Democrat Party and politicians such as Strickland and Murray.  I’m afraid that the ODP, Strickland, and Murray, will continue to disappoint.  But don’t fret too much about what you can’t control.  Instead, step up to the plate more for what you, yourselves, can deliver on.  For the incumbents, they’ve delivered too little.  Elect Richard Koonce.

Bonds and my opposition to Issue 1 explained

As a rule of thumb, I take a dim view of state bond issues.

We’ve seen several bond issues on our statewide ballots in recent years, championing majestic causes from cleaning up brownfields, preserving green space, raising venture capital for Ohio’s high-tech startups, and, this year’s Issue 1, showing our appreciation for our military personnel.

Keeping our environment clean is worthwhile.  Shifting our economy to high tech is worthwhile (though I don’t think the state should assume the role of venture capitalist).  Assisting our troops and their families is most definitely worthwhile.  These issues reach our ballot with broad, bipartisan support from the politicians.  Issue 1 is favored by a number of Democrats and Republicans serving in the Ohio General Assembly.

Former GOP Governor James Rhodes (deceased) loved bond issues.  During his tenure, inflation was rather high compared to the interest rate paid out on the bonds, so paying back the principal and interest on the bonds was rather easy when inflation was high.

Are we in an inflationary market at present?  The federal government announced that social security monthly benefits to be paid out (and social security withholdings) for 2010 will remain the same as 2009 because the cost of living fell this year, so, no, we are not in an inflationary market at present, so we can’t work Jim Rhodes’ magic on our bond repayments.

Our state budget must be balanced in every biennium.  If the state is not permitted to run a deficit, is it wise for the state to carry a debt?  I’d think not.  No thanks to bond issues that have passed in the past, Ohio does have a burden of debt.

If we don’t have the money in our budget to pay for worthy causes on a pay-as-you-go basis, then it makes no sense to commit the state to paying a chunk of money it doesn’t have and then combine it with interest payments.

Money for repayment of bond principal plus interest comes from the state’s general fund.  Money for education and Medicaid also comes from the general fund.  Many, many, many other expenses also have to be paid out of the general fund.  When faced with budget cuts, the legislature dares not cut the money to repay bonds, or the state’s bond rating would plummet.  Therefore, everything else from the general fund is subject to cuts, while political agendas funded with bonds are spared from getting cut.  Of course, Governor Strickland doesn’t want to make cuts, which is why he’s sold his soul to the devil for flipflops on gambling and taxes in an effort to raise more revenue for state government.  If we, the people, are to slam the door on the state government from reaching into our pockets for bigger money grabs, then the state MUST cut its budget, since the tax base appears to be shrinking.  As you can tell, though, some worthy causes, like education, can find its way to the chopping block if state revenues continue to drop.

So, is farmland preservation more important a priority than education?  No.  But will farmland preservation receive funding cuts?  No, because farmland preservation money comes from bonds, not the general fund.  Education comes from the general fund.  Education is at greater risk of getting cut.  This is how issuing bonds skews the state’s priorities.  If bonds had never been issued, and money for both education and farmland preservation came from the general fund, we’d be able to align priorities so much better.

So why is it that politicians from both parties love bond issues, even in the current economic climate?  It’s all about patronage and pleasing core constituencies without having to justify the expenses during a blistering biennial budget bill battle.  (Can you say “blistering biennial budget bill battle” five times fast?)  Anything funded directly out of the general fund (except bond repayment) must be scrutinized and fought over by the rival caucuses in the General Assembly.  Patronage to reward core constituencies for supporting incumbents would be endangered if exposed to the budget bill debates.  Bond funding allows safe haven for payback.  As an example, because of environmental bonds issued in the past, incumbents of both parties find themselves in the good graces of environmental lobbies, thus insulating themselves from being out-“greened” by challengers when they face re-election.

The mood of the electorate is surly.  Have you noticed any “tea party” action of late?  How do incumbents hold on to office in such a “throw-the-bums-out” atmosphere?  Issue 1 is a gimmick tailor-made to rally support for incumbents.  This is for the troops.  Even the “tea party” activists who are fed up with politicians can’t resist opportunities to support the troops.  Issue 1 is designed to placate the “tea party” bunch.  It’s also designed to allow the incumbents to ingratiate themselves on military families, who are probably more inclined to vote and be politically active than non-military families.

I can think of a much better way to show appreciation for the troops.  Just like our state income tax forms and drivers license bureau offices allow you to check a box to willingly donate to a wildlife fund or an organ donor fund, let’s add a “support our troops” donation option.

So, I see no reason why the state needs to obligate itself to pay more interest by taking on more debt and crowding out other funding priorities.  That’s why I’m against Issue 1.

Are there bond issues I could conceivably support in the future?  Possibly.  But here’s the criteria such a bond issue would have to meet:  The bond money must go toward a cause that grows the tax base so that the state receives a big enough revenue windfall as a result of the bond issue that the repayment of principal plus interest is all too easy.  As I said, I don’t think the state should take on the role of venture capitalist, so more “Third Frontier” bond issues would not likely pass muster with me.  Perhaps the bond issues that would have the best chance of garnering my support would be for infrastructure upgrades.  Upgrading infrastructure could definitely grow the tax base, if done right.  I’d have to be convinced that it’s the right infrastructure project, and not just a patronage project.  I’d expect the infrastructure project to be a game-changer and not just a cosmetic facelift.  If those conditions are met, I might be persuaded to get behind it.

Issue 1, though, would not do a thing to increase the tax base, and would therefore generate no additional revenue with which to pay back the bond principal and accompanying interest.  Vote NO on Issue 1.

Cuyahoga County Issues 5, 6, and predictions about voting over the next 50 years into the future

First of all, on the issue of Cuyahoga County reform, voting NO on Issue 3 would be quite helpful in keeping a lid on corruption.  Access to a casino, with its money-laundering potential, facilitates crime and political corruption.  Even the police will have a hard time trying to keep everything above board in a casino environment.

I urge support for Issue 6 and defeat of Issue 5.

Issue 6 is not a cure-all.  Even with the restructuring of Cuyahoga County government under Issue 6, the “good old boys” will eventually figure out how to game the system.  But, under Issue 6, there is provision for a charter review down the road that will allow the new structure to be re-evaluated and refined to address any unwanted unintended consequences that crop up in the short run.

The charter review process provided for in Issue 6 therefore makes Issue 5 a moot point.  Issue 5 would merely continue study of the issue of county reform, without any commitment to adopting any recommendations that might result from such a study.  If you think the issue of reform requires more study, this can still be accomplished with Issue 6, which does commit to a structural change, but which can and will be revisited.  For the “good old boys” who’ve been gaming the system for years, Issue 5 is all about gaming the system.  Thus, even though Issue 6 isn’t fool-proof,  Issue 5 is an attempt to fool the naive and gullible into thinking progress toward reform will still be underway when the opposite is more likely to materialize: the death of reform.

Issue 5 asks the voter to choose a slate of members for the reform-study commission.  Whether you vote yes or no on Issue 5, you are directed to choose one slate or the other.  If Issue 6 is defeated and Issue 5 passes, your best bet to avoid the death of reform is to choose the following slate:

Angela Thi Bennett
Jack Boyle
James Brady
Ruth Brady
Thomas Kelly
Roz McAllister
Joseph Miller
Mary O’Malley
Jamie Pilla
William I. Russo
Thomas P. Slavin
Linda Smigel
Elaine Trapp
Tom Wilson
Pat Wright

Here, at Buckeye RINO blog, I’d advanced a remedy of my own relative to cleaning up county-level corruption throughout Ohio.  My remedy included moving county commissioner races to odd-numbered years so that the county commissioner candidates would face more voter and media scrutiny rather than get swept into office by hiding in the coat-tails of presidential and gubernatorial candidates.

It just so happens that, during my present exile in Pierce County, WA, fighting county-level corruption is also fueling ballot issues.  What proposal is on the table to reform Pierce County government?  Voila!  Moving several county-level election races to odd-numbered years!  Just the kind of thing I’d recommend for Ohio!

I’ve looked into my crystal ball, and I’ve seen the future of voting.  Within the next 50 years, election calendars all over the nation will be introducing staggered elections and staggered start dates for terms in office.  Federal elections will still occur on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November of even numbered years, with terms beginning the following January, but I predict a shake-up in state, county, and local election calendars.

There are 4 years between Presidential elections, and 2 years between Congressional elections.  There are 12 months in each year.  There are 52 weeks in each year.  As political corruption that has gone on for decades at all government levels continues to come to light, there will be a mounting public outcry for greater transparency.  Transparency will be among the chief motivations for changing our election calendars.

Leading up to these election calendar changes will be refinements in election technology that allow for greater automation, tamper-proof security, result tabulation speed, remote voter ballot access, and streamlined voter registration processes.  We’ve witnessed experiments in early voting periods, same-day voting, voting by mail, voting by internet, touch-screen voting, optical-scan voting, voter paper trails and receipts, motor-voter registrations, and, of course, security upgrades.  We are on a learning curve.  Eventually, this learning curve will create all the technology needed for the greater flexibility that changes to our election calendars will require.

Currently, our election calendar features deadline dates that are fairly standardized from year to year.  There are deadlines for filing candidate petitions.  There are deadlines for filing issue petitions.  There are deadlines for registering to vote.  There are deadlines for requesting absentee ballots.  There are deadlines for registering as a write-in candidate.  There are primary election deadlines, general election deadlines, and even special election deadlines.  There are campaign finance reporting deadlines.  The work at a Board of Elections office, therefore, fluctuates on a seasonal basis, according to the deadlines.  During peak times, such as the general election, dozens upon dozens of temporary election workers have to be added in each county, and the permanent staff is on the clock for lots of overtime hours.

What if there were ways to make the work of the Board of Elections less cyclical, spreading out the work throughout the year more evenly, requiring less peak loads, thus reducing the need for temporary staffing and overtime pay?  If technology upgrades yielded by our experimentation and our learning curve allowed us to more evenly space out the elections calendar, could we save a lot of taxpayer dollars expended for elections operations?  I think so.

So, at first, in the interest of transparency, I foresee lower-profile election races from even-numbered years migrating to odd-numbered years.

Next, I see Boards of Election acquiring the ability to handle elections on a more frequent basis throughout each year.

Next, I foresee that start dates for terms in office will be staggered, so that not all governments at all levels start from a blank slate each January as they currently do.  Congress may begin in January, but perhaps the Ohio General Assembly may begin in September, or some other month.   School boards may begin in July, or some other month.  County commissions may begin in March, or some other month.  City councils may start in December, or some other month, etc., etc., etc.

Next, a revolving door of election cycles will be reflective of the staggered starting dates for terms in office.  Potentially, each elected office will have its own unique campaign cycle and term commencement date.  Voting booths will not need to be deployed county-wide through every county.  Instead, voters will have remote access to the ballot, and technology will assure that votes are securely tamper-proof.  Each new week could possibly usher in a new candidate election period for one office or another.  This week might be county auditor week.  Next week might be county coroner week.  The following week might be county clerk of courts week, and so on.  Peaks of the election cycle will be minimized, and the work of election boards more balanced throughout the year, and more automated.

Campaigns could be less costly, as a low-profile candidate won’t as likely be priced out of the TV advertising market by Presidential candidates who’ve bought up the bulk of air time.  With the staggered election cycle, every public office will have it’s time in the spotlight.  Like Andy Warhol said, everybody will be famous for 15 minutes.

Remembering to vote each week or so would be like remembering which day to set the garbage can by the curb for trash collection.  If a voter desires election reminders, the board of elections can send out a weekly tweet.  A voter can respond to the tweet, if they so choose, by casting their ballot du jour.

Pollsters wouldn’t have to rely so much on collecting random samples of the population to survey.  Each week, new election results would come in from many parts of the country, and they’d be able to analyze those results for shifting moods within the electorate.  Polimetrics would become more easily and cheaply interpretable.

Why am I so confident that election calendars will morph into revolving doors during the next 50 years?  The push for transparency, the desire to reduce the role of cash in campaigns, the convenience to voters and election boards, the revolutionized technology, the efficiency and cost savings of operations at election boards, and especially the outraged public who want to bring an end to the culture of political corruption will force these changes to our election calendar.

Criminals sponsor gambling? No way! . . . umm, YES way, hello . . . wake up, people . . .

Dan Gilbert, the Michigan resident who, if Issue 3 passes, would be allowed to own and operate Ohio casinos while Ohioans would be forbidden from doing the same, is trying to whitewash his past.  Gilbert saw to it that an illegal bookie operation during his college days was expunged from his record.  In a Plain Dealer story, he said what he did back then was “dumb,” but since then, he’s had that criminal record fixed.  No harm done, right?

Jeff Jacobs, a would-be rival who covets an opportunity to own a casino of his own, was quoted by the PD saying:

“It’s one thing if your youthful indiscretion is a barroom brawl.  It is another if you caused a college student to be so fearful that he goes to the police, who end up wearing an undercover wire just to shut your illegal bookmaking down.”

Sobering observation about Dan Gilbert’s past, don’t you think?

Left-of-center blog Plunderbund has heavily discounted the notion that any noticeable increase in crime will materialize if Issue 3 passes.  If you click over to Eric’s blog entry on the matter, be sure to scroll down to the comments section, where I’ve pointed out that it’s a matter of historical record that the gambling industry and crime have a symbiotic relationship with each other.  The opportunity to launder money via casinos greatly facilitates organized crime.  Who first conceived of the notion of operating casinos in Las Vegas?  A criminal.

Quite frankly, Issue 3 backers are already demonstrating that they can run circles around law enforcement efforts.  So far, a solitary individual in Cincinnati, as a former employee of a company formerly contracted by Issue 3 backers, has been charged in an absentee voting fraud scheme.  But while there may be closure on the horizon in that Hamilton County case, Franklin County still has to get a handle on absentee voting irregularities within its jurisdiction.  And let’s not forget the dead voters who signed Issue 3 petitions, because Erie County, among others, has yet to get a handle on that, too.  These are clear demonstrations Ohio’s communities just don’t have the means to police the casinos proposed by Issue 3, I don’t care what Ohio’s FOP says to the contrary.

The leaders of the Republican Caucus in the Ohio House of Representatives, state reps William Batchelder and Louis Blessing, Jr., on Friday, released the following statement to the press:

Background Checks Needed with Advent of Casinos

Issue 3 may open floodgates for criminals without proper regulations

COLUMBUS—House Republican Leader William G. Batchelder of Medina, today announced his commitment to safeguarding casino licenses and preventing individuals who have committed crimes in the past from obtaining a casino license, if Issue 3 is approved by voters this November.

“If Issue 3 passes, the General Assembly has an obligation to ensure that the Casino Control Commission carefully screens applicants who want to own and run the Ohio casinos and makes sure that licenses are not granted to anyone with serious gambling infractions in their past,’’ Batchelder said. “Many other states ask applicants about past gambling charges, even if they have been later expunged or overturned on appeal. This industry is highly regulated for a reason, and Ohio should not bow to pressure and adopt regulations that are lower than industry standards.’’

As per Section 3770.051 of the Ohio Revised Code, the director of the State Lottery Commission must request the criminal records of any vendor with whom the commission is considering entering into a contract, to protect the integrity of the state’s online gaming system or instant ticket system. Batchelder seeks to extend a variation of this law to apply to Ohio casinos, should the issue pass a public vote.

“It is prudent that policymakers work together to ensure there are safeguards in place such as background checks, so that anyone with a criminal record cannot apply for a license to operate casino in Ohio,” Batchelder said. “I can remember the Ohio Lottery suffering from scandal in the early 1970s caused by the lack of safeguards.   Clearly defined rules and regulations on something as vague as gambling are necessary to prevent the dismal mistakes of the past.  I urge my legislative colleagues to come together to proactively work and prevent the potential abuse that could come from Issue 3.”

Assistant Republican Leader Louis Blessing Jr. of Cincinnati, who is an opponent to Issue 3, stated the following: “A review of other state standards suggests that criminals would likely be denied a casino license in other states. The cavalier attitude that individuals with similar pasts, who apply for a license here in Ohio tells me they think previous mistakes are just college pranks. This is another reason why we need to know the identity of all of the investors. If the main financial backer can’t get a license, can their partners? We have no idea because he refuses to list the other investors.’’

Other states have similar laws that serve to uphold the integrity of the state casino system. According to Blessing’s research, Pennsylvania regulators ask casino applicants to list all ‘offenses or charges,’ even if the charges were later dismissed, or downgraded.

In Indiana, applicants are asked whether they have ever been ‘arrested, detained, charged, indicted, convicted, received pro-trial diversion, pleaded guilty or nolo contendere or forfeited bail concerns any criminal offense, either felony or misdemeanor…’ In Colorado, the first question regulators ask is, “Have you ever been convicted of any gambling-related felony at any time?’’

Batchelder and Blessing have seen the polls showing that voters are favoring Issue 3, and they want to be as ready as they can be if the issue passes, but, as they’ve pointed out in an earlier press release, this criminal background screening they propose might be a moot point, as passage of Issue 3 would etch the casino proposals in stone as an amendment to Ohio’s Constitution.

Even if you favor casinos in Ohio, there is another casino proposal on the table that wouldn’t write loopholes for criminals into Ohio’s Constitution the way Issue 3 does, but for that proposal to reach voters, Issue 3 must be defeated.

I of course, remain in opposition to casinos, as they produce no wealth, they only redistribute it by plundering it from gamblers.  The numbers that Issue 3 backers throw at you, as the PD’s Thomas Suddes points out, are to dazzle you, but aren’t based in reality.  Casinos do no good for our economy.  Those that benefit, beyond the casino owners, are the criminals and the politicians.  (Is that redundant to say casino owners, criminals, and politicians in the same sentence?)

Gambling tycoons don’t ever play games that aren’t fixed.  The more closely you examine Issue 3, the more you will see that the fix is in.   Career criminals are drooling in anticipation.  Please frustrate them.  Don’t sit this election out.  Please get out to the polls and vote NO on Issue 3.

Mark Stewart finally realizes his 2010 re-election bid is right around the corner

Elyria’s Chronicle-Telegram has a story of dropping property values in Lorain County.  What’s newsworthy about that?  Anyone who knows anything about the real estate market in Lorain County knows that market values have been down for several years.  What makes it newsworthy is that county government is finally acknowledging the falling property values in assessing property taxes.

Of course, Lorain County Commissioner Ted Kalo is desperately trying to urge for support of Issue 4, a sales tax increase, by calling attention to the projected decline in property taxes.  Ahem!  Households have seen falling revenues, particularly through the softening of the labor market, so, like households are in a dither what to do and having to make cuts, county government will have to do the same.

For the record, Buckeye RINO opposes Lorain County’s Issue 4.

Lorain County Auditor Mark Stewart made the announcement of a 6% drop in property values on Friday.  I don’t remember a similar announcement from the auditor’s office in prior years.  In fact, my own experience with Lorain County real estate has been that tax appraisals and market values were going in divergent directions–market values declining while tax appraisals continued to be bumped upward.  My experience with Erie County real estate was the same.  I’ve already blogged about the phenomenon, asserting that challengers need to be recruited to campaign in 2010 against re-election bids by Lorain County Auditor Mark Stewart and Erie County Auditor Tom Paul.

Yet even after I blogged that Stewart needs to be replaced for inflating tax appraisals, I still saw evidence that Stewart was doing his own thing and ignoring what was going on in the markets.

Huron County Commissioners, by contrast, showed some integrity when they reviewed tax appraisals in Huron County.  According to a story in the Norwalk Reflector, they had some pointed questions for Huron County Auditor Roland Tkach about perceived irregularities, and it appears that Tkach is heeding the advice of commissioners.  County auditors are up for election in 2010, so perhaps Tkach knows that perceived irregularities could have negative political ramifications.

I think perhaps Mark Stewart caught wind of the Huron County story and decided he might possibly face a stiff electoral challenge next year if he continued his robber-baron ways.  That’s my hunch about Friday’s announcement.

Nevertheless, I really don’t think a leopard changes its spots.  I’m still fairly convinced that voters need to give Mark Stewart the heave-ho in next year’s elections.

More self-dealing for Treasury afoot?

Last week, the Boston Globe released a story by a staff reporter named Bryan Bender that suggests that some Beltway politicos may be contemplating changing the mission of the Secret Service.

The Secret Service is entrusted with protecting our nation’s currency from counterfeiting and is also entrusted with guarding our nation’s president.  The Secret Service was created during the 1860’s to battle counterfeiting, and its mission was expanded to presidential protection in the wake of President McKinley’s assassination at the start of the 20th century.  When the Department of Homeland Security was created, the Secret Service was placed within that department.

The question at hand:  Does the Secret Service have the resources to handle these twin missions when far more safety threats to the President are being identified and when counterfeiting is so much more technologically advanced?

I’m not even sure it’s an honest question.

How are we to know the scope of resources at the Secret Service’s disposal?  How are we to know if there truly are more threats against the President’s safety?  How are we to assess the sophistication and proliferation of present-day counterfeiting schemes?

The answers to these three questions being unknowable to the public can enable alarmists to inflate the risks and to downplay the available resources with the intent of framing an ensuing debate that may be based solely on conjecture.  What fact-checking tools are available to the public to quantify and qualify the risks vis-a-vis the resources?

It’s with that skeptical eye toward the original question that I peruse the rest of Bender’s report.

What if the Secret Service were given one mission instead of two?  Would it make sense that the Secret Service be divested of the anti-counterfeiting role that it’s held since its founding?  If so, should that responsibility be handed over to the Treasury Department?

Let me ask that last question another way:  Should the Secret Service’s powers to investigate specified types of financial crimes be handed off to . . . Tim Geithner???????????

I can answer that last question:  NO WAY!

Last year, when Hank Paulson was Treasury Secretary, I blogged against the power that would be granted to Treasury Secretaries by the bailout bill (which, sadly, was passed into law):

The fundamental crux of the matter is that this bill gives Hank Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury, friend to the Wall Street crooks and enemy of the taxpayer, $250 billion of taxpayer money right up front, and perhaps $700 billion over all (and maybe more, since the precedent has already been set) to bailout whoever he pleases, with no judicial review.  He already acted on behalf of Bear Stearns without getting permission from the American people.  He already acted on behalf of AIG without getting permission from the American people.  He was able to coax Congress into going along with a bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  He’s been a crybaby that threw a tantrum to get this latest bailout approved, but it didn’t work.  Now he’s handing out candy to get this bailout approved.  Paulson and his Wall Street cronies have been more manipulative than any spoiled rotten brat I know.  Has it occurred to anyone on Capitol Hill and in the MSM that Paulson has been wrong with every move he makes?  Has it occurred to anyone that on Capitol Hill and in the MSM that Paulson has quietly assured his Wall Street cronies that the fix is in, and that he guaranteed to them that he’ll deliver the goods?  If we want accountability and oversight, it has to start with denying any of this bailout money.  It has to start with not granting additional power to the Secretary of the Treasury.

My dim view of Paulson is coupled with my dim view of Geithner, Paulson’s successor.  I distrust them both.

With a further consolidation of power over all financial aspects of our nation, what mechanisms are at the people’s disposal to check and balance any abuses that might occur at the Treasury Department?

I doubt that it would ever become necessary to trim the Secret Service’s twin missions down to one, but if it ever came down to it, I’d be much more comfortable with the Department of Homeland Security retaining the role of investigating the types of financial crimes that the Secret Service currently has jurisdiction over, and letting the Treasury Department guard our President, than doing it the other way around.