First Four at UD Arena. First, look for the flag

$72 Million dollar renovation.
New seats, new floor, new scoreboards, new sound system, but, wait, where do we put the flag?

Normally, it’s hanging in a prominent position, in wide view, and well lit.

It has a place of honor. It’s respected. And it’s where we turn when the National Anthem plays.

But, we’re UD, home of the Flyers and a town built on the back of Wright Patterson Air Force base, and we don’t need to do any of that.

We’ll have a color guard march out to center court- and display the flag that way, and that’s fine. But, on the rare occasion when there is no color guard- where is the flag?

UD Arena hides our flag in the dark, instead of in plain sight. Photo and options by David Esrati

UD Arena hides our flag in the dark, instead of in plain sight. Photo and options by David Esrati

Well, if you peer behind each of the giant stats boards in the corners- there is a very large flag, one in each corner, hung on the wall, in the shadows.

You can hardly see them through the uber patriotic digital light show they play on the monitors- with stripes waving, as the National Anthem is belted out live from in front of the scorers table.

All this is well and fine. But, in the year of national turmoil where standing or kneeling was headline material, you’d think UD would make an effort to properly display the flag. Just one. Well lit, in a place of prominence.

I brought the issue up to rookie president Dr. Eric Spina- his response- As the Arena is finished in the next two years, the flag issue will be addressed directly and in a positive way. Until then, compromises are being made while still being respectful.”

I brought the issue up to the guy in charge of the renovation, Scott DeBolt, his response: “We will evaluate the placement of the american flag next summer when once we identify the locations of the new sports lighting.”

I’m sorry, but, as a veteran, as a UD Season Ticket holder, as a member of the Dayton community, as we invite people from across the nation to our arena for the first four, I don’t think these answers are satisfactory.

If you want to place a value on the importance of flying our flag- I suggest you ask these guys:

Flag Raising on Iwo Jima by Joe Rosenthal

Flag Raising on Iwo Jima by Joe Rosenthal


Hodge podge governance costs us all

He who has the gold makes the rulesWelcome to the Not Really United States of America.

We have a state where prostitution is legal, another where booze is almost not, we have some where pot is legal for medical, some for recreational, and then communities in our area where pot dispensaries are already banned, before medical pot is even legal.

We solved the gay marriage thing, sort of. We’re not entirely sure about bathrooms for people who don’t fit exactly in the checkboxes, and when it comes to pay equity for the sexes we’re way off. Let’s not even touch the inequity between the races- other than to say it’s an embarrassment of epic scale.

Outcomes in health care, education, life expectancy don’t compare to other first world nations and our infrastructure from internet access to high speed rail makes us look like a third world banana republic.

Our rules, regulations and tax structure and jurisdictional divisions are as arbitrary as the numbers pulled in the super lotto- which is just one more dangling carrot to divert our gaze from the fact that we’ve created nothing other than a new replacement for the monarchy we sought to divorce back in 1776.

Do the words “local control” sound like a good idea to you? Our inbred fear of power collected at the top of government has driven us to allow the smallest jurisdictions to “guide our own destiny”- as long as it doesn’t get in the way of someone with a lot of money wanting to do things differently.

Case in point- many people are mourning the passing of Dean Lovelace. His “legacy” was talking about predatory lending before anyone else. He even passed legislation against it- for a nano-second before the powerful banking establishment who has bought our state legislature sent his little laws back like a bounced check. Dean may have been onto something, but he was as impotent as a eunuch in a whore house.

From our education system to our health care system, from our public safety to tax collection, from permits to common practices this slapdashed mashup of laws and regulations across 50 states a few territories and even global trade is doing only one thing: making the rich richer and the rest of us, miserable cogs in a machine that has zero empathy in its settings.

And while Republicans rail against taxes and regulation, they don’t really do anything to solve them. And while Democrats scream about inequity and public welfare, we’re still sliding down the scale of achievement. The system is broken. This is where the ideas of socialism and communism were born- and yet, as practiced, they fail too. Why? Because people are human- and the “me first” urge is kind of hard to break.

Throughout history, empires collapse when inequity becomes too obvious. We’re somewhere close to that. Although our masters have gotten smoother at distracting us- 500 channels of television, you can lose yourself in Facebook, or you can rail against the machine as I’m doing right now- on the internet- which is the great equalizer (except it’s really not- when the digital divide still exists).

There are things we could do, but it would take strong leaders, something we’ve resisted since our inception. Ohio could put an end to the system of political subdivisions and lines drawn on a map in 1785, before we had all these new fangled things like cars, computers and corporate giants.

Imagine a State with one income tax, one property tax system, one sales tax rate. It’ll never happen, because giving up power over taxation is tantamount to the end of corruption as we know it. How about one school board? Or, one police chief per every 250,000 people? Proportional representation was part of our formula in the start- why isn’t it now?

The cost to business of trying to calculate the taxes collected on what, who, where is just pure overhead. The cost of enforcing it, parsing fines, audits, all the rest- is also overhead. The cost of all these local yokels running their little fiefdoms expands out way past their jurisdictions. The increase in the Dayton income tax has a ripple effect cost as every payroll processing company in the country has to adjust and modify their software. And is anyone in places far away supposed to understand the income tax structure of Austin Landing where income tax is based on owning an elevator in your building? (This example still amazes people when I share it).

How is sales tax online collected? And why does it have to be so complicated? Bricks and mortar local retailers are getting screwed with local sales tax, and poor people, who have to use them, because they don’t have credit cards to buy online, pay more. Why isn’t there a flat internet sales tax in this country- and why can’t it be spent on building out the system so everyone has high speed internet access? That would be a game changer- for education, for commerce, for democracy- because, information and access to it is the critical part of a functioning democracy.

And why shouldn’t the internet be controlled by the state instead of Time Warner, ATT, Sprint, MCI, Quest, Spectrum, Charter, Level 3 etc? We invented it with our tax dollars- for national defense no less. Look at your internet access bill, it’s higher than it is in other countries and as close as West Dayton or Eastern Greene county- high speed access is hard to get.

When Mark Zuckerberg starts talking about a universal basic income, and is willing to create solar power drones to distribute internet in third world nations, we’ve got a whole new monarchy in place, we just don’t know it yet.

If everyone was connected, well informed, and well represented through a modern information based legislative system, maybe, there would be hope for us.

Hodge podge government, without an informed and empowered electorate, enables money in politics to divide and conquer.

But, for now, the old rule still applies, he who has the gold, makes the rules.

In an age of inequity- build a bigger palace

My facebook feed is full of photos of “The Main Event” – the semi-black tie party to show off the new Main Library downtown. Tickets sold out and were $150 each.

The sad thing is, this is probably the first time many of the party goers had been to the main library. For some, it may also be their last visit.

When I was a kid- visiting the library with my parents was at least a weekly event. In high school, it was a several times a week thing- not to socialize, but to do research to complete homework. It was the only game in town.

Now, I can’t imagine trying to do research in a library that would be more complete than what I can do from home. Any library worth its salt has digitized its assets, or is in the process of doing so.  Libraries now are more social spaces, bars for people who drink from the well of knowledge. To this extent, a grand palace isn’t necessary- need proof- I’ve learned lots at Pecha Kucha events in empty warehouses, on city streets and in really old buildings.

What is needed is access to information- not just through the library, but through all public records. Many of which are stored in ways as to actually hinder access. Need proof- go to the Montgomery County Board of Elections site and try to look up campaign finance reports. Now- try to do it with screen reader software as if you are blind. #FAIL (Proper structure would have you type in, or select from a drop down- with candidates name, or office, or election cycle- to filter the results, all results would be in a digital format that is ADA compliant.) To expand on the access to information theme- this week, Steve Balmer, former CEO of Microsoft, launched his new government data site to show where the money comes from and where it goes- – and without the internet, none of this would be possible.

The thing about libraries is they aren’t open 24/7/365- the internet- is always open.

Dayton is a city that has a real digital divide. Many in this community have to rely on a library to have internet access. For that- the grand palace is overkill. What would be better is small internet rooms sprinkled across the community- with librarians assisting the people in their search for jobs, benefits, training, etc. Or better yet- universal wifi. It’s been done in entire countries, so just covering the areas where people can’t afford it shouldn’t be too difficult.

When I posted the beginning of this post on Facebook, the responses were immediate and from both extremes. Some pissed about the palace, some defending libraries as the most important asset a community has- but, all missed the point about a palace having a party for the privileged while the hoi poloi looks in from the outside.

And of course, there were grumblings of the library serving as a homeless shelter as well.

Of course, what’s not mentioned: Dayton Public Schools barely has librarians or libraries left in their buildings. And, for the last four weeks- Miami Valley Hospital psychiatric ward is half closed thanks to a patient destroying the sprinklers- which may not seem connected until you realize that yes, the library is a place where the mentally ill find refuge.

There was also a question of when was the last time I was in the library- to which the answer is last week. Of course, it was getting a movie for mom, who along with Dad, were weekly visitors until the beginning of last year.

While Abe Lincoln was quoted as saying “All I have learned, I learned from books” – there are infinitely more things one can learn from the Internet. Sure, books are there, but so are tutorials, videos, podcasts, communities and more. Access to libraries can only get you so far- access to the Internet is even more empowering.

In a community where kids are given chrome books in school, but can’t take them home for fear of damage, where you have to sign up for a virtual school to be eligible for free internet access, where food insecurity, as well as extreme poverty still exists, I wonder how much less library we could have had to make access to information ubiquitous and free?

That would be something to have a party for.


A present for all Ohioans starting Jan 1, 2017

Maybe when you read about this in the Dayton Daily news next week, they may give credit to who broke this story for them. Hah.
Yesterday, there was a front page article about the Veterans Service Commission appointment– a full 6 days after I wrote about it and gave you all the documentation.

There was also an article about new laws on the books– but they missed this on- pushed by local state rep Jim Butler:

O.R.C. 5162.80 [Effective 1/1/2017] Good faith estimates for charges and payments.

(A) A provider of medical services licensed, accredited, or certified under Chapter 3721., 3727., 4715., 4725., 4731., 4732., 4734., 4747., 4753., 4755., 4757., or 4779. of the Revised Code shall provide in writing, before products, services, or procedures are provided, a reasonable, good-faith estimate of all of the following for the provider’s non-emergency products, services, or procedures:
(1) The amount the provider will charge the patient or the consumer’s health plan issuer for the product, service, or procedure;
(2) The amount the health plan issuer intends to pay for the product, service, or procedure;
(3) The difference, if any, that the consumer or other party responsible for the consumer’s care would be required to pay to the provider for the product, service, or procedure.

Source: Lawriter – ORC – 5162.80 [Effective 1/1/2017] Good faith estimates for charges and payments.

Imagine this- except in an emergency, hospitals and doctors who have already negotiated different prices with different insurance companies what to charge you for a procedure- will actually have to tell you in advance how much they will bill, how much the insurance will cover- and what you will be stuck with.

This gives you a way to shop for that appendectomy next time- if you can wait a few hours.

It costs nearly $6,000 more, on average, for an appendectomy in Dayton than it costs for the same procedure in Cincinnati, even though the cities are less than a hour’s drive from one another, according to a study released by the nonprofit Health Care Cost Institute.

The 2015 Health Care Cost and Utilization Report found vast disparities in the prices of medical procedures from city-to-city and state-to-state based on actual claims data from some of the nation’s largest health insurers.

While the average cost to have an appendix surgically removed in Dayton is $17,967, you can have the same procedure done in Cincinnati for $12,254, according to the report. Meanwhile, the average cost of an appendectomy in Columbus is $15,290.

Source: Medical costs vary sharply, study says

Of course, the hospital association- a powerful lobby in Columbus, is doing everything possible to stop this law from going into effect.


1pm Christmas day- oops, I missed it- they already filed a lawsuit and have an injunction banning the law from taking effect until Jan 20, 2017

In Dayton Ohio, we’re getting screwed. Between Premier Health and Kettering Health- we have a duopoly working together through their illegal trade association the Greater Dayton Area Health Assoication- GDAHA– to fix prices and drive competition away, while they force every private practice into their pockets.

In a universe, now far far away- this was called racketeering- and monopolization- and the federal government used to prosecute businesses that did this.

The simple solution is to start putting price controls in place on organizations that receive more than 40% of their revenue from federal or state funds- especially ones that claim non-profit status,  limiting payroll with a severe income tax. I’m sorry, running a hospital doesn’t entitle you to $4 million a year when the president of the United States only makes $400K a year.

Of course the first company to go into shock would be CareSource- which is a privatized way of using public dollars to provide health care- which could easily be solved with just expanding medicaid for all/Single Payer – and get on with it. I’ve yet to read a story about an insurance executive (or for that matter- a hospital executive) saving anyone’s life.

Forcing the posting of the true price of any service in the health care industry isn’t new, it’s just new to Ohio. We have laws about car repair quotes, we have laws about the shelf prices in grocery stores, and while having a good faith estimate in advance of care is a great start- what would be even better is requiring actual prices to be 100% posted online- allowing real cost comparisons, as well as stopping the illegal collusion between health care and insurers of creating different prices for the same procedure depending on the deal your insurer has worked out.

Even so- a big thanks to Rep. Butler for forcing at least this first step to health care transparency.


Ohio campaign finance and the A.D.A.

On Thursday, Oct 20, 2016 I made the journey to Columbus to throw myself at the mercy of the Ohio Elections Commission. The local Montgomery County Board of (S)Elections had turned me in for failure to file my 2014 annual campaign finance report. Only thing is, I didn’t run in 2014- or 2015, or collect more than $1000 either year.

But, that’s really just a moot point, since the whole system is really just a kangaroo court of fake transparency. Starting with this:

The Elections Commission holds regular meetings. The schedule of the Commission’s regularly scheduled meeting for 2016 is listed below. All meetings are held in the Riffe Center located at 77 South High Street, Columbus, OH 43215. Please contact the Commission staff for suite numbers for all meetings of the Elections Commission. As a scheduled agenda for a meeting is made available, Commission staff will do its best to post it below.

Source: Ohio Elections Commission

There isn’t a single agenda posted.

But, they were going to fine me $25 a day for every day I hadn’t filed- for both years, or some such. But, let’s talk about those filings, because I did. I recorded it for this blog- and to make a case for a lawsuit against Secretary of State Jon Husted for failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the filing and recording of campaign finance reports across the state of Ohio.

Now, why is the ADA so important? And why is this is a farce?

Because if public documents aren’t ADA compliant- ie- machine readable- they are also not google friendly. This means, PDF documents, filled out on a computer are the minimal standard. But, wait, said one of the commission members- what if you don’t have a computer? Seriously? In 2016- if you don’t have a computer, you shouldn’t be:

a) running for office
b) asking for campaign contributions

Secondly, it seemed that I wasn’t the only scofflaw that was naughty. On the agenda, that wasn’t posted, there were 38 others from Montgomery County- out of 67 statewide.

That should tell you something. And, many of them- are sitting in office right now.

Our local board of (s)election would rather play “Gotcha” than help people run for office. They’d also prefer it if, frankly, you didn’t run- because we can pick everyone ourselves between the party chiefs without voters to make it difficult- but, uh- that’s another matter.

I found it odd that while they had no problem filing against me for my 2014 annual- the organization shilling issue 9 didn’t file at all this year- “Neighborhoods for Dayton’s Future” weren’t in trouble- or being chastised. Why is that?

In reality, even if everyone files, all the stinking pre-election, post-election, bi-annual, annual, etc- with the board of (s)elections, there is still no easy way to quickly find or analyze any of it. You have to know what you are looking for because they are posted as scans of printed documents (sometimes handwritten) to the site

Where you have to know what year, what report, and then you can look down the list and download the non-ADA compliant report.

So when we hear that the Redflex traffic cam president is being hauled off to jail, for donating money to politicians to install her cameras with a nice split of ticket revenue, you’d have to go in and pull each and every politicians report, one-by-one, for days and weeks in order to find her name, or her  lobbyist ,John Raphael, donating to anyone.

Contrast that with the still pathetic, but workable Federal Elections Commission database (they have a new beta site that looks better) where you can search by donor, by candidate, by PAC and get reasonable data of all donors meeting the $250 threshold. Or, you can go over to use the more useful Open Secrets site that reformats and pivots the data so that it’s really useful.

To recap: The Ohio Secretary of State has crafted a whole bunch of reporting forms that make the IRS look like user experience design gods- with a slew of different, nonsensically named and numbered forms, that aren’t computer ready or database connected.

And, yes, I know there is a column called “Fillable PDF” but it really isn’t.

A true document designer would have a single PDF that walks you through questions, and lets the committee fill out each area that is needed, and the form does all the calculation and error checking. You’d fill out the candidates name once, his committee name once, his treasurer name once, and you would enter data in (or import it from a CSV file) for donors, or expenses, that would automatically fill in the fields, and step and repeat as needed until the document was complete- at which point you would click file- and it would electronically send the file to the BOE- and enter all the data into a searchable database. If this sounds like a website- it’s because, that’s really how it should be done- but, PDF’s were invented before the Internet as we now know it- and can do all of these functions also.

There is no need for 35 forms. Only insurance companies and Jon Husted could come up with something that insane for a basic accounting report.

Another problem is the idea of closing campaign committees to stop from having to file these stupid annual filings via document hell. Since the new post 9/11 banking rules took effect, the opening of campaign bank accounts, linking pay pal accounts and all the miscellaneous stuff behind a campaign is incredible difficult and a barrier to running. There should be a simple check box at the top of the site- “I didn’t run for office this year or receive more than $1000 in donations. I understand that if I receive more than $1000 or choose to run again, I will have to file a report of transactions for the years I didn’t run.” Simple. No one should care about these small money accounts being held open to pay for things like keeping a URL and website up.

And, if this is all built properly, the system would automatically send out emails letting you know that a filing deadline is coming up and that you should go see if you need to file. This isn’t rocket science. The fact that 38 people from Montgomery County missed their deadlines says something isn’t working.

Lastly, there are fines levied on people who don’t file. What difference does that make to someone who has raised tens of thousands or even millions? Not much. To the small campaigns- a lot. Is this really democratic? Or is it punitive? And, what about the sneaky PAC running issue 9? What do they care if they get fined- since they’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to pass their tax increase so public tax dollars can be doled out to private enterprises who are probably backing it?

How about this, if you don’t file, and you win, you lose and are banned from running for a year, or putting a similar issue back on the ballot instead of fines? If campaign finance is really about transparency and integrity, this makes more sense than the hand-slap, after the effort fine.

Of course, the OEC isn’t just taking care of finance reports, they are also the ones who go after people for having signs without the small disclaimer print, the mailings that go out at the last minute that slander people and throw elections etc.  All of which are window dressing on the system that is rigged for the 2 major parties to continue to have it their way or their way.

And while I don’t believe for one minute that our voting system is rigged the way the Donald claims it is, I do know the rules governing small campaigns are rigged to put as many obstacles in place as possible for free-thinkers to run.

If you’d like to hear my monologue to the OEC- here it is: