Wednesday, June 9, 2010

TEA Patriots June 8

Guests for the evening were Darke County Clerk of Courts and Republican Party Chair Cindy Pike, and Darke County Engineer and Democratic Party Chair Jim Surber. The topic requested was socialism and the U.S. Both speakers came well prepared.
Cindy did a great job of defining socialism and its history in America. Simply put, it is an economic and political theory based upon public ownership of production and allocation of resources (according to need). After telling the group that there wasn’t a single thing Cindy said that he disagreed with, Jim went a step further.
He pinpointed the role of government in various areas: police, fire, roads… you get the drift. His point? As a Republic (not a democracy) government has specific roles in our lives and while many may disagree on the extent of that role (and its cost), it isn’t socialism.
Then I had to open my mouth. I made the comment that more than 50 percent of Americans are now receiving a check or some form of subsidy from the federal government, so how do we turn it around? Jim agreed and began to expand on it…
That was where the discussion got lively.
Among the various “subsidies” listed, Jim mentioned Social Security. Many in the group were retired and receiving Social Security (including me). What didn’t come out was that contribution to the system was mandated by the feds with repayment promised in our golden years. It was a promise that must be kept.
What didn’t come out was that like most federal programs, it was short-sighted and handled inefficiently. Not only have S.S. dollars been thrown into the pot with all other government funds, no allowance has been made for the fact that we are growing older (and drawing out more money than we put in) than when the program was established almost a century ago.
It was a good meeting… you should have been there. Next meeting is 6 p.m. June 22 at the Lighthouse.
The following was a report written for the June 8 T.E.A. Patriots meeting on our Darke County Commissioners. It wasn’t given verbally due to time constraints but has since been sent to all members with email.

Items of interest

Commissioners recently approved putting out bids on the demolition of all buildings behind the courthouse except the Law Library. They anticipate starting the gravel parking lot this summer and wrapping it up by fall. Because some of the funding will come from a state grant, it has to be gravel for a minimum of six months. Commissioners say there won’t be a problem with city ordinance because it will only be temporary, that the job will be finished the following summer.
Grant will be a little over $200,000. The balance of the cost, which could be as much as $100,000, will come from Capital Improvement.
The county CAD system has been down for several weeks. It’s outdated and can’t be repaired. Replacement will run about $310,000. While the commissioners say that emergency services have not been – and will not be – impacted, paperwork is getting bogged down and some lost service enhancements have been challenging.
Commissioners are seeking grants to at least partially fund the replacement, but so far little luck. Once all options have been followed, a portion or all of the replacement will come from Capital Improvement.
The Capital Improvement fund currently stands at about $800,000. These two projects alone could deplete half of it. Funds have already been designated for bathroom improvements in the basement of the courthouse. Nothing has been said about the funding sources to finish the parking lot next summer.
What I haven’t had a chance to find out is if any money from either this budget or next year’s has been earmarked for Capital Improvement.
Commissioner Delaplane reported at a different meeting Thursday morning that they are working on next year’s budget and they anticipate that funding will probably be flatlined next year for the various agencies. She also noted that auto sales were up slightly, which will be good for the county’s sales tax revenues.


One of the things that anyone who has sat through a public meeting has noticed is that all we hear is action that has often already been discussed and resolved ahead of time. If it was new to the commissioners, it was usually something basic like an expense request or a routine action or series of actions required to move money from one line item to another. I’ve been attending meetings for years, twice a week for more than a year, and have yet to see a vote that wasn’t unanimous.
I asked about that once and was told that they often disagreed… I have yet to see it. If they did so, it was at a meeting other than the publicly advertised ones.
Three people can’t possibly agree on every single issue. Discussion occurs, sometimes maybe even heated discussion. Ohio’s Sunshine Law says these should be public discussions, yet we are not aware of them.
As I understand it, all public meetings are supposedly posted on a bulletin board in a hallway in the back of the building, but I haven’t verified the accuracy of that statement. And, at least in my opinion, it’s irrelevant. It simply isn’t sufficient.
At a recent meeting, we talked about occasional evening meetings so that those who worked or had other business during the day could attend. The commissioners noted that it would entail extra expense because of the employees that would be required to be present. I don’t agree… there are options like an occasional split shifts or staggered hours. Businesses do it; so can our public employees.
However, that’s only a partial solution. Mike Stegall, the Republican candidate for commissioner, said he would be writing columns – probably monthly – and would be discussing commissioner activities on Community Ties and other venues. This is a start, but it still doesn’t allow for questions or open dialog. Regular updates on the web site were discussed at one meeting, but it hasn’t happened yet.
There has to be a way of convincing our commissioners that they need to be more open. Frankly, I can’t do it alone. David Self can’t do it alone. The only way it is going to happen is if a significant number of people indicate they want to know what’s going on. That’s us. All of us.
With only a few exceptions that I can remember over the years, I don’t believe there is any attempt to hide information, except of course what is discussed in executive session. I just don’t believe there is an urgency to explore better methods of communication because they don’t think the voters care.
We need to find out what the various candidates feel about communication. I was the only one who made it an issue. Stegall recently wrote that he thought the commissioners were doing a good job of communicating, probably for the reason noted above. I don’t agree, but if there is no interest from the public, then he – and they – may be right.

1 comment:

Kathy Beam said...

Bob, I find that interesting that they feel the voters don't CARE.. I think they have that backwards... I beleive the voters did care - they put them in office. As for having meetings in the evening - ABSOLUTELY! The general public cannot attend during the day. Bogus - that they need extra staff.. we pay them an extreme salary for part time work - they go to all kinds of events in the evenings and weekends - they need to make some changes or the VOTERS WILL!