Archive for November, 2016

We’re Dealin’

November 27, 2016

Political leaders are a lot like materializations of Hollywood aliens from space. In the run up to the election, they are all emphatic about how they will “fight for you”, “be your voice”, “serve your interests”, etc. Win or lose, after the election they disappear, as if beamed back up to the mother ship. 11-26-16 The Newark Advocate’s Maria DeVito headlines “Newark closes east end fire station for office space”. The article relied almost entirely on the announcement made by the Newark fire chief. In most cities the size of Newark such a statement would be made by the mayor. Analysis surmises the mayor must still be recuperating from his recent cage rumble regarding the city income tax increase. Ebulliently fighting for the interests and safety concerns of Newark’s residents can be, well, rather taxing. Maybe he lost his voice. Without a voice, how can one ever be expected to be the “voice” for the city’s residents (without a voice) affected by the closure? (Whew!) Analysis reveals the uncanny between DeVito’s report and the campaign claims of the defeated income tax increase. “Connor said the department has had 16 firefighters on duty a day most of the time this year, but for a large portion of the year, it has only had 14 firefighters a day.” Hmmm.?!! Careful Analysis finds “most of the time this year” and “a large portion of the year” to be synonymous – they mean one and the same thing! Then again, originally the income tax increase was to have “most of the” revenue dedicated to street paving and upgrades. Over the course of the year this morphed into “a large portion” going to paving along with police and fire. Just words, you say? Or perhaps this is just the deal making of brand marketing we’re all so familiar with? The label reassures that there are 16 (or “most” of the money will go to street paving) while the package only contains 14 (along with police and fire). The old, soon-to-go-into-foreclosure, multi story office space just down the road from the newly repurposed “fire station for office space” will eventually become public property (public office space?). Like “most” and “large portion” the word “public” is embraced by both the state and county, along with the city. Which “public” will our political leaders be fighting for? If the private building were presently occupied and handled as commercial business offices (pun intended), do you think the east end station would be closed? Even with DeVito’s reported lower percentage of fire and emergency runs, Analysis shows this would not be the case. Insurance actuaries use proximity to fire protection as a basis for determining risk and premium costs. This was the grounds of residential concern for Madison Township’s ending service, as well as for why large private manufacturing facilities (like Owens) often have their own first responders. Would our political leaders stand by idly while a private commercial enterprise burned through revenue, paying higher insurance premiums? Like the joint reaction to ignore Newark electors’ change to the city’s marijuana law (no pun intended), the closing of the east end fire station is another unfolding of “our guy won, deal with it”; the “our guy won” being the political party in charge at the local, state, and national level while the “deal with it” is a kind of pep talk for how we need to come together as a city, state, and nation (you know, “stiff upper lip” and all. Cheerio). As “our guy” was elected on the grounds of his attributed deal making prowess, thoughtful Analysis discerns we’ll be seeing a lot more “deals” in the days to come.

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It’s Troubling That People Face Different Charges For The Same Offense

November 20, 2016

In the pre-election post “What The Hell Have You Got To Lose?” (10-26-16) Analysis asserted its mission “to draw the link, to follow the thread between what is large and “out there” (as news, policy, etc.) and what is local, next door, just around the block.” The saga continues with the recent episode, “Smoke gets in your eyes.” 8-20-16 The Advocate’s Maria DeVito headlined “Newark officials not backing pot decriminalization.” “Mayor Jeff Hall said He doesn’t support the initiative as it is being presented because it goes beyond what has been done at the state level.” Further on: “Licking County Municipal Court Judge Michael Higgins, who wrote a letter to Newark City Council members earlier this year pointing out the difference between Newark’s law and the State law, said he doesn’t have feelings one way or another on the ballot measure. But he did say it’s troubling that people face different charges for the same offense.” Well, history shows the initiative to have been passed into law 11-8-16 by a majority of the electorate of the City of Newark. 11-11-16 DeVito headlines “Newark ignores newly passed pot decriminalization”. Notable: “[Law Director Doug] Sassen said there is nothing that requires the city to charge offenses under city law. “it’s just an option to pursue it and we’re going to choose not to pursue it.” He said.” The article stated Newark’s Police Chief Barry Connell’s accord with the Law Director. Analysis feels it is safe to assume ditto for the ever vociferous Mayor. On 11-14-16 The Advocate’s Kent Mallett headlined “Council members OK with decision to ignore new pot law.” Reporting that 100% of the City Council members were likewise 100% behind Doug Sassen’s policy decision. In a 11-20-16 letter to ed, the Law Director expounds on his policy: “If the initiative as passed were to be given full effect as suggested that would mean the conduct previously outlawed in these ordinances would be perfectly legal under Newark Law.” Well, yeah, that is how law making/changing is done (for some historic precedent Google “Newark City Council Pit Bull”). Analysis finds all this begs an awful lot of questions. Who makes the law? When is a law a law (not to mention the will of the people)? Which law is law? Who decides any or all of the above? Why does a city make laws to begin with? In the pre-election post of 10-26-16 Analysis claimed that “what the GOP candidate [and now president] is about, that has his party in a tizzy, can be found with that same party and electoral process here in Licking County.” Contemporary answers to some of the preceding questions might be found in the opposite direction – looking at the national and state news rather than just in Newark. The 11-18-16 Washington Post Wonkblog’s Christopher Ingraham headlines “Trump’s pick for attorney general: ‘Good people don’t smoke marijuana’”. Quoting the Trump administration’s AG to be, Jeff Sessions, (from a U.S. Senate Drug Caucus hearing in April of 2016): “We need grown ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger.” Analysis finds this correlation with Sassen’s national counterpart to lead to various conclusions, all troubling and untenable. Is one to assume that Jeff Hall, Barry Connell, Doug Sassen and the members of the Newark City Council are the “grown ups” with the city’s electorate being children? How did the electorate get the right to vote if they are underage? Analysis finds more complications with all this. The same Advocate that published the Law Director’s letter also ran an older news item by its parent company, Gannett’s USA Today, headlined “Think tank calls on legislature to help rural Ohio”. The think tank (no, not Newark’s), being Cleveland’s the Center For Community Solutions, calls for what Analysis likewise pointed out in the 11-13-16 post, Make Licking County Rural Again. Both highlight the state’s withdrawal and redirection of funding, etc. resulting in the negligence and lack of affordable housing, public transportation, public health care, children’s services, etc. in Licking County and Newark. Yet, along with Sessions, Newark’s elected officials march lock step with the state. When will they diverge? When will they heed the children’s concerns? Analysis finds the local leaders response to the 2016 election results even more troubling, but from an ethical dimension. “Good people don’t smoke marijuana” determines, carte blanche, the morals that make America great. Unseen is the obverse. It also determines what is not good, immoral, without taking any recourse to the law and lawmaking. Such determination Newark’s elected leaders likewise choose to reserve for themselves. This is also evidenced in the same day’s paper that ran Sassen’s guest editorial alibi. In “Q&A: Offender list in Ohio brings up questions about cost” by the AP’s John Seewer, state legislators propose to expand the registry (and tracking) of convicted felons from those presently marked for life. Analysis wrote about the Steve Smith trial outcome back in 3-29-16 (Where’s The Crime In All This?). At the time Analysis was dumbfounded that a Marion County man convicted of drug trafficking that resulted in death (with a preponderance of evidence) could receive a lesser sentence than an isolated and unsubstantiated drug trafficking charge in Licking County. “Newark ignores newly passed pot decriminalization” says more for why “there is nothing that requires the city” to be fair, just, equitable or non-discriminatory in its interaction and treatment of citizens, underage or otherwise. To paraphrase Judge Higgins: “it’s troubling that people face different charges [and outcomes] for the same offense.”

Local Market Place

November 16, 2016

Kroger, the world’s largest food retailer, recently reopened at a new location in Newark. The previous site of Meijer is now the Kroger test model for a revamped experiment in food retailing. It is no coincidence that the store name is “Kroger Market Place.” The geographic relocation was not far from its previous address, just down the road actually. It also did not mark a rehab for better competition with the world’s number 2 food retailer, Walmart, as that store is still its neighbor on the city’s north side. It does, however, mark a definite strategic move by Kroger to go head to head with the local farmers markets, The Canal Market District Farmers Market and the Granville Farmers Market. The interior design and lay out of the new store reveals Kroger’s intent. The similarity to a farmers market is uncanny. The visual focus and “inviting” center of attention is on the southern third of the interior. Gawking listless shoppers are immediately drawn to the brightly colored flowers on one side and fruits/vegetables on the other. This is surrounded by satellite nooks of Starbucks, “Pan Asian” offerings (Asia is a continent. Would you say “Pan North American”?), a bar (with entertainment), baked goods, deli, seafood, etc. etc. etc. The grocery part of the grocery store is rather nondescript, along narrow aisles in the middle section. It is not as roomy or airy, cheery or festive. This is the land of day to day hard core canned good necessities (better check the price). The north part holds Kroger’s recent expansion into retailing as well as its grip on healthcare and a bank to pay for it all. Along with the Canal Market District Farmers Market, Granville Farmers Market and the plethora of Ohio Proud farmers markets in city’s and small towns across Ohio (and the US) Kroger’s Market Place offers immediate on-site consumables (bakery, coffee, etc.), boutique foods, entertainment, and variety. And, of course, the emphasis is on “local.” Being indoors under one roof creates the competitive edge that ultimately makes Kroger’s Market Place, like the North Market in Columbus, so attractive. Eventually it will win out (besides, you can score the hard core day to day stuff without an added detour). Sure, on a nice day, it is quaint to “be like New England” and jostle through the crowds at an out of doors market. But on a rainy day or windy, unpleasant one….? Same “local” offerings! Besides, you get a cart to push around while you go from stand to stand instead of lugging it with you like airport luggage. Analysis finds it is the “local” moniker that dilutes the difference. The very trait meant to distinguish the small from the mighty now allows for the mega food marketer to do what Walmart has already done. For last century’s unsuspecting country bumpkin without a brand to his name, “local” meant being within the vicinity where one’s children compete against each other at “local” school athletic events, where the churches are within a reasonable Sunday morning commute (“Hurry up or we’ll be late”), and where one votes for a “local” politician to govern (what else?) “locally”. But buying Zanesville baked goods only available in Licking County at The Canal Market District Farmers Market or Granville Farmers Market (but not at the Zanesville Farmers Market, or the bakery itself) doesn’t differentiate those markets’ “local” much from the Kroger Market Place’s “local”. High school sports and politicians in Brinkhaven articulate little, if at all, with central Licking County. And attending church in Louisville would be an all day Sunday drive for Newark’s devout. Analysis finds that “local” has gone from (Webster’s) “pertaining to a city, town, or small district rather than an entire state or country” to just another quality of brand identity in the marketplace. Analysis finds little difference in whether Kroger or the Market Master makes the “local” designation.

Make Licking County Rural Again

November 13, 2016

Analysis would like to cover the recent Newark Think Tank meeting held at the new Denison University Art Space at 23 W. Church on 11-12-16. The Think Tank continues to offer provocative and informative speakers at its monthly meetings. This time it was a combination of the Licking County Housing Coalition and Knox Area Transit (Public Transportation in Knox County). The focus of the Housing Coalition’s presentation was on the housing service being offered to veterans in Licking, Knox and Coshocton County. An incredible effort is being made to provide immediate service to any disabled vet or for any not dishonorable discharge vet no matter their background or history. This would include, but not be limited by, small dollar crisis support, immediate shelter, as well as longer duration shelter in the form of room and/or apartment location. Some insights not readily perceived were mentioned such as no new affordable housing is (or has been) created in the area, that apartment rents begin around $700 a month with rooms running at about $300 and that vets, like everyone else, have pets, history and other attachments that can make finding a residence trying. As one reason for the rate of rents increasing, the speaker identifies Licking County as an extension of the greater Columbus metropolitan area. Many fixed income residents find their monthly income to be only slightly higher than the rent. How do you pay for food, medicine, utilities and transportation? The latter was covered by the speaker from Knox Area Transit who described their ever growing public transportation services and what went into making it so. The service is county wide and supports a Mt. Vernon shuttle service (4 lines covering the entire city) that is curb to curb as well as a single line, stop to stop Mt. Vernon-commercial district-Gambier loop shuttle service. These cost a dollar a ride and operate during the day (week) and Saturday (as well as evening for the loop). Transfers are free within the system. The KAT also has the original, on demand transportation that Licking County Transit utilizes, charged on a per ride basis, door to door (schedule ahead). Analysis finds it important to note that most of Licking County’s elected officials like to identify Licking County as a “rural” county when discussing services or rather denial of services to its residents while Knox County really is primarily rural. Not only is it a county with a smaller population, but the city of Mt. Vernon is approximately 1/3 the size of Newark. Very startling to note is that none of the Knox County municipalities served by the KAT abut each other. Gambier or Danville are not just over the city line of Mt. Vernon as Granville or Heath are to Newark. In fact, the corridors of Buckeye Lake, Hebron, Heath and Newark, as well as Etna, Pataskala, New Albany and Johnstown are, for all intents and purposes, seamless except in name. It would have been an embarrassment for the Licking County Transit if it had also been asked to make a presentation (an employee in attendance as much as admitted so). Newark is a bedroom community for residents working “elsewhere”, with no “within the city limits” industrial/commercial development. The last census count reported by the Advocate gave non-owner occupant residential housing at 47%. Analysis finds perpetuating the great rural past as an alibi for the County’s negligence in providing metropolitan level services in affordable housing and public transportation to be tawdry, misinforming, and just plain wrong.

Make America Enjoyable Again

November 9, 2016

In continuation with the previous post, Analysis would like to further consider the implications of being able to “enjoy whatever is next.” This is a more than relevant and pertinent topic given the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. That exercise in democracy has produced a rather extensive and thorough, monolithic power grid with a “non politician” brand CEO at its core. With all due respect to John Kasich, unlike past single party monopolies this one will be a voter approved and sanctioned public/private partnership sporting blatant (and unabashed) corporate business involvement throughout. One of the ways that Americans enjoy whatever is next has been through getting their news from non-news media entertainment (like the late night talk shows, The Daily Show, SNL, etc.). Will this continue to be the case? Unlike the current president, the recently elected one has shown a certain propensity for not favoring such sources for any unflattering or critical accounts. And the future prez can be a touch vindictive, eager to unleash his legal beagles at the slightest scent of libel. Where have we seen something akin to this? Back during the W presidency, a similar situation existed with the federal funding of public broadcasting. Unable to eliminate it entirely, control of programming format and content was coupled not only with cuts in funding, but also through incorporating the vice president’s wife in program development and approval. The outcome of this near monolithic mechanism was the revamping of public broadcasting programs, time slots, reporting, and even on air presentation. Political, ideological, and art content was supplanted by business, economics and history (mostly of wars). Anyone who first met Sanders on Moyers remembers the disappearance, reappearance and eventual demise of that critical PBS show. Along with programming came ubiquitous “discrete” advertising that snuck in and grew like Topsy (even Austin City Limits sports Inbev’s King of Beer, at least twice with every airing). But now, the same or similar is likely to befall the purveyors of private broadcasting given that “media” has always been about selling. It is not about information dissemination, discussion or entertainment. The entertainment is there to sell product (as well as ideology) much as the NFL is there to sell ideology (as well as product). Given the anticipated shift in dispersal and distribution of power centers, Analysis finds it doubtful that Americans will enjoy whatever is next through getting their news from sources such as Colbert, Stewart, Oliver, etc. SNL may finally retire, er, be forced into retirement (and further syndication). Media exists solely to sell. Whose brand sells will ultimately determine media access. And we all know what brand that is. After all, what else is there but to make America enjoyable again!

Enjoy Whatever Is Next

November 7, 2016

The last line of the book jumped out and spoke to the day, the times: “we can be communities or networks that enjoy whatever is next.” The drumbeat pervasive throughout the last 18 months, no matter the source, has been that we will be a community or network that will suffer whatever is next. The last line of the book spoke from what, to now, has been the excluded middle, between the two polarities of ostensible adverse difference here in the US. Then again, that unvoiced excluded middle, the one that looks to “enjoy whatever is next”, is what will actually carry on. This unarticulated, excluded voice inadvertently and unselfconsciously reveals the selfie of a contemporary US obsessed with discomfort, dis-ease, stress and disaster – things to be “suffered”. It was the best of times, the worst of times, not. This is a time where the absence of enjoyment has been imposed on all as a given, something needing to be enforced for the public good. Is it criminal to “be communities or networks that enjoy whatever is next”?

Trending

November 2, 2016

Analysis presents a follow up to the previous post, Follow Ups. 11-1-16 finds Tom Knox reporting AEP takes $2.3B write-down of coal plants to avoid Ohio’s ‘deregulation debacle’ for Columbus Business First. The $2.3B write down resulted in “a $766 million loss on revenue of $4.7 billion for the [3rd] quarter, compared with a $518 million profit on $4.4 billion in revenue in the same quarter last year.” For those of you keeping score at home, AEP, along with FirstEnergy, tried to get the PUCO to subsidize its coal fired power plants. The attempt failed though the PUCO was willing, the Federal oversight of interstate commerce not. “AEP (NYSE:AEP) partially unbundled that stockholder volatility in September when it sold four power plants, including three in Ohio, for $2.17 billion.” It still owns four. According to the article, AEP’s CEO says the company is repositioning itself with a focus on distribution and transmission. It may sell off the remaining four plants. And no wonder (though a big wonder for the Ohio Legislature that issued a time out on the alternate energy source requirement), WOSU’s Steve Brown reported on the same day, Amazon Building Second Wind Farm In Ohio. Currently Amazon has invested in a wind farm in Paulding County. Brown notes “Amazon says the 189 megawatt wind farm near Kenton [Hardin County] will be up and running by December 2017. It’s expected to generate enough electricity to power about 50,000 homes a year.” The retail giant “says both wind farms will send power back into the grid that powers its operations in Ohio and Virginia.” In addition to this, 10-28-16, Elon Musk announced Tesla would be producing and selling new solar collecting products adding to the growing interest and reliance on renewable sources of electric generation.