Friday, November 18, 2011

What to Read Today has Moved!

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rick Perry: Going Big, Not Going Home

Two weeks ago nearly everyone had written off Rick Perry. His poor debate performances and embarrassing gaffes had made even his most ardent supporters avert their eyes. But then Herman Cain began to self-destruct and while the media and pundits were busy with the postmortem examination of the Cain campaign, the Perry camp was busy finding a way to get back in the game.

Fortuitously (or perhaps providentially), Perry had hired members of FL Gov. Rick Scott's media team just a couple weeks before the disastrous Michigan debate. It was very clear that from the minute Perry uttered the now infamous "oops" his team was in full damage-control mode. It was almost as if Perry had been prepped on how to respond in the event a gaffe occurred (which isn't a bad strategy for any candidate in such a high-stakes game). Most people agree that the aftermath of Perry's brain freeze was handled as well as it could have been. He faced it head on and tore the bandage off with a smile and the right mix of self-deprecating humor and Obama bashing.

Of course, lost in all of this mess was Perry's bold flat tax proposal, which has received some pretty high marks and because it is optional, would actually have a chance of winning bipartisan support sometime this decade. He saw Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan and raised ante by proposing a similar plan without the sales tax that most people disliked about Cain's plan. It's been endorsed by Mr. Flat Tax himself, Steve Forbes and has been praised by many other conservatives.

Now, he's raised the ante again by threatening to blow up the D.C. Beltway Bureaucracy. It's a desperate move, to be sure. It won't win him any friends in the D.C. cocktail party circuit - Karl Rove and Company must certainly be burning up their smart phones threatening to ruin the careers of anyone who's considering sending money to Perry. Perry said this in his "Uproot and Overhaul Washington" speech in Iowa on Tuesday:

"It is time to tear down the monuments to bureaucratic failure, and in their place build a smaller, more efficient federal government that puts the American People first. The Washington Insiders won’t address Beltway decay, they won’t try a totally new way, because they like things as they are. The lobbyists make their living on protecting corporate loopholes, and securing earmarks for the special interests they represent. The status quo is good to the Washington Insiders. It’s good to the overpaid bureaucrats. It’s good for the power-players who can trade favors to build fiefdoms of influence. While the rest of America remains mired in the ruin caused by Washington’s out-of–touch, big government economic policies, Washington is doing fine. In fact, the Washington metro area is now the most affluent metropolitan area in the country. That’s because all the lobbyists, contractors and over-paid czars and bureaucrats haven’t suffered one bit in the worst economy in 70 years. While Main Street’s windows have been boarded up, the cash continues to flow to Wall Street financiers and Beltway profiteers."
[Ouch...this is probably very awkward for Newt]

In addition, he wants to limit the terms of federal judges, make congress a part-time job and cut salaries and budgets, privatize the TSA and Freddie and Fannie, and get rid of the czars and several federal agencies, including, of course, the Department of Energy. He will defund Planned Parenthood and also vows he "will fight in every corner of this country for a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution."

If you read the transcript of the speech and pictured it being delivered by Reagan or even Marco Rubio you'd probably stand up and salute and cheer. Or at least give a mini fist pump while sitting on the couch with laptop. This is exactly the message we conservatives want to hear:

"The issue this election is not whether Washington is broken, but how we go about fixing it. There are two approaches, and even my own party is split. There are some who want to tinker with the status quo. They want to work within the current system to achieve marginal change. Then there are those who believe, as I do, that Washington is too broken to be fixed by tinkering on the margins. I do not believe Washington needs a new coat of paint, it needs a complete overhaul. We need to uproot, tear down and rebuild Washington, D.C. and our federal institutions."

But was delivered by Rick Perry. We hold our breath when he opens his mouth because we're not sure what...if going to come out.

But then again, he's been delivering strong performances on radio and TV. He's warm, authentic, and likable in those formats and contrary to the debate performances, he appears to be knowledgeable and competent. And as Aaron Gardner pointed out yesterday, he's going after Obama in an excellent new ad running in Iowa.

This brings us back around to Perry's media team, which is sinking $1 million into a national ad campaign on Fox News. In addition to the "That's Pathetic" ad, they've been running a very effective "I'm a doer, not a talker" ad:

"If you're looking for a slick politician or a guy with great teleprompter skills, we already have that--and he's destroying our economy. I'm a doer, not a talker. In Texas, we created 40% of the new jobs in the entire country since June of 2009, and we cut a record $15 billion from our state budget. Now they say we can't do that in Washington. Well, they're wrong, and they need to go."
It's running up to ten times a day and, combined with the populist message of the ad calling Obama's laziness comment "pathetic" and saying his policies are "socialist," it's a very effective campaign. There's another ad in the series, this one focusing on Congressional insider trading:

All of this adds up to a candidate who is still in the game. Perry's poll numbers are still tanking but this race has been like the weather in Ohio: if you don't like it, wait an hour and it will change. Newt is the flavor of the week, but his many years on the payroll of Freddie Mac will hurt his poll numbers and certainly his credibility when criticizing the black holes of Fannie and Freddie. I have serious doubts that he will survive the onslaught of ethics questions, let alone the longstanding moral questions. This will leave an opening for Perry to claw his way back into the race.

Of course we're all are thinking ahead to a debate between Obama and Perry and we're cringing. Visions of 5-point plans that suddenly turn into 2-point plans and that awkward moment when Perry realizes he has too many fingers on his left hand. But there's also the possibility of a debate between a straight-talker and an elitist Ivy League demagogue. Results vs. Rhetoric. Perry could even use a Reagan-style "There you go again" line effectively against Obama's predictable talking points. I'm not saying Perry could "win" a debate against Obama in the technical sense, just saying it might not be a total disaster.

I'm not at the point of being a Perry supporter, but I like him a lot better this week than I did two weeks ago. He has proven that he can put together a quality team and manage a crisis effectively. (The fact that the crisis was self-imposed is, of course, a serious concern.) More important, of all the candidates, he has put forth some of the boldest proposals we've seen for reform of the tax code and the way things are done in Washington. That at least, affords him a second look.

Cross-posted at Red State

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Newt's Solyndra

Obama's Blueprint for a Clean Energy Future:
"Maintaining our leadership in research and development is critical to winning the future and deploying innovative technologies that will create quality jobs and move towards clean energy economy that reduces our reliance on oil. But as we aspire to achieve new breakthroughs – a battery that will take a car 300 miles on a single charge or a way to turn sunlight into fuel like gasoline, we area already beginning to see how our investments in the future are changing the game today. Through the Recovery Act, the Administration has invested in a host of clean energy programs and ultimately supported thousands of projects across the country targeted at the demonstration of clean energy projects in every state."
 Newt's 21st Century Contract with America:
"Today, we are on the cusp of an explosion of new science that will create new opportunities in health, agriculture, energy, and materials technology.Breakthroughs in brain science, in particular, will open up enormous opportunities for cures and treatments for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, mental illness and learning disabilities. The question in the twenty-first century is whether we reform our system so we can educate, regulate, and invest in a way that allows us to continue to be at the forefront of innovation....
 "...Furthermore, government agencies such as the National Institutes for Heath have the opportunity to use scientific research funding today in a way that will avert massive costs and human suffering in the future.
"As Americans now live longer than ever, one of the greatest fiscal threats in health is the rising cost of treating Alzheimer’s patients. The current estimate is that the combined public and private cost of Alzheimer’s between today to 2050 will be $20 trillion. That is one and a half times the current total federal debt. But a smart emphasis on brain science and innovation today can change this projection for the better..
"...While this topic may initially seem unusual in a proposed 21st Century Contract with America, I look forward to laying out my case of why I believe that brain science will soon be a major part of planning for better health and longer lives with greater independence and lower costs to the federal and state governments. It will also be an area in which American leadership could lead to an enormous number of new American jobs providing services for the entire world."
Stimulus for green jobs to solve the energy crisis, stimulus for healthcare jobs to solve the Alzheimer's crisis. Six of one, half dozen of the other. 

The former Speaker has a habit of picking favored projects for incentives. 

The Club for Growth's Presidential White Paper on Gingrich documents his accomplishments as a solid conservative but also notes his penchant for big government meddling when it seems to be politically expedient or it benefits one of his pet projects. They conclude: 

"Unfortunately, the problems in Speaker Gingrich’s record are frequent enough and serious enough to give pause. On two of the most important recent issues that confronted limited government conservatives (creating the new budget busting Medicare drug entitlement, and the Wall Street bailout), Gingrich was on the wrong side. His advocacy of an individual health care mandate is problematic. His penchant for tinkering with rewards for favored industries and outcomes shows a troubling willingness to use federal power to coerce taxpayers into his preferred direction. And his occasional hostility toward conservatives who do not share his desire to support liberal Republicans or to compromise on matters of principle is worrisome."
While Newt has apparently repented of his romp on the couch with Princess Nancy, there are plenty of other issues he's been on the wrong side of, some of them recently. Though he's not the flip-flopper Romney is, Gingrich is not exactly the model of consistency. He preaches smaller government while promoting big government programs that he personally approves up. He talks a good game and debates well, but we must understand that his inconsistency points to a philosophy rooted in compromise and political expediency. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Blame Conservatives for Ohio's Issue 2 Loss

"The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections." Lord Acton - The History of Freedom in Antiquity, 1877
Much ink and bandwith has been spilled analyzing the reasons Ohio's collective bargaining reform law, Issue 2, failed to survive Tuesday's referendum.  Many suspect it was the millions of dollars poured into the anti-Issue 2 campaign by the out-of-state Big Labor groups and the blatantly deceptive ads that ran constantly on radio and TV stations across the state. Those were certainly major factors in the outcome. Some say that Governor Kasich and the Republican legislature overreached by including police and firefighters - that they should have been exempted from the reforms because they gave opponents ammunition for the aforementioned despicable ads that implied that police and firefighters would be in danger as would everyone else in Ohio. Again, that was a factor in the outcome. 

But the real reason Issue 2 went down on Tuesday is that conservatives voted against it. Tea Party members, fiscal conservatives, social conservatives - conservatives of every stripe in Ohio  voted save their "benefits" and the "benefits" of their union friends and relatives.  

The Ohio Constitution has an unfortunate provision that allows citizens to both amend the constitution and to call for a referendum to stop a new law from taking effect - a citizen's veto. While all this "We the People" language sounds good on paper, the reality is that it shifts the power to make laws from the legislature to special interest groups and uninformed citizens, most of whom don't bother to actually read the laws, let alone understand the implications of them. It has the effect of turning the state into a direct democracy.

When SB5 became law, Big Labor immediately went to work to gather enough signatures to put a referendum on the ballot so Ohio voters would have the opportunity to veto the legislation that the duly elected state legislature had passed and the duly elected governor had signed into law. From there, it was just a matter of convincing enough people that this new law would cost them money and cost their beloved "public servants" money. 

I began to see the trajectory this past spring when a teacher told me she had signed the petition to put SB5 on the ballot. She said they had passed it around at school  and "everyone" had signed it.  This was a conservative teacher from a conservative school in a district where most people would never dream of voting for a Democrat. As we headed into fall I began to see the anti-Issue 2 signs springing up amid the falling leaves in the yards of union members in our small town.  This is a town where it's rare to see a Democrat on the Village Council or school board and 56% voted for Governor Kasich. Hardly blue country, but the township voted down the collective bargaining reforms 61-39%.  These same voters (65% of them) overwhelmingly said they wanted Ohio to be protected from Obamacare. Again, hardly blue country. 

The unpleasant truth is that union members- conservative union members - voted with their pocketbooks. They saw (or most likely heard from their union bosses) that SB5 would cost them money and they voted to preserve the status quo. Their friends and family members also voted in solidarity with them. It's quite an easy thing to say we're Tea Party members and believe that we're 'Taxed Enough Already,'  but when it becomes personal and we're forced to have some skin in the game, how many of us would give up part of our paycheck or some of our benefits to help our state's bottom line? 

Issue 2 could not have passed without strong support from Republicans and conservatives. The state's 300,000 public employees (and 655,000 union members overall) barely made a dent in the 2 million votes against the measure.  Consider that more Ohioans voted against Issue 2 than voted for Governor Kasich (1,889,186) or Governor Strickland (1,812,052) in the last election.  

This was a big test for the conservative movement and Tea Party values and I'm disappointed to say we failed miserably.  As much as I dislike the direct democracy component of the Ohio Constitution, it does give us some insight into whether conservatives will put their money where their mouth is.  Human nature is such that men and women will, if given the opportunity, vote against measures that hit them in the pocketbook. Never mind that eventually, all Ohio taxpayers - union and non-union alike - will be paying for these gold-plated benefits for generations to come. At least those Akron public employees still don't have to pay anything for their pensions and healthcare this year. 

All of us who call ourselves conservatives need to do some soul searching in the wake of this huge loss in Ohio. While most of us in the private sector have had to deal with austerity measures in the workplace, for the most part, it hasn't been voluntary. We need to ask ourselves if we're willing to have skin in the game to help our country (or our state or our city) begin to dig out from the overwhelming burden of debt we find ourselves in. 

Or is the modern conservative movement merely slogans and academic discussion? 

Cross-posted at RedState

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ohio Issue 2 - A Proper Redress (Part 3)

[Read Part 1 to see the reasons I believe the reforms in Issue 2 are needed]

[Read Part 2 to see how SB 5 affects safety forces]

In this post I'd like to discuss how Senate Bill 5 (SB 5) if enacted, will affect teachers. As I said in my previous post, there has been tremendous pressure to "support teachers," with the implication that a YES vote on Issue 2 is analogous to disrespecting teachers or being ungrateful for the work they do. In reality, the opposite is true.

SB 5 will affect teachers in significant ways and it's understandable that they would be concerned. In Part 1 of this series, I explained the new requirements for health care (15%) and pension (10%) contributions. For many teachers, this won't be a change at all, since they're already paying these amounts or more. 

The other game-changer in this piece of legislation is the elimination of automatic step-increases for public employees. Instead, they will be evaluated and paid, in part, based upon their performance.  Nearly everyone in the private sector earns raises based upon performance and they're permitted to continue on the job based upon performance. For public employees in Ohio, there are currently step charts dictating exactly how much each employee makes based upon things like length of service and education level. So each year, they receive a predictable raise, whether or not they have performed well.  Good teachers are paid exactly the same as bad teachers. Layoffs are made based only upon seniority. 

In the new system, teachers would be evaluated and compensated based upon the following:
Sec. 3317.13 (B) Each teacher shall be paid a salary based upon performance as described in this section: 
(C) For purposes of this section, a board shall measure a teacher's performance by considering all of the following:
(1) The level of license issued under section 3319.22 of the Revised Code that the teacher holds;
(2) Whether the teacher is a "highly qualified teacher" as defined in section 3319.074 of the Revised Code; 
(3) The value-added measure the board uses to determine the performance of the students assigned to the teacher's classroom; 
(4) The results of the teacher's performance evaluations conducted under section 3319.111 of the Revised Code or any peer review program created by an agreement entered into by a board of education and representatives of teachers employed by that board; 
(5) Any other criteria established by the board
Here's a video that describes how such a multi-faceted system works in the D.C. school system:

See Part 2 and Part 3.

School boards would use evaluations to make decisions about compensation, nonrenewal of employment contracts, termination, layoffs, and professional development.

The first thing to understand is that no salaries are changed by this law and teachers will still be negotiating wages through collective bargaining. The big change is that teachers will no longer be awarded raises just for showing up to work for another year. 

There will be a model assessment framework created by the Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) and the State Board of Education (SBE). This will be an open and transparent process as SBE meetings are open to the public and all proceedings are subject to Ohio's Sunshine Laws.  Local school boards may use the SBE's model assessment or create their own, based upon the requirements of SB 5. 

Each board, in consultation with teachers, will create an evaluation system that:

(1) Is evidence-based and uses multiple measures of a teacher's use of knowledge and skills and of students' academic progress;
(2) Is aligned with the standards for teachers adopted under section 3319.61 of the Revised Code;
(3) Provides statements of expectation for professional performance and establishes specific criteria of expected job performance in the areas of responsibility assigned to the teacher.
(4) Requires observation of the teacher being evaluated by the person conducting the evaluation on at least two occasions for not less than thirty minutes on each occasion;
(5) Requires that each teacher be provided with a written report of the results of the teacher's evaluation that includes specific recommendations
Each teacher will be evaluated on the following, once each year in April:

The framework shall require at least fifty per cent of each evaluation to be based on measures of student academic growth specified by the department of education. When applicable to a teacher, those measures shall include student performance on the assessments prescribed under sections 3301.0710 and 3301.0712 of the Revised Code and the value-added progress dimension prescribed by section 3302.021 of the Revised Code.
(1) Quality of instructional practice, which may be determined by announced and unannounced classroom observations and examinations of samples of work, such as lesson plans or assessments designed by theteacher;
(2) Communication and professionalism, including how well the teacher interacts with students, parents, other school employees, and members of thecommunity.
(3) Parent and student satisfaction, which may be  measured by surveys,questionnaires, or other forms of soliciting feedback.
Those of you who work in the private sector will likely read these requirements and find them familiar; this is how the majority of workers in Ohio are evaluated for raises and promotions. They certainly don't seem unreasonable. Those of us with children in the public schools would like to know our children's teachers are on the job because they are competent teachers, not merely because they have a degree and a teaching license. 

It's important to understand that "student performance on assessments" is only used as an evaluation method "when applicable." So, for example, it would not be part of the art teacher's evaluation because there is no current achievement test for art. The same for kindergarten. However, there would still be a requirement to measure "student growth" with a "value-added" dimension. For those not familiar with education lingo, this means that rather than a pass/fail system on mandated tests or assessments, the student's growth from year to year is the measure of success.  Who could argue with that?

Here's my take: If you're a good teacher, you're already doing all of this and you have nothing to fear from these reforms. If you're a great teacher, you may even be better-compensated for your efforts. If you're terrified that this new law will punish you in some way, then a little soul-searching is in order. Perhaps you're the reason we need performance pay.

There are a couple other items that might be of interest to teachers (and those who care about them).  The first is the provision that continuing contracts (tenure) will be retained for those who have already attained that status (ORC 3319.1). However, going forward, this will be eliminated. 

The other is a new provision that will ban forced fair share dues to unions. If teachers (or other public employee at a union-represented workplace) decides that they don't want to continue to fund the Ohio Education Association's liberal political agenda - namely funding the Ohio Democratic Party - they can now opt out without being forced to pay fair share dues. 

In most cases, paying fair share dues is the same as paying union does. In either case, the employee still receives union representation in contract negotiations. See here for an example of the differences.  The union bosses hate, hate, hate this provision because they know many people aren't thrilled about about its leaders, who pull in six-figure salaries and run an organization rampant with waste, fraud, and abuse. They know that if given the opportunity, union members will bolt and the money will dry up. But it's great news if you're a conservative teacher and you're tired of being shaken-down for union or fair share dues.

I realize this is a tough sell to teachers. I've heard stories of young teachers who have been pressured at work to sign the petitions and work for a NO on Issue 2. I also realize there's a conflict for some between an ideology of fiscal conservatism and a need to provide for one's own family. In a sense, this is where the rubber meets the road.

If you are a teacher, please understand that we don't all think you're greedy or that you've single-handedly bankrupted the state. We appreciate what you do for our kids. But also please understand that these adjustments you are being asked to make are the same ones we in the private sector have been making for years. Our family's health insurance costs have skyrocketed in recent years to $700/month. 

A couple years ago, Sherwin-Williams, where my husband works, cut back their contribution to his 401K from 6% to 3% due to the economic downturn. While we were disappointed by the reduction, we were glad that it wasn't a layoff notice and glad the company is fiscally responsible - that they haven't had to make layoffs when many other companies have (they reinstated the the full contribution this year).  For that matter, we're grateful that they contribute anything at all.  Many private sector employees don't have retirement funds at all and, like my mother-in-law, will depend entirely on a meager Social Security check in retirement. 

I hope teachers and those who want to support them will consider voting YES on Issue 2. In addition to giving school districts tools to control their budgets and help avert layoffs, it will help to keep and reward the best teachers, which is best for the kids. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ohio Issue 2 - A Proper Redress (Part 2)

BLOG UPDATE:  I've re-decorated and re-named my blog. I've also moved it. See here for the details.  I'll continue to post at both blogs for a short time, but I'd appreciate it if you'd follow me over to the new place and update your subscriptions and feeds.


[Part 1 - Why reforms are needed]
[Part 3 - Teachers]

If you live in Ohio, you know about Issue 2, which is a referendum to stop the union/public employment reforms enacted by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Kasich. The airwaves have been filled with emotional ads featuring teachers, firefighters, nurses, paramedics, and police officers. 

Unfortunately, much of the rhetoric has seemed personal. If you say you are voting YES on Issue 2 (voting for the reforms), you're told you are trying to "destroy the middle class" (even if you are middle class yourself), you want to put safety forces in danger, and you want to see your child's teacher unemployed (and poor). It's no wonder there are very few Yes on 2 signs in Ohio yards. Who would want to admit to all that? 

To ramp up the emotional blackmail appeal, the AFL-CIO is now running ads with firefighters who served our country as soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In one ad, a Columbus firefighter and war veteran says:
"I never expected to have to fight our own government… to have a voice in my own safety and work conditions."
From the AFL-CIO blog:
“We didn’t expect this kind of homecoming when we came back,” says Columbus fire fighter David Jarvis, who served in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and served in Operation Desert Storm during the first Gulf War."
The claim that public employees will not have a "voice in their own safety and work conditions" has been repeated throughout the campaign and I suspect it will convince a lot of people to vote to strike down the reforms in SB5. We've been told that not only will police and firefighters be in danger, but our own families will be as well.  One radio ad featured a 911 call with the dispatcher telling a frightened family with a robber in their home that the police wouldn't arrive for 20 minutes because they were short staffed.  Listeners were told this is what we should expect if Issue 2 passes. 

But is it true?

The answer depends upon which question you're asking. Let's try to unravel a few of them.

First, let me take a minute to explain exactly what Senate Bill 5 (SB 5) is. Many of its opponents have claimed that it's 300 pages long and very confusing.  The Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio said, "This 300 page bill is very complicated and proposes to make numerous, substantial and interrelated changes in the law." That's a half-truth, at best. 

The introduction to SB 5 says, 
"AN ACT To amend sections [then it lists dozens of sections] of the Revised Code to make various changes to laws concerning public employees, including collective bargaining, salary schedules and compensation, layoff procedures, and leave."
The vast majority of the 300 pages of this Act, which became a Bill (SB 5) and then became a law (remember School House Rock? I'm Just a Bill?), are sections of the Revised Code that have remained unchanged. The entire text of each section that has even one word changed must be included, which means that a LOT of ink is spilled when ever there is a new law passed!  Here's an example:

(C) Unless a public employer specifically agrees otherwise in an express written provision of a collective bargaining agreement, nothing in Chapter 4117. of the Revised Code impairs the right and responsibility of each public employer to:
(1) Determine matters of inherent managerial policy which include, but
are not limited to areas of discretion or policy such as the functions and
programs of the public employer, standards of services, its overall budget,
utilization of technology, and organizational structure;
(2) Direct, supervise, evaluate, or hire employees;
(3) Maintain and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of
governmental operations;
(4) Determine the overall methods, process, means, or personnel by
which governmental operations are to be conducted;
(5) Suspend, discipline, demote, or discharge for just cause, or lay off,
transfer, assign, schedule, promote, or retain employees;
(6) Determine the adequacy of the work force;
(7) Determine the overall mission of the employer as a unit of
(8) Effectively manage the work force;
(9) Take actions to carry out the mission of the public employer as a
governmental unit Hire, discharge, transfer, suspend, or discipline
(2) Determine the number of persons required to be employed or laid
(3) Determine the qualifications of employees;
(4) Determine the starting and quitting time and the number of hours to
be worked by its employees;
(5) Make any and all reasonable rules and regulations;
(6) Determine the work assignments of its employees;
(7) Determine the basis for selection, retention, and promotion of
Wherever something is crossed out, it means something has been removed from existing law. When something is underlined, it has been added. Text with no markings is current law that remains unchanged. If you take a minute to skim through the new law, you'll see that the majority of it remains unchanged. Opponents of SB 5 would have us believe that the Republicans add 300 pages of new laws. That's simply not true.

Now back to the issue of safety forces. At issue is this:
(B) The following subjects are not appropriate subjects for collective
(5) The number of employees required to be on duty or employed in any
department, division, or facility of a public employer
 (F) Notwithstanding division (C) of this section, equipment issues
directly related to personal safety are subject to collective bargaining.
If you've been following along, you noted that this is underlined, so it's been added to existing law.  So it's true that public employees will not be allowed to collectively bargain for staffing levels.  However, claims that it would be "illegal" for public employees to talk to their employers about staffing levels are merely hyperbole. No firefighters or teachers will be thrown in jail for expressing their opinions about staffing levels and exercising their First Amendment rights. The new law just says that it can't be a subject of the "official" collective bargaining process. 

Note also that safety forces can collectively bargain for safety equipment. This is a new right that they did not have before SB5.  Apparently the unions are not telling their members this, because I've seen comments all over the blogs saying they will not have this right if SB5 is enacted. 

However, the more important question is whether that will make them (and us) less safe. Since individual police officers, firefighters and paramedics won't be deciding on staffing levels, it will be left to the discretion of management - that means fire and police chiefs. Of course, they will have to work within the budget dictated by the local government unit, but why wouldn't they be competent to make intelligent, informed decisions about staffing levels? They have years of experience in their areas of expertise and are well-qualified for this task. 

Opponents of Issue 2 would have us believe that miserly city councils and township trustees would immediately slash budgets and cut safety forces down to skeleton crews in order to build new dog parks.  What motive they supposedly have for putting their constituents and their own families in danger, I do not know. 

The truth is, there is not an unlimited pot of money from which to pay safety forces, though Ohio governments have lived in that fantasy land for many years now. In the past, when unions would show up at the bargaining table to demand more, more, more, an impasse could result in binding arbitration, where the recommendation (and mandate) might be for the city to borrow money to meet the demands.  SB 5 gives local governments tools to control their budgets including controlling staffing levels, eliminating binding arbitration, and requiring public employees to pay minimal amounts toward their health care and pensions. 

The result of not enacting these reforms is the real danger. With bloated budgets and unsustainable projected deficits in cities across the country, layoffs will be necessary. That is a far more serious concern than trusting fire chiefs and police chiefs to decide staffing levels based on actual, realistic budgets. The money pot has run out and cities need these tools to keep us safe and to keep us from fiscal disasters. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

This Blog is on the Move!

When I first decided to start a blog, I had in mind a certain format and certain ideas that I thought would fill the space here. As I began to write and opine, the blog evolved into something quite different than I imagined it would be. I originally thought the blog would be snippets of daily news items with my brief commentaries. "What to Read Today" suited that format, but as time went on, I began to find my own voice and realized I enjoyed writing original pieces, mostly on political issues. Recently I've been feeling like the current format doesn't match the current content. So I've renamed the blog and given it a face lift. Introducing....

The name is taken from a quote by President Reagan who said in a speech toCPAC in 1975:
"Our people look for a cause to believe in. Is it a third party we need, or is it a new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people?..."
"...A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers. 
 "I do not believe I have proposed anything that is contrary to what has been considered Republican principle. It is at the same time the very basis of conservatism. It is time to reassert that principle and raise it to full view. And if there are those who cannot subscribe to these principles, then let them go their way."
Bold Colors. Reasserting the principles of conservatism. And hopefully, unmistakably clear!

In order to do this, I've had to move the blog to another blogger site.  If you're a subscriber by email, Google Reader, RSS, or carrier pigeon, I would appreciate it if you'd follow me over to the new location.  I'll post at both locations for a few weeks.  

Thanks for reading...