The real costs of our local government

Regular readers will know this subject is nothing new- we’ve got too many chiefs for a shrinking number of Indians. Not only that, but the Indians aren’t getting enough work since paying for all those chiefs costs business a bit more than it does in other states. But, it’s not just a matter of too many chiefs, it’s a question of are any of them any good?

If they want to keep trying to work with the system we have, the answer is simple: Nope, none of them are worth even the time it would take to think about recalling them (another issue in Ohio is it is almost impossible to depose anyone- no matter how incompetent). Of course, no one listens to local logic- nope, we have to wait for some out of town consulting firm or thinktank to tell us the obvious (in this case it’s the Brookings Institute):

School districts are not the only thing Ohio has in spades. It also has some 3,800 local government units, including 250 cities, 695 villages and 1,308 townships. The result is that “total local government payroll in Ohio is 10 percent above the national average and 17.5 percent above the peer state average,” according to Brookings.

None of this government is free, which leads to another finding: Ohio residents have the ninth-highest local tax burden in the country, compared with the 34th highest for state taxes. To know that fact is to understand that concentrating all the political fights about taxes in Columbus — as if state taxes alone define our competitiveness — is missing a big cost of doing business and living in Ohio.

via Editorial: Ohio’s rebound depends on cities | A Matter of Opinion.

But then again, even with reducing the numbers of fiefdoms, we’d still have to have someone to run the show. In Montgomery County, that job falls to Deborah “Teflon” Feldman, our County Administrator. She’s the “CEO” of the County- one that’s been hemorrhaging jobs and property value over the last 15 years. Of course, no one wants to blame Deborah, because she’s so good at what she does- mainly, keep the County Government out of the limelight and letting the city of Dayton sink or swim on its own. Not her problem- and not one she wants to take on. Of course, the problems she faces seem to get to be someone else’s fault every time- the buck never stops with her. Read what the DDN editorial written by her friend Ellen Belcher says:

Lesser embarrassments have cost people their jobs. But no one in high places is pointing a finger at Deborah Feldman, Montgomery County administrator. In fact, quite the opposite, they defend her fiercely and say they’re heartsick that she’s had to do most of the explaining publicly for the SCLC debacle.

The support for her stems from history, relationships and capital built up over almost 30 years.

via Ellen Belcher: County’s Feldman will weather SCLC storm | A Matter of Opinion.

Of late, even though we seem to have a bi-monthly scandal, no one wants to look at the top. The SCLC getting handed Federal funds without follow up, the Sheriff and his sister, the 911 dispatch system, the attempt to sneak in a vote to raise the hotel/motel tax to pay for a hockey arena at Austin Road, the big donation to the Dayton Development Coalition so that it could hire Congressman Turner’s wife on a no-bid contract- nothing seems to stick to her or her very slick aide de camp, County Economic Development Director Joe Tuss. No one is asking the hard questions about how this brilliant ED/GE fund is working at turning our community around. Nope, none of it is her fault, although she’s the second highest paid public employee in the County (after Dr. Stephen Johnson at Sinclair).

I’d still like to see an investigation into how the City of Dayton bought the old Sears building downtown from an investment group including Feldman’s husband and father in law at an enormous premium to put up the Riverscape fountains (and btw- how did that work out for us?).

The Dayton Grassroots Daily Show discusses both of these editorials and hopes that after reading and watching this- you have questions of your own.


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Will BrooksJeff of LouisvilleJesseDadDavid Esrati Recent comment authors
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Uhm, how did the old Sears building get razed for fountains? It wasn’t in the middle of the Great Miami. Actually, wasn’t the old Sears bldg. in the spot where WorkFlow One (or whatever it’s called now) is?


We owe this profusion of governmental entities to the Northwest Ordinance of 1784 and the Land Ordinance of 1785,
Wikipedia has a fine article and maps and diagrams about how it all worked at


The real cost of government is far worse than just that.  The real cost of government is excessive regulation, misallocation, and malinvestment of capital and other sundry unintended consequences of the heavy hand of the state.  Wasting 10% more than other states is not nearly as big a deal as the implications of the misallocation, and malinvestment that government expenditures create and enable.  If you want to improve Ohio, make it the State that has the lowest taxes and least regulation.  If you want to improve Dayton, make it the City with the lowest taxes and the least regulation.  Stop trying to “solve the problem” with government.  Just get out of the way.

Jeff of Louisville
Jeff of Louisville

This was a big take-away point from the Brookings study, that Ohio is in the top 10 in the USA in the high cost of local government taxation.  Number 9.  Out of 50 states.   No one wants to talk about that.   This reminds me of that Centerville attempt to merge with Washington Township, where the township residents saw adding another layer of taxation (to pay for city government) with no apparent benefit and said “no thanks”.
Esrati, you need to consider running for County Commissioner since you seem to be into this regionalism issue (as well as the issue of  the county being well-governed).  One has to say the system is broke if they need The Clean-Up Woman (Feldman) to keep tweaking things and intervening to make things “work”.  Maybe a Cuyahoga County type of reform?

Will Brooks
Will Brooks

Why expect career politicians to make any significant changes on their own. They won’t. Suffice it to say, they are interested in keeping their jobs. Keep the information public and continue to do what you can to educate the public.

Jeff of Louisville
Jeff of Louisville

Ellen Belcher lost a lot of credibility with me  with that op-ed.   Maybe its a bigger deal with me then the average person since I support things like the Human Service Levy and expect the money to be well-managed since social welfare spending is tight.  When you have the chief administrator waiving audits of organizations controlled by someone with a prior record of welfare fraud, well, what can I say? Serioulsy, folks….

Will Brooks
Will Brooks

@ Jeff – I’ve pretty much concluded that most DDN op-eds are going to be biased one way or the other. Seems the opinion du’ jour over there.