Dayton Daily News to stick a finger in its eyes

After years of pathetic writing, lame reporting, idiot editorializing and a butt ugly unsophisticated design, the Dayton Daily News has gone on a mad run to try to regain readership. All of a sudden, “investigative reporting” is its new thing. The “iTeam” is out to tell us all about government waste and prove that we’ve elected idiots (most of whom they endorsed).

Despite years of a community urging it to report the positive in our community, it’s still the “If it bleeds, it leads” only it’s about bleeding red ink from government coffers- after moving the police blotter back to the end of the local section.

Brilliant marketing minds came up with a two-week free subscription- try it, you’ll like it so much you’ll want it back. Only thing is what they want to sell is the dead-tree edition, as if the iPad, Kindle and computer aren’t tools of choice for those who really care about the news. Since they have a very expensive printing plant, the answer must be printing- just as if all you have is a hammer- everything looks like a nail. Cox can’t figure out that commentators are your most avid news readers- and major generators of site traffic, instead of welcoming them and building value from their content- they instead drive eyeballs to Facebook, instead of to their own site. Why they aren’t firing the digital top-dogs instead of actual content generators is proof that the Peter Principle is alive and kicking at the DDN.

The billboards, with pictures of people we don’t know, or don’t care about tell us about “customer service” and others tell us it’s the best paper yet (forgetting we haven’t had a choice since the Journal Herald shut down – and even then it was a Cox production).

Last Friday, Editor Jana Collier sent a memo to union chief Lou Grieco giving notice 60 days in advance that 4 editorial assistants and two to four photographers need to hit the bricks. Her attempt at writing in legalese is tortured, with a mish-mash of fonts showing cut and paste from the union contract (the one that hasn’t been ratified for something like 12 years) and her legal department.

Two-time Pulitzer prize-winning photo journalist, and now the Dayton Daily News photo editor, Larry C. Price, decided to resign instead of cut half of his department. In a well written letter to his staff he explains why he fell on the sword:

On Friday, I was asked by the editor in chief to devise a plan to eliminate up to four positions on the photo staff through selective layoffs based on perceived competence.

I cannot and will not do this. I do not believe the layoffs are fair to you as individuals or that they are in the best interest of the Dayton Daily News and our readers. If these cuts are enacted, it will be impossible to meet the Cox initiatives for covering breaking news, sharing content with our media partners and growing our online presence.

I deeply feel this decision by Cox and CMG Ohio management is misguided. The collective savings here are minuscule in comparison to revenue. They certainly pale in comparison with the value of what you as a team bring to the table.

Apparently no one in the Cox Media Group gets the fact that more pictures, not less are needed online to drive page views. Typically, the online iPad edition has less photos than the print edition, even though adding virtually unlimited photos to online stories without additional costs has been figured out by every other major news outlet. Photos cost to print- but, online a photo is really worth a hell of a lot more than 1000 words.

Editorial assistants are responsible for compiling going-out guides, school lunches, church notes, the filler from the press release submission system. Former editorial page editor Ellen Belcher used to have her own EA for letters, and speakups, which just shows how little that woman did at the paper other than contribute to smearing every single independent thinker in the community.

In Grieco’s email to the union he debunks Collier’s “reasoning” for the cuts:

It is because we have “too many” photo and support positions, largely because we have not had any attrition in those two categories, as we have among managers and reporters. This is, in the case of the EAs, not true. In 2008, there were nine full-time EAs. Today, there are five. Three EAs took buyouts and another became a copy editor.

There are more photographers on the list today than in 2008, but that is because the company has reclassified two people who were once considered online. We’re also told that we don’t need as many photographers as before because we’re not using photographs the same way in the paper and because there is not a need for online photo galleries because the Company cannot monetize them.

Despite being a crap paper for the last 15 years, the photojournalism displayed in the Dayton Daily has always been exceptional. Shooters like Jim Witmer, Ty Greenless, Teesha McClam and others have often prompted me to drop emails to them about their fantastic photos I’ve seen in the paper.

There are ways to win back readers, but cutting content creators (especially the uniquely local aspect of photography) is like a fine woodworker selling off his miter box and chisels.

If the Dayton Daily News merger with Ch 7 is ever going to create real synergy, it was because of the new hi-def video capabilities of the digital SLR cameras. Of course, it would also require Cox to learn that embedding Flash video in their sites excludes them from views on the Apple iOS devices. Besides Cox’s pathetic ability to be on top of search in Google (even when searching for their own photographers list that I linked to above) Cox ignores the number two site in the world, YouTube where video is HTML 5 and Apple iOS compliant.

Of course, you won’t read this story in the Dayton Daily News, either. Only on esrati.com do you get the real scoop on news in Dayton. Thanks to my many DDN sources. It’s good to know that some of you like to take care of the person who gets you leads for stories without ever getting credit in your rag. Keep trying to get a contract, and put out a paper we can be proud of despite the idiots at the top. Too bad they have a million to blog on kayaking in Dayton, but can’t keep a top notch photo team on the payroll.

 

 

Montgomery County Ohio documents posted in violation of ADA

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about a public record being posted out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, I wrote about it in 2008 when I found the Dayton City Commission out of compliance. They’ve since cleaned up their act.

Placing this document online- without complying with ADA requirements- and thus hiding it from Search- is also a step in the wrong direction.

via City of Dayton Commission fails to properly comply with ADA requirements on ordinance.

Recently, when looking at the Montgomery County Commission Meeting agendas, I found the same thing- scans of print documents that had not been run through Optical Character Recognition software to make the machine readable. This is critical for blind people who use screen readers to read them the content- as well as for search engines to find the content. It is also in compliance with State of Ohio Sunshine Laws- or Open Records act. If you pull up a PDF document and you can’t highlight and copy the text, it’s not in compliance.

This is a violation of the ADA and reeks of complicity to hide facts from the public since these documents can’t be searched.

The Montgomery County Commission should change their process immediately and begin the process of reposting corrected documents.

The David Lawrence Effect : school score cards analyzed

Back in 2008 I wrote the following:

I predict that within 3 years, Dayton’s Thurgood Marshall High School will be a school of first choice, much like the vaunted St. Ivers (I mean Stivers). And, I’ll be surprised if the parents of the students attending don’t know it as soon as this school year begins. The question will be: How long will it take for perceptions to change- and the word to get out.

Thurgood Marshall is a new Dayton Public School brand, to clean up what was a bit of a mess at Col White. The name change was phase 1, the new building on Hoover was phase 2, and the new team in charge is phase 3. The Phase 4 is buy-in from the rest of the staff. And there will be buy-in.

The reason comes by way of David Lawrence, a man who doesn’t leave anything to chance.

via A man with a plan: David Lawrence, Principal Thurgood Marshall HS.

In his three years, he didn’t do enough to be able to remain at Thurgood Marshall according to the standards that are set by “No Child Left Behind,” which require a school to make a dramatic turnaround in a three-year period, or:

  • Fire the principal
  • Reconstitute 51% of the staff
  • Become a charter school
  • Close the building

These are solutions only a politician could come up with. And so we shuffle principals, then we reconstitute- but the charter option (read union busting) or the close the building (which can’t be done because they are all new buildings in Dayton and the system is at capacity) will never happen.

Today the official Ohio Report card scores came out. Let’s look at the top 6 Dayton Schools:

School Name       Annual Yearly Progress     2011 Rating      2010 Rating       Performance Index
Stivers School For The Arts   Not Met    Effective     Effective     95.8
Valerie PreK-8 School      Met      Excellent      Continuous Improvement      91.5
David H. Ponitz Career Technology Center     Met     Continuous Improvement      Continuous Improvement       87.9
Horace Mann PreK-8 School       Not Met      Continuous Improvement      Continuous Improvement      87.7
Charity Adams Earley Girls Academy   Met    Continuous Improvement     Continuous Improvement     86.4
Thurgood Marshall High School   Not Met     Continuous Improvement     Academic Watch     82.1

You notice that three of the top 6 schools are in red- signifying that they are “selection schools”- where there are auditions, or interviews or restricted populations.

Valerie and Horace Mann are elementary schools in stable neighborhoods. Note also that despite the second highest score in the district, Valerie slipped from Excellent to Continuous Improvement. These scoring parameters are not easy to meet.

Thurgood is the top rated high school without any admission selection policy. We could look back at the stats over time, and see that even with herculean effort, bringing a school around in 3 years when dealing with an urban district with 85% of the students coming from impoverished homes is a major accomplishment.

Unfortunately, Mr. Lawrence is no longer with the Dayton Public Schools, having been hired to run the Dayton Regional Stem School which is already a school of excellence. Place a bet there will be gains in performance there as well come next Fall.

Before judging schools and districts by these standards, it’s important to know that these “standards” have only a small part in the overall educational experience. Just as you are choosing a car, things like gas mileage and cargo capacity do little to tell you the difference between a Mercedes and a Ford, the complete story of the transformation of Thurgood Marshall isn’t told by these numbers.School basketball championship runs, science fair wins, chess club performance don’t show up in these numbers.

There is a marked difference in the attitudes of the students in the school thanks to Mr. Lawrence, and that’s something the state can’t put a number on.

 

The Montgomery County Board of (S)elections

There are enough barriers to getting elected in this country, the last one shouldn’t be the “bi-partisan” group that is in charge of making sure elections are fair- but, in Montgomery County, it seems the first stop is the last stop for more candidates and causes than most. Special privileges given to party- or union-endorsed candidates and political jurisdictions. We are now also making military members a privileged class in voting, while doing everything possible to make it difficult for the regular voter.

Somehow, Ohio has come up with a system that guarantees stupidity. Almost every organization known to man chooses odd numbers for the simple reason of breaking ties (even the U.S. Senate with its nice round 100- falls to the VP to vote in case of a tie). Yet, the county board of elections is made up of two Democrats and two Republicans- with no provision for the voice of any third party whatsoever. What’s even more amazing is that none of the board is elected by anyone- not even their own parties. What we have is a plain and simple patronage mechanism- which permeates every employee of this criminal organization.

I call them criminals, because despite their non-election, they manage to hide behind rules that are made entirely by elected bodies to make sure that those in power, stay in power. Gerrymandering has become an exact science since the advent of computer modeling with our entire state being configured to be non-competitive. The state redistricting commission will meet to hear public input today from 10 a.m. to noon at the former NCR World HQ at 1700 S. Patterson Blvd. across from Carillon Park.

A competition was held by the League of Women Voters to create a more equitable map in Ohio- and the winner was created by an Illinois State rep– not even an Ohioan. It is doubtful that these crowd-sourced maps will be adopted because our current political hacks are more interested in keeping their jobs than letting the public choose their representation.

In a move that only Esrati.com covered- the Montgomery County Board of Elections redrew all our local precinct maps recently without any real public review or regard for the myriad of other issues that are connected to these maps.

In Ohio it is incredibly difficult to push a citizen initiative on the ballot, or to recall a sitting politician, much of it because of our petition process which counts on voter roles that are a complete and utter mess. The disenfranchisement of voters has reached an all-time high in Ohio- with requirements of matching name, signature and address to their data coupled with very high signature requirements despite the fact that if you run for Congress- one of the highest offices in the land, and you are a member of a major party- you only need 50 signatures.

There are different petitions for almost every office- with different procedures, language, turn-in dates and rules for authentication. Despite the fact that all are just trying to confirm that the signer is in fact a registered voter. Even the definition of “registered voter” is a fluid description- as exceptions are made via provisional ballots and for the military- making the whole thing as predictable as playing spin the bottle. Why we differentiate between citizens and voters is a question that should be asked in the first place- as we are all Americans and pay the price of bad leadership – choosing not to vote is just as valid as choosing who to vote for, if you feel your vote doesn’t count anyway- but shouldn’t have any bearing on if you think a question should be up for a vote.

Recently, the Montgomery County Board of Selections disqualified 3 candidates from a field of six for the three seats coming up for the Dayton School Board. However on review, enough signatures were “Found” to put the sitting board president, Nancy Nearny, back on the ballot. Had she not benefited from this assistance, the three remaining candidates would have all been elected- although there may be a provision for write-ins for School Board (there aren’t for Dayton City Commission).

In another smooth move, a school, Miami Valley CTC,  that arrived 8 minutes after the 4pm filing deadline, had their issue placed back on the ballot- something that never would happen for a third-party candidate.

The Secretary of State- the only person we elect to oversee all elections issues (which happens to be a man who was embroiled in a residency flap for his entire time as a state rep) is trying to push new rules to make it more difficult for all voters to request absentee ballots and require state photo IDs for all voters despite the statistical unlikeliness of voters voting more than once with the current system could ever change the results- has now made it easy for military members to vote– while it is virtually impossible for them to sign a petition from a remote duty station to be involved in the other part of the process. Military members will even be able to sign up for e-mail alerts about deadlines for requesting ballots etc.- something that should be available to the regular voter.

There are also complex campaign finance reporting laws, campaigning laws and financial disclosure laws, all as obstacles against having average people step up to be the voice of the people as elected representatives. For a country that professes to have free elections- there is nothing free about the systems we have in place, that favor the connected, the wealthy and the incumbent.

A true board of elections and elections system would have a much better rate of successful candidate filings, giving more voters more choices in an equal opportunity election. But for now, we get to choose between a few candidates who manage to jump through all the hoops and buy their way into office.

It’s not just time to look at redistricting Ohio- it’s time to reevaluate the entire two-party system that runs the “Boards of Selection” so that we may actually have real choices on the ballot.

Why isn’t the IRG/UPS deal done? Is the backroom deal about to implode?

When this came up as an emergency resolution by the Dayton City Commission more than 100 days ago, this deal stank.

To recap, UPS has a lease on the former Emery Air Freight Hub at Dayton International Airport through 2019. UPS had an obligation to pay the city a lot of money, maintain the building as “aviation ready”- and provide security, maintenance. etc. Because it’s on ground that is ultimately under FAA control, all normal real estate rules don’t apply – so this gets complicated. A local developer (Mark Herres) tried to put solar panels on the roof, to help UPS pay the lease on the building they didn’t need or want. Soon after he had a “Memorandum of understanding” in place, all of a sudden, city officials started shopping the building to IRG, the “developer” of distressed properties across the nation.

Because either A) the people in the city are incredibly stupid, or B) the people in the city are on the take- the local developers’ deal got shoved aside, and instead of taking the building back for the city to own and dispose of– they decided it would be a good idea to hand it over to IRG.

UPS was offered to pay off the rest of the lease for net present value of the lease or about $6,9 million, and escape all maintenance, insurance and security bills through 2019. UPS of course, was happy to ditch this albatross, which according to FAA requirements must be used or held for use for an activity that is 90% aviation related.

Somewhere along the line the stupidity or corruption stepped in, and the city agreed to give the building plus $3 million to IRG, to give them the building for 3 years to “develop.” At the end of three years, if IRG hasn’t done anything, the building comes back to the city. The building has assets in place that could be scrapped/liquidated for at least $20 million- in scrap stainless steel, conveyor systems, etc. The value of the scrap has never been entered into the contract- or what the disposition rights are. In addition, the city has spent almost $40K on legal assistance from Thompson Hine to help refine the contract with IRG. The city would get $3.8 million to pocket, IRG $3 million- and there are no requirements for IRG to have to do anything for their money- other than take possession of the building and “market it.”

To the current state of the deal: the city had a clause that the FAA approval for this transfer had to be accomplished in 70 days for this deal to close. The FAA has still not approved it. Furthermore, the FAA has only been asked to OK the change of name on the lease from UPS to IRG- not to change the status of the structure, or requirements for use.

One of the people involved on behalf of the local developer sent an e-mail last week, Aug. 16, asking for a status update on this deal:

Subject: UPS Facility

Commissioners

It has come to my attention that the City as of last Friday had not received approval from the FAA for IRG’s plan for the removal of the security fencing and other changes requested for the property. It seems that the intent of the documents as set out in the three party agreement was to close on this agreement no later than seventy  (70) days after the effective date of the commission’s affirmative vote. This has not happened and we are now some one hundred days since the vote on this matter.

As you will recall, I pointed out what a flawed deal this was for the citizens of Dayton at the April 27th commission meeting, and I simply requested that you put off the vote for six weeks to give each of you time to read and understand the agreements. The city manager was insistent that you move forward and here we are. UPS seems to have vacated the property and it appears that the City is now doing the property maintenance at the facility. I believe that as the documents are written, the deal as approved in April, is no longer valid and any plans for that facility must be reapproved by the commission.  I would ask you to not approve any extension of this deal, instead take the time to exercise your fiduciary duty and fully investigate what is best for the City of Dayton.

Subsequent to the commission meeting in April I did meet with one commissioner and reviewed the failings of this deal and the entire process. I would be glad to do the same with each of you so that this time around you can make an informed decision.

John W.(Jack) Lohbeck

In a particularly odd response, Dayton City Manager wrote this back today, the 22nd:

Members of the City Commission,

I have reviewed the email from Mr. Lohbeck and I have reviewed the signed agreements on the IRG transaction.  Copies of the signed documents were given to Mr. Lohbeck  as per a public records request in mid-July.

  1. The section referred to indicates that IRG needed to get any required FAA approvals.  The FAA did not have any required approvals as we reported to the City Commission at the time.   IRG is required to maintain security at the building to FAA & TSA standards.  The fence when erected will reduce IRG security costs.
  2. We have closed on the agreement and we did it prior to 70 days.  There is no further City Commission action to be taken.
  3. There are continued allegations about the City maintaining IRG property (cutting grass).  These are not true.  Mr. Herres has been observed sitting in his vehicle possibly with binoculars just outside the facility. (I find this strange). I assume this is where the allegations materialize.  The city DOES cut grass in that area on CITY-OWNED not IRG leased land.

Tim Riordan

cc. Mr. Lohbeck, Mr. Herres

If you find the part about “Mr. Herres has been observed sitting in his vehicle possibly with binoculars just outside the facility” strange- you aren’t alone.

The questions Mr. Lohbeck asked had nothing to do with Mr. Herres- or his plan. Nor is sitting near the airport watching planes illegal or odd- as an aviation buff who has often sat with many others outside Wright Patterson watching planes come in when there is a storm off the East Coast.

Riordan is now claiming no FAA approvals are required either for the change of ownership or the change in use of the building. The main reason the city was supposedly handing this deal over to IRG was that they were unable to find tenants that could meet the FAA requirements of 90% aviation use- or could get a change in use pushed through. Somehow, IRG had this skill- yet, they have not had any changes approved by the FAA.

As to having closed on the deal- sure, the city got its money, IRG got its money- and whomever IRG paid off got theirs. Judging by Mr. Riordan’s email, one must wonder if he was complicit in this deal and paid as well. The former airport director and his assistant who crafted this deal left town for New Orleans. I have a call in to the current airport director to get a statement at this time. Hearsay has him questioning why this deal was done in the first place.

Because Federal regulations and agencies are involved, it may be time to request that the FBI investigate what is really going on with this deal, before IRG scraps the entire building’s contents, then claims that the needed FAA approvals to change use were never granted and then walk in 3 years many dollars richer.

Remember, the city passed this ordinance as an emergency, not giving the citizens time to review the contracts because it was an “emergency” and the deal had to be done in a timely manner- however the clause about FAA changes didn’t happen, therefore the deal should have been dead. However like all things cooked up in the backroom- we’ll probably never truly know what happened until it’s way too late.

 

Freedom of the press, as long as you own it: Dayton City Paper shows its true colors

Alternative news weeklies are supposed to be the alternative to the mainstream media- muckrakers, agents provacateurs, the last bastion of free speech. However, with the declines in newspaper reading- even of the free variety, apparently, appeasing the advertisers is now function number 1. Toss in a bit of not willing to go against the political machine- which spends a lot of money on advertising each November- and we now have a local “alternative paper” that isn’t much of either.

Anti-Dean Lovelace ad created by David Lauri

The ad that David Lauri wants to run against Dean Lovelace

Esrati.com reader and local gay and lesbian rights activist, David Lauri writes about his attempt to run ads in Dayton City Paper against Dayton City Commissioner Dean Lovelace, the only commissioner to vote against an anti-discrimination ordinance (Commissioner Joey Williams sidelined himself with an abstention). DCP publisher Paul Noah not only is requiring Lauri to submit the ads, but is now the judge and jury on Mr. Lauri’s very smart purchase of www.deanlovelace.com to wage his anti-Lovelace campaign after learning that Lovelace hadn’t registered his own name despite plans to continue to run for office (Lauri claims he learned of this gaff on Esrati.com)

From David Lauri’s blog:

Paul Noah thinks I was wrong to register the domain name deanlovelace.com. In his email to me he went on to say:

For the record, I have no opinion of Mr. Lovelace or of his record as I know little about him. However, I am disappointed that you decided to use Mr. Lovelace’s domain name for the purpose of campaigning against him. I believe if you would have left his domain name alone and, instead, created and promoted a website domain name such as “VoteAgainstDeanLovelace.com” you would have accomplished the same results without appearing to obviously and blatantly having taken advantage of Mr. Lovelace’s failure to remember to renew his domain name. In all fairness, it’s most likely that Mr. Lovelace had confided in another individual to register his domain name on his behalf and, therefore, it was likely the failure of his confident to renew the domain name. In my eyes, the fact that you had exploited Mr. Lovelace’s domain name expiration by purchasing the rights to it and utilizing it as a resource to campaign against him significantly reduces the credibility of your mission. It is for this reason that the Dayton City Paper may end up declining your request anyway.

I’m a bit surprised by Paul Noah’s righteous indignation at my having created the website deanlove.com. I replied to him to tell him that I could have understood such indignation if I had created a spoof website purporting to be by Dean Lovelace himself but not given that the website clearly states that I own the site and that it is not affiliated with any candidate.

via David’s blog: 201108.

Lauri had also attempted to run ads in the Dayton LGBT Film Festival program- but was rebuffed by the organization because the Downtown Priority Board (an elected, quasi-government organization) is a primary sponsor. Is this the new strategy for quashing political opposition? How can a quasi-government organization legally quash free speech? What kind of First Amendment do we have left? Is the Internet the only place where political speech can be left uncensored?

Lauri has every right to not only own www.deanlovelace.com, where he clearly identifies himself as the site owner- and to post his position on Mr. Lovelace’s record, but he also has every right to advertise anywhere he wants. (Note, his ad does need to say who is paying for it to meet campaign standards before it could run in a newspaper). Political speech is supposed to be one of the most protected forms of free speech in this country, where the right to question and call attention to real issues, or even fake ones (“Swiftboarting” – anyone?). Mr. Lauri probably doesn’t have the time or money to take the legal route to protect his rights of free speech, nor will the ACLU help him out.

The only thing we can do is help him spread his word, and support his efforts via calling attention to the issue- and by telling the Dayton City Paper and their advertisers that we would prefer they move their advertising to the internet- or to media that doesn’t censor political speech.

The tagline the Dayton City Paper uses in WYSO ads is”Look no further, look deeper.” Mr. Lauri made me look deeper into DCP policy and I didn’t like what I found.

I urge all readers of this site to send a note to Paul Noah, [email protected] and tell him why he should not only accept the ad (with the addition of who paid for it) in his paper, but that he should keep his opinion on his opinion pages – and not insert it into political ads.

{UPDATE} 14:00 – I just got off the phone with Paul Noah, who adamantly claims that he’s not refusing to run Mr. Lauri’s ad- but, is claiming his publication hasn’t run any political ads, he doesn’t have a rate card for them, and he is working on getting those things in order for the Oct. 18th issue.

The e-mail exchange between Mr. Lauri and Mr. Noah was too long for me to include- esp. since most of it exists on David Lauri’s site.  In it, Mr. Noah clearly states:

Also for the record, I happen to feel that any person who actively attempts to limit the rights of any individual because of their sexual orientation does not deserve to hold public office.  As for whether or not Mr. Lovelace has, indeed, acted in this manner I am simply uninformed.

But in the very next paragraph, Noah continues to stick his nose where it doesn’t belong with the URL again:

I am interested in your thoughts about my commentary above as I would hope that you consider doing the right thing and play fairly here.  For example, if you would have accidentally forgotten to renew DavidLauri.com and someone else grabbed it from you for purposes against you, how would you feel?

I’ve known Paul Noah for about 3 years- when he stepped in to save DCP. He is politically naive, however, not having a political rate or policy in place at this point is inexcusable.

Mr. Noah has been inundated with calls and e-mails about this article this morning. I asked him to respond on this site, which he chose not to do, even after I asked him nicely to do. In the grand scheme of things, as one commenter has already said- the DCP “stopped being interesting or relevant years ago.” This exercise with Mr. Lauri may be a big part of the reason why.

How to end the ending of jobs

In Jewish culture one of the highest ranking “mitzvahs” (good deeds) is to give someone a job. The old adage about “give a man a fish he eats for a day, teach him how to fish, he eats for a lifetime” is in the same vein.

Yet, the most highly paid fishing instructors in this country could care less about anybody eating- except themselves, and the impact of their decisions is leading to the possible fall of our country. Yep, while Rome is burning- these idiots aren’t just fiddling, they’re throwing themselves birthday parties where the entertainment costs a million bucks– and laughing it off.

Our global financial system has teetered on the brink of collapse for the last three years, with countries defaulting on debt, getting downgraded, the U.S. taxpayers bailing out the “too big to fail banks” and in the meantime, the CEOs who “run” these monstrosities continue to get paid millions for failing.

Take Bank of America CEO Brian T. Moynihan, who in 2010, his first year, made $2 million, (who was also granted $5 million in stock options in ’09) – and is at the center of the housing industry collapse, is laying off people left and right. From the New York Times:

The beleaguered financial firm, which continues to struggle under the weight of bad mortgage assets, is planning to cut 3,500 jobs, on top of the 2,500 reductions year to date, according to an internal memo written by the company’s chief executive, Brian T. Moynihan. And more could follow, with the total number of layoffs potentially reaching 10,000.

via Bank of America Layoffs Continue – NYTimes.com.

While libertarians and Republicans will say he’s getting highly compensated (and yes, anything over $500K a year is highly compensated – when the average family of 4 is living on around $50k a year) to “reel in costs” and “rightsize” the banking behemoth, the reality is that these layoffs are costing the rest of us serious money- in unemployment costs, and the resulting financial failings that go along with being jobless: home foreclosures, decreased consumption, loss of health benefits etc.

In the modern economy, no major business decision is done in a vacuum, and decisions like huge layoffs become risks to our national security. Look to the costs of the riots in the U.K.- a man-made national disaster with epic real costs. Sooner or later, the costs of allowing Wall Street to play with our economy as if they were playing Monopoly, while the rest of us are struggling with real money will be huge- with riots in the U.S., where guns are readily available.

Somewhere along the line- our financial system stopped looking at financial dealings as contracts between real people- and turned it into a casino game, and no one has looked twice at which house we have to live in. The United States is our house, the house of the people- Wall Street and Congress have become the owners of a giant casino, where the owners guarantee they make money and everyone else will pay dearly.

Who cares about having a military with global reach, when we can no longer make magnets in this country? Or anything else for that matter. China is holding $1.3 trillion or so in U.S. dollars- what’s stopping them from buying up Google, Apple and Exxon- and then taking those companies’ profits and buying up everything else of value? National defense isn’t just having better and more bullets- it’s about keeping the flag and what it stands for.

Much has been said about presidents not getting re-elected when unemployment is above 8% or whatever number economists want to use (unemployment figures have become as farcical as the “compensation” of Wall Street- with many people no longer counted because they’ve “stopped looking for work”) but the real question is, what kind of country we will have left after years of high unemployment coupled with years of exorbitant compensation of the game masters.

If the true costs of “laying off” employees is charged back to the corporations that don’t care, and compensation of the corporate leadership is linked to the average pay of their employees, we would see dramatically different actions being taken in this country – ones that would help guarantee that America doesn’t lose any more of its AA+ rating, or global leadership.

The American Dream requires jobs. The American economy requires jobs. Unfortunately, the American government is standing idly by while a small percentage of greedy idiots are being allowed to do as they please, while we all pay.

That Congress and the President stand idly by while this happens, is more than just the ending of jobs for Bank of America workers, it’s the beginning of the end of America.

It’s time to reward the mitzvah of making real jobs pay real money, and to end the benefits of playing with play money- that’s how we’ll end the ending of jobs in this country.

Montgomery County Commissioners on OH-3: sanity check

The 2000 OH-3 map showing gerrymandering across 4 counties

The 2000 OH-3 map showing gerrymandering across 4 counties

When the 3rd Congressional district was last gerrymandered as it was passed from Tony Hall to Mike Turner by the powers that be, it went from a compact, reasonable district that roughly matched Montgomery County boundaries to a sprawling mess that looks like a monkey with an etch-a-sketch tried to draw something and it was superimposed across SW Ohio.

The current district, which so oddly was carved around Mike Turner’s former home on Huffman Avenue, now requires a candidate to buy media in 4 markets to reach all the voters (yep- Dayton, Cincy, Columbus and Chillicothe),

1990 version of OH-3 map

The nice compact 1990 OH-3 map

So instead of moving back to a sane, functional district, our three “Democratic County Commissioners” Dodge, Foley and Lieberman, apparently like handing off the Third to Mr. Turner according to today’s Dayton Daily News:

Montgomery County leaders made a plea to Gov. John Kasich to keep the 3rd Congressional District intact with no further split as part of the redistricting process.

In the last redistricting in 2001, Montgomery County was divided, with about 22 percent going into the 8th District and the remainder being retained in the 3rd District, Commission President Debbie Lieberman and Commissioners Judy Dodge and Dan Foley wrote in an Aug. 15 letter to the governor.

“Any further split or splits could have a devastating impact on Montgomery County and the city of Dayton,” the letter stated. “…We strongly believe that our county and our citizens are best served when represented predominantly by one member of Congress who is able to focus on the totality of our community.”

via Commissioners urge Kasich to preserve 3rd District.

As someone who has run for the seat, I can tell you that it’s an incredibly difficult district to canvass and cover. It also leans Republican, just like almost all SW Ohio congressional districts.

For the County Commissioners NOT to be lobbying to return to something more manageable should make one think about their own suitability for office, before re-electing any of them.

Time for Warren Buffett to walk his talk

In yesterday’s New York Times, the oracle of Omaha wrote a plea for Congress to “Stop coddling the super-rich” and raise his taxes and all those of the people making more than $1million a year.

I highly recommend you read it- and then laugh:

OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks.

via Stop Coddling the Super-Rich – NYTimes.com.

This is my response to Mr. Buffett.

If Mr. Buffett was truly sorry about the situation the poor and middle class (which for his info are becoming one and the same) were in, he could change the tax code the same way it got the way it is- by buying his own politicians, just like all his rich friends have for years.

In fact, this is his way of side-stepping the expensive process that runs our country, the one that we mock in other countries as corrupt- the pay-to-play system, the auction of political office to the highest bidder. Buffett doesn’t want to have to pay to get his way- instead he just writes an op-ed column for the New York Times and walks away.

The real answer is for him to back a third party slate of honest politicians (if they can still be found) to go to Washington and do his bidding for him. First order of business would be to pass laws to publicly fund elections, taking the grease out of the fundraising wheels, and second, to reform our elections so that it’s not a lesser of two evils choice, moving to instant runoff ballots. Those two changes would give his ideas of changing the tax code a chance to actually happen.

Buffett is no stranger to giving money to politicians- you can look up his donations here:

http://www.fec.gov/finance/disclosure/norindsea.shtml

His total is $119,400 according to the FEC- and while that may seem like a lot to some of us, it’s barely rounding error on his taxes (he seems to favor Dems). Frankly, he’s not even a player in the political slush fund arena- which may be one reason he’s so wealthy.

There are solutions to stop coddling the rich and help the rest of us. Mr. Buffett, they require someone to outbid your wealthy friends on our behalf. Are you up to it?

 

Taxation without representation: Township should be folded

Apparently, you can have it both ways in Ohio. Selective income taxes are apparently OK if your township can’t pay the bills. Taxes that are being passed without a vote by the public.

The concept of urban townships is a farce that has been allowed to continue so we can supply income tax havens for the wealthy. There is absolutely no legitimate reasons for this form of government in urban areas – where the services are a hodge-podge between the county and the township. The cutoff in Ohio is 5,000 residents- with the main difference (until now) is that only cities can levy income taxes.

From today’s Dayton Daily News:

Walmart and Sam’s Club on Miller Lane agreed to an employee income tax that will help pay for police services, township trustees said Tuesday night.

The sister retailers called the township Friday and said they would become part of a Joint Economic Development District with Vandalia, paying income taxes estimated to be about $258,000.

Townships, which can not collect taxes, enter into these agreements with cities. Butler will collect 85 percent of the tax revenue, while Vandalia keeps 15 percent as fees.

“Nobody wants to put a levy on the ballot,” said Trustee President Michael Lang. “To me, this is a complete game-changer. We hope in a short amount of time to get the other businesses in the JEDD.

“We may still need a levy in the spring, but we have time to see where this puts us.”

Butler Twp. has been operating its 14-member police force on $1.1 million budget generated from a previous 4.9 mills levy, while also supplementing that money with an average of $350,000 yearly from its general fund. A 3.0 mills levy was estimated to generate $695,303 in new money, but that was before home values tied to the levy were downgraded last week. The extra revenue was going to go into the township’s general fund.

Trustees said they were looking to Miller Lane businesses for help since those businesses account for more than half the township’s police calls. The township has already laid off one officer, and Chief Danny Hobbs retires at the end of the month, further reducing the staff to 13.

It was feared without a levy or a JEDD, the police force would have to be further reduced next year.

“They (Walmart and Sam’s) understand the importance of this,” Trustee Martin Russell said. “They don’t want services reduced.”

via Butler Twp. cancels police levy after 2 retailers agree to JEDD.

The real question is how many property tax abatements were granted along Miller Lane to “lure” jobs in the name of “economic development.” The Benchwood Road exit was an earlier version of the Austin Road exchange, adding more sprawl and unneeded retail space to an already overbuilt market. We will soon see the same problems for Miami Township thanks to their manipulations at Austin Road.

This “agreement” to collect income taxes for the Township made by members of the Township and Walmart- should be questioned in the courts. The trustees should be tossed from office- and ultimately, the township should be disbanded and merged into Vandalia (the taxing authority) immediately.

How the citizens of this community can stand idle while this kind of back room shenanigans take place is one of the reasons “Greater” Dayton is such a dysfunctional mess. If we moved to a “One Dayton” regional government, we wouldn’t be having this kind of BS going on.