Voter Information Guide

            This time of year newspaper editorials urge voters to be informed. Newark is no different. After running extensive articles on the various races, sides and issues, The Newark Advocate does just that; a thankless job. Two priorities stand out in the upcoming election – school funding and Newark City Council representation. Reasons giving for the various new or renewal school funding levies usually come down to cuts in state funding, changes to tax base, etc. Most of the districts have already implemented austerity measures on top of austerity measures and now must rely on the voters continued support. With the council representation, themes emerge, sound bytes, talking points. They may be block watch programs, police and fire protection, neighborhood revitalization, etc. All are pretty general. All are subsumed within the overriding consensus topic of jobs and economy. In that there is no partisan division.

 

            The Toledo Blade recently did an excellent job of reporting on the State of Ohio’s policies, practices and outcomes regarding jobs, jobs creation and the economics involved (loans, grants, tax credits, etc.). These speak directly to what the council candidates only spoke of in general, positive terms and what school districts have to “manage” as the new reality. The Blade covered the years 2007 through 2013, years of Democratic and Republican administration (truly no partisan division). The reports by Kris Turner are State Does Little To Track Jobs From Loans, and Millions Of Dollars Lost In Ohio’s Pursuit Of Jobs dated 10-27-13, Political Ties Aid Firms Seeking State Assistance 10-28-13, and Many Jobs State of Ohio Says It Created Don’t Exist 10- 29-13. The headlines speak for themselves. Recurring themes found such as lapses with vetting as well as verification mirror those that led up to the financial meltdown on Wall Street in 2008. As corporations are entities existing only in contemplation of the law (now having religious convictions!), they appear under various guises, affinities and subsidiary connections. Oftentimes their only contact point is a PO box in a distant city. “Today, many of the procedures that resulted in governmental lapses are now being performed out of the public’s view. At the behest of Governor Kasich, the Ohio Department of Development was eliminated and morphed into the downsized Ohio Development Services Agency in September, 2012. Criticism of the Department of Development was a staple of Mr. Kasich’s gubernatorial campaign in 2010. The new agency — per the Republican-backed legislation that created it — contracts some of its services from JobsOhio, a nonprofit that was created by the state, seeded with taxpayer money, and shielded by law from public scrutiny. JobsOhio now vets and collects information about companies that request state assistance. The information JobsOhio amasses is reviewed by the Development Services Agency. Neither entity would comment on whether that information is a public record. Unlike the Development Services Agency, JobsOhio is not required to disclose the details of its activities to the state auditor or the General Assembly.” (Millions Of Dollars Lost…10-27-13). An analogous situation exists within Licking County/ Newark revealed recently with regard the Arcade and the adjoining properties affected by an antiquated fire suppression system/red and white X status designation. Ownership of properties/business was listed as some corporation, which in turn was found to be part of some other company which were in turn found to be located within the holdings of some individual. Much of the debate regarding property maintenance in Newark centers on this issue of ownership, and responsibility. The Blade article found that when a corporation defaults, goes bankrupt or just disappears in the night, tracking down the loan money owed is next to impossible. The grants and tax credits used as incentives require no reimbursement. “The loan, grants, and tax credits Mr. Snyder’s [C. David Snyder, Cleveland businessman] companies received are an example of how business people use relationships with politicians to grow their companies. State financing is particularly attractive because it carries a lower interest rate than a bank loan. Even better, state officials sometimes dole out grants that don’t have to be paid back.” (Political Ties Aid… 10-28-13) Vetting, eligibility, verification and eventual collection (enforcement) of how the public’s money is spent finds itself with increasingly smaller departments and with no public disclosure now legislated as a prerequisite. Though not the size of the NSA, the secrecy clause, or default lack of accountability due to overworked, understaffed oversight can likewise be found in Licking County as well as Newark. Bullet points from The Blade’s series reveal some troubling outcomes. “Among the findings of the investigation:

■ Buckeye Silicon is one of more than a dozen examples of a breakdown in the vetting, oversight, and management of loans and grants awarded to companies.

■ The state routinely invests in businesses that have financial problems and legal troubles. It also awarded loans and grants to companies whose executives were hefty political donors or were connected to top politicians in Columbus.

■ About 50 percent of the companies that received grants to create jobs failed to live up to their state job commitments. Those businesses were paid $45.5 million, which is half the grant funding the state awarded to spark job growth.

■ Many state records detailing job creation related to grant funding contained inaccuracies, which skewed the total number of jobs created by 25,000.

■ In total, 25 percent of the firms that received loans issued during the five-year period needed more time to complete projects, couldn’t make payments on time, or closed. Those 51 loans represent $79.2 million, or about one-third, of the $235.8 million that was paid to companies.” (Millions Of Dollars Lost… 10-27-13)

“But The Blade’s investigation found a much bigger problem:

● Reports from businesses that have open grants — meaning they still are using state grant money — inflated job figures by 59 percent. The 294 reports that were reviewed stated firms created 27,815 jobs, but state officials said they created 16,458 jobs — a difference of 11,357 fewer jobs.

● Reports from businesses that finished spending state grant money show they failed to create 83 percent of the jobs they promised to the state. The 240 reports reviewed stated those firms promised to create 10,173 jobs, but said they created only 1,775 positions. Officials at Ohio Development Services Agency, however, claim those companies created 15,006 jobs.

Of the 534 grant records reviewed, 195 contained errors, including incorrect job-creation numbers. The Blade asked the state about each error it found and state officials replied with new data, which was used to determine if companies created or lost jobs. The corrected state data was not recorded on official documents, but was sent to The Blade via email.” (Many Jobs… 10-29-13)

 

            In light of the Blade’s reporting, it is disappointing to note that no candidate for representation on Newark’s City Council differentiated themselves regarding how the public’s money is spent in terms of the bi-partisan refrain of jobs and economics of jobs creation. The same means of attaining that goal favored by the State of Ohio are echoed within Newark municipal policy and practice. Carte Blanche management of public money’s directed at this outcome are vetted, verified, monitored and enforced by either private agency with no requirement of disclosure, or burden an understaffed, overworked public department. And the candidates take no issue with that!

            The school districts across the state formerly found themselves under attack by the very reasons that today the State (and local) legislature create as legal policy for purposes of “competitiveness” in jobs creation and economics. After repeated insistence that school funding had been misspent, frittered away on nonessentials, districts found themselves increasingly restricted in funding and use of funding by the State. Although always transparent by decree (local public funding), schools found they needed to be even more so in addition to being required to justify any actions taken through stringent accountability, testing and achievement results. This accountability of public moneys (on public schools) didn’t extend to the business driven model of charter or private schools which, like some of the examples given by The Blade, could just disappear off the radar screen like a blib, leaving parents (and local public schools) scrambling to meet the public education requirement of the students affected. The obsession with creating jobs/economics on the backs of the working people who provide the funding is creating a bubble akin to that which the school districts experienced over the last 30 years (educate by providing the latest technology, which somehow was never quite new enough). The only difference lies in the legislated non-accountability that the jobs creators enjoy; no testing or achievement standards. It is now virtually impossible to have a “results driven”, publically funded jobs creation economic in the State of Ohio, or locally for that matter. And the candidates found it of no importance in their appeal for votes.

           

Yes voters need to be informed and now, more than ever, they need to vote.

 

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