Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Back To The Lab...

...without a mic to grab.

Time flies when you are trying to reorient yourself to a brand new locale. We decided to take advantage of the opportunities that arise during a crisis ( low interest rates and housing prices) and made a break for the greener pastures of Medina.

The long hiatus was harder to break than I expected. Maybe being out of the Akron city limits slowed the perception of time or maybe not. Medina is a lot like Akron but without the mercenary police force and Circle K's. They also have one of them giant gazebos in the town square which takes some getting used to.

It's two and a half months and an off year election since my last transgression, uh post, but, I think now is as good a time as any to wade back into the surly waters. I hear there's a Senate and gubernatorial race around the corner.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Robart Drinks The Tea

The local chapter of the tea baggers were rockin' on the river in Cuyahoga Falls Wednesday. According to reports the place was packed with local patriots clamoring to get their freedoms back. The event featured remarkable speeches by pols including the king of sneer, Tim Grendell. He seems to be at all of these events.

Even Falls Mayor Don Robart got in on the celebratory berating of all things federal:

Robart said that former President George W. Bush's bailout ''has been a total failure'' and that President Barack Obama's stimulus bill ''has been worse.''
Uhh, yeah Don that stimulus bill thing has been so bad that your administration has opted in for millions of federal dollars. Someone should vet the mayor's speeches before he says something rash. While Don was busy riling up the crowd at the tea party his minions back at city hall were busy racking up ARRA funding.

To date the City of CF has applied for $138,527,132 in federal stimulus dollars. You can't make this crap up. Included in that amount is $50 million on behalf of the school district to build a new learning campus.

Robart has decided to water the trees of Cuyahoga Falls with the nickels and dimes of us tax paying patriots. Shhh, don't tell the gun toting loons at the rally you are actually big on spending federal dollars on roads, bridges and shopping center demolitions.

The request submissions are available at the State of Ohio's Recovery website.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Keno As Proxy

The results are in on Ohio's Keno gambit and the numbers are pretty weak. According to the State Lottery Commission the expansion of games of chance as a revenue source fell short, really short.

The venture that was used to beef up revenue to the State by an estimated $73 million performed well below expectation. The annual take for keno in Ohio, $30 million, not so hot.

Officials blame the shortfall on hard economic times. I blame it on the over-rated nature of gambling schemes to solve State revenue woes. The money raised by keno is earmarked for education funding but thankfully money is fungible. The State won't have to cut funding to education due to the shortfall.

The pressing issue now becomes the massive gamble the State budget has placed on video terminal slots and whether they will perform as advertised. The working number for the foray into gambling is expected to back fill revenue to the tune of $930 million. That's nearly a billion dollars in programs that were spared from the chopping block during the FY2010 budget process.

If the VLTs perform as poorly as keno the Gov' could be forced to cut another $500 million from the freshly approved State budget. Any subsequent cuts made will most certainly hit bone.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Fringe Benefits

A Democrat is president and that means the fringe elements of the hard right wing are busy at establishing a foothold in the American body politic.

The debate around health care reform has certainly highlighted what's in store for the next several years. If it's not the rampant use of the Hitler comparisons it's the unitelligible dribble permeating the mob scenes at town hall meetings that defines this latest resurgence of reactionary mouth breathers.

This persistence of lunatic fringe in public discourse will have consequences. As the SLPC has reported, we've seen this kind of social movement before and it's back in vogue,
Almost a decade after largely disappearing from public view, right-wing militias, ideologically driven tax defiers and sovereign citizens are appearing in large numbers around the country. “Paper terrorism” — the use of property liens and citizens’ “courts” to harass enemies — is on the rise. And once-popular militia conspiracy theories are making the rounds again, this time accompanied by nativist theories about secret Mexican plans to “reconquer” the American Southwest.
Surely not all of the screamers at health care forums are of the militant ilk. Some of them are just uninformed or unwilling to listen to the facts of the matter. You'll have that anywhere. The problem is that the influence of the re-surging militia or Bircher movement will bleed into the everyday right wing cadre of citizenry. What was once very fringe will become more prevalent.

I'm afraid that all of the very important debates to be had in the next few years, like health care or climate change, are going to transpire in the midst of these proto-brownshirts that have descended on the public square like a modern day lynch mob. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the election of a black man as president.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Authoritarians Against Authority

The Beacon Journal is doing its best to keep Slurred-Speechgate in the news. The latest reminder is a front pager that attempts to stir up controversy about reports filed by police officers that responded to the scene of last weekend's Mayoral incident (I think a crime actually occurred there too). The question begging to be asked is whether a request was made to change the official account of what happened last weekend.

The Mayor's slurred speech is now front and center.

One of the officers had complained to the FOP boss that he was asked to white-wash the aspects of the report that mention the Plusquellic's slurred speech and nasty demeanor. There has to be more pertinent questions asked about the latest dust up between the FOP and the Mayor. That's really what this about isn't it?

Yeah Yeah, we know Plusquellic is brash and even heavy handed. The mayor's prerogative is to make it clear he's the guy running the guy running (micromanaging) the show in Akron.
As I've pointed out I think most effective mayors do have these traits. Sure it rankles the members of the public safety forces when the guy they are directed to show disdain for bosses them around. I'm sure the rank and file have been given their marching orders - the mayor is not to be trusted. An age old fight continues.

What rankles me, a taxpayer, is the blatant disregard by police officers for the just order of things in city governance. The Beacon article made sure to point out that the officer who made the claim has an honorable military record with the U.S Marines. While that is impressive and much appreciated it's not an excuse to contravene the mandate our elected leaders have to act as the chief executive of the city. Even though it may hurt your feelings.

How can I say this politely? The union president is not the elected leader of Akron, the mayor is. As an police officer you don't have to like him but, you do have to respect his position. He put in office by a vote of the people (twice in less than two years). In fact I'm almost sure that the armed forces are tasked with protecting our system which is based on the rule of law.

To go further I'd guess that one of the tenets that people who've served in the armed forces take with them is respect for the chain of command. The stubborn fact here is that the dude at the top of the food chain is the mayor and you don't have to like him to serve and protect the rest of us. The FOP leadership should consider this principle, especially if they are going to foist that Safety Tax Levy on us this fall.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Wrongsizing State Tax Revenue

The State's budget impasse may be near a conclusion but the real issues with the long term budget structure are not going away.

I've been barking about the massive failure of the tax reforms enacted in 2005 and 2007 for some time now. Those changes instituted under the guise of reform may have been politically expedient buy have contributed to the historic crash in State tax receipts.

The latest confirmation comes from an official analysis conducted by Office of Budget & Management. Careful examination reveals just how badly the reforms have buried Ohio government in a sea of red ink. Consider the findings released in this weeks GONGWER NEws Service (s/r) report for July 9th:

Agency spokesman John Kohlstrand said the annual drop is by far the largest in years for which the state has easily researched data, as he personally looked up numbers dating back more than 50 years.

"Nothing remotely like this has happened in the past half century," he said. "Certainly, it is a historic drop."

While not a surprise to officials given the dismal performance of the personal income tax and other revenue sources in the later months of FY 2009, the final year-to-date numbers were dragged deeper into the red by a month that saw Ohio's coffers take in nearly 24% less in tax collections than in June 2008.

State budget administrators have said the biggest factors in the drop are the economic anemia and the tax restructuring of 2005, which reduced income tax rates across the board by 21%, cut or eliminated certain business taxes and made other changes.

The economic impacts became clearer with the close of tax filing season, after which Gov. Ted Strickland's administration revised its already dampened financial projections and later announced the state faced a roughly $1 billion deficit for FY 2009. That hole was filled with the drainage of the Budget Stabilization Fund, which now stands at 89 cents.

Last fiscal year was the third in a row in which the state collected less tax revenue that the year before - a streak that's also considered a record. Mr. Kohlstrand said the agency could only find three other years dating back to 1957 in which such declines occurred.
The changes in fact did not ameliorate the impact of the recession as predicted by the supply side faithful and anti-tax geniuses that had insisted this would be the case. Why not? Tax cuts work in every situation.

It seems event the magic elixir of unbridled tax cuts didn't do the job of protecting the rust belt capital from the effects of the Great Recession. Maybe a more moderate and you know, sensible regime of changes would have left us a more sustainable budget structure.

This latest budget and future budgets will not be made right until someone has the courage to patch the flawed tax reforms of General Assemblies past.

Friday, July 03, 2009

From The Beach To The Moon

Vive Le Tour!

The 96th edition of the greatest of all bike races kicks off in Monte Carlo tomorrow. Free up space on your DVR and settle in for the next three weeks.
This year's TDF offers a time trial in Monaco, a relapse of the notorious team time trial, a slew of classic climbs and of course the penultimate stage finish on Mt.Ventoux. That one will be epic.

The smart money is on 2007 champ Alberto Contador who is a teammate of The Boss, Lance Armstrong. I doubt the seven time winner will be able to contend in this field but I wouldn't be surprised to see him steal a stage or time trial win. My guess is that he will be relegated to super domestique for most of the tour.

My top three in no particular order:

1. Alberto Contador - has to be the favorite even though he missed last year
2. Cadel Evans - cuddles has been quiet so far but look for him to be in the hunt.
3. Andy Schleck - I think the younger of the brothers Schelck has GC potential this year.

I would put the over under on positive doping tests at three.

Divining Truth From The Palinisms

Sarah Palin is stepping down as Governor of AlASka and the talking heads on CNN are actually trying to discern some logical rationale for the move.

CNN also played the rambling ten minute speech given from the unofficial state capital of AlASka, the Palin residence. It went in more directions than a country crossroad at times sounding like a victory speech and then a polemic on Obamanomics. She's was also quick to lash out at the media and critics in her classic paranoid fashion even mentioning past ethics investigations of her administration.

I don't know what is more curious a thing to take away from the event. Trying to divine the actual motive behind Palin's quitting is perplexing enough. Then watching cable news guys assuming there is a calculated and strategic element to the announcement is just as curious.

I'm guessing she has either been offered her own show on Faux News or she is going to be indicted on some kind of ethics charges very shortly. Maybe she sees opportunity in a potential GOP contender for president being taken out of contention by his infidelity. Keep you eye on the ball.