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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- [1] 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.

 

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Auston Hensley

Be real careful what you wish for, David. If you really want a regional government and a uniform tax system, remember that it will make government even less accountable to the voters. If we had one countywide tax system, the central city would demand and probably get an outsized amount of the money. If we had one countywide school district, it would open the door for another busing program, which would send Montgomery County truly into the toilet.

You can make an argument that it would be rightfully so that the core city should receive a large portion of the region’s tax money, but that’s neither here nor there… regionalism is shown, time and again, to be a vehicle to funnel suburban money back into the core city, at the expense of the suburbs.

There’s a reason why you won’t find a noisier voice against Dayton regionalism than me – it’s because of who would be in control if we had a regional government. Nan.

Ralph

“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.”

Happy New Year to you too. I hope your paranoia medication kicks in along with a dose of reality that the democrats you like to support (but refuse to support you) help to insure those high taxes that WE ALL PAY.

Nick Brusky

All regionalism will do is empower the “Monarchy of Montgomery County” even more. The competitive parochial interests of the various municipalities and townships are a check against unlimited special interest and corporate influence over property rights and land use. If you think the crony tax breaks that developers get now is bad, just imagine how bad it will be when they only have to answer to the county.

Auston Hensley

David, I’m going to reply to your post – I can demand that government be held accountable if I lived in, say, Beavercreek, because I know when and where the city council will be meeting.

To prove my point, consider how long their city council fought RTA going to the Fairfield Commons mall. Three years? It was because their constituents blew up the phones, emails, and packed city council meetings and they were LOUD in their opposition. Only because the federal DOJ got involved and threatened to pull Federal highway funds did city council finally give in to DOJ’s demands.

Try getting Dayton’s city government to respond to a constituency like that – for any reason, good or bad – if you succeed, I must be an Oscar Meyer wiener. If you wanted to get Nan to do anything, you would have to first drive down to Sharonville. And then there’s no assurance she or anyone on council would actually listen. Lest I remind you that the first thing she did once elected was hold a meeting in Cincinnati when there were plenty of local venues that would have been perfectly happy to host them?

Nan doesn’t deserve to govern a shrimp stall, much less all of Montgomery County.

Auston Hensley

David, I must disagree again – that’s because we wouldn’t magically overnight have an annexation of all of Montgomery County into the city of Dayton (which is what Dayton and other core cities would demand – and there’s a fair argument to be made for that position).

What you would have, however, is a concerted effort to move towards “regionalism” – a stronger version of MVRPC comes to mind, where all the cities work together to bring jobs and economic development to the area. But regionalism, while brilliant in theory, is abysmal in practice once politics gets involved.

Back in 2007, the city of Avon, a suburb of Cleveland, wanted to build a new highway interchange to bring more jobs to the area. But they needed approval from the NOACA – Northeast Ohio Area Coordinating Agency – to build it, because the federal government had granted them the authority to manage all interstate highways in the region. Unfortunately for Avon, located in Lorain County – had no zero voice whatsoever on the NOACA. Because it was dominated by representatives from Cuyahoga County. They threatened to torpedo the deal unless Avon agreed to share tax revenues with Cleveland.

Avon eventually agreed because some tax revenue was better than none, but their mayor, Jim Smith, went on the record saying he felt like a hostage with a gun to his head. All it is, really, is the core city trying to seize economic and political control from its surrounding suburbs… and it’s precisely this kind of fight the area doesn’t need.

It isn’t a great stretch to imagine if we had a stronger MVRPC dominated by Dayton. Nan would throw a fit and attempt to torpedo Austin Landing by bullying Miami Township into the same sort of “revenue sharing deal” which is revealed as simply a method of making suburban taxpayers subsidize the failing core city.