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Friday, May 7, 2010

C-TEC - The buck stops nowhere

The evaporation of public money entrusted to the care of C-TEC’s school board and administrators has been well-documented by the Advocate and discussed at length in blogs and comments. Those I’ve written, plus links to news reports, can be found at this link.

Bob Handelman, president of the school board, denied responsibility when asked by the Advocate about the school board’s role. This school board president - with whom the uppermost resonsibiltiy lies - believes himself, other board members, and administrators blameless for any of this. The buck, for them, apparently stops nowhere.

As reported by the Advocate 4/27/10, “board president Bob Handelman, a Newark school board member, joined the second session to defend the board's handling of the expansion, arguing C-TEC was guilty of nothing more than accepting bad professional advice. He's told us there's no evidence anyone in C-TEC acted in bad faith and there was no need to investigate what went wrong, nor any need for apologies.”

The fact is, Bob Handelman and everyone involved in C-TEC’s recent and present administrative blundering owes this community four things: 1) an apology for irresponsible management of public money; 2) an explanation of how things went so wrong in the decision-making processes and by whom these decisions were made; 3) resignations of those responsible; and 4) new administrative policies to prevent recurrences.

If C-TEC leaders think denial is their salvation, they are truly underestimating the intelligence of parents and taxpayers. To claim innocence - rather than to claim responsibility - rather than claim a firm resolve to do better - demonstrates delusion that won’t be forgotten.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Who should pay for user “needs?”

Users of Mental Health services, users of the county library, users of county parks, users of C-TEC facilities and users of several other public facilities in Licking County are unashamedly asking for more dole from property owners this election. Meanwhile Newark Catholic Schools have raised from their users more than $1 million for their users’ needs.

Would local property owners like to see improvements to all the community’s schools, agencies, and institutions? We certainly would. And we would like to see them - as with Newark Catholic - lean on their users, not property owners for support. The idea that property owners should - and can afford - to pay the expenses of everyone who “needs” more and more is an idea that is no longer based in reality.

I predict that few of tomorrow’s property-tax requests will pass. If not, maybe it will inspire a new perspective on who should be paying for the “needs” of users of public services

Friday, April 16, 2010

Swallowed by Utah

Nearing the end of our drive to Ogden UT, we descended into a deep canyon and were met with a series of industrial-strength wind gusts.

We already had been introduced to western winds that morning when, just west of Cheyenne on I-80, we passed two semis - one jack-knifed in a big ditch, the other on its side, both blown off the road. The wind kept at us all day as we crossed the high plains and the mountains.

One shouldn’t expect too much wind in a canyon, not anything like the mountains. These blasts, however, seemed driven by the devil. They carried sand and small rocks from the canyon walls, drove them into the newly repaired paint of our car and pitted the front window in a thousand places, as though with bird shot. For good measure we were slammed on the side with a mightily flung and good-sized piece of metal, branding the Accord with yet another reason to have stayed home.

Welcome to Utah, pilgrims.

We had come there to celebrate the promotion of my Air Force son to the rank of tech sergeant. It’s a big deal, rank-wise and pay-wise.

His squadron held an informal ceremony, which included the symbolic pasting-on of the stripes by the fists of airmen. Maybe because Mom was watching, Lance didn’t take much of a beating. However, Mom and Lance’s wife, Shannon, got the first chance to take a shot at him and here’s a an official Air Force photo of the unbridled cruelty of that moment.

We had planned to stay four days, that we might get reacquainted with our 17-month-old grandson, Preston. This is when I began teaching him how to write, as he snatched my pen, clicked it several times before surrendering it, only to grab it from my pocket again.

Though four days would have been plenty, storms from the northwest kept barreling across northern Utah and bringing snow and high winds to Wyoming. That was when Ohio was in the 70’s, flowers coming on strong and folks back here were frolicking in summer clothes. It was only after the eighth day that we found a clear trough in the weather to follow eastward back to Ohio.

Playing with one’s grandson for days on end is pretty neat, but better things might happen to a person than being stuck so far away and for so long.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Local knife in national spotlight

My son the bladesmith hit the big-time when one of his knives was featured in the most recent issue of Blade magazine (“The world’s #1 knife publication”). Lon got a three-page spread with seven photos of the knife being tested, and a rave review on its quality.

Called a “tactical camp knife,” it is made of W2 tool steel, a material that holds its sharpness longer than others.

He has been making beautiful knives for collectors and sportsmen, traveling to knife shows around the country, working at it steadily and hard. He’s acquired incredible skills with metals and fancy handles, using forge and hammer and other basic stuff, the way it was done 100 years ago.

His web site is http://www.lonhumphreyknives.com.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Financial carnage coming to Ohio?

A writer for the Plain Dealer says look to New Jersey and see Ohio early next year, with a $7-8 billon shortfall. Here’s the link.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

On-line ads are not required reading

Web designers have developed their ability to annoy readers to the point where I now weigh the value of getting free information against having to suffer as the price.

There is a defense for the type of on-line advertising that shoves messages in your face: leave. That’s what I did when the Advocate’s blog page was overwhelmed by one of its pop-up ads. I voted against it in the only way I could: I checked out.

Most, if not all, of the Advocate’s on-line pages have become excruciatingly tedious by the insertion of over-sized, flashing, garish “ads” begging by their cheeky and cheesy appearance to force feed unwilling readers.

Only this morning I removed the Columbus Dispatch from the news sites I visit daily. I did it for the same reason. Just one too many of their over-zealous and unwanted intrusions into my life.

Neither the Dispatch nor Advocate sites work well with my Mac and its Safari browser anyway. Their on-line pages, unlike other web sites I visit regularly, require special effort to make them fit my screen, and of the two the Dispatch is by far the worst.

There comes a point when the effort required for reading overwhelms the need for information. The Dispatch has reached it and the Advocate is drifting closer.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Somebody needs you

When solicited for a donation to this charity or another, I often hesitate because I know much of my donation will go not to needy beneficiaries but to some faraway marketing firm.

Meanwhile, right here at 823 Steel Avenue in Newark is a charity helping your neighbors and mine: Food Pantry Network, whose purpose is to feed families that can’t afford to buy food.

In 2009 alone, Food Pantry Network provided 794,651 meals to 168,817 persons, 43 percent of whom were children.

Those of us who, by the grace of God, still can afford to buy our food - often at expensive restaurants - might consider digging a little deeper for the well-being and comfort of kids who go to bed hungry

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Inefficiency, duplication at the core of school expense

The average cost for an administrator of elementary and secondary schools in Ohio is $91,030. Those salaries cost taxpayers of this state $824 million each year, according to researchers at Underwood & Associates of Columbus.

The Brookings Institution has studied Ohio’s economy and concluded, among many recommendations for restoring Ohio’s prosperity, that this state must shift spending from school administrators to classrooms. It recommends 1) transparency regarding costs of districts’ administrations; 2) pushing districts to share services; 3) the mandating of administrative procedures; and 4) cutting the number of Ohio’s school districts by at least one-third.

I’ve been writing about it for many months and other writers had been preaching similarly long before me. “Recognizing that ‘local’ school districts are no longer local is the first step in a real fix for Ohio’s broken system, I wrote 5/11/10 at this link.

The essay advanced four ideas that I believe would save millions.

1 - Combine at the state level all administrative functions that do not directly involve individual school buildings. Top local school administrators should be building principals.

2 - Combine at the state level purchasing of supplies and provision of services such as busing. Services and supplies could be provided by private companies, selected by lowest and best bids.

3 - Pay school employees throughout Ohio the same, with variance according to the cost of living in each community.

4 - Remove state interference from the art and science of teaching. Let teachers take over that responsibility in full, but provide for ways to weed out incompetent teachers and financially reward the better ones according to a statewide measure. All schools would teach the same classroom subjects and offer the same extra-curriculars, as mandated by a commission of a-political persons with demonstrated expertise in education.

School administrators, under the present system, all do essentially the same jobs, each in their own little neighborhoods. It makes the state system a massive and inefficient conglomerate of disparate parts supposedly doing the same job. There is no reward for efficiency or cost containment. Run out of money? Bribe, threaten, and sweet-talk property owners for more taxes.

Oversight of Ohio’s public schools presently is a political process, guided not by management skill, not by educators, but by people skilled at getting elected to office. Meanwhile teacher/staff/administrator labor unions guide this “oversight” from the shadows. Never mind that all schools of Ohio should be doing the same thing for the same purpose, which is bringing students to a certain level of knowledge over a 12-year period.

I am not optimistic, Brookings Institution notwithstanding. To run Ohio’s schools with a modicum of business sense will require citizens to finally out-muscle the labor unions, a factor so far kept secret by the state’s education reporters.

Monday, March 15, 2010

From a Wildcat spectator:

1 - The people involved in selecting the three football coach finalists did a good job. I am pleased that all three candidates have local roots and sound knowledge of the problems and potential of the Wildcat football program.

2 - I am ashamed of the way in which many commenters to the Advocate reports displayed ignorance and meanness toward the candidates. Emboldened by anonymity, they attacked the motives, morals and abilities with offensive and outlandish assertions. In view of this treatment, it’s no wonder one candidate changed his mind; the wonder is why the other two didn’t.

3 - The negative attitudes on display in the comments sections are symptomatic of what’s wrong with Wildcat football. These anonymous blow-hards are full of it and, while coaches and players and the majority of fans know that, their noise adds to the difficulty of regaining the Wildcat Roar, as one fan called it.

4 - The success of Wildcat football is going to depend on a show of strength and solidarity among fans. We have to let the athletes and their coaches know that their fan base is wide and loud. Keep the agitators at bay by challenging their lies and foolish assertions - or better, tune them out.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Public contracts are public business

The Advocate article 3/7/10 regarding uniform allowances for city employees should be an eye-opener for taxpayers who seem unable to connect the dots between public employee unions and the never-ending squeeze on the public purse. These dots might also connect city employees’ taxpayer-provided electronic amusements to the possibility that Newark may no longer be able to afford a dog warden.

Citizen-taxpayers need to know the details of public-employee contracts: city, county workers, sheriff department, school employees and administrators.

I hope the Advocate will post these public-employee contracts in its data base. That would enable taxpayers to decide if they’re getting their money’s worth and whether elected officials are guarding the till or giving it away. Public contracts are public business.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

It’s time to force a move

“Resident Lesa Best listed more than 20 properties at Monday’s Newark City Council Meeting that she has complained to the city’s property maintenance department about for three years without significant enforcement.

“This is your responsibility, but I ... just see a lot of excuses.”

[Copied from the 3/2/10 print edition of the Advocate. If it was on-line, I couldn’t find it.]

That encounter at City Hall should have gotten more attention because Lesa is aiming for the right target: non-enforcement of city ordinances, though she and others have brought it to the attention of Council in various ways for YEARS.

There is only one way to clean up this city and that is by using the laws that Council has already passed, as I wrote 2/12/10 (Get rid of trash by enforcing the laws)

It is the mayor’s legal responsibility to ensure that city laws are enforced, as specified in the City Charter. Forcing the mayor to do his job should be the next item on the agenda of Lesa, Council, and local media.

This has gone on long enough.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Where will government stop?

Today’s Advocate editorial on Council’s proposal to increase Newark’s bed tax by 3 percent is well-conceived and written, but it ignores the most important issue.

Beyond the Advocate’s concerns for Council’s need to determine beforehand how funds will be spent, how they will be accounted for, and who will be involved in those decisions, there should be concerns about the purpose and power of government.

Did citizens really bestow upon government the authority to screw around in private business profits for the benefit of self-proclaimed tourist attractions? More important, how do we stop these intrusive attitudes and practices?

Requiring a 3-percent hike in local hotel fares is one more example of Council sticking its nose into private affairs of certain businesses for the benefit of a few vocal “customers.”

Hotel owners and employees in Newark represent a miniscule number of voters, so reaching down from above and ordering a new tax on their profits is a shoo-in. More easy money for Big Brother - like the auto tag tax and the charge for emergency squad transportation.

And no real harm done, right? Except that nearby hotels without that new tax aren’t far away.

Support for tourist attractions should be generated from whatever attractiveness they can muster, not from more attempts at jiggering the marketplace with another tax-and-spend plan by Big Brother.

Where will government stop? It’s up to us to draw the line and the way to begin is to stop thinking of this meddling as a legitimate function of government.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The hog trough that is U.S. health care

The United States health care industry is a hog trough, and the U.S. government has allowed it to become so. Common people can no longer afford basic health care unless they have insurance and that insurance is priced beyond those without employer or government assistance.

The greed of health care providers and insurers is every bit as destructive as that of oil companies, Wall Street operators, banks, and monopolistic concerns of all stripes. These horrific giants operate destructively with their own rules by permission of Washington DC. They can do so because they have bribed the US Congress. It’s that simple.

The major flaw with Obama’s “reform” is not that Americans don’t want it, necessarily, but that it is so complicated that few if any commoners understand it or ever understood it, making it vulnerable to the disinformation that was/is heaped upon it. Who knows if we want it if we don’t know what it is?

I’m pretty sure that President Obama’s “health care reform” is dead in the water. Even before Thursday’s televised forum to discuss the issues, you can tell neither Republicans nor Democrats intend to use it for less than their personal grandstand. The New York Times’ preview for the event is at this link.

People such as Ohio’s very own House Minority Leader John Boehner have already announced that the purpose of this meeting is not to look for compromise, but attention. “We shouldn't let the White House have a six-hour taxpayer-funded infomercial on ObamaCare,” Boehner said, meaning this is one more place, one more event, where Mr. Boehner will try to get his hat in the ring for the Presidency. At least some of us back in Ohio know what a waste he is.

Meanwhile, the Democrat Party machine is intent on scoring points - not for Americans, but for Democrats. Watch the chief Democrat clowns at work on the nation’s health care crisis: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be out front, elbowing for the spotlight.

The solution to health care reform is for the federal government get out of it, except to restore competition. I think the President could use the executive branch to end the AMA’s monopoly profits, lift the protections allowing the drug industry to rape at will, and bust up the cartels selling health insurance.

That would be the foundation for genuine health care reform. What we’re going to get is cheap, annoying, self-defeating theatrics.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Read the President's proposal

Download the President’s proposal for health care reform at this link.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Go buy more pills, bunky

It should come as no surprise that CVS profits were up 10% at the end of last year. All you have to do is watch pharmacists there struggle to keep pumping out enough pills to cure a tidal wave of “sicknesses.”

Consider when you pass any pharmacy just how many genuine ailments there can be for what percentage of the local population. It appears that everyone in town has at least a few reasons to order pills, and I’m betting that real sicknesses are not among the great majority.

The sickness in this country is too many ads by the drug industry, telling people they are sick and urging them to “talk to your doctor” about imaginary symptom du jour.

It isn’t supposed to work like that. Your doctor doesn’t need to be talked to if he’s genuine. He knows if you need pills or not.

Will he, however, play your game to get repeat office visits? Apparently there are many local doctors who willingly listen to patients whine for this pill or that, then contribute their credentials to this legal and socially acceptable trafficking in drugs.

Health care reform should begin here: Outlaw mass media ads for drug sales directed at consumers. Likely this can be done by executive order or by the FDA. Likely that is a very long shot.