Archive for April, 2015

Just Say No

April 26, 2015

This all would be so funny if it didn’t hurt so many folks. No, not the fact that the city of Newark (and surrounds) is subsidizing the financial avarice of the Longaberger name. Remember what Dan Moder, executive of the Licking County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said back in October of 2013? Of course you do. In case that memory chip is acting up again how ‘bout: ““There is something to be said for brand recognition. People recognize it. They trust it. They believe in it.”” (“The More Things Change, The More They Remain The Same”. Kent Mallett reports Downtown Hotel May Become Double Tree (The Advocate 10-2-13). Now (4-25-15) Kent reports on the city that has never met a developer that it didn’t like . “The company is $250,000 behind on its tax increment financing payments to the city of Newark and Licking Valley School District and would be $350,000 behind by the end of 2015 without any payments, Licking County Auditor Mike Smith said. Overall, the company’s TIF payments to the city are $2 million shy of projections made in 1999 because of the late payments and a 2007 reappraisal that lowered the basket’s value. The city borrowed $3.2 million to make road and utility improvements on East Main Street and Dayton Road for the Longaberger development. The city has paid $6.8 million, including interest, but received just $4.1 million from Longaberger” (Longaberger struggles become city’s debt Kent Mallett, Newark Advocate April 25, 2015). “There is something to be said for brand recognition. People recognize it. They trust it. They believe in it.” With so many true believers maybe the big basket will become a church. The First (but not last) Evangelical Church Of The Gospel Of Endless Prosperity. “Get a handle on your unhinged life of trouble and toil!”

Back in July of 2014 Analysis composed a blog posting (Game Of Thrones) reflecting on the demise of The Trump Plaza, Atlantic Club, Showboat and Revel casinos in Atlantic City New Jersey (something Chris Christie doesn’t speak much about). Analysis revealed “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?” (Well? Would it?). In the aforementioned 4-25-15 front page article Mallett quotes Mayor Hall as saying “But is (foreclosure) a solution?” (would the tour busses still stop?) A little later he writes “The city received $25,587 in tax increment financing payments in 2014. The 1999 projections were for the company to pay $364,587 annually for city infrastructure improvements to the area. The valuation of the property was cut in half in 2007, making its obligations about $170,00 annually. Russell Mack, a board member of Longaberger parent company CVSL, said the company has no plans to sell the basket building and challenges its tax bill. “Property values in the area have fallen over the years,” Mack wrote in an email response. “We are working with our real estate advisers, and we are disputing the assessed taxable value of the Big Basket building.”” Wait until foreclosure and the assessed taxable value will be even less. Better yet Mr. Mack, wait long enough and the city will use state home owners’ mortgage settlement funds to tear it down. (many “too big to fail” casino’s have been demolished in Las Vegas as well as Atlantic City). But would the tour busses come for the grand implosion?

That same month in 2014 we find this in the Newark Advocate: “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.”” Of course it doesn’t. The city (and county) have met plenty of developments they didn’t like. One was that of making an investment in a fixed schedule public bus line instead of in a multi story Medium Market Basket. The payoff by now would be the residents of Newark being able to access jobs outlying as well as purchase in town homes or remodel existing ones from the savings of taking the bus. Public Transit certainly would be a development (or at least most cities see it that way). Or perhaps investing in affordable housing in town. Ditto same paybacks without having to fund private developer hysterical tax credits, etc. The Medium Market Basket comedy, in a city that won’t even have a weekly Farm Market this year with which to fill anyone’s basket, reveals a tragic romance (at best): spurning mundane public development for the unrestrained lusting and pursuit of a private developer. A city that has never met a developer it didn’t like. Someone once promoted a campaign of “Just say no!”

More Of The Era After Communism

April 24, 2015

“San Antonio, Texas, Chef Fights City Fine to Feed the Homeless” (ABC News) by Stefanie Tuder (4-22-15). “Joan Cheever has been serving free food to the homeless of San Antonio, Texas, every Tuesday for the past six years.” 4-7-15 she was fined $2,000 for this activity. Reason? ““The citation was issued for serving food from a personal vehicle, not the mobile food truck that Ms. Cheever is permitted to operate,” city spokeswoman Di Galvan told ABC News.” What does Joan Cheever have to say about this? ““I went to culinary school and got my food safety certification,” she said. “We’re careful with the food and so this is really hard to read that the police chief and the health department said that I was a danger to the community and they’re advocating passing out granola bars versus fresh vegetables.”” And ““It’s about every nonprofit and every person who wants to do a good thing, but are intimidated by the $2,000 fine and possible arrest.”” How does the city see this? ““Haven for Hope is the City’s designated service provider for the homeless population and is set up to accept private donations and accommodate volunteers.”” (city spokeswoman Di Galvan) Analysis asks the reader to recall Robert Reich’s insights quoted in the previous posting. Bear in mind that in today’s public/private partnership city government reality, Haven for Hope is probably not only contracted but very much like the institutions which Reich hears saying “There’s really no choice, we’ve got to go where the money is.” Time to roll the credits (Tuder’s ABC News article): “According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 31 cities nationwide have taken action “to restrict or ban the act of food-sharing.””

The Era After Communism

April 14, 2015

April 8, 2015 an essay by Robert Reich, which originated on his blog, spread throughout the online news. The Christian Science Monitor ran it with the headline “How the Koch brothers and the super-rich are buying their way out of criticism”. Reich starts writing with “Not long ago I was asked to speak to a religious congregation about widening inequality. Shortly before I began, the head of the congregation asked that I not advocate raising taxes on the wealthy. He said he didn’t want to antagonize certain wealthy congregants on whose generosity the congregation depended.” This is followed by a barrage of lived experiences where the request is continuously remade to avoid antagonizing donors, funders and financial backers by colleges, churches, non-profits, think tanks, universities, etc. “It’s bad enough big money is buying off politicians. It’s also buying off nonprofits that used to be sources of investigation, information, and social change, from criticizing big money. Other sources of funding are drying up. Research grants are waning. Funds for social services of churches and community groups are growing scarce. Legislatures are cutting back university funding. Appropriations for public television, the arts, museums, and libraries are being slashed.” Reich commiserates “And more than at any time since the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century, the money is now in the pockets of big corporations and the super wealthy.” (Why do you think they are called the “Carnegie Libraries”?) Like the lubricant it can be, big money eases what is said, or rather, not said. “When Comcast, for example, finances a nonprofit like the International Center for Law and Economics, the Center supports Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner.” This is then followed by a litany of practices by the brotherhood of Koch: “When the Charles Koch Foundation pledges $1.5 million to Florida State University’s economics department, it stipulates that a Koch-appointed advisory committee will select professors and undertake annual evaluations. The Koch brothers now fund 350 programs at over 250 colleges and universities across America. You can bet that funding doesn’t underwrite research on inequality and environmental justice. David Koch’s $23 million of donations to public television earned him positions on the boards of two prominent public-broadcasting stations. It also guaranteed that a documentary critical of the Kochs didn’t air.” “David Koch has also donated tens of millions of dollars to the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and sits on their boards.” which has prompted dozens of scientist and environmental groups to interrogate these ties by declaring ““When some of the biggest contributors to climate change and funders of misinformation on climate science sponsor exhibitions … they undermine public confidence in the validity of the institutions responsible for transmitting scientific knowledge,” their statement said.” (Pittsburg’s Carnegie Museum’s public has confidence the dinosaurs won’t topple over on them. What’s the big deal?) Reich concludes with “Our democracy is directly threatened when the rich buy off politicians. But no less dangerous is the quieter and more insidious buy-off of institutions democracy depends on to research, investigate, expose, and mobilize action against what is occurring.” That same day the Columbus Dispatch’s Randy Ludlow headlined “Kasich to talk economics at Washington D.C. summit”. Mr. Ludlow reports “Kasich will be among the speakers at an economic summit in Washington, D.C., on April 23, according to the sponsor of the event, The Atlantic magazine.” ““Conversations will dive deep into the factors driving economic conditions at home and around the world — jobs, debt, income inequality, plus geopolitical uncertainty abroad,” The Atlantic said in a news release.” Ludlow’s final say on Ohio’s presidential wannabe’s economic foray reads “Conservative energy conglomerate Koch Industries is underwriting the D.C. summit at which Kasich will appear. David Koch, one of the “Koch brothers” prominent in political circles for the money they spend backing conservative causes and candidates, was a maximum $12,155 donor to Kasich’s re-election campaign last year.” Writing for a Washington Post blog entitled Plum Line, Greg Sargent headlines “GOP resistance to Obamacare is working brilliantly” (4-13-15). The essay expands on the recent Gallup-Healthways poll revealing the dramatic decrease of uninsured in the US since the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2013. It also tracks the slowdown in the rate of decline due to the resistance of individual states to engage with the new law. “After a number of states expanded Medicaid last year, in 2015 the push for the expansion has stalled in places like Florida, Tennessee, Alaska, Missouri, and Utah, due to conservative legislative opposition and an aggressive campaign against it by the Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity.” Recently we’ve found the “Koch-founded Americans” dipping their fingers into the upcoming open primary for mayor in Columbus, with one of the candidates (Sheriff Zach Scott) embracing the “Americans…” position (like Governor, like Mayoral aspirant…). ‘Nuff said.

OK, OK. In this celebrity obsessed culture, is it any wonder that the bat beacon appears with every easily identifiable Gotham City villain? But that created distraction only obfuscates and elides the grotesque historic turn that Reich points out. Given the current local as well as international trend that ““There’s really no choice,” a university dean told me. “We’ve got to go where the money is.” (Reich), our K-12 as well as college students are interpreting a world where biological entities do what they do because it “profits” them, and chemicals interact for the sake of profit, while the laws of physics stand as equal with those of economics. And musicians make music only for financial gain, artists are entrepreneurs, and plays/movies are created solely for product endorsement and promotion. Yadda, Yadda, Yadda. Once American culture and science prided itself on being genuine, without taint of “ideological” restraint/censorship (unlike the disparaged state run “sciences and cultures” of past totalitarian regimes). Today? Well there’s only one party, one ideology. As Rudi Giuliani put it “This is a free-market economy – welcome to the era after communism.”

Silent Spring (Not By Rachel Carson)

April 8, 2015

Planting requires a past, ground that has been worked, enriched and cared for. Seeds are the future. They must be given space, have nourishment and be constantly reminded by what connects us all, mindful watering. Fela Kuti had a song entitled “Water, no get enemy.” Red Skelton used to end his inimitable performances by admitting he needs to be considerate of his enemies, because he made them. This summer will not see a Farmers’ Market in downtown Newark. A vacant lot or parking area could not be found? Was it really that long ago The Newark Advocate ran the series of “investigative reporting” on the food desert in Newark, of the lack of fresh veggies and fruits in most folks diet, of the further lack of incentive to produce/market these without putting a premium on local farmers? Milk comes from a cow, not a plastic jug. The climate change folks call this “carbon footprint’ (grapes from Chile and pineapple from the Philippines. No slow boat for these goodies!). The greenies call this “diversity” rather than monoculture (would you like that corn cob with soybeans or wheat?). The people prepping the soil, planting, nurturing, harvesting and marketing call this the cycle of life. Life is doing. One thing that will not be done this summer is weekly fresh local farm produce within the city center (y’all come downtown now, ya hear!). Oh yeah, the Advocate series coincided with the closing of Meijer up on the north side (still a rather large vacant lot). It also highlighted the future, the community gardens that were being fostered locally with great effort to make the food desert bloom. The absence of a Farmers’ Market marks a break in the cycle.

Another break in the cycle is word that the city intends to capitalize on one of its assets and develop land prepared, nurtured and cultivated as a thriving productive community garden. People, citizens of Newark, had no other reason to gather together than for matters of tilling the soil, enriching it and planting seeds for tomorrow (nothing to buy here). Within the cycle, past is honored, valued because it makes tomorrow, a community of caring/doing. Water, no get enemy. But the city of Newark chooses to follow in the footsteps of America’s mayor, Rudolf Giuliani. “This is a free-market economy – welcome to the era after communism.” he said as he ordered New York’s community gardens destroyed by (who else?) those sentenced by the courts to do community service work. So the gardens must go for development the city is 100% pro, pro River Road, pro Licking Springs, pro Downtown. Never met a developer they didn’t like; including one wanting to utilize the community’s garden spot. Those who yesterday the current administration (and The Advocate) praised and championed as vital, health giving, “positive”, today are looked upon as inconvenient squatters. No surprise there since the precedent was set by demolishing the Children’s Home with its story of prepping, nurturing and cultivation. The efficiency of that economy left absolutely no past, no memory of how once local government responded to the needs of community. Today, government “must operate with the speed of business” (John Kasich), part of Giuliani’s free-market economy with unlimited development promising an ever bountiful tomorrow. Analysis takes its hat off to the wisdom of a great clown. Water, no get enemy.

Serving God And Mammon

April 1, 2015

No, this is not about a new restaurant opening in Newark. Analysis shows it is time to take a close look at presidential wannabe John Kasich, the postman’s son. Currently John is on a campaign to market his greatest success – having been part of a congress during the almost accidental and unusual period when the US Government had a balanced budget. A fluke, really, since it is not the norm (though many congresses have been elected and passed resolutions to insure just that). Now John is promoting legislating this as a norm for any situation, contingency, or time through an amendment to the US Constitution (did he take his cues from the gambling conglomerate’s amendment to the Ohio Constitution allowing casinos in Ohio?). Comparing fiscal irresponsibility to inebriation, this amendment would usher in a new Prohibition. Failing to get it passed (or supported) John benefits either way by calling attention to his part in this exceptional period in US history when the budget was balanced, that and his own exceptionalism.

Every so often survey statistics are trotted out showing what percentage of professed religious adherents indulge in regular repeated behavior that is counter to the tenets (teachings/admonitions) of their religion (one could say “faith” but Analysis will cover that too). Couples who regularly exercise artificial birth control while participating fully in the liturgy of an affiliation that bans this, cohabitation (“shacking up”, “living in sin”, whatever) within a canon that only legitimates committed marriage, children out of wedlock, keeping the holidays while not keeping kosher or penance or fasting, etc. The dichotomy is rationalized by considering “faith” as something exceptional to the mundane everyday with its obligations and responsibilities. Faith is tomorrow, the afterlife, better, “for the kids”, etc. The everyday requires knowing how to play the game, personal interests, “that’s how it is”, science, etc. When high school students are first introduced to ancient Greek mythology with its religious pantheon of gods, most are stunned and incredulous that any culture could openly and overtly embrace plurality, let alone also be the cradle of western civilization itself. “There is but one God” and his name is __ (various). Well, you get the picture. In actuality the ethos of our contemporary culture is also one of serving many gods, covertly (unlike the ancients). Don’t get caught, don’t get sullied or dirtied in the process, don’t ever admit to it, or identify it or with it. The resulting consequences are not pretty. The reflection of the ethos is that of a cruel and violent two edged sword.

John Kasich is often likened to former Ohio Governor Jim Rhodes. Rhodes embodied the ethos of his time remarkably well. During this period when you did not pander for votes through references of personal faith (indeed, John Kennedy went to great lengths to distance himself from it), Jim Rhodes embodied the American ethos through buzzwords lauding the common people, their common sense, hard work, loyalty, patriotism, responsibility, etc. At the same time he made every effort to sell, promote and help business amass wealth. Rhodes did not succeed in serving multiple gods without it going noticed, being sullied by it. Blood was on his hands with the killings at Kent State University. Unlike then California Governor Ronald Reagan, who initiated that tactic and policy, Rhodes’ orders resulted in death and maiming. Reagan remained unblemished in his unabashed service of multiple gods, eventually being proclaimed the Teflon president, since nothing would stick. (““That would just scare the living daylights out of some people — that Saint Reagan was for amnesty!”” John Kasich in interview with Andrew Romano, see this blog’s posting, 3-26-15). Indeed, the baptism of John’s success, the 1990’s, also witnessed the birth of evangelical churches preaching the gospel of prosperity, God’s rewarding his virtuous followers in the here and now. With his own born again political success of 2010, John’s public address naturally incorporated continuous testimonials and gave fundamental witness to the priority of serving God. Concomitant with Jim Rhodes, John’s actual policies and initiatives likewise emphasize an avid and vigorous service of mammon (JOBSOHIO, tax cuts for the wealthiest, increasing sales taxes and fees, charging for social programs, etc.). Along with this, a ruthless and continuous PR narrative recounts the tale of the postman’s son over and over again. The exceptionalism of John’s balanced budget promo tour (paid for by significant others) exemplifies perfectly this service of multiple gods while “officially” embracing one true faith.

Within the culture of the ancient Roman Empire, the person of Caesar communed as an equal within the pantheon of gods. To be Caesar was to be a god. “Render unto Caesar…” may be an effective way to blunt and placate the Tea party while shifting the tax burden. That is until it becomes apparent that the one quoting scripture intends to become Caesar himself.