Friday, April 04, 2008

Downsized Bexley

Last week I noted how I was taken by surprise by some personnel changes at City Hall here in Bexley. In a story that should have been about bureaucracy, all the names involved belonged to politicians. That throws up some flags. The cuts took place not immediately following the administration changeover, but shortly after one of the political figures joined the administration. Finally, the phrase "serves at the pleasure of the mayor" got thrown around a bunch. Except for patronage gigs, that's a phrase that usually gets thrown around before a termination, not after. Which is why you can't think of a non-partisan federal or state appointee for whom their termination was justified in such a way. High-Level administrators typically resign, retire, or are fired for cause. In this type of situation, involving a consolidation of functioning, the emphasis would typically be exclusively on the position being eliminated. There would be no statement hinting that the person's service no longer was pleasing to the mayor. In fact, the typical way of handling such a situation is to shed some crocodile tears about the passion and expertise that the city is sacrificing to achieve more solid financial footing. "Serves at the pleasure of..." is only used to convince the outward bound employee that it is in his/her best interest to play along with the charade.

So when this phrase was used in the paper last week, it certainly made it seem as if there was a certain amount of hostility, if not arrogance - "We don't need a reason." More flags went up.

Well, last night, the top headline in "This Week Bexley," the one visible even if you didn't fish the paper out of the wet plastic bag on your porch, was: "Deposed Director Questions Cuts." With the standing explanation that technology services handled by Bexley were simply unaffordable, the headline could have been "Downsized Director...," but it wasn't. I asked myself "Does Bonnie Butcher know something she's not saying?"

I had read the article online when it came out yesterday, and I tried to get in touch with some people who might be able to give me some better insight. I got some mixed responses, at least one of which was very helpful. As far as I can see things, Bill Minckler, from what he says in the article, accepts at face value the idea that his position as Director of Technology was eliminated in an attempt to save the city money (little has been said about the other downsized director... as his name is much less public and he has declined comment thus far, I'll extend that trend). According to the interview (I haven't tried to reach him myself), his main contention is that the city is making a mistake in eliminating his position because it won't actually result in savings. If he can accept that premise at face value, so can I. Especially because it appears that the office of technology has been viewed by some as a potential source of cost-cutting since before the announcement of the former mayor's retirement.

So what gives with the all of the red flags?

I have a guess. Taking good-paying jobs away from people with no warning and in the absence of any compelling reason that they don't deserve to work for the city has got to be a really tough thing for anyone with a shred of empathy to do. And the folks who did it aren't very good at it. Bill Minckler posited that "There's a short-term euphoria when you get rid of an expense," but nobody I was in touch with seemed very euphoric.

Here's hoping that the two former directors quickly find even better opportunities, that the city puts the saved resources to good use, and that our city officials never get too comfortable with these kinds of decisions.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Hobson Squeals, etc.

Media types are all gobbling at the trough of The organization calling itself "Citizens Against Government Waste' has released this year's edition of "The Pig Book," detailing what they believe to be wasteful pork-barrel spending in D.C. Many media outlets love this thing, as it's designed to entertain and outrage, and appeals to the most common stereotypes of government.

The Dispatch, which is no exception from the herd, put out their story today. Typically, one can predict the tone of the book, the tone of the comments from legislators, and the tone of the news story. The tone of my response would probably be just as predictable. Somewhere along the way, however, things changed up a little. This time I'm perfectly content to let the CD story stand on its own. This snippet is my favorite, for multiple reasons:

"It's not a bad thing that Ohio is underrepresented in the 'Pig Book,' " said Jessica Towhey, a spokeswoman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-West Chester, who does not ask for earmarks.

Others appear to be getting religion on earmarks. Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Township, has said that he will not ask for earmarks this year, although he only received three totaling $900,000 in fiscal 2008, according to the report.

By contrast, Rep. David L. Hobson, R-Springfield, and a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, received 38 earmarks for the state of Ohio, including $984,000 for imaging equipment at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus.

Hobson, who is retiring at the end of this year, assailed the report, complaining that "these people don't have a lot of credibility with me because they didn't get it right, as usual. We did better than they thought. There's a whole bunch of defense projects they didn't put in."

Boehner - "Pork Bad"
Tiberi - "I Didn't Want Your Stupid Pork Anyway"
Hobson - "B-B-M-M-That's Not All, Folks!"

This made my day.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

While Your Mind is on Your Tax Return...

You probably noticed the place on your Ohio Tax Return where you could claim a $50 credit ($100 if filing jointly) for contributing to a statewide or General Assembly candidate.

What that means is that the state basically reimburses you for contributions up to those amounts. Because 2007 didn't feature many statewide races and most primaries hadn't entered into the public consciousness, you are probably leaving that space blank.

Don't let it happen again. There are a number of critical State House races this year, and money donated early turns into more money donated later. Money donated by Friday goes into the first widely viewed finance report for these candidates, and goes a long way toward fueling not just the mechanics of the campaign, but the buzz around it.

Here in Bexley, we have a highly qualified Democratic challenger to Jim Macgregor in the 20th district. Her name is Nancy Garland, she has survived a tough primary, she has the support of the party, and she could really use your support as well. Like I said, donate $50 bucks and the state will pay you back next spring, but hopefully you'll start reaping the dividends several months earlier, when we take back the State House in November.

Click Here to Contribute.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Geek Toys Follow Up

Community Research Partners is hosting a conference called "Change Happens!" on the elements that they think will be driving change in Central Ohio in the coming years. As cheesy as it sounds on the surface, it actually appears worth checking out.

The thing that immediately caught my eye from the promo material was the introduction of a website for statistical mapping of census, school, service, and other data for Columbus and Franklin County. The URL is and it requires a free registration to use. I will be using it frequently. As a teaser, here is the percentage of households that are comprised of two parents with children in Bexley and the immediately surrounding areas:

Ohio EPA, AG Dann pursue toxic dumpers

After numerous reports of citizens disposing of heavy metals, asbestos, and other toxic waste in their curbside trash, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Attorney General Marc Dann have issued subpoenas for the list of Ohio consumers who have ordered the Kinoki Foot Pads. Leo Jennings III, spokesman for Dann, was quoted as saying "I have seen the lab reports. Those pads contain mercury, radiation, and metabolic wastes. Some people are just selfish and want to see those things drawn out of their body like they were a tree with roots, and then put them in landfills where they leach into our scenic rivers and are drawn back up into real trees with actual roots. (Expletive) them."

Asked to comment, Governor Ted Strickland deferred to budget director J. Pari Sabety, who explained that the expected civil suit and subsequent revenue from the sale of newly created Ohio Kenoki Pads could possibly fill holes in the budget created by the recessionary economy.

Kevin Coughlin, speaking for the Ohio Republican Party, endorsed the measures being taken, but added "This is a long time coming. Republicans wouldn't have waited until the first of April to take action."