The Montgomery County Democratic Party eats its own

Democratic Slate card 2010 PDF

Strahorn, Foley and Keith think they are more important than Fisher, Roberts and Coussoule

Strahorn, Foley and Keith think they are more important than Fisher, Roberts and Coussoule

The Ohio “Democratic Party” is distributing a voting slate card (dummy voter card) that prominently features local party hack Vice Chairman Karl Keith on the front with Governor Ted Strickland, but entirely leaves out Strickland’s former lieutenant governor Lee Fisher who is running for the open senatorial seat vacated by Republican George Voinovich.  Or the two congressional candidates, Joe Roberts for Ohio 3 and Justin Coussoule in Ohio 8.

Does this mean they don’t care if right-wing Republican Rob Portman wins the seat? We know they don’t care if Turner returns- never having given him serious opposition.

When I first posted this, I was quickly chastised for not knowing the rules of funding federal candidates, since the local party doesn’t have a Federal PAC, they can’t list the federal candidates without them paying pro-rata share. I took the post down. I have since been informed that the party used to get around this by “having the state party pay for it out of their federal PAC” – and since this piece says it was paid for by the state party- it means either the state party doesn’t think it worth it to support Fisher, Roberts or Coussoule- or are there are other reasons?

The Democratic Slate card missing congressional candidates

Federal candidates be damned. We're all about the monarchy of Montgomery County

Fisher’s point person in the County is none other than Dayton City Commissioner Nan Whaley, a dilettante who believes herself to be a debutante. Considering that local party chairman Mark Owens and Vice Chairman Karl Keith worry more about their re-elections than pushing a true Democratic ticket, it may be the reason this piece puts a county auditor’s mug shot on the front instead of the Senate candidate.

Rob Portman’s election to the Senate is far more dangerous to all Dems in the county – with his likely vote against universal health care or troop withdrawals from Afghanistan. Karl Keith losing to Harry Bossey as auditor has zero import in the grand scheme of things.

As a reminder, these people vote, and will be out in force on Tuesday- should they have their way because the Ohio Democratic Party can’t get its act together?

Let’s go one step further- could it be that given that both Fisher and Roberts are Jewish- is the local party anti-Semitic? Because they can’t pronounce Coussoule – do they not figure a way to put his name on too? Or is it that he “ain’t from around here” that disqualifies him?

The Montgomery County Democratic Party has some serious explaining to do.

It’s time to hold the people at the Montgomery County Democratic Party liable for their ineptitude- and let’s start with the three on the front of this piece with Governor Ted.

For putting Strahorn, Foley and Keith on the front- while leaving off key national positions, these three don’t deserve re-election.

Vote for Bill Beagle (R) for Ohio Senate instead of Fred Strahorn. Strahorn is a nice guy who has been playing political musical chairs to become a lifetime politician. Vacating one’s seat early so the party can slide in another candidate is a practice that should be made illegal. If you step down from a seat, you shouldn’t be able to serve in any other elected position until your full term expires.

Vote for Jan Kelly (R) for County Commissioner instead of Dan Foley. Another nice guy, but one who hasn’t taken any responsibility or action against Ms. Feldman for the many financial scandals in the county. He’s a consummate cover-his-ass-politically instead of doing the right thing. He has been a weak voice among three weak commissioners, failing to pull all the communities into the regional dispatch plan and some would say, as the former County Clerk, he should have caught the exorbitant pay to the sheriffs appraisers. He is also a son of a judge, and has been given preferential treatment by the party since high school. A true blue-blood of the Montgomery County Monarchy, it’s time that he experienced at least ten minutes of employment in the private sector- and not for some company like DP&L as their “community affairs” person.

Vote for Harry Bossey (R) for county Auditor (hopefully, he won’t put his picture as the favicon for the county like Keith does). In the grand scheme of things who the auditor is really doesn’t matter much more than who is elected to  the coroner or the clerk of courts positions. These are elected positions only because Ohio is a back-assward state that has been unable to reform and control government bureaucracy. What is essential here is that Bossey may not turn the auditor’s office into a patronage platform the way he has. Mr. Nan Whaley, Sam Braun, might have to find a real job if Bossey beats Keith. Keith is another governmental lifer who doesn’t have a lick of private-sector experience on his vitae.

No matter what in the choice between Strickland and Kasich, there is no question that Strickland is the better candidate, regardless of the stupidity of the local and state party.

It’s time the local Democratic Party started to act like Democrats instead of a spoiled little bunch of political hacks who’ve enjoyed strong union support for years- giving them the upper hand.

Now, with GM closed- the remaining unions of strength are mostly on government payrolls. Teachers, trash collectors and transit workers might not tolerate this kind of blatant misuse of funds and misrepresentation of the Democratic Party. Time will tell.

Roberts gets outed as clueless hack

I’ll now officially be voting for no one in the race I vacated. Had a Libertarian, a Green, a Socialist- a pumpkin party candidate ran for Congress in OH-3, they would have got my vote, but given the choice between Mike Turner and Joe Roberts, I’d prefer to sit this one out.

With as many things to go after Turner for- Roberts, in his 25-year old wisdom, thinks that calling Turner “No friend of the Jewish people” is a campaign platform. Never mind Turner and his wife should be in prison for their corrupt contractual behavior with the Dayton Development Coalition, Roberts wants to resort to name calling- from the Dayton Jewish Observer:

On Sept. 22, more than 150 members of the local Jewish community received an e-mail with the banner, “Turner is no friend of the Jewish people.”

Two paragraphs down is the statement, “Click here to fight anti-semitism today!” with a direct link to the Joe Roberts for Congress Contribution Form.

Roberts, who identifies as Jewish, is the underdog Democratic challenger to U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, now running for his fifth term representing Ohio’s Third Congressional District.

The Anti-Defamation League has sent Roberts a private letter of concern about his campaign’s e-mail. Roberts says he regrets that his campaign sent the e-mail but thinks “the message of the e-mail is true.”

According to Roberts, someone with his finance staff sent out the e-mail to a list of 150-180 members of the Dayton Jewish community; Roberts says he only found out the e-mail had been sent when one recipient e-mailed him in response.

via Roberts campaign smears Turner, October 15, 2010.

The Observer has the complete text of the Roberts e-mail. Considering that the paper has refused to mention any of my candidacies in its publication over the years, that it broke this story right before election day says something. Roberts has just joined Republican  Josh Mandel in the sleazy Jewish candidates club.

From my experiences with Mr. Roberts, through the League of Women voters forum (which I posted on YouTube for all to see) to the Dayton Daily editorial interview (which I posted online) Roberts foreshadowed what would be a desperate campaign- by sounding like a rhetoric machine. His job was to be a sacrificial lamb- all he had to do was stick to facts about Turner’s inadequacies- and hope for Turner to make a mistake. He wasn’t going to win- no matter how much money he had- but he could have at least seem like a reasonable alternative for those of us who don’t like Turner. Now even that is gone.

With zero money, and a hopeless campaign- trying to blame his “staff” for sending out a letter like this, instead of taking the responsibility himself, is the ultimate #FAIL in my eyes.

I don’t need a new congressman who can’t say “I screwed up” any more than I need the current screw up.

All praise chairman McLin!

McLin, Mao, Stalin, Saddam- all worthy of huge murals to be posted in prominent places for the people to be reminded of their greatness. NOT.

Tile mosaic mural of former Mayor Rhine McLin at Dayton International Airport

Chairman McLin watches over us

I’m not sure when this large tile mosaic went up at Dayton “International” Airport, but I find it personally objectionable on many levels.

I asked on Facebook (where this got a lot of commentary) how much was spent on this monstrosity- to which one friend said it was donated.

Others were also appalled that this image is representing Dayton- instead of a photograph of our skyline (reader and photo ace Jim Crotty volunteered one of his photos).

Many were thankful that she wasn’t wearing her “goofy glasses” or a hat- but, beside that- I find any public display of politicians’ names and likenesses an affront to the taxpayers and have said so previously. In my post “Ban political signs at taxpayer expense” back in 2007, I suggested that all use of candidates’ names- from the stickers on the gas pumps, to the letterhead for the County Treasurer to the “Welcome to Ohio, John Doe, Governor” should be paid for out of the candidates’ campaign funds.

I don’t like it when Karl Keith makes his face the favicon for the County Website, either. He should be charged per page view, just like any other online advertising.

But most importantly, although I was mocked by the Dayton Daily News editorial board for suggesting it, the airport is a regional asset, not a Dayton one, and should be governed and paid for by the entire region. Putting the former mayor’s image up instead of a “Welcome to Dayton,” “Get Midwest” or “H2Open for Business” sign- is a colossal lost opportunity.

The airport has back-lit billboards for business as revenue generators throughout the building- how much revenue is lost from this prime location?

If McLin’s friends want to hang a portrait of her, do it in a building that you pay for and own- not one that’s owned by the taxpayers. We voted her out of office for a reason. Get used to it.

If this monstrosity isn’t down in a week, it’s time for a criminal investigation. Free campaign signs for her next election attempt shuld NOT be on public property.

Bad PR is worse due to bad advice.

Wednesday morning, a straight F student (#FAIL #1) brings a gun to Thurgood Marshall High School. Somehow, he gets it past security (#FAIL #2), and is in school for less than ten minutes before they come and arrest him (#WIN #1- but, who’s counting). No one from DPS PR or their hired PR Firm from Cleveland, Burges & Burges shows up at the school with an action plan (#FAIL #3). School goes on with minimal disruption (#WIN #2) and the next day, Thursday- attendance is 93% (#WIN #3 since this is about average). Story hits Dayton Daily News site on Thursday with no comment from DPS (#FAIL #4). Public now thinks that Thurgood Marshall is gangland (#FAIL #5) and that you can get a gun in school (#FAIL #6).

The Dayton Daily spins the story that this is serious (#FAIL #7) and trots out the comparisons between districts- showing DPS has more instances than other districts (#FAIL #8) and reinforces the idea that DPS isn’t as safe as other districts (#FAIL #9) – instead of having anything positive to say about TM, like it’s 2 Gates scholars, athletic accomplishments, improving test scores, wins at the science fair… etc (#FAIL #10) or noting that DPS is also many times larger than other districts (#FAIL #11).

From the Dayton Daily:

A Thurgood Marshall High School student will likely face expulsion and criminal charges after police said he brought an unloaded handgun to school Wednesday to sell to classmates.

The arrest highlights a broader issue of students deciding to bring weapons to school despite the inherent dangers.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, at least 208 students statewide were expelled or suspended last school year for possessing or using a gun. According to the state, 2,750 were disciplined for bringing other types of weapons to school.

On Wednesday, resource officers at Thurgood Marshall were told that a student smuggled in a gun even though he was searched by security when he entered the building, according to a Dayton police report. The student told authorities he gave the gun to a girl, who hid it in her bag. (esrati: the girl should also be suspended)

The student — whose age and class rank were not disclosed — almost dropped the weapon in the classroom, and several other students saw the weapon, according to police. He talked with at least two other students about selling it to them.

When questioned by police, the student said he was affiliated with two local gangs and bought the weapon from a man who sells them in his neighborhood. Dayton school officials and police could not be reached for comment.

Dayton Public Schools disciplined 12 students in the 2009-10 school year for bringing weapons to school — none of which was a gun, according to the district’s annual state report card.

The district expelled 10 students the previous year for the same violation.

According to state reports, most districts in the Miami Valley did not report any incidents of students being caught with weapons last year.

Oakwood City Schools has expelled only one student since fall 2007 for bringing a weapon to school, officials said.

The Springboro school district said no students have been expelled in at least the last four years for carrying weapons.

Huber Heights City Schools expelled a student this year for hitting another student with a wooden stick the expelled student brought to school.

via Teen brings unloaded handgun to school to sell.

As most of you know, I am a friend of Thurgood Marshall’s principal, and had him on video on this site recently. I know that Thurgood Marshall is not some sort of urban jungle- and that learning is taking place in the building. The fact that students came to Principal Lawrence immediately to warn him about the gun in his building shows that he has the building under control.

The questions that need to be asked are:

  • Why was a straight F student still attending Thurgood Marshall, dragging the rest of the school down? Why do we not have an alternative school (perhaps a boarding school) to deal with children who are not participating with the mainstream?
  • How did the gun get past security?
  • Why does DPS still have a PR chief who’s response is “no response”- and why is her support being delivered by a PR firm in Cleveland on a no-bid contract?

There are positive things going on at Thurgood Marshall High School- but thanks to the lousy PR department, you’d never know about them. This was a chance to use a negative and turn it into a positive.

I’ve tried to talk to our superintendent, school board members, and the PR chief (who is proud to have “served” under 11 different superintendents) about how to turn the system around- unfortunately, they prefer to hire a political consultant in Cleveland.

This kind of negative pr hurts home values in Dayton, it hurts our kids’ reputation across the region, and it helps reinforce the idea that DPS schools are a district of last resort. This story would have spun differently if it was at Oakwood or Centerville- or even at Stivers. But, inaction isn’t an appropriate response, and those that fail us all, should be held accountable.

Human Services levy needs conditions

It’s time to have a very frank discussion of this whole integrated county human services levy- and where the money goes.

Yes, we need to provide human services- but, when much of the work is subcontracted out to “non-profits” – it’s time to redefine what a “non-profit” is- and I’m going to say that neither CareSource or Kettering Health Network or Premier Health Partners should be eligible to receive any funding until they put pay restrictions on top management- or start paying property taxes like every other business

Would you spend $150K to get back $5.9 million in revenue? Of course you would- and where is that money coming from? The taxpayers. Note, the executives of just two of the above organizations take home over $7 million a year in income.

From the DDN article:

Much of the $523,915 spent to promote passage of the Montgomery County Human Services Levy (Issue 9) came from organizations that will benefit from passage of the tax issue on the Nov. 2 ballot.

The single largest contributor, The Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association, gave $150,000 to the levy campaign.

Member hospitals share $5.9 million in levy funds annually. That money goes toward the $170 million hospitals collectively incur providing services to the poor, said Bryan Bucklew, president and CEO of the association.

The levy also funds programs for children, the frail elderly, along with people with metal health and addiction issues. Bucklew said without the levy funds “many more people would end up at a hospital.”

Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Services served an estimated 20,000 children and adults in 2009 with $26.8 million in levy funds via agencies such as DayMont Behavioral Health Care, Inc.; Eastway Corporation; Samaritan Behavioral Health Inc. and South Community Inc. Those agencies combined donated $38,760 to the campaign.

via Big Human Services levy donors would benefit from passage.

Is it time to bid these services out? Would the VA health system be a better vendor? Or a county-run free clinic system? Somewhere along the line we need to stop transferring money from the people as taxes to companies that see fit to engage in unfair discriminatory trade practices- like charging lower rates to those with insurance and higher to those without.

I have no problem on paying to help keep our community healthy- I just would feel better if we weren’t being manipulated by large, extremely profitable businesses pretending to be non-profit good guys.

I’ll probably vote for this levy- but, hope that before the next one- voters have required any organization that receives funding to have fair trade policies in place and is not paying any more than a 10-1 ratio for executives to line workers- which should be required for them to claim non-profit status. It’s time that fake non-profits had to pay property taxes too.

The latest ruling that says charter schools have to pay property taxes while public schools don’t- should be the first hint that these large organizations need to be reigned in.

Further reading- who is getting and spending the campaign cash?

The latest campaign finance reports filed Oct. 21, showed the Human Services Levy Campaign had total monetary contributions of $537,096, with a previous balance of $229,854. Nearly $525,000 has already been spent on the 2010 campaign.

The greatest expense: television advertising. Payment of $333,710 went to Dayton-based, Penny Ohlmann Neiman, Inc. for television and magazine ads. It was a Cleveland-based company, Burges and Burges Strategist Inc., who laid out the campaign strategy. The company received payment of $42,184 for their services, then gifted $2,000 back to the campaign.

via Human services levy campaign costly.

Note- this “team” of Burges and Burges along with Penny Ohlmann Neiman seems to almost always get this type of work in town. It never seems to be competitively bid- and why is a Cleveland firm engaged to plan how to sell to Daytonians? Burges also has the no-bid contract with the Dayton Public Schools- how’s their image changed to you?

Public boarding schools? Better teachers? “Waiting for Superman”

In about a week, Dayton will join the rest of the country in being able to see the documentary “Waiting for Superman.” I couldn’t wait, so I left town to see it early.

It’s already been mentioned on the site, the DDN has already written an editorial about it and one of the “stars” – Geoffrey Canada, is coming to speak at UD in January.

While we don’t have lotteries for charter schools in Dayton, we do have a lottery in our kids’ graduation rates- and I’m not just talking about Dayton proper- it’s a number that has zero meaning because we don’t have a way to track kids from birth to graduation nationally- a national student ID number so to speak.

At what point do you consider a kid belonging to one district or another?

One of the realities of urban districts is that the kids are more mobile- moving more frequently- changing schools etc. This, along with economic status, is one of the two key indicators for graduation rates- and the kids do not measure up to either of them.

In my last post I asked if “orphanages” were what’s missing to put some of these kids back on track- and maybe, I just had the terminology wrong-maybe the answer is public boarding schools- like one of the example charters in the movie.

We don’t seem to have a problem providing post-graduate boarding schools for problem children- prisons, which are at least three times more expensive than what we would spend on solving the problems earlier.

The movie goes to great lengths to blame the teachers’ unions and tenure as the biggest stumbling blocks to improving educational outcomes. There is no doubt that bad teachers don’t teach, and somehow, bad teachers don’t get fired. An example from the movie showed where a school gave a student a concealed video camera over twenty years ago- and was unable to fire teachers caught on video not doing their jobs. This is nothing new- I took a photo in my junior year of high school of a horrible teacher, Liz Russo, sleeping in class. We published it in the yearbook- in the back of the book- behind the index- so the administration might not hang us out for it- but it was well known she wasn’t fit to teach- but was allowed to muddle on for years.

We all know at least one amazing teacher. I was lucky enough to have quite a few- (even though I didn’t know who they all were when I had them). The value they gave me far exceeded at least 5 of the ones I don’t remember- yet they were all paid the same.

The idea of pay for performance is a reality in the rest of the working world- and it would seem, it’s overdue in public education. DC Superintendent Michelle Rhee tried to bring it to a vote in DC and failed, and ended up out of a job as well.

Our school year is already one of the shortest in the industrialized world, and our ability to produce the workers of tomorrow is already in question.

The question is- how long will we continue to do the same thing- and expect a different result? We can all just keep waiting for Superman too.

Maybe orphanages weren’t such a bad idea after all.

I’ve been invited to sit on the advisory board for Mound Street Academy. It’s a charter school that is dedicated to giving drop-outs a chance to go back to school and graduate. Students range from 16 to 22, and reading skills from grade 1 to 13.

The building feels more like an office cubicle farm- and the students work at their own pace through online modules, with support and supervision by the staff.

Teachers shared stories of what it takes to get these kids back in school. Most are from single-parent households- and some, from no-parent households. A girl, 17, was basically couch surfing to live. All the students know violence and the prison system- while you or I may open the paper to the sports page first, these kids go to the obituaries and the Miami Valley’s Most Wanted – to see who they know who’s dead or locked up. Many of the kids have mental health issues as well- and who can blame them? These are generational conditions that create a cycle that’s hard to break.

Somehow, the school is managing to graduate these kids, with an emphasis on career prep and introducing them to Sinclair Community College.

Listening to these stories made me wonder how we’ve come to this?

Before Ronald Reagan shut down the mental health system in this country- and we moved from institutional based care to private placement, through foster homes, we used to have orphanages. The Ohio Children’s Home in Xenia used to serve thousands of kids- but now is a Christian Sports Center.

A friend of mine, who is much older and wiser- grew up there. He went on to letter in sports at Miami University and then a long career with the post office. In fact, he used to deliver to my neighborhood. He, and his five siblings, were in and out of the orphanage based on his mother’s ability to care for the kids. He didn’t hold it against her when she couldn’t cope- it was just the way it worked.

He has good memories of that place- which was a safe environment for kids. There was a special bond between the kids as well- all having escaped bad home situations into a protected environment.

I wonder if the solution we should be looking for, isn’t more like an orphanage than a bigger juvenile jail, or more charter schools? Boarding schools may be a real way to break the cycle.

If you drive by the Glen at St. Joseph center in the Twin Towers neighborhood- which is funded in part by the Mathile Family Foundation, you may have a totally different view of what a residential educational facility can look like.

You must be crazy- to invest in Dayton

It seems that there is a court that isn’t recognized publicly in Dayton, Ohio, “Development Court.”

All who wish to buy or sell property must come before this secret tribunal and kiss someone’s ring, before being allowed to be a “developer” in Dayton- or you will mocked in the pages of the Dayton Daily.

Midland Atlantic was the “preferred developer” for the Wayne and Wyoming street Kroger- being given millions of dollars of tax support in pursuit of a project that Midland didn’t have to commit a single promissory penny to. When they pulled out, leaving the city holding the bag with millions in options, appraisals and wasted time- no one crawled up their arse with a microscope- nor was Kroger asked to pay up for the goose chase.

Now we have a local (Yellow Springs- which of course makes him a suspected barefoot hippie commie lover) investor who has a grand vision of something that doesn’t fit inside the very small box drawn by the very small minds at City Hall.

Immediately the Dayton Daily News does a hatchet job on Mr. Llewellyn, pulling up every lawsuit that he’s ever been involved in (which it would seem he was never on the losing end of):

Earlier this year, Llewellyn, who still lives in Yellow Springs, incorporated another company, East Success Property and Entertainment LLC, with two Chinese investors in Las Vegas. Since July, he has purchased two foreclosed homes in Dayton’s Wright-Dunbar Village for the investors, and has hopes of building a replica of an eighth-century Chinese village in another part of town as a tourist attraction. Llewellyn and Carmine Anastasio, an adjunct religion professor at Wright State University, presented the Chinese village concept to Dayton city officials July 7, said city spokesman Bryan Taulbee.“It lacked a sufficient business plan and a case for the project, including funding, and wasn’t considered any further,” Taulbee said. “It simply wasn’t viable.”The partners wanted to build it at Wayne Avenue and Wyoming Street, but are looking at other locations, Anastasio said. He said Llewellyn is traveling in China and could not be reached for comment. Llewellyn, 62, has a long track record for outsized dreams and extravagant claims. He also has been the target of a long string of fraud allegations. He has denied any wrongdoing, although he noted in legal papers that he has been referred to in news reports as an international con man.

via Accusations, lawsuits have followed investor from Australia to Ohio.

See also: “I call him the international man of mystery,” said Cherise Hairston, who lives near one of the homes.

via Mysterious investor proposes $20M Chinese cultural center in Dayton.

A quick look at the Montgomery County Pro system (which won’t let you link to results of searches) shows Synergy Building Systems has 11 cases and Mills Morgan Development (same people) has 3 for a total of 14 cases. RG Properties has 5, and Randall Gunlock has 16 more- bringing his total to 21. Donald Trump, by the way, probably gets more lawsuits the same way he gets hairspray- by the truckload.

Development isn’t for the shy. There was a guy named Michael Kerr back in the early eighties who wanted to develop McPherson Town properties with help from the city. He ended up doing jail time on some trumped-up zoning charges. My friend Bill Rain was gored on the front page of the Dayton Daily for getting a job in Tampa with DeBartolo Development and leaving the stalled Schwind project (where the city didn’t hold up its end of a deal)- yet, forgetting to mention the multiple successful projects he had a hand in: The Job Center, The Lofts on St. Clair, The Cannery, Ice Avenue Lofts etc.

When Dr. Commander  Selvam bought the former Key Bank Building- for pennies on the dollar, the Dayton Daily News did a similar hatchet job:

A controversial and self-proclaimed Hindu guru who recently lost his Georgia temple through bankruptcy has established a temple here and purchased a key piece of real estate downtown….

Annamalai’s purchases come less than a year after his Hindu Temple of Georgia entered bankruptcy. Meanwhile, Annamalai has filed at least 20 defamation lawsuits against former devotees and media outlets that raised questions about his religious practices.

via Controversial ‘guru’ buys former KeyBank building.

Again, we’re treated to a level of scrutiny that seems to differ compared to local developers who are allowed to play both sides of the game- working for a municipality and doing side deals that profit them handsomely, yet get zero coverage. Or congressmen with a wife getting no-bid contracts and working for PACs and the government on a GSA schedule for the Army Corps of Engineers while her husband is sitting on the Defense Appropriations Committee.

Yep, there is some sort of “Development Court” where projects and people are judged- before the court’s crony rag ousts the losers by their petards- we just won’t admit it. It seems that there is a Catch-22 in Dayton- you must be crazy to want to invest in this city, and if you are crazy, we don’t want you.

Why is government involved in these deals at all? Why isn’t it focused on delivering high-quality, low-cost public services? Why do some developers get the “golden ticket” and others get shown the door? Are these crazy questions? Or is this just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to local government corruption?

Am I crazy to ask these questions- well, of course I am- I won 5 court cases in defense of the First Amendment, and challenged the city commission to stop having secret illegal meetings- and somehow I got painted as the lunatic bad ninja, but- that’s another story.

Esrati “the ninja” featured in Wired Magazine

Hopefully, this won’t be my first and last appearance in Wired Magazine (and maybe next time they’ll even put my name in)- but, I was honored to be mentioned in my favorite magazine, Sept. 2010 issue., page 54:

My town council has banned me from attending its meetings because I criticized one of its members on Twitter. OK, OK, I called him a “fucking idiot.” Can they really do that?

It would be one thing if you’d been barred from a homeowners’ association or Rotary Club meeting—private organizations have carte blanche to bounce anyone who dares question their awesomeness. But local governments must act in accordance with a little doohickey called the First Amendment. That means they’re rarely allowed to bar people from their public forums.

The council has one shot at making its ban stick. “If they can show that the person would be very disruptive, that might work,” says David L. Hudson Jr., a scholar at the Vanderbilt University’s First Amendment Center. But unless you’ve wreaked havoc at past meetings—say, by tossing chairs or burning effigies—the council will have a tough time proving its case. The city of Dayton, Ohio, learned that lesson the hard way in 1997, after it was sued by a man who’d been kicked out of a public commission meeting for wearing a ninja mask. An appeals court ruled in favor of the ninja, finding that his menacing attire was a protected form of speech this despite the fact that everyone knows ninjas don’t talk.

Lawsuits are an expensive pain, so you should try to find a way of changing the council’s mind before resorting to the courts. Since your town elders are obviously Twitter fans, how about using the microblogging service to make them and fellow townsfolk aware that you’re in the constitutional right here? Just be polite about it—save the f-bombs for the next atrocious zoning blunder.

via Mr. Know-It-All: iPhone Fixation, Twitter Tantrums, iPad Snobbery | Magazine.

And to attest to the power of social media- Nate Driver and David Bowman both DM’d me before I’d had a chance to open my copy to tell me.

Bowman: @esrati. You made it into @wired for defending first amendment.

And then- Teri Lussier writes this: “Ha! Just reading abt @Esrati the Ninja in Wired 18.10 pg 54; OK, so YOU wouldn’t wear a ninja mask to mtg, but legally you could. Thx, David

And to clarify the story- the city arrested me and charged me with 4 fourth-degree misdemeanors, punishable by a max fine of $250 and 30 days in jail for each (total $1.000 and 120 days in jail possible). They lost in five different court decisions over 2.5 years. Finally the city settled for $100K and most of it went to pay my legal bills.

The Dayton Daily News totally muffed the story the first time- had to re-write the second day, and never gave me credit for being right.

My detailed account is here: Esrati, the masked man

Unfortunately, even though Mike Turner lost all five cases and was embarrassed on the stand, the court of public opinion gave him the win. The city commission still meets illegally and obfuscates the process.

It’s one of the reasons I keep running- and try to keep City Hall in line on this site.

Who is the thief?

A serial thief is accused of robbing an Oakwood bank of $1,610; he said in the note he had a gun, but didn’t show it:

This is not (Timothy) Stewart’s first bank robbery arrest. He pleaded guilty to robbing two Dayton-area banks in 1999 and was sentenced to 9½ years in prison. He was released in 2008 and was still on probation earlier this year when he was arrested for the RETS theft.

Oakwood police said Stewart faces minimum mandatory sentences of 30 years in prison if convicted of the new bank robbery charge.

via Alleged Oakwood bank robber indicted in federal court.

Yet, I have to wonder how many years in prison the “robo-signer” who worked for the banks is going to serve? Signing off on thousands of documents that took homes away from people, who often were already being charged premium interest rates for their homes, the “robo-signer” stole much more than a mere $1,610- and was well paid to do it.

Considering the scrutiny that the local board of elections uses to disqualify candidates from appearing on the ballots- it’s amazing that a person signing off on the foreclosure on a home isn’t held to a higher standard?

Apparently, not dotting your “i’s” and crossing your “t’s” is only an issue when you want to serve your country- not when your job destroys people’s lives. I’m not making an excuse for Mr. Stewart’s crimes- I’m just asking that banks be held to the same standard for crimes committed on both sides of the teller counter.

Our entire banking and monetary system is built on trust- just as our system of elections, when that trust is violated, the punishments should be equal for those in power and those without- for that’s the definition of justice.

[note- added later to comments- Angelo Mozilo, former CEO of Contrywide is fined millions for stealing billions, banned from financial markets- but- no jail time. Justice?]