Archive for December, 2013

We The People

December 25, 2013

            Boy, talk about the end of the news cycle (see previous post)! To accompany the seasonal weather, a flurry of news came out of Etna Township just before the holiday. Timing is everything. All Newark Advocate, all the time. “Annexation prompts Etna trustees to file suit against commissioners” December 23rd. Cute headline, huh? We the people will be paying for both sides of that suit.  Some things to note from the article:

“The Etna Township Trustees have voted to sue the Licking County commissioners over a 1.2-acre annexation that the county panel approved on Taylor Road — one that placed the property in question in Reynoldsburg.”

“As for the road issue, the trustees note that the township will be responsible for maintaining a section of Taylor Road even though the bordering property is within city limits. The annexation also could upset the various costs the township and Reynoldsburg will pay for the multi-million dollar Taylor Road improvement project that is a little more than a year from going to construction.” And finally, the bottom line:

“The project has an overall price tag of about $3.6 million. Etna is paying the largest local chunk at $1.1 million, with the federal government covering roughly over $2 million.”

 

            The other story is “Etna trustees resist call for Burkholder removal” December 24. Of note:

“The Etna Township Trustees took no action Saturday on the request of the Etna Township Economic Development Committee that one of its members be removed from office for an alleged conflict of interest.”

“The alleged conflict is over Burkholder’s position as the Etna Township representative on the Southwest Licking County Community Water and Sewer Board and that group’s advocacy for inclusion in a new tax district being considered by the trustees.”

“The missive said that a majority of the economic panel requested that Burkholder “step down from the position…effective immediately.” The panel also passed a motion to recommend that the trustees remove Burkholder in the event he did not resign.”

“The trustees previously voted 3-0 to deny including the utility as a beneficiary of any new tax district. Schaff indicated he thought Burkholder was lobbying for the inclusion by his advocacy for the tax benefit. Burkholder refuted that viewpoint, saying: “I have not lobbied.””

Of particular interest is how the report ends: “Burkholder served one term as trustee but was defeated for re-election by current Trustee Jeff Johnson. The trustees not only named Burkholder to the two panels that created Saturday’s debate, but also named him as acting township administrator last spring when the post was created. Burkholder was one of two finalists for the permanent appointment before the trustees selected Rob Platte.”

 

            The interesting development, which will be lost in the post-holiday, weekend, New Year news cycle shuffle (much as trash collection gets moved about and forgotten) is the active and immediate opposition to this “new tax district” by the Licking County Chamber of Commerce (Chamber objects to Etna Township tax plan No action yet taken toward formalizing proposal Dec. 24, 2013 by Chad Klimack). The Advocate (and Chamber) were very generous in allowing the people a look see at the content of a letter posted December 24 addressed to the Etna Township trustees voicing the Chamber’s displeasure with this proposed course of action. Analysis recommends reading the entire article as well as online copy of the letter before it becomes a pay-per-view archive. Segments of Klimack’s report that Analysis found of interest:

“Evers [Dan Evers, economic development director of Grow Licking County] asked to speak at Tuesday’s special meeting, but since the meeting agenda included no space for public comment he was not allowed to speak. When asked about the letter and the chamber’s opposition to the proposed taxing districts, Evers said, “The principal concern is that it creates an unanticipated and potentially significant expense for existing businesses.” Evers, who said he did not have a list of opposing township businesses, added the chamber has reached out to various township officials to articulate their concerns regarding the proposal. Those discussions, Evers said, occurred in private.”

“The township’s economic panel has spent months debating the creation of a JEDD or JEDZ.”

“The difference between the two is a board or council can create a JEDD via a unanimous vote of its own, while a JEDZ must be created by a vote of the public. Etna Township currently is considering the creation of a taxing district that would cover 65 parcels and roughly 1,670 acres. Almost all the acreage would stand around the Interstate 70-Ohio 310 interchange or around Etna Corporate Park north of U.S. 40. The district near the interstate would encompass all four corners of the interchange and several existing businesses, including those on Columbus Expressway and Ohio 310, north and south of the interchange. The district encompassing the corporate park would include existing businesses inside the park, in addition to hundreds of undeveloped acres between U.S. 40, Mink Street and Refugee Road. [Etna Township Trustee John] Carlisle said the newest proposal, which would include a 1.5-percent income tax, if approved, could help the township generate money to pour into its roads. Township voters in recent years have defeated two road and bridge levies, leaving the fast-growing township without one.”

In light of the Taylor Road annexation, it gets even better: ““We’ve been tapping into our general fund to do road and bridge projects in the township because the road and bridge fund doesn’t have enough funds,” Carlisle said. “Everybody is stuck on the (Ohio) 310 bridge, but this is more than the (Ohio) 310 bridge. this is about doing some things in the township we would like to be able to do.” As Carlisle referenced, the Ohio Department of Transportation and Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission have pledged to fund the bulk of the $11-$12 million project to expand the Interstate 70/Ohio 310 interchange, but the township must come up with the remaining $2.6 million. It currently does not have that much money, Carlisle said. Hottinger references the multi-million interchange project in her letter. She said the chamber has talked to “a number” of [unnamed] businesses and property owners who view the project as “premature and perhaps unnecessary and/or ineffective.” Etna officials, in addition to officials from Pataskala, meanwhile, have championed the project, arguing it could reduce congestion and speed up commutes for residents from both communities.”

Who pays, you might ask? “A JEDD or JEDZ only taxes workers and businesses inside the district boundaries, and many of those workers, Carlisle said, come from outside the township. Roughly 10 percent of the people who work inside ProLogis Park live in the township, Carlisle said. The people who do not should help pay for the upkeep of the township’s roads since they use them, Carlisle added. “Every one of those people who work at the corporate park have to drive a township road to get there,” said Carlisle. The chamber would be more amenable to another taxing district, Evers said, if the township was again looking at placing one over undeveloped land.”

“In her letter, Hottinger argues the existing businesses in the township funneled significant investments into their facilities, and a proposed taxing district would generate no expanded services for them.” With the final line being:

“Still, Carlisle cautioned the township has not reached a decision on the matter.

“We’re open to discussions with (the county chamber),” Carlisle said.”

 

            In the 3-26-13 post entitled Ohio Tax Credit, Analysis gave an in depth look at JEDD’s, the Chamber, JobsOhio and Pro Logis, etc. Other posts have referenced these occurrences in Etna township, especially in terms of greenfield development (undeveloped farm land) for which Etna township was highly desirable. Analysis insists on historical context in evaluating these recent pressing developments (of how to pay for infrastructure development utilized by corporate entities as well as the people). One of the businesses included in the 310 interchange projected overlay hosted Governor Kasich and Mitt Romney in a large rally during the 2012 election. That business was touted as a model of how the business outlook is the answer to what we the people need. The Citizens United Supreme Court ruling should also not be overlooked for it enabled the National Chamber of Commerce to lobby unabashedly (and lavishly) for candidates and issues during that election. Lobbying discussed on the evening news out of Washington creates concern. Here we the people are witnessing it in our own backyard. Revolving door political administration occurring in Washington DC likewise finds itself reproduced with Mr. Burkholder’s résumé. Although the Supreme Court has extended 14th amendment rights of citizenship to corporate entities, unlike we the people, they assert their exception to funding infrastructure that they likewise use (“Every one of those people who work at the corporate park have to drive a township road to get there,”). These corporate “persons” could always claim they only access their buildings by helicopter or drones, but the freight, delivery trucks and airport shuttles beg to differ. The same folks who achieved Citizens United now have McCutcheon vs. FEC before the court, hoping to maintain the un-disclose-able privacy of their monetary stake, along with the privacy that the Chamber employs in establishing corporate exceptionalism from sharing in community infrastructure maintenance and development costs. They prefer to let we the people caught up in the rush hour traffic pay for it (as we go to and from our jobs at these very corporate facilities). Improvements “would generate no expanded services for them.” All this contributes to the income disparity within our country through the bifurcation of we the people into “Us and Them”. Corporate entities (considered persons by the Supreme Court) don’t need to address commonly shared problems through public means but are entitled to “Those discussions … [which have] occurred in private.” Who pays? The 90% of workers who “come from outside the township”. This all just multiplies and reinforces the us/them identity of we the people

More Of The Right To Look

December 20, 2013

            Corporate and government public relations spokespeople know all too well how to work what is called a “news cycle”. It is well known that stories appearing at the tail end of the “news cycle” will quickly be displaced by the stories and “news” that rolls out with the start of the next cycle. Within the traditional print media, the news cycle usually began with the large edition Sunday news. With contemporary print’s morphing into an online/print synthesis, the cycle accelerated to a late Friday, Saturday starting time. News appearing just prior would be described as at the end of the news cycle. Yesterday the Ohio Attorney General released a report on the compliance (and efficacy) of Ohio’s economic development funding primarily implemented in the form of grants, tax credits, loans and awards. These are touted as incentives to create “jobs” and in turn benefit the “jobs creators”. The Akron Beacon Journal (AP) states that “The Ohio Attorney General says just over half of companies receiving state economic development awards last year were fully compliant with the requirements of those awards, such as job creation or retention. The report by Attorney General Mike DeWine is an annual study required by lawmakers to gauge the outcome when companies receive grants and other awards. DeWine’s study released Thursday found that of the 266 awards with a performance requirement in 2012, 120 or about 45 percent were not compliant.” (12-20-13 Akron Beacon Journal, the entire document can be accessed at ohioattorneygeneral.gov). This (re)confirms the independently financed Toledo Blade study cited in this blog’s November 2, 2013 posting. That private study likewise showed that half of the state’s financial incentives to create jobs disappear. The word disappear is not here used facetiously as the Blade points out the veritable difficulty (if not impossibility) of gaining access to information regarding the actual performance outcome of these developmental efforts (thanks in no small part to the legislated exceptional status granted JobsOhio). Dewine’s release of his study coincides with the end of the news cycle, as did last week’s report on the efficacy of the state legislated mandate of third grade reading tests. That report (regarding the reading) disappeared from the radar screen of news with the weekend’s opioid addiction series run by the Newark Advocate. It would not be surprising if the attorney general’s “glass half empty/half full” results don’t meet the same demise. It is bad enough to admit that these legislated efforts aren’t working as intended. But to admit that our efforts to create jobs cost twice as much as intended creates more than embarrassment.

Mandated Success

December 14, 2013

            December 14, 2013 online Newark Advocate featured the headline “Reading scores tumble almost 10 points  Ohio third-graders fare worse than in ’12” written by Jessica Brown of the Cincinnati Enquirer and Hannah Sparling of the Advocate. Comparisons are made between previous reading test scores administered at the third grade level and the recent ones from this fall. The article also points out that charter schools fared even worse than traditional community public schools. The statistical analysis for the state as a whole, local districts (sans local charter schools), and even an interactive resource are provided. It is of no benefit to reprint all that here, now. Analysis also notes that over the months there has been a steady uptick in the statewide unemployment figures. Currently Ohio’s unemployment figures are above the national percentage, with Licking County finding itself fortunate, below the national figure. Both of these statistical considerations are affected (and effected) by our state legislators (and local politicians). The third grade reading mandate was signed into law by our governor in 2010, at the start of his tenure as chief executive. JobsOhio also began with Governor Kasich’s administration and its functioning was legislated (and re-legislated) by the state legislature to accommodate his desire. Today’s “Reading scores” exposé along with the Toledo Blades’ in-depth look at actual jobs creation in Ohio (see this blog’s November 2, 2013 post, Voter Information Guide) supplies further evidence that, well, success just can’t be mandated. This authoritarian “mandated success” approach to problem solving (especially ones that are not easily solved, as they are not “problems” but rather conditions) will become apparent with the overwhelming, to-be-expected list of causes and blame. School districts are frittering away public money (and not charters?), teachers are not teaching (again, charter school teachers included?), take away the video games, cell phones and tv (and replace them with what, Microsoft’s campaign to get more technology in the schools?), parents should be more involved (which ones, those who live on a parallel planet ala’ Clark Kent’s bizarro world, and don’t need to hold more than one job, or one job and school/military service, or likewise don’t rely on cell phones, videos and tv?), etc. Again, along with the Blade article, the CNBC article, “Why New Employees Can’t Write, And Why Employers Are Mad” featured in this blog’s November 13, 2013 posting, Shorts, shows that maybe, just maybe, the authoritarian approach to “problem solving” just doesn’t work when it is not a problem, but a condition.

 

            “On the bright side, it’s early in the school year, Vaughn [Mindy Vaughn, Newark City Schools elementary curriculum director] said. Students took the reading test after only a month of school, and for many, it was one of their first standardized test experiences.” (Brown and Sparling)

 

This innocuous line (and its perfectly reasonable and accurate assessment) reveals a fundamentally authoritarian approach to problem solving. Once the children learn to handle standardized tests, all should be cleared up. A lifetime of such tests awaits them, so they might as well get used to it. Better yet, master it. (now THAT’S education!) Many would jump in here and say “Well, testing is only natural. Testing is an integral part of our social structure. Etc.” (and hierarchical class structuring?) Few would venture to risk asserting that this “first standardized test experience[s]” reproduces the authoritarian approach to problem solving (of what is not necessarily a problem). Not only reproduces it, but by its very methodology indoctrinates it as well. Always expecting someone in authority to verify, legitimate and justify your performance is certainly not conducive to problem solving. Indeed, it can be downright counterproductive. It is, however, an excellent way to perpetuate a condition. Misdirecting public funds to “jobs creators” projects like stadium building (see current Cols. Blue Jackets Arena referendum, or Cleveland Brown stadium debacle, or Atlanta Braves stadium building) or greenfield development (while large swaths of existing city structures deteriorate or become parking lots and brownfields through publicly funded demolition) reaffirms the authoritarian mandated success approach of publicly financed expenditure for purely privately desired outcomes. The administrations of Governors Taft, Strickland, and now Kasich and their accompanying legislatures continuously elide prioritizing education (not testing). Rather than leading through example and commitment, all prefer to mandate success. This says more about the problem solvers than it does the problem.   

Communist Or Republican

December 12, 2013

            The news this week was that Don Ellington retired but kept on working. No, not as a real estate broker but as Newark City Council president. Seems no one in the Republican Party minded after Ellington “called some of the central committee members to see how they felt.” (Don’s very words from the 12-12-13 online Columbus Dispatch article, Newark council president retires to keep health care, then returns to job by Eric Lyttle. You got to love the Dispatch. They use the phrase “Your Right To Know” in the headings of government stories without any reference to a “Right To Look”!). Nelson Mandela was also in the news this past week. All over the news would be an understatement. Praise upon praise was heaped on him like so many flowers at an outdoor memorial site; very beloved by so many, and an inspiration to so many. For Emerson scholar Stanley Cavell praise acknowledges the existence of an “other”, as well as cursing. Many detractors chose the latter; anti-communist fervor continuously deployed to justify denigration no matter what course history actually took. But it is undeniable that, unlike Robert Mugabe in neighboring Zimbabwe, Nelson Mandela really did step down after one year of presidency and allowed others to carry on the work.

 

            ““People say, ‘Oh, you’re double-dipping,’” Ellington said. “But if you don’t want people doing it, then change the rules.”” (Lyttle)

 

            Don’t game the system if you don’t want others doing it. What could be simpler? It’s just so easy to rail about “others” who game the system in terms of publicly funded assistance, benefits, welfare, compensation, etc. especially when it comes to getting elected to a leadership position and passing legislation (like raising the retirement age for social security eligibility). Communist or Republican, Mandela showed integrity in his leadership by actually (historically) retiring as president when he could just as easily have “called some of the central committee members to see how they felt” and stayed in power.

 

What Does It Take To Escape Income Disparity?

December 4, 2013

            To investigate the disconcerting acuity of Branko Milanovic’s insight (this blog’s previous post), Analysis re-imagined a news story that appeared in the online In Plain Sight, Poverty In America by NBC news senior staff writer Tony Dokoupil (12-3-13); “re-imagined” because the report’s writing creates an imaginary of its own, despite any objective pretensions. The report is entitled “What does it take to escape poverty? Ask Karvel Anderson, American success story in the making”. The account documents a very gifted athlete’s exit from one catastrophe after another during the “Great Recession”, thanks to the help of a great many generous people. As he is “on his way” (attending college, with many potential opportunities available to him in the future), it is definitely “in the making”. The story rivals any written by Dickens. One could even say it reproduces the genre created by him. What happens to the reading when the title word “poverty” is replaced by “income disparity” or “income inequality”? Immediately the mega bucks world of big time televised college sports and bowl games/tournaments springs to mind; that the athletes are not paid  but must maintain “amateur” status, and that the organizers, promoters, media and future professional sports “jobs creators” are the prime beneficiaries of such a youth’s exit from income disparity, er, poverty. He doesn’t really escape income inequality (disparity), does he? Mike Tyson and Leon Spinks likewise come to mind, as do so many other “gifted” athletes from “tough” backgrounds who used their talents to pull themselves out of income disparity, er, poverty. When “poverty” is replaced by “income disparity” the story loses its Dickensian charm; no more Tiny Tim pathos. Memories of Karvel’s uncle, mother, siblings and totally absent father displace the Rocky theme, for these individuals are still inextricably caught up in poverty, er, income disparity. Change the word and the focus immediately shifts from a Horace Greeley “Me” (de rigueur for today’s have-it-all and have-it-on-demand marketing) to an almost uncomfortable Roosevelt “We” (so very fey, not at all PC!). “Because ‘my’ concern with the poverty of some people actually projects me in a very nice, warm glow”.  

Can We Talk – Income Disparity?

December 1, 2013

From Reuter’s Magazine: The One Percent War by Chrystia Freeland 1-26-12, a very long and astute article of particular interest to students of social change and its history:

“Branko Milanovic, a World Bank economist who is one of the leading students of global income distribution, writes in his latest book, “The Haves and the Have-Nots,” that it is far easier to secure funding for research about poverty than about income inequality. The reason for that is “rather simple even if often wisely ignored,” Milanovic says. “Inequality studies are not particularly appreciated by the rich.” Indeed, Milanovic says he was “once told by the head of a prestigious think tank in Washington, D.C., that the institution’s board was very unlikely to fund any work that had income or wealth inequality in its title. Yes, they would finance anything to do with poverty alleviation, but inequality was an altogether different matter. Why? Because ‘my’ concern with the poverty of some people actually projects me in a very nice, warm glow: I am ready to use my money to help them… But inequality is different. Every mention of it raises in fact the issue of the appropriateness or legitimacy of my income.””

I guess that since the media is the message, and the media requires financing, then if you can’t say it, it doesn’t exist. Pretty neat, huh? But do you want to say it?