Legalized racketeering- only in Ohio

When Ohio voters amended the Ohio Constitution to allow casinos, they mandated the actual real estate for the casinos. When it came time to build the four casinos- a minor obstacle in Columbus- when the location they authorized wouldn’t work for the criminals who got the golden ticket had to move it. No worries, the legislature bent the voters over and moved it.

Now, we’re facing the same with pot growing operations. Vote for pot- and give 10 sites a monopoly on legal pot growing:

if Ohio voters approve a constitutional amendment in November to legalize pot for recreational and medical uses, documents released Monday show.

ResponsibleOhio released a 24-page summary of the ballot language that identifies where each of 10 grow sites will be. Investors bought or arranged purchase options on the 10 sites.

via Moraine site would grow marijuana if issue passes in November | www.mydaytondailynews.com.

The identification of specific parcels isn’t law- it’s racketeering.

ResponsibleOhio is backed by deep-pocket investors that include financiers, current and former professional athletes, real estate developers and others. It is opposed by anti-drug organizations, five statewide officeholders including Kasich and DeWine, and grassroots marijuana groups that believe carving out just 10 growing sites will unfairly block others who want to cultivate cannabis for sale.

ibid

If you don’t know what racketeering is-

Racketeering refers to criminal activity that is performed to benefit an organization such as a crime syndicate. Examples of racketeering activity include extortion, money laundering, loan sharking, obstruction of justice and bribery.

Just because it’s voted into law, doesn’t make it legal.

It’s time for a constitutional amendment in Ohio to stop granting unfair advantages by government to any business- be it limiting the locations of pot farms or casinos to specific sites, or the awarding of individual tax breaks, incentives or grants to a single business without offering the same benefits to their competition.

A leader without followers…

It’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. day.

Some of you have the day off. Some march. Some go to fancy banquets and listen to stories of “back in the day” and many take for granted what King fought for.

More people don’t vote now, more than before King when people were blocked from voting. Call it apathy, call it indifference, but considering the effort that it took to change the system, the system hasn’t changed as much as King hoped.

And while King is celebrated today- many still don’t understand that at the time, he was still not recognized as a force of nature.

The beginning of the famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” began with an admission by King that “Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work.”

The sum total of his response 6,921 words. Of course, he was in jail and had time to write.

Fast forward to 2015- and if the civil rights movement were getting started today. If King put up 6921 words- he’d get TL/DR (too long didn’t read) by most.

And while his goal in most protests was to create imagery of many people marching, or to bait racist police chiefs into letting loose the dogs, hoping for headlines- media today wouldn’t work the same way.  If civil rights wasn’t done then, it may not have happened, or set the groundwork for things to come like marriage equality.

The one thing that distinguished King from others, was his ability to attract followers- to have a herd to be heard. There were many detractors, but those core followers made the difference.

“You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations.”

He was challenged as an “outside agitator” by many. His response was clear “Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”

The real question is who is going to lead the next clear battle in American Civil Rights- the one that will truly end poverty, end class inequity and bring back the ideals of “all men are created equal” and that they all have the opportunity to engage in the pursuit of life, liberty and the happiness that seems to be evading so many?

It’s time for people to take the time to read the long versions, it’s time for people to ask questions, and it’s time to find new leadership that isn’t beholden to the mighty dollar. The underlying causes of inequality are still here today.

We can celebrate King’s victories all we want, but, to think the battle has been won, is to kid yourself.

 

 

The secret committee that decides elections in Dayton

At the last election there was going to be an empty seat on the Dayton City Commission if Nan won or lost. The party screened candidates, and selected incumbent Joey Williams and former State School Board and Dayton Board of Education member Jeffery Mims.

A local minister, Darryl Fairchild had already printed up a 2-color letterhead, “Fairchild 2013.” (Note, when running for office, never put the date on stuff you could reuse). When the endorsements were announced, Darryl wheeled to the front of the room and fell on his sword, sweeping the door open for Mr. Mims, thinking he was next in line. When the city had to modify the dais in the commission chambers for Dean Lovelace in a wheelchair, I even heard- “well, we’re going to have to do it for when Darryl gets on the commission” from someone. (For the record, Lovelace should have vacated the seat for his extended absences, and there should have been a special election).

On Tuesday, six candidates screened for the two seats coming up for re-election. Matt Joseph, the three-term incumbent who has yet to distinguish himself with any real legislative issues, and five others including yours truly. As previously reported, David Greer who ran last time, Hazel Rountree who just took a seat a year ago on the DPS board, Fairchild, and newcomer Chris Shaw who is “a fourth-generation business owner and active in the local NAACP” according to party chair Mark Owens (who is the Dayton Clerk of Courts and is up for re-election).

Thursday came and the announcement was made in the party executive committee that the screening committee had selected Joseph and Shaw. A few people were wondering how Fairchild had been thrown under the bus. A screening committee member said “well that would be running two white guys” since Fairchild and Joseph are both white, Shaw is black. I protested that the party could endorse 4 Dems (and still not endorse me) since the way this works is that if more than 4 people run, there is a runoff (not a primary- since the race is non-partisan) to select 4, and only the top 2 vote-getters win in November. Since there are obviously going to be more than 4 people in this race, wouldn’t it be smarter to have 4 Dems in the final? And let the people decide? I was booed, hissed, told to shut up- and got nasty looks. One other person asked why not Darryl? Wasn’t he promised this chance when he stepped aside so graciously for the good of the party? The answer was no- he wasn’t promised anything.

This is the way the Democratic party works- 4 years ago Nan and Rhine McLin were inseparable, with some even speculating that there was a sexual relationship between them. After Rhine lost to Gary Leitzell in the upset of the century- Rhine became a pariah. The people in power in the Dem party would eat their babies in order to protect their fiefdoms.

There were other endorsements as well. Judge Pickerel has “aged out” of being able to run, and his open seat was screened as well. Three candidates including the just deposed Frances McGee Cromartie who was their endorsed candidate in November to return to Common Pleas. She was passed over, despite being a McGee. Some loyalists challenged that decision- only to be told that the person they were endorsing had 20+ years experience in the municipal court and Frances didn’t. Never mind that Common Please handles much tougher cases than Muni. Nope, lose an election, and unless you raise a lot of money like Sharen Neuhardt, we put you out to pasture.

So the question is, who are these people on the “Screening committee” who try to take the democracy out of the ballot box and keep it behind closed doors in Dem Party HQ? As an elected member of the central committee and elected to the executive committee (thank you A.J. Wagner and Joe Lacey) I didn’t remember electing, selecting, discussing who was on this committee. I asked for the list- and was given it- surprisingly. The members are selected by the party chairman, Mark Owens. Mostly made up of elected officials, former elected officials, patronage job holders who are jockeying to be the anointed one when their benefactor decides to step down, and labor leaders. Here’s the list. I’m sorry I haven’t had time to fill in all the job positions, but I will gladly take your input to fill in the few blanks.

First nameLast namePosition
DebraArmaniniMat Heck's number 2
WillisBlackshearCounty Recorder
SamBraunMr. Whaley- works for Karl Keith
GregoryBrushCounty Clerk of Courts
CenaBuchannon
RickCarneFormer Tony Hall Chief of Staff- now a lobbyist
DanaClark
DaveFeckeVice Chair UAW
GregFlannaganPublic information officer for Mat Heck
DanFoleyCounty Commissioner
TimGormanHusband of Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Barbara Gorman
StevenHarsmanDeputy Chief of the Board of Elections
MatHeckCounty Prosecutor
DaleHerzogDayton Building and Construction
Trades Council
RobertJones
RussellJosephMark Owen's heir apparent
MattJosephCity Commissioner, brother of Russ
KarlKeithCounty Auditor
CarlKennebrewPresident IUE-CWA Local 755
BeverlyKingBoard of Elections worker who hires her rapist brother
MarciaKnoxRegional Director AFSCME Region 8
Dennis A.LiebermanFormer Party Chair, Clayton Trustee, husband of County Commissioner Debbie
NancyMarinoTrotwood Dem Club
JimMcCarthyHead of Miami Valley Fair Housing
JeffreyMimsCity Commissioner
CharlesMortonDayton-Miami Valley AFL-CIO Regional Labor Council
GenevieveMurphyState Young Dem President, Nan's shadow
JohnMurphyGen Murphy's Dad- BOE worker
LeonardOramHead Probation Officer for Vandalia municipal Court run by Mat Heck's wife, Cynthia
MarkOwensParty Chair, Dayton Clerk of Courts
VarneyRichmondFORMER President of Teamsters Local 957 as of Jan 10, 2015
TomRitchie, Sr.AFSCME, formerly on BOE
PaulRobinson, Jr.Chief Deputy Treasurer

DavidSaphire
BriceSimsJefferson TWP Trustee
TroySinger
CathyStartzmanLegislative Aide County Commission
FredStrahornState Rep
JohnTheoboldLegislative Aide County Commission
MeghanThomasWorks for Mark Owens in Clerk of Courts
NolanThomasAssistant. Prosecuting Attorney
LynnThomasson, Sr.County Clerk of Courts
WillieThorpeAsst to the President IUE-CWA
DawnWojcikParty exec.

These are the people who “endorse” after a ten-minute presentation. The questions, which I’ve published before are minimal (2012 answers)- but always include the “In your race, if the Democratic Party endorses someone other than you, will you run against the endorsed candidate? If yes, why?”

The question is, are you, one of the few remaining dedicated voters in Montgomery County willing to keep allowing this system to exist- to limit choice on the ballot?

Will you vote the “stupid voter slate card” blindly?

This is why judges are rarely opposed. This is why many people never run. This is how the Monarchy of Montgomery keeps the gravy train going and the friends and family fat and happy.

You shouldn’t be happy about this. I’m sure not.

A remaking of Ohio?

While many people make New Year’s Resolutions to change themselves, and after 6 weeks are back to the same old self, what if our state decided to make some radical changes that would make it stand out among its forty-nine brethren?

Of course, our state is run by Republicans bought with corporate cash, so it’s highly unlikely anything will change other than to make sure the 1% skates, but that’s everywhere in America where capitalism has triumphed over democracy.

For starters, let’s go with pet peeves that need to go.

You know the practice of elected officials putting their name all over their office- like the auditor putting his name on the gas pump stickers or the sheriff putting his name on the badge on the squad cars- ban it. Same goes for photos of elected officials in airports, rest stops etc. The only way to do it is if you pay for it out of campaign funds or your salary.

Patronage jobs- the ones awarded to party faithful, supporters, donors- in every political office- banned. Being elected is a position of authority and oversight- not of unlimited power and leaving of the senses. We lose experience and institutional knowledge with these kinds of broad powers and it’s not in the best interest of the people.

The BMV system of patronage. Nope, the BMV isn’t a state-run operation- it’s a contract that goes to political friends- guaranteed money. Why this isn’t handled by the State Highway Patrol is beyond me. Why title bureaus aren’t managed by the same system. And, while they are at it- inspect the vehicle annually like they do in Mass.- because having a bumper, fender, front windshield, intact bodywork really shouldn’t be optional. Studies show that a majority of accidents occur with poorly maintained vehicles.

Moving on to bigger and more important things, it’s time to stop running the entire state based on the Northwest Ordinance of 1785. How we drew county lines, established the many forms of jurisdictions and responsibilities- all need to be re-evaluated. Getting rid of urban townships would be step one, but even more importantly- setting some kind of limits of politicians to people needs to happen. Moraine has an entire set of politicians, police, fire, etc.- when it only has 6,300 residents, while Miami Township and Washington Township have five times that. This whole idea of “Home Rule” allowing cities to create mickey mouse laws like Dayton regulating taxis and Uber- while the rest of the county doesn’t is total BS and needs to go.

88 local governments ought to be enough- although population balance issues between them may make even that number too high.  And, by the way- while we’re getting rid of extra government- the school districts- all 600 plus of them, could and should be reduced down to the number of counties.

Taxing districts. We live in Ohio. There it is. One taxing district with statewide income tax. Real Estate Taxing statewide. With less bureaucrats and their patrons sucking at the teat, we can reasonably distribute taxes based on a few factors: population, wealth, needs. Any questions?

This eliminates all local tax incentives, TIF, JEDD, incentives, etc. If Ohio wants to create more green energy- give a tax credit that’s available statewide to anyone who meets criteria- if the tax credit isn’t utilized broadly- it’s rescinded as bad policy and the benefactors must pay it back on a payment plan.

Revamp the state unemployment system. Right now it’s not “insurance” in the conventional sense, it’s a savings account that empties every three years. This is ridiculous and a serious problem for small businesses while some big businesses like GM used to use it as a savings account for planned shutdowns. Having it, and the workers comp system totally revamped to not be company specific except for type of work- with companies that employ workers in more dangerous fields having to pay more. Simple.

Accountable minimum wage systems. If your employees pay income taxes and also accept benefits for medicaid or food stamps, and you employ more than 50 people, you get charged back. No more subsidies for Wal-mart or fast food chains that have been milking this system forever.

The entire system of elections in Ohio and the way it is managed could use an overhaul as well- from the five different database vendors for voter registration systems to the odd patronage rule over local boards of elections. This isn’t a two-party state by law and it shouldn’t be run as one. Changing this is beyond what I can write about here- I’m working on a book about it.

Centralized purchasing programs. We’ve already seen how a combination of laws and contracts ended up in price fixing for road salt in Ohio- but, I’m totally miffed about why other things are so screwed up, like the purchase of cop cars and handguns for police. How hard is it to have a standardized police vehicle statewide- bringing huge economies of scale? Same goes for sidearms, radios, computer systems. Even police and firefighter training- it would seem that these be best done at a statewide level. You wouldn’t believe the costs involved in just marking local cops cars with their individual municipal paint jobs- one car, one paint scheme (cop cars get body work way more than your car does- and replacing all these different paints and vinyls is expensive). Police vehicles are just one example- this could go for so many things from school and government IT to snow plows.

While all the above are general housekeeping changes, that could be adopted by any well-run state, Ohio really needs to do some things that set it apart from other states.

We could adopt smart policies like Voteing by Mail as practiced in Oregon. We could ban fracking like they did in New York. Our changes in how we tax and how we fairly approach businesses with cost structures that are manageable and easily understandable would do a lot to attract business, but we still need more.

Starting with the cost of higher education. Sorry, but winning a college football championship does nothing for the people of Ohio other than providing bragging rights and selling t-shirts. It’s time to reel in the money spent on college sports programs and build a real network of youth sports programs across the state. From proper sports facilities like ice rinks, soccer complexes, velodromes and even bobsled runs- if Ohio approached public access to sports with the same veracity it did Ohio State football- we’d have the best-prepared athletes to begin with. Paying a college football coach five times what you pay the university president is an insult to our intelligence, and paying college presidents at state schools a million a year is also questionable- especially if we only pay the governor $150k a year. Yes- I know I’m jumping around- but State Schools need to be funded so that all Ohio high school grads can afford them. They pay back in the long run.

A technology infrastructure to be jealous of. Make Ohio the first all fiber state- and cover it in wi-fi. If Estonia can do it- why can’t we?

And in the most controversial move for a breadbasket state- make Ohio a little Europe- banning all pesticides, and GMO crops- moving to an organic, sustainable natural agro-economy. With our fertilizer-induced algae blooms only getting worse- and our bountiful clean water a future selling point- it’s time to realize we can’t turn ourselves into a bio-hazard. The changes would be painful for a short term- but in the long term, Ohio would stand apart from the other 49 and with a push for local food- be healthier and less energy dependent.

When it comes to energy we’d also focus on green energy like the biodigesters from Quasar Energy in Cleveland and solar and wind power that have proven their viability. By eliminating nuclear and fossil-fuel power generation we could be clean and green which would be a first.

And as one last socialist move- reclaim the utility infrastructure for the public. The idea of “deregulation” of electricity, gas, internet, phone, cable, etc. is a joke. Most municipal sewer and water systems escaped this insanity and are fine. There is no reason for every consumer to be expected to play commodities trader in picking power prices. Let’s simplify this mess and get over it.

And one last pie-in-the-sky dream- to benefit schoolchildren everywhere- let’s make Ohio the first state to go entirely metric and finally say goodbye to the Queen’s system. How hard can it be if even the Brits did it?

I’m sure there are other ideas out there- feel free to share them in comments. None of this will make any difference at all- just like your new year’s resolutions, but, we’re allowed to dream a bit with every new year.

 

A bad comedy gone wrong

I spent 12 hours in a classroom yesterday to get my CCW permit. Over and over, it was drilled into us, you can’t go shooting people over property, insults, or because you don’t like someone.
And here is President Obama saying he’s going to go after North Korea for hacking Sony Entertainment and threatening movie theaters that show a banal “comedy” about the assassination of North Korea’s boy leader.
I’m sorry, but I don’t think any of this is funny for a litany of reasons.
First- the hack. Since when is it the Federal government’s responsibility to protect the computers of an entertainment company? How is this any different than the multiple hacks that have stolen our personal information from the likes of Target or Home Depot? Because supposedly the hack came from North Korea? Is Obama channeling George W. Bush, who attacked Afghanistan for the work of 21 Saudi Nationals on 9/11?
Code knows no national boundaries- and with the simplicity of anonymizing servers- can be sent from anywhere to anywhere. Because someone used the same lines of code is hardly a smoking gun- I use the same words you do to say “I have to go to the bathroom.”
And after Edward Snowden released the vast evidence of our ability to read, analyze and filter the masses of communications all over the planet- do you really expect me to believe the NSA was asleep at the wheel when both the hack and the threat supposedly came from North Korea? Really? Because so much Internet traffic comes in and out of that walled cesspool of a country.
Then there is the “threat” to do damage to the theaters that show the film. Let’s see, trillions spent on “Homeland Security” and our military- and we’re really going to believe that if this film is shown- the North Koreans are going to nuke us?
Granted, any head of state who thinks anything worthwhile comes out of meeting Dennis Rodman isn’t exactly the sharpest crayon in the box- but, there are probably 4,000 theaters that may show this film- and he’s going to target them all? Or even one? With the telegraphed threat, the probability of success is zero.
And, really, poking the bear usually never works out well for little kimmy.
There have been movies made about dictators, kidnapping presidents, killing heads of state since, well, the early ages of film. Comedies- like Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” didn’t start WWII- and the recent Hollywood action flick “Olympus has fallen” had the North Koreans attacking the White House- where were the complaints that time?
Although the hack did a bunch of damage to Sony Entertainment- let’s be realistic- that hack did more damage to the hacks that run the company who embarrassed themselves much worse than our State Department did with crass and irresponsible statements released by Snowden.
And although Sony Entertainment is “American” it’s still owned by Sony- a Japanese company- why isn’t North Korea taking on the Japanese? Maybe it’s the fact that when the Japanese went to war there they dominated- while we stalemated..
You know that every Hollywood action film has to have two things- a good guy and a bad guy- the fact that North Korea has served as our “bad guy” for almost 70 years is getting a little old. Hell, we just decided to take Cuba out of the doghouse into the yard. They’re not quite invited in – but it’s a step in the right direction.
With the way our media is manipulated and despite access to more information than ever before- I’m half wondering if the “threat” to theaters showing “The Interview” isn’t just another Hollywood marketing department run amok. Remember how Boston shut down in 2007 in a panic over “space invader signs” that mysteriously appeared as a promo for another banal comedy?
If this was what happened, would anyone be able to wipe the egg off their faces?
If we really want to torture the North Korean leadership- print enough DVDs of the movie dubbed in Korean- and carpet bomb the country with them. Seth Rogan’s bomb of a movie can torture them instead of us.
And honestly, not showing this movie in America is probably an underappreciated Christmas gift to all of us.

Retraining America, not just the police

Photo of a taser body cam with a red circle slash on top

Body cams aren’t the answer

If you and I have similar friends on Facebook, hardly a day goes by without seeing an example of a cop behaving badly caught on film. Yet, despite film of the choke-hold killing of  Eric Garner, for what couldn’t amount to more than a misdemeanor crime, the cop walks.

There is the video of a guy turning to his car to get his ID as the cop instructed him to- and ending up with a newly perforated body- caught on film by the officer’s own dash cam.

There is the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice on a Cleveland playground, within 2 seconds of the cop’s arrival- all caught on film.

The president and the family of Michael Brown think that body cams will somehow solve the problem. Ask Eric Garner how the camera worked for him?

Shooting as a solution has been programmed into the mindset of Americans for the last 30 years- on camera- via television. College kids have a drinking game – drink a shot every time Jack Bauer kills someone in an episode of “24.” Long gone are the days of Sheriff Andy Griffin, who wouldn’t let his deputy have more than one bullet.

The art of diplomacy as practiced as part of the job of “peace officer” has been replaced with SWAT gear, body armor and tanks. Yes, tanks.

Take a look at how your local beat cop dresses. Thirty years ago, he wore a white shirt, a tie, jacket, shiny dress shoes and a dress cap. Now, we’re seeing cargo pants, polo shirts over a bullet proof vest and a baseball cap. The shiny shoes, replaced with combat boots. The six-shot .38 revolver, now a 13-round .40 cal. automatic, plus a taser. We’re putting soldiers on the streets to do police work. Look in the trunk of the cruiser- where there used to be a shotgun, there’s also an AR-15.

You only need these kinds of tools in war. In fact, long ago, our government saw the danger of using a military to enforce local laws.

In June of 1878, at the end of Reconstruction, Congress passed the Posse Comitatus Act, to prevent an army from enforcing state laws. Yet, when President Nixon began his “War on Drugs” in June 1971, we declared war on our people and started putting ridiculous numbers of them in prison- tearing apart basic family structures and creating an entire subculture of perpetually underemployed people in our country. The country where “all men are created equal” began to come apart.

The funny thing is that this all started happening after we got done patting ourselves on the backs for passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, where we stopped looking at blacks as some sort of sub-human underclass. Folks, note, this was only 50 years ago.

I was just reading about how MLK and his captains, planned to manipulate the media in Birmingham- how they wanted to overload the jails, how they wanted the water cannons turned on the protesters- and the dogs set loose. The use of children as protestors had some people worried- Robert Kennedy, who was the Attorney General was quoted as saying “An injured, maimed or dead child is a price that none of us can afford to pay.”

How do we reconcile that with the dead Tamir Rice? Michael Brown? Trayvon Martin? The list goes on, and we don’t even think there is a price connected to these acts anymore. We came together on Sept. 11, 2001 in horror, because a few dozen idiots managed to kill 3,000+ “innocent Americans” in an act of terrorism, yet every day in America 32 Americans die by gun violence- meaning that every 100 or so days- is the equivalent of a World Trade Center attack.

We’re numb. We’re dumb and we’re naive if we think the problem is going to be solved with body cams.

The first step has to be a re-evaluation of what constitutes a crime in America. Eric Garner was getting harassed for selling single cigarettes “illegally” on the street. He ended up dead. The Wall Street bozos put millions of people out of work, out of their homes, and collapsed our economy- yet, none of them spent a day in court.

We spend more incarcerating people involved in illegal drug sales than we spend on education in this country. What happens if we paid for college instead of paying to turn people into unemployable x-offenders? What happens if we treat drug addiction with health care professionals instead of by warehousing them in prisons?

Decriminalizing pot is long overdue. Why is methadone treatment an ok substitution for heroin, even though it barely works? If someone wants to be drunk it’s ok- but high, oh, no? If they want to smoke cigs OK- but shoot heroin no- even though nicotine is a harder drug to beat?

We put our police in impossible situations daily- asking them to do things they aren’t really supposed to do. Now, they carry narcam to save people from OD’ing on opiates- what happened to making sure people didn’t speed on the streets, or steal porch furniture?

We can’t expect better police until we have a better understanding of what their role in society is. If it’s to be engaged in a war on drugs, and we continue to militarize them- we’re going to get more of the same. If we do a reset, and get back to keeping the peace and instilling a sense of safety for all- we might get back to the time where talking first comes back in style.

I’ve purposely stayed away from talking about the John Crawford murder in Beavercreek. And while I think John Crawford was an idiot, who had no clue on how to act in public while holding something that resembled a gun, the cop, Sean Williams, had no clue on how to appraise and defuse the situation.

When he arrived, with his limited information as relayed by the dispatcher, from an unverified source (the 911 caller was a completely unreliable idiot), he entered a Wal-Mart expecting an “active shooter situation.” However, there were no crowds of people heading for the doors in a panic, there were no people screaming- that all was caused by the cop failing society and shooting a guy with a pellet gun who was talking on his phone. A woman, leaving the store in the cop-caused shooting panic, died. Two people died because of a cop operating with training that was fundamentally flawed. Training that allows us to easily “afford” to justify shooting people in the name of protecting the peace.

We’ve become so accustomed to violence in this country, that the photo of Bull Connor’s dogs and water canons barely would register as a violation of our social compact. Those images were tame compared to the video of the murder of Eric Garner- an unarmed man, choked to death by a bevy of “peace officers.”

No, a retraining of police isn’t the answer- we need to retrain our entire country. This is not how we should treat each other. This is not America the beautiful anymore, where all men are created equal, land of the free and home of the brave.

We live in a police state that’s run amok. You can watch the video anytime you want.

 

 

 

 

The nadir of American “politics”?

This election, Nov. 4, 2014, may have been where America hit political rock bottom. At least I hope so. Estimates of $3.6 billion wasted on what amounted to an auction of elected office. Voters, disgusted with the lack of respectable and credible candidates stayed home for the most part. Those who voted often felt dirty.

If you need proof that those running this clown show have lost touch with reality, from this morning’s N.Y. Times:

“Barack Obama has our country in a ditch, and many of his lieutenants running for the Senate were right there with him,” said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee. “The punishment is going to be broad, and it’s going to be pretty serious.”

via Election Results: Republicans Win Senate Control With at Least 7 New Seats – NYTimes.com.

“The punishment” for serving our country? The punishment for trying to work in a system that’s been derailed by dirty money and gerrymandered districts? Where our government actually shut down because of the lack of the most basic skills critical to civilized society- compromise?

I was once chided by none other than former Dayton Mayor Rhine McLin for talking about politicians- when she corrected me with her definition of herself as an elected representative. When will our “elected representatives” start acting like representatives again? What happened to the statesman?

In the city of Dayton- less than 24,000 people voted- of the approximately 100,000 registered voters. Granted I believe the total to be inflated as much as 25,000- but that still says more than half stayed home.

As to our country being “in a ditch” and placing blame unilaterally on Democrats- I truly wonder what we were in when Barack Obama took office? The economy had just disintegrated thanks to Wall Street being run like a casino. We’re still at war, with zero end in sight- even though we still are pretending we’re not. And, while numbers of unemployed are low- we’ve taken so many people off the rolls- and accepted the fact that most workers are now woefully underemployed in sub-living wage hell, that our economy is nothing but a house of cards, ready to implode once again.

The stock market is near record highs- just waiting for a “correction” that will wipe trillions off our general net worth- and yet, the chairman of the Republican party is doing a happy dance with his new-found power.

For the first time in 22 years- the idea of running for office, to make a difference, turns my stomach. If this is the way the game will be played from here on out- it’s one that disgusts me.

If anyone who was elected yesterday, truly believes that it’s because of their skill and merit- other than perhaps Fred Strahorn and Jim Butler, who both faced hapless opposition, they should be ashamed of themselves.

We’re all losing when political office is bought- not won, when campaigns are about mud, not ability and when choices are almost always the lesser of two evils.

Montgomery County Republican Party factions playing games with OH-42 seat

Last week, Esrati.com gave you the long list of potential candidates to fill OH-42 existing term, and the ballot position for Terry Blair’s seat. You may have read about it in the Dayton Daily news a few days later.

Today, the DDn ran a press release from the “Conservative Republican Leadership Committee”- read that the Tea Party People who are pretending to not be Tea Party People:

A Republican Party group plans a candidates’ forum tonight on the eve of local GOP leaders voting to replace the late Terry Blair on the ballot for a seat in the Ohio General Assembly.

The Conservative Republican Leadership Committee forum will include three of the four candidates vying to replace Blair, who died June 26 during the last months of his third term in the 42nd District seat in the Ohio House of Representatives.

Niraj Antani of Miami Twp. and Washington Twp. residents Mark Crawford, Scott Paulson and Tom Young have expressed interest in replacing Blair. Republicans are set to vote Thursday on a candidate.

That person will face Democrat Leonard D. Johnson, 67, of West Carrollton in November in a district that also includes Germantown, German Twp., Miamisburg and Moraine. The winner will be elected to a two-year term with an annual salary of $60,584.

The forum, set for 7 p.m. at the Washington Twp. Recreation Center, will include all of the candidates but Young. Young said Tuesday that notice was too short for him to attend the event, which he became aware of late Friday.

The forum will include a question-and-answer session with the candidates followed by written questions from the audience, said Ohio House 36th District state Rep. Seth Morgan, the forum moderator.

“This is a great opportunity — and the only opportunity that we know of that is open to the public — for the public to ask questions,” he said.

Morgan said the forum will help voters assess the candidates in the “highly conservative district.” It tends to lean Republican, with 58 percent of the votes cast in the 2012 presidential election going to the GOP candidate, according to the Montgomery County Board of Elections. “We think this is a great opportunity for the public to engage in the conversation,” he said. “The party will do what the party will do.” District party precinct captains – which number between 65 and 70 – are set to meet at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Mandalay Banquet Center, said Dave Landon, vice chair of the county GOP Executive Committee.

Each candidate will have an opportunity to address the audience, he said, before the vote. Landon is among the party precinct captains in the district but declined to say how he will vote.

via Forum set for House seat.

What they don’t tell you is that Tom Young already had a meet and greet on Sunday afternoon at the Chop House hosted by Sheriff Phil Plummer and Sharon Lowry- the “chair and co-chair of the Montgomery County Republican Party” (even though they weren’t elected to the positions after former chair Rob Scott stepped down). I’m sure Tom Young made that meeting on short notice. Here is a link to a badly scanned leaked invite: Plummer invite to Young event

Having Seth Morgan as the moderator sets the tone for this to be a more radical Republican event, however, Young is unworthy of office in my book if he can’t make it to the only candidates’ forum being held. Insiders say only Paulson and Young have a shot- with Paulson being backed by the upstarts who flipped the party to lean Tea in the last legal party election- including potential future House Speaker Rep. Jim Butler, OH-41. Old school GOP folks on the friends and family plan, prefer Young.  Crawford who immediately sent out a two-page letter to all members of the central committee asking for consideration, spelling out his global experience and qualifications, unfortunately- I can’t find my copy of it, but I’m sure someone will supply another copy within a few hours of my posting it.

Niraj Antani is the young go-getter in the group- who is being ignored by almost everyone. He’s probably the only one who is social media aware- favoring my first tweet about the showdown, and quickly following me on Twitter. Crawford also seems to have some social media chops as well. As to Young and Paulson- not so much.

If the Republicans really cared, the party would have sponsored this event and made sure a video was up on YouTube before the vote tomorrow night. However, this isn’t an open and welcoming Republican party- it’s a nest of infighting children arguing over whose daddy has more money. For now, that would be the Sheriff.

The dirty little secret of the VA: failures in government contracting

While Congress continues to feast on the foibles of the VA, pointing fingers at anything that moves, one little minor problem continues to be overlooked: Federal contracting and its farcical system of awarding contracts and providing the lowest and best cost solutions to the taxpayers. The Feds are the largest purchaser of goods and services in this country.

As a Service Disabled Veteran, who owns his own business, and jumped through all the hoops to become a “Certified Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business” I still have not managed to crack the code of getting work from the Federal Government- including the VA, which is committed to spending at least 7% of their purchasing power with SDVOB’s.

While Congress has the VA on full lynch mode- and claims to have Veterans interests at heart, they’ve never gotten upset that the Federal Government has totally failed to follow it’s own law:

The Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999 (Public Law 106-50 Download Adobe Reader to read this link content) established an annual government-wide goal of not less than 3% of the total value of all prime contract and subcontract awards for participation by small business concerns owned and controlled by service-disabled veterans.

via Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Concerns (SDVOSBC) | SBA.gov.

The main reason: the government depends on the General Services Administration (GSA) to approve all potential contractors with an arcane system called a GSA Schedule. Called “a license to hunt” by veterans’ advocates, the process of getting a GSA schedule is convoluted and overly burdensome, especially for small businesses. While the GSA demands the lowest and best price offered to the government, we’ve seen how well that works with minor purchases like the the F-35 going over budget and way past on time.

From paper clips to printing to pharmaceuticals, the system is rigged so that only a small number of vendors are actually able to compete or bid all in the name of “fairness.”

The VA, is also forced to use private contractors solicited via this process- and when they fail, there are no repercussions to the  contractors.

Take my eyeglasses for example. Mine were broken on Friday May 9th 2014. I was seen that night at the VA. I’d recently had an eye exam, and went to the eyeglasses shop on Monday to get a new pair made. They told me they were running 4-5 weeks behind, which struck me as odd- since there are any number of places in Dayton that can supply eyeglasses same or next day. Luckily, I’m friends with Kevin Harrington of Downtown Dayton Optical and he made me a few pairs of fixed glasses to replace my no line bifocals that day. By Wednesday I realized switching glasses every time I got a text was going to be unbearable for 4-5 weeks, I asked him to make me a pair of no line bifocals. He got them to me the next Monday.

Sign at Dayton VA explaining delay in glasses delivery

Sign at the Dayton VA Optical Shop

It was still bothering me that a pair of eyeglasses for veterans would take that long and I contacted Director Glenn Costie- explaining that glasses are pretty essential to a veteran and there is no excuse for that long a wait. Turns out I was right.

I was called by one of his assistants who told me the contract stipulated 2 week max. They were in the process of switching contractors, to one promising one week. After a month had gone by and still no glasses, I sent a note to Director Costie asking “Why isn’t your purchasing department penalizing the hell out of this crappy vendor?” saying I would write a blog post about this situation (a blog post I wrote in a post surgery fog also got a lot of attention). The next day, a message was on my home answering machine from a woman who sounded almost incredulous that she was calling- saying my glasses were in.

A sign on the sign-in desk for the optical shop at the VA says:

“Notice to Veterans awaiting Eyeglasses
We apologize that the current wait time for eyeglasses is about 5 weeks.

The Company contracted to manufacture the eyeglasses are not meeting our expected delivery time of 5-10 days.

We are finalizing changes so that our expectations of faster delivery times are met.

We are sorry for the inconvenience.”

I’m pretty sure if I violated a contract with the government, I’d be in prison.

This isn’t the first time a VA contractor has screwed up. Last year, when it was determined that I needed to have my parathyroid gland removed, after months of unnecessary tests including 2 needle biopsies and 2 radioactive scans- despite blood chemistry clearly identifying the issue- I was scheduled for surgery at the Cincinnati VA in July with a specialist. Turns out, he too was a private contractor, and works full time for University of Cincinnati medical center. Contracted for X number of hours with the VA, he sees patients and does surgeries at the Cincy VA only on Thursdays, something like twice a month. When he decided to take a few weeks off in July- they bumped me from my initial consultation, meaning I’d have to go in August- and then wait another month to be operated on. Then, he took a day off- on his VA scheduled day. I wrote both the surgeon and Director Costie again- and here was the summary outcome email back to Costie thanking him after he stepped in on my behalf:

I’m not sure what transpired between you and Cincy.
I’d also sent an email directly to the surgeon through his private practice site.
It said something to the effect of-
“you signed a contract with the VA to operate once a month.
When you take a surgery day off- you don’t just get to bump veterans to the next month- because your private practice comes first.
Veterans didn’t get the choice when they were serving- to say, sorry- I’ll deploy next month, I’m busy.
When you miss a day- you get to do two days the next month. Our veterans deserve your best.”

He came in and apologized to me-
said it was refreshing to see the patient’s perspective. Said he’d been with the VA for 20 years- and this kind of thing still happens- because of a miscommunication- and that maybe I should come work there to help straighten things out. I said I’d pass on the government job- but thanks.

Unfortunately, other veterans don’t have the ability to call bullshit when they see things going wrong, and unfortunately, Congress seems to be so busy pointing fingers that they don’t see the problem either. Accountability means contracts must be enforced at all levels if we truly want to help our veterans- and get our tax dollars’ worth.

I think highly of Director Costie- and I was saddened to hear that he’s going to Phoenix to try to clean up that mess, but the real question is when is the GSA going to be held accountable for securing contracts that are routinely ignored?

Back in 2005, on behalf of my veterans business group, VOB108, now VOBOhio, I wrote a proposal for a GSA EZ schedule to help small businesses have a chance at selling to the federal government. That would be a good start- and possibly allow small businesses a true shot at government contracts- and also, what are the true penalties involved in not performing to contract standards?

Considering new government rules on medicare and medicaid asking for verified outcomes, isn’t it time for the same when hiring contractors for the VA for service delivery to our veterans? And, while we’re at it- how about the same for our Congressmen- when you don’t work and shut down government, you should lose your job and be sent to prison.

 

It pays to be a political donor in Dayton Ohio

Two years, $400,000 in your pocket. This right after you “make a mistake” in tearing down part of a historic building and get an additional $215,000 handed to you on a demolition contract. Only in Dayton Ohio can someone be so lucky so often.

It helps when you donate to the right people in politics, for a long time.

The Five Rivers MetroParks plans to use a $1 million Clean Ohio grant toward the purchase and cleanup of the defunct Larch Tree Golf Course.

That is, if the parks organization carries out the purchase option agreement it signed with owner of the old golf course, Bearcreek Farms, Inc. in Dayton, in February….

Five Rivers would like to turn Larch Tree, an 18-hole golf course property, into conservation land and make it a part of the 360-acre Great Miami Wetland Mitigation Bank conservation area that sits adjacent to the golf course, according to Dave Nolin, Five Rivers director of Conservation….

Montgomery County Auditor’s records show that Bearcreek Farms, Inc. took the old golf course from Steve R. Rauch in June of 2012, the same year the golf course closed due to lack of business. However, Rauch is listed as the incorporator for Bearcreek Farms for records filed in the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.

Rauch bought the property for $600,000 from Financial Services, Inc. in April of 2012.

via Five Rivers MetroParks sets sights on property.

And the old line of “well, we’re using federal dollars to do it” doesn’t cut it- those “Federal dollars” are our tax dollars too. Insider information is being passed to people in advance of government purchases- or, government employees are being told about “opportunities”- you buy this property for this much- and they go ahead and do it. Much like the botched land purchase by the South Transfer Station:

Montgomery County last year paid $475,000 for a parcel of land that sold for $70,000 five months earlier, a price jump the county blames on botched communications with its real estate broker.

The parcel at the northeast corner of Springboro Pike and Cardington Road had been targeted by the county for years yet was snapped up by a newly formed company that then resold it to the county in September 2013 for nearly seven times the price paid the previous March.

via Botched land deal blamed on mixup | www.mydaytondailynews.com.

Of course, both these deals are chump change compared to the raping the citizens of Dayton took on the bad deal with IRG at the Dayton Airport- where the city gave the “developer” a check for $3.5 million and the rights to scrap the assets of the former Emery Air Freight building that was on a guaranteed lease to UPS until 2019. It’s been over three years on that debacle and IRG hasn’t brought any jobs to the site, it now sits unkempt- missing 4 emergency diesel generators, a huge stainless steel fuel farm, a multi-million dollar automated sorting and conveyor system and who knows what else. The term of the deal was 3 years- and no one has demanded performance or the property back.

Anyone who wonders why donors would hand a mediocre city commissioner half a million dollars to run for Mayor- a job that pays $45K a year, should look at deals like this and realize that this is just tithing to the “monarchy of Montgomery County”- the network of mostly democratic office holders who have been taking care of the “Friends and Family” for years- selling out the citizens left and right.

If you wonder how the Arcade – a project we taxpayers put millions into, ended up being sold to Tom Danis for $36K plus a check to former Police Chief Tyree Broomfield for $100,000 to resign.

If you wonder who owned a bunch of properties right in the path of US 35 W that had to be bought and torn down for construction to begin.

If you wonder why demolition is the preferred method of “economic development in Dayton”- etcetera- it’s all because some political donor wrote a check. And as they say- payback is a real mo-fo.