It is extremely disheartening to open up the newspaper or listen to local radio every morning, and discover a whole new set of problems that have to be dealt with. I used to have full faith in our government officials, but I am beginning to wonder whether the people we elect are up to the task of finding solutions to a new era of challenges.
It took a story, several letters to the editor, more than a few website comments, and solutions from the community in order for our safety director to discover where all the sandbags were hiding. If you are a new administration, and you know there is a history of flooding in the city, and you just went through this a year ago...wouldn't you know where sandbags are, or at a minimum, HOW TO GET THEM!?!
Instead of playing the blame game, just admit that you weren't prepared and you messed up. It is funny how there was 'no money' to purchase any, but after the city was lambasted by the public, a requisition was set for exactly this purpose? I respect people who learn from their mistakes and make things better...but stop trying to spin everything in your favor and blame others (including the 'bloggers') for your woes.
The State of the City? I have no idea. Bad? It is extremely difficult for me to get away from the office in order to go to The Elks for a meeting, so I have to rely on local media for what happened. But why? Where is the text/audio/video of the speech? I have searched our city website, and do not see the first mention of it.
Come to think of it, where is video of the city council meetings? At least they are televised; it's not that difficult to create a video file that someone can at least download to view at a later time. Someone could follow the example of the county commissioners and put their minutespresentations nothing online.
But I digress - where was I? Oh yes...people in over their head...
I am sure that the mayor, city directors and county commissioners are all great people who have the best of intentions and want to do what is right. It just seems, however, that there has been no substantial action taken by these administrators (or council) over the past year. When the mayor was elected, what were the two biggest issues...and how are things being taken care of now...
Flooding? Another group led by Tony Iriti has taken the point on this.
Downtown improvement? Businesses decided to do this on their own and formed an organization.
Economic problems the concern? That's easy - eliminate the out-of-town tax credit and float the idea of raising the city income tax. The county commissioners are not immune from this disease. Forget to bill someone? Blame it on others. Have a tax levy coming up? Scare voters by saying explain that services are going to have to be cut by 1520 25 percent. Even the President, whose rode into office on a wave of optimism and hope, has some wondering whether he has what it takes.
The solution? Oh my, I don't know...who am I to suggest anything?
If I could offer a humble opinion, however, there is one point I would like to suggest:
Do not leave it up to local media to get your point across, and do not think that a presentation at the monthly Republican luncheon is adequate. You have a telephone...you have a website...you have the availability to use the community access channel on TV...you have all the technology in the world at your disposal to put information out there, so why aren't you doing this?
Where are the minutes from all the meetings? Where are all the committee reports? Annual reports...budget information...resource allocation...where is everything at that the community can review to see that resources are down and we need a new tax levy?
Where is a blog with the latest on the flooding information? Where is the web-cam with a live look at the Blanchard? Where is the interactive map showing areas flooded and streets closed?
I understand that local media has quite a bit of information online, but they are not a part of our government. They can be a resource at our disposal, but they are not the source of the information that we need. There are quite a few individuals in the community who can advise you on what is available and how to do it. You need some assistance getting things up and running? Just ask. We're waiting.
I read an article in Politico about a new danger in politics: participation. With the amount of interest in the Presidential election, and the amount of new/renewed voters that flocked to the campaigns, it seems strange that this could be perceived as a negative.
Last year, we saw how specific groups were energized: African-Americans were excited over Obama, women were excited over Clinton, and younger voters seemed to finally step-up and participate at a rate greater than they have in the past. This is great news! The more that people are part of the process, and can find their voice (and someone that represents them), the more they become invested in the decisions that affect them - - how is this a bad thing?
The problem with participating and wanting your voice heard, according to Politico, is that sometimes the media will latch onto a story and turn everyday citizens into a major figure. Remember Joe the plumber? This guy was caught on tape questioning Obama, and before you know it, not only is he (and his life) the focus of the media, but he became part of the political process.
Despite the drawbacks (people looking into his life, the government investigating his taxes, etc.), he at least stood up for something that he believed in and made sure his voice was heard. It is disheartening to me that we do not see individuals in Findlay stepping up in a similar fashion.
The filing deadline for the primary election was this past Thursday, and the only race that will have a contested election this May will be for municipal court judge. Every city council seat is up for election, and there will be no contested races until November. Why is this?!?
It seems to me that there are always letters to the editor complaining about something that the city administration are doing. There have been a few editorials that question certain actions. There is no shortage of comments on bulletin boards and blogs; comments that offer a variety of opinion, complaints and solutions regarding the issues our city faces.
Where is the new blood, the next generation of leaders, ready to stand up and make a difference? It seems that for every seat where someone is not seeking re-election, there is a former official ready to step in. Instead of looking to the past for representation, where are the people with the new and exciting ideas?
You may think I am picking on local Republicans, and you may be correct. That is only because the local Democrats can only seem to get one or two people to run in a given year. It would seem to me that the local Dems would be energized by Obama's election and try to get someone to run for every office this year. Even though Findlay is historically Republican, and the likelihood of a Democratic candidate winning may be minute, you can't win if you do not suit up.
Political partisanship is a good thing. Democrats and Republicans, running against each other, sharing their views, presenting their ideas, providing the community with a genuine debate of the issues and moderating a discussion of the way we should set sail...these are all good things and should be encouraged.
It is common for individuals to complain that government fails them and is not looking out for their interests. When the community does not stand up and vote them out...or even worse, no individuals come forward and offer to run against an incumbent...then who is failing who? It goes both ways.
The next deadline coming up is the day before the May primary. This is when independents need to have their petitions turned in to the board of election; if they want to be on the ballot in November, they need to get their paperwork turned in. If you're not sure how to start, contact the local board or the Ohio Secretary of State.
I hope that some of you have the courage of your convictions, and are willing to have your voices heard. If nothing else, a spirited and public airing of issues and solutions is important, not only for the spirit of democracy, but for the future of our wonderful community. Seize the opportunity to make a difference.
Didn't we have an election last November? I thought we already went through the primary/general election season and elected Barack Obama. With all the campaign rhetoric I heard last night, Obama has either started his re-election campaign or it hasn't hit him yet that he is President.
I am being too harsh...let's start out positive. According to CNN, President Bush did not have his first press conference until October 2001. Perhaps Obama's pledge of a transparent, open government is actually happening. 13 questions later...and what felt like an hour for each answer...a few of his responses intrigue me.
When asked about the lack of bipartisanship, the President answered "They (the American People) understand that there have been a lot of bad habits built up here in Washington and it's going to take time to break down some of those bad habits".
This is exactly right. IF there is going to be a change in the way things are done in Washington, there are a lot of bad habits that need to be broken...by both Congress AND the White House.
These are serious times, times that require serious leaders providing effective solutions. The problem is that political gamesmanship often trumps doing the right thing. Does anything think that all the House Republicans voted against the stimulus bill because it was bad or looked at as ineffective? No way...it was political posturing, and the start of the Republican counter-offensive of 'small government'.
With a few of the questions being about the economy, the President wanted to get into few specifics, instead pointing out that today's plan roll out by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner would answer all their questions.
Perhaps it was a good thing that we didn't know anything last night. Take a look at these headlines
Stocks Decline, Treasuries Gain on Skepticism Over Bank Rescue - Bloomberg
Administration Officials Met With Laughter At Bailout Briefing - Huffington Post
There were two problems with this: 1) No one who watched last night's press conference was going to tune in today, and 2) the people watching (and assembled press) deserved a preview of what was to come. Everyone knows the recovery is not going to be easy, but for goodness sake, don't treat us like children.
I am reserving comment about the stimulus package until the final bill reaches the President's desk and we know what is going to be in it. From what we know, however, infrastructure/construction are going to be on their way up, and that is a good thing.
Placing work orders that build new schools, roads, bridges, clinics, etc...not only are we going to benefit from having the new structures, but this will put Americans back to work. If we are going to throw money at the problem, we might as well try to get a 2-fer out of this.
Creating new jobs to construct new buildings, which will need people to work in them...do you see how this trickles down (uh oh...better not use that phrase). Do you see how this can snowball into something bigger? I'm not an economist, but I see the logic in this process. It is so....uhmmmm, Reagan-esque (create opportunities for people to start small businesses, they get wealthy and hire others...and the cycle continues).
When asked what metric Americans should use to gauge whether Obama's plans are working, he had a three-part answer
"I think my initial measure of success is creating or saving 4 million jobs"
"Are we seeing the credit markets operate effectively"
"Have we stabilized the housing market"
You are going to hear A LOT about part one. Remember, it is 4 million SAVED or new jobs. Does that mean this is a success if 4 million more people do not wind up unemployed? Is it half-and-half? This may not mean much now, but is was always specific when referring to this. Remember this when he is running again - it is easier to take credit for saving a job (how do you measure that by the way) instead of creating new jobs).
All I am trying to say, for now, is give the plan a chance. We are in the position where SOMETHING has to be done. The votes are in place for bill to pass, and it is going to pass. All the President is trying to do at this point is build momentum (and, I know, strengthen his power for future fights with Republicans). If this doesn't work, we'll know who to hold accountable.
A few other highlights from the press conference
Helen Thomas from UPI doesn't get to ask the first question, and when she does get called on, asks about safe havens for "so-called terrorists" - at least Obama was smart enough to call them terrorists
Obama side-stepped the question about allowing pool footage of American coffins returning home - we'll see what the DOD says to the President and find out if it was really a political issue, or one of common sense and decency
The reporter from Fox News...seated all the way in the back corner of the room - you almost needed a set of binoculars to see him
In a sign of the time, The Huffington Post (whose reporter was near the front) got to ask a question at the press conference - their question? The possibility of prosecuting members of the Bush Administration
With the Huffington Post getting to ask a question, this signals that the Internet, and bloggers, are going to play a little larger role in the coverage of this administration; not that broadcast, cable and print media are not important, it is just nice to see this medium respected
I hope you all enjoyed the press conference (transcript and video). How did President Obama do? Leave a comment and vote in the poll to the right.
Earlier today, Governor Ted Strickland delivered his State of the State address. Going back and reading his address, I discovered a few interesting bits of information:
High school students are taking their first college classes at no cost to their families with the Seniors to Sophomores program
Under the Ohio G.I. Promise program, Ohio became the first state to offer veterans from across the country the opportunity to attend any public college or university without having to pay tuition
Ohio has the largest energy efficient school building program in the nation
Just from these three facts, can you tell what a majority of this address was about? It seemed that almost half of the speech was regarding education; whether it was where we were, or where we are going, Strickland laid out several specific plans about what he wants to see happen.
"For the last two years, Ohio was the only state in the nation with no tuition increase at our public institutions. At our community colleges and regional campuses we will maintain that tuition freeze for the next two years. For our main university campuses, we will ask that they continue to freeze tuition in 2010, and keep any tuition increase to no more than 3.5 percent in 2011."
I wish these next two were in place for my children, but better late than never...
"We will end the outdated practice of giving our most impressionable students only a half-day of learning. Ohio will now require universal all-day kindergarten."
"Over a 10-year period we will add 20 instructional days to the school calendar, bringing Ohio’s learning year up to the international average of 200 days."
Personally, I would like to see year-round education. A month off in the summer and one for winter break would provide more than an adequate vacation, and the increased instructional time, if used wisely, would help our students remain competitive with the peers from other countries.
There has been a lot of resistance from the National Education Association when it comes to government regulation. It will interesting to see how the OEA responds to these two statements from Strickland...
"Just as future doctors begin their careers under the watchful eye of an experienced colleague, we will give our new teachers the benefit of thoughtful guidance from an accomplished senior teacher. After a four-year residency, successful candidates will earn their professional teaching license."
"Let me say that not everyone is cut out to be a teacher. And the residency program will identify them. But even for teachers already in the field, we must have the ability to remove them from the classroom if their students are not learning. Right now, it’s harder to dismiss a teacher than any other public employee. Under my plan, we will give administrators the power to dismiss teachers for good cause, the same standard applied to other public employees."
I am glad that he is willing to say that paradigms need to change for the better. An underlying theme stressed that we need to approach education differently than we have in the past. It is refreshing to see that our Governor is willing to recognize that learning processes might need to be changed for a new millennium.
While ambitious, Strickland did little to explain how any new educational initiatives would be funded. All of this is going to cost a little bit of money, and Ohio is still recovering from issues of how to provide equal resources for all students.
"Under my plan, the state will no longer ask school districts to pay their bills with phantom dollars. Instead, my plan lowers what our local taxpayers are expected to contribute to local schools from 23 mills to 20 mills. The state will assume responsibility for providing the difference between what those 20 mills raise and the cost of the full range of educational resources our students need according to our evidence-based approach."
"In the upcoming two-year budget, even with grave economic challenges facing Ohio and the nation, my plan will take the state’s share of education funding to 55 percent. As our Ohio evidence-based plan is fully phased in, the state’s share will grow to an unprecedented 59 percent."
Besides education, Strickland addressed the issue of health care for all...
"We have finally gained federal approval to offer coverage to Ohio children from families with incomes up to 300 percent of the poverty line. With funding provided in this budget, we will soon be able to say that health care coverage is available to every child in Ohio."
"At the same time, we are taking innovative steps to expand health care access for adult Ohioans. Ohioans with employer-provided insurance will be able to buy coverage for their dependents up to the age of 29. Small business employees who lose their jobs will be able to purchase continuation coverage for up to 12 months. We will reform the open enrollment program to provide more affordable options for people who have pre-existing health conditions. And, we will allow more uninsured workers to purchase health care coverage with pre-tax dollars."
Every speech has a few items in it that may seem like throw-aways, but I only came across one that still has me scratching my head. While I was attending Xavier, and in recent years reading the Cincinnati Enquirer, light-rail seemed to be mentioned once a year, but the funding (and public support) never materialized.
"We will work toward the restoration of passenger rail service between Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. Our goal is to link Ohio’s three largest cities by passenger rail for the first time in 40 years. This will be a first step toward a rail system that links neighborhoods within a city, and cities within our state."
I'm not saying it will never happen (or shouldn't), but with budget concerns, I do not see how we could support the millions (billions?) that would be needed. Speaking of the budget, Strickland was pessimistic realistic about Ohio's financial standing...
For the first time since the personal income tax was enacted in Ohio, we are projecting a three-year decline in income tax revenue.
For the first time since 1950, we are projecting a two-year decline in sales tax revenue.
We have balanced the budget with a wide range of measures.
We call for many program reductions of 10 to 20 percent.
We will leverage existing resources and one-time cash transfers.
We will increase various state agency fees, fines, and penalties.
We will modify our Medicaid policies to manage our costs and to take advantage of funds available in the forthcoming federal stimulus package.
In all, we have reduced spending by $3.2 billion from 2009 planning levels.
It is too early to know how much money Ohio will receive from the federal stimulus package, so it is a little irresponsible to plan on the monies to help fund these new programs. Strickland has started his next political campaign, and it seemed like the tone (and promises) of this address were built upon that foundation.
Overall, I was impressed with the educational initiatives, but other areas (including job creation) were very lacking. When it comes to dealing with losses of jobs and revenue, we have seen that no one knows exactly how to proceed. As long as things do not get any worse, that should be considered great progress. Any reasonable success, and Strickland should count on four more years in office.
Watching the inauguration and activities today, a few things came to mind...
We truly live in a great country. Whether you supported President Obama or not during the election, not only is today an opportunity to celebrate this historic occasion...it is an opportunity to celebrate America. An inauguration reminds me of New Years Eve; as the clock strikes the appropriate hour, the past year is washed away, and the new year is a blank slate, offering us whatever we make of it.
Today affords us the luxury to reflect on where we have been for the past eight years. We have been through horrific struggles: terrorism, mother nature, war, global economic meltdown. Seeing a new President, even if for a moment, we look to the future and have hope that things will get better. It is idealistic and patriotic, but if there ever was a day for such thoughts, this is it.
It may be cliche, but think about what happened today. The most powerful position in the world, and everything that goes with it, was peacefully handed over from one person to another. There will be no war in the streets, there was no coup, there was no military dictator seizing the reigns of power. It is probably amazing to individuals in other countries that such a civil transition can take place. Our free and open elections are the foundation of our democracy, and something we should not take for granted.
The tenor of this inauguration is almost completely opposite of how things were four and eight years ago. 2001 came after a contentious and drawn-out election, while 2005 happened after another close election and people upset that we were still in Iraq. Instead of themes encompassing hope and change, the stories were about deep divisions around the country, protesters along the parade route and a sense of politics as usual.
Even though it may be fabricated by the media (or at a minimum, hyperbole), the attitude and feeling surrounding the new administration is totally positive. Things will certainly change with the day-to-day grind of governing, but for today, anything seems possible. Obama is a symbol of hope and opportunity, not only for African-Americans, but for a country and world eager to put the past behind us.
Giving credit where it is due, I have given Obama his props for past speeches. When he clinched the nomination, and when he accepted the nomination, were two of the best political speeches I have ever heard. My expectations were high for the inaugural, and I will admit that I was a little disappointed.
I guess I should not have been surprised. Instead of the soaring rhetoric from the campaign trail, what we heard was a sobering account of the difficulties we are experiencing and the sacrifices we will be called upon to make. Obama made the point of saying we needed to grow (up), and perhaps this was the speech that showed his maturation from candidate to leader.
There are many people better than I who can provide more insightful analysis of what Obama meant. The slaps at Bush policy and actions, the strong language to those who believe our defenses would somehow be lowered, the recognition that there are more than Christians living in the U.S. - there was a little bit for everyone who was listening for it.
Watching the speech live, I wasn't sure there were many specifics. After going back and reading it, Obama outlined several things he wants us to assist with. "We will..."
ACT, not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth
BUILD the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together
RESTORE science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost
HARNESS the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories
TRANSFORM our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age
NOT give them up (ideal of rule and law) for expedience's sake
BEGIN to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan
WORK tirelessly (with old friends and former foes) to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet
NOT APOLOGIZE for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense
DEFEAT you (those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents
EXTEND a hand if you (those who cling to power through corruption and deceit) are willing to unclench your fist
There's a lot of stuff tucked in there, policy and projects...lots of projects. And that is going to mean that he needs a lot of money to accomplish these things. One of President Obama's challenges is going to be how to deliver a huge stimulus package (estimates are $1 trillion) a tax-cut for low/middle-income, and yet have money in the budget to pay for infrastructure, alternative energy, bolster Medicare/Medicaid and get money back into our public schools. If he able to accomplish that, it will rival (and should surpass) the results of the 'New Deal'.
Despite the hard work that is before us, this evening is a time for celebration. A celebration by Obama supporters that their candidate won and is now President. A celebration by African-Americans that a barrier was broken and a dream fulfilled. A celebration by Democrats that they are now in power again. A celebration by our country of a new President and this special time in our history. Tomorrow, it is time to get to work and to start the next chapter of our history.