Posts Tagged ‘Economics’

More Hannah Arendt

June 22, 2017

Although Hannah Arendt writes about events from 70 to 200 years ago in The Origins Of Totalitarianism (1951, 1958, 1966), something of today jumps out with almost every page. Contemporary political savants argue endlessly over how the party system is faring, who is winning/losing, why, and what the results of this spell out for the American people (as well as people of the world). In a paragraph referencing utilitarianism and governance (pg 347) she ends with:  ““Scientism” in politics still presupposes that human welfare is its object, a concept which is utterly alien to totalitarianism.” She footnotes this with: “William Ebenstein, The Nazi State, New York, 1943, in discussing the “Permanent War Economy” of the Nazi state is almost the only critic who has realized that “the endless discussion . . . as to the socialist or capitalist nature of the German economy under the Nazi regime is largely artificial . . . [because it] tends to overlook the vital fact that capitalism and socialism are categories which relate to Western welfare economics” (p.239)” She begins the next paragraph with: “It is precisely because the utilitarian core of ideologies was taken for granted that the anti-utilitarian behavior of totalitarian governments, their complete indifference to mass interest, has been such a shock.” On page 350 she writes “Totalitarian movements use socialism and racism by emptying them of their utilitarian content, the interest of a class or nation. The form of infallible prediction in which these concepts were presented has become more important than their content. The chief qualification of a mass leader has become unending infallibility; he can never admit an error.” She elaborates this. On page 350 she writes “Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such.” Which she footnotes with “Konrad Heiden, Der Fuehrer: Hitler’s Rise to Power, Boston, 1944, underlines Hitler’s “phenomenal untruthfulness,” “the lack of demonstrable reality in nearly all his utterances,” his “indifference to facts which he does not regard as vitally important” (pp. 368, 374). –In almost identical terms, Khrushchev describes “Stalin’s reluctance to consider life’s realities” and his indifference to “the real state of affairs,” op. cit. Stalin’s opinion of the importance of facts is best expressed in his periodic revisions of Russian history.” She concludes this small foray into utilitarianism and objective interests in “traditional” Western forms of governance and what she believes occurs with totalitarian forms: “For masses, in contrast to classes, want victory and success as such, in their most abstract form; they are not bound together by those special collective interests which they feel to be essential to their survival as a group and which they therefore may assert even in the face of overwhelming odds. More important to them than the cause that may be victorious, or the particular enterprise that may be a success, is the victory of no matter what cause, and success in no matter what enterprise.” Tonight’s nightly national news covered the crowds lining up overnight for the apprentice president’s Iowa rally, very much like they used to do outside stores for Black Friday Sales. The camera panned to a little girl who yelled out “Build a wall!” No matter that at the recent (6-14-17) Columbus Metropolitan Club Forum Dr. Jim Johnson, in his talk on the Browning and Greying of America and its impact on business and the economy, carefully pointed out that the median age for whites is early forties, for immigrants and people of color upper twenties and early thirties. Who will help populate the workforce and consumer economy of tomorrow? No matter that the GAO, as well as others, describe self inflicted damage from much social legislation and executive action. (to paraphrase Arendt’s pg. 350 quote from the Nazi Primer “We shape the life of our people and our legislation according to the verdicts of economics” [original “genetics”]). No matter that “the jobs are never coming back,” and that the coal mining museum in Kentucky has solar panels on its roof. “More important . . . is the victory of no matter what cause, and success in no matter what enterprise.”

In Licking County Wealthy People Don’t Commit Crime

June 20, 2017

The Father’s Day NBC Evening News ran a short segment by Tammy Leitner about pay to stay jails in California. Turns out that if the incarcerated is wealthy, they can upgrade to jail time with amenities like access to store offerings, phone, cable TV, even an ocean view location like trendy Seal Beach Jail (a new twist on Father Knows Best – Father Stays Best!). Your local accommodating jail is not just for misdemeanors anymore. The LA Times reports close to 5% are in for a felony conviction. For a hefty fee, this captured clientele can get an upgrade (eat your hearts out Trivago). NBC was not really presenting news but rather “upgrading” what has been news since 2007, with Analysis also considering it in past posts. In an upgrade of its own 2013 report, the ACLU in 2015 reported IN Jail, In Debt: Ohio’s Pay-To-Stay Fees. “Our statewide investigation analyzes policies at 75 facilities representing 74 counties across Ohio. More than half of jails, 40 of the 75, charge people for their incarceration through a booking fee, a daily fee, or both. Ohioans are getting billed up to $66.09 a day to be in jail.” Earlier this year the Marshall Project in collaboration with the LA Times did a joint investigation that was reported variously (from which NBC created Father’s Day fill). NPR’s Robert Siegel interviewed Alysia Santo, “a staff reporter for the nonprofit news organization the Marshall Project,” (3-9-17). From the transcript: Santo “The most expensive is Hermosa Beach, and that’s $251 a night. And then the cheapest is La Verne, which is $25 a night. More typically they’re between a hundred and $150.” “And in that jail, he was allowed to bring his own bedding. He was allowed to bring his computer and work on musical recordings while he was spending the time there. It also – the judge had said he needed to finish that sentence within one year, and he took two years to finish it. So he kind of scheduled his time over a matter of two years and did two-day increments until it was completed.” “It is. I mean a lot of what we cover at the Marshall Project is looking at the ways that money influences people’s outcomes in the criminal justice system. And some of those ways are no secret. You know, you can buy a better attorney. You know, you can pay your bail. So there are many ways that money comes into play. I think, though, pay-to-stay – what seems outrageous to a lot of people is that it’s so explicit that you really can purchase a more comfortable experience for a nightly fee. It’s very similar to many things in criminal justice. It’s just more in-your-face about it.” With so much being “in-your-face” these days, Analysis finds there may be something in all this that Licking County’s beleaguered commissioners could cash in on, literally. No, not a room with a view between the bars at Buckeye Lake (there are already plenty of those), but rather the historic old jail, which hardly generates any income during its very seasonal and limited Halloween Haunted Hoochie days. It would be the perfect pokey, overlooking Newark’s much desired “destination” location as well as the area’s hottest prime real estate for young urban hipsters. Offering concierge service, the upgraded county lock up could provide the discretionary jailbird with farm market fresh offerings as well as artisan soda and food truck cuisine; all while enjoying the incredible view of the newly refurbished justice center! What could be more rehabilitative than knowing that your upgraded stay is not only helping to pay off your debt to society but also helping to pay for the recent courthouse upgrade? Additionally, detention center guests, er, inmates could “work off” some of their hospitality accommodation charge by volunteering to act as, well, prisoners during the Halloween Hoochie celebration. Analysis finds this would be a win-win for all. It could even lead to a yearly downtown reunion celebration like the local university has for its alumni. What’s that you say? In Licking County wealthy people don’t commit…

Pat Tiberi: What Are Your Priorities To Create Jobs?

June 9, 2017

6-6-17 LA Weekly’s Dennis Romero headline’s California’s Economic Boom Isn’t Helping L.A.’s Housing Shortage. Notable regarding the economic boom California is experiencing in the face of multi year drought, devastating natural catastrophe’s, etc. is “Seventeen percent of the nation’s job growth and 24 percent of its gross domestic product increase between 2012 and 2016 can be attributed to California, according to recent data parsed by Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy. “Those are very striking numbers,” he says. This week’s “Best & Worst State Economies” report found that the Golden State ranked fifth for startups, fifth for the percentage of high-tech jobs and second for “innovation potential,” which includes high-tech jobs and research and development investment. Last year the state became “the sixth largest economy in the world, boasting a GDP that’s comparable in size to the U.K.’s and even larger than those of France and India,” according to the report.” Romero also covers the income disparity: “Yet by one federal standard, about one in four people in the Golden State is poor. And L.A. County’s $2,600 median rent for a two-bedroom apartment far outpaces the ability of the average Angeleno (median individual income is about $28,000) to live indoors. Housing prices in the Bay Area are even worse. Thus, L.A. County this year has seen a 23 percent increase in the number of people living on the streets.” This is followed with “Economist Levy says, indeed, these conditions can and do coexist in California, a place of enormous wealth and nation-leading poverty. “A strong economy can’t by itself eliminate poverty or build housing,” he says.” On 5-24-17, in an article by Karla Lant, the World Economic Forum headlines How California Is Winning The Renewable Energy Race. Of note: “On May 13, 2017, California smashed through another renewable energy milestone as its largest grid, controlled by the California Independent System Operator (CISO), got 67.2% of its energy from renewables — not including hydropower or rooftop solar arrays. Adding hydropower facilities into the mix, the total was 80.7%. Sunny days with plenty of wind along with full reservoirs and growing numbers of solar facilities were the principal factors in breaking the record. The CISO controls 80% of the state’s power grid.” and “While California is certainly leading the nation, other states and cities are following suit. Atlanta will run on 100% renewables by 2035, and Chicago will power all city buildings with renewables by 2025. The Las Vegas government has them both beaten, as it’s already 100% powered by renewables, and Nevada itself has a goal of 80% renewables by 2040. Massachusetts will be 100% renewables-powered by 2035, followed by Hawaii in 2045.” Meanwhile, back at the ranch, on 6-7-17 Dan Gearino of the Dispatch headlines State Legislators Still Hope For Compromise With Governor On Clean-Energy Bill. “A proposal [House Bill 114] that would weaken clean-energy standards is now in the Ohio Senate, and a key lawmaker says he hopes to come up with a version of the bill that Gov. John Kasich would support.” This after the moratorium imposed on these standards. Locally connected: ““We are trying to come up with a compromise with the governor,” said Sen. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.” Not mentioned in the economic news from California is that California is also not a Right To Work State.  Ohio, on the other hand… Jackie Borchardt for Cleveland.com on 2-13-17 headlined ‘Right-To-Work’ Bill Introduced In Ohio House. Of note: “Rep. John Becker, a Clermont County Republican, introduced the latest iteration on Monday with the support of 12 House Republicans. Under House Bill 53, public sector employees could opt out of joining a union or paying dues. Conversely, unions could opt out from representing employees who don’t join. Currently, employees cannot be required to join unions. But state law allows collective bargaining agreements to require “fair share” or agency fees. The fees are lower than union member dues payments and cannot be used for services beyond contract negotiations.” With the final line being “Last month, legislative leaders from both parties questioned the need for right-to-work legislation. Opponents say right-to-work laws lower union membership and wages and don’t lead to job growth as promised.” Which brings us to yesterday’s headline from the State House News Bureau’s Jo Ingles (6-8-17) New Bill Would Make Big Changes To The Ohio Bureau Of Worker’s Compensation. Ingles writes “State lawmakers are considering a new bill to reform the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. It would make key changes to the program, like reducing extended injured worker benefits for retirees. And it would also change the name of the agency.” The name would become the Office of Employee Safety and Rehabilitation. Ingles quotes Republican Rep. Mike Henne ““It’s about giving them the appropriate care when they are injured. It’s about getting them back to work, for the employee and the employer and it’s about getting them the appropriate benefits when they can’t return to work.”” Makes it sound like Ohio’s workers are just a bunch of slackers and the economy isn’t growing on account of this, doesn’t it?

“Lies, plain and simple”     James Comey

 

 

Why Donald Trump Needs People To Be Poor

June 6, 2017

In his inimitable, deeply personal manner Newark’s US Representative, Pat Tiberi, emailed his constituents a survey. “What are your priorities to create jobs? Your priorities are my priorities. Your thoughts are important to me.” followed by the GOP house menu. The survey presents the appearance of propriety as the party is now the government, no need to bother. The party itself is now evolving with the “old” guard (McCain, Kasich, etc.) and the new populist/nationalists, again, presenting the appearance of being irreconcilable. Trump came in forming a weird coalition of uber wealth (his cabinet is the richest ever) and those who appear to have not so much (really?). Those who appear to have not so much either find their modicum of success to be a plateau or are without success altogether. Each triumphs the Trump presidency for a different reason. All the statistics from the “Occupy” days haven’t disappeared and the ubers’ wealth is superfluous, i.e. it is not generating more wealth. The not so’s find their overcapacity to work is, in an odd way, superfluous, i.e. that there either is not better compensation for their work, or the expenditure of greater work effort will not greatly improve their economic position. Recent developments in the automotive sector may help shed some light on this. The last couple of years have shown continuous and steady sales of various automotive products. In spite of this, Ford sacked its CEO and is restructuring for change. GM is pondering splitting its stock like airline seating – first class and coach. According to classic capitalist theory, nothing is awry. An investor purchases a scrap of paper and yearly the company selling the paper pays out a dividend. Where’s the hitch? What is destabilizing the auto companies is that the value of the piece of paper hasn’t gone up. In short, the superfluous wealth tied up with this “investment” is not promising a large enough return. Put crassly, the money needs to make more money. In today’s global economics, the auto industry is akin to the stationary industry of 50 years ago. Making an envelope is not all that complicated. Though there once was a steady demand for paper envelopes, nothing would make the producer’s stock price rise dramatically, as the competition was equally adept at producing envelopes. Imagining Ford and GM to be making envelopes brings us back to the weird coalition that supports Donald Trump. The ubers demand a greater return on their wealth. The not so’s would like a greater return on their participation in this enterprise. Unlike colonial imperialist times, no new market or supplier will magically manifest itself in today’s global economics. Everyone, everywhere has access to a mobile device which will tell them what something on Ebay can be gotten for. So the classic “buy cheap, sell dear” model is well worn. Other approaches are available that will make America great again and cause stock value to rise (saving jobs but not necessarily creating them). Early on in their schooling children are taught the Disneyland version – discover something everyone wants and you’ll be a star. This is John Kasich’s methodology in dealing with the drug epidemic in Ohio through research funding. Another approach is by making what is public private, and vice versa. The health care debate swirls around this interpretation, and now the Trump presidency is calling for it with appeals to make America’s infrastructure great (and private)  again. But the tried and true (historical) approach to increasing the value of what you already have is to make sure others ain’t got it. Exclusivity is priceless. This technique increases the value of superfluous wealth without the risk of needing to expend it, creating something new, or tying it up in mundane, long term low yielding envelope company stock. The likewise tried and true method of making people poor (making sure other’s ain’t got it) is through creating an other, someone who is predetermined to be without. The without can be anything from job skill capacity, place of residence, genetic background, right language or learning, etc. This is the glue that bonds the coalition of uber wealth and those who appear to have not so much. Each are looking to enhance the value of what they have, at the expense of some other. Neither are very happy with what envelope sales generate. Analysis concludes by reminding the reader that “creating an other, someone who is predetermined to be without” is the classic definition and function of racism.

Fundraisers

June 5, 2017

Mention the name Kirkersville today around central Ohio and the response is similar to the mention of other names in other parts of the country, like Waco, Orlando, or Virginia Tech. For readers unfamiliar with Kirkersville, an individual with a history of violence related offenses (and incarceration) shot and killed two unrelated women co workers of a nursing home as well as the village police chief. The shooter was likewise shot and killed in the calamity. A search of  the perpetrator’s home in Utica turned up a veritable arsenal of firearms and ammunition. The tragedy that unfolded in Kirkersville has been reported, updated, re-reported and analyzed, all in hopes that “it will never happen again.” Laws are being “introduced” to facilitate this. This past weekend, in addition to more post-event investigative reporting, the Newark Advocate dedicated another Sunday editorial to Kirkersville. Newark News Analysis dares to call attention to a regular daily Advocate feature from June 2, 2017 (prior to the editorial but after the tragedy in Kirkersville). The Local News Briefs calls attention to local events, announcements, news items that are published in the public interest. The following appeared on the same day, sharing the same column space, separated only by two sundry announcements (a street closing and a summer reading series):

Chipotle having Kirkersville shooting fundraiser

NEWARK – A benefit day for the families of the three victims of the Kirkersville nursing home shooting will be Tuedsay, June 6, at the Chipotle Restaurants in Heath, Newark, Reynoldsburg and Blacklick.

Customers who tell the cashier they are supporting the fundraiser will have 50 percent of their purchase divided between the families of Eric DiSario, Marlina Medrano and Cindy Krantz.

Gun raffle supports Utica K-9 Unit

UTICA – A gun raffle and fundraiser to support the Utica Police Department K-9 Unit will have a drawing at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Utica Fire Department.

First prize is a SAI Saint Tactical AR-15, second prize is a RFM-870 Combo, third prize is a Ruger American 9mm and fourth prize is a Glock 26 CGW. Other door prizes will also be given.

Tickets are $10 and are available at the police department and Utica Mill and Hardware Store.

 

Newark News Analysis finds the Newark Advocate’s de facto editorial stance to be no stance at all. Cosmetic tweaks are demanded while the status quo remains unchallenged. Who does the Advocate advocate for?

El SID And The Poppies

June 1, 2017

The current imbroglio obsessing Newark’s City Council is the future of marijuana in Nerk (whatever became of affordable housing? public transportation? drug addiction rehabilitation? Let alone street paving?). After dissing the local voters’ initiative to “decriminalize” its possession, the council now must wrestle with what to do with a medical legalization of this substance by the legislature (meant, at the time, to stave off a statewide citizen’s initiative). Having hemmed and hawed as long as they could, the good folks in the state’s executive branch need to finally implement the medical marijuana legalization. Ditto for Newark’s City administration. Analysis has already posted about the head slapping irony of citizens wanting something, voting for it (going through the democratic process of self governance) only to find their elected officials deciding something else is in the constituents’ best interest (another episode of Father Knows Best). Stealthily lurking behind all this is the gentrification of downtown Newark. This ongoing epic saga has unfolded over the past 10 years with nary a citizen vote. Conservative blame was needed as “conservative” by definition means “disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc. or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change” (none of which are found with roundabouts or a covered, block long outdoor entertainment loading dock). That nasty old federal EPA fit the bill marvelously, serving as a catalyst for all this “Federally mandated” change (kinda like “America First” being “printed in China”). So downtown Newark was, by hook or crook, going to be changed, gentrified. No one would vote on it. Everyone (who didn’t get to vote) would pay for it. The latest is the SID (Special Improvement District). This is a plan or rather, a gentrification technique whereby “property owners would pay 7.5 percent of the tax rate applied to the 2016 real property taxable value, providing the district about $110,000 annually. The assessment would first appear on their 2018 property tax bill. The tax would last five years, but could be renewed for an additional five years.” “Property owners must petition city council to create the district. The petition must be signed by the owners of 60 percent of the frontage feet along public rights of way in the district, or 75 percent of the square footage of real property in the district.” (Downtown property owners asked to join new taxing district, The Newark Advocate, Kent Mallett , 5-22-17) “The goal is to use property tax assessments from those within the district to pay for services such as parking maintenance, safety and security, litter control, graffiti removal, visitor ambassadors, special projects and marketing.” One of this blog’s first entries was in March of 2013, Ownership Of Downtown Newark. That research covered the area of this Newark SID. It revealed that close to 24% of the “property owners” within the area were either government entities or religious ones (neither of which would be assessed). At that time Park National Bank owned nearly 10% of all this area property (banks in total about 13%). Which leaves less than two thirds of the property owners to pay the SID. Why is a SID an integral part of gentrification? To increase property values (for the non voting property owners of the district – in 2013 Analysis also found that of the remaining not government, religious, or bank property owners, few were individually named, most were corporate legal entities) rents need to be higher across the board (like the neglected house on the block determining neighborhood value). A SID does specifically that. As a tax, it increases the property owner’s costs which in turn increases the operating expense for any business located there. Marginally profitable businesses will exit as they did prior to the large scale construction of downtown several years ago. Ditto for any other renters (i.e. residential tenants). Upscale enterprises (with capital backing) move in and, Voila! The SID has functioned perfectly as planned. In the meantime Newark’s City Council will wrestle with the tsunami of legalized marijuana while this disenfranchised mandate will pass like shit through a duck.

The State Of The State Of Ohio’s Opioid Epidemic

April 6, 2017

A blizzard of angst filled soul searching follows the presidential election, current administration, continuing to this day with “how did this happen?” Etc. Many are not so surprised, more bemused in that all of this was in plain sight. Intentions as well as actions today are simply a continuance of what was stated, promised, and actively displayed before. ‘Nuff said. Within his recent (4-4-17) State of the State address, Ohio’s Governor John Kasich’s lips pronounced “Ensuring that we have the basics in place — fiscal strength, lower taxes, proper regulation — opens the door for us to sell our state across the nation and across the world.” This mantra was repeated multiple times, even more through fragments. Sounds pretty clear. No mystification of priorities, intent, or course of action here. He also had this to say about Ohio’s Opioid drug epidemic, though he didn’t call it that (Name thing I guess. Been there, done that with the current pres’): “Last year, Highway Patrol troopers had their largest single heroin, meth and prescription pill seizures. Ohio was one of the first states to create prescribing guidelines for doctors. We’ve linked our medical providers into our pharmacy system to slow doctor shopping and for the first time we’re registering pharmacy technicians. We’ve expanded access to the overdose-reversal drug to first responders, pharmacies and families of those addicted. And we created Start Talking! to encourage more adults to talk to children about the dangers of drugs. In all, we’re spending nearly $1 billion a year.” And “That’s why today I’m asking the Third Frontier Commission to provide up to $20 million to help bring new scientific breakthroughs to the battle against drug abuse and addiction. These funds will target existing, proven ideas that simply need an extra push to be brought to the fight — ideas like using a simple device that connects to someone’s ear that can relieve pain and block the effects of opiate withdrawal.” Finally “We love our children and care about our neighbors, so we’ve got to deliver this message to them: “Don’t do drugs or you will destroy your life and you will destroy the purpose for which the good Lord created you.”” Not a word, or dollar, for rehabilitation. Analysis considers the implications of this abdication of leadership, the vacuum formed by Kasich’s overriding priorities, intent, and course of action. Indeed, historically US public health epidemics have been met by an equally public response of sanatoriums, recovery centers, and public health initiatives (all notably absent with the governor’s approach). History has lectured us extensively on what happens in a leadership vacuum (South East Asia, Syria/Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.). Add to that Kasich and the GOP’s historic preference (and reliance) on a religious response to education, social welfare and public health concerns. Here is some of what Kevin Lewis O’Neill writes in an essay entitled “On Hunting” (Critical Inquiry Spring 2017):

““We hunt men,” Alejandro said, “to save them.” Locked up inside a Pentecostal drug rehabilitation center for his use of crack cocaine, Alejandro participates in his pastor’s hunting parties or grupos de caceria. At the outer edges of today’s war on drugs, Christian vigilante groups scour the streets of Guatemala City with singular intent: to pull users out of sin by dragging them into rehab. And so, in the middle of the night, when the capital is an absolute ghost town, three or four recovering users drive with their pastor to the house of an active user.” “As a part of economic restructuring – which has included the privatization of state enterprises, the liberalization of trade, and the relaxation of government regulation [sound familiar?]– less than 2 percent of Guatemala’s total health budget addresses issues of mental health, with its hospitals flatly denying medical service to those patients seeking support for substance abuse.” “Pentecostal drug rehabilitation centers, when taken in the aggregate, have six thousand beds.” “Guatemala’s prisons sit at 250 percent capacity; the hospitals do not accept users; and Guatemala’s only mental institution understands drug use to be well outside the scope of its mission.” “More important than numbers, however, are the visceral truths that Pentecostal Christianity promises its people: Salvation is real; hell is eternal; and Jesus loves you. Another imperative also follows. Often stamped onto Pentecostal print media, with an allusion to sin as well as the hunt, it announces: escape for your life. One effect of this faith is a growing network of informal and largely unregulated Pentecostal drug rehabilitation centers. These sites warehouse users against their will inside of onetime garages, factories, and apartment buildings. Each has been repurposed for rehabilitation with razor wire, steel bars, and iron gates. Inside, pastors practice teoterapia, or theological therapy. This is a mix of Pentecostal theology, twelve-step programming, and self-help psychology. Its working assumption is that captivity will give way to conversion. It does not. Yet this bald fact has not slowed down the growth of these centers, and for good reason. Again, these centers provide a practical solution to a concrete problem. Drug use is up. State resources are down. And Pentecostalism is the discourse of change. [Sound familiar?] The net result is a shadow carceral system infused with Pentecostal imperatives about not just sin and salvation but also about who can be hunted and why. It is a theological construction that carries concrete consequences. Today more Guatemalans find themselves literally tied up in Pentecostal drug rehabilitation centers than locked up in maximum-security prisons.” Lest the reader think that, not being Pentecostal or Guatemalan, Ohio’s Governor along with the current US Attorney General are not in the hunt. Au contraire, “there are some thirty thousand men in Philadelphia alone with warrants out for their arrest.” (O’Neill)

New Life For An Old Structure

February 12, 2017

Remember the basket building at the edge of town? Of course you do. Commuters driving by rubber neck daily for signs of decline, never admitting any morbid interest, but looking just the same. After a visit to the place by “business leaders”, and an assessment of futures value by Cheri Hottinger of what a great place it is (would make a terrific office of tourism), nothing else has been heard. But the tax bill increases, even as the City of Newark elides taking responsibility (or ownership). How about turning it into a state wide immigration reception and processing center? The Ellis Island of Ohio, right here in the heart of the heartland, downtown, er, town’s edge Newark! Think of the jobs it would create with the various state and federal agencies dealing with immigration, the requisite housing for new arrivals in a controlled centralized location, as well as the conference facilities for immigration related events, maybe even a living immigration museum, telling the story of where it all began (for some) (for most). The tour busses would return! A tourism center? Fuggetaboutit. Besides, immigration and the big basket share a lot in common. Cincy may have an underground railroad museum, but the interdependent story of African Americans and Euro Americans is not that of the immigrant. As Hegel pointed out, the master/slave relationship is a weird dialectic of power, need and reliance, both spoken and unspoken. The story of the immigrant, like that of the basket building, is one of uselessness, not being needed or wanted, being totally powerless (Will the building eventually disappear? Will the immigrant do likewise?). The alien architecture of the basket building is not located amongst the church spires and bank buildings of downtown Newark. Rather, like the alien immigrant, it is relegated to a specially annexed borderland of the city, out of sight, out of mind. The only company this alien construct has is the long distance relationship with the giant chair across the road. The immigrant shares a similar heritage with the building that bears the Longaberger nameplate hearkening an inspirational past of thriving and belonging, one that is forever lost, never to be revisited or regained. Ever present mourning, nostalgia and angst is an integral part of the immigrant life; something experienced only occasionally by Heisey, or Longaberger enthusiasts. The entire work ethic and skill that spawned the immigrant and the basket building is still looked upon with skepticism and suspicion in today’s America. Hand making baskets is akin to speaking another language. Unlike the basket building, most immigrants do not stay useless for long (or all arrive useless for that matter). Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Rupert Murdoch, most quickly assimilate into the conservative mainstream. But that’s a whole other story, one that the current administration might do well to consider (City, County, State, as well as Federal). So call your city council representative, the mayor, and county commissioners to tell them Newark needs immigrants. Better yet, call the folks with their hand on the handles of the basket building, Cheri or her husband, and tell them Newark needs an immigration reception and processing center. Like them, most immigrants come with one or both hands gripping the handles of their belongings. And the basket building even has those. What better place than the vacant basket building? What could be more perfect?

Alternative Facts Indeed!

January 25, 2017

Media world is all abuzz these days over “Alternative facts” with Amazon showing George Orwell’s 1984 shooting to number one in sales and many journalists (finally?) taking a stance and calling “alternative facts” just plain lies. Double speak or lies, facts don’t exist in a vacuum but are always found clustered with many of their friends and associates – namely context and environment. Analysis finds the following “tale of the tape” to exemplify the way facts change with regard to context: How many times has this blog quoted former president of Licking County Commissioners, Tim Bubb, as saying “We just can’t afford that.” One case of the “that” is public transportation, especially in the metro Newark area. 1-25-17 The Plain Dealer’s Ginger Christ headlines Public transit funding crucial in strengthening Ohio, report says. “In the report, Policy Matters, a nonprofit organization funded by foundations and community groups, points to the tax cuts made under Governor John Kasich as partially at the root of the state’s troubles in education, workforce, poverty and hunger.” “Ohio funds only 1 percent of public transportation in the state. Yet, the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Transit Needs Study said the state should provide 10 percent of transit’s funding.” Same day Jackie Borchardt of Cleveland.com headlines New scorecards show fiscal health of Ohio’s cities and counties, covering Ohio Auditor Dave Yost’s recently released report. Same day, same story only reported by AP in the Newark Advocate headlined State auditor report shows stressed Newark finances. “The auditor’s scorecard measured 17 “financial health indicators” for all 247 cities and 88 counties in Ohio. In each area, local governments were awarded a green, yellow or red mark to indicate a positive, cautionary or critical outlook, respectively, from data last collected in 2015.” (Borchardt) “Historical data indicates entities with at least six “critical” indicators or a combination of eight “critical” and “cautionary” indicators have ended up in a state of high fiscal stress, according to Yost. Newark had five cautionary indicators and two critical indicators for a total of seven.” (AP) Analysis looked at the database and found that Licking County was all green save for one category yellow – “for its ratio of debt service expenditures to total revenue.” (AP) Debt service is what is involved with long term loans or bonds, as in capital improvements. “”It’s an arbitrary set of standards they’ve applied to cities and counties,” Bubb said. “It’s just a number they pick. I take it as a good report for Licking County. I think it’s a compliment to us.”” (AP) 1-16-17 The Dayton Daily News’ Will Garbe and Laura A. Bischoff headlined RTA, other transit authorities could lose strike option Local lawmakers say RTA strike’s impacts shouldn’t be repeated and the state needs to take action. [RTA is Regional Transit Authority, akin to Licking County’s save it has fixed scheduled routes within Dayton, etc.] “Two state House Republicans intend to introduce legislation to prohibit Ohio’s public transit unions from starting strikes like the one suffered last week by the Greater Dayton RTA, the Dayton Daily News has learned. State Reps. Mike Henne and Jeff Rezabek — both Republicans from Clayton — intend to “introduce legislation requiring transit employee unions and local transit authorities to submit to binding community arbitration,” according to an internal Ohio House memo obtained by the newspaper.” Shades of Senate Bill 5! Some of the reasoning quoted by the Daily News is significant: ““I think we need to have a discussion around the best solution to make sure this can never happen again,” said Antani [State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg], who worked to bring the parties to the table on the eve of the strike. “Just like police and fire, the RTA is an essential service for these people trying to get to work and provide a livelihood to their families.”” “The memo from Henne illustrates the impact of strikes not only on riders, but “businesses and the local economy by preventing employees from getting to work and consumers from reaching their destinations.” “With police and fire, we do not allow them to strike and we require them to go to binding arbitration because they provide a service that cannot be interrupted,” Henne said in an interview. “My contention is the regional transit authorities have an economic value to the community that should not be interrupted.”” According to the database of Yost’s recent report, the city of Dayton is akin to Licking County – all green with one cautionary yellow. But Montgomery County, location of the RTA, is not, having three yellows, the rest green. Is public transportation “essential service”, vital to “businesses and the local economy” by getting employees to work and consumers to their destinations – “a service that cannot be interrupted”? If so, what does Commissioner Bubb base his refusal of Public Transportation priority on? Analysis finds that facts within context would indicate that Newark’s financial stress would be greatly relieved if the County Commissioners, who meet (and sit) in the county seat, would substantially invest in expanded and fixed schedule public transportation “an essential service for these people trying to get to work and provide a livelihood to their families.” Alternative facts indeed!

All Dressed Up With No Bear To Go

January 16, 2017

Analysis can’t help but reflect on the closing of the Lil Bear in Downtown Newark. Yikes! This kind of reflective Analysis is a sign of aging. Didn’t anyone see it coming or was it as much a surprise as the passage of years on the critical writing of this blog? Does short term problem solving totally pre-empt long term thinking in the demands of today’s new capitalism? When this blog began the court house square in Newark was a counterclockwise one way, there were residential properties between Locust and the freeway, Canal Market was a parking lot and the Children’s Home was still standing on East Main Street. OK so The Advocate did an end of year countdown of “improvements” to Newark (a good bit of it new restaurants and businesses opening where others had previously been). But prior to the recent accomplishments, at the start of this blog, there were information news releases promoted by Grow Licking County, Downtown Business Association, Newark Development Partners, etc. And “consumer’s choice” sessions held at the hotel (same building, different name), library, etc. where residents could view various plans for projects and “pick” the development they preferred (not that it made any difference, but it was projected to feel like it did). As essayed in those early postings, the emphasis on the part of the planners and developers was to get people downtown. And the best way (according to the developers) was to make it easier for automobiles to do that (the idea of self-driving cars was still a ways off. Self-shopping cars to come?). A deaf ear or blind eye was turned to any conversation or serious consideration of any other form of mobility and access – pedestrian, bicycle, wheel chair, etc. The “choices” for decisions re: the square, one way street changes, downtown entrance/egress, were primarily cosmetic. It was already decided to tear down the Children’s Home, save the old jail in its stead, fulfill a philanthropist’s dream for the adjacent Canal Market, etc. etc. etc. All this was promised to bring the young urban hipsters into the downtown (again?), with tax credits and abatements renovating long vacant (and rotting) second and third floor building spaces so they’d have a place to rent. The new Canal Market District Farmers Market would make Newark a destination shopping attraction. Well, that market doesn’t open for at least another 6 months. What destination shopping attraction will the young urban hipsters (as well as ensconced area residents) utilize in the meantime when it comes to getting groceries and household necessities?  The food pantry outlets are already strained. Analysis would surmise that those with private transportation, cars (the developer’s preferred means of transportation), will use the new planned thoroughfares to access marginal shopping destinations for their everyday necessities. The attraction of downtown living was touted as ease of walking to jobs, not needing a car, etc. True, Analysis was amongst those who criticized much of the urban planning involved – the discipline and punish icon of the old pokey over the care and nurture history of the Children’s Home, the lack of pedestrian priority, the lack of public transportation to accompany the development, etc. Others, at the time, critiqued the process involved as well as the plan with the possibilities of failure. Unfortunately, no one bothered to imagine success. What if the new urban plan succeeded? The vast planned capital improvement project that is downtown Newark today implicated the end of the Lil Bear. Success is articulated through the fruition of the downtown’s capital improvement planning. Unfortunately for the Lil Bear, the onus was on “capital improvement”. Would the tax credits, abatements, and incentives that the McClain’s, Wallace’s, Layman’s and Argyle’s received have made any difference to the inevitable extinction of the Lil Bear (and others that likewise went belly up and departed)? Not. That would have required planning around human activities and processes, something that capital investment, by definition, ignores. What does success look like? What is it to live in this planned success projected for an actual human social community? Will all this capital invested in the downtown leave Newark all dressed up with nowhere to go?