Montgomery County Board of Elections director Betty Smith to step down

Sources have informed that Director Betty Smith (R) will be stepping down at the Montgomery County Board of Elections for health reasons. Smith just recently switched positions with Steve Harsman (D) for the director. Both are paid the same and the seat rotates from D to R on a regular schedule.

It will be up to the new Republican Party chief, Rob Scott, to lead the decision on who will replace Ms. Smith at the board of elections.

On a personal note, I wish Betty the best- I’ve always found her to be incredibly helpful and nice in all my dealings with her. She also seemed to always follow the letter of the law on the patronage hires- making sure to have job applications etc. More than I can say about  the other side of the house.

The first step in education reform is to test the politicians

ExamWe now do a lot of teaching to the test. Making sure that kids can pass tests created by private companies to gauge achievement. It’s a huge racket. We spend billions on tests, test prep and the time wasted in our already short school year. The same people who make the tests, make the textbooks,  the test prep materials, and even run charter schools take a huge share of taxpayer money to provide “services” to “public education.”

There are proven lower cost alternatives, but I’ll get to that later. First you need to be schooled about what’s on our tests.

For a brilliant perspective on this folly, you really must read about the “hare and the pineapple“- a short story adapted from the fable of the hare and the turtle. This was on a test in the state of New York and was called out by students as being dumb, and amazingly, the people administering the test agreed and threw the questions out. Unfortunately, we didn’t look at throwing the publisher of this tripe, Pearson, out of the public education support business and start investing in meaningful education reform.

Gail Collins, editorial columnist for the New York Times has a nice short piece about this “A very pricey pineapple”

The first group of people we need to test on education is the people we elect. Sarah Palin had the potential of being our vice president, yet couldn’t tell you who fought on which side in World War II. Maybe we should make candidates try to pass the basic citizenship test that we make foreigners take to gain citizenship? It’s not an easy test. Right now, Ohio Governor Copycat Kasich is in love with an idea he got from the State of Florida- that no third grader should advance to fourth grade until they are reading at level. All research says that for kids to read on level by third grade a few things are needed:

  • Parents who can read and do in the home
  • Books in the home
  • Pre-K programs like Head Start and full-day kindergarten

However the governor has done little to assist schools in having funding for the actual parts the state provides.

Politicians talk about supporting education all the time. In fact, in his leaked website, our “Future Mayor of Dayton” talked about making sure education will be a priority, even though as mayor of Dayton, he has absolutely zero authority to do anything about education in his job description, unless he gets the state to intervene and declare Dayton Public Schools a failure and turns the headaches of urban school district reform over to the mayor as they have in Cleveland- in essence putting an amateur in charge of the education system. Maybe to run for office we should first require a test to see if the candidates actually know the responsibilities of the position and the structure of government before they are allowed to take out petitions?

It’s pretty obvious that this country has zero interest in electing our best and brightest people to positions of leadership in this country, with a few notable exceptions, we’re holding a popularity contest or an auction more than an election to select the people with the best ideas. Voters are given as little real information as possible to make selections, and the process is tainted by a lot of money spent on disinformation.

What are educational solutions that our best and brightest would advocate for? Here are two efforts that are being undertaken to help third-world nations educate their people- paid for by Americans, who don’t see it as a problem that we’re not doing the same for our kids:

Worldreader gives kids in the developing world access to digital books. Using e-readers loaded with thousands of local and international e-books, we provide children the books they want and need, so they can improve their lives.

via Worldreader: Kindles and E-books in Schools.

Wow, instead of constantly having to buy new textbooks that become obsolete or that consume a ton of physical resources, we’re giving away devices loaded with knowledge that can be updated and distributed effortlessly. Giving a kid a whole library of his own to explore and engage with doesn’t somehow seem obvious to Americans for our own kids.

My own kids aren’t even allowed to bring home many of their textbooks- instead being given “worksheets” which are stupid, wasteful, fill-in-the-blank, multiple-guess and matching crapola that mimic what “the tests” look like- and of course, have to be purchased from the crack purveyors of testing materials- Pearson (et. al.).

We also talk about the jobs of tomorrow belonging to “knowledge workers” which would require absolute familiarity and expertise in working with computers. It would seem that we’d be racing to make sure that every kid had a personal computing device of their own- ideally with open source software so they could learn and tinker with the inner workings of these devices so critical to their future. Nope, we don’t have a One Laptop Per Child program universally in the United States- but, thanks to a really smart guy who isn’t elected, Nicholas Negroponte of the MIT Media Lab, they’ve developed the OLPC XO laptop, or “hundred dollar laptop” to send to poor kids in Third World Countries to solve the same problems we have here.

OLPC’s mission is to empower the world’s poorest children through education.

We aim to provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop. To this end, we have designed hardware, content and software for collaborative, joyful, and self-empowered learning. With access to this type of tool, children are engaged in their own education, and learn, share, and create together. They become connected to each other, to the world and to a brighter future.

via Mission | One Laptop per Child.

They are on version 2 of their device, and our kids here in America, still don’t have computers. At least not universally, provided by the “public education system” – because companies like Pearson fear for the day when they are no longer needed in the classroom, as kids learn from the huge body of information that’s freely accessible to anyone with access to the internet.

As to the question of who might be responsible for making sure that information is correct- well, let me introduce you to Kahn’s academy. It started out with a very smart guy in college, Salman Kahn, (working on his 4th degree) tutoring his cousin online. He soon started using YouTube and sharing his lessons globally. It took off. Guess what, although I previously chided amateurs running education systems it turns out some of them can. Unfortunately, see above about testing our politicians before allowing them to run.

If we elected people like Salman Kahn or Nicholas Negroponte, our education system would look a lot different. Of course, for that to happen, we’d have to have smarter voters, with better access to information… but that’s another theme that we talk about on for another time.

For now, let’s start testing the politicians to see if they know what the leaders in educating for the future know to be true and that works at a much lower cost than what we’re doing now.

Photo Credit: Alberto G. via Compfight


Questions for A.J. Wagner- our future mayor

The twitter account for WagnerForMayor has been claimed by "The Fake AJ Wagner"

If you want people to follow your account, you should own it first

Last night I let the community know about A.J. Wagner’s new Wagner for Mayor website. One of my readers has already claimed the twitter account that the Washington. D,C,. developers failed to claim, despite telling the world to follow @WagnerforMayor

His fundraising button to ActBlue doesn’t work yet either. And, the brilliant D.C. developer also failed to remove the “Hello World” post as well. The site does look real “purdy” though.

AJ Wagner for Mayor site designed by DC firm Code and Politics

I believe in Dayton, but I go to DC for my site

Considering Wagner claims all over his site that he “believes in Dayton” he chose not to use any number of local firms that can develop a site and a brand and headed to Washington, D.C., to hire “Code and Politics” So far he has no content under “The Issues” and in his grand introduction which is written in that wonderful third-person voice (especially odd for a blog post) the most telling part is that you can’t comment. Does A.J. want to have a conversation with the people of Dayton or not? Since you can’t do anything but friend him on Facebook and sign up for a newsletter, I thought I’d open the discussion about A.J.’s campaign here on where the people who choose to be well informed about Dayton politics and graft come daily.

I’ve used the ordered list with numbers for discussion only, not as a rank of importance.

  1. You’ve been writing a column in the Dayton City Paper (DCP), now that you are a political candidate, will you give that up, or will you get the DCP to give your opposition equal space?
  2. Do you plan on writing your own posts on your blog, or continue to have some strange ghostwriter do it in a third person like our Republican congressman and former Mayor, Mike Turner? And if you are interested in learning how to use this technology, may I recommend the excellent seminar on using WordPress,
  3. Will you at some point allow comments? Will they post immediately like on or will you hold them for moderation?
  4. As a judge, you recused yourself from all death penalty cases, claiming your Catholic faith and personal moral constructs put you at odds with the law (citation needed, but take my word for it- or A.J. can respond in comments). Are there any issues in the city that your faith and constructs might put you at odds with the law- for example, the Catholic church isn’t a fan of abortion, birth control, gay marriage, domestic partner registries, etc.?
  5. The current city charter requires 500 signatures of registered voters to get on the ballot and to have the petitions notarized. This is a bit odd, since you only need 50 signatures to run for Congress. It has stopped many candidates from getting on the ballot due to technicalities or the validity of signatures (which have to be gathered in very cold weather). The state standard is also 50 signatures. Will you change this?
  6. Also, the charter requirements for citizens to put a charter change on the ballot and the recall process both are measured by percentages of registered voters- not by a percentage of actual voters in an election (the standard that’s used throughout the state). According to the census, Dayton has 109,000 people of voting age. If you believe the 100,000  count of registered voters at the Board of Elections we have 93% of adults are qualified to sign petitions. Yet petitions routinely have at least 30% of the signatures invalidated. Will you fix this?
  7. What is A,J, Wagner’s plan for the priority board system that was implemented in the ’70’s and decimated in the last ten years?
  8. On your site you talk about improving educational opportunities. To quote Mike Turner in his first mayoral race when I was running against him and talked about the schools, “if you want to talk about the schools you should be running for school board.” Where is the money coming from to better fund pre-K education and full-day kindergartens? And where is the money coming from to fund a program “for all those who qualify and apply themselves, through a college diploma paid for by private and public benefactors” ala the “Kalamazoo promise” We can be promised the world by any politician, we want to know specifics on how you will achieve it.
  9. You backed Rhine McLin in the past and Richard Clay Dixon. Considering that neither of them was a  stellar, ground breaking mayor- what will make you different? Can you point out any paradigm shifts you implemented as auditor or as a judge that supports your ability to do any “outside the box” thinking?
  10. We’ve seen the City Commission get mired up in national politics by addressing things that are outside the purview of city government – an assault weapons ban, a handgun registry, anti-predatory lending laws, living wage rules which while all good and fine for posturing, drained city resources and took the eye off the ball of doing the basic jobs that our city has been failing to do (indicated by the mass exodus of residents over the last 25 years). Are you for or against these kinds of grandstands- and how do you feel about each of them in retrospect (every one of them has cost the taxpayers plenty).
  11. Despite my protest and arrest over the subject of illegal “work sessions” of the City Commission back in 1996, the charter clearly specifies only one official meeting of the commission to conduct business at a set time and place, these have continued to be held. Will you stop this practice or continue it?
  12. The rules on public speaking at City Commission have become pretty draconian over the last 20 years, will you change the tenor of how citizens are received at the legal meeting?
  13. Over the last 20 years, we’ve seen the growth of the “Department of Economic Development” in the city, the county and the state. The main function of this department seems to be to hand out tax breaks or our tax dollars to private companies. What is your position on this?
  14. The Downtown Dayton Partnership has been funded for a number of years with an additional tax on downtown property owners. Considering the huge loss of downtown jobs, is it time to end the “Special Improvement District”?
  15. The city has given money for years to the Dayton Development Coalition which is supposed to serve as a regional Economic development department, but instead seems to have become a federal lobbying group. The city has also paid a lobbyist at times with tax dollars. Will you stop this practice and instead be our voice to lobby to our other elected officials?
  16. What are your specific criticisms of our current mayor? How has Gary Leitzell failed the citizens of Dayton in your opinion. I know this question is difficult for a nice guy like you, but, some would  point out he’s only one vote of five, and you’ve been a supporter of the other four commissioners who have probably gotten in his way. Comment?
  17. As a follow up question to #16, the inside joke about the mayor’s job is that your only qualification is that you have to be able to count to three. Which two commissioners will you engage and count on to make your mark?
  18. If I crawled though your campaign finance reports- who would I find as your major donors? You’ve run for other offices including Ohio Supreme Court. Are there any donors who might embarrass you? Do you have any opinion on campaign finance reform? Gary Leitzell ran his campaign with a sixth of what Rhine McLin spent- are you willing to agree to limits if your opposition does?
  19. You retired as judge before your term was up. Why should we elect a quitter? If you do it again, it will cost the taxpayers money for a special election- will you promise to personally guarantee the costs of a special election if elected? Also, if you are already receiving a state pension, will you forgo it while serving as mayor if you win? And, how will a four-year term as mayor affect your pension- is this part of why you are running – to add years? If the anti-spiking law goes into effect being mayor may actually lower your average pay and could decrease your pension- are you OK with that?
  20. I admit, I was impressed when you planted a flag in your yard for every dead US soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan as a reminder to us of the real cost of war. I understand that removing thousands of flags and replanting them every time you had to mow became an issue. While symbolism is wonderful- what else did you actively do to protest?
  21. I’ve previously posted an attack on your practice of housing young UD co-eds in your home– at one point the voter rolls had as many as 5 women, not related to you, residing in your home. What changes to zoning and building codes will you push as mayor? Do you support Single Room Occupancy, dropping the requirements for parking with development in built locations, or are there other ideas you have in this area?
  22. Last question- call it catch 22. Our city has a weak-mayor system. We’re supposed to have a professional city manager lead us, yet politicians with big egos and small brains have minimized our manager’s voice over the years. While Tim Riordan has done an amazing job at keeping the city out of financial folly, he’s not been a particularly visible or engaged leader. Who will you replace him with? Or will you try to move us away from the city manager form of government?

To be fair to Judge Wagner, and to other candidates, this is more than enough to keep him busy writing his blog for the next month. We’re still waiting to see who else throws their hat in the ring for leader of the pack.

In the meantime- make sure you follow @Wagnerformayor for the latest updates. I’m sure you’ll get more answers from the Fake AJ Wagner than you will from the real one.

If any of my readers want to pose questions for “The Future Mayor of Dayton” comments are open and welcome by me- the future…. of Dayton.

A.J. Wagner is running for mayor of Dayton

Screen Shot of AJ Wagner for mayor site

AJ wants to be Mayor.

I missed the announcement- but the website is up: telling us how much AJ Wagner believes in Dayton and he will…

He’s been a career politician for at least two decades and a Montgomery County Democratic party insider. However, he quit his last elected position in an attempt to maneuver someone into his judgeship so they could run as an incumbent. When things weren’t going as planned for one of his patronage employees, he tried to “un-retire” and tell the governor who’s boss. See the posts:
A.J. Wagner shows the Governor who’s boss
How the Monarchy of Montgomery County Works: The AJ Wagner Affair

Insiders who’ve shared the story say the person he was protecting wasn’t worth it.

Although A.J. doesn’t have any use for me, I like him. He’s a nice guy, everybody’s buddy. The fact that he wouldn’t sign my petitions to help get me on the ballot, shows his true colors- he believes that the democratic process is only for insiders anointed by him and his pals.

I’m glad he’s running, just because it will make things interesting in the next election cycle. Mayor Leitzell is waiting until August to decide on his plans. Commissioner Nan Whaley thinks it’s “her turn” to be mayor. Commissioner Williams may be ready to be done with the commission. Rhine McLin is planning her comeback as well, either to fill Nan’s seat, or in a special election which will be called soon after Commissioner Lovelace gets his 20 years in and resigns.

There are some other candidates hiding in the wings, including a few who could give AJ a real run. No matter what, this will be a big money race.

Thanks to reader Melissa for giving me the tip.

Note- And AJ doesn’t believe in buying local- he went to Washington, D.C., to have his website done by Code and Politics

The tools of economic development were stolen last night

Just last week, I wrote about the costs of giving tax breaks to big businesses for promised jobs- while small business start-ups have huge obstacles. I spoke of the costs we all pay when we have to make up for the tax revenues that aren’t coming in.

From my post:

I’m watching a small start-up try to get out of the blocks. A house painting company that specializes in making new paint stick to old houses- by doing maniacal surface preparation and using high quality paint. He could hire an employee tomorrow to start work, but, he has to pay for licenses, bonding, insurance and purchase capital goods like a scaffold, all out of cash.

Also the minute he hires someone, he has to start paying worker’s comp (which is high for a painting company out of the blocks) payroll taxes- all the things we’re willing to subsidize for the going concern. And, the person he’s likely to hire- is someone who is also under-employed, needing every dollar earned just to survive.

He has no credit, no tax breaks and zero support. I helped by creating his new identity, printing business cards, door hangers and signs. I set him up with a website and suggested marketing strategies, he’s finishing his first project and about to start his second tomorrow. I also hired him to do some interior painting as he was getting started. He’s having to bid low to prove the value of his product, despite having a few “freelance projects” to show from last year.

When we know that the major engine for job creation is small businesses, why are our tax dollars subsidizing large ones?

When we know that the small business can have an immediate impact- why are the deals being done for jobs that are a year away?

Why do we subsidize any business with our tax dollars? With every subsidy we tilt the playing field to give an unfair advantage to one company over another- not the role for government or a fair use of our tax dollars. Plus, if the big business paid the same taxes as our smaller ones- maybe the burden of starting up wouldn’t be so insurmountable?

Would you like to help a small business get started? Hire one. The Brush and Bucket. (update in 2015- I can no longer vouch for this small business)

You want your tax dollars to help a big company by costing you more for security systems, slower emergency crew response, new school tax levies to make up for the giveaway- continue to sit on your thumbs while politicians sell you the BS that tax supported “job creation” is a good investment of your tax dollars.

via Your tax dollars at work as venture capital vs. small businesses at work.

Well, last night, The Brush and Bucket had his tools stolen. His brand new pressure washer, all of his sanders, grinders and scrapers. The aluminum downspouts from his current project- which were all locked in a building across the street from his house- gone. He was working on getting a security system installed- but, alas, it’s too late.

He also didn’t have his equipment insured yet. Gone are about $1,000 worth of equipment that helped employ 4 people.

Here are pictures of the kind of prep work he did with those tools- making old wood look new- and shots of the door lock that was busted open.

  • The busted door jamb after the break in.
    The jamb that broke
  • door lock missing bolt
    The bolt was busted out
  • After proper prep this is what the side of the house looked like
    Best paint prep job you’ve ever seen
  • The Brush and Bucket- sign with a house getting a proper prep job
    The Brush and Bucket, 937-824-0674
  • Stolen Troy Built Pressure Washer with Honda engine
    Stolen pressure washer
  • Stolen Pressure washer Serial number 1019876149
    Serial number 1019876149
  • Stolen DeWalt 5" Random Orbit Palm Sander Kit- model D26451K SN 882560
    Stolen DeWalt 5″ Random Orbit Palm Sander Kit- model D26451K SN 882560

True economic development means that people can spend their money on building a business, without having to fear that their tools will be stolen and all that they’ve worked for has disappeared overnight.

Had we spent $45,000 on our police department instead of a website from a Denver ad agency, maybe the Brush and Bucket would have the tools so 4 people could have worked today- and tomorrow.

Maybe the Mayor and the Commission would like to invest in a small local business with money out of their pockets- and buy him a new pressure washer, sanders, grinders and scrapers- so he can keep his company that he started in Dayton, hiring Daytonians, in business?


I’ve added pictures of the products- and the S/N of two of the stolen items:

Troy Built Pressure washer with Honda engine: Style 8100CP Model 020489 S/N 1019876149

DeWalt 5″ Random Orbit Palm Sander Kit- model D26451K  SN 882560