Archive for March, 2019

Attention To The Community

March 22, 2019

“By most accounts structures and institutions are what define community in Newark” (This blog, 2-19-19 posting). The Newark Advocate’s 3-21-19 headline news seems to bear this out (OSU-N, COTC to build science, technology center on campus, Kent Mallett). The story line goes that the big news of upcoming development is “The John and Mary Alford Center for Science and Technology will be more than just a new building on the Newark campus of Ohio State University and Central Ohio Technical College when it opens in 2021. The $32 million, three-story, 60,000-square-foot facility will allow OSU to begin offering a bachelor’s degree in engineering that can be completed at the Newark campus. It will be the 11th major students can complete in Newark.” Other uses for the projected structure are listed as well as the organization and sources of funding. An impressive story by any standards given the paucity of infrastructure development in Newark. For sure, for sure, keeping in time with the drum beat, “Berry, who became COTC president on Jan. 1, said the building will help meet the needs of local employers searching for workers to fill jobs in engineering, manufacturing, information technology and health care fields. “This building will be a long-term investment in our region’s economy,” Berry said. “And, it’s a great attraction as we try to bring prospective students into it.”” Given that over 45% of local residences are non-owner occupant, Newark’s kids will be able to find jobs near home, maybe even make a “a long-term investment in our region’s economy” and own one themselves instead of rent. But as we all know, “all stories are true stories.” And that includes this one. The origin grand narrative appears somewhere around the middle. “Ronald Alford, son of longtime Newark campus supporters John and Mary Alford, said, “We believe this building will change lives for generations to come. Our parents were steadfast in their support of OSU and COTC.” Alford said he and his sister viewed DeLawder as the appropriate person to lead the campaign, and not just because of his career at Park National Bank, where John Alford also served as bank president. “Dan reminded us of our dad,” Alford said. “It was more about his demeanor, his humbleness, and his attention not only to his family and the bank, but to the community.” DeLawder said Thursday was a special day in his life, making the announcement even more meaningful. “On this day, 48 years ago, I started my career at Park National Bank,” DeLawder said. “Since Mr. Alford hired me 48 years ago, I could hardly say no (to leading the campaign).”” And who would want to? Average interest rates on student loans run between 5 and 7.5% and debt obligation remains unchanged with any declaration of bankruptcy. Average interest rates for a home mortgage is 4.6%, with car loans showing just a little less at 4.3%, and both are subject to bankruptcy filing. Only sub prime and pay day lending yields a greater return than a student loan. And, as we all know, loans are a bank’s primary assets. Considering that Park National Bank is an institution with $7.8 billion in assets, this certainly is “a long-term investment in our region’s economy.”

How Those With Power Use It

March 17, 2019

A recent edition of George Collinet’s Afropop Worldwide covered Quelbe, the traditional music native to St. Croix (the US Virgin Islands). Recent hurricanes Irma and Maria left St. Croix the same as Puerto Rico – neglected, underserved and quickly dismissed and forgotten. Residents of both islands opt to leave for the mainland (as US citizens). Some opt to return which was the case with one woman interviewed on the show. An educator of traditional Croixian culture, she said something to the effect that the hope of the future for the local culture to continue is for the economy to improve. Would an improved economy have that effect on the sustenance and continuance of the native traditions and culture? We are all aware of the Harlem Renaissance but is contemporary gentrification of Harlem having the same effect? And what of Appalachian culture with the exploitation of natural resources boom/bust cycles? Native American culture and casinos? And downtown Newark itself (was there ever a downtown Newark culture)? The list is endless, and international. Following it would result in an anecdotal analysis. How about a theoretic one based on the news of current events and situations? It is history, the rejection of Amazon by the Queens neighborhood of NYC. Business Insider reports Rent in Queens fell after Amazon backed out of plans to build its HQ2 there (Gina Heeb, 3-15-19). “There was a shift in the rental market following Amazon’s February 14 announcement that it was cancelling plans to build its second headquarters in Long Island City, said Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel Inc. and the author of the report.” Does the maintenance, sustainability and predictability of the neighborhood have anything to do with the continuance and sustainability of local culture? 3-16-19 Washington Post headlines Arlington County Board approves $23 million incentives package for Amazon (Patricia Sullivan and Robert McCartney). “The Arlington County Board unanimously approved a $23 million incentives package for Amazon to build a headquarters facility in Crystal City at a raucous meeting Saturday repeatedly disrupted by protesters who shouted “shame” and twice forced the board members to briefly leave the room.” “The 5-0 vote was the final action granting local and state subsidies to the online retail giant as part of its much-publicized plan to create at least 25,000 jobs over 12 years in the Northern Virginia suburb.” Analysis would like to say it sounds a lot like Licking County only here the Commissioners are met by raucous silence (OK, occasional Z’s). “In the public hearing, backers argued for the value of the jobs and economic boost they expect Amazon to bring to the county and region. Charles Wagner, a supporter, argued the company would “grow our economy, expand our tax base and diversify our economy away from the federal government.”” The standard trope of the economy “improving” everything heard at countless LC Commissioners meetings. Would that include an “improvement” of local culture? What of continuance and sustenance? “Opponents said Amazon didn’t need or deserve public subsidies, that its arrival would displace low-income communities, and that it had not engaged well with the community. When Kinsey Fabrizio, a member of the Consumer Technology Association, praised Amazon’s outreach to the community, Amazon opponents in the crowd laughed raucously, drawing a rebuke from [Democrat Board Chair Christian] Dorsey. Resident Ibby Han told the board that by supporting Amazon, “You’re just repeating Virginia’s history of prioritizing elites over working people.”” Something completely missing from LC Commissioners meetings. The exchange, that is, not the corporate subsidy. Does traditional local culture spring from the “working people” or from the colonizing “elites”? Obviously economy has a bearing on the environment that fosters culture. The massive upheaval and disruption produced by gentrification results in a definite reconfiguration of that environment, to one maybe even unrecognizable to the original, the “origin” of the traditions grounding the local culture. The multi-story high rises of the Short North have displaced the “creatives” that originated its aura to their new digs in Franklinton (which in turn, as with the Short North, is beginning to displace the marginalized poor that had inhabited there). From whence does culture spring? And what exactly is going on when mega bucks “investors” like Amazon move in? Completely unrelated to economy but pertinent to our inquiry was this news item from the past week: Activist who confronted Chelsea Clinton: She ‘hurt our fight against white supremacy’ (John Bowden for The Hill, 3-16-19) The gist of the story swirled around “In a BuzzFeed op-ed posted Saturday, Rose Asaf and Leen Dweik argued that they spoke to Clinton in a now-viral video clip because they “saw an opportunity to have her ear and confront her on her false charge of anti-Semitism against our only Black, Muslim, Somali, and refugee member of Congress.” Omar is the first member of Congress to wear a headscarf on the House floor, and came to America as a refugee from her home country of Somalia in 1995.” Yet a quote from that op-ed speaks succinctly to our inquiry as to whether an improved economy helps or hurts a traditional local culture: “”To them, we say that anti-Muslim bigotry must be addressed wherever it exists. This is not about left and right. This is about people who do and do not have power, and how those with power use it.””

NO COLLUSION

March 8, 2019

First things first, Analysis needs to bring context to today’s post through a follow up to the previous two. Fresh off the new Governor’s State of the State but still the same old marketing to Ohio residents as well as outside investors, we give some numbers (the theme of today’s post). “The average JobsOhio employee made six figures in 2018, records show” by Andrew Tobias for Cleveland.com (3-7-19). The headline speaks for itself. “The nonprofit’s top-paid employee was outgoing President and Chief Investment Officer John Minor, who made $621,322.62 in total compensation, which includes salary, 401k contributions and health care costs. That’s $86,863, or 16 percent higher than he received the previous year.” “The second-highest paid employee was Dana Saucier, the nonprofit’s vice president and head of economic development. He received $353,099.72. Chief Financial Officer Kevin Giangola received $240,486.96, and General Counsel Don Grubbs made $238,163.06. Two senior managing directors made $342,155.67 and $304,863.34; Kristi Tanner and Aaron Pitts” “In all, 39 employees received at least $100,000, and 11 received more than $200,000. The average employee’s compensation was $107,741.25, compared to $98,129.02 in 2017.” You do the math. But Analysis notes the new Governor’s State of the State. What does he make? And his cabinet? From the same reporter/news source (Here are the salaries for Gov. Mike DeWine’s top staff — and how they compare to John Kasich’s, 1-30-19): “State legislators voted last December to give state and county-level elected officials across-the-board raises. As a result, DeWine will make $154,248, while Kasich, whose veto of the pay-raise bill was overturned, made $148,315. We did not include this in our average salary calculations.” And what was the averages for cabinet and staff? “The average DeWine cabinet member will make $156,377, compared to $151,140, or about 3.5 percent more, for the same jobs in the Kasich administration.” “Along with salary data for cabinet members, the DeWine administration last Friday released a partial list for top, but not-cabinet level, administrative staff. Those staff made an average of $114,254, compared to $116,000 for the Kasich staff.” Still want a government job, Bunky? Analysis shows top public private partnership ones pay better. But who’s working for whom? And what are they getting for it? (that includes you, Bunky) Writing for the Washington Post, Christopher Ingraham headlines Household net worth falls by largest amount since the Great Recession, new Fed data shows (3-7-19). Of note: “Total household net worth is a measure of the assets — such as homes, stocks and bank accounts — owned by American families and nonprofits minus their debts. In the fourth quarter of 2018, it fell by about $3.7 trillion, a 3.5 percent quarterly decline. Going back to 1952, the start of the Fed’s data, only three quarters — the third and fourth quarters of 2008, and the second quarter of 1962 — posted bigger declines in household net worth, percentage-wise. The data shows that change was driven by the poor performance of the stock market in the fourth quarter of last year. The flailing market erased $4.6 trillion in assets from household and nonprofit balance sheets, which was offset somewhat by gains in real estate and other assets.” Been wondering why your rent has been going up, Bunky? “More important, most of the household wealth in the United States is owned by the country’s richest families. In 2016, for instance, the top 1 percent of families owned 40 percent of all household wealth, with the next 9 percent of families holding an additional 29 percent. That leaves 21 percent of the country’s net worth for the remaining 90 percent of American families. Furthermore, about half of American families don’t own any stocks, while the top 10 percent of families control about 84 percent of the stock market. Taken together, the numbers are a reminder that the stock market is not the economy, and that big national-level data sets may not necessarily reflect financial reality for typical American families, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to meet even small unexpected expenses.” Speaking of expenses, numbers news came out this week that addresses just that: “In Blow to Trump, America’s Trade Deficit in Goods Hits Record $891 Billion” by Jim Tankersley and Ana Swanson for the NY Times, 3-6-19. ““All countries run trade deficits whenever they consume more than they produce,” said Kimberly Clausing, an economist at Reed College in Oregon. “And when we borrow to finance tax cuts, like we did with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, we make these imbalances worse.”” “It is a case of textbook economics catching up with some of Mr. Trump’s unorthodox economic policies. Economists have long warned that Mr. Trump’s tax cuts would ultimately exacerbate a trade deficit he has vowed to reduce, as Americans, flush with extra cash, bought more imported goods.” Analysis can only conclude that the garage and yard sales market will rise in 2019 as average Americans will have so much more stuff to sell. No matter, as of this writing (3-8-19), Dear Leader’s morning constitutional tweet stresses once again, in all caps, “there is NO COLLUSION.” Confused, Bunky? By design, Bunky, by design.

Expecting Different Results

March 6, 2019

“The Bible tells us that there is a time and a place for everything under the Heavens. At this point in Ohio history, it is the time for us to INVEST IN OHIO!” Following the initial kudos and acknowledgements, this was the opening line of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s 2019 State of the State address. His primary focus of investment is the maintenance and upgrading of Ohio’s roads and bridges. Whereas John Kasich never failed to disparage his Democrat predecessor for leaving him a rainy day fund without any money, Mike DeWine revealed that he likewise has been left with a fund out of money, transportation. “The only difference is that the state has masked its problem by borrowing more and more money (none of which, by the way, has gone to our local communities). Well—now our credit cards are literally maxed out—and we simply cannot borrow any more—nor should we. Some may think that if we do nothing, the quality of our roads will somehow remain the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. The money the state has borrowed—that same money that has been propping us up—has now been spent. It’s gone.” Unspoken is that we (the GOP) have only ourselves to blame for it. Butt weight, there’s more. Not only was no mention made that this hollowed out account was left by the outgoing administration, but the outgoing administration’s “innovative new public-private partnership,” JobsOhio, was never once mentioned in the entire speech. Coincidence? Almost within the same time as the speech, JobsOhio released their annual report. “2018: A ‘record year’ for JobsOhio” by Thomas Gnau, for the Dayton Daily News (3-5-19) gives the numbers: “2018 figures offered by JobsOhio:• Total number of projects: 266• New jobs: 27,071 • New jobs payroll: $1.3 billion• Retained jobs: 69,905• Retained jobs payroll: $4.2 billion• Capital investment: $9.6 billion” As then Ohio Auditor and now Ohio AG Dave Yost showed only too clearly, the nitty gritty of these figures can never be known. How much of the $9.6 billion involved tax payer moneys, generated by liquor sales or otherwise? How integral was JobsOhio to the creation of the 27,071 new jobs? Would all or part still have become actual without JobsOhio intervention? JobsOhio takes no responsibility for the Lordstown shuttering (“out of their hands”) yet they take credit for new jobs carte blanche. The appearance/disappearance of JobsOhio during the State of the State speaks volumes without making a sound uttered by the current Governor (“It’s gone.”). Few remember when liquor was sold only in “State Stores”, but liquor sold in Ohio still is managed by the State with the difference being that no one but JobsOhio profits from the sales. It IS, by design, a public private partnership. In December of 2016 this blog wrote of one such JobsOhio “Capital investment” (Stormy Weather, 12-9-16) “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”” No hydrocarbon cracking plant was ever built. The site sits “jobs ready”, or is that “investment ready”? But you can’t drive on it or use it to cross a river. Governor DeWine is correct. The money is gone, but he makes it sound as if someone just didn’t pay attention to Franklin in handling the Benjamins (“Neither a borrower nor lender be”). Truth is, along with the tax cuts it was given away to subsidize corporate wealth through JobsOhio. Now DeWine and the GOP want to “fix the problem” of this migration of funding resources through a regressive tax, paid by those on the other end of the corporate wealth spectrum. Butt weight, there’s even more with another priority proffered with this State of the State statement: “In the budget that I will propose, we will be creating a new public health fund, that will leverage resources through an innovative new public-private partnership to increase public health awareness and prevention strategies.” The GOP never gives up on insisting there is money to be made wherever there is public need. “Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.” (origin unknown).

Faith, It’s Not Just For Old Time Religion Anymore

March 3, 2019

“Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, and Chevrolet.” What could be more American? Marketing, for one thing. It brought you that jingle which is indelibly etched in the American psyche. Who doesn’t love America? At the recent CPAC convention Dear Leader was photographed hugging the flag on stage by none other than “the enemy of the American people,” the adversarial media. Now THAT’S marketing! The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business offers 31 different individual courses in marketing as well as a whole slew of Logistics classes (actual hands-on how-to). Those following a business calling can achieve an undergrad degree as well as masters or doctorate along with continuing ed. In a weird, obtuse kind of way it could be likened to Divinity courses and degrees offered at other schools. One thing is for sure. Marketing, as a solution offered by studied and degreed academics, does not share the same reception as the global warming research and findings offered by their academic colleagues. Non-science trumps science, at least in terms of faith based studies. Which brings us back to the CPAC conference at which Dear Leader gave a Fidel Castro style speech (Donald Trump Thrills CPAC Crowd with Record-Long Speech Lasting Over Two Hours, Breitbart, 3-2-19). Cuba’s ruling party press likewise celebrated Fidel’s lack of brevity. “Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, and Chevrolet.” ‘Nuff said. In GOP governed Newark/Licking County, the last part of that marketing jingle is the solution to the lack of affordable, accessible and reliable public transportation. “Need to get to work? Buy a car.” Which translates into “Need money to buy a car? Go to work.” Ya gotta love marketing solutions which, like religious solutions, take a lot of faith to deal with the built-in logistical paradox. With this week’s forecast severe weather, The Advocate marketed hand wringing concern by pre-emptively revisiting the homeless “problem” with an integrated appeal to community planned solutions. The usual alibis were presented along with the equally staged marketing embrace of the need to “find a solution”; not so much create a solution as to recognize a marketing opportunity. Marketing relies on need, in the absence of which desire will suffice. In the absence of which, desire can be created. Now that’s marketing. Of course, certain needs have no redeemable value in the service of marketing. No matter their great need, the folks devastated by Hurricane Michael across the Florida panhandle are still looking for relief. Marketing fails them totally. In Licking County/Newark ditto is found with regards to public transportation, affordable housing, food scarcity, drug addiction in conjunction with public health, and other community (public) “needs.” Though the need is enormous, there is no money to be made addressing these needs (let alone desire, or need to create desire!). Along with Dear Leader’s PDA (flag hug), and “Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, and Chevrolet.” the recent GOP CPAC convention was a superbly marketed embrace of contemporary challenges as marketing opportunities. This faith based “flag embrace” accompanies that of their Divinity school brethren. Analysis recalls W’s response shortly after 9/11, something along the lines of of “Go out and buy a Chevrolet.” Years later economists gave the alibi for the Great Recession as when consumers lose faith and stop buying, the economy falls into recession. Faith, it’s not just for old time religion anymore.