Archive for July, 2014

Limited Time Blue Light Special On Aisle 5

July 30, 2014

We’ve all seen this movie, you know, the one where the company comes in or announces it “will stay” and the credits appear with all the tax abatements, grants, etc. and Grow Licking County appears at the end to take credit for the credits. The latest sequel played out July 29, 2014 with Kent Mallett of the Newark Advocate reporting that MPW in Hebron plans a $4.4 million dollar expansion with a promised 25 jobs; all contingent on tax abatements, credits, etc. of course (“MPW plans $4.4 million expansion, 25 new jobs”). “The Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved today a 50 percent, six-year tax credit to MPW for creation of $1 million in new annual payroll.” “The project is contingent on the company receiving approval from the Licking County commissioners and Lakewood Local School District for an enterprise zone tax agreement.” This not being enough “The county will extend an existing sewer line from the Pilot Travel Center truck stop just north of Interstate 70 to the MPW facility at 9711 Lancaster Road SE. “That was a big part of the deal — connecting to a public system and off of a private system,” Bubb said.” (Analysis applauds Tim’s championing of a public system over that of a private one!) The movie wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory cameo starring “Dan Evers, director of the Grow Licking County community improvement corporation, said local officials have pursued the local expansion for about two years.” (not appearing in the cameo but listed on the credits was Columbus 2020, another public-private partnership in partnership with the public-private partnership of Grow Licking County, both of which are partnering with the public-private partnership of JobsOhio, partner!) While this feature was airing, a second summer sequel came out the very same day. The Dispatch released a trailer for the projected opening of a call center for Seattle based Zulily that anticipates 900 new jobs. The Ohio Tax Credit Authority has granted them a 75% income tax credit (the Dispatch’s TV station, WBNS, described this as a “savings” for Zulily!). Analysis acknowledges that this structures some individuals as being privileged to “save” money at the expense of other individuals (who must pay for this savings). Corporations are now individuals; persons, that is. In addition to receiving the same services as other individuals, without Zulily or MPW having to pay for them (such as road maintenance, fire, EMT and police protection, use of the courts), the county (of Licking) will be extending waste water treatment to a company founded on and dedicated to the removal and disposal of industrial waste. We should all be so privileged.

Speaking of Seattle, the transcript of an interview by Paul Solman with Nick Hanauer appeared online (“Why capitalism has nothing to do with supply and demand” PBS Newshour’s Making Sen$e, 7-28-14). “Billionaire venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, whose family owns a pillow company, says there’s a limit to how much his wealth can buy. “I may earn a thousand times the median wage, but I don’t sleep on a thousand pillows,” he tells Paul Solman.” “Nick Hanauer is a billionaire venture capitalist, who made his fortune first as one of the original investors in Amazon, and later in a web ad firm. He’s also been a strong supporter of the increased minimum wage in Seattle, which is where Making Sen$e met up with him this year reporting on his city’s fight to adopt a $15 an hour minimum wage.” In the interview Hanauer points out “If you want to have a sustainable democracy which is prosperous, secure and enjoyable to live in, impoverishing the many to benefit the few is hardly the path to go on. If history is any lesson, at the end of the day, an economy that doesn’t work for everyone eventually will work for no-one.” Addressing the reticence for change he states “The facts are that this change threatens both the pocket books, but more particularly, the status of rich people. One of the most interesting things I’ve learned about litigating these issues is how emotional people can get around seeing themselves, for instance, as job creators. If you are a job creator, you’re very much at the center of the economic universe and everything orbits around you. And if you’re a job creator, a 15 percent tax rate on capital gains, a 15 percent tax rate on carried interest – all these things are the righteous instantiations of sensible economics. But if the middle class is the true job creator in the capitalist economy, all of those advantages and all of that status are essentially a con job.” He continues “This is just one of the somewhat obscure elements of our tax code that massively advantages people like me. Working people pay 39 percent, investors pay 15 percent. And that differential is essentially explained away and justified by this idea that the more money people like me have, the better off you will be.” “You have to remember people like me care a lot about status. That’s why we are where we are.” “Of course, if it’s the other way round, that tax break makes no sense whatsoever. But these arguments don’t just threaten pocket books – they threaten status. And you have to remember people like me care a lot about status. That’s why we are where we are. And so when you mess with status, when you mess with the status of people who care about almost nothing but status…”

OK, so Hanauer is in another universe from the Waltons. But maybe the Waltons will have to quit their alien status. Business Insider’s Ashley Lutz provides some background on the recent dollar store buyout news (“America’s Poorest Shoppers Are Putting Discount Stores Out Of Business”, 7-29-14). “Yesterday, Dollar Tree announced it would buy Family Dollar, a chain that is in the process of closing hundreds of stores and firing workers. Other discount stores have been struggling as well, writes Heidi Moore at The Guardian. Fashion discounter Loehmann’s filed for bankruptcy, while Wal-Mart’s sales have declined for the past five quarters. “There’s just not enough money deployed by American families to keep all the discount chains in business,” Moore writes.” “While middle-class shoppers have enjoyed economic recovery, America’s poorest consumers have not, write Paul Ziobro and Shelly Banjo at The Wall Street Journal. Money spent by households earning less than $30,000 has been flat since 2008, WSJ reports, citing the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Total income for that group fell 1% between 2004 and 2012.” “But it’s possible that no amount of discounting will win back these struggling shoppers. “A cash-strapped consumer can’t keep buying forever, no matter how low prices go,” Moore writes.”



July 23, 2014

Clint Eastwood may have his “Unforgiven” but Newark Ohio News Analysis has its “Unspoken.” The “Great Recession” (second only to the Great Depression of the 1930’s) officially ended in June of 2009. On June 1, 2009 the DOW closed at 8,721, the NASDAQ at 1,795 and the S&P at 942. Today, a little over five years after the end of the “Great Recession” the DOW is over 17,000 and growing, NASDAQ is flirting with 4,500 and the S&P hovers around 2,000. Obviously, there is money to be invested. Money is being invested. And money is being made on investments. That can’t be denied. In the June 22, 2014 Newark Advocate (Southgate Corp. Hopes To Attract Business) we are told “Southgate Corp. has started work on a 50,000-square-foot speculative industrial building on Kaiser Drive, its third such building in the last two years.” A little later on we read “Southgate has built more than 45 spec buildings, many in the Newark Industrial Park, in Hebron, since it began developing such sites.” Ten days prior to that, in the same paper we read: “The three applicants [the Heath-Newark-Licking County Port Authority, Southgate Corporation and ISO Technologies] seek100 percent tax abatements for all real property, after construction has finished, [Heath Zoning Chief John] Groff said.” Previously we have received a deluge of news reports with folks like Steve Layman and Liz Argyle stating that their investment dreams can only come true through various tax credits and abatements. Included with this is one of the bigger ongoing events and reported stories, tactfully flying under the radar of the only news reporting institution in town. Anecdotal reports along with various official studies show the city’s infrastructure, primarily roads and bridges, is woefully under maintained and deteriorating at a rate that makes it increasingly costly to revive. With the 6-22-14 Newark Advocate (What Is A Neighborhood), reporter Joe Williams cites that 49% of Newark residential real property is non-owner occupant. Coupled with commercial real property, that makes investment property one of the largest, if not the largest businesses in Newark. Infrastructure access, such as roads, water, sewer, and utilities, is what differentiates the appraised value (investment or otherwise) of rural farmland from industrial park or urban residential real property. To ameliorate the infrastructure demise, Newark mayor and council have embraced an income tax increase on all those who labor or reside in Newark. “Residents share frustration with Sunday transit cuts” was the headline of an Advocate July 17, 2014 article that covered the Licking County Transit Board’s informational meeting with regard to cutting back service. A plethora of figures were given regarding the thousands of users affected as well as the thousands of dollars projected to not having to be spent because of this. No figures were given, by The Advocate or by the Transit Board, with regard to how the service is currently actually funded. From their website informational brochure one learns that it receives funding from the US Department of Transportation, Ohio DOT, United Way, several Licking County social agency budgets (Developmental Disabilities, Jobs and Family Services, and Senior Citizens Levy), passenger fares, and the Licking County Commissioners. No figures for any of this are readily available on line. An online comment to this article from Nancy Williams Welu states “The county chips in $65,000 a year, which does not seem like much.” Nancy is probably right. “Grow Licking County is a public-private partnership that was started in 2012 and works out of the Chamber of Commerce offices [a private commercial enterprise] to bring jobs and industry to Licking County. The chamber, the port authority and the county are its founding and incorporating members. Hottinger serves as chairwoman; Platt is vice chairman. County Commissioner Tim Bubb serves on the board. While the county commissioners contributed $50,000 annually to the organization for its first two years and $80,000 this year, Hottinger asked the panel to commit to paying $220,000 each of the next three years to help fund its economic development efforts through 2017.” (“Grow Licking County seeks increased county aid” 6-13-14 the Newark Advocate).

The “Great Recession” (second only to the Great Depression of the 1930’s) officially ended in June of 2009. On June 1, 2009 the DOW closed at 8,721, the NASDAQ at 1,795 and the S&P at 942. Today, a little over five years after the end of the “Great Recession” the DOW is over 17,000 and growing, NASDAQ is flirting with 4,500 and the S&P hovers around 2,000. ““We’re just trying to find a way to survive and not go broke,” he [Licking County Transit Board Director, Grow Licking County board member, and County Commissioner Tim Bubb] said.” (“Transit Board may cut Sunday service” 7-10-14 Newark Advocate)

And The People Sang Themselves Free

July 23, 2014

Serendipity found one of the local WOSU channels (34.2) airing “To Breath As One”. Quotes from the online synopsis courtesy WOSU: “Every five years, 30,000 people gather on the same stage in the small country of Estonia to join voices at Laulupidu, the National Song Festival, to become the largest choir in the world. More than a song festival, Laulupidu is an Estonian miracle that at least twice in history gave freedom to that country.” The origins of this festival stretch back to 1869, when Estonia independent was not. Estonia came in and out of being in the ensuing years with the identity maintained through song. Asked why such huge choirs would gather to sing Stalinist era Soviet songs at the time, the reply was it created a unity and recognition of capacity which by its actuality could not be denied. Later, in the post Stalinist Soviet years, traditional Estonian folks songs were reconfigured as choral works to justify re-instituting the festival. During the years leading up to the Gorbachev era (and Glasnost), works incorporating Lenin’s writings were used as justification to enlarge and expand the scope of the festival. Everyone knew how to read between the lines. Finally, the demise of Glasnost and the Soviet hold of Estonia likewise came during a huge rock concert where the audience spontaneously broke into patriotic song. The concert, along with the gathering, as well as the songs given voice did not have the proper permits. The gathering swelled and moved to the festival site where it grew and continued for four days. The crowd was too immense to arrest, detain or deport. The “Singing Revolution” had begun. The production portrays “the unique role that music has played for Estonians for over 150 years, as an integral force in maintaining strength and identity for a people who have faced cultural genocide – more than once. From the filmmakers of the acclaimed, “The Singing Revolution”, the film reveals that for Estonians singing is not just a means of cultural expression, but a defining part of their identity.”

Lifetime Hope

July 21, 2014

Voices active in song spilled out of the United Church of Granville (Ohio) on the mid summer’s eve of July 20th, 2014. Folks came together singing (what else?) folk songs. The occasion was a memorial to the dynamic and almost more than vital life of Pete Seeger. Promotional enticement for the evening quoted Pete: “The lifetime hope of mine is not to just put music in the ears of people, but on their lips.” Just that was provided thanks to the generous vocal and instrumental collaborative performance of Bill Cohen and Carl Yaffey. Karaoke it was not. No words or bouncing ball appeared on a screen. Who knew the songs, the lyrics, the melodies by heart to have them “on their lips”? Analysis notes those most readily articulating the music by heart were greying. Analysis also noted that those without the silver in their hair were oftentimes busy with their eyes on a screen (their thumbs on a keyboard) and no song “on their lips.” Although many a teacher has reconciled themselves with “it’s only a tool”, Analysis found little evidence that smart phones were being used (as the marvelous tools they are) to access the individual song lyrics so that the uninitiated could sing right along with the Flintstones from the pre digital age. Sigh. That was why folks came together to folk concerts, folk coffee shops, folk music festivals – to be with other folks, sharing folk songs in common as folks. But wait, there’s more to this challenge of how busy fingers (OK, thumbs) make for un-idle (distracted) minds. The quote by Seeger says it all. But what does it say? That’s the beauty of song and lyrics and language. They can be in the ears for the listener’s sole, exclusive, unique pleasure and interpretation – the lure, attraction and success of today’s available (and primarily commercial) media. And media is what mediates – “involving an intermediate agency; not direct” (Webster’s). Songs, lyrics and language “on the lips” is quite immediate, “without intervening medium or agent; direct” (Webster’s). And it was precisely that non-commercial immediate action which resonated within the history of the United Church of Granville. Analysis can’t help but note the transgressive and almost subversive nature of this folk ensemble performance. Within the current political pedagogy of testing and standards, with its emphasis on third grade reading proficiency, there is a glaring absence of third grade writing proficiency. Writing, like singing, is an activity involving language, lyrics and sensory expression able to be shared in common. Analysis finds that Sunday’s sing-a-long indicates Seeger’s quote (“The lifetime hope of mine is not to just put music in the ears of people, but on their lips.”) has more contemporary resonance than simple folk music aspiration.

Save The Facade

July 19, 2014

“Newark hotel now officially part of Hilton franchise” Jul. 18, 2014 by Maria DeVito (The Newark Advocate):

““We’re trying to put a different facade … on downtown Newark,” [Hotel owner Jerry] McClain said.”

Save The Facade

Community Investment, Er, Reinvestment Action

July 16, 2014

[All from the Newark Advocate this past week]

Transit Board may cut Sunday service: Director says money being lost with few people riding Jul. 10, 2014 by Emily Maddern
““We’re just trying to find a way to survive and not go broke,” he [Licking County Transit Board Director and County Commissioner Tim Bubb] said. “It’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t do any good if you have to go into the red and shut it down.””

Heath council to review tax breaks for three sites on James Parkway Jul. 12, 2014 by Kent Mallett
“The Heath City Council will consider requests for Community Reinvestment Area tax abatements for all three locations. Approval could come at the July 21 or Aug. 4 council meetings. The requests come from the Heath-Newark-Licking County Port Authority, Southgate Corporation and ISO Technologies.”
“The three applicants seek 100 percent tax abatements for all real property, after construction has finished, [Heath Zoning Chief John] Groff said.”

Newark woman says goodbye to church because of possible transit cuts: Local woman says goodbye to church Jul. 16, 2014 by Emily Maddern
““If we’re going to save money, we’ve got to take action,” he [Licking County Transit Board Director and County Commissioner Tim Bubb] said.”

Game Of Thrones

July 12, 2014

Writing for the Associated Press, Wayne Parry reports that the Trump Plaza Casino in Atlantic City New Jersey will be closing (“Owners of Trump Plaza casino expect it will close”, 7-12-14). Three other casinos there have either closed recently or are in the process (The Atlantic Club, Showboat and Revel). Parry gives the human toll: “The Atlantic Club closure cost 1,600 workers their jobs. An additional 2,100 at Showboat will be unemployed as of Aug. 31, in addition to the 1,009 Trump Plaza workers on the payroll. Revel has 3,100 workers who could lose their jobs if the 2-year-old casino resort is not sold.” In addition, he notes “The company [Trump Entertainment Resorts] did not indicate what might become of the building after it is closed.” “What might become of the building after it is closed” brought to mind Newark’s Meijer’s store on north 21st Street. But then again, those with any memory will recall the Roper factory, whose chimney was only recently demolished. Etc. The current news in Newark, of Newark, about Newark is all over the map with no rhyme or reason proffered by those delivering all the news that’s fit… Meijer’s “development” in north Newark is roughly concurrent with Donald Trump’s “development” of the Trump Plaza Casino (though not nearly as lucrative). At that time Trump was hailed as the salvation of Atlantic City (pre Sandy, mind you). Newark’s official hopes also seem to ride on the back of some such similar white knight. At one time it was Dave Longaberger whose entrepreneurial achievements knew no end (likewise roughly concurrent with Trump Plaza and Meijer’s). Ultimately, the “world headquarters” of Dave’s home décor empire appeared at Newark’s doorstep. With continuous decline over the years, Newark Advocate readers were told with great fanfare last year that controlling shares of the company were sold to a holding company (CVSL), headquartered in Texas and Switzerland. This ostensibly marked a “development” with Longaberger’s home décor’s now having access to Australia and the world. Last week we were told the company has no CEO, and it is once again within these straights (déjà vu all over again!). “What might become of the building after it is closed” should the company extend its downward spiral? Visions of the second quirkiest landmark building in the US being vacant due to foreclosure do not make for savory Newark tourism. Would it still be on the charter bus itinerary? The current Newark white knight appears to be Jerry McClain (there have been others, a veritable long grey line of chevaliers). The world headquarters of McClain’s company are now located in Newark itself. In addition to this, his controlling stake in Newark’s only mid-town, high rise hotel is lauded as the beginning of Newark’s current renaissance. Er, the renaming of a hotel which once was part of Dave’s empire, that is. The Newark Advocate reported that McClain plans to find a buyer for his investment once the building’s current reincarnation is consummated. Unlike the Meijer building, it has managed to avoid total vacancy (too chic chic to flash a “Vacancy” sign!). Other buildings in Newark have not fared so well. Concurrent with the lionized name change (promotional) news is the news of the continued demolition of vacant residential structures, with many more projected to follow. Unlike that entrepreneurial “naming” coup, “what might become of the(se) building(s) after it is closed” is at the tax payer’s expense (the workers who perhaps previously had been tenants of this investment dream). This hot on the heels of reported news that 49% of Newark’s residential properties are of this type (investments to be sold as the Hilton Double Tree will eventually be). And even more hot on the heels of news covering the “investment” tax credits extended to those currently projecting mid-town residential property “development”. Even more hot on the heels of the demolition of an investment property adjacent to the municipal building; again at the expense of the (over) taxed average worker, who got no (tax) credit for their practical bit of chivalry. Analysis finds that the unreported aspect with all these “investments” and “developments” is the human toll left in the wake of the white knight’s charges (Don Quixote NOT!). Perhaps it is time to entertain the imagining of some kind of a performance surety bond in place of tax credits for all these “development investments”? One that would account for “what might become of the building after it is closed”; with a white knight rider attached!