Time to test the Civil Service Board?

Can you imagine a private business suing itself to force a change in its hiring process?

Didn’t think so.

Somehow- our city can’t figure out a way to hire qualified people and promote them. Apparently, this is rocket science.

And, it’s costing us a lot to “fix” as well as for “remediation.”

Considering much of the reason we have this system to prevent the horror of nepotism- yet, we don’t apply the same standards to those we elect.

Screw it all.

Why not have job performance evaluations on a weekly basis- and you get promoted because you do a super job- not based on time in, seniority, or how you test?

Read the following- and see if you’d keep this monstrosity?

The investigation is another setback for Civil Service within the last three years.

The board was the epicenter of a U.S. Department of Justice hiring discrimination lawsuit the city later settled. The city also promised to diversify its police and fire departments.

The settlement has cost the city more than $500,000 and delayed the hiring of police and fire officers in order to overhaul testing and hiring practices.

At the same time, retirements have trimmed police and fire ranks to their lowest levels in decades.

In July, the city’s firefighters union filed grievances claiming Civil Service did not give enough notice for a promotions exam and incorrectly barred some firefighters from participating.

The notice grievance was dropped, but the other settled, allowing some of the 20 firefighters who didn’t take the exam to do so, union officials said.

“I question what Civil Service is doing and why all of the sudden we are having so many issues with Civil Service,” said Randy Beane, police union president. “To put together a (promotions) test like that is flat out wrong and I can’t for the life of me understand why you would have that many identical questions for two entirely different positions.”

Investigation involved SWAT team

An anonymous complaint sent to Biehl’s office in September said a group of officers shared questions and answers to the promotions test during Special Weapons And Tactics team sniper training in late August.

Officers on SWAT are considered among the best and brightest of the department and must maintain an exemplary employment record. The complaint alleged Sgt. Greg Gaby was to take the lieutenants exam and benefited from information shared by those who took the sergeant’s exam, according to police documents obtained through a public records request last week.

The six officers and two sergeants interviewed, including Gaby, were at that training and said they discussed, in general, what knowledge would be tested, but did not share specific questions.

All eight said they were “surprised” the tests contained identical or similar questions.

Gaby passed the lieutenants exam with a 76, just above the 70-point threshold.

“I am pretty upset about (the cheating accusation),” Gaby told investigators. “For someone to call me a liar or a cheater, I got a real issue with that.”

Beane said the internal investigation uncovered “incompetence or laziness or both” by Civil Service and he called for a complete overhaul of the promotion exam process.

Edwards said the process is “being reviewed to see if any changes are necessary in the future.”

Dayton City Commissioner Dean Lovelace said “something is wrong” with how the exam was developed and said he will ask City Manager Tim Riordan to review the process.

“This is outrageous, for sure,” Lovelace said.

via Police cheating probe rips Civil Service Board.

The last line is truly the icing on the cake- since Commissioner Lovelace has been the moving force into starting the lawsuit- and has yet to put any alternatives on the table for discussion.

We still can’t hire from other departments- we even forced a chief into being called a “director” because he didn’t keep a notebook- despite over 25 years’ experience. To have a test bank of only 330 questions- for a job as complex as police supervisor is almost a crime in itself. To base it all on something as one-dimensional as a written test is even more ludicrous. No on-the-spot questions from senior staff, no scenario tests, no basis of past performance, no community input?

Being a cop is a tough enough job, that many aren’t willing to take the job, keeping this three-ring circus is certainly not helping.

It’s time for a complete overhaul to the way we hire, train and promote our safety forces, but, first- maybe we should start administering IQ tests to the people we elect- and the people they hire.

Quoted in DBJ about Dayton Diode- our hackerspace

Page 3 of Dayton Business Journal, January 28, 2011, published on the 25th anniversary of me buying 113 Bonner Street for $14,500- I’m quoted about economic development;

David Esrati, a local political blogger and chief creative officer of Dayton-based advertising agency The Next Wave, said Dayton Diode represents true economic development because it boosts the quality of life in the region.

“It’s incubators like this that make Dayton a more attractive and interesting place to the kind of people we should be trying to attract,” said Esrati, who began publicly calling for the development of a local hackerspace last spring, unaware Dayton Diode was brewing.

Dayton Diode is having an open house Feb 5- see the release. Well worth checking into. What makes Dayton Diode more interesting is that it’s being done without government interference, “help” or sponsorship.

Sort of like what happened when I bought my house in Dayton.

It had been on the market for 2 years. First listed for $22,900, it had been reduced to $17,900 when I looked at it and one other house. Mine was a two-story frame Victorian half-cross, with a 2-car garage, fenced yard and a parking pad. The other, a brick 4-room shotgun- for $14,500. I told the realtor, I was going to spend $14,500- didn’t matter to me which house- and they accepted the offer.

I never expected any help- or interference from government in my grand plan to transform the house. Yet, when I got to take possession of my garage 90 days after closing (a condition to help the tenants out) and started replacing the bypass sliding wood barn style doors with modern overhead doors- my introduction to Inspector Gotcha and the culture of NO in City Hall.

Apparently- I’d bought a “Historic Home” and had additional laws and regulations that I had no way of knowing about.

There was nothing on the deed- nothing required in the transfer process- no signs stating this was a historic district- yet- I’d made the horrible mistake of putting up “wood grain vinyl” garage doors- instead of just wood- or vinyl- that wasn’t imitating wood. This was a huge No-No- despite the huge steel and plastic dumpster that was parked in front of one of my doors by the city. I found that the same doors were on a house in the Oregon District- owned by a judge- but, that didn’t matter. I was fined, sentenced to 30 hours of community service and forced to change the doors (which were installed by one of Dayton’s biggest door companies- they didn’t know either).

And, if the folks in City Hall wonder why more people haven’t felt Dayton was a good place to invest- and create “economic development” on their own- you now know one reason why.

There are lots of buildings that could be fixed up, if we just had a realistic view of what’s important. Trying to use today’s building codes for yesterdays buildings isn’t going to work. Nor is forcing yesterday’s materials for yesterday’s buildings (the replacement doors had to go last summer- rotted out).

Front Street- where Dayton Diode is now setting up shop- is one of the few old buildings in Dayton that seems to live without “help” from the city.

We could have lots of “economic development” in Dayton – if the government would stop trying to interfere about things that don’t really matter.

What matters most is attracting people who have a dream- and letting them pursue it.

That’s how economic development happens.

Why don’t bankers go to jail when breaking the law?

As a veteran, living in a military town, this story offends me.

That said- the inaction of our country’s lawmakers to enforce their own laws should bring questions of their fitness.

Despite having a law on the books to protect service members from losing their homes while fighting our war, the New York Times tells a sad story of our governments inability to hold anyone on Wall Street responsible- for anything:

While Sgt. James B. Hurley was away at war, he lost a heartbreaking battle at home.

In violation of a law intended to protect active military personnel from creditors, agents of Deutsche Bank foreclosed on his small Michigan house, forcing Sergeant Hurley’s wife, Brandie, and her two young children to move out and find shelter elsewhere.

When the sergeant returned in December 2005, he drove past the densely wooded riverfront property outside Hartford, Mich. The peaceful little home was still there — winter birds still darted over the gazebo he had built near the water’s edge — but it almost certainly would never be his again. Less than two months before his return from the war, the bank’s agents sold the property to a buyer in Chicago for $76,000.

via Foreclosure for Reservist on Active Duty Prompts 4-Year Legal Battle – NYTimes.com.

And, why is it ok to impose a 6% cap on home interest rates for the military- and not for all of us- while losing jobs because corporate chieftains failed miserably? We’re now paying millions to defend these arrogant, overpaid “executives” from prosecution- for fraud– instead of throwing them in jail and appropriating their assets.

If you rob a bank and steal a couple of thousand dollars- you go to jail with representation from a public defender. If you rob the bank of millions- in salary and by having the financial system tank- you get the best lawyers the taxpayers can buy.

The real risk in screwing our servicemen and women over- is they have the tools and the training to actually go take over Wall Street- and Washington- and give this country back to the people.

The tea party isn’t too far off of what is coming down the pike if the people in Washington don’t stop eating the lobbyists’ caviar, sipping the Kool-Aid and believing that they can continue to allow the rich to steal from the poor- especially those who are willing to die to protect our “freedoms.”

There may not be any greater travesty than what this solider has gone through- other than that the American public is asleep at the wheel.

Bulk waste fees, false alarm fees- why not a police and fire fee?

In cost-cutting moves the city started rationing bulk waste pickups years ago. To cut down on false burglar alarm calls- a progressive fine was put in place for too many false calls.

It’s time to start dealing with bad actors in the community by charging fees to the property for number of police calls.

That’s right- the police can come to your house because of a complaint no more than 4 times in a 12-month period. You want to fight with your wife/kids/neighbors-after the fourth call, it’s $100, the sixth call is $250, the seventh is $500, the eighth is $1,000. Same goes for calls for paramedics- plus we bill your insurance. What, you don’t have insurance?- after the fourth call- it’s $100 etc.

Failure to pay the fines, the house is ordered to be vacated for a year. Landlords will stop renting to trash. And if you are more than 1 year delinquent on your taxes, everything is doubled. If the fines escalate  above and beyond the tax value- the house is seized.

We’ve got neighbors who would have been long gone a year and a half ago if this had been in place.

Why should one family place such high demands on our public safety officers? How many of these problem houses can we afford to support? As long as it’s ok to charge law-abiding taxpayers for false burglar alarms- it should be ok to charge the burglars.

Other communities wouldn’t put up with this kind of hooliganism- they’d find other ways to make life unbearable for the residents, Dayton hasn’t caught on yet- leaving us as a dumping ground for miscreants and losers.

But, as a preventive measure- we should also use the frequency of calls to a location as a trigger to dispatch a social worker/intervention specialist to try to solve the problems- before they get to the point of fines. Right now we’re purely reactive and paying the price.

Any other suggestions? Feel free to contribute.

For the economic development gurus in Montgomery County

We’re investing our future in cutting edge technology.

The four key industries according to the wizards who adopted “Get Midwest” as our rally cry- say they are:

Advanced Materials and Manufacturing

The unique and compelling nature of our industry allows us to quickly transform innovations into processes and products.

Aerospace R&D

The advances achieved by our Aerospace R&D community gives ample evidence that the Air Force Research Laboratory and their hundreds of industry and university partners in our region have formed the preeminent aeronautical research and development center in the world.

Healthcare and Human Sciences

Aeromedical research, training, and acquisition elements are being consolidated into a Center of Excellence for Human Performance at Wright-Patt, accompanied by 21 existing regional hospitals, medical schools, training facilities and human science-focused businesses.

IT / Data Management

The Dayton Region is a global leader in understanding how the innovative use of information can transform people’s lives.

via GetMidwest.com – Dayton Region.

But what we really need to invest in is this- the true future of sustainable economic growth:

I’m sure some VC is ready to go to Wall Street to sell this idea- after they get the Ohio Department of Economic Development to give them money- just like UltraCell.

Maybe, if our tax dollars went for what they were supposed to- it would be easier to start and stay in business in Ohio.

But then again- if they start making the Entabulator here… who knows what is possible?

McLin funeral home problems posted on Esrati.com in Sep. 2009

Astute readers of the comments section of this blog would have seen comments from “Sarah” pointing out the problems with the McLin Funeral Home license in Sept. 2009. These were posted in response to my story revealing that the mayor was using city employees to pick up her campaign donations- exposed when they called the bomb squad over a porcelain pig.

BOTH should be closed – per the Board of Embalmer & Funeral Directors for State of Ohio – one location is officially closed due to new ownership. The other according to the SoS has been SUSPENDED/On HOLD due to non-payment of franchise taxes. Not like she or her father ever did ANYTHING above board with the business.

and in a follow up comment- this link appeared:

http://www2.sos.state.oh.us/reports/rwservlet?imgc&Din=200909760644

Which links to the state document of April 7, 2009

via Bomb squad follies part deux: Mayor McLin and the porcelain pig.

Of course, nothing was done to prosecute the mayor for her misuse of city employees- nor, was the issue of the license pursued while she was in power.

We had to wait for a Republican governor- and a legislature that rejected her appointment to the State Lottery Board.

McLin Funeral Home Inc., the longtime family business of the late state Rep. C.J. McLin, has been operating as a business even though the state canceled its authority to do so nearly two years ago, according to a lawsuit against the funeral home and a spokesman for the state tax department.

The funeral home, 2801 N. Gettysburg Ave., could be padlocked also as the result of an order granted last week by a Montgomery County judge in a separate lawsuit.

State records show the funeral home had its articles of incorporation/certificate of authority canceled in April 2009 for failure to pay franchise taxes. Gary Gudmundson, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Taxation, said Monday those documents remain canceled.

“They are not licensed to do business in the state,”

via McLin Funeral Home operating despite revoked license.

In reality- Ohio business licensing, permitting and taxing regulations are so arcane and screwed up- it’s pretty simple to screw up. I’ve written before about the horrible user interface of the “Ohio Business Gateway” which should be named the “Ohio Business Gatekeeper.”

While the McLins’ private business dealings would be of minimal interest to the general public if they weren’t one of the Kingpins in La Cosa Montgomery County- or as I call them “The Monarchy of Montgomery County” – the failure of the authorities to investigate and prosecute Rhine McLin while in office for using city staff to pick up her campaign mail is even more indicative of the level of corruption in our county.

It would be nice that when Matt Heck (I can’t call him a prosecutor since he rarely prosecutes cases) runs for re-election- if we had several choices to choose from for his replacement. I don’t care about his 95% conviction rate- if he only prosecutes 5% of the cases- I want a prosecutor who goes after the lawbreakers- in and out of office to make sure that the McLins are held as accountable as the rest of us.

Benefit for Dr. Creep Friday Jan 28 2011- VEX

Poster for Dr. Creep BenefitThis in for my friend Thomas.

DR. CREEP BENEFIT
All proceeds donated to Creep’s Family & Funeral Expenses
featuring FreakShow Deluxe!
January 28, 2011 – Doors open at 9:00pm
18+ is $5
21+ is $3
Vex
101 S. St. Clair St., Dayton, OH 45402

A little more about it can be found here: http://www.freakshowdeluxe.com/node/163

Have fun- raise some cash.

It’s time to reevaluate what working for the city means

The old joke goes, “What are the nine most feared words in the English language? ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’ ”

What does having a government job mean? It would seem for most of the workers that we the people employ- that they have a guaranteed job for life, with “lower pay” but “better benefits” than most.

We hear it from public school teachers- who always say they aren’t well paid- despite the fact that you and I work closer to 240 days a year and they work 180. We hear it from managers in City Hall who “could make more money in the private sector” yet still make 5x what the average household in their city makes. When it comes to police and fire- who often seem to be confrontational about working conditions, and can’t strike if they want to- you won’t hear a lot of argument from me about pay- most of us don’t go to work every day with a real possibility that it will be the last day of our life. That’s worth extra in my book.

However- using “seniority” for pay is a model of stupidity. Should Shaq make more money because he’s old and been on the job longer?

Or should all the people in the NBA keep handing in part of their pay so he can retire with 85% of the top three years of his pay?

Where did we come up with these ideas?

What happened to being paid for what you provide- value?

We can take any Tom, Dick or Harlene and turn them into a trash collector tomorrow. How do I know this? Well, for the first 10 years of living in the city and paying taxes for trash collectors- we neighbors still got to be “honorary” trash collectors one Saturday a month to pick up the crap that our “well-paid professional” trash collectors missed.

Granted- it takes some skill to drive the truck- but, to run behind it and load the containers in- nope, that’s work we could give to convicts to earn their way back into society. It’s hard, dirty work- but in terms of skills- it’s negligible.

Yet, you could run behind that truck for 27 years, then drive it for 3 and retire at 65 and get at least 50% of your pay until you die- which could be another 30 years- or more- since you were in such good shape from all that running. So- while we may say that $35K a year is a decent wage for a dirty job- we’re really paying a lot more for that job when you factor in the retirement (note all these numbers are average figures for this type of government job- some may allow earlier retirement- or more than 50% retirement checks).

That’s a lot of money for a low-skill job. And, guess who pays for it? We do.

If we hired out our trash collection- there would be no job-to-grave benefits paid. Just the going wage for a job that requires very little skill.

The whole concept of “public service” isn’t factored in at all. The idea of working for our community- giving something back, is missing from the reason many of these “public servants” work.

Most of us take for granted a lot of the services that they provide- at least until we need them. Police and firefighters are always appreciated when you need them- but the guys who keep the sewers clean- not so much (unless you have a backup)- or plows snow.

When you hear people whine about their taxes- are they saying “we don’t need to have police, fire, sewer cleaners” because they think they can get them cheaper? Or that we really don’t need them? Most of the time- it’s because they believe that government isn’t a good steward of their money- or manages it well- yet, they are unable to point to what to cut (that makes sense).

Today’s Dayton Daily had an article that should make you scratch your head:

In Dayton’s case, the savings came in lower personnel costs. All 23 people targeted for layoffs are civilians. Some layoffs were immediate; some will occur in the next two weeks.

Of the 23 — 20 call evaluators and three clerical workers — 16 had enough seniority to “bump” employees in other city departments. The 16 who were bumped will be laid off.

The city started dispatching fire calls through the Regional Dispatch in September and police calls in December. Riordan said the city chose to delay the layoffs from city dispatch until after the holidays.

The switch to Regional Dispatch also allowed the city to move 15 police officers from dispatch to the streets, including one lieutenant, two sergeants and 12 patrol officers.

Ironically, Dayton plans to pay the county $500,000 more than it has to for the dispatch services.

Earlier this month, Riordan told City Commissioners the city originally expected to pay $2.7 million to the county this year for fire and police dispatching services based on projections made in 2006 when talks to open the center were ongoing.

Revised figures show the city’s actual cost is $1.7 million. He said he was going to ask the city to pay the original cost because a $1 million decline is too much to ask the county to bear.

The city originally projected it would have about 187,000 police dispatches and 29,100 fire dispatches. Revised estimates for this year are 150,000 police dispatches and 29,100 fire.

via Dispatch center saved several cities money.

The idea of “bumping” people because of seniority- does that mean all skill sets are interchangeable? If that is the case- why keep any of these people long term- with increasing costs for pension and wages? Just because you have been a secretary for 30 years- doesn’t mean you should now be paid more than your boss.

The people who should have pensions should be earning them due to their value- what they give to the people. They are irreplaceable or highly valuable. The cost to train replacements is high- these are reasons for a pension plan. If you don’t have unique skills- you can have a 401K – just like anyone else. Your retirement is your problem- and it’s a fixed amount. Remove the reasons to grow your skill set- and you kill off the American dream and the work ethic. This “money for nothing” but your time is un-American.

In fact- it’s time to take another look at government service altogether. Why we don’t have a compulsory year and a half of government service upon graduation from high school is beyond me. Either serve in the military- or do these jobs that seemingly can be done by anyone. The pay would be low- but, in exchange, we’ll give you loans for college at a low rate (wait- you say we do that now? That’s right- we do- but without asking for any service or commitment in return).

The second part of that quote above- about the “voluntary” payment of $500K to the county by the city- unless every other community gives, this should be considered an illegal payment. When we save money in the private sector- we save money, we don’t give our vendors a bonus check.

If Mr. Riordan wants to donate his salary for the next 3 years- that’s fine. He can take his pension right now and continue or not continue working, but a $500K donation while we have firefighters working as lieutenants while not getting paid as such- is criminal.

Do I have a problem with paying our city manager $250K a year or more? Absolutely not- if he is in fact working at will-and proving his worth. Take away the guaranteed retirement and job security- and pay what they are worth right now.

We need the best people working for us- not the ones who won’t quit and can’t get fired- waiting for the pension for life. Working for us- we the people, should be about the value today- and not much else.

Good eats in Franklin Ohio: Matera Caffé

Matera Caffe logoI had a meeting with a client in Franklin yesterday- when lunch time came, he suggested heading out in the snow. His list was full of chains. I had to ask him three times- before he thought of an independent place.

He couldn’t remember the name- but called it a “sandwich shop” and that it was right next to NY NY (the strip club).

When we pulled up and went in- I was surprised to find a really nice little place with a wood fired stone oven for pizza.

It’s called Matera Caffe and they do breakfast lunch and dinner- but- considering they open at 8 for breakfast on Tue- Fri and 9am on Sat. and are closed on Sunday and Monday- I don’t think they’ve cracked the breakfast code.

Check their site for details-

1219 East Second Street
Franklin, OH 45005

Phone: 937.550.9565 Matera Caffe.

They do super sandwiches- and make their own “Saratoga chips” which are served hot and fresh out of the fryer- potato chips- with a fancy name.

The pizza I had was good too- my favorite is still Pomodori’s Pizza in Clifton- but, that’s a haul.

They’ve been open since June of 2010- and I’d not heard about it. Try it- and then share your opinions in the comments.

Just remember- it’s the local restaurants that give us flavor- support them.

Time to test voters in Ohio?

Yes, we’re the state responsible for GW Bush’s reelection. We also gave the Country John Boehner. And now, despite every indication that money spent on all-day kindergartens is probably the best education investment that we can make- 30 Republican senators think it’s a bad idea:

Removing mandates will be a way to relieve financial pressure from school districts, which will likely face further budget cuts once the state budget is set, said State Rep. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, who plans to introduce a bill that would eliminate all-day kindergarten….

West Carrollton Superintendent Rusty Clifford said they have no plans to turn back to half-day after seeing the difference in their students’ vocabulary, reading and writing. “By the middle of February, our students in an all-day program are already at the place where our half-day students were at the end of year.”

via Cost is the main reason why more districts don’t do all-day kindergarten.

If you need supporting evidence on the value of K and pre-K education, read my previous post on Geoffrey Canada and his world-famous efforts with his Harlem Children’s Zone. Also remember that the state has been in contempt of court for almost 20 years- for its unequal funding system for schools.

However, there were two absolute justifications for this boldly stupid move by Republican lawmakers in the very same edition of the Dayton Daily:

“Lobbyists – Affluence & Influence,” prepared by Ohio Citizen Action’s Money in Politics project, found that during the last legislative session, members of the Ohio Senate’s Finance Committee received 60 percent of their contributions — $1,523,365 — from lobbyists, firms that employ them and other lobbying entities such as law firms specializing in government relations.

House Finance Committee members received nearly 50 percent of their campaign contributions — $3,301,561 — from lobbying entities, the report found.

The full report can be found at http://moneyinpoliticsohio.org.

via Lobbyists are big donors to state budget writers.

And this gem, possibly explaining a lot more about the state of our state:

Ohioans set another liquor record last year, purchasing 11 million gallons of booze.

Call it a 13-year high. Since 1997, Ohioans have purchased more and more hard liquor each year.

The Division of Liquor Control said Tuesday that 2010 sales of spirituous liquor hit $753.7 million, which exceeded 2009 sales by $19 million, or 2.6 percent. Spirituous liquor contains more than 21 percent alcohol by volume.

via Hard liquor sales climb in Ohio | Ohio politics.

Just remember, we always have money to lock our citizens up for being stupid- and we always have money to elect stupid people. Why does smart scare Ohioans so much?

It’s time to eliminate all funding for “economic development” in this state, raise taxes on booze and smokes, legalize and tax pot and prostitution- so we can balance our budget and start focusing on having people smart enough to understand the costs of stupidity. The rest of you can go to Kentucky (which was smart enough to ban smoking and posts the health departments ratings in the windows of restaurants).

We may need to have a sobriety test at the polls at this rate, and while we’re at it- let’s have a literacy test for voting too. Because we can’t afford to keep electing idiots to represent us.