Letter to the Editor - Money and Politics

Columbus Dispatch
June 19, 2013

Defending his vote against universal background checks for gun purchases, Senator Rob Portman is quoted in today’s Dispatch, (6/19, page A15), saying “We want to do things that are actually going to help.”

The obvious question is: “Help who?”

According to the organization ‘Mayors Against Illegal Guns’ Senator Portman received $1,314,279 in campaign donations from the gun manufacturers.  Certainly his vote helped them.

Call for Health Care Stories

The Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") is still being rolled out. As more people gain access to health insurance and health care improves, UAPA would like to gather stories about how you or your family have benefited.

Have you been able to get insurance when you previously were unable because of a preexisting condition? Were you able to keep your 23- or 24-year-old son or daughter on your policy?

‘Mercy Killers’: Living Without Health Insurance

Mercy Killers logoOur American system of health care is put under a dramatic spotlight in a new play having a three-week run in Columbus.

They Deserve a Vote! Take Action!

Who will forget that moment during President Obama’s State of the Union when his voice rang out, over and over: “They deserve a vote. They deserve a vote. They deserve a vote.” Now it is time for our progressive voices to ring out. Here is how you can join in the righteous chorusMoms Demand Action group with signs:

The Cost of Care

This was originally posted on our website in 2010, but it is worth reminding ourselves that we are being overcharged for our healthcare. The Affordable Care Act begins to address this and that is one reason why the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects lower deficits over the next few years.

From National Geographic:

Blackwater Founder Implicated in Murder

bBy Jeremy Scahill, The Nation.

Posted August 4, 2009.

A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company's owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company.

The former employee also alleges that Prince "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," and that Prince's companies "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life."

In their testimony, both men also allege that Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq. One of the men alleges that Prince turned a profit by transporting "illegal" or "unlawful" weapons into the country on Prince's private planes. They also charge that Prince and other Blackwater executives destroyed incriminating videos, emails and other documents and have intentionally deceived the US State Department and other federal agencies. The identities of the two individuals were sealed out of concerns for their safety.

Read the rest of the story here.



Brunner answers questions

Q&A from UA Progressive Action Event

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner spoke to a crowd of interested and informed voters April 30, 2009, at the Plumbers and Pipefitters Hall in Columbus.

Interest in Brunner and her office was very lively, and she could not answer all questions in the time allotted. She graciously took several unaswered questions and sent thoughtful and complete replies. Upper Arlington Progressive Action appreciates the effort it took her to do so.

Q1) Representatives from our immigrant communities have said that there were many
difficulties in their inability to read ballots. What are some solutions?

A1) Federal rules around printing ballots in languages other than English state that a certain percentage of voters within a jurisdiction must use that language as a primary language before local election officials are required to provide such ballots. Currently there are no jurisdictions in Ohio that meet that percentage. That fact may change after the 2010 census.

Registered voters are allowed to ask for assistance from trusted friends and family members for a number of reasons while casting a ballot. Assistance in translating languages is one of those reasons, as long as the individual offering assistance does not try to influence how a registered voter votes at the time of casting the ballot. The Secretary of State’s office has made a commitment to providing voter education materials to all communities and is producing a piece that will be translated into non-English versions.

Q2) Ohio election rights activists have reported that ballots from the 2004 election were to be
saved as evidence have been destroyed. Do you know about this? Can anything be done
about it?

A2) The question you raise is one of the subjects of an on-going federal court case, King Lincoln Bronzeville Neighborhood Association v. Blackwell. Due to the fact that the litigation is still pending, this office is limited in terms of how we can respond. In September of 2006, the court ordered each of Ohio’s 88 county Boards of Elections to preserve all ballots from the 2004 Presidential election. When the current Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, took office she recognized that the preservation of that much material was, due to space limitations, very burdensome on the individual county boards of elections. Therefore, the court granted the Secretary’s request to take custody of the ballots in April of 2007. Since that time Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner’s office has meticulously retained all of the ballots in a secure, climate-controlled environment.

Q3) With the overall budget crunch affecting Ohio state government, how is the Secretary of
State’s office dealing with this?

A3) The Secretary of State’s office depends upon the state’s General Revenue Fund (GRF) for about 13% of its overall budget. The balance comes primarily from Business Services filing fees and federal funds from the Help America Vote Act of 2002. During the current fiscal year (FY 2009), the SOS has voluntarily reduced its GRF budget four times - when most other stateagency budgets were also cut.

Our GRF spending for the new two year budget period is expected to continue at that lower level. The agency is reviewing all its expenses and will live within that lower level of spending. We will do our part to manage operations with less dollars
while still maintaining excellent services for the citizens and businesses that we serve. The Secretary of State’s office also believes in the importance of partnerships not only as a good practice, but also in terms of resource sharing. For example, our Voting Rights Institute partners with some of the best and brightest advocates and academics that volunteer their
time to work with the office on key projects and on the VRI Advisory Council. Additionally, our office sought out and has been awarded grant dollars for several projects.

Q4) Do you believe that a move of Election Day from Tuesday to Saturday would be advisable for general elections?

A4) In 1845, Congress established voting day to be the first Tuesday of November to accommodate both farmers because of its agrarian society and those needing to travel to cast a ballot (severe winter storms were not yet prevalent in most of the country) and to bring uniformity to the voting process, as some states had voted earlier, while others voting later. Although minimal statistical data has been presented to show voter turnout increasing or decreasing with a change of Election Day, with the widespread use of early and “no fault” absentee voting, a change in date may have little impact on voter turnout. Federal legislation has been introduced which includes this measure.

Q5) During the terms of your two predecessors as SOS, the Business Services section was not well-regarded by business attorneys. What changes have you made that improved the perations of the Business Services section?

A5) Numerous changes have been made in the Business Services section since the beginning of Secretary Brunner’s administration. Some of the most notable include bringing the Client Services Center into the Columbus-based office which has significantly reduced the processing time for all business filings, the opening of a Cleveland Regional Office which in-part offers business filings, and a relinquishing of a dependence on outside vendors for items now handled in-house.

Q6) Database on Quality of Life: Will it show by area or county or city and compare with other states or nationally?

A6) The Quality of Life database has indicators by the state and county level. The website is interactive, in that you will be able to examine the indicators by maps, charts and graphs, and spreadsheet formats. At this time, we do not have reliable indicators for all cities across Ohio, but at the release of Census 2010, Ohio Secretary of State will be able to integrate city and metropolitan information to the website. Further, we have not integrated national or other state indicators in the database.

Q7) How do you guard against college students voting in the campus city and at home?

A7) When we receive questions from college or university administrators or students about where they can or cannot register, we always point out that students may choose their residence for voter registration based upon their current school address or a previous address (most typically with parents or guardians), but not both.

County Boards of Elections communicate with one another to determine when an Ohio voter has moved and changed a residence address for voting purposes, regardless of the reason for that change of address. Any attempt by any Ohio voter to maintain a registration at two different locations in Ohio and vote in both those locations could potentially open up that voter to penalties associated with any pending charges. Our office takes any attempted voter registration or voter fraud very seriously, regardless of student or non-student status.

We make every attempt to inform Ohio voters of the rules around voter registration and participation so that any irregularities, whether intentional or not, may be avoided.

Q8) What is the case against Election Day registration? Why don’t all states have it?

A8) Some of the arguments against Election Day Registration in the United States include an increased possibility of voter fraud, a cost burden on local elections officials to hire additional workers on Election Day to accommodate extra paperwork, and the possibility of longer lines due to voter registration at polling locations. These arguments also each make the case that any of these possible circumstances could decrease voters’ trust of the integrity of election systems.

Some states, such as Minnesota, have Election Day Registration. Most states do not. The decision for each state rests with changing state election law and therefore takes action on the part of a state legislature to change such laws. Currently there is no federal mandate for all states to have Election Day Registration.

Q9) I heard early voting people did not need to show photo I.D. If that was the case, why?

A9) Under Ohio law, no one is required to provide photo identification in order to vote. However, everyone must provide some form of identification in order to have his or her ballot counted. The General Assembly enacted into law the rules governing what kind of identification must be provided when voting in person or absentee.

An elector who chooses to vote at the polls on Election Day, must prove his or her identity by providing any one of the following: his or her current and valid Ohio driver's license; his or her current and valid photo identification card issued by the State of Ohio or the United States government; his or her military identification; an original or copy of a current utility bill; an original or copy of a current bank statement; an original or copy of a current paycheck; an original or copy of a current government check; or an original or copy of some other current government document. Poll workers are required to accept any of the above forms of identification under section 3505.18 of the Ohio Revised Code.

An elector who chooses to vote absentee, either by mail or in-person, must prove his or her identity by providing any one of the following: his or her Ohio driver's license number; the last four digits of his or her Social Security number; a copy of his or her current and valid Ohio driver's license; a copy of his or her photo identification card issued by the State of Ohio or the United States government; a copy of his or her a military identification; an original or copy of a current utility bill; an original or copy of a current bank statement; an original or copy of a current paycheck; an original or copy of a current government check; or an original or copy of some other current government document. County Boards of Elections are required to accept any of the above forms of identification under section 3509.03 of the Ohio Revised Code.

Q10) 81% of provisional ballots [were] validated. What were reasons remaining 19% were

A10) Some of the reasons that provisional ballots were rejected in the 2008 general election include a voter not being registered to vote as required by Ohio law, an otherwise eligible elector casting a ballot in the wrong polling precinct, and failure to provide acceptable identification during the voting process.

Mertro Parks Levy (Issue 1) Explained

parkFranklin County voters will have the opportunity to approve a 0.75-mill property tax on May 5, 2009.

Why now?
Metro Parks’ current 10-year levy expires at the end of 2009. Central Ohio residents have enjoyed the benefits of the previous 10-year levy. This levy will allow Metro Parks to continue to operate clean, well-maintained, safe parks that are open daily throughout the year and are free to the public while continuing to acquire and manage natural areas to protect wildlife and water resources.

Did Metro Parks fulfill all of its promises during the last levy?
Yes. During the current levy period, Metro Parks added five new parks, acquired more than 7,500 acres of land, built 80 miles of trails, provided educational programming for more than 50,000 school children and thousands of visitors each year, developed programs for senior citizens and urban youth, enhanced protection of wildlife habitat especially in the Darby Watershed, and increased yearly visitation by more than a million people. Each year more than 6 million people enjoy a visit to a Metro Park.

How much will the levy cost?
The cost to the owner of a $100,000 home would be about $23 a year or about six cents a day.

How long will the levy last?
The ballot issue is a proposed 10-year levy, so it would run until 2019.

How much money would the levy provide?
The 0.75- mill levy will provide about $21.5 million a year.

How will Metro Parks use the money from the levy?
Metro Parks will:

  • Maintain existing park grounds, trails and other facilities, as well as provide programs and activities throughout the 15 Metro Parks
  • Expand programming for school children, senior citizens, and special populations and continue the urban youth initiative
  • Build a nature center in the Darby Watershed and develop programs and exhibits to highlight the importance of this valuable water resource to the community
  • Acquire land and build 50 miles of trails and manage more of the Greenways Trail system
  • Expand the Scioto Audubon Metro Park on the Whittier Peninsula near downtown Columbus
  • Open three new parks: 1. Within the Rocky Fork Headwaters in northeast Franklin County in Plain Township near New Albany 2. Along Little Walnut Creek in Madison Township near Canal Winchester and Groveport 3. Along the Scioto River in southern Franklin County near Grove City
  • Acquire land and restore habitat to further protect the rare species of Big Darby Creek as a partner in the Darby Accord
  • Restore 1,000 acres of wetlands to attract wildlife and improve water quality, continue programs to enhance the forests and prairies at existing parks

How can you help? The levy committee needs phone bankers, people to display yard signs, letters to the editor, and financial support.

For more information, visit the Metro Parks Levy website.

A Consumer Reports for punditry

How is it that so-called political and financial experts turn out to be a stunningly poor source of expertise? After twenty years of tracking 82,000 predictions by 284 experts, Prof Tetlock gives the answer:

Talent bookers for television shows and reporters tended to call up experts who provided strong, coherent points of view, who saw things in blacks and whites. People who shouted — like, yes, Jim Cramer!

Mr. Tetlock called experts such as these the “hedgehogs,”... Hedgehogs tend to have a focused worldview, an ideological leaning, strong convictions; foxes are more cautious, more centrist, more likely to adjust their views, more pragmatic, more prone to self-doubt, more inclined to see complexity and nuance. And it turns out that while foxes don’t give great sound-bites, they are far more likely to get things right.

The marketplace of ideas doesn’t clear out bad pundits and bad ideas partly because there’s no accountability. As Prof. Tetlock suggests, we need a Consumer Reports for punditry. Here's a YouTube video of Tetlock speaking on the topic.

The New Yorker has in-depth article on Tetlock's work.

Economic Cassandra

Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, made this prediction in 1999 in a NYTimes article is titled, "Congress Passes Wide-Ranging Bill Easing Bank Laws" about the repeal of Glass-Steagall a Depression-Era law to separate bankers and brokers:

"I think we will look back in 10 years' time and say we should not have done this but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past, and that that which is true in the 1930's is true in 2010. I wasn't around during the 1930's or the debate over Glass-Steagall. But I was here in the early 1980's when it was decided to allow the expansion of savings and loans. We have now decided in the name of modernization to forget the lessons of the past, of safety and of soundness,"

- Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, November 5, 1999.

Byron was one of only 8 Senators to vote against the bill. He was joined by six Democrats: Barbara Boxer of California, Richard H. Bryan of Nevada, Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland, and Paul Wellstone, and one Republican Senator, Richard C. Shelby of Alabama,

Senator Paul Wellstone, Democrat of Minnesota, said that Congress had ''seemed determined to unlearn the lessons from our past mistakes.''

''Scores of banks failed in the Great Depression as a result of unsound banking practices, and their failure only deepened the crisis,'' Mr. Wellstone said. ''Glass-Steagall was intended to protect our financial system by insulating commercial banking from other forms of risk. It was one of several stabilizers designed to keep a similar tragedy from recurring. Now Congress is about to repeal that economic stabilizer without putting any comparable safeguard in its place.''


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