Archive for December, 2016

Bowling For Community Connectors

December 14, 2016

Language can be revealing. The extended presidential election of the past two years speaks eloquently to that. Words matter (though not always in color). Remember the brouhaha in Florida over whether the state employees were allowed to utter “climate change”, “global warming” or none of the above? Analysis finds it most revealing when words morph into other meanings than those intended. Case in point – the word “funding” has morphed into “investment”. The dictionary meanings are not at all the same. The primary meaning given for investment is “the action or process of investing money for profit or material result”. Secondary meanings all embrace return “worth buying because it may be profitable or useful in the future” and “an act of devoting time, etc. to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result”. Funding is simple “money provided, esp. by an organization or government, for a particular purpose.” [as well as the act of doing such]. Not complicated, but notice the shift in usage: Grow Licking County seeks additional investors in 2017 Kent Mallett , The Advocate, 12-14-16 – “Nate Strum, economic development director for the Licking County Chamber of Commerce and Grow Licking County, said he’d like to see about 50 investors in 2017.” “The organization received contributions from 31 investors in 2016, including $150,000 from the Licking County commissioners. Other top contributors were: Heath-Newark-Licking County Port Authority, $25,000; city of Heath, $12,000; and $10,000 each from the cities of Newark and Pataskala, the villages of Hebron and Johnstown, Energy Cooperative, and the Newark campus of Ohio State University and Central Ohio Technical College.” Even GLC member and County Commissioner Tim Bubb got in a plug “”Grow Licking County should be invested across the county, from all sectors,” Bubb said. “It sends the right message. Early investors did so without a track record. This shouldn’t be that painful because the results are there.”” What Analysis finds painful is that over half the funding for GLC comes from sources that themselves are funded by, well, public funding. Is this a trend? In his 2014 State of the State address Ohio Governor Kasich spoke “And we’re going to launch a new initiative, Community Connectors. It’s an initiative to support the best ideas in our state for bringing together schools, parents, communities, community organizations, faith-based groups, business leaders, and, of course, our students in mentoring efforts based on proven practices. We’re going to ask you, the Legislature, to take the $10 million from casino receipts, and we’re going to ask you to create a program that will give these communities a $3 match for every dollar they put in to build these mentoring efforts.” June 2014 saw fruition of Community Connectors with Kasich signing House Bill 483. 12-14-16 The Dispatch’s Mark Williams headlines Kasich panel suggests ways to prepare Ohio kids for jobs. “Ohio Gov. John Kasich appointed a panel composed of legislators, business leaders, labor leaders, educators and others to examine ways to make students better prepared to enter the workforce. Business leaders could one day serve on local school boards in a nonvoting capacity. More internships and apprentice programs would help students learn about — and prepare for — careers. Teachers would have opportunities to spend time in the workplace to learn more about what their students need to know to be successful in the workplace. The ideas were among proposals released Tuesday by Gov. John Kasich’s Executive Workforce Board. The recommendations are meant to address, among other things, longstanding employer complaints that they can’t find people with the right skill set to fill jobs.” “One recommendation is for local school boards to appoint three nonvoting members to represent local business interests and for school officials to get involved in local business groups. The report suggests teachers could get credits as part of their license renewals for externships so that they could gain a better understanding of business needs.” Analysis notes the slippage from “funding” to “investment” by the expectations “for profit or material result.” But The Dispatch was too kind in its reporting of what those results were to be. 12-18-14 The Plain Dealer’s Patrick O’Donnell headlined Schools need a religious partner if they want any of Gov. Kasich’s student mentorship money. “HB 483, as it went into law, makes faith-based organizations an option equal to “civic organizations” and business, but not a requirement.” But “Any school district that wants a piece of that state money must partner with both a church and a business – or a faith-based organization and a non-profit set up by a business to do community service. No business and no faith-based partner means no state dollars. “You must include a faith-based partner,” United Way of Greater Cleveland President Bill Kitson, told potential applicants at an information session the United Way hosted Thursday here in Cleveland. Kitson sits on Kasich’s advisory panel for the program, called “Community Connectors,” which is taking applications for grants now.” No matter the nitty gritty of the outcome or present status, “funding” has morphed into “investment” with the emphasis on “for profit or material result.” The old joke was about “revenue enhancement” being used to elide pronouncing the word “tax.” Last word, er, joke: “Kitson noted that $10 million is not a lot of money. The United Way, he said, is spending $2.5 million to service people in 25 Cleveland schools – about a quarter of the schools in the district. Doing that for the whole district would cost $10 million – the same amount available statewide for Community Connectors – so the state program will likely tackle single schools or just a few at a time.”

Roughage

December 13, 2016

Various news outlets (CBS, NBC, Etc.) have been reporting on the total net worth of president elect Trump’s cabinet picks. Currently the combined total stands at over $14 billion. Remember Jay Hottinger’s Op Ed column in The Advocate educating his constituents on how really big a billion is? Well, Donnie’s cabinet net worth is 30 times that of W’s. And if Rex Tillerson becomes secretary of state, well, like the current stock market, it will be at a record high and climbing. Analysis finds it curious that the prime motivator of our businessman president is making money, something he reminded everyone time and again during the two year campaign (and continues to remind). Analysis feels it could be safely assumed as ditto for his cronies. All well and good, the US has a president who insists on only the best that money can buy. Analysis finds incongruity with OSU’s Urban Meyer receiving a greater salary than the future 45th president of the US of A, as well as any of his cabinet picks. So it obviously can’t be monetary gain that is motivating this crew of international business heavy hitters. What could it be? Trans national corporations (global businesses) have no territorial allegiance (Ireland, Switzerland or the Cayman Islands, it is all one and the same to these corporate “persons”). So patriotism it is not. Whatever it may be is for the pundits to ponder (fodder to bloviate). Analysis is more interested in what happens when “the going gets rough.” Will the 21st century Washington version of Hollywood’s rat pack “get going”? Historic precedent may be of value here. After the 2010 Deep Water Horizon oil disaster, another international corporation heavy hitter, BP CEO Tony Hayward, declared “You know, I’d like my life back.” He traded in his BP CEO hard hat for a lesser position as head of Russian operations. Roughage usually contributes to movement.

Stormy Weather

December 9, 2016

Flying under the radar this week was the Ohio Governor’s speech on the floor of the Ohio House 12-6-16. According to Cleveland.com’s Jeremy Pelzer (John Kasich warns Ohio ‘on the verge of a recession’ 12-7-16) the former presidential wannabe “warned lawmakers Tuesday that Ohio is “on the verge of a recession” as state tax revenues continue to fall short of expectations.” “So far this year, the state has collected $259 million, or 2.8 percent, less in taxes than expected, according to preliminary data released by the Office of Management and Budget. In particular, state income is $153 million less than projected for the year and sales tax revenue is $109 million less.” Jeremy Pelzer prognosticates pithily: “In the past, Kasich has talked about the so-called “Ohio miracle,” touting the state’s economic resurgence along with tax cuts and building up a “rainy-day fund” of more than $2 billion – several times the projected shortfall this year – to draw upon during tough economic times. The governor has helped stock the rainy-day fund by slashing state funding for local governments across Ohio, forcing many cities and towns to raise taxes or cut services.” Analysis gleans that Licking County Commissioner Tim Bubb’s poker face is beginning to show (see previous posts). But not showing this week was the news of JobsOhio Picks Up the $17M Cost for Prepping OH Cracker Site (Marcellus Drilling News 12-7-16). From that article (in the industry’s own words): “Clearing the site, which once hosted the R.E. Burger coal-fired power plant, was no small task. The power plant site, owned and (until 2011) operated by FirstEnergy cost $14 million for demolition, remediation and general cleaning up. An adjacent site (not owned by FirstEnergy) cost another $3 million to tidy up. All told it took $17 million to clean up the site and get it ready to begin construction. FirstEnergy is reported to have said they were “excited” by the opportunity to spend $14 million to clean it up. Wait, what? They wanted to spend the money? Well actually, no, they didn’t. FirstEnergy spent the money to clean up the site because they have been/are being reimbursed for the cost by JobsOhio” “What is JobsOhio and where does it get all this money? Glad you asked! JobsOhio is a private, non-profit with a board appointed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, which gets most of its operating revenue from taxes on liquor sales in Ohio. So raise a glass to the cracker, Ohioans. Your imbibing is helping to build it…” Back to Pelzer: “”There’s not going to be a lot of growth in any [state] program,” Kasich told reporters at the time. “It’s going to be tight. There’s not going to be an ability to give significant percentage increases.”” Gee Toto, I don’t think we’re in Oz anymore, just back in Kansas.

Why Does A City Even Bother To Make Laws?

December 7, 2016

In the 11-20-16 post (It’s Troubling That People Face Different Charges For The Same Offense) Analysis posed the rhetorical question “Why does a city make laws to begin with?” Today, Maria DeVito reports that a handful of Newark residents asked the same question, only non rhetorically. “Despite the cold and rain Tuesday morning, about a dozen protesters chanted outside the Newark Municipal Building to voice their frustration that the city will ignore the newly passed marijuana decriminalization law. Shawn Aber, a Newark resident, organized the People Have Spoken rally after learning the city will charge people under the state laws for marijuana.” “”If the people voted it in, one man should not be able to change it,” Aber said.” (Group protests Newark decision to ignore pot law, Advocate, 12-6-16). It appears the question is not so rhetorical after all, and maybe Mr. Aber is on to something that he himself is totally unaware of. Same day, the Advocate’s parent company, Gannett, reporter in Cincinnati headlines “Lawmakers want to block $15 minimum wage (Jessie Balmert 12-6-16). “Legislators want to block efforts like one from Cincinnatians for a Strong Economy to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15-an-hour. Ohio’s GOP-controlled legislature would prohibit cities from imposing a minimum wage that is higher than the state’s rate, which will be $8.15 next year.” “State lawmakers plan to add the prohibition to another bill: One that would prevent cities from imposing their own rules on where pet stores can purchase animals. That proposed legislation, called the Petland Bill, is a reaction to a Grove City ordinance that prevented pet stores from purchasing animals from puppy mills.” Dear reader, please recall the fracking brouhaha that resulted in the state overriding individual municipalities from enacting drilling restrictions within their communities. In the previous We’re Dealin’ post (11-27-16) Analysis found itself questioning “Which “public” will our political leaders be fighting for?” It was pointed out that the various government entities all claim to be looking out for the best interest of “the public”. Even Licking County Commissioner Tim Bubb feels the sting of who gets to represent “the public” when he told LCJFS Director John Fisher “We’re looking at some loss of revenue next year courtesy of the state.” (see previous post Cleansing 12-5-16). Analysis detects a thread here that was anticipated years ago at the start of this blog but has been difficult to corroborate. Over the past decades there has been a concerted effort made to redefine how America is governed through the lobbying of ALEC (if the reader is not familiar with ALEC, Wiki American Legislative Exchange Council, then Google same). Anecdotal evidence always appeared in the form of various disparate states passing similar legislation, all modeled on wording drawn up by ALEC. Americans For Prosperity likewise found that pursuing an agenda of changing state legislature to fulfill their demands of free market and smaller government was more effective than doing it through the federal government (Some would say the outcome of the recent election confirms the effectiveness of that back door strategy). Analysis points at the plethora of ultimate state determination of everything from education (pre-K through grad school), economic development, employment, etc. to health, marijuana, minimum wage, children’s services and puppy sourcing. This is done not only through economic incentives/prohibitions (taxes, cuts in funding) but also in the legislative creation and enactment of law. Why does a city even bother to make laws?

Cleansing

December 5, 2016

“July 8, 1910 was a dark day in Newark, Ohio history. Carl Etherington, a detective with the Anti-Saloon League of Ohio, had come to Newark to raid saloons and speakeasies for illegal alcohol. Etherington shot local saloon owner William Howard in self-defense, and was taken to the jail. In retaliation for the agents’ activities, a mob formed. The crowd stormed the north side door of the jail, forcibly removed Etherington, and hanged him from a telephone pole on the southeast corner of the courthouse square.” (lcjail.org website)

“The historic Licking County jail could make money as a tourist attraction, but first, cash is needed to make required safety improvements. That was the pitch Licking County Governmental Preservation Society President Jim Young made to the Licking County commissioners on Tuesday…” “Commissioner Tim Bubb said the county has committed to so many costly projects, it’s not known whether the 2017 budget has room for any more. The Licking County Courthouse restoration, county annex and records center renovation on East Main Street, ongoing county bridge improvement program, and current Licking County jail maintenance combine for an expensive to-do list that will include borrowing money. “We have a lot of capital commitments,” Bubb said. “We don’t have enough money to do everything we need to do this year. I can’t remember us feeling any more pressure for capital dollars than we do this year. 2017 — you couldn’t ask for a more difficult year.”” “A philanthropic donation from the Gilbert Reese Family Foundation paid for last year’s exterior cleaning of the jail, at a cost of about $230,000. The cleaning transformed the blackened exterior to a reddish look.” (Commissioners consider improvements to historic jail Kent Mallett, The Advocate Reporter 11-29-16)                                                                                                     “In other cases, reappropriation on the part of an actor from the media or the government tends to legitimate politicians who want to look like heirs of the founding fathers or of the nation’s foundational events. Tourist industry practices bring a hegemonic modality with a different meaning. In either case, criticism usually focuses on the “distortion” of the monument’s original meaning, as if every building or object in the nation’s heritage were destined to remain forever unchanged – as if erecting a statue to commemorate a founding father or adapting a historic building to be repurposed as a bank or as government offices wasn’t already a contingent interpretation of its social meaning.” (Nestor Garcia Canclini “Art Beyond Itself” pg. 38) Both modalities are at play in Licking County today. The first: “Escalating renovation costs at the Licking County Courthouse, along with other capital improvements, spurred Auditor Mike Smith to question county spending decisions in a Thursday meeting with the county commissioners. Smith said he heard last year the courthouse project would cost close to $10 million, instead of the initial $4 million cost approved by the commissioners.” “In addition to the courthouse, the commissioners announced the Child Support Enforcement Agency building at 65 E. Main St., needs a repair and restoration project estimated to cost up to $3.8 million.” “Another building expense is the creation of a records center in a building at 675 W. Church St. purchased four years ago from the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities. The project has been estimated to cost from $1.5 million to $2 million.” (Auditor: Courthouse cost spike to $10M unsurprising Kent Mallett, The Advocate Reporter 7-28-16). The second modality is repurposing the old jail as a haunted hoochie: “The haunted attraction takes visitors through the historic Licking County Jail, filled with a “morgue from hell” and 30 actors dressed as zombies and vintage clowns.” (Mallett 11-29-16)                                                                                                               But wait, there’s more. The Advocate’s Kent Mallett headlines Care for abuse, neglected children breaking JFS budget (12-2-16). “”Paying for the care of the kids is obviously bankrupting us,” [Licking County Job and Family Services Director John] Fisher said. “We can’t just abandon these children. We can’t control who enters our services and who doesn’t. Our mission is to help families and children involved in abuse and neglect situations and do our best to heal that.”” “”We’ve got needs across the board,” Bubb said. “We don’t have these extra $1 million to $2 million we can keep throwing at things. We can’t sustain this going forward. We’re looking at some loss of revenue next year courtesy of the state.” The county’s foster care costs increased from $7.1 million in 2014 to $9 million in 2015, and on pace for $9.2 million this year. “We’re sitting here looking at the numbers and don’t see the faces,” Bubb told Fisher. “You see the faces. We’re frustrated too.”” Analysis finds this is where it gets kinda gnarly. Capital improvements, funded by long term loans, selling municipal bonds (a kind of mortgage due way off in the future), are a very sanitized expense on a budget sheet. They produce an immediate tangible result that can be pointed at. Contrary to Commissioner Bubb’s empathetic sigh of frustration, LCJFS operating expenses are always faceless. A wall greater and more effective than any Donnie Trump can fantasize insures that the needy stay out, the resources remain in. The wall consists of the legal statutes in place mandating the confidentiality and anonymity of the clients served by LCJFS. The artist Krzysztof Wodiczko is known for projecting historic images on a building or monument from that structure’s past, literally putting a face on a façade. Due to the wall, Analysis finds that one can (in actuality) only imagine projecting the faces of children and families held in “bond”age on the red stone of the old jail – prisoners of an economics that favors facades over faces, capital over persons. “Bubb said the building improvements are not annual expenses and will save the county money in the long run, but the work can’t be overlooked any longer.” (Mallett 7-28-16).