Sunday, November 02, 2008

Economy, Wealth and Gini

Approximately 40% of those filing tax returns did not pay any federal income tax because these wage earners did not earn enough income to require income tax payments. Over the past 2 decades, the disparity between average middle-income wages and executive pay jumped from 27 times the average income to 270 times the average income. The theory of trickle down economics to encourage economic growth from business is not working, growth is slowing, wages are stagnant, employee benefits declining. It is incomprehensible to Main Street America that executives of failed institutions are earning tens of millions of dollars a year while Main Street wages remain stagnant. Main Street America is losing expendable income needed to support businesses.

The Obama tax plan would lower the tax burden so the Average Joe, including “Joe the Plumber”, would have an increased opportunity to buy that small business he desires and would stimulate entrepreneurship. As Main Street America sees less available income and more income needed for basic needs, i.e., food, clothing, fuel, home, medical costs, insurance and of course, taxes, there is little left. The American Dream is dissolving.

The trend in the United States which is eroding the middle class is moving more towards the economic inequality of Mexico as the Gini Coefficient Index documents.

A Well-Established Trend (http://www.sustainablemiddleclass.com/Gini-Coefficient.html)

The Gini Coefficient for the United States has risen steadily since 1967. If the current trend continues, the United States will reach a Gini Coefficient of 0.546 in about 37-years, or 2043. This coefficient is equal to the one Mexico had in year 2000. Unless the United States breaks this trend, the American middle class will be a thing of the past.

Notice that the Gini Index for the United States is closer Mexico's than it is to Canada's

Data Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Census Bureau Income Statistics
Japan 24.9
Sweden 25.0
Germany 28.3
France 32.7
Pakistan 33.0
Canada 33.1
Switzerland 33.1
United Kingdom 36.0
Iran 43.0
United States 46.6
Argentina 52.2
Mexico 54.6
South Africa 57.8
Namibia 70.7

US Gini Coefficients, Year 1970-0.394; 1980-0.403; 1990-0.428; 1994-0.456

Other Research (W.Kitterer[4]) also shows, that in perfect markets inequality does not influence growth. In real markets redistribution contributes to growth.

Considering the inequalities in economically well developed countries, public policy should target an ‘efficient inequality range’. The authors claim that such efficiency range roughly lies between the values of the Gini coefficients of 25 (the inequality value of a typical Northern European country) and 40 (that of countries such as China and the USA).

“As of 2006, the United States had one of the highest levels of income inequality, as measured through the Gini index, among high income countries, comparable to that of some middle income countries such as Russia or Turkey,[15] being one of only few developed countries where inequality has increased since 1980.[16]”

America needs to find a direction back to a sustainable middle class. John McCain in 2001 and 2002 agreed the Bush Tax Plan was detrimental to the middle class. We have waited 20 years for trickle down economics to work, it is not working and now it is time for our government to take a lead in restoring Main Street America. When 40% of wage earners do not earn enough to support federal income tax we are in serious jeopardy.

NOTES (researched through Wikipedia)
4 # ^ Wolfgang Kitterer: Mehr Wachstum durch Umverteilung? (More Growth through Redistribution?), 2006

15 # ^ a b "CIA. (June 14, 2007). Field Listing - Distribution of family income - Gini index. Factbook". Retrieved on 2007-06-20.

16 ^ a b Weeks, J. (2007). Inequality Trends in Some Developed OECD countries. In J. K. S. & J. Baudot (Ed.), Flat World, Big Gaps (159-174). New York: ZED Books (published in association with the United Nations).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Insults Unwarranted

On Thursday afternoon, Nov. 23, as I was listening to the Brian Wilson radio show, he was describing the incident in which a McCain volunteer was attacked and had a “B” carved in her cheek. She claimed the assailant beat her after he saw the McCain sticker on her car bumper. As I listened, my thoughts were how awful that a young woman was beaten and that I could not imagine someone would be so demented as to do this because a person was a volunteer for a campaign. As it was later reported, the victim recanted her story.

However, to my shock, as the radio station was about to go to a commercial break, Brian Wilson made a comment… that’s those liberal Democrats for you. I was stunned, angry, enraged that he would categorize every liberal Democrat into a classification of radical, violent people who would do something so awful. He vilified a large segment of Americans.

Through the many Wilson broadcasts, I’ve listened to him frequently denigrate Democrats but believe at the same time he offers some worthwhile information, so I ignore the insults and demeaning comments. However, after this last comment, I believe it is time for Mr. Wilson to understand that I, along with many other residents of Toledo and his listening audience are Democrats and proud of that fact. We are no more or less worthy citizens than any other God fearing, hard working, law-abiding member of society. Mr. Wilson owes us an apology.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Gold Medal Hope

We were spellbound as we watched Michael Phelps swim to 8 gold medals during the Summer Olympics. This is an amazing fete which will take decades, if ever to equal or surpass. This was the accomplishment of a determined, driven, directed athlete. As Toledoans watch our politicians stumble from one project to another, we could only hope for a portion of the resolve of this winning athlete.

The politicians leap-frog from one pond to another with few issues resolved or completed and throughout the process, the partisanship is exclusionary and divisive creating waves which flood over the foundations of Toledo and wash away the little ripples of success we hope for.

The Erie Street Market has been a contentious issue for over 15 years with a round robin tag team of managers. The latest uproar was over the $100,000 renovation of the building to convert it to a concert venue. The cost was spread over numerous contracts, each under $10,000 to avoid City Council oversight. Council cried fowl, made numerous threats, received extensive media coverage but nothing happened. Council was out maneuvered by the Mayor, they were angry, but could do nothing as it was within the guidelines of the City Charter. Now, in retribution, they are attempting to remove the Verso Group, Rob Croak, from promoting events, but offers not alternatives. Where is the determination, drive and direction for success of Market.

Southwyck Mall has been high profile in Toledo for at least 10 years as the owners continued to let it decline year after year. Each year we hear the politicians profess they will revitalize Southwyck, what a waste of time, effort and money. They cannot revitalize Southwyck, it’s privately owned, not city property. Perhaps the pressure applied over the past couple years has pushed the owners to do something with their property, but even after multiple press conferences and much posturing, Toledo cannot revitalize property they do not own! So instead, the Mayor decided to renovate the “Reynolds Road corridor between Heatherdowns and Glendale. It looks ridiculous with the old fashioned light posts on only 2 blocks of highway. There is no synergy with the surrounding businesses, it’s like a fish out of water. The expenditure of our taxes on this project to nowhere is a waste of money, time and effort. There is determination and drive to do something, but no clearly defined direction.

Now we have a great opportunity in intermodal to expand our workforce in this area. From the media reports we watch with concern and hope that our leaders will work together to form an alliance with the railroads to expand intermodal in Toledo, But the first order of business was to fire Jim Hartung, President of the Port Authority, the second order of business is the replacement of Port Board members and the third order of business is the search for a new Port Board President. That puts the intermodal issue in fourth place, no ribbon, no prize. We need the determination, drive and direction of our leaders to move intermodal forward.

These are 3 examples of no clear direction from our political leaders. Without a united effort, we continue to flagellate in an abyss of misdirection. Each political faction has determination and drive but the fractured divisions of our political leaders paralyze our city, we are drowning. It’s time to end “politics as usual” and look at the parts of Toledo area as a whole. Difference of opinion is healthy and should create vibrant, progressive dialogue, not name calling, division and dissention. Determined, driven, directed leaders, working for the whole of Toledo gets gold medals.
\

Hamsters, Middle America and the Economy

Have you ever watched a hamster running in one of those wire wheels in it’s cage? The faster it runs, the faster the wheel spins. But no matter how fast that hamster runs, it never gets anywhere. Finally, exhausted, it quits running and gets out of the wheel. It does this day after day thinking it will get somewhere but always ends up in the same place.

That is how “middle America, main street America, blue collar workers”, feel today. We’re like the hamster spinning the wheel and the wheel keeps getting bigger. Our expectations aren’t high anymore, we aren’t even hoping to get ahead, we’d just like to break even, not continue falling behind. Wages are stagnant, worker benefits declining, pension plans disappearing, 401k’s at risk on the stock market, medical benefits escalating, home foreclosures increasing, the national debt growing as we continue spinning the wheel.

We’re worried, discouraged, exhausted; we’re falling behind as we watch record profits for corporations with huge executive pay packages. When companies fail, executives receive unjustified compensation packages. Senator Ben Nelson on 9/10/08, reported the fired CEO’s of Fannie Mae, Daniel Mudd, and of Freddie Mac, Richard Syron, “According to news reports, the two CEOs of the Federal National Mortgage Association and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation who oversaw the firms in the time that led to a taxpayer-funded rescue and federal takeover could receive $24 million in pay, bonuses and benefits.” Middle America does understand this, we just keep spinning that wheel.

When Lehman filed bankruptcy, Senator McCain announced “the fundamentals of the economy are still strong” and we should appoint a “commission” to study the failing lending institutions. But time ran out in the course of days and now we are bailing out even more institutions at a cost of $700 billion dollars. Middle America does not believe the economy is fundamentally strong.

Businesses must be given tax breaks so they will generate businesses and create more jobs. However, workers must receive adequate pay to provide the purchase power to support the businesses created. Corporate America has become accustomed to a “spending” middle America. However, according to Diane Stafford, The Kansas City Star, 9/08, “The 15th annual report, Executive Excess 2008: How Average Taxpayers Subsidize Runaway Pay, criticizes five tax loopholes that Congress has looked at but not plugged. The authors note that the compensation of the S&P 500 CEOs in 2007 averaged 344 times the average U.S. worker’s pay. Thirty years ago, the ratio was about 35 to 1.” To quote Senator Obama, “enough is enough.” Middle America has run out of spending money.

When asked whether the Obama tax plan is a form of redistribution of wealth, Senator Biden said “yes it is, so what!” Tax regulations have always redistributed the wealth in this country. With the econony in distress, unemployment rising, wages dropping, it is obvious that the current wealth redistribution plan is not effective, we need change and we need it now. This election affords you the opportunity to select a President who will effect change to bolster the economy. As voters, assess carefully the information presented and just as carefully, vote. The hamster enjoys spinning that wheel, middle America does not.

Refuse Fee LAWSUIT, UPDATE

Another court date... at this rate I'm going to run out of vacation days to attend!
If you have any spare time... stop by and watch democracy in action.

Title : HRG:PRETRIAL SET
Pursuant to the telephonic conference call on this date,
the hearing regarding the issue of class certification is
scheduled for NOVEMBER 7, 2008 AT 3:00 P.M. All counsel
notified.

LUCAS COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS
J. BERNIE QUILTER, CLERK
700 ADAMS STREET
TOLEDO, OHIO
JUDGE: CHARLES J. DONEGHY

Friday, August 22, 2008

Refuse Collection Performance

If you have a problems with the refuse collection at your home, it does make a difference if you call the Refuse Department and complain. So if you are frustrated or unhappy with the performance, call and let the City know, request a Supervisor to come out and inspect. The employees receive a bonus for each 2 week period they work of .80 per hour. If there are complaints, it impacts the bonus:

2121.117 Weekly Unlimited Refuse Pay

“The rate of incentive pay during the life of the contract will be established at eighty cents (.80) per hour.

The incentive pay will be made to employees by means of a separate check being issued quarterly to the employee for the number of hours for which the employee is entitled to receive the pay.

(b) Each crew will be evaluated as to the performance of its duties for each two (2) week pay period. A system will be established to keep record of bona fide complaints which have been investigated by the Foreman and are determined to have been justified. The complaints for which a crew's pay will be reduced are as negotiated between the City and the Union and are entitled, bona fide complaints for which incentive pay will be reduced. When bona fide complaints against a crew have been determined to be justified, the incentive pay of the crew will be reduced in accordance with Table 1.

TABLE 1
Bona Fide Complaints - Percent Reduction of Incentive Pay In 2-Week Period - For That 2-Week Period
0 - 4 0%
5 - 6 20%
7 - 8 40%
9 - 10 60%
11&over 80%"

Police - Sexual Misconduct & a Slap on the Wrist OUTRAGEOUS

I'm waiting for the outrage of City Council and the Administration, a demand the Police Department clean house. A demotion for this type of conduct, why is the officer(?) not fired. Is this the type of person we want walking the streets of Toledo enforcing(?) the law? And if it had not been taped, nothing would have happened. Is this the only police officer(?) who is offending the residents of Toledo or just the only one who was caught. This is a call for our political leaders to step forward and demand more than just a demotion of this person.

Article published Thursday, August 21, 2008
Police sergeant guilty of making threats to clerk
By LAREN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A Toledo police sergeant was found guilty yesterday on departmental charges after being accused by the internal affairs unit of threatening, on more than one occasion, to arrest a convenience store clerk unless she had sex with him.

Sgt. Daniel Brandon, 40, who was appointed to the department in 1993, pleaded no contest to the charges and was found guilty of conduct unbecoming of an officer, abuse of authority in dealing with the public, and conduct subversive to the good order and discipline of the department, Deputy Chief Don Kenney said.

The deputy chief recommended that Sergeant Brandon be demoted to patrolman for one year and suspended without pay for 10 days.

The recommendation must be approved by Bob Reinbolt, the city's safety director, who said he expects to make a decision within a few days.

Sergeant Brandon, on at least two occasions, made sexual comments to the clerk, suggested the use of an illegal substance, and used vulgar language. The comments were made in the presence of other customers and were recorded on the store's surveillance video, Lt. Ed Bombrys, of the internal affairs unit, said.

Lieutenant Bombrys declined to release the name of the store or victim to protect the victim.

The first incident occurred about 4 a.m. March 20 when Sergeant Brandon approached the counter to talk to the 23-year-old clerk.

After a short conversation, Lieutenant Bombrys said Sergeant Brandon threatened to arrest the woman unless she had sex with him.

"I will take your punk [expletive] to jail and while you're sitting in the county [jail], you'll be thinking, [expletive] it was only five minutes," Sergeant Brandon can be heard saying on the tape.

The clerk's response: "I would just go to jail."

Sergeant Brandon said he was joking with the woman, whose name he didn't know. He later admitted the comments were inappropriate.

"In my mind, [there] just wasn't any seriousness to it," he told internal affairs investigators. "I'm actually embarrassed about it now because it was stupid."

But Lieutenant Bombrys said based on Sergeant Brandon's body language in the video, it didn't appear as though he was joking.

"He lowers his voice and leans over the counter. He's emphasizing something to her," he said.

In a meeting with Lieutenant Bombrys, the clerk said that during that March incident Sergeant Brandon told her that he had her license plate number and threatened to pull her over at night.

According to Lieutenant Bombrys' interview with her, she told the sergeant she occasionally drinks and drives and that Sergeant Brandon responded by giving her two options - "Have sex with me or go to jail."

On April 6, Sergeant Brandon returned to the store about 3:40 a.m. He again made sexual comments to the woman and told her that she was going to have sex with him "either willingly or by force," according to transcripts of the surveillance video.

After a few more minutes of conversation, Sergeant Brandon then told the clerk she needed to "smoke more dope." The woman responded by asking the sergeant to watch the register while she rolled a marijuana joint.

Sergeant Brandon said: "All right, as long as you roll one for me."

Although the clerk can be heard laughing in the surveillance tape during both incidents, Lieutenant Bombrys said she told him she was intimidated by Sergeant Brandon's comments and feared he might follow through with his threats.

She said she didn't want to get on Sergeant Brandon's bad side.

Sergeant Brandon, who is married, was promoted to sergeant in 2000. He was suspended for five days last year after he was found guilty of insubordination and use of informants.

He is paid an annual salary of about $62,000.

Contact Laren Weber at:
lweber@theblade.com
or 419-724-6050.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

REFUSE FEE Lawsuit.. thoughts

I read a few blogs about how silly this lawsuit was and a waste of time, I should spend my time doing something significant. I so completely disagree and want to say this to all the naysayers:

Interesting dialogue about the “Refuse Fee” and I wonder if the impact of the power of this illegal form of revenue enhancement has impacted the taxpayers of Toledo. According to the Toledo Municipal Code and the Ohio Revised Code, the voters must approve any additional tax in the form of a levy. Why is this? When we recently voted again to approve the ¾% “temporary tax”, had it not passed, our desperate politicians had the ability to change the “Refuse Fee” to $50 per month instead of $5.50 or $7.00 or $10.00 and the revenue would have equaled the millions achieved from the ¾% “temporary tax” (91000 households x $50 per month x 12 months $54,600,000) with the simple stroke of a pen and 7 yeas. Would Council do this? I don’t know, but the question remains, should they have the power to do this. I say NO; they should not have the power and both the TMC and ORC agree.

Also, ask this question: is this tax (not legal) or is this a fee (legal)? Through other court cases, the description of a fee has been defined: 1. Must be transactional (if you take a load of trash to the dump, you pay for that load only); 2. Must be based on usage (when you take the trash to the dump, you pay a fee based on the amount you take based on lbs. Or volume); 3, must be able to opt out of the fee (I only pay when I go to the dump, if I don’t go to the dump, I don’t pay.) Consider the other fees we pay: fee for a dog license; fee for a marriage license; fee for a drivers license; fee for a building permit; etc., and it becomes obvious this is a tax not a fee.

If this is a legal form of revenue enhancement, the City of Toledo would never need to put a tax levy on the ballot again, they would only need to increase the “Refuse Fee”. If anyone out there believes that next year it will remain $8.00 / $1.00 and the following year $10.00 / $0, then you are fooling yourself. The city spent a great deal of time patting themselves on the back at how much money they were pulling in, even over budget, and were so very proud of themselves. If done incrementally, we would become even more complacent then we are now as we justify the amount as only “$66” per year, and then only $96 per year, and then only $120 per year. When we think in this way, we make a molehill out of a mountain and that is how we ended up with a tax, which was passed as a fee.

In essence, City Council is stealing from the taxpayers through this illegal “fee”. If a shop owner catches a shopper stealing a $10 garment, they yell “thief” and want restitution… for a mere “$10” because of the accumulating effect of 1000’s of stolen $10 garments. We have laws to protect us from theft; we pay taxes for police, prosecutors, judges and jails so the “perps” can be prosecuted. And yet you cry “fowl” – a “molehill, a waste of time and effort, after all it’s only $66 per year… accumulating to $4,200,000 a year. I ask, is that really ok? Have taxpayers been harmed. You bet we have, so far in the amount of over $6,000,000!

Monday, August 18, 2008

REFUSE FEE LAWSUIT - 8-15-08

Went to court on the 15th as the Court was to decide whether the case qualified as a class action suit. The opposing attorneys can question whether my attorneys have enough experience to represent a class action suit and rather than run the risk of a decision on behalf of the opposing counsel, my attorneys brought in another attorney to join the team representing all of the residents of Toledo in the lawsuit.

I mentioned we had heard from others in the community who wanted the refuse fee reversed as they, too, believed it was wrong. If you have been "harmed" by the lawsuit, please email the attorneys and voice your view. They are interested in hearing from you. Email address to use: info@cw.law.pro

After waiting for a short time in the court room, the attorneys were called into the Judge's chambers, the Attorney representing the City of Toledo requested a continuance for a month so they could review the credentials of the new attorney, the extension was granted. So, we wait again for a new court date.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

REFUSE FEE LAWSUIT - update

The attorneys put their heads together on JUNE 27, 2008 AT 10:30 A.M for a pretrial conference and decided on a court date in mid-August.

One must be very patient when dealing with the courts.

PayDay Lenders and City of Toledo Department of Public Unitilities

Richard Cordray was interviewed on Conklin and Company June 22, 2008. The first topic was PayDay Lending and unfair credit card practices. As time passes, the credit card companies are shortening the time to pay the bill which causes late payments and the consumer is then charged late payment fees and interest making it more and more difficult to get out of credit card debt. There are new federal rules being discussed which are "pro-consumer" for example, you will "have to be given at lease 21 days to pay your bill".

So what does that have to do with the City of Toledo Public Utilities? One bill I have the most trouble paying on time is the water bill and I didn't understand why for years as I don't bring in the mail, my husband does. He drops it into a mail basket and about every 10 days I go through, open the bills and pay them. But I never knew what day the water bill arrived until last quarter.

Last quarter the bill was dated March 19, 2008, it arrived March 22, and payment was due April 3 -- that's only 15 days.

This quarter the bill is dated June 18, 2008, it arrived June 24, and payment is due July 7 -- that's only 18 days.

I watch more closely now that I realize how short the payment cycle is for the water bill; however, if Mr. Cordray is so concerned about unfair billing practices, he needs to look in our own back door. The utility company should be required to extend the billing cycle. I wonder if the cycle is purposely short so the late fees will enhance revenue? With a quarterly billing cycle, most would expect more time, not less, to pay a bill.

I want to know:
What per cent of the water department revenue is generated through late fees
What amount is collected in late fees
What amount is collected in regular billing
Are the late fees billed against the refuse fee
Total amount collectd in refuse fees
Total amount collected in late fees against the refuse.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Trash Talk of Swampville

By Karen Shanahan, June 25, 2008


Cast of characters:
Bumbley C-Rights - Council
Bumbley A-Right - Administration (Mayor)
Almost Potential Swampville - Toledo and/or its Residents
Mrs. Daring: - Lawsuit complaintant
Inspector Sternway: - Mrs. Daring's Attorneys
FEE: - Refuse fee, trash tax
CANS - Trash cans

For the past many months "Almost Potential Swampville" has been hammered with trash talk, not of strong economic development which was promised during campaign speeches by Bumbley A-Right. The following is Trash Talk of Swampville.

Many months ago on a dark and dreary day in Almost Potential Swampville,
Bumbley A-Right saw nasty alleys which he found absurd:
He decreed, "Swampville must "PUT THEIR TRASH AT THE CURB!"
Obedient, Almost Potential Swampville complied, though disturbed.

Bumbley A-Right, a 3:00 p.m. bus tour of Swampville he took,
Only to find, !HORRORS! cans at the curb.
"Cans at the curb the day before trash day!
This is too early", he roared: "this cannot be,
This cannot exist, absolutely, it must desist!"
So A-Right commanded,
"The times to see cans on my streets I will alter!
This must be done, we must not falter!"

But alas, the decree in winter required
Swampville Seniors to tromp in the dark with their cans
They would stomp through the snow and the ice in the dark,
"No! No!" cried Bumbley C-Rights, “this must be banned,
Bumbley A-Right, he must amend his decree.”
After many discussions and much ado,
The time was adjusted for me and for you.
Swampville cans could go out in the daylight you see,
But A-Right would be watching to confirm our deeds.

"Not enough!" screamed Bumbley A-Right,
We must punish infractions to increase budgets by fractions.
I shall decree!" Bumbley A-Right, intracted
"if Swampville puts cans out early each day,
Surely, surely and definitely, they absolutely must pay!"
So Bumbley A-Right declared forty bucks each infraction.
And this was his cry – "Swampville, you know will comply!"

"But how, oh how, can we possibly check, what a plight!
I know," he announced! "we'll deputize Block Watch and precinct alike,
To pounce on the ones who put cans out in early light.
Ahhh… feels right, feels good" they heard him exclaim,
"I covered it all and yes, all must pay the same!”

"But WAIT!" Yelled Bumbley C-Rights, "we can't do this, it hurts!
For Swampville will revolt, they too want some perks!
C-Rights spoke: “Call me if you get this fine,
You won't have to pay, we'll wipe it away!"
A sigh of relief from Swampville, they were pleased,
They were happy, that their C-Rights did thus agree!

So now comes the next phase of trash in the queue…
"The budget, the budget, oh what shall I do? "
Exclaimed Bumbley A-Right just to himself.
"Money is short, this cannot be,
We need more, we need more, I know…
The trash, we'll just add a FEE!"
And so on the budget he dumped in the middle,
An additional, a little, right in the middle,
An extra FEE for Almost Potential Swampville to pay.
"Hee, hee," he snickered; "I've done it for sure,
An extra five million, now that's a real cure."

"Not so fast", Bumbley C-Rights, they did reply,
"We must discuss this, we can't just comply."
Ah yes, but it's buried in the budget you see,
So maybe, just maybe, we can just let it be.
It passed with the budget and one more time we complied,
We here in Swampville, we did not decry.
Oh weary, so weary we are of this trash.
If you need more money, should not a levy you pass?

Bumbly A-Right again was poised to perform.
He told of his scheme for savings and more.
Trash again?, Swampville wondered, what more could he do?
A brilliant scheme by A'Right's point of view.
Holidays, holidays, always a drain.
We won't collect trash 'til next week to relieve the pain!
"Works for me" we did hear him eagerly exclaim!"

But then to A-Right this was explained,
On some occassions at his own house he would discover
No trash pickup until three weeks would be covered.
"Oh no, not my house" all heard him groan,
"Never, ever, will they ever miss MY home!"
The plan was foiled, as onward trash crews toiled.
For Bumbly A-Right was convinced with not even a wince.

All remained quiet as quiet can be,
The trash issue passed and Swampville rested at last.
As the months passed and the FEE was collected,
It seemed just not right and a matter to question.

"Oh no you don't", Mrs. Daring implored,
"I won't let it rest, I'm just not so sure."
Inpector Sternway agreed too, and he did say,
"Almost Potential Swampville is not to pay."

"A ploy, a plot, it just isn't right! "
So replied Bumbley A-Right when he learned of the fight.

But Bumbley C-Rights just went along, ho-hum,
We won't speak, let the courts beat this drum.
But they did not remain quiet on trash you will see,
Instead they announced that change there must be.
Automate to extricate the trash from the street,
One armed bandits instead of the three.
Lengthen the route, increase the hours,
Save us more money, that's our desire!
Test runs, trial runs, we'll give it a try,
Almost Potential Swampville again they just sighed.

"Are you done yet Bumbley A-Right and C-Rights", they asked?
"Oh no, it's a new year and more money we ask!.
Recycle will save you but if you do not,
The amount you must pay will grow a lot."
On their own, without the budget request,
The C-Rights the FEE they did adjust.

Swampville answered: "Recycle, we'll do it, just tell us we could,
We need not be taxed if its something that’s good."
Bumbley A-Right and C-Rights still they decreed:
"This money we need, we require you pay
For the games each day we want to play."

Mrs. Daring and Sternway exclaimed, "NO WAY!
Right it is not, the lawsuit will stay
And in the end, it's the Rights that shall pay!”

But Almost Potential Swampville replied:
"We are just so tired, so weary of trash.
Go away, PLEASE, let this pass."

Not to be, not to happen, an end to this ruse
The one armed bandit is trouble to use.
Long hours, long days has put holes in the budget
Now, the Rights must devise how to fudge it.
"How at his point can more cash be raised for this joint?"
A-Right ponders our fate as Swampville does wonder
What will they devise next our pockets to plunder?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Marina District - A question for Frank Szollisi

So Frank, are you saying that in order to be employed in Toledo you must be a member of a Union?

Your latest demand that all work on the Marina District be performed by Union members is so anti-business it is disappointing. The Unions can take care of themselves, they don't need you legislation.

Back off!

Vacant Property Registry Folly

Vacant Property Registry
What is the purpose of this registry?
What is to be accomplished by the registry?

If I understand the purpose of the legislation, it is to provide easy access to the name and address of the owners of vacant properties so they can be billed for city work to maintain the property if the owner does not.

I had a discussion with a councilperson about this and it became quite intense. If I own a home, maintain it, clean it, keep it in repair, mow the grass, shovel the walks in the winter, pay the taxes… it is ABSOLUTELY none of the business of this or any other government entity whether it is or is not inhabited. If I am in compliance with the laws on maintaining MY property, it is ABSOLUTELY none of the business of this or any other government entity whether it is or is not inhabited

There are already regulations for those who have vacant property which is in decay, not maintained and condemned. If the city does maintain the grounds, condemns the building and then demolishes the home, the owner is billed.

We are assured there are many “exclusions” to the registry, but we have to request the exclusion after registering the property. The property is then on a registry visible to anyone who requests the information. What happened to the term “private property?”

When I asked the council person what will be accomplished when the registry is put into effect, it was explained it will help the city know how many vacant homes exist in Toledo to help determine revenues for the city and help control the dilapidated properties in Central city. Are you aware the City owns almost 600 vacant properties which are 30' frontage, many in Central City? Will they register these properties?

My point to all on council is this: those who do not maintain their properties are not going to register the properties. When I offered this opinion to the councilperson, I asked what ultimately would be accomplished and the response was more fees would build up. What good will that do when the City is not proactive enough to collect the fees currently owed?

The responsible residents will once again bear the brunt of city inefficiencies by the requirement to report to a city that already has proven they do not follow through with the regulations. It will be randomly and inefficiently be applied and undoubtedly another person will be needed to maintain this registry and answer all the requests for exclusions. As government is best at creating, this is another quagmire in the political arena of Toledo politics designed to appease the politically connected CDC’s..

If in fact there is close to $3,000,000 in unpaid fees against vacant and abandoned property the department responsible for collecting the unpaid fees should be held accountable, not create another regulation or registry which will be impossible to maintain.

Council should require a report with:
A list of properties with fees already assessed which they have not been able to collect.
The amount owned against each property
The name and last know address of the owner of the property
The efforts taken to collect the owned fines

It is extremely disappointing to see this Council continue to punish with additional regulations the citizens who pay the bills and vote them into office.

A Question for Mr. Wilkowski

As a former Law Director, an Attorney, a public figure for 20+ years and a probable candidate for Mayor of Toledo, I request your official opinion on the legality of the Refuse Fee. Do you consider the "refuse fee" a legal form of revenue for a municipality? If you decide to campaign for the office of Mayor, it is important to understand your position on taxation and fees.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

ESM - Business Plan

During the interview with Jeff Green, April 30, 2008, on 1370 WSPD radio, Maggie Thurber asked tough questions of Jeff and it was uncomfortable for him. The questions were valid, the answers were not available, in part because Mr. Green did not receive full disclosure of essential information needed to prepare an accurate, comprehensive business plan for the Erie Street Market.

I wonder why an Administration with a 1/2 billion dollar budget would recruit a "volunteer" who just graduated from college to attempt to write a business plan so critical to downtown development. It is a joke to believe the Mayor was serious when he allowed this. We can't seriously believe any experienced, knowledgeable Business Development Director would make an inexperienced volunteer responsible for the creation of this document. Then to add insult to injury, he was thrown to the front lines during a Committee of the Whole meeting with City Council.

Jeff is one more in a long list of scapegoats for this Administration.

He was an excellent candidate to intern on this project, but not as the developer and author. Unfortunately, the impact of an inaccurate, incomplete plan hits at the heart of the residents of Toledo who pay millions of dollars in taxes hoping they will be appropriately spent. With millions of wasted dollars, why would anyone believe the administration would rely on a young, inexperienced volunteer to produce this critical plan.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Letter from Keith Wilkowski


It is only fair to share a letter of apology received today from Mr. Wilkowski. It is for you as the reader to assess and decide the value of the apology. During the 3 years I campaigned, not on any one occasion did Mr. Wilkowski make any attempt to speak to me or even acknowledge my existence after he split from the Pac in 2005. As the consummate politician in Toledo, this method of shunning a candidate for office is not a mistake when repeated over a number of events. It is a method used to ensure the newcomer running for office fully understand his/her place in the political hierarchy of Toledo.

Mr. Wilkowski, thank you for the apology. It is the first acknowledgment I have received from you since 2005.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mayor 2009 -- commentary 1

So what of Wilkowski.. is he the person for Mayor? After his stint at Chairman of the LCDP, he jumped ship in 2005 and helped Jack Ford form the Lucas County Dems Pac, was the treasurer and sat in on the screening of those who were going to run for office with the pac. Surprise! His power ploy pushed him away from Ford and the pac after he ran a survey to prove his was a better candidate for Mayor. He jumped ship again, this time from the pac he helped form, to run his own bid for Mayor. Late in 2005, he then supported Vasquez in Bob's bid for City Council at Large and was pictured on lit pieces for Bob which were distributed in Point Place and Old Orchard. Ah, but Bob was not elected. Then McCloskey was thrown out when convicted but Santiago was appointed to the at-large seat. Bob decided to run for the seat anyway and did Wilkowski support him again (just months after the last race) --- no... he then supported McNamara. I asked for 5 minutes of his time before the district seat race started, he not only ignored me, but turned his back on me. I wasn't looking for anything, I knew he would support Cichy, I just wanted to talk. He put me in my place and let me know how worthless I was by his rude refusal to grant an "audience". I wonder if this is the type of person we want for Mayor. I was hoping Toledo would find someone who considered everyone of some value. Who will he represent? Who will he support. He turned his back on the Democratic Party, on Jack Ford and the Lucas County Democrats Pac; and on Bob Vasquez. Does this speak well of him? With the offices he has held, what has he accomplished which was memorable? Wilkowski with represent Wilkowski and Wilkowski will support Wilkowski. Show me something that says otherwise.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

REFUSE FEE LAWSUIT Amended Complaint

We filed an amended complaint in Common Pleas Court today enjoining the new refuse to the complaint and requesting a temporary and permanent injunction. Amended complaint

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Lecture and Retort - Refuse Fee Lawsuit

Toledo City Paper satirist "Hildo" takes issues to task and unfortunately tends to be more concerned with ranting than facts. Regarding the lawsuit against the City over the Refuse fee, the author took me to task and admonished my "ignorance" regarding "taxation without representation". I strongly disagree with the assessment in the article "History for Dummies". Excerpt: "Err, sorry Karen, but your lawsuit seems pretty ridiculous on the face of it. Since when do voters get to approve every fee imposed on us? And you’re mixing your metaphors. Taxation with representation would mean the tax would be imposed by elected representatives, not voters directly. Which it was, since council had to vote to approve it in the final budget."

Now "Spartacus" takes up the cause of the Refuse Fee and defends the cause in a letter to the Toledo City Paper: Hail Carticus and His Disciples. Excerpt: "“We have always understood it to be a grand and fundamental principle of the English constitution that no free man should be subject to any tax to which he has not given his own consent“ -John Adams."

The battle wages on and well it should as this is dangerous legislation granting unlimited access to the taxpayers' wallets and unlimited funding capabilities without voter approval.

Continue to voice your disapproval loudly and relentlessly to our unresponsive City Council and Administration until they are required to respond responsibly in allocating the funds we labor daily to provide.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Police Auction

The Blade reports on the auction of vehicles by the Police Department Blade Article

94 abandoned vehicles raised $128,075 (goes to the General Fund)
9 forfeited vehicles brought in $11,925 (goes to the Law Enforcement Trust Fund)

What is the Law Enforcement Trust Fund? What does it Fund? If you know, please blog.

Friday, March 28, 2008

REFUSE FEE LAWSUIT

The Judge granted an extension to the City of Toledo

In Lucas County Common Pleas Court:
3/27/2008
Title : PRO:MTN FOR EXTENSION GRANTED
DEFENDANT CITY OF TOLEDO'S REQUEST FOR 1ST EXTENSION OF
TIME UNTIL 4/24/2008 TO RESPOND TO PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT
IS SIGNED AND GRANTED. SEE JE.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Refuse Fee - 2% of the General Budget

Blade Opinion

I'm amazed at the time and attention given the "Refuse Fee". For a fee which generates only 2% of the Revenue for the General Fund of the budget, it seems to be receiving 75% of the energy the Council, Administration and Blade coverage of the budget. We hear virtually nothing of any plans to reduce spending, freeze wages, require 8 hours work for 8 hours pay... it's just "give me more money" through the refuse "fee". Why not? After all, it's a cash cow for the city as there are no restrictions on how high they can raise the fee to generate revenue to pay for exorbitant expenditures. For the 4.9 million in projected revenue, Council could do an across the board cut of .09% over the $545 million budget rather than push this unnecessary fee.

I have this to offer regarding the Blade editorial:
"The Blade position regarding the city budget is curious given the fact they shut out their employees just recently to force concessions on wages, benefits, employee hours, etc. Not only did the Blade receive numerous concessions, they did so without affecting service. Why doesn’t the Blade as vigorously advocate for the taxpayers by holding the Administration and Council to the same standards and demand similar concessions. Could the Blade remain viable with 28% retirement payments, 0 in medical benefit copay, employees working 4 hours a day though paid for 8 hours, 15 paid holidays, etc.? I doubt it! But then, it is much easier to spend the money of others. This continued position of tax and spend on the part of the Blade is both disappointing and irresponsible as these contracts are crippling the city."

Sunday, March 09, 2008

TIMING – MOTIVATION -- POLITICAL GAIN -- WHY

TIMING
One of the 5 points on my platform was opposition to the “Trash Tax” as I was running for the District 2 Council seat. I believed as so many others that if Council passed it in the budget, and it was put in the budget by the Mayor, it must be legal, but I did not approve of the fee. After losing in the Primary in September of 2007, as I had spent every available waking moment outside my job campaigning, I needed time to put our home in order and enjoy the holidays.

At the beginning of January, 2008, as talk of continuing the “fee” surfaced, I decided to do some research and found information that convinced me it was not legal. I unsuccessfully tried to confirm this with some attorneys and Judges I personally knew, in fact, they did not even want to discuss it. Finally, I contacted Maggie Thurber and after she researched the issue she agreed it was not legal. Maggie then referred me to Kurt Wicklund, Attorney.

When Kurt and I first started talking, he felt the same as everyone else, it didn’t seem quite right, but it was probably legal. However, as we discussed my research and he did his own research, he came to the same conclusion as Maggie and I, it was not legal. He agreed to take the case. The plan was to wait until after the March primary so it would not conflict with the issues, but with the considerable conversation about the subject and quotes in the Blade, it was deemed prudent to file when we did.

MOTIVATION
This fee is powerful, if legal. It would never again be necessary to put a tax or levy on the ballot, all Council would need to do is raise the fee to accommodate the amount needed. Had the ¾% tax not passed, the fee could be raised to $53 per month x 91,000 households. TAH DAH! $57,876,000!!. I’d like to believe this would never happen, but believe me, it could and no legislative body should have this type of power for revenue “enhancement”. That is why I’m filing this lawsuit. This is protection for our future generations … let them look back and say “they got it right!” Hopefully, the courts will agree.

POLITICAL GAIN
For those who want to know if I’m doing this for political gain, that is laughable. I’m a realist. Though I had a very strong desire to represent Toledoans in City Council, it did not happen and in all reality, I have sealed my fate with the White Paper I wrote and this Refuse Fee Complaint and my views on the exorbitant, unsustainable, ridiculous wage and benefit packages with are paying the city employees. Who would vote for me… certainly not policeman, fireman, city employees, their families, or their friends! Who would support me, not the Democratic Party bosses nor businesses for fear of retribution. It is because I let go of running for office that I was able to file, because I knew there would be nothing to gain politically. I faced the fact that the residents of Toledo do not vote issues; they wouldn’t even recognize my name on the ballot and associate it with the lawsuit.

WHY?
Because it needs to be done! I waited all these months for someone who knows the laws, knows the courts, and has connections to do something, and no one else did. There it is and I’m taking the time to say this because I believe Toledoans have a right to know why … after all, this is going to be a class action suit. If I’m including everyone, then the least I can do is offer an explanation.

2008 Toledo Budget, Grants

It may be nothing to consider, but I would like additional information about State and Federal Grants. In 2004, 2005, and 2006, the City of Toledo received between $25,000,000 and $45,000,000 (2006) in State and Federal Grants. In 2007 and 2008, the budget was $300,000 (as shown in the budget submitted for 2007 and 2008). One explanation for 2007 is that the funds are applied to the account once received and they are then applied to the appropriate account. I checked back to the 2007 budget and it showed $45,000,000 for 2006, so that must not always be the case.

So. what is happening here. A couple possibilities:
1. The funds are budgeted on a different line item under a different heading and transfered when they are received and the transfer was not accomplished for 2007 in November when the budget was presented for 2008.

2. The City of Toledo only will receive $300,000 in State and Federal Grants for 2007 and 2008.

3. The City of Toledo did not budget for revenue of these amounts and will end up in a surplus when they are received in 2007 and 2008.

If #1 is correct, I would like to know which line items the amounts are budgeted so we have a real sense of the expected revenues for State and Federal Grants.

If #2 is correct, are we missing available money? Why a drop of $44,700,000 in Grant money for 2007 and 2008.

If #3 is correct, then we would have a surplus of over $30,000,000 not a deficit.

Because I have filed a lawsuit against the City of Toledo, I am not allowed to request this information. Hopefully, someone else will.

If you would like to review the information, it is linked here: GRANTS

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Toledo Refuse Fee Complaint

Over the past year, I was increasingly convinced the Refuse Fee imposed on property owners in Toledo on April 28, 2007, was not legal. My gut instinct just does not accept that the City can add a "fee" against every property owner in Toledo to pay additional monies and call it a "Refuse Fee" when we already pay income tax which is supposed to pay for refuse services. Once collected, it is dumped into the general fund.

Have you considered that if the 3/4% tax does not pass, if the Refuse Fee is legal, Council could simply increase the amount of the fee to cover the amount lost by non-passage of the 3/4% tax. They probably would not do that, but they could, if the Fee is legal. All they would need to do is raise the "Fee" to $53 per property (91,000 per Mike Collins) per month to equal the $58,000,000. If it is legal for Council to do this, then there would be no reason at all to ever put a tax on the ballot.

To anyone interested,
THIS IS A TAX -- THIS IS NOT A FEE -- VOTERS MUST APPROVE A TAX!!

That's the bottom line, the nitty gritty of this lawsuit, this "fee" is not legal.

For several months, I spent an extensive amount of time researching and reaching out to advisers regarding the Fee.

In the search, Maggie Thurber recommended I contact Attorney Kurt Wicklund, as he may be interested in the case. He and the attorneys of the Law Firm, Ciolek & Wicklund, 520 Madison Avenue, Suite 820, Toledo, OH 43604, (419) 931-6431, Fax (866) 890-0419, Email: wicklund@ciolekwicklund.com, initially agreed with my assessment but took the challenge to further research the issue to confirm whether the Fee is or is not legal.

As a result of this research, it was determined the fee is not legal and today, February 28, 2008, a complaint has been filed in Common Pleas Court on behalf of myself and property owners of Toledo against the City of Toledo. The complaint is in the list of "Links" on this page.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

2008 Toledo Budget

In the Links section of this blog is a link to the budget on an Excel spreadsheet which can be downloaded and used for your own analysis of the budget. Help yourself!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Commentary #5 Toledo Budget 2008, Revenue

Revenue Analysis
Are revenue items missing in the budget for 2008? As I reviewed the Revenue section, it seemed there were gaps which may be of concern and the following information and analysis is offered for consideration.

The linked spreadsheet is an analysis of the expected revenue as reported by the Administration. It is sorted by the greatest actual dollars by Organization in 2006 compared to the expected dollars by Organization in 2008. Many of the accounts had one or two items with a variance in the detail, while others (such as "Treasury") had great variations. Next to the dollar amounts is a brief explanation of the cause for the increase or decrease in the revenue with the exception of Taxation.

In the Detail for taxation, no allowance for refunds to businesses or individuals was included in the model. This would seem to leave the City open for unfunded costs since the amount of refunds were significant 2004: -1,089,790; 2005: -1,124,086; 2006: -1,386,489; 2007 & 2008 -0-. Is it possible there were no refunds in 2007 and none expected in 2008?

Treasury is a total different situation as there are numerous differences between 2006 and 2008 by Account Description. The detail begins on Row 47.

It has been well documented that Federal and State Grants have declined, but the difference in Grants between 2006 and expected in 2008 is staggering. Have we missed opportunities or has the availability of Grant money really dissolved? The comparison is referenced beginning with Row 124 which shows:

GRANTS
Federal Grants $18,777,186 (2006) (2008 - "0")
State Grants $18,122,466 (2006) (2008 - "0")
State Grants/Federal Fnds $8,676,909 (2006); $300,451 (2008)
TOTAL GRANT REVENUE $45,576,560 (2006); $300,451 (2008)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Commentary #4 Toledo Budget 2008, Refuse Fee

Fred LeFebvre interviewed D. Michael Collins about the proposed Refuse Fee which will most likely be approved to generate additional revenue again this year as it was last year. In all comments about the refuse fee, there is no suggestion that anyone on Council is taking a hard line look at the budget with the plan to live within the means of the projected revenue.

If Mr. Collins is so terribly concerned about the landfill, then perhaps he should look at alternatives such as waste to energy incineration. Waste for Energy

To consider investing in new and additional equipment, containers with micro-chips to verify a resident is recycling is just more government imposing more constraints on the residents. Next, there will be a penalty for any household that signs a waiver stating they will recycle and they don't, -- another fine for the indiscretion. If the budget is complete and we look at 91,000 households, the average cost per year for refuse collection is $124.50 per household. The planned increase in fees would potentially cost each household and additional $120.00 per year unless the resident chooses to recycle, we have yet to hear what that will cost.

City Council must do better, doubling the cost is not acceptable.

City Council must do better.

Notes of Interview with D Michael Collins, 2/18/08, a.m. by Fred LeFebvre, 1370 WSPD radio.
D. M. Trash tax or fee, however you want to look at it.
What is good public policy, I delved into recycling issue.
Joe McNamara and I challenged each other with ideas.
The gist: recycle, no fee. No recycle, $10.00 per month
It’s difficult to capture the whole notion [provided following #’s]
91,000 households in city
32% said they recycling
Reality is 26% recycle not 32% recycle

Fred: How do they check

D. M.: They do not
They do not police the system
I consider [sic saying they will recycle but do not] this misrepresenting the city
We are loosing $100,000 for those who do not recycle
If we are not counting who is recycling, how do we come up with 26%
I went through neighborhoods and checked, I checked for 6 weeks in 3 of my neighborhoods and counted how many recycled. It was closer to 26% not 32%.
27 years for the landfill, $80 million to replace
I want to see recycle at 60% 18000 tons not into landfill
We pay a tipping fee to EPA, $5.50 per ton, removing 18,000 tons out of landfill equals $100,000
Money we receive from recycle will double to $125,000
We create a new cell every 4 years ($4 million per cell), increase life by 15 to 17 months
Looked at Portland, Or, they are hoping to get 70% of community to recycle
I would like 100%

Fred: If that happened, no income

D. M. But that won’t happen

Fred: Who won’t recycle?

D. M. Hope 40% (not hope but realistic) will reject. There would be no minimum requirement.

Fred: How to implement?

D. M. Will have to retool the equipment, less packers, more recycling. It will be a shift in the concept, it must be phased in. there will be a chip in the recylce containers, the city will buy and supply the containers, buy new equipment, we will need to buy new trucks because the city has to go to automated equipment. Right now we have 6 trucks in the recycling system, will have to double, it’s about $120,000 to re-double that #. To micro chip, it’s between $120,000 to $140,000 to equip that brings the fleet up to that number.

Fred: Just sounds crazy, would it be good public policy to privatize?

D. M.: Once you’ve done it, you’ve sold all your equipment, your out of the business, to recaptilize, to go back into it in case you’ve made a mistake, is literally speaking, impossible. You can’t go back into it. The rate of $8.00 per household in Perrysburg is limited to one can.

Fred: Has the city looked into privatization at all?

D. M. I haven’t seen the studies, I’ve been told they have.
The problem you have with recycling is you can go into the first year and have a very apealling number, the 2nd year it may look appealing but the 3rd year you’re over the barrel and you’re going to be at their mercy with privatization.
In Lambertville, they are paying $17.00 per month for controlled refuse pick up and paying within the $17.00 a fee for recycling.
Population on fixed income, all they have to do is recycle and it doesn’t take anything out of their annual income flow.

Fred: Emails & calls -- Don’t have trash to recycle, I take it to Krogers, they don’t like it.

D. M. Not talking about how much volume is in the container, how do we as stewards of our environment, best protect the ecology and also cost defer all these issues to the future? And recycling at that # saves us in a cost deferment millions and millions and millions of dollars, I think is realisticly selfish if we don’t take the measured steps if we don’t increase the lifespan of the that landfill by 10 years because we may not be burdened by that expense, but a generation behind us will and they are going to have to figure out to fix it and it’s not going to be $80 million when the fix is needed.

Fred: At some point that landfill will be filled and our kids will have to look at it.

D. M. What we’re really doing is slowing down the filling of it.
I look at it from an analagous situation, our car is going to have to be replaced, so why change the oil? Because if we don’t change the oil, we’re still going to have to replace the car, we’re just going to have to replace it sooner. And so I use that as a way of using an analogy.

Fred: But you aren’t involved in the cost of my car, if I said I would have to pay a fee if I didn’t change my oil, that would be different. In this case Council is looking at putting a fee to force people to do something that maybe they just don’t want to do. There are people out there that just don’t want to recycle for one reason or another. Not cost effective, don’t believe in it. Being penalized for that belief.

D. M. Not really, they are making that decision. Your penalizing them is you say everybody must pay a fee which is the current program. You have the option of saving $120 a year by recycling. All you need to do is in a bin provided by the municipality, enter you recylables and the benefits are as follows:
· You’re gong to save $100,000 per year on tipping fees (sic EPA) which we pay
· You’re going to increase the landfill life by 9 years
· You’re going to increase the cell life by at least 15 to 17 months.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Commentary #3 on 2008 Toledo City Budget -AMBULANCE SERVICE

In 2007, it was decided by Council to approve the take over of the private industry Ambulance Service to "enhance" revenue. On the surface, it was estimated the take over could generate $1.2 million per year. Toledo Blade article


As it would begin in July of 2007, it was estimated the revenue generated would be approximately $600,000. There was no consideration in the model to include the cost of labor for the service as the fireman "They agreed the department could staff the five basic life support ambulances with current firefighters". In reviewing the budget, with benefits, wages and pension, the Toledo paramedics who would staff the ambulances earn an average of $45.00 per hour.

To determine the true cost and net revenue, the cost of labor must be considered in addition to the loss of revenue which would have been generated through taxes if the services had been performed by the private sector. The model used to determine the gross revenue and total profit of this service should include:

# of Runs
Total manhours for runs
Total $ Billed
Total $ Received
Amount of revenue lost from private sector through fees and taxes
Cost of Vehicles
# of Vehicles leased
Any maintenance costs
Manhours to maintain
(clean, fuel, restock supplies, etc)
Lease fee
Were additional fire fighters called to report to fight a fire because the on-duty men were on an ambulance run and not available?
If so... additional cost for this coverage.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Commentary #2 Toledo Budget 2008 Payroll

In an attempt to determine salaries and benefits for all city employees, I went through the budget and created the classification “payroll” and then sub-accounts to describe the expense.
Payroll analysis

The following is a summary of the wage and benefits for the Employees of the City of Toledo which are projected for 2008:

2978 Estimated # of employees for 2008
$51,711 Average wage
$29,806 Average benefits
$81,517 Total average wages and benefits
$242,757,173 Total estimated wages and benefits 2008

The 3 major increases are for Base Salaries, 9%, Retirement Contributions by the City, 18.5%, and Medical Insurance, 22.9%. There is also 2.9 million allotted for “severance” (63.7%) for 2008. It would be an alert City Council who would seek a benchmark of the private sector to determine comparable wage and benefit packages for comparison to use as a model in the next negotiations with the unions.

With an increase in medical insurance of almost $7,000,000 dollars, it is necessary to expect city employees to pay a portion of the benefits. At $200 per month (on average), almost $7,000,000 in contributions to the plan would be generated. Additionally, co-pay for doctor visits and prescription drugs of $15 to $20 would be appropriate. The study of private industry would help in the decision on how to manage the benefits in the future.

The retirement benefit package needs to be revised, we cannot continue paying 28% towards the Pers program.

Why is Personnel Services Reimbursement cut by $731,000 + ?

In looking at the negatives on these last categories, are we confident the estimates are accurate? For example, why a negative on “compensated absences” unless it was applied to a different line item; if so, what line item has absorbed this cost; if not, an explanation is warranted.

It is obvious the payroll budget has outpaced the revenue of the city and the private sector, it must be amended.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Commentary on the 2008 Toledo City Budget

Once again voters will be asked to renew the ¾% “temporary tax”. This ¾% tax was originally passed on June 6, 1982. At that time, refuse collection had been cut in the summer to every other week, was limited to quantity allowed at the line and no white goods (appliances). Additionally, 1600 city jobs had been cut, the police force was at 615 and they had lost all of the 86 civilian staff. Vehicles were in disrepair, the parks were closed and the pools were not opening. The tax was expected to generate $22 million (link to Blade article http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dd7thkjj_2hgwbxvtb). Now, 26 years later, we are in the same predicament.

In 1982, Councilman, Donna Owens, believed the tax could be sold to the voters because it was temporary (a ½% permanent increase was soundly defeated the year before) she commented about the possibility of renewing the tax in the future stating: “and they have the chance to say so at the polls if they do not like the way the additional money is spent”.

The language of the levy guaranteed the revenue would “funnel the proceeds in 3 areas:

  • ¼% police and fire for hiring 115 police officers and 32 fire fighters and for upgrading equipment (especially fire equipment)
  • ¼% to the general fund for restoration of weekly garbage collection, reopening the parks and restoration of cutbacks in the health department.
  • ¼% for capital improvements fund for repayment and rescheduling the city’s debts, resurfacing streets, restoration of storm sewers and demolition of vacant and vandalized houses.

Over the past years, the wording has been diluted until it no longer specifically covers refuse collection which has gone unnoticed by the majority of voters. Ask your neighbors “what is to be paid for by the ¾% temporary tax?” Most will say, police, fire and refuse collection. Instead per the Municipal code, it covers:

· one-third (1/3) shall remain in the General Fund for police, fire and other Safety Department responsibilities,

· one-half (1/2) of said increase shall remain in the General Fund,

· one-sixth (1/6) of the said increase shall be allocated to the Capital Improvements Fund.

With this wording the city is no longer bound to provide the refuse service we expected when we voted for the levy in 2004.

How is the money being allocated? Our politicians have spent 26 years “negotiating” unsustainable contracts with the Unions representing the city employees. We will not survive as a community if our City leaders continue on this path of unrealistic wage and benefit packages. How did this come about as we entrusted our taxes to the politicians of Toledo?

The Blade article last week which covered the Mayor’s fundraiser paints a picture of what is to come when they reported that in attendance at the $500 per ticket fundraiser were “all the union chiefs”. Blade article

Backroom deals are cut with the union chiefs to garner endorsements, contributions and campaign workers for the candidate who will offer the best package if elected. The result over the past years has been an exploitation of the generosity of the electorate who continues to offer up additional taxes to pay for these agreements. Voters are not na├»ve and accept this is “politics as usual” accepting the status quo; however, it has gone too far and needs to be remedied.

The challenge for those currently in office is to understand we are at a critical turning point in Toledo politics. They must set aside self-interest and concern for reelection with the understanding that the funds to finance the current contracts do not exist and voters are financially unable to continue digging deeper to finance such folly.

Commentary # 2 to follow.