Thursday, April 10, 2014


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Federal cuts could hurt Ohio even more

Now that the clarion call to be mindful of federal spending, hammered home by Republicans and Tea Party backers since President Obama took the oath of office, has sunk in with Democrats fearful a backlash from voters upset with big spenders in Washington will sink their hopes for election, Ohio public service unions are saying doing do would compound the hurt the state is already experiencing from The Great Recession.

in reference to:

"nearly $940 million in additional funding for an already hurting Ohio."
- News - Federal funding to states brutally stripped from House jobs bill. Tell Congress they are making a HUGE mistake! 888-340-6517 (view on Google Sidewiki)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Could $64M for schools, govs be endangered if Columbus Stands Up to Penn National casino plan?

Penn National Gaming (PNG), backers of a $250 million casino in Columbus, contradicts claims made on a new Web site launched Monday by opponents that claims key local business leaders were not consulted for their input before the authorizing amendment to the Ohio Constitution, known as Issue 3, was subjected to a statewide vote this November.

Issue 3 authorized building a casino each in Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo at specific geographic coordinates and won 53 percent of the statewide vote. Voters in Franklin County, who opposed it by 58 percent, are being marshaled by a new city-wide group in Franklin County -- Stand Up Columbus! (SUC) -- that wants to dissuade PNG from building its Central Ohio casino where voters statewide approved building it, to an alternative site within the county.

Claims, corrections on who met with who and when

Former Franklin county commissioner and president of the local and national Fraternal Order of Police, Dewey Stokes, now a co-chair of SUC, said on the Web site, "...all of us agree it's not right that an out-of-town casino operator – without any community input -- gets to decide where a casino will be built in our city."

In a statement provided to this Examiner from PNG's Ohio spokesman Bob Tenenbaum, it appears key local leaders were not left out in the cold on the issue as much as some say they were.

"We have heard the allegation from this newly formed affiliate of Mr. Wolfe's and the Columbus Partnership that we did not seek community input on our site prior to the election. We find that curious given that we met personally with Mike Curtin of the Dispatch before Issue 3 was qualified for the November ballot and discussed the Arena District site. We also extended the same courtesy to Mr. Brian Ellis at Nationwide. We figured that given Nationwide's prior involvement in a proposed casino project in Pittsburgh's Arena District, he would understand the merits of our plan."

Contrary to protestations made by Curtin on a local radio talk show Tuesday morning that PNG ignored or failed to take into consideration community concerns, PNG sought to correct that viewpoint, saying it has spent considerable time in Columbus listening to the concerns of the local business community and local officials about the casino project.

The national casino operation wasted no time underscoring the job creation component of the project. PNG's prepared remarks noted it has "been meeting with our friends and supporters who are eager to get the thousands of new construction and permanent jobs" building the casino will create. Labor unions and the Fraternal Order of Police supported Issue 3, which promised to create 34,000 jobs.

Casino backers noted that Issue 3 contained site-specific criteria, and that any change in locations -- in Columbus or the other three Ohio cities who supported it -- would require a new statewide constitutional amendment.

PNG said that while it will "listen to our community, and will continue to do so in an open and inclusive manner," it will not do so "to the extent that those who were unsuccessfull on Nov. 3 seek to unreasonably delay or even try to kill our project and the thousands of new jobs and more than $64 million in new annual tax revenues it will generate for Columbus and Franklin County."

Local legislators assist Stand Up Columbus!

One local political leader, David Goodman, who joined Curtin by phone from Florida on WOSU's All Sides program today, readily acknowledged that the legislature didn't deal with the issue as it should have. Goodman has signed onto a constitutional amendment he says will preserve local control over casino developments.

“Cleveland, Toledo and Cincinnati voters should not be in a position to make development decisions for Columbus any more than Columbus residents should be weighing in on Cleveland projects,” Senator Goodman said in a statement. “This amendment gives local communities more control as Ohio takes its first steps into casino gaming.”

The effort, while it caters to the interests as expressed on SUC, can be seen by many as a Hail Mary pass of major proportions. If it vaults the high hurdles before it and becomes a statewide ballot issue, statewide voters, if convinced, will give voters in Franklin county another vote on whether they want a casino -- and the estimated $64 million in revenue sharing dollars that local governments and schools would benefit from -- in their county.

Locals want revenue sharing and new location

Communicating with this Examiner today, Goodman, a term-limited member of the Senate Republican caucus, said he is not inclined to trust Penn's estimates on revenue sharing, and that he "has never proposed any legislation that would take away a casino."

According to Goodman, his current proposal would "simply move the casino's location within the county" if a statewide vote allows local voters to decide whether they want their casino built where the constitutional amendment sites it.

The proposed Columbus casino is authorized to be built in Columbus' Arena District, an upscale retail and office area controlled by Nationwide Insurance that falls within the larger Downtown area. Bill Webster, Administrator for Downtown and Economic Development for the City of Columbus, said the Arena District is not specifically defined. Casino opponents say it should not be built where it's sited because the Arena District is a "family oriented" area and it would degrade the area while simultaneously devaluing the warren of residential properties located close by.

A larger issue is what recipients of revenue-sharing from the casino have to say if their share of gambling revenue doesn't flow to them if the casino is delayed or scrubbed.

$64 million in gambling revenue to flow to local schools, governments

Based on information on estimates of total casino revenue statewide provided by Tenenbaum, The Columbus Public Schools would receive an estimated $6.53 million per year in casino tax revenues. The total for all school districts in the county is $22.9 million.

Franklin County and City of Columbus would each receive an estimated $16.1 million a year. Columbus would also benefit from an additional amount as a casino host city – a proportional share of $13 million that will be divided among the four host cities based on the revenue of each casino.

CCS asked to weigh in on grassroots group, casino revenue sharing

A request to Kim Norris of the Columbus City Schools for a comment or statement on the launch of Stand Up Columbus! or on whether it thinks the $6.53 million it would gain every year would be endangered if local efforts to change the venue are successful were not received in time for this article.

Follow me on Twitter @ohionewsbureau. Read more stories on people, politics and government in Ohio here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Coming bloodbath in Ohio to test Strickland, Kasich as each defend, attack size, scope of government

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Whether the General Election next November launches a second term for Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland or signals a first term for Republican challenger John Kasich, Ohio's next executive leader will face the uncomfortable task of finding politically workable solutions to the blood bath made all too real by tumbling revenues, disappearing dollars from Washington and conflicting political ideologies that argue government is the answer to and the problem of a brighter future.

As 2009 ended with a battle of political wills between Strickland and Republican leaders in the Senate over how to fill an approximately $850 million hole in the state's two year budget, the accumulation of billions upon billions from a combination of revenue shortfalls to the state or disappearing stimulus dollars from Washington, that may vanish as spending hawks in Congress pull back on deficit spending to help prop up states hit hard by the Great Recession, will require Ohioans -- and the leaders they elect to represent them in Columbus -- to rethink whether government is a friend or foe to their future.

The gauntlet Strickland, Kasich must run

Estimates from published reports show the state's structural deficit for the 2012-13 budget range from $4 billion to $9 billion. Ohio's next fiscal year, which begins July 1, is balanced with about $3.5 billion in one-time state and federal funding that includes $426 million from the latest budget fix, which delayed a 4.2 percent income-tax cut until Jan. 1, 2011.

What will intensify the drama of where and how much to cut spending on government or whether raising taxes is unavoidable despite declarations by both candidates that that option is off the table, is the fact that the state's so-called rainy-day fund was sucked dry to fill a previous budget gap, leaving the Buckeye State with no emergency parachute to deploy when it is falling the fastest.

Ohio facing billions in revenue shortfalls, loan paybacks

Added to this bitter brew will be the need in 2012 to repay Washington nearly $1.7 billion in funds borrowed to continue paying jobless benefits to the steadily rising number of Ohioans who have lost their jobs in the throes of a Great Recession that some economists say may stay weak for at least another year.

Exacerbating the state's worsening fiscal picture -- GRF tax revenues declined two years in a row and expected to do so again next year -- will be the need to fund its social safety net -- already tattered from billions in budget cuts -- at levels to protect Medicaid eligibility and services, MR/DD services, early care and education programs and disability financial assistance.

Republicans have generally opposed spending from Washington, but reports of new analysis based on Census data showing that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) is keeping large numbers of Americans out of poverty in states across the country have both challenged their ideological bent and kept many Ohioans from falling further into untenable situations.

In addition to boosting economic activity and preserving or creating jobs, the report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows the recovery act is softening the recession’s impact on poverty by directly lifting family incomes.

Kasich income tax elimination plan could add $7 to government spending cuts

If Ohio's future doesn't look bleak enough, consider what it will be like should an energized Gov. Kasich, who one national polling firm says is ahead of Strickland now, is emboldened to follow through on his campaign promise to eliminate the state's income tax -- 7.73 billion or about 44 percent of total GRF tax receipts -- with the help of a House of Representatives again controlled by GOP loyalists.

That stunning possibility, which would demand the virtual dismemberment of government as we know it, will truly be an ill wind of monumental proportions that will blow no good to anyone, not even the businesses Kasich hopes will flock to the state as the gears of government are dismantled, prepping his "new day, new way" plan for improving the state's business climate.

Factor in the imploding budgets of Ohio's six major cities and the landscape for delivering services of all kinds at the state and local level becomes a bleak and burnt nightmare of historic proportions.

A seasoned Republican legislator, who served in the House and who's now a senator and cognizant of what lies ahead, even went so far as to take a swipe at a fellow GOPer whose grand plan is to consolidate government. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati told one reporter that his lawmaker colleagues just "can't come waltzing in the day before a budget is passed and say: 'I know, let's cut state government from 24 agencies to 10 tomorrow.'"

Another budget watcher said that while downsizing government may sound good, as Rep. John Adams wants to do, reality shows that 85 percent of state spending goes directly to local services and schools.

Strickland to Kasich, GOP: Show me your budget plan

Strickland told Ohioans he is proud of his education reforms and said he hopes things will get better. Fit and ready to run what will be a no-holds-barred campaign, the man from Duck Run said is ready to talk with Republicans about future budgets. But he offered them a challenge too: He wants anyone opposed to his remedies to declare "what functions (of government) will be eliminated and how they're going to continue to carry out the essential services that people expect from government."

Of course, what people expect from government and what they are willing to pay for is the key question. For those who see government as an obstacle to progress, employing people who do little but who benefit from great benefit packages, the answer is simple: shrink it. For those who see government as critical to protecting those least able to fend for themselves or that checks abuses spawned by a marketplace unchecked, the answer is simple: defend it.

Follow me on Twitter @ohionewsbureau. Read more stories on people, politics and government here.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ohio AG Cordray joins other state AGs in asking Fed's Bernanke to ban mortgage incentives

COLUMBUS, Ohio — On Christmas Eve, Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray announced that he joined 14 other state attorneys general in asking the Federal Reserve, and by extension its chairman Ben Bernanke, to support elimination of incentives paid to loan officers and mortgage brokers that result in borrowers being placed in loans that are riskier and more expensive than they need to be.

Cordray, who will run next year for a full four-year term as Ohio's top cop, said he strongly supports changing the law to end predatory practices like these that fueled the foreclosure crisis and the collapse of the mortgage market.

"Paying incentives to place customers in riskier loans is rewarding the behavior that is ruining so many communities," he said in prepared remarks, adding, "What's even more tragic is that without this type of steering, some consumers may have been able to get more affordable loans and avoid foreclosure entirely."

Information supplied by Cordray's communication staff said mortgage brokers and loan officers currently can receive additional compensation based on the type of loan they originate. Examples given included that of a broker who could receive extra compensation for originating an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) instead of fixed-rate mortgage, or a broker who could receive an incentive called a yield spread premium, or YSP, for placing consumers into loans with higher rates than the consumer could otherwise have qualified for. Cordray said these types of compensation give brokers and loan officers financial incentives to originate loans that consumers cannot afford.

Cordray joined the attorneys general of Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont and West Virginia in commenting to the Federal Reserve about changes to the federal Truth in Lending Act (TILA)'s Regulation Z. The media announcement noted that the comment period closed today.

Cordray noted in his statement that while the proposed changes would eliminate certain types of compensation, brokers and loan officers could still receive compensation based on other factors, such as by a flat fee, by the volume of loans originated or by the time spent originating the loan. The state treasurer elected in 2006 who became attorney general this year recommended that the Federal Reserve encourage compensation based on long-term loan performance.

"Right now, brokers and lenders often stand to profit from originating high-cost loans that consumers can't actually afford," Cordray said. "Ultimately, we want to provide incentives for originating loans that perform well in the long run. These proposed changes are an important step toward that goal."

The Ohio AG's office said the Federal Reserve must now determine whether to move ahead with the changes. It offered this Web site for anyone who wanted to read the comments.

Follow me on Twitter @ohionewsbureau. Read more stories on people, politics and government in Ohio here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ohio Award of $1.8 Million for broadband mapping project will show, help close gaps in IT coverage

December 23, 2:29 PMColumbus Government ExaminerJohn Michael Spinelli
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The announcement of the award by Gov. Ted Strickland that Ohio will receive $1.8 million for a broadband mapping project is good news, because when the data is collected and the map is drawn, it will show just how far, when compared to other states or countries, Ohio is behind the curve of deploying broadband connectivity technology to its citizens and business community.

Strickland administration works to close IT gaps

Prepared remarks from Strickland's office said stimulus funding from the Recovery Act Washington passed earlier this year will again be the source of cash to finance this project. Development of important state infrastructure projects, like the expansion of information technology infrastructure sufficiently that all citizens and business have access to it, is a must if Ohio is to be ahead of and not behind the technology curve other states and even countries have vaulted with success, enabling them to be future competitive.

The award is to help implement the Strickland Administration’s plan to compile and map broadband availability in Ohio, including location, available speed and type of technology delivering the service, said a media release.

Strickland said Connect Ohio was created in 2008 to determine "where Ohio’s broadband infrastructure exists – and where it doesn’t exist – to better target the investments that will help us reach our goal of providing broadband access to all Ohioans.” He said the grant will accelerate efforts to expand economic and educational opportunities to more Ohioans.

The guts of the project will increase broadband access and adoption through better data collection and broadband planning. The data collected is to be displayed in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s national broadband map, a tool the announcement said will "inform policymakers' efforts and provide consumers with improved information on the broadband Internet services available to them."

Two years and one week ago, Strickland, who had just finishing his first year on the job, launched the public-private partnership known as Connect Ohio, whose mission was to expand broadband services across the state by working with local communities and providers to map gaps in access.

At the time, Strickland said this on the goal of Connect Ohio: "The digital divide in Ohio takes many forms – from lack of access to computers and broadband services to a lack of technological skills necessary for the jobs of the future,” Strickland said. “The goal of Connect Ohio is to create customized support for local communities to meet their individual technological needs while helping expand broadband service to all residents and businesses

Strickland said partnering with "cable and telecommunications industries and their workers to build demand for their services and deploy broadband to areas of the state that are currently underserved” was worth the $6.8, paid out over four years or two bienniums, needed to run Connect Ohio.

Program administration falls to the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, working in collaboration with Connect Ohio.

“We are pleased to be working with the Strickland Administration to help create and enhance a comprehensive broadband map in the state of Ohio, and we’re particularly pleased to provide continuing broadband planning efforts to local communities across the state,” said Tom Fritz, executive director of Connect Ohio. He applauded the National Telecommunications and Information Administration for "working diligently to create a national broadband map and are honored to continue the work in Ohio to provide tools that will enable economic, social, and educational benefits to residents and businesses across the state.”

Since 2008, Strickland's office noted that Connect Ohio has benchmarked Ohio’s broadband availability and usage through the use of surveys and data gathered through its relationships with broadband providers across the state. It's detailed information is available at a statewide and county level for businesses and residents regarding broadband availability, access, subscribership, barriers to adoption, computer ownership and average subscriber rates.

Follow me on Twitter @ohionewsbureau. Read more stories on people, politics and government in Ohio here.

CBS 60 Minute report on heartache in Wilmington, Ohio from DHL job losses recalls Gift of Magi story

CBS 60 Minute report on heartache in Wilmington, Ohio from DHL job losses recalls Gift of Magi story
December 21, 12:53 AMColumbus Government ExaminerJohn Michael Spinelli
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November 2009 State Unemployment Rates (Photo/CalculatedRiskBlog)

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The federal prisoner incarcerated in the 1890s at the Ohio penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio, who became known as the author O. Henry, wrote a now-famous story called Gift of the Magi, about a couple who loved each other but whose poverty forced them to give up something they cherished in order to afford the Christmas gift they knew they other wanted, that cannot help but be recalled by anyone who watched the 60 Minutes episode aired Sunday night about the heartache and despair that grips Wilmington, Ohio, a small community whose core was eviserated by the loss of 10,000 jobs but whose spirit awaits a chance, however slim, to rise from the beating it has and continues to take.

CBS 60 Minutes aires episode on Wilmington, Ohio

A transcript of Sunday's program, a follow up to the first one done on Wilmington in Green County, about 30 miles southeast of Dayton, about the desperation that befell the community when its major employer DHL Express closed its domestic delivery service, pictures the community as "exactly the kind of town that Washington hoped to rescue with stimulus spending, cash for clunkers and mortgage relief."

Pelley said "It's one of the unique things about the Great Recession - never before have so many people been out of work for the long term. At least, not since they've starting keeping records back in 1948. Today, 40 percent of all of those who've lost their jobs have been out of work for six months or more."

The 60 Minutes video, with its heartwrenching testimonials from residents of Wilmington who lost their job, their health insurance and in one case a loved one, and who will do anything to survive the economic vortex that will wash them down the drain if help of one kind or another doesn't arrive soon, will create a lump in your throat and tear in your eye.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Ohio and U.S. Employment Situation (Seasonally Adjusted)

Ohio's unemployment rate was 10.6 percent in November, relatively unchanged from 10.5 percent in October, according to data released this morning by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Ohio's nonfarm wage and salary employment increased 5,400 over the month, from 5,104,000 in October to 5,109,400 in November.

"The number of employed Ohioans rose slightly in November, but not enough to produce a significant change in the unemployment rate," ODJFS Director Douglas Lumpkin said. "An increase in service-providing employment was partially offset by a slight decrease in goods-producing jobs."

The number of workers unemployed in Ohio in November was 623,000, up from 618,000 in October. The number of unemployed has increased by 199,000 in the past 12 months from 424,000. The November unemployment rate for Ohio was up from 7.1 percent in November 2008.

The U.S. unemployment rate for November was 10.0 percent, down from 10.2 percent in October.

Will work for hope

With budget holes near term and in the distance forcing Gov. Ted Strickland to cut government workers or programs or both more than the billions he has already been forced to cut in the first three years of his four-year term, residents of Wilmington have good reason to believe that their is little hope they can believe in anymore.

Follow me on Twitter @ohionewsbureau. Read more stories on people, politics and government in Ohio here.

Ohio AG Cordray fishes for solution to curb Asian carp from entering Great Lakes

December 21, 11:01 PMColumbus Government ExaminerJohn Michael Spinelli
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray announced Monday that the state of Ohio will file a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to stop the spread of Asian carp, a species of fish he and others consider a major threat to the Great Lakes fishing industry.

Asian carp have been found in the Illinois River, which connects the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which found that due to their large size and rapid rate of reproduction, these fish could pose a significant risk to the Great Lakes Ecosystem.

To prevent the carp from entering the Great Lakes, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. EPA, the State of Illinois, the International Joint Commission, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are working together to install and maintain a permanent electric barrier between the fish and Lake Michigan.

State AGs stop carping, start fishing for solutions

In an email sent to out late in the afternoon today, Cordray, a Democrat running next year for a full four-year term, said Ohio's brief will ask to reopen a prior original action in the U.S. Supreme Court against the state of Illinois, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.

Cordray's office said it has consulted with Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox -- who is initiating the joint effort by filing an initial petition in the same action today -- and other attorneys general from states adjacent to the Great Lakes.

The man elected in 2006 as Ohio Treasurer but who became Ohio AG after winning a special election last year noted that original actions in the U.S. Supreme Court are "expressly contemplated and authorized in Article III of the U.S. Constitution and have long been perceived as the proper means to peacefully resolve disputes that arise among the sovereign states as a substitute for the original avenues of diplomacy or war."

"We are comfortable putting this matter in the hands of the Supreme Court, which is a neutral arbiter that can hear and evaluate our concerns about protecting the precious natural resources of the Great Lakes against the new threat from this invasive species that has already spread into channels that are dangerously close to Lake Michigan," Cordray said in prepared remarks.

"The impact on the commercial fishing industry and sport fishing as well as the ability of Ohio citizens to enjoy one of the world's most treasured resources would be devastating," he said. By working together to protect the Great Lakes while balancing the important commercial shipping interests that depend upon the connection of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, Cordray said he "looks forward to working with Michigan and our other sister states to develop a comprehensive resolution to this difficult challenge as soon as possible."

How did Asian carp get so close to the Great Lakes?

Two species of Asian carp -- the bighead and silver -- were imported by catfish farmers in the 1970's to remove algae and suspended matter out of their ponds. During large floods in the early 1990s, many of the catfish farm ponds overflowed their banks, and the Asian carp were released into local waterways in the Mississippi River basin.

The carp have steadily made their way northward up the Mississippi, becoming the most abundant species in some areas of the River.

What effects might Asian carp have on the Great Lakes?

Asian Carp are a significant threat to the Great Lakes because they are large, extremely prolific, and consume vast amounts of food. They can weigh up to 100 pounds, and can grow to a length of more than four feet. They are well-suited to the climate of the Great Lakes region, which is similar to their native Asian habitats.

Researchers expect that Asian carp would disrupt the food chain that supports the native fish of the Great Lakes. Due to their large size, ravenous appetites, and rapid rate of reproduction, these fish could pose a significant risk to the Great Lakes Ecosystem.

Follow me on Twitter @ohionewsbureau. Read more stories on people, politics and government in Ohio here.

Husted campaign transparency bill elicits caution from Garrison, call to recall past by Hoke

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- State Senator Jon Husted (R-Kettering), the Ohio GOP's endorsed candidate for Ohio Secretary of State, announced Tuesday that he intends to introduce a bill on campaign transparency that will ensure Ohioans are fully aware of how campaigns are spending money to influence their vote. Husted's bill, known as the Ohio Campaign Transparency Act, would accomplish this goal by requiring that expenditures made by so-called campaign sub-vendors, or third parties who act on behalf of a campaign, are disclosed to the public.

The presumptive Democratic nominee for Ohio Secretary of State next year, Rep. Jennifer Garrison, responded to an offer from this Examiner to comment on the contents of or the politics behind Husted's bill, which likely will sail through the Senate, controlled easily by his party, but encounter a bumpy road in the House, where Garrison's garrison calls the tune on legislative activity.

In separate news related to Ohio campaigns, elections and Sen. Husted, Candice Hoke, a law professor from Cleveland State University who isolated sources have said is evaluating whether the effort by some to draft her into the race for SOS next year is enough to warrant her entering the race, issued a statement today to this Examiner suggesting she can best help improve Ohio elections by not entering the race at this time.

Husted bill to open curtain on campaign sub-vendor information

Husted said through an emailed announcement that campaign committees can currently give money to a sub-vendor, such as a political consultant, to make expenditures on behalf of their campaign. While the campaign committee is required to disclose the amount they gave to the consultant, they are not required, under Ohio campaign finance law, to disclose how the consultant spent the money, according to Husted's prepared remarks.

“The current system allows campaign committees to conceal their expenditures and hide the facts about who is being paid to influence the outcome of elections,” Husted said.

Husted’s legislation requires a campaign committee to report sub-vendor expenditures, and under the bill, sub-vendors will be required to provide an itemized list of expenditures they make on behalf of the campaign. The bill as introduced will require the campaign committee to also include that itemized list on their expenditure report.

The first-term senator, who as recently as last year was the Speaker of the House, and who is the Ohio GOP's endorsed candidate to reclaim the important Office of Ohio Secretary of State in 2010, said his bill "would provide greater transparency in how money is being used in campaigns and help restore Ohioans’ confidence in the outcome of our elections."

Husted challenger Garrison calls for extension of transparency to issue advocacy groups

Garrison, responding from her home district after the Ohio General Assembly recessed after both chambers came to an agreement on how to fill a gaping hole in the state budget last week, said that while she supports legislation that provides more transparency in the campaign finance arena, she needs to review the specifics of the bill carefully before commenting on it in detail.

What Garrison told this Examiner she finds interesting about Husted's ostensible motivation for introducing the bill, was that it was her understanding, from records unearthed from newspapers on Husted's ascension to the job of Speaker of the House, that some of his election-year help came via what she labeled a "shady non-profit called Citizens for Conservative Values (CCV)," an organization she said "hid its donors" while claiming it was "created to promote public policy, not Husted for Speaker."

Garrison, who continues to add to her endorsements despite not being officially endorsed by the Ohio Democratic Party, said newspaper reports showed that "CCV’s consultants were political operatives tied to Husted who were in line for large bonuses if Husted was installed as Speaker." She said Husted "severed his ties to CCV only after newspapers began questioning him about the group and its tactics."

His new legislation, she said, "appears to have merit, but the enhanced disclosure requirements should extend to so-called issue advocacy groups like CCV.” The problem of sub-vendor transparency, she said, was brought to light during the recent campaign to amend Ohio’s Constitution to allow for casino-style gambling in the state. If Ohio were to pass Husted's bill or a version of it, Garrison pointed to a campaign disclosure law database managed by UCLA that shows there are currently 24 states whose disclosure laws require some form of sub-vendor disclosure.

Garrison hopes to replace current Ohio SOS Jennifer Brunner, who party officials and supporters thought would seek a second term next year but who has instead chosen to engage in an internecine party battle with Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher in next year's Democratic primary to determine which one can beat Rob Portman, the GOP's endorsed candidate to pick up where retiring two-term U.S. Senator George Voinovich left off.

But whether Garrison remains the front-runner for the job to be Ohio's chief elections official has yet to be seen, as rumors percolate that another viable Democratic alternative may yet appear, or that Brunner will decide, with considerable pressure from Gov. Ted Strickland, officials of the Ohio Democratic Party and political operatives from the White House who think she can do herself and Ohio Democrats a favor by rethinking her run for the Senate, to stand down against Fisher and run for a second term as SOS and a chance to reclaim control of the Ohio Apportionment Board and its powers to redrawing districts for the next decade.

Hoke on Ohio elections and Sen. Husted's run for SOS

In a statement emailed to this Examiner Tuesday, Hoke said, "All Ohioans should be legitimately concerned that the 2010 statewide ballot include qualified candidates who can and will represent Ohio citizens over partisan and special interests. I am deeply honored that proponents of fair and equitable elections have encouraged me to consider running for Secretary of State, but I believe that I can best serve my fellow citizens by continuing to work in other roles for fair, verifiably accurate, fiscally prudent, and proficiently conducted elections both here in Ohio and nationally."

Hoke, a national expert on elections and election security, said one of the "biggest threats to Ohio citizens’ interests comes from those who talk cynically and deceptively about achieving impartial and accountable elections and redistricting procedures" and proceeded to invoke the name of Republican nominee John Husted, who as Speaker of the Ohio House, she said "regularly tried to game Ohio’s elections systems for his party’s narrow political advantage."

"All Ohio voters — Democrats, Republicans, and independents — have a stake in honest elections and a redistricting process that is administered in a nonpartisan manner. Husted’s promises as a candidate for Secretary of State must be seen in the light of his past record. Voters and the media should look closely to determine whether the leopard’s new spots aren’t merely an election year paint job."

Follow me on Twitter @ohionewsbureau. Read more stories on people, politics and government in Ohio here.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ohio financial report warns Gov. Strickland pace of recovery will be slow

December 10, 11:42 PMColumbus Government ExaminerJohn Michael Spinelli

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- What has become a sobering dose of sour financial news assembled by the director of budget and management and sent to Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland each monthly, did not disappoint Thursday, as numbers contained in the report about declining jobs, the lengthening of time people are unemployed and shortfalls in various tax categories show the first-term governor that the pace of recovery will continue to be slow and underscore how bumpy his run for re-election next year will be.

Ohio, regional states out pace nation on job declines

J. Pari Sabety, Strickland's budget guru, issued a report showing Ohio's percent of job losses (-4.6%) outpaced that of the nation as a whole (-3.6%) but was reflective of job loss percentage for regional, neighboring states, like Michigan (6.4%), Indiana (5.2%), Kentucky (4.4%), Pennsylvania (-3.2%), West Virginia (2.9%). For all states outside the region, the decline was 3.9 percent.

National unemployment is now at 10 percent, but the loss of jobs at 11,000 is the best monthly showing since the economic downturn began in December of 2007.

Sabety's report said that "although we should be encouraged by recent signs and signals from leading indicators, the consensus among forecasters is that the pace of recovery will be slow."

In the broadest measure of unemployment, which includes marginally attached workers -- workers who are neither employed nor actively searching for a job but indicate that they would like to work -- and workers employed part-time because they cannot find a full time job, the report pegged this figure at 17.2 percent.

Further gloomy news on the jobs front said the median duration of unemployment increased to a new all time high of 20.1 week in October. From 1967-2007, that figure averaged just 7.1 weeks, and had never been higher than 12.3 weeks, recorded 1983. Moreover, the average duration of unemployment increased to a new all time high of 28.5 weeks.

Strickland stuck with defending big job loss numbers

The national loss of 41,000 manufacturing jobs lead other sector like trade, transportation and utilities and construction.

Ohio employment edged higher, the report said, with the addition of 1,499 jobs in October but still remains near it slow. For Strickland, a Democratic governor running for reelection next year against a Republican challenger who for the first time out polls him, the loss of of 243,200 jobs, or 4.6%, during the 12 months ending in October will be brought up time and time again as statistical proof Ohio can do better under a different leader.

Among the state's 11 metropolitan statistical areas year over year for October, only Sandusky added jobs (400). The losses for selected cities during the same timer period were Cleveland (-55,500), Cincinnati (-41,200), Columbus (-17,200), Toledo (-15,900), Dayton (-14,500), Akron (-14,300).

Don't count on consumer spending to rally recovery

At $25.1 million, or 2.2%, on the upside of estimates, last month's tax receipts were a plus but still close to expectations. Weakness in revenue from categories like the corporate franchise tax, non auto sales, public utility and kilowatt hour taxes were offset slightly by stronger than expected performance in the personal income and cigarette tax.

With the Christmas seasons bearing down on us, the label used in the report to describe expectations for shopping was "ominous," which supported the description of consumer attitudes as "mixed."

One way to look on the bright side of an otherwise gloomy report is to say that we're not flat on our backs anymore, but we have a long way to go before we can stand upright again.

One sign that consumers are mixed in their feelings is the realization that consumer installment credit outstanding decreased again in September and is down $125.7 billion, or 4.9 percent, from the July 2008 peak, a dive the report said is the largest decline since WWII in both dollar and percentage terms.

State to spend billions more from stimulus funds

As for receiving and spending stimulus dollars from Washington, of the $8.2 billion that Ohio is expected to receive during this three-year program, approximately $2.19 billion has been received, but only about a quarter, or $2.14 billion of it, has been expended.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Toll of Polls on Obama, Strickland show national, Ohio rating slides

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Candidate Barack Obama speaks to Ohio voters in Westervile
outside Columbus in 2008. (Photo/John Michael Spinelli

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Polls out Wednesday show President Barack Obama, who clinched his win of the White House last year when he carried Ohio, and Buckeye State Gov. Ted Strickland, who was elected to the top spot along with other Democrats who took back state offices in 2006, the popularity they once enjoyed has been short lived, as polling numbers released by both Quinnipiac University and Rasmussen Reports show.

Quinnipiac Poll shows cracks in Obama armor widening

The Quinnipiac Poll shows Obama has fallen in popularity with voters nationwide from a high of 59 percent in June to 46 percent today. The number of Americans who now disapproving of his job performance is 44 percent, two percent below those giving him a thumbs up, which it self is two percent below the 48 percent in November who were on his side.

Obama still has three more years to turn voters around enough to win a second term. The same is not true for Ohio Gov. Strickland, who is already gearing up for the bruising battle he'll have to wage with his endorsed GOP-rival, John Kasich.

Rasmussen report a cause for worry for Strickland

The numbers for that match-up contained in a poll released by Rasmussen Reports, show Strickland (pictured here at this year's Ohio State Fair), who won 61 percent of the vote in 2006 but who has struggled with a state on the rocks from a combination of revenue shortfalls, is now nine percent behind Kasich, whose campaign slogan is he is a "new way and a new day."

Leading up to their reporting, Rasmussen paints a partial picture of the state of the state in Ohio. Unemployment is at 10.5 percent, a budget hole of nearly $900 looms as Strickland and Senate Republicans Roman wrestle on how to close it and thousands of manufacturing and construction jobs continue to disappear each month.

With sentiment against deficit spending, and incumbents like Obama and Strickland who have few viable options to turn things around, as the former Congressman said he would do in 2006, and who say without government spending the abyss they say they see in the rear view mirrors would have swallowed them alive, the electoral climate for a candidate like Strickland could be very bad for his political health.

For Strickland, Rasmussen says he wins support from just 69 percent of the state’s Democratic voters and trails by 25 percentage points among voters not affiliated with either major party.

Adding to Strickland’s woes, they note, is a very public disagreement with the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus.

The Rasmussen Poll shows Strickland attracting only 71 percent (71%) of the black vote, and reports that only 13 percent (13%) of African-American voters say they will vote against the governor. Fifteen percent remain undecided in the poll. The polling group that poll watchers say leans more right than others, says it's likely that the Democratic candidate (Strickland) will "eventually win much better support from the black community statewide."

Forty-eight percent (48%) of all voters in the state still approve of the way Strickland is handling his job, while 50% disapprove. Those figures include 11% who Strongly Approve and 24% who Strongly Disapprove.

Obama's job approval rating continues to slide and it's evident the deterioration stems from voter unhappiness over domestic policy matters," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. He says that while the decline in Obama's overall approval in the last month has been small, with the exception of independent voters, who went from three points negative to 14 points. "If the trend continues, it won't be long before he (Obama) could be in the unenviable position of having more Americans disapprove than approve of his job performance."

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Monday, December 07, 2009

Ohio Gov. Strickland, rail bosses should read, heed Gravy Train report by public integrity group

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- When President Barack Obama announced earlier this year that he thought America should be able to build high speed trains like other transportation savvy countries have done, the frenzy to grab some of the $8 billion in federal stimulus funding he offered has created its own job market, one full of hungry lobbyists, new lobbying groups, vested interest consultants and planners who don't want to miss this funding train, even if the slow train to the past they're backing doesn't actually leave a station for years or maybe even decades to come.

Asking the question that begs asking, Matthew Lewis, writing for The Center for Public Integrity (CPI), posits that Washington's newest gravy train has already created nearly 1,800 interest groups who "want something" from a new transportation bill whose price tag of $50 billion is so awesome that while it presents a feeding opportunity for backers of status quo transportation, it may turn out that the rising tide of anti-debt sentiment may wash it away until another day and price point can be reached.

Lewis and CPI found that more than 50 public and private groups explicitly lobbied on high-speed rail policy last quarter, a three-fold increase from a year ago. Even that number, he says, fails to capture dozens of other "actors likely lobbying on high-speed rail that keep their specific lobbying targets as vague as Washington does its spending plans."

Making his case for too many projects chasing to few funds, Lewis reminds his readers that at least 34 states including Ohio submitted proposals valued at $57 billion chasing an initial $8 billion allocation. First round funding announcements are expected this winter or no later than spring, according to a rail expert at Parsons Brinckerhoff Ohio hired to help with $564 million quick-start plan submitted to the FRA in early October.

The 3-C Corridor plan, so called because it links Ohio's three major cities -- Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland -- may get off to a slow start despite the hoopla rail chiefs and their boosters are drumming up because, as a peripheral line to the Midwestern Hub system, other projects in other states are more important, at least during the first round of HSR funding.

With California and Florida asking for more than half the $8 billion, Ohio will be lucky to receive the $564 million it asked for. And even if it does, the little matter of maybe another $200 million more for Positive Train Control technology has to be dealt with, because when sharing a freight rail track, accidents do happen, as the fatal crash in Los Angeles showed the world. And Mr. Pasterak, the consultant from PB hired by Ohio rail bosses, said PST and its costs were not a part of the state's quick start proposal.

Notwithstanding what can only be viewed as an intentional oversight -- freight companies, who are mandated by the FRA to must have PST installed by the end of 2015 are looking to passenger rail systems like the 3-C to pay for it -- deliver of train sets anytime soon -- as soon as Gov. Strickland told Bloomberg TV last week, which is by 2011 -- could also throw the project off track.

Ohio rail chiefs have bet the passenger train ranch on taking delivery of train sets from a failed Colorado railroad car company, whose buyers of distressed companies want to move to a suburb of Columbus if millions in state and federal funding arrive to build a new facility on brownfield land that doesn't have a rail spur running to it. Some watchers have questioned why state forces are lining up behind this land when other, better venues exist in other parts of the state.

Should the 3-C line lumber forward, its conventional train technology -- despite using a dual mode diesel engine -- will still produce a train whose average speed will be a turtle-paced 39 mph, a speed maybe not to different from the speed of the first train to run the 3-C route in 1852, two years after trains were introduced in the Buckeye State. The 3-C corridor, which hasn't seen a passenger train run it since 1972, is about 255 miles in length.

Buckeye rail bosses have beat the drum for this slow, expensive train, that even if its built, based on its projected schedule of runs, will strand riders starting in Cincinnati or Cleveland in another city, mostly likely Columbus, it's too slow to do a roundtrip in the same day. State rail bosses and their consultants admit that a full-route one-way journey will take about six and one-half hours.

Good trip to download War and Peace to your Kindle.

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