Posts Tagged ‘Newark street paving’

Is Home Rule Homeless?

June 19, 2017

The recent news out of the Ohio legislature is the bait and switch (again) of the local government fund to balance the state budget. Jackie Borchardt, for Cleveland.com (6-16-17), headlines Ohio Budget Pulls $35 Million from Cities to Spend on Opioid Crisis. “Combined with a provision to give money to villages and townships, the budget halves the state’s local government revenue stream directed to the 614 of Ohio’s 940 municipalities that levy an income tax. Cities, counties, villages and townships were already anticipating an $89 million hit over two years because of declining state revenues.” Essentially, in exchange for agreeing to levy income tax on their residents (and guest workers) cities were promised a chunk of the state funding (“Senate GOP spokesman John Fortney said the city-specific funding is a “bonus payment” that would be better spent on treatment programs for people addicted to opiates”) Borchardt provides background perspective: “The fund was established in 1934 in a deal with local governments to create the state sales tax. When the state began collecting personal income tax in 1972, the legislature agreed to give a share to municipalities because the new state tax would make it more difficult to raise local taxes.” “In 2011, Kasich slashed the local government fund in half to help patch an $8 billion budget hole. The fund went from 3.68 percent of the state’s general revenue fund in 2011 to 1.66 percent today. The last state budget diverted $17 million from the city-specific funding stream to pay for statewide law enforcement office training and a state database tracking shootings involving officers. It also temporarily redirected about $24 million to townships and villages.” Reporting for the State House News service (6-14-17) Andy Chow headlines Local Government Group Criticizes Latest Budget Proposal. “Local governments are likely to see a loss of $150 million in funding from just the local government fund distribution and projects. The Ohio Municipal League’s Kent Scarrett says there are a lot of seemingly small changes in the Senate budget bill that could result in big cuts.” Unrelated, but certainly intimately connected and very relevant to the state legislature budgeting process is the continued legal struggle over Cleveland’s Fannie Lewis law. 6-15-17 Robert Higgs updates the situation with National Coalition Joins Cleveland Fight to Save Fannie Lewis Law (Cleveland.com). “Named for the longtime Cleveland Councilwoman Fannie Lewis, the city ordinance was enacted more than a decade ago to help combat poverty and to ensure that residents participate in the city’s economic development – and share in its prosperity.” “The Fannie Lewis law requires that on projects of $100,000 or more, at least 20 percent of construction hours be performed by Cleveland residents. At least 4 percent of that work must be done by residents considered to be low-income. Failure to meet the requirements results in a fine equal to 1/8 of 1 percent of the total contract cost for each percentage by which the contractor misses the goal.” “A year ago the Ohio General Assembly approved a bill that would have barred cities from enacting local hiring regulations in contracts for public improvements as Cleveland’s Fannie Lewis law does. Gov. John Kasich signed the bill into law last May. Cleveland sued the state last August, shortly before the law was to take effect, claiming it violated home rule powers guaranteed in the Ohio Constitution. In January, Common Pleas Judge Michael J. Russo issued a permanent injunction that blocks the state from ever enforcing the law. That led to the state’s appeal.” “The Campaign to Defend Local Solutions on Tuesday filed a brief in the 8th District Ohio Court of Appeals arguing in favor of the city’s position.” “”Cities across the country are under attack by overreaching state legislatures, and a preemption threat to one city is a threat to all,” Michael Alfano, campaign manager for the coalition, said in a statement. “Whether in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, or North Carolina, the rights of cities like Cleveland to enact laws that reflect community values must be defended.”” Analysis finds there to be no coincidence that one of the “national conversations” currently ongoing (after the 2016 presidential election) is over the urban/rural cultural divide. It likewise is no coincidence that cities are gerrymandered (and isolated) with Democratic party expectations by GOP dominated state legislatures (currently in the majority across most of America). Likewise, Analysis finds it no coincidence that “cities across the country” are effected by such budgeting. Remember ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) of which Ohio’s governor and legislators are members? You know, the lobbying group that offers legislative templates that legislators have copied verbatim, even forgetting to change the name of the state to their own for which they are making law. Alfano raises suspicions as to the origins of such budgeting solutions. From ALEC’s home website’s “State Budget Solutions”: “Smart budgeting is vital to a state’s financial health. The ALEC State Budget Reform Toolkit offers more than 20 policy ideas for addressing today’s shortfalls in a forthright manner, without resorting to budget gimmicks or damaging tax increases.” Newark, of course, is at one with all this. Mayor Hall chose not to involve himself with the Ohio Municipal League’s initial complaint on Governor Kasich’s original budget manipulation, and the city council prefers to constantly defer to the state on most matters, even ones that have been voted on by its citizens through a ballot initiative (think marijuana, medical as well as misdemeanor). So much for getting the roads paved any time soon (but there will be a new bridge over 16 with “Downtown” written on it, in case one is lost).

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Marketing A Tax

July 28, 2016

Generally, once a month the Newark Advocate business section highlights local marketing guru’s by offering them their own full length columns. This is not to be confused with the regular “ace of trades” or local flavors reporting. No, the marketing pros “sell” Licking County and Newark with glowing reports on Grow Licking County’s success, or the Port Authority’s recent acquisitions (and projected plans) or how marvelous the redevelopment of downtown business is going. No problem. Analysis wonders whether these same marketing whiz bangs will devote their freely given column space to marketing Newark’s income tax increase. Not only that, but how will they market it? Johnstown has announced an anticipated income tax increase on the upcoming ballot which will double their current rate. Their tax increase marketing centers on growth. The town is projected to be a city after the 2020 census. All that growth requires a lot of municipal expense with increased demands on infrastructure, security services, etc. Driving through town the rapid change is evidenced primarily by the mushrooming of new residential housing, not downtown business expansion or industry. Unlike Newark, which is connected to Ohio’s major freeways through immediate access 4 lane highways (79 and 16), Johnstown has none. It is located at the intersection of two lane 37 and 62. Yet it has a very vibrant industrial park and manufacturing sector. Their tax increase marketing appears to target the all too obvious residential housing boom, not the commuting workers. Upper Arlington, surrounded by Columbus, is embroiled in a nasty recall over its recently passed income tax increase. Four council members who marketed the increase face removal over how the money was ultimately spent. Like Newark, the tax revenue was to go for infrastructure maintenance and improvement. The money was spent on redeveloping an old (and much loved) park so part of the park property could be commercially developed. The council members involved claim that was part of the marketing. Those who initiated the recall claim it was not included with the income tax sales pitch. How will Newark’s council and mayor market the upcoming tax increase on the ballot? With half of Newark’s council totally not on board and half facing the scrutiny that befell Upper Arlington’s public representatives, this is not an idle concern. Past expenditure of Newark’s ostensibly earmarked revenues for other projects benefiting the business interests which populate the business section of the Advocate are easily referenced, whether they be tearing down a deadbeat landlord’s building to provide additional municipal parking, prioritizing business street paving, or a back door purchase of a basket building. Analysis finds that overcoming the skepticism generated by the precedent of such past performance needs to be central for any Newark “vote yes” campaign. After all, what if the revenues generated by the tax were used to “save” the basket building? If it was, would anyone mount a recall? Marketing a tax, it’s best left to the pros.

Newark Income Tax OMG

July 16, 2016

An iconoclast is described by the dictionary as someone who attacks beliefs and institutions as being superstitious or in error. Over a decade ago Bruno Latour made a play on this with the term “iconoclash” to describe what he felt was the attack on beliefs and institutions worldwide. For Latour, situated in France, this had a lot to do with the tensions between Christian France and former colonial subjects entitled to citizenship but definitely not Christian (many of whom were second and third generation, born in France). Religious (of various beliefs) were attacking religious (of not their belief) as well as secular institutions (such as the state, corporations, etc.), and vice versa (secularists were attacking each other as well as the religious, etc.). The world was on the attack! In the inimitable style of Donnie Trump, Analysis would say that we may be. Then again, simple logic shows we may not (“I don’t know.” D.T.). To read news coverage and commentary, Donnie may be right. Then again he may not. Ostensible reasons for things like Donnie’s own wall (and many other “projects”), PAC ads for the 2016 election, the Black Lives Matter demonstration, the Brexit vote, etc. are all couched in terms of competition and contention – attack or defend. Do people go in the voting booth with such an inflated sense of potency, effectiveness and aggression? Or could something else be at play, invisible behind the curtain of the secret ballot? Latour misses the mark in our time. But he does offer an insight into what most of the high dollar media is missing. The corporate giants like to frame the referendum as a sporting competition – Britons competed to decide in or out. The out won showing the strength of the discontent, the desire to tear down the institution of the EU as in error. With the 2016 POTUS election, it is the match up of the “outsider” versus the “establishment” (bound to defend the practices of her predecessor). Kinda like a heavy weight title fight, huh? Locally, the Newark income tax increase was likewise framed when first initiated a couple of years back. The local media proclaimed the competitive effectiveness of the entire process with “The people voted it down.” But iconoclash it is not, for the next morning everyone gets up and goes to work at the same institutions with the same belief systems all neatly in place. Analysis finds something else to be at play here, something akin to iconoclash but only in appearance. The Brexit vote, the Black Lives Matter message, the statistical dead heat of two radically different presidential candidates may not be about attacking, or tearing down. The statisticians “dead heat” may not be based on “equal distaste for the candidates.” The Brexit vote, the 2016 POTUS statistics, Black Lives Matter, Newark’s income tax referendum may, in fact, be rather a statement of disbelief than one of active effectiveness, potency and aggression. Statements of disbelief usually follow the straight forward OMG of twitter. Choosing to use more characters, they are embellished with irony. Some may even descend to actual cynical commitment. But they are statements of disbelief and incredulity, not attacks on institutions or beliefs based in error or superstition. Analysis shows it is possible to disbelieve something without attacking it or tearing it down. The Black Lives Matter demonstration may be a statement of disbelief regarding the distribution of “equal justice for all” by those paid to ensure it. Brexit may have been the absence of belief in the effectiveness of EU membership (though the next morning everyone expected the same jobs, ease of travel and buying/selling of goods). The “statistical” 2016 POTUS dead heat may rather reflect equal disbelief in Donny’s simplistic nationalism as well as Hillary’s convoluted globalism. And in Newark, a no vote may not be about people wanting to have their infrastructure maintained. It may just be a statement of disbelief that revenue raised by the tax will actually be spent on the intended reason for the tax. After witnessing (repeatedly) how contributions made to NGO’s (like the Red Cross, Wounded Warriors, etc.) are spent for other matters than the one’s the donor intended, AND witnessing the preferential distribution of available funding by state, local county and city government to business related enterprises, a statement of disbelief is not only reasonable, but quite appropriate.

Is Everyone Unhappy?

April 1, 2016

“I’m not happy unless you’re unhappy” seems to be an underlying, almost subliminal mantra within a good part of the political aspirant for the future of self-governance here in the US of A (both individual as well as ideological). Quick, without checking a smartphone, what was the reason given by the freshly, first time elected Mayor Jeff Hall for why Newark’s streets could not be paved? No, you don’t need to phrase it in the form of a question. That’s right, the bungled Longaberger public- private partnership. Well, just like Arnold, it’s back. The Newark Advocate headlines “Leaders discuss Big Basket future without Longaberger” by Kent Mallett (3-31-16). “The company [parent company JRJR Networks] owed $472,859 in delinquent property taxes for the Big Basket on Feb. 17, and will owe $568,132 at the end of the year.” But wait, superheroes “Mayor Jeff Hall, former Longaberger President Jim Klein, developer Jerry McClain, chamber President and CEO Cheri Hottinger, County Commissioner Tim Bubb, Newark Development Partners Director Fred Ernest, Grow Licking County Director Nate Strum and representatives from higher education and local foundations discussed ideas for the building.” Holy love handles, Bubbman, this could be fraught with danger! No problemo, Wan Woman “Hottinger said the building could be used for seminars. It has a large cafeteria area and a 100- to 120-seat theater, with a stage, several conference areas for board meetings or training. The building could have a tourism function to it, she said, but still needs multiple tenants and at least one pretty large company before it also could be used as a visitors’ center.” According to the official Licking County website “‘Grow Licking County’ is a Community Improvement Corporation and a cooperative effort between Licking County Government, The Heath-Newark-Licking County Port Authority, and the Licking County Chamber of Commerce.” “based at the Licking County Chamber of Commerce”. So much for getting the streets paved, Boy Blunder. On the state level we find “Republican Gov. John Kasich’s administration is moving forward with plans to require more than 1 million low-income Ohioans to pay a new monthly cost for Medicaid or potentially lose coverage.” (Waiver readied to require cost-sharing in Medicaid, Ann Sanner for AP, 3-31-16). For those of you keeping score at home, we just learned of Jobs and Family Services losing funding through a program promoted by Newark’s US Congressperson (and all around good guy) Pat Tiberi after losing previous funding from the State, never restored by its wannabe US president. That self same presidential candidate nationally justified his embrace of Medicaid (while vowing to destroy the ACA), on religious (compassionate) grounds. Folks are on Medicaid because they can’t afford medical care (let alone premiums). “But I can’t be happy, till I make you unhappy too.” Is everyone unhappy? Almost, but not quite! “Ohio assures profits for 2 energy companies” by Jessie Balmert for Gannett (3-31-16) reports that “The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in a 5-0 vote Thursday approved plans from Akron-based FirstEnergy and Columbus-based American Electric Power that require customers to subsidize aging plants.” And “Ohio Consumers’ Counsel initially estimated the plans would cost customers as much as $6 billion over eight years. That amounted to an extra $800 for every FirstEnergy customer and $700 for every AEP customer over that time.” After what we’ve witnessed with the price of petroleum, FirstEnergy and AEP must be very happy. But wait, there’s more! “Republicans lied in Wisconsin: Here’s how you know the state’s voter ID law is a complete sham Wisconsin GOPers insisted the law wasn’t intended to suppress the vote. A new report suggests that wasn’t true” by Elias Isquith, staff writer for Salon (3-30-16). “On April 5, when voters cast ballots in Wisconsin’s Republican and Democratic primaries, the state’s controversial voter ID bill will face its biggest test since Governor Scott Walker signed it into law in 2011. For the first time in a major election, citizens will be required to show approved forms of identification in order to vote. The law mandates that the state run a public-service campaign “in conjunction with the first regularly scheduled primary and election” to educate voters on what forms of ID are acceptable. But Wisconsin has failed to appropriate funds for the public education campaign.” Not only that, but “the Government Accountability Board [“the nonpartisan agency responsible for producing voter education materials”] decided against making a formal funding request to the legislature, which had already introduced a bill to dismantle the agency.” Isquith concludes “With anywhere between 200,000 to 350,000 Wisconsin citizens potentially facing disenfranchisement, according to [Pro Publica’s Sarah] Smith’s report, the voter ID law is on pace to work exactly as intended.” Is everyone unhappy?

Curiouser And Curiouser

October 27, 2015

The October 27, 2015 online Newark Advocate staff headlines “Park National reports income jumps nearly 10 percent”. “Park National Corp. announced net income for the third quarter was more than $20 million, an increase of nearly 10 percent compared to the same period in 2014.” Yadda, yadda, yadda. “The corporation’s net income for the year, through Sept. 30, was $60.1 million, compared to $59.7 million for the first nine months of last year.” More yadda. “The Park National Bank loan portfolio expanded during the third quarter. Loans outstanding on Sept. 30, were $4.96 billion, compared to $4.86 billion on June 30, an increase of $100 million, or an annualized 8.19 percent. Loan growth during the quarter increased across all loan categories, including mortgage loan growth of $10 million, commercial loan growth of $70 million and consumer loan growth of $20 million.” Readers cognizant of previous posts will be mindful to note that for a bank, outstanding loans are considered as assets (sources of income). The Advocate staff writes: “Total assets for Park National Bank were $7.2 billion on Sept. 30, an increase from $6.9 billion the previous year.” Analysis wrote all that in order to consider what the Christian Science Monitor came out with on the same day in an article by Husna Haq entitled “Bill Gates just endorsed socialism, sort of: A boost for Bernie Sanders?”. Though the bulk of the article is about America’s relation to socialism (both as policy and as linguistic term) broken down into demographics and history, Haq does more than use Bill Gates as a teaser: “In an interview with Atlantic that made headlines across the Internet, the former Microsoft CEO-turned philanthropist argued that “the private sector is in general inept” as a tool to manage climate change because “there’s no fortune to be made,” and that the only solution lies with government. Governments, he said, must dramatically increase spending on research and development to combat climate change. Private companies should play a supporting role by paying the costs of rolling out those technologies. “Yes, the government will be somewhat inept,” Mr. Gates said. “But the private sector is in general inept. How many companies do venture capitalists invest in that go poorly? By far most of them.”” Analysis finds this curious. The ONLY proposal for revenue enhancement embraced by the two candidates for mayor of Newark is some kind of income tax. But of course, this is not an income tax on the income of the newly created “persons” of corporations (see SCOTUS Citizens United ruling). It would be an income tax on the income of the other “persons” of Newark. Linguistically they appear identical, but somehow, policy-wise, they differ. ‘Nuff said. It is, however, very curious that for something that affects (and effects) us all, Mr. Gates places his trust in government and not private enterprise. The incumbent candidate for mayor of Newark prefers to rely on the private sector when it comes to something that affects (and effects) the residents of his city (like paving the streets). That is, until it comes to generating income, which is a horse of a different color (it would be politically incorrect to say “person of a different color” though it would imply that the income of one “person” can be taxed while that of another “person” cannot).

“O, what a tangled web we weave,

When first we practice to deceive!”

Sir Walter Scott, Marmion (1808), Canto VI, st. 17

Business First

June 17, 2015

“You’re fired!” Donald Trump expressed his intention to be elected president of the United States. His wealth and business acumen were emphasized as priority qualifications of net worth for the job. Recently it was announced that the Licking County Chamber of Commerce, currently headquartered in Newark, was the largest such business consortium in central Ohio. More recently the editorial board of the Newark Advocate emphasized the everyday disparity of 14 active duty firefighters charged to serve a population of close to 50,000. Prior to that the paper was championing the projected $3 million purchase of 300 acres of church property (PIME) by the Newark Port Authority for development 20 years hence. It was deemed an excellent investment in the community. No development of public transportation in central Licking County is projected. Indeed, the little available is continuously eroded. The Port Authority prides itself on developments conducive to science and technology. 20th century technology verified the paradigm of cause and effect. The paradigm of 21st century science is that of big data correlation. That the county seat of the area’s largest business collaboration is unable to pave its streets or hire enough firefighters is a correlation not implicated by the Newark Advocate editorial board. Nor was any correlation made of a publicly financed purchase of private property for the benefit of future business with no current expenditure on the development of any public transit access to the area. Perhaps mid-century business parks are projected to be fully automated.

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places (and there are so many) where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

the late Howard Zinn (the last paragraph from the last essay, “The Optimism of Uncertainty”, in his book of essays, A Power Governments Cannot Suppress. 2007)

Ya Basta!

March 15, 2015

An inaudible gasp assaults those traversing Newark. It is the unvoiced silent scream of “Ya Basta!” (Enough already). The cry is inaudible because it is unexpressed. It is unexpressed because it is covered over, bandaged up by all the store signs, commercial ads, billboards, digital signage offering, promising, promoting something better. The “enough already” is not voiced by the people of these residential neighborhoods experienced mainly through a windshield. It is an anguished cry, almost a plea, unspoken but experienced everyday. “Why must what is here always be considered inadequate? What happened to good enough? Why must there always be a priority with something better, something else?” This cry, this plea, paraphrasing Star Trek’s Spock, is “completely logical,” making perfect sense. It will never see the light of day because it is also quite subversive. Other than for some kind of academic study or tome, it has no value, no commercial credibility, no market appeal.

A recent essay, not specifically addressing this “good enough” discontent except obliquely, appeared in the online Salon (3-14-15). It opens a window on this silent scream. “How the Supreme Court is about to explode America’s racial wealth gap” by Catherine Ruetschlin (a Senior Policy Analyst at Demos) concerns itself primarily with the upcoming SCOTUS case,Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project (“a landmark case challenging the disparate impact test, which allows a practice to be considered discriminatory if it disproportionately and negatively impacts communities of color, even if a discriminatory intent can’t be proven.”). The article expresses grave concern over the expansion of income inequality and racial segregation as a result of the court’s previously voiced attitude (“When discussing race, the conservative argument is best expressed by the famous words of Chief Justice John Roberts: “The best way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” Translation: America has done bad things in its history, but those bad things are gone now, so we should move past those horrors and look forward.”). That attitude is reflected in various rulings denying or negating affirmative action policies based on the disparate impact statute precedent (“A federal judge decided that regardless of racial intent, the result had a “disparate impact” and increased neighborhood segregation.”). The basis of many of the policies and programs meant to boost the ability of minority races to access better education, jobs, housing, etc. hinges on the means to pay for (purchase) these and sustain their value, hence the concern of a widening gap of income disparity and racial polarization. Assumed throughout the cited statistics is that the more expensive spread is the better buy, the preferred means to a better society, a more diverse community, an equitable and participatory democracy. Of course, this only follows the implication that “if something is better, there must be something which is worse.” That implication is the very heart and soul, bread and butter of all marketing and sales, integral to capitalism itself. The SCOTUS Citizens United ruling legitimized the instituted intimacy of corporations and Democracy (as governance), money and power. Full participation in community governance, of its present and future, is only to those who possess the best source of funding (the same appeal underlying the cited essay’s statistics). With its “5 goals critical to city’s future”, the Gannett’s Newark Advocate confirmed this shift in the nature and character of democracy by listing the top movers and shakers in Newark’s future as being corporate entities. Political power in the world today is identified with the accumulation of wealth.

How can you change the world without taking political power? Actually, the title of a book (Change The World Without Taking Power by John Holloway, 2002). An ironic curiosity since this book is a Marxist critique. Historic Marxism, to date, has relied totally on seizing power to change the world, while failing to change much after having done so. But then there’s the scream of “Enough already!” There is no need for the all pervasive capitalist sales pitch of selling up, worse to better, to which racism continuously contributes (covertly as well as overtly). It is no coincidence that the business districts, new developments, and “future” projected growth areas receive priority public financing rather than the majority of the community, the residential areas from which the silent scream emanates. For these are the “high traffic” areas, the places people “want” to be, decided, of course, by the movers and shakers that the Advocate editorial board recognizes as the leaders of the community. Without taking power, the inaudible gasp can make itself felt in the same manner as those wanting changes in Newark’s pet laws participated in addressing that policy. Hundreds of Newark residents insisting on access to chambers on a council meeting night would get priorities realigned, and their streets paved. “Enough already! Stop subsidizing the “Better” at the expense and neglect of what is more than good enough.” Selling is not governing.

Twofer

March 12, 2015

The news about Buckeye Lake damn seems to be sweeping across central Ohio. In the week prior to the news, one all a gush political leader advocated changing Buckeye Lake, Ohio to Ohio’s Buckeye Lake. Now most folks living there, or having businesses there are pretty spooked, to say the least. Analysis is surprised no one has bothered to check the credibility of the bearer of this bad news, nor asked for an independent assessment to be made (a second opinion). Given the Corps’ track record, that might not be a bad idea. Not only was the Corps to blame for the ineptitude that caused the massive flooding along the Missouri River some years back, but they also are playing it fast and loose with keeping the Asian carp out of the great lakes (“Trust us.” they say as more and more evidence mounts). Not only have they totally failed in maintaining/restoring the Everglades (as they were charged to do long ago) but they are also the culprits for the flooding of an entire city, New Orleans (a US District Court ruled that it was a man made disaster, with the Corps being the “man making” part). It is common knowledge that for electric utility companies the perfectly serviced city is one without any trees. For the Corps, the perfectly engineered flood control is for an area without any water!

And Newark, Etna Township, Heath, etc. when have we heard this one before (as well as where have we heard this one before)? From the state up north (akin to our state of residence in so many more ways than just football), we read AP’s David Eggert headlining “Michigan paying the price now for tax plan to save business” (3-11-15). “The state would provide $2.9 billion in tax credits to help upgrade Michigan auto plants for the future; the carmakers would agree to add and keep factory jobs on their home turf.” “Four years later, few are saying the deals were a bad idea but any sense of celebration is long gone. The bill for the job rescue — and similar ones in other states that used tax credits aggressively — is now coming due and providing a lesson in the downside of such measures. The auto companies and many others are cashing in hundreds of millions of dollars in credits a year, cutting deeply into state revenues at a time when the budget should be flush with a rising economy. A projected $410 million budget shortfall is triggering cuts in funding for hospitals and diverting K-12 money to other purposes.” “Though its economy is improving and unemployment rate is at a 12-year low, Michigan is going to voters in May to approve a sales tax increase for road improvements it cannot afford.” “The tax credit backlash is increasing sentiment among some legislators for business to accept a larger burden. Snyder and the GOP-controlled Legislature also slashed business tax rates after he took office in 2011. “We’ve got major investments we’ve got to make in public education and infrastructure,” said Rep. Jim Townsend, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Tax Policy Committee, noting that Michigan companies paid the country’s third-lowest share of total state and local taxes in 2013.”

Analysis proffers this twofer in order to help define “infrastructure” as roads, bridges or damns, with “existing infrastructure” as roads, bridges and damns already in place, being used.

Dull Old Saw

March 6, 2015

The old saw is that it is very easy to start a war, but not so easy to end one. ‘Nuff said given the longest war America has ever been engaged in still is not over. And children wonder how the “Hundred Years War” could have gone on, for 100 years! Analysis finds that underlying the old saw is the propensity to continue with an institution well after the best if used by date. How many “antiquated” laws are still on the books, which folks chuckle over when some media author bothers to point out their inanity in today’s times? How many political policies are pursued for the same reasons of habit, custom or just plain old conformist sloth (It’s always been done that way)? In addition to the inertia, there’s also obsession. “Texas Cities Are Worried Republicans Pushed Tax Cuts Too Far” by Lauren Etter, for the online Bloomberg Business (March 3, 2015) critically exemplifies this “life of it’s own” obsession that ignores the whys and wherefores of the original intentions. “Energized by an expanded majority in the Texas legislature, Republicans want to slash billions from homeowners’ taxes. That may squeeze funding for local governments that have borrowed $205 billion for roads, schools and infrastructure as Texas added more residents than any other state.” “Localities have borrowed to fill the gap. Of the 10 most-populous states, only New York has more local debt per resident, according to figures from the Texas Bond Review Board. The debt of Texas local governments swelled by 75 percent over the past decade, according to the state’s figures, as officials poured more money into public works.” “While Williamson County’s property-tax increases last year wouldn’t have exceeded the 4 percent limit lawmakers may impose, its officials are wary of how the proposal would tie their hands in the future. “It’s extremely difficult to keep up with the growth in the demand for services when we have a capped rollback rate,” said Larry Gaddes, the county’s chief deputy tax assessor. The property taxes of about one-third of 1,000 Texas cities would have exceeded that limit in 2013, according to the Texas Municipal League in Austin, which lobbies on behalf of local governments. If the cap were in place, it would cost McKinney, a Dallas suburb, $1.4 million, enough to pay salaries and benefits for 11 police officers and firefighters, according to the league. Midland, in the western oil fields, would lose $300,000. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said the tax-cut plans circulating in Austin would limit cities’ growth. About 61 percent of the city’s budget is for public safety, so efforts to limit revenue growth would “be on the backs of our police and firefighters,” he said. “But it would also affect quality-of-life issues like parks and libraries.”” The state of Texas has no individual income tax. Dialectic infers that for every tax cut there is a tax increase somewhere. Writing for Pew’s Stateline, Elaine S. Povich provides exactly that in a piece entitled “GOP Governor’s Tax Plan Drawing Attention Of Cash-Strapped States And Cities” (3-5-15). “An exemption from paying local property taxes, which applies to all Maine nonprofits, helps Freeport Community Services serve more people. But that exemption would end under Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s new budget proposal. The governor’s plan, which would hit groups ranging from nature preserves and summer camps to charity hospitals and private colleges, is drawing the attention of other cash-strapped states and cities where the idea of taxing nonprofits is no longer off limits. LePage wants to lower the income tax from 7.95 percent to 5.75 percent and increase the sales tax from 5 percent to 6.5 percent while extending it to new goods and services. The state would no longer share about $60 million in revenue with local governments, but it would make up for at least some of that lost revenue by requiring cities and towns to levy property taxes on 50 percent of the value of nonprofit-owned real estate valued at more than $500,000.” In a breakdown of states and their number of nonprofits/assets provided by Pew, Ohio is no slouch. It is shown to have 63,178 nonprofits with assets valued at 185.7 billion (that’s with a “B”, Mr. Hottinger) This puts it way ahead of all of its neighboring states save Pa. Both of these articles speak directly to the situation the City of Newark finds itself in. The Republican mayor champions his ability to utilize federal funding to hire new fire fighters while his party cuts federal spending and continues to diminish state support for city infrastructure/safety forces. The streets go unpaved, the bridges unrepaired, the water/sewer lines wait while the west side expands (which will only be accelerated by the Cherry Valley interchange), as also the north side with the new Newton township annexation near the Trout Club. City services must be provided for the new while taxes must be cut for the sake of a party’s national election strategy. Analysis finds that this old saw is a bit dull. “Cutting taxes”, with the obsession it has become, is costing us way too much in the everyday.

Squeegeers

January 4, 2015

The Newark City Council is expected to take up the pressing problem of squeegeers, especially on the east bound Church Street off ramp where they have been vexing drivers since the intersection was upgraded not too long ago. What? Analysis has gone completely off the deep end this time! There is no problem with homeless squeegeers at the west side location, you say. Would it be any more outrageous to say that due to the continuous spate of horrific accidents on the east bound Church Street off ramp intersection, Newark City Council will agree to spend $80,000 to remedy this problem? What problem, you say. The one defined by a total absence of any reference to Newark city streets urgently needing repair/repaving or infrastructure/bridges maintenance past the “best if used by” date. The one described by the City Engineer as “Motorists now often use the exit ramp’s berm to maintain two lanes of traffic, Morehead said. “This will make it two actual lanes there,” he said.” ( Joe Williams, Newark Advocate 1-3-15, “Council OK likely for exit ramp lane”). Oh,THAT problem. It must be a priority for the ruling state PAC’s agenda; to be positive and promote the improvement of Ohio at the expense of the citizens of its individual communities while simultaneously superseding the needs and wishes of the residents of these very same communities.