Friday, April 03, 2009

Political Infighting Stalling Cuyahoga County Reform, There's A Shock!

The Plain Dealer has a story up today about how political infighting is stalling proposals to reform Cuyahoga County government.

Well, there’s a freaking shock.

Apparently, there are two competing proposals for county government reform, but both have the broad outlines of creating a system of government similar to the one in neighboring Summit County. That is, replacement of the county board of commissioners with a county executive elected countywide and a county council, and replacement of many elected county officials into fewer officials with more responsibility plus more appointed officers. The two competing proposals seem to have their largest difference in the number of members the county council would have. In the proposal pushed by Parma Heights Mayor Martin Zanotti, the county council would have between 7 and 9 members, whereas in a competing proposal pushed by Prosecutor Bill Mason, it would be more like 13 members.

One of the things I simply can’t understand about the situation is that apparently, the minority community is opposed to the reform, because fewer elected officials means fewer chances for minorities to get into elected office. Sorry, but first, that’s not a good enough reason to keep superfluous officials around who are paid, and their staffs paid, with taxpayer dollars that could be better spent and second, it seems to me that the best way to create more elected offices is to grow Cuyahoga County’s population, thus creating more state representative, state senate, and congressional offices to run for. Cuyahoga County’s loss of nearly 110,000 residents since the 2000 census means the loss of an entire state representative district, which also, by the way, means sharing a state senate district with another county instead of having it entirely within Cuyahoga.

County government reform is past due. Summit County’s model works. Let’s do it.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

By all means, let's keep cutting mental health funding...

Okay, I understand that tough choices have to be made in tight economic times, but when you cut the funding of those most prepared to help people cope, bad stuff happens.

Drug overdoses kill more Ohioans than car wrecks
Thursday, April 2, 2009 2:17 PM

A new killer has quietly replaced traffic crashes as the No. 1 cause of accidental death in Ohio.

Unintentional poisoning deaths - nearly all of them drug overdoses - eclipsed traffic fatalities in both 2006 and 2007, the Ohio Department of Health reported. Numbers have not been released for last year. Overdose deaths shot up 249 percent between 1999 and 2007. An average of three people now die each day in Ohio of drug overdoses.
The state agency calls it an epidemic. In addition, heroin and synthetic opiates such as OxyContin have now replaced cocaine as the second-tier "drug of choice" among those seeking rehabilitation, treatment agencies are reporting. They rank behind only alcohol.

Officials gathered at a Statehouse news conference today said they are alarmed by both trends, given the backdrop of state budget cutbacks for drug-, alcohol- and mental-health treatment programs. "We have a serious problem with opiate addiction," said Joe Trolian, executive director of the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Richland County.

"This is not just down-and-out people from the wrong side of town. This is high-school students that died in the family recreation room, athletes who thought they could take just one more pill, older adults who mix drugs and alcohol."
Cheri L. Walter, chief executive officer of the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities, said that as funding evaporates, only those patients who qualify for Medicaid are certain to be served.

"Many Ohio counties have no funds left over to provide services to middle- or lower-income families who have minimal or no health-care benefits."
The Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services has $38 million in state money, twice as much as when it was created 20 years ago. However, it is treating 100,000 people instead of 40,000.

The Hardest Job in the Circus... cleaning up after the elephants. From Newsweek :
It is hard to overestimate the damage that the Bush administration did to America's historic Western alliance. Former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld's offhand dismissal of "Old Europe," as against the new states of Central Europe, set the tone. Rumsfeld later said he'd mangled his text; and in another circumstance the European allies might have accepted that. But Rumsfeld's misspeaking, if that is what it was, points to the real damage. At its root, the Europeans believe they were systematically brushed aside—even lied to. At the depth of the Iraq debacle, one senior adviser at No. 10 Downing Street exclaimed: "We've been betrayed by a bunch of incompetents in Washington." Tony Blair, Brown's predecessor and that official's admired boss, was effectively destroyed by his support of W. The same adviser is now in Britain's Washington embassy. Does anyone believe he has forgotten what prompted his outburst?
The perception of betrayal goes far wider than rigged intelligence estimates and unfounded optimism about Iraq. On issue after issue (Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Guantánamo, Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations), the current cadre of European leaders and officials believe the Bush White House failed to consult them; worse, it did not level with them about its real goals. And, more alarming still, it simply had no idea what it was getting into. The economic meltdown—which all Europeans see as originating in a massive failure by a corrupted U.S. system of government to sensibly regulate Wall Street—is merely, for Europe's leaders, final proof that the Washington they respected and, ultimately, trusted through the Cold War years is no more.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Congratulations John Boehner! Tonight's Worst Person in the World!

For being tonight's Worst Person in the World!

Here's (Slick) Jonny!

State Sen. Jon "Slick Jonny" Husted is expected to announce his candidacy for Secretary of State tomorrow at a 10 AM press conference at Ohio GOP headquarters tomorrow. Hilarous that this story hit the street on April Fools' Day.

What NY-20 Result Means: Status Quo Ante

Last night I participated in a live blog over at BSB of the results from the New York 20th Congressional District special election. The special election was necessitated by New York Gov. David Patterson's choice of its former representative, Kirsten Gillibrand, to fill the Senate vacancy left when Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State.

The district's PVI rating is R+3, so it is GOP leaning. And, as Nate Silver points out in this excellent post , a GOP leaning district in a Democratic leaning moment in the political cycle equals tossup. And that's exactly what we got. Democratic candidate Scott Murphy finished the evening with a 65 vote lead over the GOP's candidate, state assemblyman Jim Tedisco. Over 10,000 absentee ballots were issued in this race and so far according to an AP wire story last night over 6,000 have been received, and overseas absentee ballots will continue to be accepted until April 13th. In other words, this race will not be decided soon.

What does that mean? Well, both parties were ready and willing to spin a victory by their candidate in this race. The GOP was especially hopeful, as they had already started to pre-spin that a win by their candidate would be "evidence" that the country was "rejecting" the Obama stimulus package. Dems would have done some further tap dancing on the "grave" of the GOP.

What does the essential tie mean? It means status quo ante. Nobody gets to spin anything, and the race is an anti-climax that won't be decided for months. In other words, I should have gone to the bar last night :)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Live Blogging NY-20

I'm participating in a live blog of the NY-20 results over at BSB.

A Great Way to Lower Health Care Costs

I just wanted to pass along this great article from the Washington Post about one Pennsylvania health care system that has found a way to lower the costs of bypass surgery by about 15 percent while improving patient outcomes. And, much to the GOP's disappointment, it has nothing to do with trial lawyers:

You could think of them as the Maytag repairmen of health care.

In an industry that makes its money by selling more -- more tests, more surgeries, more drugs -- Geisinger Health System officials gambled three years ago that they could succeed by doing less, but doing it better.

Mimicking the appliance company that advertised its products' reliability, the health system devised a 90-day warranty on elective heart surgery, promising to get it right the first time, for a flat fee. If complications arise or the patient returns to the hospital, Geisinger bears the additional cost.

The venture has paid off. Heart patients have fared measurably better, and the health system has cut its bypass surgery costs by 15 percent. Today, Geisinger has extended the program to half a dozen other procedures, and initiatives such as the counterintuitive experiment in Pennsylvania coal country are now at the heart of efforts in Washington to refashion how care is delivered across the United States.

Though not identified by name, the Geisinger model tracks closely with the policy goals of President Obama. A key target is to reduce expensive errors, duplication, and unnecessary procedures that do nothing to improve health and may actually result in worse outcomes.

Monday, March 30, 2009

EFCA Reality Check

As the lobbying battle over the Employee Free Choice Act heats up, the MSM is starting to take notice. The Plain Dealer had a feature story on it today that contains some facts that should service as kryptonite to the super misleading arguments of the GOP (emphasis mine):

The Employee Free Choice Act would allow unions to be recognized if a majority of workers sign union cards, and it would remove employers' current right to demand that workers instead hold a secret-ballot election to ratify a union.

Richard Hurd, a professor of labor studies at Cornell University, said the current secret-ballot elections allow employers to campaign against the union in the workplace but shut organizers out of that venue.

Hurd likened it to a political election in which "one candidate could present his view anytime he wants, and the people have to sit there and listen to him. The other candidate could only get his view across if he is able to track down people and talk to them on their free time."

Hurd said employees are fired in at least one of every five organizing campaigns and that companies found guilty of firing workers for union activity only have to pay them back wages, minus whatever the employees made at their new jobs. The Employee Free Choice Act would require guilty employers to pay illegally fired workers triple their lost salaries, as well as civil penalties of up to $20,000 per violation.

Even when unions win an election to organize, getting the first contract can be difficult. Hurd said only 40 percent of companies in which employees vote for unions get collective-bargaining agreements. The proposed law would give employers and workers 120 days to reach a contract before a federal arbitrator stepped in to set terms.
Everyone got that? The EFCA will not remove WORKER's rights to a secret ballot. They can still request one. The only change is that EMPLOYERS cannot demand a secret ballot if a majority of their employee have signed cards, as they can now. This is needed because employers can use the run up to an election to campaign against the union on company time, and indiscriminately fire any union sympathizers in their employ.

Lord knows the GOP will do anything to keep the status quo, under which we had corporate profits make up the largest share of GDP than at any time since the 1920's before this current recession hit. It's time for some of that GDP to go to the workers who make those corporate profits possible, and the EFCA will provide the tools needed to do so.

OH-17: How Much Of A Battle Should There Be Over a Two Year Gig?

As I said last week, if the 2010 reapportionment were performed based on 2007 census estimates, the Ohio 17th would be the 432nd seat awarded in Congress. Meaning, that unless Ohio starts gaining population at a rapid clip between now and April 1, 2010, the Ohio 17th will almost certainly be gone when the reapportionment is done, reducing Ohio to 16 congressional seats and 18 electoral votes.
Today's report on The Fix that Tim Ryan will leave the Ohio 17th behind and instead be Ted Strickland's running mate in 2010, thus becoming the front runner for the Democratic nomination in 2014 left me thinking this: how much of a battle should their really be over a two year gig?
The Ohio 17th will almost certainly be eliminated when Ohio's new congressional map takes effect in 2012. This super democratic district (Ohio's second most heavily Democratic after the Ohio 11th) was drawn combining Akron and Youngstown together for the sole purpose of making the neighboring 14th district GOP leaning enough for Steve "Mr. Sphincter" LaTourette to hang onto his seat. 
Since Ohio Democrats most likely will not be completely shut out of the process of drawing congressional districts as they were in 2001, chances are pretty good that a more rational alignment will take place. Even so, with John Boicceri, Zack Space, and Charlie Wilson, it would appear that there could be more Democratic congressmen then seats available in eastern Ohio. I'm sure that this figured in Tim Ryan's decision to bolt the House. 
Given that fact, however, how much of a battle should their really be for a seat that is all but certain to be elimnated in 2012? How many dollars should be spent in a Democratic primary for a two year gig? My answer is: not that many. And we as a party had better think rationally on this one. 2010 is going to be a tough election year, we'll have a knock-down, drag-out primary for the U.S. Senate and possibly Secretary of State. We don't need another in this safe-for-Democrats but endangered congressional district.

There's A New Sheriff In Town

The Plain Dealer is reporting that new interim Cuyahoga County sheriff Frank Bova is cleaning house by immediately banning sheriff's employees from any sort of political activity during business hours, including lunch hours.

Among the more interesting items in the article, Sheriff Bova states that former sheriff Gerald McFaul who resigned last week left behind "30 bottles of liquor" in the Sheriff's office. "It is being returned to him," Bova said. "It is his personal property."

The Fix: Ryan Will Be Strickland's Running Mate in 2010

As much chatter as I've heard about this, I still haven't believed it. Until Now.

Ryan for (Lt.) Gov: Youthful Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan (he's 35) will announce that he is running for lieutenant governor later this week, according to two sources familiar with the decision. The LG's office is being vacated by Lee Fisher who is one of several candidates running for the seat of retiring Sen. George Voinovich (R) in 2010. Ryan would presumably run as the hand-picked choice of Gov. Ted Strickland and, if the ticket is elected in 2010, would be the obvious favorite to replace the term-limited incumbent in 2014. Ryan's departure will create an open seat in the House where state Senate Minority Leader Capri Cafaro would be an early favorite.

Wow. So Tim Ryan appears poised to give up Ohio's 2nd most heavily Democratic congressional seat in order to be Ted Strickland's running mate in 2010, thus making him the leading Democratic candidate for governor in 2014.
I would just have to caution, however, that Capri Cafaro will have quite a fight on her hands for this seat. You'll have mayors and county commissioners from all four counties in this district gunning for it. One who is probably loading up his weaponry right now: State Sen. Tom Sawyer, who spent 16 years in Congress until his seat was redistricted out from under him in 2002.