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- www.usafacts.org – 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.

UPDATE

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  http://www.mcohio.org/government/county_agencies/board_of_elections/candidate_tools_election_issues/CF_Reports/

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:

 

 

 

 

Killing cops: One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter

I left the US for Israel for a short trip, just after the police shootings in Dallas where 5 cops died at the hands of a black military veteran. I said on Facebook, that I never thought I’d say that I ever thought I’d feel safer in the Middle East than in the Midwest- but, here we are in 2016 and that’s what was on my mind.

In Israel, there are guns everywhere. Soldiers, male and female, with M-16’s slung around their necks- some of the girls in a uniform with a skirt even. The fully loaded clip is usually either attached to the butt or barrel of the weapon- with an elastic band, or some have them on their belts, on their back left side- often with a dummy cord attached.

Then you’ll see some with the clip in. I’ve yet to figure the rhyme or reason to who does what. It’s almost as if it’s a matter of personal preference. And it’s not only M16’s- it’s M203’s (an M16 with a grenade launcher), or the new Israeli weapon- the Tavor, a badass looking bullpup. Often, the weapons look well used, and have night sights. Even on guard duty- soldiers seem relaxed and at ease, sometimes playing with their phones, with head phones in. It’s a creepy casualness while under arms.

There are also people in civilian clothes- carrying a pistol- in the restaurants, next to the swimming pool. You have your bags inspected when going into a bus station. There are zig-zag checkpoints where they ask you to roll the windows down and look in the car.

On the Kibbutz, I asked what a block building with no windows was. “Bomb shelter” was the answer. They don’t use those as much anymore- since every house built since 1991 now is required to have a bomb shelter built in.

Along the highway, you may see a pillbox at a bend in the road, or a small fortress. Thin gun slits, reinforced roofs. Even going into a restaurant area, there is a guy with a shirt that says “Security” in English sitting next to a gate to get into the area. No gun visible, but probably within quick reach in the small gatehouse he’s leaning against.

The Communications Center of the Palestine Mobile Force (PMF) was located in this building. On April 25, 1947, Isaschar Huberman and Rahamim Abalak , two Lehi fighters posting as telephone repairman managed to drive a car bomb into the compound. It's denotation )sic) led to the destruction of the center and several casualties among the British Policemen."The first historical marker I came across when leaving the train station from the airport, in Tel Aviv said this:

The Communications Center of the Palestine Mobile Force (PMF) was located in this building. On April 25, 1947, Isaschar Huberman and Rahamim Abalak , two Lehi fighters posting as telephone repairman managed to drive a car bomb into the compound. It’s denotation )sic) led to the destruction of the center and several casualties among the British Policemen.”

With Dallas fresh on my mind- I took the photo. Thinking, this is the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter. A terrorist attacks civilians, a freedom fighter, attacks men in uniform- combatants.

And then here comes Baton Rouge. 3 officers killed.

Violence against the police, Mr. (Gov. John Bel) Edwards said, “doesn’t address any injustice, perceived or real.”

 He continued, “It is just an injustice in and of itself.”

Source: Baton Rouge Shooting Jolts a Nation on Edge

Yet, the shooter is quoted in the same NY Times article from his social media postings:

“One hundred percent of revolutions, of victims fighting their oppressors,” he said, “have been successful through fighting back, through bloodshed. Zero have been successful just over simply protesting. It doesn’t — it has never worked and it never will. You got to fight back. That’s the only way that a bully knows to quit.”

“You’ve got to stand on your rights, just like George Washington did, just like the other white rebels they celebrate and salute did,” he added. “That’s what Nat Turner did. That’s what Malcolm did. You got to stand, man. You got to sacrifice.”

Gavin Long, an African-American military veteran- alleged shooter of cops in Baton Rouge

Like it or not, police are the easiest targets and the people who have been doing the dirty work of a system that has gotten out of control. Our nation has been divided since the “War on Drugs” started – a lame excuse for imprisoning millions of people- mostly for being poor and black.

The real targets own the media, the banks, the wealth and control the system. A system that has profited wildly by distracting people from their true enemies. Sure- we can say Osama Bin Laden was a terrorist, but his targets were the scions of commerce, of the military industrial complex tasked to keep war a multi-billion dollar industry. A stock market rigged to allow a few to pilfer the savings and futures of an entire country.

Unfortunately, the police are just the pawns in the game, and so are the politicians.

And when you think about it- the rich have their own police forces, their own safe rooms, their gates, their security. The cops don’t. They are just sitting ducks. And soldiers coming back from an endless pointless war are taking up arms- but, it’s harder to kill a bank president than it is a cop.

Americans are about to go to vote for a new president holding their noses. A law passed against keeping the last true hero of the people prevents Obama from running for a third term. He’s far from perfect, but a better choice than either of the two leading contenders.

In Israel, much like the US- I talk to US citizens who have been here a long time- they aren’t worried about abortion, guns, or bathrooms- it’s about Israel- and they are more likely to vote for Trump than Hillary. Bernie, the only Jewish candidate, gets a thumbs down- because he wasn’t pro-Israel enough- as if he could have succeeded anywhere near what he did if he’d let his religion be front and center.

Right now our country needs to realize that the first shots of a revolution have been fired, and there will be more, until we stop trying to sugarcoat the misdeeds of a system that has created a permanent underclass, of people without hope, without power, except by the barrel of a gun.

One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter isn’t new.

We need to have a real discussion of what kind of America we want. Because what we have isn’t working for an awful lot of people, and in the last 2 weeks, some have taken up arms to send that message. It’s up to real leaders to acknowledge it and respond appropriately.

We have two choices: create a siege mentality, and set up security gates, ID Checks, and lose any semblance of the freedoms we swore allegiance to, or begin to level the playing field- putting the real criminals in prison and letting the pawns out.

Philandro Castile was the symbol, of a revolution. An everyday guy, who was loved in his little world, who had been systematically singled out by a society for little infractions, that turned into a death sentence. Meanwhile, the Wall Street criminals, who stole our pensions, our homes, our tax dollars and ruined the global economy- causing job losses and global instability- walk scott free.

It was never gun ownership that gave you freedom, it was what you do with one.

Gavin Long may think he’s a freedom fighter, but he missed the real targets.

We don’t need anymore police killed. Rome has been burning for a while. It’s time to take down the emperors, not their soldiers.

Measuring the wrong damn thing. Valuing the wrong measurements.

heisenberg-mesureI never got paid more for doing better on a standardized test- I got paid more for bringing unique solutions to the table.

When we hear people talking about running government like a business, most of the time, they are really trying to say “put some measurable, quantifiable metrics on government, so we can keep things under control.” Unfortunately, because most people are of average intelligence- when a Republican says “I’m for smaller government” that translates to “smaller means less to control” so it must be “better.”

Reform, be it school reform, government reform, health care, welfare reform, judicial reform all require an assessment of what the real objectives are, and how do we set meaningful measurements to work toward. In fact, to have a conversation about anything with large ramifications- the first question should always be “what is the right goal- and how do we quantify it.”

A long time ago, I read a business book with profound impact on my approach to solving business problems- “The Great Game of Business” by Jack Stack. It tells the story of a young MBA sent to a failing re-manufacturing plant that International was looking to close up. When Mr. Stack got there- he realized that no one knew the goal, or how score was kept. Kind of like trying to play football without understanding what a first down was, or how you scored. He decided that if the employees knew how the score was kept- profitability, they could all work to make sure the parts they rebuilt, were in fact valuable- i.e. the cost to make them, was less than the cost to sell them. This was “revolutionary” thinking. He taught everyone how to read a balance sheet, how to track costs, how to apply costs, and how to value their contribution. The story continues on how he and a group of managers, hocked their homes, bought the plant, and turned the business into an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan).

Guess what, our government was supposed to be an ESOP. We pay taxes, our investment, and we hire our managers, the politicians, and we’re supposed to get a return on our investment, but we all know this hasn’t been working out well- especially since we’ve seen the value of our votes diluted by our overly expensive system of picking our managers.

Bringing this down to the local level. I’ve spent a ton of time the last few months, working as an advocate to get services delivered to a veteran. I’ve tangled with the VA and their SSVF program, the Montgomery County Veterans Services Commission and a few people in between.

The measurements that we’re supposedly focused on in this country is slowing the rate of veterans committing suicide and making sure they aren’t homeless.

First question is that really what we should be measuring?

There’s a philosophy called expectancy theory- which says if you believe something to be the expected outcome, that’s what you get. I expect Dayton Public Schools to have a 35% drop out rate- so I’m going to focus on “Dropout prevention.” That’s what we’ve done. Maybe if we focused on making the diploma the goal for all, and looking in every available nook and cranny on how to make that diploma the most valuable and attainable goal, we’d do better?

How about working the system on veterans homelessness a different way? Maybe it’s cheaper to create a way for businesses to hire and support veterans with incentives- like having the government pick up the first $20,000 of tax liabilities on at risk veterans? Or working with veteran owned businesses to have a competitive advantage in hiring and protecting low functioning veterans? One thing about hiring a veteran- there is no health care costs, since they have coverage through the VA. We already know small businesses struggle with health care costs (because our system is broken) – so maybe offering to pay for a civilians health care costs for every at risk veteran you hire- giving them a two for one deal?

I’m not saying these are vetted solutions- but, they are a different approach to the problem.

With our local system, it took the MCVSC almost 10 days to issue a check for “emergency food assistance” – thanks to some help from Commissioner Debbie Lieberman, that’s not going to be the case anymore. It took longer for a food stamp card- and we still don’t have the “Obama Phone.” All these things that are mission critical to a successful transition from homeless to homed, are falling through the cracks of a system that is measuring the wrong things. Delivering food stamps to the veteran is the current measurement- but how fast isn’t. See the problem?

How does Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen measure the success of the economy to make decisions about interest rate hikes? She’s got a ton of complex data that she relies on. How do I? Look at gas prices. We do well when gas prices are low, since so many of us are car dependent to get to work. One veteran I work with is currently living on $238 a week take home. He lives in an apartment in Trotwood costing $485 a month, he drives to his job paying $14.02 in Lebanon (he pays $600 a month in child support). He’s facing eviction because he was cut off from SSVF for “making too much money” – and when you figure in food, utilities and gas money, you can see where a 50 cent swing per gallon of gas makes or breaks him each month. Janet Yellen doesn’t understand that. Nor do the government income guidelines.

The first objective in any problem solving is making sure you are using the right measurements and valuing the correct data.

This is what the point of “Moneyball” was in picking winners in pro sports. Measuring the wrong things doesn’t get you the right results.

I can think of lots of things we’re not tracking correctly, but I’d like to hear yours in the comments.

Feel free to talk about abandoned houses in Dayton, unemployment figures, heroin overdoses, or graduation rates. I’d like your 2 cents.

I’m David Esrati, and I don’t approve this message

David Esrati portrait 2016

I took my own mug shot.

It’s happened a lot recently. Randomly, I’ve connected with someone who said “Aren’t you David Esrati, I read your blog.” Not necessarily read it every post, but, have read it. One of my hockey teammates even said it was helpful to him when he looked for “Where to get Baklava in Dayton

A very pretty, sweet woman walked up to me, and said she was touched by the piece I wrote in the Dayton Daily news about the Kettering Ice Rink. When I asked her name, she said she was nobody- and only gave her first name.

A conversation in Kroger yesterday turned to politics, and I was asked again- am I done running? Right now, I’m running a business, taking care of elderly parents and 5 pieces of real estate, and then there is this book I’m neglecting right now. I’ve yet to see a whole bunch of people show up and say they want to help me run. I also had to hear again about how our County Auditor thought it was OK to make me the punchline at the Dems’ big fundraiser. It didn’t sit well with some of the people who buy tickets to these things because they lobby- not necessarily agree with the party and its politburo of friends and family.

Others tell me, you need to stay out of politics. Retire the blog. Just concentrate on your business. Make money.

But, then the brilliant minds at Cox- owners of the newspaper, a TV station they call “the leader” and a bunch of radio stations- decide to can 27 people in copy editing- and hand it over to some farm team. I’m the son of a copy editor- and know how important it is that the people editing the people reporting the news actually know the city, the people, the players and even the pronunciations of street names, and if it’s a council or a commission- and if the mayor can vote or not on an issue. I guess their buy-one-give-away-five subscription plan failed to boost eyeballs- like everything else they do- other than give us better quality content- meaningful content.

This Tuesday is the most important primary I think I can ever remember in my lifetime, and could be one of the most pivotal in our country’s history. In a country where less than half the people vote- and less than half of those vote in primaries, we let a very few people chart our course, while we all bitch about the outcomes.

I get pissed when I get an email from the Montgomery County Democratic Party, of which I’m a member and on the central committee- telling me to vote for Hillary. I don’t recall a vote at any meeting where we decided whom to endorse.

You should get pissed too when people tell you who to vote for. But, you should get even more pissed when people just don’t vote. To think Nan Whaley was elected by such a small proportion of our population- is testament to how screwed up our system has become.

Everything I’ve done with the close to 2,500 posts I’ve published here- is to try to make people think, to engage, to make them more aware of what, who, and why our city is where it is today. Tuesday, you can do your part to set a course for our country’s future.

And, I’m not going to tell you who to vote for. But, for me- the only two candidates I’m sure of are Bernie Sanders and PG Sittenfeld. I just wish I had other choices in other races- and knew that I wasn’t going to be one of a small number of people setting the course of this next election.

And, while I can think of other things to do, instead of writing this blog- I can’t imagine living in a city where the only source of news and insight is coming from one place run by imbeciles.

Love or hate me, I am my father’s son. He, with the master’s degree in Political Science- and the knack for language, and the many years of reporting real news, and teaching his son the importance of checks and balances provided by the “fourth estate.” Today, the old man turned 89, and he’ll still find something to fix in this post after I finish.

Happy birthday pops.

The $20,000 house problem solution

Yes, you can buy a house for under $20,000 in Dayton. I bought three of them.

The problem is that our system isn’t set up for buying $20,000 homes. In fact, banks don’t want to give loans on them, insurance companies don’t want to insure them, and for the most part, people don’t want to live near them- for fear their “comps” will be brought down- devaluing their home.

And I’m talking about the homes that are habitable- not shells, waiting for demolition.

The city is backed up with a demolition list that will never get cleared. We’re spending an average of $11,000 to tear each one down- with no real return on that investment. It’s money down the drain.

In the meantime, we’re giving incentives to build new units to people like Sims Development, and Crawford Hoying, to build more housing. Desirable, “market rate” housing. The problem is- our population is stagnant and declining- not just Dayton proper, not just Montgomery County- but the entire state of Ohio. We’ve lost congressional seats because of it.

What happens when you add housing inventory when you have declining population? Simple rules of supply and demand apply- housing inventory loses value, market gets flooded. The other problem is that the inventory isn’t exactly lining up with the demand. Poverty isn’t decreasing- but the supply of low-income housing is decreasing as subsidies have been cut. Numbers of jobs that can afford to support a normal mortgage have decreased, young college-educated home buyers are already carrying significant college debt. If this sounds like the setup for another economic collapse based on a screwed up housing market, you’re paying attention.

A simple solution

Currently, one of the economic measurement tools that economists love to bandy about is “new home starts.” A strong construction market is considered a jobs stimulator, since the construction industry is still considered a low-tech, blue-collar employment engine- i.e., you don’t need a college degree or even a high school education in their minds to build homes. The reality is you don’t even have to be an American anymore to build homes- with immigrant labor owning the roofing, sheet rocking and masonry work forces for most building developments. That’s both illegal and legal immigrants by the way

What is missed is the effect on supply.

What Ohio should do is put a moratorium on new unit construction unless the state has an increase in population exceeding 2% annually. The only way to build new units, is to buy up and demolish old units with a ratio of one structure for every 2,500 square feet of new construction. The “structure” definition could be variable based on location- more on this later. While this would add approximately $10,000 to the cost of each normal sized new building, it decreases inventory and in the end helps drive up property values.

The worst homes would be demolished first, and the values of marginal homes would rise as new construction credits rise. This would help low-income people recapture some of the value sucked out of their neighborhoods by the foreclosure crisis. It would also stop government from diverting money for services to making empty lots.

Along with the demolition credits, the state could issue credits to rehabbers- for taking old buildings and renovating them- effectively incentivizing rehab. The credits for rehab- would be at double the rate of demolition- i.e., rehab 2,500 square feet, get to sell the equivalent credits of 5,000 square feet of new construction. Why this incentive? Because rehabbing old infrastructure and bringing it back online, doesn’t require government to run new water and sewer lines, nor does it require adding police patrol areas- or, even in the case of infill new construction that wouldn’t require these either- it doesn’t fill up a landfill with demolition debris. It also makes it more affordable for rehab which often has higher costs due to compliance with new construction code .

Incentives can be placed by changing the credit awards structure- with some neighborhoods getting double credits for demolition, and others, fractional credits. Same can go for rehab projects.

Even as population begins to grow- the credit system can be kept in place based on where you are building. Any place where new utilities or infrastructure is required- would continue to require trade credits- infill to existing developments, no. If your county isn’t growing in population, swaps will still be required.

This system is sort of in-place with Historic Tax Credits- but generally is only used on large-scale development. The idea of this new system is to force value back into the worst communities where developers haven’t gone because of the policies of banks and insurance companies.

Do you have a better idea?

The cost of stupid

There used to be a time when facts presented without empirical evidence weren’t called facts. Now, we’re inundated with unsubstantiated statements that are shared and talked about – without paying any attention to the source, validity, or even common sense.

It’s a world gone mad.

Or it’s just entropy on steroids.

The arguments against gun control in this country make no sense. People actually believe you are safer if everyone had a gun. Seriously.

People believe that our health care system is the best in the world, yet every other industrialized country with universal health care has better medical outcomes and longer life expectancy.

The costs of a college education have skyrocketed in the last 25 years, while a motivated individual with a computer and an internet connection can self teach almost anything. Pay for college graduates has stagnated or dropped.

We believe our “Democracy” and “Democratic system” to be the model of government- yet, it’s become clearly evident that “pay to play” is the de facto standard- and legislation is bought and sold like a commodity. I remember being taught about the inefficiencies of doing business in countries like Russia when bribes were the norm- as if that never happened here (and I believed that).

America still proudly proclaims itself the “land of the free” when facts say we imprison more of our population than anywhere else. Sure, we don’t run Gulags or Concentration Camps, but, why is it that our prisons are filled with poor minorities. Also, we seem to have a serious problem with killing people without judge or jury in the name of justice. Isn’t that what happens in third world banana republics? Not at Walmart in Beavercreek?

There was a time in history when insanely bright people were respected and consulted. Leaders were chosen for their integrity, intelligence, and track record. Now, it’s more like a popularity contest where your Q-score counts almost as much as your bankroll. Climate change scientists are routinely called heretics by people with zero scientific training.

Speaking of scores, we’ve been going round and round with what testing tool is appropriate to judge student achievement on something we now call the “common core.” There is a different educational strategy coming out daily. Hell, I even have one or two of my own. Yet, when you look at the evidence, one factor determines educational outcomes in the United States more than any other- poverty. Yet, fixing that one would require a shift in wealth distribution- and that just isn’t “the American way.” We continue with the fallacy that poor kids have a chance to make it in the NBA, or become a rapper- when the odds are way better that they get shot, imprisoned or become just another poor family.

When we talk about selecting our next president, we don’t even realize that the system doesn’t provide for a way for a single office holder to really change anything in our system- he needs a whole network of elected helpers to make things happen. So even if we elect Trump or Sanders- neither, will have the votes to make the changes they promise. The system was designed that way. It hasn’t changed, even with all the corrupting influences.

And of course, this post is full of unsubstantiated statements presented as facts- because, well, you know, the academic rigor it would take to find, evaluate and cite would take too long, and I’m intellectually lazy.

But, you know I’m right. Right?

Our future rests in the hands of people who believe that if they saw it on Facebook- it must be true.

The costs of ignorance are high. It affects us in so many different ways. Fundamentally, our democracy relies on an educated and informed electorate, yet we now know that’s been tossed out the window. What else is left?

More and more, George Orwell had it right in both “Animal Farm” and “1984”- and we’ve done nothing to stop it. Both of these books were required reading for me in high school. I wonder if they are still being taught- or only to rich kids?

When we look at the cost of incarceration, of social systems to support our underclass, of the checks and balances like Title IX or Equal Opportunity lending, or quotas and all the systems put in place to shore up a house of cards built on trust in government and our economy and our social structures- there is only one real investment that fixes so much of it- smarter constituents.

Only when we have an enlightened electorate will we see the change that makes sense, that is definable, substantiated, and effective. Fixing our education system has to be our first priority if we ever hope to tackle the rest.

 

 

 

Republicans making sense…

If you listen to the “debates” of those who want to be our president, you hear a lot of banter. You hear a lot of he said/she said. You hear things that are pulled out of their rear ends for shock and awe and front-page headlines. Very rarely, with the exception of Bernie Sanders, do you hear a case being presented for solutions that challenge the way we think or should think about issues.

I had a hard time accepting Arnold Schwarzenegger as a serious candidate for governor of California for all the wrong reasons. Just having a high Q-score should not a candidate make, but read this post he had on Facebook- and see if it makes sense to you. He reframes the discussion of renewable energy, dependence on fossil fuels in a way that even a moron should understand, and for that, he deserves a gold star.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

I don’t give a **** if we agree about climate change.

December 7 · Public I see your questions. Each and every time I post on my Facebook page or tweet about my crusade for a clean energy future, I see them. There are always a few of you, asking why we should care about the temperature rising, or questioning the science of climate change. I want you to know that I hear you. Even those of you who say renewable energy is a conspiracy. Even those who say climate change is a hoax.

Even those of you who use four letter words.
I’ve heard all of your questions, and now I have three questions for you.
Let’s put climate change aside for a minute. In fact, let’s assume you’re right.
First – do you believe it is acceptable that 7 million people die every year from pollution? That’s more than murders, suicides, and car accidents – combined.
Every day, 19,000 people die from pollution from fossil fuels. Do you accept those deaths? Do you accept that children all over the world have to grow up breathing with inhalers?
Now, my second question: do you believe coal and oil will be the fuels of the future?
Besides the fact that fossil fuels destroy our lungs, everyone agrees that eventually they will run out. What’s your plan then?
I, personally, want a plan. I don’t want to be like the last horse and buggy salesman who was holding out as cars took over the roads. I don’t want to be the last investor in Blockbuster as Netflix emerged. That’s exactly what is going to happen to fossil fuels.
A clean energy future is a wise investment, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either wrong, or lying. Either way, I wouldn’t take their investment advice.
Renewable energy is great for the economy, and you don’t have to take my word for it. California has some of the most revolutionary environmental laws in the United States, we get 40% of our power from renewables, and we are 40% more energy efficient than the rest of the country. We were an early-adopter of a clean energy future.
Our economy has not suffered. In fact, our economy in California is growing faster than the U.S. economy. We lead the nation in manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, entertainment, high tech, biotech, and, of course, green tech.
I have a final question, and it will take some imagination.
There are two doors. Behind Door Number One is a completely sealed room, with a regular, gasoline-fueled car. Behind Door Number Two is an identical, completely sealed room, with an electric car. Both engines are running full blast.
I want you to pick a door to open, and enter the room and shut the door behind you. You have to stay in the room you choose for one hour. You cannot turn off the engine. You do not get a gas mask.
I’m guessing you chose the Door Number Two, with the electric car, right? Door number one is a fatal choice – who would ever want to breathe those fumes?
This is the choice the world is making right now.
To use one of the four-letter words all of you commenters love, I don’t give a damn if you believe in climate change. I couldn’t care less if you’re concerned about temperatures rising or melting glaciers. It doesn’t matter to me which of us is right about the science.
I just hope that you’ll join me in opening Door Number Two, to a smarter, cleaner, healthier, more profitable energy future.

Source: I don’t give a **** if we agree about climate change.

I got the lead on this from subscribing to Seth Godin’s blog. I find it a nice daily reminder that there are other intelligent people out there questioning the status quo.

Now, does my “Walk to work tax credit” sound sensible to you?